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Redusernab Asks: What alternative fuel source would you like to see explored?

Jeff Glucker June 4, 2018 Redusernab Asks 28 Comments

The internal combustion engine has ruled the roost for over a century now. Electric vehicles are growing in popularity to meet rising demand. There are a number of hydrogen offerings in the marketplace, should you live in a state or country that has the infrastructure to support those vehicles. You have a few choices when it comes the way in which your vehicle derives its power.

What are some other options you wish we’d explored, be it today, tomorrow, or in the past? Should solar-powered cars have received more attention? Coal cruisers could’ve been a thing. Perhaps nuclear hot rods could have you living out your Fallout-inspired fantasies.

What would you like to or liked to have seen in the space of vehicular powerplants? 

  • 1slowvw

    Solid fuel rocket boosters.

    Like those rocker powered axels produced back before liability existed.
    I think we missed a golden opportunity.

    • outback_ute

      Those Turbonique rockets ran on hydrazine didn’t they? The hazards of that make for some pretty interesting reading.

      • 1slowvw

        A quick google search suggests isopropyl nitrate. I’m not a chemist so I have no idea what that is.
        Someone who does can feel welcome to school me.

        • SlowJoeCrow

          That sounds right, Turbonique used a mono-propellant (supplies its own oxygen). Probably not something you wantthe average schmoe messing around with although I’d have to dig up my PDF of “Ignition” to see if it’s mentioned
          On the bright side it’s never been in one of Derek Lowe’s “Things I won’t work with” articles unlike various explosives and caustics.

        • outback_ute

          Aha, Turbonique called that Thermolene. I like this quote relating to its use in jet engine starting engines: “The exhaust fumes from an AVPIN monopropellant engine may themselves be explosive, if mixed with further air.” I think monopropellant engine basically equals rocket.

          Also the flash point is 22°C/72°F (or 11C/52F), and the MSDS makes for nice reading… Exposure limits – none listed. Don’t think that means there are no limits!! Also some slightly worrying stuff, extensive notes about how flammable and reactive it is, to avoid skin exposure, and how hard it is to extinguish a fire, but not listed as a hazardous/toxic substance and not considered highly hazardous by OSHA (I wonder what is then?).

      • P161911

        Well there was this issue according to Wikipedia: “Being based on rocket fuel and technology, there were a number of safety issues with these devices. For instance if the operator left off the throttle and then reapplied it, the device would essentially become a bomb.”
        That would make stop and go traffic….interesting.

        • outback_ute

          Many years ago I read a story on the Ford Nucleon concept car from the 1950s, they speculated that the traffic reports would be “there has been an accident at the corner of X and Y street; motorists are advised to avoid the state”…

  • P161911

    Whale oil technically counts as a bio-fuel and renewable resource.

    Seriously, a good wood gasification unit could be interesting. Include an ax or chainsaw for emergency refilling. Seems like a natural for Jeep or Land Rover. Also great for ultimate level preppers.

    • outback_ute

      Why not a steam engine? Multi stage with vapour recovery using modern technology should mean much less water consumption for example, although the Dobles that Jay Leno has are not bad at all.

      Plus you get to use the term “external combustion”!

      • Ray Dornbush

        I agree with you… it would be awesome to see a modern steam car on the roads again. Basically make another doble and improve upon that platform.

  • 0A5599

    Jimmy Kimmel’s trampoline girls.

  • Alff

    Soylent Green. Tree huggers will love it – even has “green” in the name.

    • 0A5599

      Watch out for trademark issues. You know Soylent is an actual brand of food products now, right?

      • Alff

        I know. I can’t believe it.

        • Wayward David

          Actually it’s not bad. I keep some around for those times when I’m too busy/rushed/tired to fix a meal. I would describe the taste as … inoffensive. But I don’t think a car would run on it very well.

        • I didn’t know, but can’t believe it neither.

          I guess proper diet hacking requires a clean baseline, which you’d get here?

  • discontinuuity

    Does steam count? You could run it on pretty much anything flammable

    • SlowJoeCrow

      I think steam is more propulsion method than fuel source, although as you mentioned a steam vehicle can run on anything flammable with a decent fuel content.

  • Van_Sarockin

    Magnesium

  • neight428

    Seems like there could be room to math out a small displacement crazy high RPM gas engine with an electric motor to fill in the torque at the bottom end to make for a fun, fast, and relatively affordable package.

  • Batshitbox

    Energy sources are really just different forms of batteries aren’t they? Electric energy needs to be generated and stored in a battery. Hydrogen needs to be harvested or more often manufactured. Fossil fuels are the happy result of millions of years of slow concentration of energy density.

    If we’re going to use electricity to harvest fossil fuels or hydrogen then burn it all up, let’s skip the middle man and put the electrons into a renewable battery. I’m voting for battery electric as my fave motivator.

    As far as generating that electricity, tidal hydroelectric is the sexiest thing going. As long as there’s a moon, you can make electricity by shoving a turbine in the path of a tidal flow. You always know exactly when and how much juice you’re going to generate. With a bit of civil engineering you can create a bay and not bother the existing ecosystem too much.

    • 1slowvw

      I live next to the bay of Fundy, harvesting the highest tides in the world is proving harder than imagined.
      I do find tidal power to be a great idea and can’t wait for them to get the kinks worked out.

    • Van_Sarockin

      Tidal impoundment does seem to be problematic to implement, though it should be similar to mil like pond impoundments. Lots of interesting research being done to harvest energy from ocean and river currents, from wave action, and from temperature differences in the water column.

      It’s also possible to make water bodies into one side of a heat pump loop, and harvest energy from that temperature differential.

  • tonyola

    Algae biomass fuel.

  • Technically not a fuel source, but Mercury as the medium in a steam engine sounds, uhm, challenging…

  • Zentropy

    CO2. Yes, I want a photosynthetic car with a negative carbon footprint.

  • wunno sev

    use hydrogen as a battery, rather than a fuel.

    store a reserve of H2 in a closed loop with a fuel cell and a water tank. drive the car by running the H2 through the fuel cell, then plug the car in at night to electrolyze the water back into hydrogen. road trip? when you get to a fuel station, dump the water and pump in more hydrogen.

    i have no idea what car-sized hydrolysis technology exists or how efficient it is. this may be why the hydrogen “battery” isn’t a thing. but i like the idea.

  • Krautwursten

    How’s that Audi project with the synthetic diesel coming along anyway? The synthetization process is about a century old, and the nazis used it to make rubber out of coal. Here’s the new bit: Break up H2O into hydrogen and oxygen, break up atmospheric CO2 into carbon and oxygen, release a whole lot of oxygen into the atmosphere, synthesize hydrogen and carbon into diesel. Guess what it reacts with when it burns!

    On the side the engines and refueling infrastructure are already there and it’s a complete cycle apart from the energy input. Only problem is how energy intensive the production is, and last time I’ve checked they’ve still had issues with industrial quantity scaling, making it commercially unviable still.