Automotive fuel of the future, a new concept!
By Tom Torbjornsen
- Low power (uses small motor because of space requirements)
- Low mileage range (because of poor battery technology)
- Extremely small (commuter sizing because of battery pack size)
- Expensive battery replacement cost (a lot of bucks)
- Limited use of options and accessories (because of need of battery power for the electric motor)
- Little or no supporting infrastructure (where do you charge it - at home? How about on the road?)
Indeed, battery-powered cars are not feasible presently. Battery technology and the necessary supporting infrastructure must come eons before this is a viable form of automotive power. The American EPA has mandated that by the first decade of the new millennium, 10% of the vehicles that carmakers produce must be zero emission vehicles. This explains the rush to find alternative fuels and powerplants.
Fuel cell technology seems to be emerging as the most likely alternative to the use of fossil fuel and the internal combustion engine. A fuel cell converts chemical energy to electrical energy. It is a device that uses the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and an oxidant such as oxygen to produce electrical energy silently, without combustion, with H2O (water) as the only emission. The carmakers are working at a feverish pitch trying to adapt fuel cell technology to the automobile. DaimlerChrysler AG recently introduced a prototype fuel-cell-powered vehicle. Dubbed the ďNecar4,Ē the vehicle was built on the Mercedes Benz ďAĒ series platform. The carmaker overcame the largest obstacle to date, designing the fuel cell hardware to fit a car. Until now, the fuel cell package was so big this was not feasible. Now they are in the process of fine-tuning the creation with a future on-the-market date.
Imagine this slot car set-up, but real-size. Now that would be fun!
The only other challenge is the lack of an infrastructure capable of transporting, storing, and dispensing the hydrogen for fuel cell use. Recently, I read an article in Automotive News stating that all the existing gas stations in California could be retrofitted to provide hydrogen for fuel-cell-powered vehicles at a cost of $550 million dollars, which, in the broad scope of things, is not all that costly. Someone correct me if Iím wrong, but doesnít all innovative activity start in California?
Looks to me like we’re going in the direction of fuel cells. Wait! I have an idea! Approximately two years ago, the AHSC (Automated Highway System Consortium) retrofitted 7.9 miles of highway in San Diego, California, to operate the first-ever automated highway. The system consisted of a series of motion sensors, magnets, transmitters, and proximity sensors integrated into the highway. The cars were retrofitted with the necessary hardware and - TA DA!!!! We have cars careening down the highway at 130 km/h by themselves! Now for my idea - Why couldn’t we install giant metal slots into the major and secondary highways, charge them electrically and then fit the cars with electric motors and backup battery systems.
The cars would have a large spade in the front and rear (acting as an electrical conductor) that would fit into the slot. Electrical energy would power the carís motor and keep the back-up battery charged. In the event you would have to exit the slot to access a side street, you could raise the spades, exit the highway and drive on battery power until you returned to the electrically-slotted road.
There would be no recharging necessary with an always-available power source. Sounds good to me! Now watch, someone will take my idea and run with it and I wonít get a dime out of it - isnít that the way it always goes?
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