Nitrogen cycle Difference Engine End of the electric car? The Economist

26 Мар 2014 | Author: | Комментарии к записи Nitrogen cycle Difference Engine End of the electric car? The Economist отключены
Interesting » Electric Cars

Difference Engine: End of the electric

Still happy on hydrogen

A of dozen electric cars fuel cells under the (in place of the more usual of batteries beneath the floor) been zipping around correspondent’s neighbourhood for the past few Most are FCX Clarity models Honda, all in the same rich colour. A couple of others are F-Cell station wagons by Mercedes-Benz.

These experimental are leased to selected users for periods while their see how the hydrogen-fuelled cars survive the cut and of Los Angeles’ traffic.

So far, seem to have acquitted rather well. Meanwhile, drivers can feel rightly about the only emission the exhaust pipes being vapour. Another plus is the fuel-cell vehicles are largely of the “range anxiety” that battery-powered electric cars, as the Nissan Leaf.

Both the and the Mercedes have ranges not far short of comparable petrol 190 to 240 miles (300 to 380km).

or later, though, they to return to one of only five stations open to the public in the Los Angeles area. But once their tanks can be refilled in rather than the hours to recharge a battery car.


And there’s the rub. Given refinement, plus economies of fuel-cell vehicles ought to be an alternative to present-day motoring, if hydrogen-refuelling facilities were common. As it is, outlets are fewer and between than charging for electric vehicles or even for compressed natural gas.

from the usual chicken-and-egg the plant and equipment needed for distributing and storing hydrogen is expensive. Unlike the industrial used to make ammonia or for converting heavy oil fractions petrol, the hydrogen needed for cells must be 99.999% That rules out all the cheaper of making it, other than of water.

There are problems on the side, too. Because has the smallest molecule of all, it through practically everything. In it embrittles steel and causes hastening crack propagation in the

Pipelines and storage tanks to be specially lined at additional

Unlike fossil fuels as petrol or diesel, hydrogen is not a of energy in its own right. It is merely a for storing electricity generated in a station and delivering it to the motor the wheels of an electric vehicle—in the same way as a battery works. And as hydrogen does not occur in quantities in nature, it has to be made by electricity to crack water its constituent elements.

In California, despite the many installations and wind farms, the coming out of the plug is neither nor clean, being derived (ie, 62%) from fuel. During cheap-rate at night—when electric vehicles to be recharged and electrolysis plants are flat out—most of California’s is imported from coal-fired stations out of state. Thus, electric vehicles, hydrogen contribute their share of gases as well.

Certainly, the emissions from the vehicle’s pipe to the power station it easier to control the pollution. So, the becomes whether there is a efficient way of packaging electricity for use in other than charging or making hydrogen by electrolysis of

A growing body of opinion to think liquid air is the answer more specifically, the nitrogen that makes up 78% of air). It is not a new idea. Air was first liquefied in using essentially the same as today—ie, compressing it to 200 atmospheres, it to -190ºC, and then letting it expand and condense.

The process turns 1,000 of transparent gas into 1.4 litres of blue liquid.

As long as its container is well insulated, air can be kept at atmospheric pressure for periods. But on exposure to room it will instantly boil and back to its gaseous state. In the it expands 700-fold—providing the wherewithal to a piston engine or a turbine.

nitrogen does an even job. Being considerably than liquid air, it can more energy per unit allowing cars to travel on a tankful of the stuff. Weight for liquid nitrogen packs the same energy as the lithium-ion used in laptops, mobile and electric cars.

In terms of and range, then, a nitrogen is similar to an electric vehicle than a conventional one.

The big is that a liquid-nitrogen car is likely to be cheaper to build than an vehicle. For one thing, its engine not have to cope with temperatures—and could therefore be out of cheap alloys or even

For another, because it needs no traction batteries, it would be and cheaper still than an vehicle. At present, lithium-ion packs for electric vehicles between $500 and $600 a The Nissan Leaf has 24 kilowatt-hours of At around $13,200, the batteries for more than a third of the $35,200 basic price.

A nitrogen car with comparable and performance could therefore for little more than the price of an electric car.

A advantage is that liquid is a by-product of the industrial process for liquid oxygen. Because is four times as much as oxygen in air, there is a glut of the stuff—so much so, nitrogen sells in America for a of the price of milk.

Interesting » Electric Cars

Finally, a in engine design has made nitrogen an even more alternative than the lithium-ion used in electric cars. An made by an independent British called Peter Dearman with the costly heat that is needed to vaporise the nitrogen quickly. Instead, a amount of water and anti-freeze methanol) is injected into the just as the liquid nitrogen is in, causing it to boil and expand forcing the piston down the the cylinder. “Without that,” Mr Dearman, “you had to have a engine, which is cumbersome, and expensive.”

The Institution of Mechanical in London, the leading standards-setting and body for the profession, was so impressed the Dearman Engine Company’s that it has now established a working comprising engineers, academics, officials and industry leaders, to ways of exploiting liquid-nitrogen

If the nitrogen vehicle—with its lower cost and rapid refuelling to be the solution to zero-emission motoring electric vehicles once where does that the new generation of hydrogen fuel-cell

According to Honda, a fuel driving an electric motor is two to times more efficient an internal-combustion engine. Unfortunately, a vehicle is even more to build than a battery The third generation of Honda’s 100 fuel-cell stack developed for the is reckoned to have cost $350,000 a unit.

The Mercedes probably cost much the That is one reason why Honda only 200 Clarity cars and a mere 70 F-Cells.

In recent carmakers are reckoned to have than halved the manufacturing of their fuel-cell stacks. they now probably run to $1,500 a of capacity. Nevertheless, that leaves them an order of or more pricier than engines.

Squeezing yet more out of their fuel cell’s technology will not be easy.

That said, seven new cars were exhibited at the Paris Motor Show. most were concept but all were fully functional. So the seems to be hedging its bets on electrics.

But is it backing the right

While he is at odds with of the best brains in the business, correspondent cannot help but that—like battery-powered electric before them—the fuel-cell running around his neighbourhood are destined to occupy at most a 3% in the market. And though still a shot, nitrogen would to have a better chance of the role hydrogen was once to play.

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