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Friday, April 12, 2024
Ryan prepares UW for road test

Ryan prepares Badgers for road test: Sophomore guard Jason Bohannon scored three points in three minutes of playing time last season when the Badgers faced the Hawkeyes in his home state of Iowa.

Environmentally friendly fuels of the future

We are now living the future. Finally, we have the privilege of choosing the technology we use to get around. What this means, really, is that we now have alternatives to gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles and fume-belching muscle cars. 






A fuel cell is a device that generates electricity directly from fuel. Unfortunately, zero-emission vehicles that rely on fuel-cell technology are hamstrung by the need to carry huge volumes of fuel. (At present, engineers can only get power from fuel cells that use hydrogen atoms as a source.) Hydrogen atoms themselves are not easy to come by either. While the U.S. Department of Energy states current fuel cells can run at up to 80 percent efficiency, a 'well-to-wheels' analysis'looking not just at the efficiency of the engine, but also at the procurement and isolation of pure fuel'shows that fuel cells are simply on par with the efficiency of today's internal combustion engines. Phillip Myers, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering, believes this to be the central difficulty. 




'The biggest [problems with fuel cells] are where to get the hydrogen and how to store it,' Myers said. 'You can't just drill a well like petroleum. ... I don't think it's very safe for automotive use'the compressed or liquefied hydrogen.' 


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Ballard Power Systems Inc., a leading manufacturer and developer of automotive fuel-cell technology, has already conducted trials of fuel-cell-powered buses in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Chicago, and are currently performing a third trial in Thousand Palms, Calif. They predict that a new line of zero-emission buses will be ready for trials by 2002 or 2003, but fuel cells for use in cars are still a long way off. 






Myers pointed out several facts about diesel fuel. 




'Diesel cars and trucks are 20 to 30 percent more efficient than current gasoline engines,' he said. 'Diesel fuel has around 10 percent more energy per volume compared to gas.' Therefore, diesel sounds like an excellent alternative to gasoline. However, with fuel prices as they are today, diesel is only a viable option in Europe, where diesel prices are much lower than standard gasoline prices due to greater taxation of non-diesel fuel. This is one of the reasons that diesel vehicles accounted for 32.3 percent of those sold in Europe in 2000. Another problem is the strict emissions standards the United States will impose by 2007. Diesel vehicles may not be able to meet those standards, and car companies are cautious about relying on a technology that may not meet legal requirements in the future. 






Honda and Toyota have hybrid electric vehicles available for purchase now. (Ford will have a hybrid SUV available in 2003.) Honda's hybrid is called the Insight, and uses a three-cylinder gasoline engine as its primary power source. As with all hybrids, the gasoline engine works with an electric motor to provide a total power output that is significantly higher than the gasoline engine alone. In addition to the high-tech engine and motor combination, hybrids feature many other design items that add to fuel economy. They range from substituting ultra-lightweight materials (like plastics, Styrofoam and high-strength aluminum) for heavier ones wherever possible. They also reduce the energy lost due to friction by using higher-pressure, harder tires than normal and recapture the energy lost in braking (again due to friction) by using a generator attached to the wheels, recharging the battery as the vehicle stops. 




One major consideration with the Insight is that it only has two seats and two doors. Mike Wagner, a sales and leasing consultant for Zimbrick Honda, stressed the performance boost that comes from this. 




'It really does accelerate, sound and feel like a sports car. ... The Insight and [Honda's S-2000 two-seater sports car] share a lot of technology,' Wagner said. By February 2002, Honda plans to incorporate its hybrid technology into an ultra-low-emission Civic. The Insight gets up to 57 miles per gallon with the automatic transmission and up to 68 with a manual. It is available for about $21,000. 




Toyota also has a hybrid on the market; its Prius (pronounced PRE-us) is similar to the Insight in that it uses both a gasoline engine and an electric motor to power the vehicle. 




'The engine absolutely will not run unless it needs to,' Smart Toyota's Mark Heckel said of the Prius, which also incorporates all of the lightweight, energy saving technologies, and has outstanding fuel economy'up to 52 miles per gallon. The Prius differs from the Insight in many ways: It has five seatbelts, four doors, only comes with an automatic transmission, and has a touch-screen display built into the dashboard. The Prius is also different in that its major source of power is its electric motor'it does most of the work, while the gasoline engine provides an added boost and recharges the battery. It's also heavier and bigger than the Insight, has a larger engine (four cylinders, compared to the three of the Insight), and retails for around $20,000.

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