Alternatives abound in promise of technology
WHILE some engineers squeeze the last drop of development out of the internal combustion engine, others are working on alternatives to fossil fuels.
Some common alternative fuels already available are produced from agricultural crops.
These reduce dependence on oil and produce a fuel that is carbon neutral — that is, they offset the CO emitted by fuel when
2 burned by the carbon dioxide absorbed while the crop is planted.
Ethanol and biodiesel are good transition fuels until technology such as hydrogen fuel cells can be adequately marketed and supported by a hydrogen fuel supply infrastructure.
Yet there may be another option to the costly and potentially dangerous issue of hydrogen transport and storage ( and costly hydrogen production itself), if pioneering research just announced by YH Percival Zhang and his associates from Virginia Tech can be developed further.
The researchers have found that highyield hydrogen production in the vehicle is possible by using sugary carbohydrates combined with water and a mixture of enzymes.
The process involves starch or cellulose blended with a combination of enzymes to make hydrogen, and the ultimate conversion to electrical energy is claimed to be three times more efficient than an ethanol- fed internal combustion engine.
The equivalent of a 45- litre fuel tank would hold enough starch to produce 4kg of hydrogen, which could provide a 500km range when passed though fuel cells and converted to electricity to power the car’s electric motor.
The outlook for such technology is promising, but car companies will have plenty to do before it becomes a commercial reality.