A 60 mpg Hummer with double the horsepower and very low emissions??? What about a 'green' Boeing 747 Jet?

FC120Cover100mpg“Johnathan Goodwin can get 100 mpg out of a Lincoln Continental, cut emissions by 80%, and double the horsepower. Does the car business have the guts to follow him?”

So starts Motorhead Messiah, this month’s cover story at FastCompany.com.

Goodwin is getting incredible, real-world improvements in fuel economy, horsepower and reduced emissions by combining diesel, electric and flexible fuel technology, mostly with stock components already in production. What’s more, his company, SAE Energy, is working to deploy this technology for vehicle fleets.

What really caught my attention was a discussion of  infusing hydrogen or natural gas into biodiesel for some radical improvements in fuel economy and emissions:

While researching alternative fuels, [Goodwin] learned about the work of Uli Kruger, a German who has spent decades in Australia exploring techniques for blending fuels that normally don’t mix. One of Kruger’s systems induces hydrogen into the air intake of a diesel engine, producing a cascade of emissions-reducing and mileage-boosting effects. The hydrogen, ignited by the diesel combustion, burns extremely clean, producing only water as a by-product. It also displaces up to 50% of the diesel needed to fuel the car, effectively doubling the diesel’s mileage and cutting emissions by at least half. Better yet, the water produced from the hydrogen combustion cools down the engine, so the diesel combustion generates fewer particulates–and thus fewer nitrogen-oxide emissions.

“It’s really a fantastic chain reaction, all these good things happening at once,” Kruger tells me. He has also successfully introduced natural gas–a ubiquitous and generally cheap fuel–into a diesel-burning engine, which likewise doubles the mileage while slashing emissions. In another system, he uses heat from the diesel engine to vaporize ethanol to the point where it can be injected into the diesel combustion chambers as a booster, with similar emissions-cutting effects.

Goodwin began building on Kruger’s model. In 2005, he set to work adapting his own H1 Hummer to burn a combination of hydrogen and biodiesel. He installed a Duramax [GM's stock large truck diesel engine] in the Hummer and plopped a carbon-fiber tank of supercompressed hydrogen into the bed. The results were impressive: A single tank of hydrogen lasted for 700 miles and cut the diesel consumption in half. It also doubled the horsepower. “It reduces your carbon footprint by a huge, huge amount, but you still get all the power of the Duramax,” he says, slapping the H1 on the quarter panel. “And you can feed it hydrogen, diesel, biodiesel, corn oil–pretty much anything but water.”

The implications are huge. I sure hope the major auto manufacturers push this technology to the mainstream, pronto. Until then, if you own a large vehicle fleet, think about converting it, yourself and financing the project with fuel savings and carbon offset credits (the good kind, where you actually reduce emissions!). As you’ll read, DHL is considering just that.

In related news, researchers at Princeton University (partnered with other institutions),  aim to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of jet engines used in aviation.  This avenue of research is critical, as aviation is responsible for roughly 2.7 percent of the US’s total greenhouse gas emissions (source: U.S. DOT) Whereas many airlines are making excellent procedural changes (i.e. the EU’s EasyJet.com), these research projects actually seek to a) model the reaction within the jet engine, and b) reformulate jet fuel, itself.

Kudos to the US Air Force and NetJets for funding this vital research.

What is your organization’s climate change strategy?

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Monday, October 22nd, 2007 Article Archive, Main Page, Sustainability, Technology

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