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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

Danish Towns Fund Hydrogen Train

March 29, 2005


The Engineer reports that three Danish towns in Ringkøbing Amt (county) in Western Jutland—Vemb, Lemvig and Thyborøn—will put up funding for a hydrogen-fueled train running along the 59 km railway line connecting them.

The line is operated by the Vemb-Lemvig-Thyborøn Jernbane (VLTJ) railway (Lemvigbanen).

The county of Ringkøbing is home to a number of renewable energy projects. Ringkøbing Amt faces westward to the North Sea, and has some of the best wind resources in Denmark. Wind power provides approximately 35% of the electricity for the county. Currently, a fourth of the Danish production of biogas is from this region and plans are underway to build one of the biggest biogas plants in the world. A new test center for wave energy has been developed to the north.

The county is also the seat of Denmark’s Hydrogen Innovation and Research Center (HIRC).

HIRC has proposed a number of hydrogen projects in the area, the train being but one.

HIRC has proposed two phases to the project. The first phase would use a hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engine (natural gas engine). The second would be to move to a fuel-cell system.

The center estimates that a single 1 MW windmill could produce the hydrogen required for two train sets.

According to the CEO of HIRC, Jens-Chr. Møller: “Our goal is to get Europe’s first commercially viable hydrogen train in Europe. There are many international projects on using hydrogen in cars and buses, but plans on hydrogen trains are very few and mostly centred in the US and Japan.”

With money at hand, HIRC now hopes to attract the attention of train manufacturers interested in participating in the project.

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$60M from DOE for Combustion Research

June 02, 2004

The Department of Energy is going to award up to $60 million to researchers focusing on ways “to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines for light- and heavy-duty engines through technological advances in combustion and waste heat recovery.” The solicitation outlines the two primary topics of interest:

  • Enabling High Efficiency Clean Combustion

  • Exhaust Energy recovery

The first deals with areas such as HCCI, the latter with areas such as EGR. (Earlier posts on these areas.)

The solicitiation is “fuel-neutral”. The fuel does not have to be gasoline or diesel, it only has to be liquid at ambient conditions.

The baseline goals are to improve engine efficiency by 10% or more in each topic. Proposals are due in 26 July, and it will be very interesting to see where this goes.

Also of interest is the way the DOE articulates the market context for this work:

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Keep an Eye on HCCI

May 19, 2004

In the majority of scenarios for building sustainable mobility (decreasing emissions, increasing fuel efficiency, weaning from oil), there is a substantial short- to medium-term emphasis on advanced conventional technologies.


One of the promising engine technologies that has emerged over the past few years is called HCCI -- Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition. To the right is a diagram comparing HCCI with spark ignition (your basic gasoline engine) and compression ignition (diesel). (Click to enlarge. Source.)

HCCI relies upon a very lean (high proportion of air to fuel) and well-mixed (Homogeneous) air-fuel mixture (Charge) that is compressed (Compression) until it autoignites (Ignition). The resulting spontaneous burn produces a flameless energy release in a large zone almost simultaneously -- very different than the spark/gasoline burn or the compression/diesel burn.

HCCI is a very efficient engine without the nasty NOx or PM emissions of a diesel. It can operate using a variety of fuels -- gasoline, diesel, natural gas, biofuels, hydrogen.

However, there are barriers to overcome -- such as reducing the amount of unburned hydrocarbons and figuring out the complex contorl mechanism. The latter is first a matter of understanding the dynamics of the chemistry and then figuring out how to best control it in different situations, with different fuels, etc. There is a great deal of research focus on HCCI, however, because the potential benefit in many different use cases is high. The Society of Automtoive Engineers (SAE) is hosting a special two-day HCCI symposium this August.

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Air-Powered Car from Oz

April 30, 2004

From a friend in Australia comes a report of a new type of engine powered by pressurized air.

Angelo di Pietro’s engine, which has been patented, uses compressed air that expands in a chamber, pushes a rotor in a circular motion and turns a wheel through a chain and sprocket.

The pulling power of the engine can be varied using a pressure valve, which means it uses less air to carry a light load. Enviro 1 uses three 18-litre diving tanks to give a range of around 10km before it needs to return to the filling station – and it takes just two minutes to refill.

This range would be more than enough for use in a factory or warehouse but di Pietro is working on ways to improve it – including a much larger and lighter carbon-fibre tank – and is considering using liquid oxygen, which is denser than regular compressed air.

Figures provided by di Pietro suggest the prototype vehicle costs about $4.50 to run for 10km. [Note: Angelo di Pietro corrects this citation in the comment below. The cost is $0.45. --Mike] His is not the only engine to run on pressurised air – at least two other types exist. But di Pietro claims his is 100 per cent more efficient than piston or vane-equipped air engines, which he says are much heavier and need more air.

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