Motor industry guru looks at the shape of things to come
8 December 2006

Autocar has teamed up with motor industry guru Richard Parry-Jones to bring you the definitive guide to the future of the car.

Richard Parry-Jones has been responsible for the engineering of every Ford of Europe product since 1993, including the first Mondeo.

In 2007 Parry-Jones retired from Ford and turned his attention to the role of the car in climate change, a subject on which he currently advises the government.

In this exclusive series we look at the car’s part in climate change, and explore how and why the motor industry will have to reduce radically the CO2 emissions of its products.

So to find out how to cut a car’s emissions to just 40g/km of CO2, why hydrogen technology isn’t the future or how your next Ford Mondeo could be powered by a turbocharged 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine, click on the links below:

1) Climate change is real

2) CO2 - how low must we go?

3) The right path for customers

4) Developing the new technology

5) Fossil fuels - what are the alternatives?

6) How the government can help us keep our cars

Download the whole series

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24 December 2008

The Case for Synthetic Liquid Fuels - the CAST Proposal

1) Transport vehicles require mechanical work for propulsion and hence an electric or a thermodynamic powertrain. Electricity can be stored in a battery for Battery Electric Vehicles – BEVs - and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles – PHEVs. However, the energy density is about 50 to 100 times lower than petrol. (See Part 5, page 68). Hydrogen can be stored as a compressed gas or a liquid for use in Fuel Cell Vehicles – FCVs. However, the energy density is about 10 times lower than petrol. (See Part 5, page 68 and http://www.energypolicy.co.uk/hydrogen.htm). High energy (hydrocarbon) fuels can be stored as gases or liquids for use in Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles – ICEVs. Although the fuel conversion efficiency for BEVs and FCVs is higher than for ICEVs, this is nowhere near sufficient to offset the lower stored energy densities.

2) BEVs, PHEVs and FCVs would require complete replacement of the fuelling infrastructure, the vehicle production plants and the vehicle fleet. Moreover, the weights, volumes and costs of the energy and fuel stores and converters are far higher for BEVs, PHEVs and FCVs than for ICEVs. (See Part 5, page 68). Cost is a proxy for invested energy, so such penalties would be unacceptable for most light duty vehicles, that run only about 5 per cent of the time.

3) Of all transport fuel, about half is for aircraft, ships, trains and trucks. (See Part 2, page 61). These require high energy liquid fuels to retain their present payloads and ranges. The other half is for cars and vans, which are less demanding in payload and range. Their requirements can be met by alcohol fuels, which have energy densities within factor two of petrol.

4) The 'Biomass Limit' for biofuels such as ethanol may be about 25 per cent. (See Part 5, page 68). This is less than the half required for aircraft, ships, trains and trucks, so at least a substantial share of synthetic liquid fuels would be needed. Therefore they should be considered for all transport.

5) The timeframe is to 2100 and beyond. (See Part 1, page 48). Nuclear power is not zero carbon because uranium is depletable, and requires oil fuel for mining. Moreover, as the average ore-grade falls, the energy and carbon intensity of the uranium rises. (See http://www.stormsmith.nl and http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Report_Uranium_...). This leads to an 'energy cliff' with a 'point of futility' when the net energy return is less than that used in mining, refining and conversion. (See http://www.energypolicy.co.uk/sustainpres.htm Slide 9).

6) Only renewable energy sources are zero carbon in the long term and thus sustainable. Biomass is insufficient. (See 4) above). Solar heat can be collected at high efficiency only up to about 400 C, which is too low for fuel synthesis. However, electricity has sufficient exergy for fuel synthesis and can be produced from hydro-electric plants, geothermal power, wind farms and photovoltaic arrays. Hydro and geothermal resources are limited by geography and geology, and solar resources by the latitude and time of day and year, but wind resources extend worldwide – both onshore and offshore. Moreover, the world wind resource at turbine height is sufficient to meet the whole present transport fuel demand. (See http://www.energypolicy.co.uk/cast.htm Appendix C).

7) The vehicle makers could produce ICEVs with higher fuel efficiencies at modest additional costs. Compared with petrol, ethanol and methanol have higher Octane Numbers and flame speeds. These enable higher efficiencies at full load and at part loads. Also both may be used in Flex-Fuel Vehicles, so enabling one vehicle solution worldwide and easing the transition. The oil companies are already paying dearly to maintain production, and moving to tar sands and coal would increase both cost and carbon intensity. Synthetic fuels from renewable sources must eventually become competitive, and this would be sooner if carbon emissions and energy security have market values.

8) Gordon Taylor is an automobile engineer, formerly with Ford Motor Co. Dr Richard Pearson is an engine and fuels specialist with Lotus Engineering. The CAST Proposal for sustainable fuels is available via: http://www.energypolicy.co.uk/cast.htm

24 December 2008

A few thoughts...

Biofuels are a nice idea, but even in the UK, solar photovoltaics offer greater than an order of magnitude higher power density. Contrary to popular misconception, over their lifetime, solar panels deliver 4-7 times the energy used in their manufacture - the additional energy required in the processing and distribution of bio-fuels is rarely mentioned but needs to be quantified for meaningful comparisons to be made. Wind power levels aren't much better than biofuels, but turbines deliver around an 80-fold 'return on investment' on the energy used to build them.

Re: battery storage - with conversion efficiency of EVs 4-6 times greater than that of ICEVs, the required improvement for batteries to match liquid fuels (assuming equal energy demand - an advantage for petrol) can be reduced by that factor. If the best current batteries offer 1/50th the energy density of petrol, that means a rather more manageable 10x improvement is required.

If the claims of researchers are true, this is not at all inconceivable (technically) within the relatively near future (economics being a different matter). Another way of looking at the problem is to ask what mass of battery is acceptable in a vehicle of a given size, remembering that removing the ICE, transmission and a full tank of fuel represents a fairly significant saving - 200kg for a typical car? This may lead to a less dramatic improvement being required to make an EV truly practical.

Interesting articles, I certainly hope to see a future with cars, even if they're not quite as we know them today...

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