Tag Archives: fuel technology

Wood gas

Wood gas can be used to power cars with ordinary internal combustion engines if a wood gasifier is attached. This was quite popular during World War II in several European and Asian countries because the war prevented easy and cost-effective access to oil.




A steam car is a car that has a steam engine. Wood, coal, ethanol, or others can be used as fuel. The fuel is burned in a boiler and the heat converts water into steam. When the water turns to steam, it expands. The expansion creates pressure. The pressure pushes the pistons back and forth. This turns the driveshaft to spin the wheels forward. It works like a coal-fueled steam train, or steam boat. The steam car was the next logical step in independent transport.

Steam cars take a long time to start, but some can reach speeds over 100 mph (161 km/h) eventually.

A steam engine uses external combustion, as opposed to internal combustion. Gasoline-powered cars are more efficient at about 25-28% efficiency. In theory, a combined cycle steam engine in which the burning material is first used to drive a gas turbine can produce 50% to 60% efficiency. However, practical examples of steam engined cars work at only around 5-8% efficiency.

The best known and best selling steam-powered car was the Stanley Steamer. It used a compact fire-tube boiler under the hood to power a simple two-piston engine which was connected directly to the rear axle. Before Henry Ford introduced monthly payment financing with great success, cars were typically purchased outright. This is why the Stanley was kept simple; to keep the purchase price affordable.

Steam produced in refrigeration also can be use by a turbine in other vehicle types to produce electricity, that can be employed in electric motors or stored in a battery.

Steam power can be combined with a standard oil-based engine to create a hybrid. Water is injected into the cylinder after the fuel is burned, when the piston is still superheated, often at temperatures of 1500 degrees or more. The water will instantly be vaporized into steam, taking advantage of the heat that would otherwise be wasted.



A solar car is an electric vehicle powered by solar energy obtained from solar panels on the car. Solar cars are not a practical form of transportation; insufficient power falls on the roof of a practically sized and shaped vehicle to provide adequate performance. They are raced in competitions such as the World Solar Challenge and the North American Solar Challenge. These events are often sponsored by Government agencies such as the United States Department of Energy keen to promote the development of alternative energy technology such as solar cells and electric vehicles. Such challenges are often entered by universities to develop their students engineering and technological skills as well as motor vehicle manufacturers such as GM and Honda.

The North American Solar Challenge is a solar car race across North America. Originally called Sunrayce, organized and sponsored by General Motors in 1990, it was renamed American Solar Challenge in 2001, sponsored by the United States Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Teams from universities in the United States and Canada compete in a long distance test of endurance as well as efficiency, driving thousands of miles on regular highways.

Nuna is the name of a series of manned solar powered vehicles that won the World solar challenge in Australia three times in a row, in 2001 (Nuna 1 or just Nuna), 2003 (Nuna 2) and 2005 (Nuna 3). The Nunas are built by students of the Delft University of Technology.

The World solar challenge is a solar powered car race over 3021 km through central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. The race attracts teams from around the world, most of which are fielded by universities or corporations although some are fielded by high schools.


LPG or Autogas

LPG or liquified petroleum gas is a low pressure liquified gas mixture composed mainly of propane and butane which burns in conventional gasoline combustion engines with less CO2 than gasoline. Gasoline cars can be retrofitted to LPG aka Autogas and become bifuel vehicles as the gasoline tank stays. You can switch between LPG and gasoline during operation. Estimated 10 million vehicles running worldwide.


Liquid Nitrogen car

Liquid nitrogen (LN2) is a method of storing energy. Energy is used to liquify air, and then LN2 is produced by evaporation, and distributed. LN2 is exposed to ambient heat in the car and the resulting nitrogen gas can be used to power a piston or turbine engine. The maximum amount of energy that can be extracted from 1 kg of LN2 is 213 W-hr or 173 W-hr per liter, in which a maximum of 70 W-hr can be utilized with an isothermal expansion process. Such a vehicle can achieve ranges similar to that of gasoline with a 350 liter (90 gallon) tank. Theoretical future engines, using cascading topping cycles, can improve this to around 110 W-hr/kg with a quasi-isothermal expansion process. The advantages are zero harmful emissions and superior energy densities than compressed air, and a car powered by LN2 can be refilled in a matter of minutes.



A hydrogen car is an automobile which uses hydrogen as its primary source of power for locomotion. These cars generally use the hydrogen in one of two methods: combustion or fuel-cell conversion. In combustion, the hydrogen is “burned” in engines in fundamentally the same method as traditional gasoline cars. In fuel-cell conversion, the hydrogen is turned into electricity through fuel cells which then powers electric motors. With either method, the only byproduct from the spent hydrogen is water.

A small number of prototype hydrogen cars currently exist, and a significant amount of research is underway to make the technology more viable. The common internal combustion engine, usually fueled with gasoline (petrol) or diesel liquids, can be converted to run on gaseous hydrogen. However, the most efficient use of hydrogen involves the use of fuel cells and electric motors instead of a traditional engine. Hydrogen reacts with oxygen inside the fuel cells, which produces electricity to power the motors. One primary area of research is hydrogen storage, to try to increase the range of hydrogen vehicles while reducing the weight, energy consumption, and complexity of the storage systems. Two primary methods of storage are metal hydrides and compression. Some believe that hydrogen cars will never be economically viable and that the emphasis on this technology is a diversion from the development and popularization of more efficient hybrid cars and other alternative technologies.

High speed cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, submarines, and space rockets already run on hydrogen, in various forms. There is even a working toy model car that runs on solar power, using a reversible fuel cell to store energy in the form of hydrogen and oxygen gas. It can then convert the fuel back into water to release the solar energy.

BMW’s Clean Energy internal combustion hydrogen car has more power and is faster than hydrogen fuel cell electric cars. A limited series production of the 7 Series Saloon was announced as commencing at the end of 2006. A BMW hydrogen prototype (H2R) using the driveline of this model broke the speed record for hydrogen cars at 300 km/h (186 mi/h), making automotive history. Mazda has developed Wankel engines to burn hydrogen. The Wankel uses a rotary principle of operation, so the hydrogen burns in a different part of the engine from the intake. This reduces pre-detonation, a problem with hydrogen fueled piston engines.

However the major car companies like DaimlerChrysler and General Motors Corp, are investing in the slower, weaker, but more efficient hydrogen fuel cells instead. Hydrogen fuel cells run directly on hydrogen fuel, or on hydrogen produced in the vehicle from reforming methane or gasoline (this from petroleum), or natural ethanol, while hydrogen internal-combustion cars run on hydrogen only.


Hybrid Electric

A hybrid vehicle uses multiple propulsion systems to provide motive power. This most commonly refers to gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles, which use gasoline (petrol) and electric batteries for the energy used to power internal-combustion engines (ICEs) and electric motors. These powerplants are usually relatively small and would be considered “underpowered” by themselves, but they can provide a normal driving experience when used in combination during acceleration and other maneuvers that require greater power.

The Toyota Prius is one of the world’s first commercially mass-produced and marketed hybrid automobiles. Manufactured by Toyota, the Prius first went on sale in Japan in 1997. The car was introduced to the worldwide market in 2000 and almost 160,000 units had been produced for sale in Japan, Europe, and North America as of the end of 2003. As of May 15th, 2008 Toyota had announced that it had reached a sales figure surpassing the mark of one million units. Toyota Press Release

The Honda Insight is a 2-seater hatchback hybrid automobile manufactured by Honda. It was the first mass-produced hybrid automobile sold in the United States, introduced in 1999, and produced until 2006. Honda now offers the Civic and Honda Accord as optional hybrids.

Pedal Assisted Electric Hybrid Vehicle
In very small vehicles, the power demand decreases, so human power can be employed to make a significant improvement in battery life. Two such commercially made vehicles are the Sinclair C5 and the TWIKE.


Flexible fuel

A flexible-fuel vehicle or dual-fuel vehicle is an automobile or truck (lorry) that can typically alternate between two sources of fuel. A common example is a vehicle that can accept gasoline mixed with varying levels of ethanol (gasohol). Some cars carry a natural gas tank and one can switch from gasoline to gas.

North American vehicles from approximately 1980 onward can run on 10% ethanol/90% gasoline (e.g., E10) with no modifications. Prior to 1980, many cars imported into the United States contained rubber, aluminium, and other materials that were generally non-compatible with any ethanol in their fuel delivery systems, and these cars experienced problems when E10 was first introduced. American made cars from the late 1970s onward can run on E10 with no modifications. E10 fuel is widely available. Going beyond 10% ethanol generally requires special engineering.

In the United States, many flexible-fuel vehicles can accept up to 85% ethanol (E85). The fuel mixture is automatically detected by one or more sensors, and once detected, the ECU tunes the timing of spark plugs and fuel injectors so that the fuel will burn cleanly in the vehicle’s internal combustion engine. Originally, sensors in both the fuel-line and in the exhaust system were used for flexible fuel vehicles. In recent years, manufacturers have instead opted to use only sensors in the exhaust manifold, before the catalytic converter, and to eliminate the fuel inline sensor. As E85 is more corrosive, special fuel lines are also required. Some manufacturers also required a different motor oil be used, but even this requirement is now dropped for all but one manufacturer.


CNG Compressed Natural Gas

High pressure compressed natural gas, mainly composed of methane, that is used to fuel normal combustion engines instead of gasoline. Combustion of methane produces the least amount of CO2 of all fossil fuels. Gasoline cars can be retrofitted to CNG and become bifuel NGV Natural gas vehicles as the gasoline tank stays. You can switch between CNG and gasoline during operation. Estimated over 5 million CNG vehicles running worldwide.



Compressed Biogas may be used for Internal Combustion Engines after purification of the raw gas. The removal of H2O, H2S and particles can be seen as standard producing a gas which has the same quality as Compressed Natural Gas. The use of biogas is particularly interesting for climates where the waste heat of a biogas powered power plant cannot be used during the summer.