Alternatives to Gasoline powered automobiles (and my opinions)
Electric lead-acid battery powered
The electric motor is many times more efficient than an internal combustion engine. The problem here is the power source. The lead-acid battery’s energy density is hundreds of times less than gasoline. Thus, the heavy car and reduced range and poor performance by comparison. A hydrogen fuel cell would help here but this doesn’t solve all the problems such as a defroster, cabin heat, and air conditioning.
Hybrid gasoline/electric powered
This is not new, but getting to be more popular. I saw an article in issue #58 of Mother Earth News titled "Amazing 75 mpg Hybrid Electric Car" in the early 70’s where a Opal GT was converted using a Briggs and Stratton gas powered generator, an aircraft starter motor, and 4 car batteries. The modified car was able to get 75 mpg at an expense of about $1200.00. The major problem with modern hybrids today is the cost. If you closely analyze the difference between it and a conventional automobile, you’re going to have to drive that hybrid for 500,000 plus miles to break even and you are still dependent on gasoline!
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Hydrogen on demand powered
This has some interesting potential. There are many problems with hydrogen. It is the smallest molecule know to man, and tends to leak through any container material. This migration tends to change the property of that material, causing "hydrogen embrittlement". Hydrogen gas when mixed with air has the largest explosive range. You have to be less than 10% or greater than 80% to be safe.
It is very, very easy to ignite and burns with an almost invisible flame. An internal combustion engine powered by hydrogen needs to have its compression ratio increased to get maximum fuel efficiency. 11-1 to 18-1 is recommended. This is in the range of a diesel engine. Do you remember when GM took its standard gas engine and tried to make a diesel out of it? It just didn’t hold up. This is something to consider when making your own modified engine.
Hydrogen production: Commercial hydrogen gas is produced by the same process that produces gasoline. It is expensive and is generally shipped in 80,000 cubic foot tube trailers pulled by a semi. Try to stay away from these on the highway. An accident with one of these once took out over ¼ mile area around it. According to some people, converting water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis consumes as much energy as it potentially produces. In life, you typically don’t get something for nothing. A lot of work has been done here with various electronics, frequencies, and harmonics.
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Producers gas powered
During WWII gasoline was in a very short supply due to the war effort. Several people came up with an alternative way to power their vehicles. You can partially burn wood or other substances to produce a flammable gas. This was done in an external container and then plumbed into the conventional intake just before the carburetor. This not a very efficient process and produces a very large amount of carbon monoxide! Plans are available on the internet.
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A closed circuit steam engine using a mono-tube boiler would be my choice. Several early automobiles were steam driven. The only negatives I can see are the safety of the boiler and the time it takes to get up steam. The old Stanley steamer was almost as efficient in miles per gallon as its then current rivals.
A steam engine powered automobile can be designed to burn almost any fuel for heat.
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