There is a high possibility that we have readers from places with cold climate and like everyone else, you also want to save some money on your car fuel.
If you are driving a vehicle dependent on diesel, have you ever thought of the effects of the cold weather to your fuel? A group that recently tested the Sprinter cargo van by Mercedes-Benz in the Alaskan Arctic Circle, encountered some difficulties due to the very cold weather. Modern vehicles are sent to these places so they can be tested in all conditions.
Diesel, just like other fluids, may behave differently when temperature plummets. The viscosity of diesel increases in colder weather so there is a tendency for waxing or gelling until it reaches a point that the the fuel cannot be pumped anymore and the engine stalls.
This happened to the group of testers of the Sprinter vans that did not start during the second morning of its test run in the Arctic Circle. The engine did not fire up despite extra heaters in place for the vans fuel filter, emission system, and the engine.
Most of the Mercedes-Benz vans were eventually started but drivers still reported some problems along the way varying from running issues or unusual noises. Mercedes will be fielding these vans in warmer weathers so it will be hardly an issue. Vehicles that are marketed in cold climate places like Alaska, Scandinavian countries, or Canada often come with extra heaters. But again, extreme cold can still be an issue despite such provisions.
Truckers that are used to driving in such extreme weather actually leave their vehicles idling to prevent such issues. It may not be the greenest method but it will be safer to have an operational vehicle than get stuck in the Arctic Circle right?
In the colder regions, there are also special blends of diesel that are less prone to gelling. So if you are driving into a colder region, do not go on a full tank and have some space for such kind of fuel.
However high tech you vehicle can be, there will really be problems when the mercury starts to drop.
The dependence of the United States on crude oil might eliminated if it can make synthetic fuel from the combo of natural gas, non-food crops, and coal. This is the belief of a team of scientists from Princeton University.
Aside from the economic benefits, the use of non-food crops may contribute to the decline of greenhouse emissions from tailpipes of vehicles. This can be done by as much as 50% through several decades.
The transportation system of the country will also not have problems with synthetic fuels. These fuels will be compatible for use with most vehicles today. The synthetic fuels actually have similar physical properties that can be likened to refined crude oil..
The research done by these experts involving synthetic fuels look into how the U.S. will do in case it transitions to the use of synthetic fuels. The team of experts also looked into the effects of non-crop plants that will be used as raw materials and ideal places where they can be planted plus areas which will not implement high taxes.
The goal is set to decrease the carbon dioxide emissions by as much as 50% and produce enough fuel so the country will not be dependent on crude oil. Then the scientists asked if the goal can be achieved and if it can be achieved in an economically possible way. The answer is yes to both of these concerns.
The scientists though admit that it will not be an easy process and the transition to synthetic fuel will not be quick. They foresee the United States to adopt this new way only after three to four decades.
At the moment, platinum is the preferred catalyst for hydrogen fuel cells but it has several drawbacks. Among the problems with platinum is that it is expensive and it deteriorates over time. Scientists at the Brown University found a more durable and cheaper catalyst using cobalt, cobalt-oxide, and graphene. So far this catalyst is the best alternative to platinum.
The graphene sheet that is covered with cobalt-oxide and cobalt developed by chemists at the university can be as good as the platinum when catalyzing the reaction needed for fuel cells. It is also more durable. Among non-platinum catalysts, this new discovery performs best in terms of reduction reaction.
The necessary reaction happens on the cathode side of the fuel cell. The oxygen functions as the electron sink that strips the electrons from the hydrogen fuel. This process creates the necessary electrical pull which keeps the current steadily running through devices using fuel cells. The most viable catalyst for this process is platinum but since it is very expensive and rare, he fuel cell technology cannot really be rolled out for mass consumption.
Scientists have not developed a more economic alternative to platinum. Some have found a way to decrease the amount of platinum needed but a catalyst that does not need any platinum remained elusive. So far, the most promising is this newly developed material made from graphene and cobalt. It is the first catalyst made from a non-precious metal and comes close to what platinum can do,
Initial testing shows that the cobalt-graphene material is a bit slower than the platinum catalyst when looking into the needed reduction reaction of the oxygen but once the process is started, it is actually faster than platinum. It also proves to be more stable than platinum.
Cobalt is a very abundant metal at a fraction of a cost of platinum. Graphene is well-known for its strength, catalytic potential and electrical properties.
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Electrical engineers from the University of California in San Diego is exerting efforts to build a forest made of nanowire trees which captures solar energy without tapping fossil fuels and harvest the sun’s energy to generate hydrogen fuel. The nanowires are made from materials like zinc oxide and silicon and offer a more affordable way to make hydrogen fuel for the consumption of the public.
The vertical structures and the branches of the nanotrees are essential to capturing the maximum amount of energy coming from the sun according to the engineers. The vertical structures absorbs the light compared to the flat surfaces which only reflects them.
The team compared the process to how earth’s seas and dessert reflect the sun’s rays while the forests look darker. The array of nanowire built by the team of engineers makes use of the process called water splitting via a photoelectrochemical process which separates water into oxygen and water so hydrogen gas can be extracted and used for fuel. The process has no green houses gases as byproducts. At the moment, production of hydrogen fuel still relies on the use of fossil fuels. The hydrogen fuel is a very clean fuel but the process of making it today is not clean.
The structure of the nanotrees with their vertical configuration makes most of harvesting sunlight and the team of engineers from California was able to optimize the process to get more sunlight compared to the planar configuration. The vertical structure of the nanowire trees also maximizes the output of hydrogen.
Basically, the long term goal of the team is to make a large scale artificial photosynthesis where aside from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide are also collected. The collected materials are then used to produce carbohydrates which fuels the growth of the plants. The team of engineers want to recreate this process and capture molecules of CO2 from the air so carbon emissions can be decreased and convert the material to hydrocarbon fuel.
Butanol has been established as one of the better options for transport vehicle fuels. Butanol is not soluble in water and also has more energy content compared to ethanol.
The popular choice as raw material to make butanol are cane sugar and starch but experts at Aalto University made use of lignocellulose or more commonly known as wood biomass. This source can be considered as a better choice as it does not compete with human food needs and production.
Wood biomass consists of lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose as its basic substances. The first two substances are good sources of nutrition for the microbes and therefore bioprocessing is highly probable. When the biomass of wood is boiled in a mixture of sulphur dioxide, alcohol, and water, the substances of wood are separated. The cellulose portion can be used for paper, other products can be crafted from the non-cellulose part, and the hemicellulose is a good raw material for microbes to produce other chemicals.
By 2020, the European Union requires that all fuel should have 10% biofuel component. Butanol can be added to transportation fuel that we use today without the need to do a lot of modification to the ordinary combustion engine. The 20% butanol blend of fuel results to lower harmful emissions compared to ordinary fossil fuel.
Comparing the use of butanol with ethanol, the latter’s blend of fuel results to higher level of odor nuisances in the air. Experts look into the use of butanol in combo with a pulp plant in the biorefinery setup to improve energy use and production of biofuel.
The current project in the university in Finland is to improve the refining value of residues which normally cannot be further utilized.
Bio-based chemical developer Cobalt Technologies and specialty chemical expert Rhodia recently signed a memorandum of understanding to lay the grounds for their collaboration on putting up bio n-butanol refineries in different parts of Latin America.
Under the agreement, the two companies will be working hand in hand to deploy the technology of Cobalt which helps convert bagasse from sugar cane into n-butanol which can be used for fuels and chemicals. The initial options of the joint venture is to try the technology in sugar mills. After the initial phase of the project, Cobalt Technologies and partner company Rhodia will build a demonstration plant in Brazil to promote the technology. After the first site, the companies are looking into building several refineries located within sugar mills in Brazil and then move forward to other countries in the Latin America.
Cobalt Technologies sees the collaboration with Rhodia as a big opportunity to display their technology. They also see Rhodia as an ideal partner for this endeavor since Rhodia has a proven track record in operating in countries like Brazil. The latter also has a vast experience operating a power plant using bagasse from sugar cane. The international credibility of Rhodia is also beneficial for Coballt Technologies which aim to promote the technology across different countries in South America.
Rhodia, on the opposite end of the discussion table, sees the partnership as beneficial since the use of n-butanol from bagasse fits their development strategy.
There is an estimated $5 billion market for n-butanol which is widely used chemical found in surface coatings, lacquers, and paints. The market of n-butanol e is about eight times bigger than that for isobutanol.
The technology of Cobalt will give way to a low cost system that will further push n-butanol to the synthetic rubber and plastics market, plus its use for making jet fuel.
Petrobras of Brazil will put in around $2.5 billion to increase the production of ethanol and biodiesel this year through 2015. The amount forms part of the $4.1 billion that is expected to be spent for their biofuels business which includes $1.3 billion for logistics for their ethanol production and around $300 million for research. Petrobras is expected to pour in around $224.7 billion through the next 5 years basing it on the company’s business plan.
The priority of the company is to increase the ethanol production with investments of around $1.9 billion. In collaboration with their partners, the company is looking to produce around 1.5 billion gallons in 2015 which is about 12% of the market. The company will be the top producer in the domestic market if they reach this goal.
Petrobras will use 70% of the investments in the ethanol segment to make new ethanol, construct plants, put up distilleries, and renewal of the plantation. The investments will be done with partners like Nova Fronteira, Total Agroindustria Canavieira, and Guarani.
On the biodiesel segment, the company is looking to maintain its domestic share of around 25% of the market thru their $00 million of investments. Petrobras has about 5 plants today with biodiesel volume expected to hit 700 million every year.
The $300 million that will be poured into research will be used primarily to develop second gen ethanol for industrial production.
Based on the European Commission’s report that was made public just last week, the various alternatives to fuel have increased its potentials to successfully replace the fuel made from fossil sources that are decreasing by the minute. This translates that transportation might rely on these fuel alternatives that could sustain us by year 2050. Moreover, this adds that by year 2050, we could be looking at transportations means that are free from oil use and CO2 emissions. This is because we need to reduce the CO2 emission’s effects on the environment and address the looming problems of energy supply.
Groups remain enthusiastic that the combined technology of biofuels and lithium-on batteries or fuel cells could replace the oil made from fossils. These two remain as our main options to alternative fuels. Other options include the use of LPG, biomethane, natural gas, and other synthetic fuels.
Later this year, the initiative on these alternative fuels will be released back-to-back with revised policies made by the Commission. The group aims to come up with long-term plans that would successfully meet the energy demands of the transport system with various fuel alternatives that can sustain us by year 2050.
The panel takes into consideration that different mode of transportation requires different types of alternative fuel in terms of amount and power. The alternative fuel’s compatibility with the current infrastructure is also taken into consideration. Based on the reports, the only way to lower or even emit the CO2 emissions caused by transportation is to use alternative fuel.
Think is a car manufacturer from Finland and have been able to produce electric cars. They have now started production of their electric cars in North America. The first of the cars are being manufactured in their plant at Magnum Drive.
The first of these cars were supposed to be on sale and on the streets in the first quarter of the year 2011. However, production has been moving real fast at the manufacturing plant of Think North America and they plan to roll out the first electric car a little after Thanksgiving. This is the very first time that electric cars have been able to get out of the Europe niche and step on to the North American soil.
The assembly space for the Think North America cars have been set up in a huge space that runs into thousands of square feet. This is going to be used for the assembly process with the best of facilities available under one roof.
The first cars to be to be rolled out are going to be 220 small cars that are going to be in the favorite colors of red, black and blue. The next stage of this plan is to make it in such a way that workers move from one car to another. This system is going to change and become more mechanized so as to be able to produce more cars.
As more and more people become aware of the environment and how fuels can release carbons that are harmful to the planet, the demand for green cars seem to be on the rise. This is the impetus that has brought about a kick start to the new round of green vehicles that have hit the market. There are several of these kinds from big car manufacturers that are going to hit the market. There is the Chevrolet Volt, the Leaf from Nissan and some others that is about to be launched in the last month of 2010 or the beginning of 2011.
These cars are going to be rolled out according to specific regions. They will start with California and go on to the other states. Although this is just the beginning as more and more of these cars are going to be seen in the market. There are several hybrid cars that are in the making as well. This could be the kind that has electric power and can be operated using larger batteries as well. Manufacturers are designing new age cars to keep up with the demand from their customers. There are actually 27 hybrid cars in the market at the moment such as the BMW 7 series, the Mercedes S class, the Toyota Prius and Lexus LS.
German car makers are in the fore front of the making of hybrid cars and those with diesel ruining capacity so as to harm the environment as less as possible. So if you want to respect our environment, you should definitely buy one of these modern hybrid cars. To cut the costs you could purchase it in Germany yourself, but you’ll still need a good car insurance policy in your hometown!