September 2, 2005 11:56 AM PDT

Powering a new generation of cars

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The microprocessor, however, has to adjust the environment in the cylinder constantly, and the sensors would have to cost only a few bucks.

"HCCI is probably one of the most complex control architectures you can have," said Christopher Cook, vice president of automotive, industrial and multimedia business group at Infineon North America.

From hybrids to biofuels
While Toyota doesn't see a strong future for diesel, it likes HCCI for gas engines and hybrids. Currently, Toyota's hybrids combine a gas engine with an electric one. Ultimately, hybrids could pave the way for fuel cell cars. In fuel cells, energy is produced from a chemical reaction when a molecule passes through a reactive membrane. Combustion engines create energy by igniting fuel via flame or heat.

All-electric cars that can be charged at home, however, are going to be tough to market. Batteries just don't provide enough power for the price that gas does. The guys turning their Toyota Prius gas-electric cars into all-electric vehicles are spending $9,000 on the batteries, Cook said.

Ethanol, a combination of gas and alcohol derived from plants, could also become feasible further out. "If you can make it renewable and manage the cost, it could become viable," said Cook.

Some scientists, along with some recent studies, have thrown cold water on the prospects for biofuels such as ethanol, claiming that it takes more energy to make a gallon of ethanol than the gallon of ethanol can provide. Toyota USA's Hermance, however, said those studies failed to take into account the energy and/or economic value of the byproducts.

"You've got to make use of every part of the process," Hermance said. "If you don't do that, it certainly looks bad."

Liquifaction of coal could also catch on someday, he speculated. Methanol, the stuff inside Indy racers, has been suggested as a fuel source. Unfortunately, it's corrosive.

Even if technically feasible, alternative-fuel cars will also have to win over the public to succeed. Though fuel economy became a big selling point during the first oil crisis in the 1970s, arguments for fuel efficiency have lost power in the era of the SUV.

Despite their disagreements, both Pinson and Hermance asserted that cars with internal compression engines running on hydrogen will face a lot of challenges.

Producing hydrogen remains expensive, and putting enough of it in a tank that can go on a car will likely prove impractical. It's more suited to stationary applications, such as home heating, said Hermance.

"If it goes that way, we will catch up" on hydrogen combustion engines, Hermance said. Toyota does have hydrogen fuel cell projects under way, although they face some of the same cost and design problems.

Both Ford and BMW have plans for cars with hydrogen internal combustion engines, noted American Driver's McElroy. BMW, however, has an upscale service to go along with it.

"They will have mobile refilling stations that bring the hydrogen to you," he said.

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38 comments

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In Denial of Energy Future
I am aghast that our politicians are unable and unwilling to more
readily prepare for a future without the use of fossil fuels. Our
pork-barrel energy policy which was just passed does very little
to move us toward hydrogen and alternative energy sources. It
seems that until we stop calling them 'alternative energy'
sources they'll always fill just a niche role in our overall energy
demand. It is true that establishing a network of hydrogen
stations would be an enormous undertaking; this would,
however, power our nation for the next century and beyond. We
are crystal-meth addicts to the oil and auto industry. Maybe the
Bush administration ought have it their way, energywise, just
drill until it's all gone. Then perhaps we can move onto to
something else more quickly (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://" target="_newWindow">http://</a>
sammy90483.blogspot.com).
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hydrogen isn't the answer...
Unless scientists can figure a way to cheaply extract Hydrogen from water -- and I know there are projects underway right now trying to do this very thing -- Hydrogen isn't the answer. At the moment it's enormosly expensive to produce pure hydrogen gas (or even liquid hydrogen), and it's very dangerous to transport and work with. (More dangerous than gasoline in fact.) Also, hydrogen produces less energy BTU per gram than gasoline. So a hydrogen car would require a much bigger tank than conventional gas tanks.

We need two technical breakthroughs:

1) Cheap hydrogen extraction (which can be used as fuel to create electricy)

2) Efficient electric batteries.

I beleive our transportation energy needs (cars, buses, trucks, farm equipment, ocean ships) will be powered by electric motors, but will likely contain some kind of electric generator onboard to charge the batteries. The generator itself could run on hydrogen perhaps (if cheap enough,) or ethanol, or deisel or some combination there of. That's my un-expert idea.
Posted by Richard G. (137 comments )
Link Flag
In Denial of Energy Future
I am aghast that our politicians are unable and unwilling to more
readily prepare for a future without the use of fossil fuels. Our
pork-barrel energy policy which was just passed does very little
to move us toward hydrogen and alternative energy sources. It
seems that until we stop calling them 'alternative energy'
sources they'll always fill just a niche role in our overall energy
demand. It is true that establishing a network of hydrogen
stations would be an enormous undertaking; this would,
however, power our nation for the next century and beyond. We
are crystal-meth addicts to the oil and auto industry. Maybe the
Bush administration ought have it their way, energywise, just
drill until it's all gone. Then perhaps we can move onto to
something else more quickly <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://sammy90483.blogspot.com" target="_newWindow">http://sammy90483.blogspot.com</a>.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Turbo Diesels are here now and have been for years
I have been the proud - and sometimes insufferably smug -
owner of a Volkswagen Jetta TDI since 2001. I drive almost 100
miles per day back and forth to work and take a number of road
trips each year. As a result, I have logged more than 120,000
diesel powered miles in about 4 years.

I do not travel with a light foot - if you catch my drift - and my
commute includes a trip across Washington DC.

I average 47 miles per gallon. Nothing in the article indicates
there will be any improvement over that figure.

Why wait.
Posted by Rod Adams (74 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is that all UK Gallons?
Do you mean 47 per Imperial gallon ? I can get 37 per Imperial gallon in my Corvette.

I would have ignored this story, had I not just got home from filling up (I found 91 octane at the third gas station I visited).

I didn't fill it up. I put in $50 and stopped.
Posted by (409 comments )
Link Flag
5.2 l/100 Km for me
This is the consumption of my Renault Scenic in Europe, with a 1.5 litre diesel engine (modern "common rail" technology).
Posted by aemarques (162 comments )
Link Flag
Something Left Out -- Natural Gas
Funny how you missed the most important alternate vehicle, bus, etc., fuel -- world-wide, it's natural gas -- perhaps a couple hundred thousand examples in the US and even more in Italy, etc. Who's doing the research on this issue? And we are capable of producing renewable natural gas -- methane -- by anaerobic fermentation -- very, very, even huge, quantities.
Best, Dick

www.CorpFutRes.com
Posted by dglickdr (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why use natural gas for transportation?
I agree that it is possible to produce natural gas through
anerobic fermentation, but the quantities available through that
method are far smaller - on a total energy basis - than is
currently consumed in the form of petroleum. The difference is
several orders of magnitude in BTU/day.

Like many PhD, you seem to care about "who is doing the
research" without taking the time to do a simple search yourself.
Right now, natural gas trades for more than $12.00 per million
BTU in the US, which is not competitive with either gasoline or
diesel fuel even at our current elevated prices.
Posted by Rod Adams (74 comments )
Link Flag
the future is compresed air
My comment is visit www.theaircar.com/. What hybrids, gas or
diesel......
Posted by torbar (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Interesting...
:-)
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
Couple HCCI with hybrid - Now you're talking
GM is desperate. They missed the hybrid boat and now trying to make it up.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
With a band-aid solution...
Not impressive.
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
GM, Ford In A Heap 'O Trouble
And this story was written way back in March, in the good old days when gasoline was $2 per gallon. Seems like only 5 months ago.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/gas_prices_suv.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/gas_prices_suv.html</a>
"Soaring Gas Prices Hurt SUV and Pickup Sales
March 10, 2005
The rising price of gasoline appears to be stifling sales of large U.S. SUVs and pickups. If the trend continues, automaker profits are certain to suffer. Full-sized SUV and large pickup sales were both down last month. The sale of fuel-efficient cars gained more than two percent.

Large SUVs and full-sized pickups account for close to 80 percent of North American automotive profits at Ford and General Motors.

The average price U.S. drivers pay for a gallon of regular gasoline barely exceeds $2, according to the AAA motor club. The price is expected to shoot to a record high of $2.15 a gallon this spring, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Link Flag
But it's still the same...
This really isn't anything different. It just starts the car differently and saves a little gas. We need to switch from the types of gas we have today and move toward something that is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
Posted by PCCRomeo (432 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree...
People have this habit of making simple ideas grow complicated but considers it "mature" when simplified.

HCCI is like diesel anyway only made more complicated. I don't believe in solutions that complicates simple things. The truth is, this is just another "band-aid" to solve the issue.

The real solution is to explore the alternatives just to trigger the evolution and perhaps the revolution to using a specific cheaper and cleaner engine.

The commercial success of an alternative will identify the right solution.

:-)
Posted by Mendz (519 comments )
Link Flag
Grow up guys!
You've all been misled by the automakers and the people standing in line for a new twist on technology that doesn;t accomplish much. Biodiesel, on the other hand, is 80% cheaper to make, more fuel-efficient, is a renewable source of energy and doesn't pollute the environment. "Grease" however, is not popular with the carmakers. Even tho biodiesel is better it isn't sexy and America continues to be its own worst enemy. Grow up guys and get real!
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
E85 is great
Except don't plan on using it during the winter. FFV vehicles have been around for a while but not that popular are they.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Link Flag
Gasoline will still power 90% of cars for decades to come.
It's going to take years for some alternative fuel car engine to get designed, produced, and on the road. It will probably take even longer before it's realiable and performs as well as a gasoline engine. And it will probably be much more expensive than a gasoline engine.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
biodiesel fuel from used veggie oil
Why aren't we all using the diesel engine, which can be modified for $700, to run on the used veggie oil? The original Diesel engine was built to run on peanut oil. I think there was an article about this in the NY Times. Also, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. If it becomes mainstream enough to find the fuel, I will definitely be in for one.
Posted by Maxxam (4 comments )
Link Flag
Hydrogen Peroxide Will Rule
They already have a exerimental HP 18 wheeler that produces nothing but steam and Oxygen and
has all the power needed to move large loads. Plus HP is cheap and plentiful and much improved milage over petro.
Posted by Dr. StrangeOne (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Extra benefit...
And if you cut yourself near the vehicle, you can just dip your hand in the tank ;)
Posted by bp2004 (26 comments )
Link Flag
I say
YOU ARE RIGHT ON THE MONEY.
WE COULD HAVE HAD AN ALL ELECTRIC VEHICLE 20 YEARS AGO IMAGINE HOW ADVANCED IT WOULD BE TODAY. I ALSO LIKE THE HYDROGEN VEHICLE AGAIN WE COULD HAVE HAD THAT 15 YEARS AGO. ME THINKS THESE PEOPLE LIKE THE SMELL OF THE GASOLINE ENGINE OR THE NOISE OF THE ENGINE. THE STORY ABOUT THE BATTERIES IS A FARCE WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGY IN COMPUTERS THEIR SMALLER, LIGHTER AND MORE DENSE AS FAR AS ENERGY GOES. THEY JUST PASS BY THE MOST OBVIOUS CHOICE. THERE IS AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE THAT GOES 0 - 60 IN 4 SECONDS AND LAST 300 MILES PER CHARGE, NO MENTION OF THAT. OIL REINS THE VEHICLES OF TODAY. I DIDN'T EVEN MENTION THE FUEL CELL POWERED VEHICLES.
Posted by Richie (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE
I ONLY HAVE ONE HAND SO I'LL WRITE IN CAPITALS FOR MY EASE. WHEN IT COMES TO ENERGY THE BATTERY IS SUPREME, THEY LAST LONGER, ARE SMALLER, AND PACK MORE ENERGY INTO THEIR SIZE. DOING THIS WITHOUT POLUTING AND NOISE. WE OWE ALL THAT TO COMPUTERS, LOOK IN YOUR CAR TODAY AND SEE HOW SMALL THE BATTERY IS. SO TO MOVE FORWARD IN THE NON OIL VEHICLE MEANS GOING HYDROGEN OR ELECTRIC THAT IS THAT. REMEMBER THE ELECTRIC CAR THAT GOES 0-60 IN 4 SECONDS AND A SINGLE CHARGE WILL TAKE YOU 300 MILES. BEAT THAT MR. OIL.
Posted by Richie (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AFTER
READING THE STORY AGAIN THE PERSON WHO WROTE THIS STORY IS AN IDIOT. I DONT LIKE TO SAY NASTY THINGS BUT HE IS PLAYING IT SAFE AND APPEASING THE OIL PEOPLE. THE WAY THE STORY IS HEADLINED ONE WOULD THINK THEIR GOING TO READ SOMETHING NEW, BUT ITS THE SAME OLD REDORICK ABOUT KNOWING NOTHING ABOUT THE SUBJECT MATTER AND TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING A 6 GRADER WOULD TRY AND PUT OVER ON SOMEONE. HE DOISN'T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT THE SUBJECT OF VEHICLES OF THE FUTURE. NEXT TIME YOU HAVE TO KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THE FUTURE OF MOTOR VEHICLES LET ME KNOW.
Posted by Richie (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Emperor Is Already Naked
Much as Katrina proved that we really have no emergency planing in this country, the false security provided by the "experts" in this story with the business as usual incrementalism will soon be laid bare.
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Link Flag
We Don't Have 10 Years
We have, or will soon, hit world peak oil production. A shortfall of even 1% coupled with increasing demand will bring the world economy to its knees. These guys with their 10, 20, 30 year time horizons are fiddling while Rome burns. Another hurricane? Another refinery failure? A coupe in Saudi Arabia? Hugo Chavez deciding to stop selling us oil? Place your bets. The only thing the automobile will be good for is providing housing to flood victims.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/" target="_newWindow">http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net/</a>
"The coming oil shocks won't be so short-lived. They represent the onset of a new, permanent condition. Once the decline gets under way, production will drop (conservatively) by 3% per year, every year.

That estimate comes from numerous sources, not the least of which is Vice President Dick Cheney himself. In a 1999 speech he gave while still CEO of Halliburton, Cheney stated:

By some estimates, there will be an average of two-percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a
day.

Cheney's assesement is supported by the estimates of numerous non-political, retired, and now disinterested scientists, many of whom believe global oil production will peak and go into terminal decline within the next five years.

Some geologists expect 2005 to be the last year of the cheap-oil bonanza, while estimates coming out of the oil industry indicate "a seemingly unbridgeable supply-demand gap opening up after 2007," which will lead to major fuel shortages and increasingly severe blackouts beginning around 2008-2012."
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Ethanol is not
Ethanol, a combination of gas and alcohol derived from.... This is gasahol. From the dictionary: ethanol

n : the intoxicating agent in fermented and distilled liquors; used pure or denatured as a solvent or in medicines and colognes and cleaning solutions and rocket fuel; proposed as a renewable clean-burning additive to gasoline [syn: ethyl alcohol, fermentation alcohol, grain alcohol]
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Good improvement but falls way short of what is needed
A 20% improvement in automobile fuel efficiency is certainly a Good Thing. But this will not help at all if Americans continue to buy bigger and bigger homes farther and farther into the suburbs (now it's EXurbs!) and if they commute to work all by themselves in larger and larger vehicles.
Don't talk to me about global warming, pollution, habitat destruction, terrorism, oil cartels, traffic jams, etc. until you are walking to work (or at least living so close that you _could_ walk). And you've got no business driving an SUV unless you've got 4+ kids AND your job requires you to drive through a foot of snow. And lastly, does each of your children REALLY need a huge bedroom all to himself?
It disgusts me to think of OPEC and oil companies making a killing (literally) off of $5/gallon or $10/gallon gasoline. However, in the long term, this will greatly improve the quality of life for our grandchildren. Only outrageous prices will bring about the monumental lifestyle changes necessary to save America.
Posted by dmm (336 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Some good points...
I would like to see that kind of community change. I know of a group of architects that thinks the same way. I wish I could walk to work. In fact, if I had my way, I would do all my work at home and send in the results of my work over the internet. I just hope that high oil prices force this kind of civil change rather than a more destructive scenario caused by frustrated people.

Disclaimer: I do have an SUV (Explorer--averaging 18 mpg) with fewer than four kids, but it stays parked except on the rare occasions that I need to haul a bunch of stuff/tow a trailer or on the very rare occasions that my wife and I need to drive different directions at the same time. My other car is an older Mazda Protege in good working condition (averages about 34 mpg). It does about 95% of the transporting people/things in our family.
Posted by Shoa_Creek (79 comments )
Link Flag
Easy to Support
For any company or government, it is easy to support a technology that basically states that it is 20 to 30 years away. In effect, it is like saying I don't need to do anything about it now.
However, all that increasedd fuel-efficiency does is temporarily lower the price of fuel until either the supply is cut or until more demand somewhere else in the world picks up.
The real solution to our problem lies in doing two things:
1) creating our own fuel source (i.e. not relying on other countries for fuel),
and 2) finding a renewable fuel source that is both economic to produce and to sell
If you don't get 1), than you just end up with another product derived by reliance on other countries. If you don't get 2) then you end up with a lot of promising technologies that government, corporations, and general society can not support.
The problem today is that, in general, we suffer from basically both of these problems, so we don't even see temporary relief in the marketplace. Hopefully a good fuel source that provides these two objectives (and a host of others as well) will be produced in the next few years in order to make it to market as a genuinely accepted alternative in 30 to 40 years.
Posted by Awesomebase (134 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Making Energy takes energy
I think the subject of my post says it all, almost.
Posted by walker2151 (26 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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