Matching Future Automotive Fuels and Engines for Optimum Energy Efficiency
In the future, if fuels from different sources (oil shale, coal, nuclear, biomass) are to be used in automobiles powered by current and alternative engines, we must be concerned with minimizing the overall energy expenditure for converting primary energy sources to power at the wheels. It is recognized, however, that many other factors, including environmental concerns, economics, and politics will have strong, and perhaps overriding influences on the final decision about which fuel-engine combinations should be and will be utilized.
Resource acquisition efficiency,
Resource conversion efficiency (into various fuels),
Fuel distribution efficiency (from producer to consumer), and
Fuel-utilization efficiency (by the automobile).
Only the second and fourth factors were investigated because they play the major roles in determining the overall energy utilization efficiency. The efficiencies associated with resource acquisition and fuel distribution are generally high compared with the other efficiencies.
The conversion efficiencies for obtaining potential automotive fuels (mainly various liquid hydrocarbons and alcohols) from the primary energy sources were estimated from a critical review of the literature. The compatibility of each of these fuels with current and alternative automotive powerplants was examined with emphasis on fuel combustion quality (octane or cetane number), volatility, and impurities (sulfur, nitrogen, and ash). Powerplants considered include: conventional spark-ignition and diesel engines; stratified-charge engines; and steam, gas turbine, and Stirling engines.
Estimates of the fuel-utilization efficiency of these engines should be based on vehicle data for comparably sized vehicles having the same exhaust emission levels and having similar performance. These data are not available for most of the alternative automotive powerplants. Therefore the concept of optimum energy utilization is illustrated with an example using data from conventional spark-ignition and diesel engines. Based on this comparison, the overall energy utilization efficiency appears highest with fuels from petroleum, followed by fuels from oil shale, coal, biomass, and nuclear.
To apply this approach to all alternative fuels and engines in order to firmly conclude which combinations are the most energy efficient, improvements in the data bases are required. The efficiencies of converting energy resources to fuels must be established with greater certainty than heretofore possible, the properties of the fuels obtained must be determined, and the fuel-utilization efficiency of automobiles powered with various fuel-engine combinations must be measured. These last measurements must be made with the fuels and engines in automobiles of comparable size, performance, and exhaust emissions.
In addition, future studies are justified for those fuel-engine combinations currently deemed incompatible, but with potential for greater energy utilization efficiency than compatible combinations.
KeywordsDiesel Engine Alternative Fuel Fuel Property Spark Ignition Engine Automotive Fuel
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