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Bobby Lubbers
Bobby Lubbers is owner of Bobby Lubbers Auto Group, a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep dealership in Harper, KS. A graduate of Wichita State University, he has been in and around the automotive industry for more than 25 years, and has been nationally recognized by General Motors for exceptional sales and customer satisfaction. You may contact Bobby by phone at (316) 721-1545, or by email at bobby@bobbylubbers.com
Cars, Trucks, Vans & Automotive
2003-10-01 11:56:00
More about fuel cells
ANSWER: Last month we discussed possible uses for fuel cells, this month we’ll finish our discussion on fuel cells and their efficiency.   Thermo-dynamic laws limit ICEs and all other combustion engines. Having no flame, fuel cells avoid the efficiency losses associated with the ignition, burning, heat transfer to the gases, and exhaust. Fuel cells convert the chemical energy in the fuel directly into electrical energy, which is fed into an electric motor to power the wheels of a FCV.   As gasoline enters an ICE, about 85 percent of the energy released by burning it in the engine is lost, mainly as waste heat. The remaining energy is converted to mechanical energy to rotate the engine's shafts and gears; some of this mechanical energy is lost through friction, as it passes through the transmission to the wheels. Even worse, when a car idles, the efficiency is zero. A practical way to think of your vehicle's efficiency is through your own pocketbook. Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) have been tested with efficiencies of around 10 percent. When you drive your SUV to the gas station and fill the tank with $20.00 of gasoline, or chemical fuel, only $2.00 actually goes towards moving your vehicle. The rest, $18.00 of your money, is wasted as heat or pollution.  Isn't that amazing?   Battery powered electric vehicles demonstrate the importance of looking at the entire "well-to-wheels" picture, since no energy conversion takes place on board. Toyota has shown its pure electric vehicle having a vehicle efficiency of 80%, twice that of FCVs. If you take into account the "well-to-tank" efficiency of 26% and the efficiencies associated with charging the battery; the overall (well-to-wheels) efficiency becomes 21% - better than today's vehicles, but not as efficient as a FCV.  Even today, with alternative fuel generation and distribution in its infancy, FCVs have higher "well-to-wheels" efficiencies than any other type of vehicle, including ICE and battery hybrids. Three independent analyses have reached similar, but not identical conclusions. Toyota's in-house testing has published 13% overall, "well-to-wheels," fuel cycle efficiency for its gasoline ICE vehicles. The Methanol Institute (MI) has released very similar overall numbers. MI's research shows gasoline ICE vehicles have a 15 percent overall, well-to-wheels efficiency. Compare that to Toyota's FCHV-4 running on compressed hydrogen overall efficiency of 30+ percent (58 percent for "well-to-tank" and 48 percent "tank-to-wheel" respectively), and MI's 31 percent overall efficiency for the average hydrocarbon fuel cell vehicle (85 percent for "well-to-tank" and 36 percent "tank-to-wheel" respectively.)      GM conducted a "well-to-wheels" study with Argonne National Laboratory, BP, Exxon, Mobil and Shell. The study found that hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles are the cleanest and most efficient combination of fuel and propulsion system for the long term, offering zero vehicle tailpipe emissions, greater efficiency and lower CO2, "well-to-wheels", than other vehicles. FCV prototypes also have promising long-term potential for weight, size and cost reductions to make them competitive with current ICE cars.
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