Popular Mechanics on Alternative Fuels

This Popular Mechanics article on alternative fuels has a lot of good information. It doesn’t completely incorporate the economic costs of, for example, having to transport the ethanol to the point of consumption separate from the gasoline. But it does provide a very thorough analysis of the different fuel technologies that are currently under development.

I also like the pragmatic, portfolio-focused perspective they take in their conclusion:

Today, many families have several cars–often more cars than they have drivers. So before we see our national fleet running on hydrogen, we believe that many households might have an electric or plug-in hybrid for short trips, an E85/electric hybrid sedan, SUV or minivan to squire the whole team, and a diesel pickup fueled by B30 or B50 to haul most anything else. All will reduce greenhouse gases and use renewable resources that come from inside our borders. By pursuing these multiple pathways, we can reduce our dependence on any single energy source–something we haven’t achieved with petroleum.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds for the link.


3 thoughts on “Popular Mechanics on Alternative Fuels

  1. I look forward to the day that I can buy a B100 biodiesel powered Hummer H2 plug-in Hybrid. That would be sweet.

    Biodiesel really makes the most sense, much more sense than ethanol. Biodiesel actually makes diesels better (because it lowers their particulate matter emissions without aftertreatment). Yeah, you need heaters to keep the stuff from waxing at low temps, but waxing is a problem with petrodiesel as well (ask GM, waxed fuel was a major problem for their ill fated Oldsmobile passenger car diesel).

    Unlike hybrids, no one is disappointed in the actual mileage they get vs. the one on the sticker. And there is no reason, other than cost, that there can’t be a diesel hybrid.

  2. “Ill fated” is one way to describe the early ’80s GM diesel. The other common expression is “infamous.”

    Daryl Hannah has a 1983 El Camino with one of those GM diesel engines fueled with bio diesel. I expect a Hollywood star can afford the kind of life support system it must take to keep that antique running.

    GM is currently investing so much time and effort into going out of business they haven’t caught on to the renewed interest in diesel power among the little people, i.e. those of us who don’t need or want a 6.6 liter 360 horsepower uber truck. A smaller version of their Duramax would be cool.

    I expect my next car will have to be either an E85 or diesel. I would much prefer diesel but, the current choices are extremely limited.

  3. Actually, GM is developing a smaller V8 diesel for the 2009 time frame.

    The Oldsmobile diesel is infamous, but it was also ill fated. GM’s marketing of the engine caused most of its problems (trying to sell it to people who knew nothing of diesels without educating them about the differences between diesels and gas cars).

    I’m not surprised that an Oldmobile diesel survived in Southern California running on biodiesel. The mild weather solves some of the Olds’ problems, the biodiesel solves some of its other problems (water in the fuel, soot). By 1983, all of the Olds’ design issues were solved save one (head bolt cracking). That issue has supposedly been solved since then.

    It’s interesting and sad that, 20 years after GM killed the Olds diesel, it could really use an evolution of it desperately. Had GM kept the engine going, and developed it alond the lines that VW developed its diesel, GM would have a great engine for its SUV fleet. VW’s TDI diesel is an evolution of a contemporaneous engine to the Olds, and like it was developed from a gasoline engine.

    There is no reason that the Olds diesel couldn’t be upgraded with the TDI technology that VW uses. GM would have an engine that makes 200 hp or so, and would get the big SUV highway mileage into the mid-high 20s.

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