Alternative Fuels And New Vehicle Technologies

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Introduction

This report aims to provide a comprehensive insight into the alternative fuel options for buses as well as a providing a development strategy for the company to move forward into a sustainable future. Considerations are also taken to keep costs in mind and to determine a way which will not only make the company more sustainable but also profitable. The transportation sector is responsible for 13. 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and nearly 95% of the world’s energy used for moving people and goods proceeds from petroleum-based fuels (mostly gasoline and diesel) (EPA 2013). This fact demonstrates that road transportation, including public services, is one of the largest emitters of GHGs. Governments and international organizations around the world have proposed using alternative energy sources, seeking alternatives to mitigate this externality.

They have proposed the use of electric power, hydrogen fuel cells, and hybrid technologies that could be a combination of conventional and non-conventional energy sources (Caultfield, Farrell, and McMahon 2010; Litman and Delucci 2006). With the way the industry is currently moving, it is highly important that the company re-evaluates its current strategy,i. e, dependency on fossil fuels, bearing in mind the stringent legislations enforced on fossil fuel driven vehicles and the ability of the same to last more than two decades from today. The legislations are in turn driven by the need to reduce the toxic emissions emitted by fossil fuels and the need to investigate available alternative sources is greater than ever before. A strategy is proposed in this report to drive the company in a more sustainable direction wherein the company is better prepared to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and be at the forefront of providing sustainable transport solutions.

Fuel Options –An Overview

This section of the report is a study in the alternative fuel options the company could consider. Three main alternative sources are considered. It is safe to say all three of them have their advantages and disadvantages. What needs to be kept in mind whilst choosing an option is the fact that how best can this option be implemented in our product line, the lead time involved (the faster is naturally better), the cost to implement this solution and the operational cost for the customer. Oua et al. (2010) examined a fleet of buses in Beijing to obtain performance data on alternative fuels, in particular fossil energy use (MJ/km) and emissions (g of CO2 equivalent/km) of greenhouse gases (GHGs), based on the complete fuel infrastructure as described by the LCA method. The results of this study suggested that the use of current energy and GHG emissions derived from alternative fuels could be reduced by improving fuel economy, incorporating electric or hybrid vehicle technologies, increasing the efficiency of fuel production for hydrogen fuel cells, and employing low-carbon power generation methods. The plug-in cable electric bus had the lowest energy use (18. 1 MJ/km) as well as the lowest GHG emissions (1450 g/km); a bus powered with coal-derived dimethyl ether had the highest use of energy and the highest values of GHG emissions e 46 MJ/km and 3690 g/km respectively. The literature is proof enough that alternative fuels prove to be sustainable solutions and there is a need to thoroughly investigate their potential and impacts.

Bio-Fuels

According to Beer et al. (2002), Bio-fuels is a generic name for fuels obtained by esterification of a vegetable oil. One of the biggest advantages of using bio-fuels is the fact that they can be used in diesel engines without having to modify them. A major reason for this being an attractive alternative is the above statement, the very fact that diesel engines need not be extensively modified already makes the whole product line sustainable, not only in terms of harmful emissions (that may have been emitted by the usage of fossil fuels) but also in terms of emissions that would be emitted by having to produce a modified engine to make said fuels work. A study, involving a fleet of transit buses in St. Louis, Missouri, concluded that the use of bio-fuels had no severe impacts on operational costs, performance and led to significant reduction in emissions.

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The study also goes on to tell that the use of bio-fuels in the test fleet improved the life of the fuel injector life and decreased the need for regular maintenance. As we can see, there is potential for bio-fuels and the advantages can be many but before we jump to conclusions, the pros and cons need to be weighed. Bio-fuels can be carbon neutral if they satisfy three main criterion, namely:

a. Equal size new-plantations as harvest

b. All input energy streams need to be CO2 neutralc.

The land must be handled in a way that carbon is not released from the soilSome more advantages include relatively low production costs and the potential to create jobs in developing countries. There are some potential cons as well. A balance needs to be found between the dedication of land mass to produce bio-fuels and for agricultural purposes. As much as it is attractive, some countries are limited by the availability of water and land, which may potentially do more harm than good. There are also some socio-economic challenges that must be addressed like that of land ownership and driving up prices for the land itself which pose a serious threat.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

Fuel cells reverse the long known process of electrolysis, which uses energy to split water into its components. Instead fuel cells use a fuel supply to combine hydrogen and oxygen thus generating an electric current. In the proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells that are the current focus of research in applications of this technology in the transport sector, the process is electrochemical and involves an ion exchange polymer membrane as the electrolyte and electrodes of a fine metal mesh on which a platinum catalyst is deposited. The PEM fuel cell can thus convert hydrogen directly into electricity without combustion or moving parts. In hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs) the process is virtually pollution free. According to the lecture on Hyrdogen Fuel Cells (Magnus Karlstrom,2018-09-18,Chalmers), as of 2015, the production cost of Hydrogen Fuel Cells has come down to $30/kW as opposed to $275/kW which gives us an idea about the trend it is following.

Another interesting point to note is that according to Haseli et al, (2018), tests reveal that the maximum efficiency of a fuel cell engine can exceed that of a Carnot Engine if the operating temperatures considered are the same. But the overall utility of HFCVs in reducing greenhouse gases globally depends upon the way the hydrogen itself is produced. If this takes place through renewable processes that are carbon neutral such as coupling solar or wind power to electrolysers that split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, the overall impact will be significant. Fuel-cells as an option provide an exciting and an efficient alternative but there is still a hesitancy in other manufacturers willing to dive into this technology and rightly so. While they might be efficient and clean, there is still a degree of uncertainty about cost effective ways of storing hydrogen and little testing data for it to stake its claim. These challenges can only be overcome by producing more prototypes and subjecting the vehicles to a variety of road-tests and mimicking real world situations.

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