Flutterby™! : Hybrids-omnifuels

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2005-09-07 03:31:55.401054+00 by meuon 15 comments

As gas prices yo-yo for all the wrong reasons, and as I am cleaning up and organizing my two large rooling toolchests of automative-ish tools that have been stored in my Dad's garage and are now in mine. I daydream about buying a very small junker car and the idea of making an alternative fuel/hybrid/electric/biodiesel/fusion/dilithium crystal vehicle. It would only have to go 60 miles round trip to be useful in Chattanooga, but it would have to be powerful enough to make it back home halfway up Signal Mtn at the near end of it's capacity.

Still, a small electric car, maybe with a multifuel diesel charger? It'd work and could be quite simple. Revisiting Otmar's website makes me think about starting to collect parts for something like his Porche 914.

Chances are slim I'll get farther than this web post, but it has me thinking and I'll be keeping my eyes open for a donor vehicle or two. Heck, I gotta finish my recumbent tandem bike first... The real issue is not the cost and availability of the gas, but pyschological options from the gas industry. I just want OPTIONS.

[ related topics: Coyote Grits Work, productivity and environment Chattanooga Travel Automobiles Bicycling Bicycling - Tandem ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Have you considered natural gas? made: 2005-09-07 06:01:16.522087+00 by: Hanan Cohen

I drive a hybrid Gasoline/Natural Gas one. Much cheaper and good for the environment.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-07 11:36:26.145679+00 by: meuon

The goal would be an option away from petrochemicals. I was thinking more last night that putting solar on the house would be smart, both as tertiary backup power as well as to charge an electric vehicle. Return on investment on -any- of these technologies is a long ways down the road. What I really want is that 'Mr Fusion' that was on top of the Delorean in Back To The Future ???. - Or maybe taking that rooftop solar and making Hydrogen.. or.. or..

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-07 13:14:25.929059+00 by: jeff [edit history]

I'm curious, how has biodiesel technology progressed over the last year? There was a previous thread which focused on it. Eric, can you give us an update?

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-07 13:37:23.490558+00 by: Dan Lyke

Coincidentally, yesterday Jerry posted a picture of the next car he plans to do an electric conversion on.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-07 15:15:32.815708+00 by: ebradway

Biodiesel isn't so much a technology issue as it is a marketting issue. Currently, I can buy B20 biodiesel in Chattanooga at a regular gas station and put it in my regular, unmodified Volkswagen Jetta TDi at $2.79/gallon. That's today when gasoline is about $3.09/gallon for regular-grade in Chattanooga. I get about 35-40 miles from each gallon. If B100 (100% biodiesel) were available, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.

Biodiesel at the pump is some sort of veggie oil that has had alcohol bubbled through it. This makes it coagulate at a lower temperature than straight veggie oil. Oh, I guess I forgot to mention: I can poor straight Wesson Oil in my fuel tank and my car will run on it. The only issue is that veggie oil starts to cloud and coagulate at temps around 40 degrees F. This makes starting the car challenging. The "kits" to run a diesel on veggie oil are simply a series of heaters you put in the fuel tank, on the fuel lines and on the fuel filter. These are the same kits you put on a diesel in Alaska to make it run petroleum-based diesel.

Biodiesel can be distributed in the existing fuel distribution system with no change. In fact, it's bio-degradable. You can drink it. I wouldn't want to, but it wouldn't kill me. That means it's actually safer than petro-diesel and much safer than the explosive gasoline put in regular cars. Also, Ethanol, the veggie-derived fuel for gasoline engines, is even more explosive than gasoline.

Biodiesel has almost no ozone-depleting byproducts. It does have higher NOx (smog) byproducts but if you can avoid the crap-diesel that is still commonly sold in the US full of Sulfur (the bad smelling stuff you smell in diesel exhaust), you can use a particulate trap/incinerator in the exhaust. These are standard features in Europe where 40% of new cars sold are diesel and the fuel is all low/no-sulfur.

In Europe, VW sells a little car called a Lupo. It goes 100km on 3l of diesel. That's 78mpg. This is in a car a little smaller than a Golf and bigger than the little things GM/Chevy is pushing.

Daimler-Chrysler is selling a Diesel-Hybrid Mercedes this year. It should be quite nice.

Oh yeah, the new diesels like mine are nothing like the diesels you may have experienced in the 80s. My Jetta puts out 100hp and 178 ft/lbs of torque at 1900rpm. It cruises at 100mph like you'd expect from a German car. It accelerates quite nicely. It is a little louder than a gasoline engine but not nearly as bad as the old earth-shakers from the 80s.

Expect the US automakers to start selling their diesels in the US next year. Did you know Ford sells six different diesel engines in the Focus in every country except ours? BMW sells a diesel Mini Cooper.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-09 01:49:40.310833+00 by: TheSHAD0W

Talk about omnifuels, here's something I picked up recently...

The engine nominally runs on diesel, but it'll burn gasoline, alcohol, whatever. Forget the biodiesel, it'll eat vegetable oil straight.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-09 04:30:18.71598+00 by: Mars Saxman

Someone at Burning Man told me that the Unimog engine worked that way - that you could pour in all kinds of different flammable liquids and it would happily burn them. I didn't see how that could possibly work. So, if this thing can do it, I guess the Unimog probably does too. But how *does* it work? What's the trick?

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-09 12:47:05.553563+00 by: meuon

LOTS of compression, a bulletproof fuel delivery system (often heated) and the ability to run with or without a spark or at least very heavy duty glowplugs. Some good info at: Elsbett.

Again, a biodiesel/veggie oil fueled hybrid looks like an optimum mix. A small Elsbett style Diesel motor requiring no cooling system running the generator would be sweet.

Off the cuff: Subsidizing farmers to NOT grow crops like Soybeans and Rapeseed (Canola) seems like insanity.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-09 18:06:02.165043+00 by: TheSHAD0W

There's also a device called a "fuel density compensator" that regulates the flow of fuel into the engine based on how heavy it is. The engine does not have any glow plugs (nor spark plugs either); it's so good at starting that you have to be careful not to leave it in gear because a bump will start it right up and it'll run away on you. (You may need to use ether to start it on cold days though.)

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-10 20:57:58.586433+00 by: ebradway

Pretty much all diesels can run on straight veggie oil. They can also run, to varying degrees, on almost any other fuel. Diesel work on compression. As long as what you put in will ignite under pressure, it'll work.

BTW, the glow-plugs in my TDi are only used to pre-heat the ignition chamber when it gets cold. After starting, the glow plugs do nothing.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-15 13:17:19.044601+00 by: Dan Lyke [edit history]

But will it run off of the corpses of roadkill? (thanks(?) to /.)

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-15 19:36:58.216957+00 by: aiworks

MSNBC is warning about jumping on the bandwagon.

I had never heard of E85. Now, if we could just start making ethanol out of something higher yielding than corn...

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-15 20:25:19.466155+00 by: meuon

That MSNBC Article smells FUD propoganda.. lots of "possibile" and "may" - even if it is true.

#Comment Re: made: 2005-09-20 22:29:36.787924+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

It is FUD. The article concludes with:

"Until you can buy a car that runs on a biofuel at your local car dealer the alternative fuel market won't be a good thing for the general public"

While earlier in the article it mentioned:

Lots of cars, like the GM passenger vehicles and Mercedes Benz E Class, are qualified to run the E85 fuel blend

So let me get this straight, the article concludes that the alternative fuel market isn't a good thing because they can't go buy a car at a local dealer that uses it while it already stated that GM passenger vehicles and Mercedes E Class are qualified? It also failed to mention that ALL new diesels are able to run straight B100 biodiesel. All that needs to be changed in older diesels is any rubber fuel lines. Newer diesels have solid fuel lines because of the pressure generated by the fuel pump.

And the article is correct about changing fuel filters, especially when changing a petro-run diesel to bio diesel. Biodiesel is an excellent solvent and will clean out your tank in a hurry. But that's the purpose of the fuel filter. And most diesels require fuel filter changes every 10K-20K anyway because the diesel fuel we buy in the states is such crap.

As far as E85 goes, it has some issues that the article didn't mention. It's a very explosive alcohol. More hazardous that gasoline. It also only contains about 50% of the energy of gasoline. That means if you get 20mpg on gasoline, you'll only get 10mpg from E85. You will also notice a change in power because the fuel system will only be delivering 50% of the available energy. I think the new Omnifuel GMs are able to compensate by increasing the fuel flow rates.

Here's a pump in San Diego that offered about a dozen different fuels. And this was at a Ford Dealership!

#Comment Re: What is really happening.... made: 2005-09-21 01:16:54.05956+00 by: BC

is the Feds don't want Americans to stampede to some alternative source that they can't control, i.e., TAX. Some producers of biodiesel have gone so far as to say it is illegal to use SVO! Go to Griffin Industries and alot of academic sites, where university personnel have been working on biodiesel for years, only to see other alternative sources potentially eclipse their efforts, not to mention Big Oil who wants a piece of any and all action.