Ethanol - - A Gasoline replacement -- maybe.......
Chinese motorists lined up to buy gasolineEveryone's up in arms about gas prices, and I'm not too happy about them either.
(Picture credit to Grouchy Old Cripple)
(Picture credit to Grouchy Old Cripple)
One of the best moves I ever made was a couple of years ago when I sold my 3/4 ton Ford van with the 460ci. motor in it. It was a great van, but it got 12mpg. Uphill, downhill, local, freeway, mountain passes, pulling a trailer, it got the same mileage. I think it held about fifty gallons of fuel. At three bucks a gallon that'd be one hundred and fifty bucks to fill it up. Whew!
Why don't we just change over to ethanol and get off of the oil thing entirely? You can make it by fermenting just about anything organic, and there you go......
Not so fast, Sparky!
After you do the fermentation part, you have to distill it to get the ethanol. That takes heat. Quite a bit of it, in fact. Where do the commercial distillation plants get that heat? They burn fossil fuels.
Not only that, using fossil fuels to do the distillation to produce the ethanol to be used as motor fuel is roughly five percent less efficient in terms of fossil fuel consumtion that it would have been to use the fossil fuel in the motor vehicle in the first place.
Strictly from an energy usage stand point, if you can do the distillation without using fossil fuels for the heat, it might be practical, but it brings with it a host of other problems.
Ethanol has a lot less energy in it per gallon than gasoline by roughly a third, so you need to burn a lot more of it per mile to travel at the same speed. You also need a much larger fuel tank to achieve the same range between fill-ups.
If you've filled up your car with some of that gasoline/ethanol mix, often called "Gasohol", and thought you didn't get as good of mileage, and you didn't have as much power as usual, you weren't imagining it.
Yes, some racing engines use alcohol, usually methanol, a "chemical cousin" for fuel, but to get the power, they dump A LOT of it through the engine. Depending on the rules, nitromethane also is included in the fuel, which makes a MAJOR difference. (It smells neat, too, but I digress!)
Ethanol doesn't ignite as easily as gasoline, so getting the car started can be a problem, particularly in colder climates. Ethanol also can attack rubber parts and hoses in the fuel system. The new vehicles have changed the rubber compounds to deal with this, but older vehicles may have a problem.
Any of the two-cycle engines that use a gas/oil mix may have separation problems, although the two cycle oil manufacturers are aware of the problem and some have made their oil more alcohol friendly.
When alcohols burn, they burn clean, but when mixed with gasoline, a new polutant is produced, formaldehyde. Not a good thing to be dumping out the tailpipes of America!
First, we need to produce ethanol without burning any fossil fuels in the distillation process. But where to get the heat to do the distilling? How about nuclear power plants? They have a huge heat disposal problem, hence the large cooling towers, and usually placing them on a river for the water supply. Most of that surplus heat is wasted. Let's recover it and make alcohol with it.
Second, engines will have to be developed to run on straight ethanol if you want them to run clean. This will take a bit more than just changing the fuel injection flow rate. It pretty much needs to be an ethanol engine.
Third, an ethanol distribution network will have to be developed. When there's enough demand, the oil companies will start adding ethanol pumps at their current stations. Extra filtration and water separation will be needed, as alcohol draws water like a magnet.
Initially ethanol fueled cars will be typically short range commuter vehicles, due to the limited range caused by the larger volume of fuel per mile required, and limited tank space.
And gas prices?
As demand for gasoline decreases relative to supply, prices will come down. It still all boils down to supply and demand. Unless, of course, someone else starts consuming gas faster than we are able to reduce our useage.
As to the demand part, take another look at that picture at the top of the post of the cars lined up in China to buy gasoline. You think they're effecting the supply and demand?