• November 7, 2008

Alternative Energy Vehicles: A Closer Look

Among the most interesting novelties of this century are alternative energy vehicles. Steam power was widely used during the Industrial revolution, replacing water power and muscle power for use in major industries. Steam power was also used for engine vehicles. Today, a majority of automobiles use fuel for power- gasoline and diesel. However, vehicles using alternative sources of energy are being explored and developed today.

These alternative energy vehicles use sources other than fuel, which may include battery power and electricity, bio fuels such as ethanol, bio diesel, ethanol and methane, fossil fuels such as propane, compressed air, and finally, water.

Battery-powered Electric Vehicles

One of the more common alternative power sources for cars and other vehicles is electricity. The first electrical car was manufactured in 1832. The use of electricity in running a vehicle had been highly considered for a time. This is because electricity-powered motors were smooth and silent, rather than loud and noisy, which was characteristic of gasoline-powered engines.

Soon, battery-fueled cars came into existence. After the battery-electric vehicles were created, the internal combustion cars had to deal with aggressive competition.  Internal combustion vehicles were considered to be the most popular and reliable during that point. The advantages of electric cars include the delivery of high torque at small revolutions and ease of transmission.

Some of the electric car models are the Venturi Fetish, Henney Kilowatt, and the 2007 Tesla Electric-powered roadster from Tesla Motors.

Power from Hydrogen Fuel Cells

For car manufacturers to be able to use hydrogen efficiently as a fuel, a very complex process needs to be adopted. Hydrogen can be derived from water or methane through a separation process. Afterwards, a compression process followed by transportation and storage, are needed for the hydrogen to be used effectively as vehicle fuel. This procedure aims to use hydrogen as a replacement for batteries in most battery-fueled electric cars.

Presently, the first car model commercially produced using hydrogen fuel cells for power is the Honda FXC Clarity. However, production for this car model currently remains small. It is also not meant to be sold but to be leased merely for a time.

The Honda FXC uses electricity from a fuel cell battery. This battery is in turn, powered by fuel from hydrogen. Thus, a battery is still necessary for the Honda Clarity to be able to store energy. Honda reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the production of this hydrogen-fueled car for commercial consumption.  However, this does not mean that the Honda Clarity will be sold for commercial use in the coming periods. Over the course of the next three years, the Honda Clarity will be available only for lease.

Compressed Air Driven Cars

A compressed-air car utilizes a compress-air powered motor. This type of alternative energy vehicle can use pure air or a hybrid mix of air and gasoline, air and diesel, or air and ethanol. In ordinary fuel-driven cars, fuel is combined with air so as to produce hot expanding gases through a burning process. However, with compressed-air cars, the expansion of compressed air is being utilized. An entire car tank filled with compressed air can already produce an impressive mileage of 200 kilometers.

A specific car model is slated for release in late 2008 or early 2009, which is the Air car, otherwise known as the Mini CAT. The design of this car is revolutionary, with a fiberglass body and computer-managed functionality. Since compressed air is used, there is no combustion produced, while the exhaust stays completely clean.

As for MDI or Motor Development International, the Air Pod is the compressed-air vehicle model for the company. The Air Pod is a 4-seat vehicle which measures 2 meters in length and weighs 220 kg. This vehicle is normally driven using a joystick.

For the Mini CAT and Air Pod, refueling is easy. Air compressors from special gas stations can be used to refuel these vehicles, with 1.5 Euros already capable of reaching 200 kilometers.  The Air Pod on the other hand reaches to 130 miles and features a 40 mph speed.

Water for Vehicle Power

Although water-powered cars are not yet sold for commercial use, one Japanese car manufacturer has introduced a vehicle in June of this year that runs solely on water. Genepax has produced a car that uses a generator to break down the components of H20, thus generating electrical power. According to the CEO of Genepax, as long as the tank is filled to the top with water, this vehicle will keep on running. As of date, however, this type of water-fueled car is not yet released commercially.

With the selection of alternative energy vehicles currently in development and production, it won’t be long before people start using alternative fuels for their vehicles, rather than simple gasoline or diesel.

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