Challanges and advantages of alternative fuel vehicles

Term Paper, 2002

49 Pages, Grade: AA


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Early dominant design engines
2.1 Four-Stroke Otto Engine
2.2 Diesel Engine
2.3 Wankel Rotary Engine

3. Current Environmental Vehicles
3.1 Electrical Vehicles
3.1.1 Technical analysis of ‘battery powered electrical vehicles’
3.1.2 Analysis of battery-powered EVs
3.1.3 Acceptance
3.1.4 Technical analysis of ‘fuel cell powered electrical vehicles’
3.1.5 Analysis of fuel cell powered EVs
3.1.6 Acceptance
3.1.7. Short analysis of photovoltaic
3.2 Alternative Fuel Vehicles
3.2.1. Technical analysis of ‘AFVs’
3.2.2. Analysis of ‘AFVs’
3.2.3. Acceptance
3.3 Hybrid Electrical Vehicles
3.3.1. Technical analysis of ‘HEV’
3.3.2 Analysis of Hybrid Electrical Vehicles
3.3.3. Acceptance
3.4. Fuel Availability and Development
3.4.1 Decrease of fuel availability
3.4.2 Increase of emissions
3.5 Acceptance of Alternative Fuels in Different Countries
3.5.1 Europe
3.5.2 North America
3.5.3 Asia
3.5.4 South America
3.5.5 Increasing demand for natural gas and natural gas resources
3.5.6 Reasons for that situation

4. Paradigm shift needed - how automakers can help

5. Conclusions

6. References
6.1 References from the Internet
6.1 References from the Internet
6.2 Graphics and Tables

7. Appendix
Appendix 1 Car Dealer Costs for the Implementation of AFVs Services
Appendix 1 Car Dealer Costs for the Implementation of AFVs Services
Appendix 2 What the Americans Pay For In a Gallon of Regular Gasoline
Appendix 3 . Major Federal, State, and Local Hydrogen Research and Development Activities

1. Introduction

In the twentieth century the automobile – perhaps more than any other invention – profoundly changed the way we live. The Ford Model T, then the dominant design, accounted for ¾ of all cars in America in 1912.

Wheels, an engine and bodywork were sufficient to broaden our horizons, expand our opportunities and dramatically redefined our definition of community. The freedom and mobility that came with the new technology changed societies. This is true in the developed economies of North America and Europe as well as in the developing nations of the world. It is in the latter, the automobile is arguably of even greater benefit to society, playing a key role in helping economies start up the difficult road toward prosperity and an improved quality of life.

And once society has achieved value it won’t easy let go of it!

However, alongside these benefits, we also have to witness the emergence of global environmental issues such as global warming and the dwindling of natural resources since the latter half of the 20th century until today.

It is an undeniable fact that the automobile has been one of the elements inflicting environmental impact on the earth besides industry.

Since society cannot or is not willing to step back, we must strive by all means to achieve a harmonious balance on earth.

A greener car is a better idea. It is a new twist on familiar technologies, like gasoline and diesel power. Moreover, it is new technologies – like fuel cell and hybrid.

Nevertheless, it is not easy to achieve this. Automakers made progress in reducing tailpipe emissions and making vehicles cleaner, supporting standards for cleaner fuel, increasing vehicles safety features, improving fuel efficiency and diversity, and building vehicles with less production waste and higher levels of recycling, but

nevertheless the motor vehicle industry is facing a period of change and challenge.

- Global consolidation and alliances among companies continue to occur.
- Companies are fiercely competing for business and on environmental, vehicle safety and energy efficiency advances.
- Technological advances are occurring at a faster pace than ever before.
- Regulatory hurdles are set higher and higher.
- Partnerships with government and allies flourish.
- Consumers are demanding new features and enhanced performance as they choose new vehicles.

A comprehensive approach is essential and this is what our term paper proposes. We cannot predict what types of inventions will emerge and which innovation will finally become the breakthrough technology and the dominant design. This will involve a paradigm shift –in the minds of not only of the customer, automakers and suppliers but also of in the rest of the populace.

Therefore, we examined the current state of the environmental vehicle technology, weighed the advantages and disadvantages of alternative fuels, and looked at both sides – the customer and the automaker for potential obstacles in accepting.

We discovered: why some countries are promoting those vehicles more than others; which countries could use their natural gas resources more efficiently; and how society can affect the adoption of the new technology negatively and positively.

However, at this point it serves our purpose to disclaim that this term paper was not designed to give the ultimate solution to the problem, it was rather designed to make the decision process “pro environment” easier for the undecided.

2. Early Dominant Design Engines

The history of the first automobile dates back to the year 1769. The first designed internal combustion engine that was fuelled with gunpowder even goes back to 1680. There have been many inventions, some that worked and some that were rejected soon after their first thought, but only a few real dominant design engines made their way to success. Only the Four-Stroke Otto Engine, the Diesel Engine and the Wankel Rotary Engine made their way, and shall be introduced here.

2.1 Four-Stroke Otto Engine

Of the different techniques for recovering the power from the combustion process the most important so far has been the four-stroke cycle, a conception now more than 100 years old1. Many people claimed the invention of the internal combustion engine in the 1860's, but only one has the patent on the four stroke operating sequence. In 1867, Nikolaus August Otto, a German engineer, developed the four-stroke "Otto" cycle, which he obtained a patent for in 1876.

A disadvantage of the four-stroke cycle is that only half as many power strokes are completed as in the two-stroke cycle and only half as much power can be expected from an engine of a given size at a given operating speed. The four-stroke cycle, however, provides more positive clearing out of exhaust gases and reloading of the cylinders, reducing the amount of loss of fresh charge to the exhaust.

2.2 Diesel Engine

The Diesel Engine came about in 1892 by another German engineer, Rudolph Diesel. Diesel was of the opinion that the efficiency of the Otto engine was not satisfying enough. For example, the modern diesel engines reach a power density of 46% and are superior in energy density. Therefore, Diesel designed a heavier and more powerful engine than gasoline engines and utilized oil as fuel.

However, diesel particles are suspected to cause cancer though this risk is decline because of new D-4 technologies. This technology is able to diminish the risk from 100 % to 11 %.

However, scientists are assuming other health dangers. The engine is thought to exacerbate coughing in those with respiratory tract disease. People suffering under asthmatics will need drugs and there will be more people dying of heart-circulation diseases than before.

To restrict the diesel particles, manufacturers follow two different approaches. The French manufacturers Peugeot and Renault use a special filter, which burns the filtered particles every 500 km. A success story since this technology reduces the particle weight from 0,028 gram/km (the cleanest diesel of Mercedes Benz) to 0,000238 gram/km.

Mercedes Benz and other manufacturers focus on the burning process. They try to increase the burning efficiency to reduce the diesel particles, but it may takes years until a company can manage the burning process so perfectly that it is as efficient as the filter developed by the French company PSA. The cleanest diesel of these manufacturers produces a little more of these particles than the Euro D4 norm allows (0,025 gram/km).

2.3 Wankel Rotary Engine

Fritz Wankel completed his first design of a rotary-piston engine in 1954, received a patent in 1956 and tested the first unit in 1957.

The major advantages of the Wankel engine are its small space requirements and low weight per horsepower, smooth and vibrationless operation, quiet operation, and low manufacturing costs resulting from mechanical simplicity. Mazda, a Japanese automobile company, produced and developed the Wankel engine, introducing it to

the American market in 1971. During the next few years, poor fuel economy and a

world oil crisis discouraged buyers, but the engine was constantly improved. Nowadays, especially Mazda is convinced to further develop the engine for the use of hydrogen fuel, since the rotary engine has a characteristically high power to weight ratio and a small volume per unit power compared to the piston engine.

3. Current Environmental Vehicles

3.1 Electrical Vehicles

Electrical Vehicles use motors that are powered by electricity. Electrical Vehicles are either battery-, fuel cell- or photovoltaic- powered vehicles.

Increasingly, electric vehicles are gaining momentum as viable mass production cars. But there are still problems, which had to be solved before it really becomes an opportunity for an economic success.

3.1.1 Technical Analysis of ‘Battery Powered Electrical Vehicles’

The two main motor technologies are called ‘ DC permanent magnet motors’ and ‘ AC Induction motors’. The advantage of the ‘DC-motor’ is that it is highly energy efficient. The disadvantage is that the engine needs high voltages to reduce losses from pulse switching as well as high voltage pulse operation causes electromagnetic interferences.

The ‘AC-Motors’ are cheaper, smaller, and lighter than ‘DC-Motors’, but require expensive inverters. However, inverter costs are falling in recent time and could give ‘AC-Motors’ the opportunity to become a dominant design.

There are two possible charging technologies for ‘ EVs ’. ‘ Inductive Charging’ transfers electricity magnetically using plastic-encased connectors instead of metal-to- metal contacts that are used by ‘Conductive Charging’. Inductive charging are less shock prone, but at 90% efficiency are not as efficient as conductive chargers which are simple and low cost but bear the shock risk. Furthermore, future inductive

charging applications could include wires buried under road for “charge-as-you-go”. Main disadvantages are the chargers unique shapes and the lack of uniformity.

Undefined standards concerning the chargers and the motor types are still considered great barriers.

EVs can also recapture power through regenerative braking. When decelerating an internal-combustion vehicle, the brakes convert the vehicle's kinetic energy into heat, which is lost to the air. By contrast, a decelerating EV can convert kinetic energy into electricity, which can be reused to power the vehicle.

Batteries in EVs’ are principally electrochemical batteries which development will be crucial for the vehicles success. The following represent the three main battery types:

- Zinc-air battery:

Light, powerful, energy dense, environmentally safe, but need to regeneration in the form of re-plating the active elements of the batteries with zinc. The replacing procedure of used zinc-air power packs lasts only five to ten minutes. Those batteries provide from four to eight times the energy density of lead-acid batteries.

- Lithium-ion battery:

They offer up to three times the density of lead-acid batteries and one and a half times that of nickel-metal hydride batteries. However, technical challenges of Li- ion batteries include difficult-to-produce membranes, critical thermal management to prevent overheating, and attendant high cost. This type is also used in consumer electronics.

- Sodium-nickel chloride battery:

Those batteries are safe, have no fire danger, high energy and power density, and can be often and fast charged.

Despite significant development progress, electrochemical batteries are still seen to need improvement in areas like energy density, power density, efficiency, durability, weight, cost, and cycle life.

3.1.2 Analysis of Battery-Powered EVs

Advantages of EVs include operating cost as little as 1.5 cent per km, versus over 24 cent for a 9.5 ltr/100km car filled with $1/ltr gasoline (16 times more), although the EV costs more to purchase initially.

The vehicles run without producing any emissions directly from the vehicle. However, due to the nature of power generation certain parts of the world generate electricity with primarily "dirty" fossil-fuel combustion. While Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, derive three-quarters of their electricity from ‘Hydro Power’, countries like Brazil generates 94 percent of its power from hydro.

Furthermore, electric motors have fewer moving parts and need less maintenance than internal combustion engines.

Disadvantages of EVs include the short range (220km) and the low battery storage capacity as well as recharging difficulties deriving from longer charging times and discharging when not operated. Moreover, cold weather reduces their efficiency, as does the heavy use of auxiliary systems (such as air conditioning) that drain power from the batteries. Producing and recycling of the batteries is very cost intensive and linked with ecological problems. Other drawbacks are the motor vehicle safety standards and electrical code standards, and the need for trained, licensed EV mechanics and rescue crews due to the high voltages of EVs.

3.1.3 Acceptance

Recent announcements of commercialized EVs mostly have come from Japan, although European manufacturers are also racing to prepare vehicles for the market,

especially California with its mandate that 10 percent of the vehicles sold there be electric-powered by 2003.

Ultimately, availability of fueling and service infrastructure will be critical to consumer acceptance for environmental vehicles. Therefore, governments try to help to commercialize these vehicles by leasing them for urban commuting, delivery, and specialized traction operation (e.g., airplane tow tractors). On the other hand, home “fueling” may not prove adequate in countries like the US with long-distance requirements.

3.1.4 Technical Analysis of ‘Fuel Cell Powered Electrical Vehicles’

Originally developed for the space program, the fuel cell is the primary alternative to all batteries for supplying power to an electric vehicle's motor. Although a fuel cell looks like a battery, the former uses hydrogen or methanol fuel to continuously produce electric currents.

There are several kinds of fuel cells, but Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells are the type typically used in automobiles. A PEM fuel cell uses hydrogen fuel and oxygen from the air to produce electricity. The hydrogen, however, can be supplied in several ways.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 1: Moving Toward Hydrogen: More Powerful, Cleaner Fuels 2

FCVs can be fueled with pure hydrogen gas stored in onboard fuel tanks. Since hydrogen gas is diffuse, it must be stored in high-pressure tanks in order to store enough to travel reasonable distances on a full tank of fuel.

Currently used tanks, which allow hydrogen to be compressed to 5,000 pounds/square inch (psi) of pressure, can only store enough hydrogen gas to allow FCVs to go about 320 km before refueling. However, manufacturers are designing and testing tanks that will store more hydrogen at a higher pressure.

In addition to onboard storage problems, our current system for getting liquid gasoline to consumers cannot be used for gaseous hydrogen. Therefore, new facilities and systems would have to be built, requiring significant time and resources.

FCVs can also be fueled with hydrogen-rich fuels, such as methanol, natural gas,

petroleum distillates, or even gasoline. These fuels must be passed through onboard

illustration not visible in this excerpt

"reformers" that extract pure hydrogen from the fuel for use in the fuel cell. Reforming does emit some carbon dioxide (CO2), but much less than gasoline engines do.

The fuels mentioned above contain enough hydrogen to allow FCVs to travel the same distance as a conventional vehicle on a single tank of gas— about 480 to 640 km. In addition, unlike hydrogen gas, liquid fuels like methanol and gasoline would not require a completely new system for delivering fuel to consumers.

Illustration 1: Fuel reformer 3

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Fuel Combustion,” International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, December 1993; and U.S. EPA, Compilation of Air Pollutant Emission Factors, 1993.

“A fuel cell harnesses the chemical energy of hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity without combustion or pollution.” Fuel cell technology is not new; NASA has used fuel cells for many years to provide power for space shuttles' electrical systems. In the near future, many vehicles may also be powered by fuel cells. The type of fuel cell typically used in automobiles is a Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM), also called a Polymer Electrolyte Membrane fuel cell.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Illustration 2: How it works: Fuel cell


1 Encyclopedia Britannica 1994 -1998

2 INFORM calculations based on energy content and conversion data from U.S. Energy and Information Administration, Annual Energy Review 1993; and I. Ali and M. Basit, “Significance of Hydrogen Content in


Excerpt out of 49 pages


Challanges and advantages of alternative fuel vehicles
Middle East Technical University  (Business Administration)
Managing Technology and Innovation
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
845 KB
fuel cell, alternative fuel, future, automobile
Quote paper
Jens Unger (Author)Nina Moos (Author), 2002, Challanges and advantages of alternative fuel vehicles, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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