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Innovations in Transportation

Innovations in Transportation

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Published by Bill Kuhl
Some innovative ideas on becoming more energy efficient.
Some innovative ideas on becoming more energy efficient.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Bill Kuhl on Mar 11, 2011
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Innovations in Transportation

By Bill Kuhl

Innovations in Transportation
In this presentation I will address the following questions:

What are the major types of transportation? What are the major types of fuel, what are the alternatives? How much fuel are we using? What are the negatives? What are some innovated ideas to improve energy efficiency in transportation?

Importance of Transportation

Transportation is such an important component to our modern lifestyle; relating to manufacturing, food supply, and leisure.

Types of Fuels

Gasoline - Ethanol (alternative fuel) Diesel - Biodiesel (alternative fuel) Jet Fuel Electricity Hydrogen Natural Gas

About Oil

Crude oil was formed over millions of years from the remains of plants and animals covered by layers of sand and silt. The process was helped along by the heat and pressure in the layers.

Crude oil is pumped from the ground and then sent to a refinery where it is separated into gasoline, diesel, aviation fuel, etc. ** Fuel created from oil is Not Renewable, when it is used up it is gone. **

How Much Fuel are We Using?
The Oil Used in United States Each Day is Around 20 Million Barrels
If the barrels were lined up edge to edge, this could extend from Minnesota to Florida.

Oil Consumption in the World is Around 1000 Barrels a Second

For Every 1000 People Number of Car Owners
World Average is 111

US 760 Car Owners

China 10 Car Owners One reason oil consumption will go up. India 12 Car Owners Emerging countries such as China and India with large populations but low percentage of car ownership will add significantly to oil demand as they purchase automobiles at an increasing rate.

Negative Aspects of Fuels - Pollution

The exhaust from a gasoline engine contains nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. If run in a contained area the exhaust is lethal.

Pollution from Diesel

Diesel exhaust contains some of the same pollutants as gasoline but adds particulate matter and other pollutants.

Pollution in the Refining Process

Oil refineries give off a variety of pollutants and use a huge amount of water. Many petroleum refineries use hydrofluoric acid in their processing, which poses a great public safety risk both because of its extreme toxicity and its propensity to form a toxic aerosol cloud when released.

Drilling for oil offshore presents additional risks for pollution.

Negative - Scarcity

Often oil must be transported long distances because not enough is found where it is needed. This requires more fuel for the transportation, adding to pollution and cost.

Major Types of Transportation Considered






Automobiles are the most common method of transportation for moving people from place to place. Most commonly powered by an internal combustion engine using gasoline for fuel. In European countries diesel engine automobiles are popular.
Smaller cars are normally more fuel efficient.

Automobiles have used gasoline engines for over a hundred years. Gasoline is increasingly expensive and it is polluting. Modern cars that are well tuned are much less polluting than the cars of just 20 years ago. Gas mileage improved some after oil crisis of 1970¶s but has not improved significantly since.

Large luxury cars from years ago could get less than 10 mpg.

The major alternative fuel to power gasoline engines has been ethanol. Ethanol is commonly created from corn or sugar cane in warmer climates. There has been much controversy if the net energy is much greater than the energy required to create ethanol and many people do not like the idea of using what could be food for fuel. Ethanol is less polluting than gasoline but requires modification to the engine to run 100% ethanol. More commonly it is mixed 85% to 15% gasoline to create E85 or most gasoline contains 10% ethanol.

E85 fuel is often sold for less, reason most often given is because of subsidies

Electric Powered Automobiles
Powering automobiles with electricity is not a new technology, some of the first automobiles were electric but the gasoline engine quickly won out as the preferred power source. Recently there has been new technology and increased concerns for the environment that have made powering a vehicle by electricity a more popular option.
Nissan Leaf has been advertised as the first affordable 100% electric car available for mass-market.

Advances in electric motors, electronics, and batteries are making a multi-use vehicle more practical. The electric hybrid vehicle has been a very popular option to pure electric powered vehicles.

ZAP all-electric truck. ³ZAP stands for Zero Air Pollution´ Company headquarters is in Santa Rosa California Although no direct pollution from electrical vehicles, if electricity for charging vehicle is produced by fossil fuels, there will be pollution at the power plant.

Neighborhood electric vehicles have lower speed limit than other cars which restricts their use to short in-town driving and no highway driving.

In the past, electric vehicles have been more for experimenters. Using lead acid batteries resulted in limited range and heavy weight.

Electric Hybrid Automobile

Hybrid vehicles combine fuel powered engines and electric motors powered by batteries to increase fuel efficiency. Batteries are recharged by generator powered by the engine or from energy recovered from braking.

Toyota Prius has been the most popular hybrid car, worldwide cumulative sales reached over 2 million cars in September 2010.

Plug-in Electric Hybrid Automobile

This Toyota Prius was converted to be a plug-in hybrid vehicle. Electricity for charging this car can come from garbage incinerator.

Compressed Natural Gas
Photo¶s courtesy of www.hondamotorwerks.com 2007 Honda Civic GX that runs on compressed natural gas.

Internal combustion engines can be made to run on compressed natural gas. Natural gas is more plentiful in the US and gives off about 25% less emissions than gasoline.


Fuel Hybrid car developed by Toyota.

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TOYOTA_FCHV_01.jpg Wikimedia Commons author (GNU Free Documentation License) (Public Domain)

About Hydrogen

‡ Hydrogen is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. ‡ Hydrogen is an energy carrier and must be separated from other substances. ‡ Hydrogen can be separated from water, biomass, or natural gas. Hydrogen can be burned in an internal combustion engine but it is more commonly converted to electricity in a ³fuel cell´. The fuel cell is efficient and there is no pollution but it takes energy to create the hydrogen or there is some pollution if it is created from fossil fuel such as natural gas.

Model Fuel Cell Car Kit ± solar cell produces electricity for electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen which combine in fuel creating electricity again which powers electric motor.


Large trucks deliver nearly 70% of all goods in the United States, typical fuel mileage is around 5 mpg so even small increases in efficiency reduces consumption a significant amount. Diesel fuel used in large trucks is more expensive than gasoline.

About Diesel Engines Diesel engines ignite the fuel without the spark plugs used in gasoline engines by compressing the air in cylinders further which causes it to heat up before injecting fuel mixture. Diesel engines are built heavier to withstand the greater forces but typically are more fuel-efficient. In terms of thermal efficiency diesel engine are normally at least 30% efficient and can be as high as 50% efficient compared to 25% efficiency in gasoline engines. Applications for diesel engines are normally larger trucks, farm machinery, trains, ships, and some automobiles.

Small diesel engine that can run on waste vegetable oil.

Biodiesel Alternative to Diesel

‡ Most commonly made from soybeans. ‡ Can be made from recycled cooking oil. ‡ Highest energy content of any alternative fuel. ‡ Can run in diesel engine with few modifications. ‡ Less polluting than petroleum diesel. Disadvantages: ‡ Tends to clean dirt out of engine which can lead to clogs in system. ‡ More expensive than petroleum diesel.

³When a large truck is travelling at 55 mph, roughly half of the truck¶s horsepower is needed to overcome aerodynamic drag.´

Without the fairing over the cab there is more wind resistance from the hitting the front of the trailer.

Fairing over this truck cab reduces the drag hitting the front of the trailer.

There is still a significant gap between the cab and the trailer, ³air tabs´ on the cab might improve the flow further.

Underneath the trailer and the rear of the trailer are significant areas of drag also. Sideskirts on the bottom of the trailer and air tabs on the rear of the trailer may reduce some of the drag.

Rolling Resistance
³Rolling resistance´ in trucks is a major portion of the drag the truck must overcome until the speed reaches almost 50 mph, then the drag of pushing through air is greater. The rubber tire deformation is a major factor in trucks and not in trains with steel wheels. Physics students learn about rolling resistance when building mousetrap powered cars.

Hydraulic Hybrid

For trucks that start and stop often such a delivery or garbage trucks, hydraulic hybrid technology can save significant fuel by compressing a gas pushed by hydraulic fluid pumped during braking .

This ³hydraulic hybrid´ car was designed and constructed by Eden Prairie High School students and entered in a super mileage competition, average mileage was 150 m.p.g.

Jets and Airplanes

The newest jet engines are twice as efficient as jet engines built in the 1960¶s. Fuel costs have risen faster and are a major expense for an airline.

On average, a passenger jet burns about 910 lbs. of fuel, or 136 gallons, during its takeoff and climb. It will burn a similar amount during its descent and landing. As much as 50% of carbon emissions from planes come from the combination of the takeoff and landing.

Different fuel blends are needed to operate jet aircraft in colder weather.

Small planes use internal combustion engines using a highoctane gasoline called av-gas.

Biofuel or Synthetic Fuel for Jet Aircraft
Creating fuel for jet engines is a challenge because of the cold temperatures encountered at high altitudes and safety concerns. Experimental jet fuels have been tested however.

Experimental Jet Fuels: ‡ Blending 20% babassu nuts, coconut and 80% conventional jet fuel. ‡ Blending synthetic fuel derived from algae with existing jet fuel ‡ Blending natural gas derived synthetic fuel with existing jet fuel.

There are 70,000 ships engaged in international trade carrying 90% of the world¶s goods.

Modern cargo ships can carry up to 11,000 metal shipping containers. Over 1600 gallons of heavy oil fuel are burned in an enormous engine that develops over 100,000 horsepower that is 50 percent efficient.

Modern Ships are Much Faster Than Ships of the Past

Replica of one of the three ships Christopher Columbus used to cross the Atlantic Ocean which took over 2 months. Modern cargo ships can cross the Atlantic in as little as 7 days.

Barges Move Freight on Rivers

Barges are said to be more efficient than rail for moving large amounts of freight on rivers, some people will dispute this.

Air travel has mostly replaced ships for passenger travel except for cruise ships.

How Do You Make a Ship More Efficient
‡ Reduce the drag on the hull of the ship including anything that protrudes from the hull.

‡ Improve the efficiency of the propulsion of the ship which includes the engines and propellers.

‡ Harness the wind to move the ship.

Electric Pod Drive That Swivels

Electric motor in pod that swivels to turn ship does not have the drag of rudder behind the propeller and can be controlled more efficiently. For some situations can improve efficiency up to 15%.

Modern Use of Wind Power
A large kite launched from a ship can cut fuel consumption up to 35% in some situations. More information to be found on company website: http://www.skysails.info/

(c) SkySails GmbH & Co. KG


Progress in Rail Transportation
There has been much progress in improving the efficiency of an always efficient means of travel, trains. From the days of coal powered steam trains to the modern diesel electric trains, the basic design is the same. The small area in front and the low rolling resistance of steel wheels on steel rail is very efficient in moving a large load.

Steel wheels running on steel rail have very low ³rolling resistance´ compared to rubber tires on pavement.

Fuel efficiency of railroads has increased 72 percent from 1980. Before 1980 one gallon of fuel moved a ton of freight an average of 235 miles but by 2001 this had increased to 406 miles. Further savings have been realized since 2001.

General Electric Hybrid Locomotive picture courtesy of General Electric There are now electric hybrid locomotives too which can provide up to 15% saving on fuel and emissions. The energy produced by braking a 207 ton locomotive in one year is enough to power 160 households for a year. A full charge of the batteries can power the train for up to 100 miles.

Special Thanks to: Michael Walsh and Ken Andrade for Nissan Leaf Images

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