4WD MODIFICATIONS - TECH TORQUE
‘She’ll be right’ has long been the Australian motto, reinforced by the smooth transition we made from a wool-based export economy to an iron ore- and coal-based one. The move into low-carbon transport will need more effort.
We’ve even been protected to a large extent from the effects of dwindling oil reserves, by successive global financial crises that have kept oil demand
and consequently pricing, at relatively low levels. Unfortunately, ‘she won’t be right’ Down Under when the global economy improves and the world’s
oil gets really scarce and really expensive.
One of the key speakers at The Cars of Tomorrow Conference – back in 2012 – a CSIRO’s biofuels specialist, Dr Victoria Haritos, stated bluntly:
“The development of low-CO2-emission fuels is imperative for Australia.
“Biofuels production in the USA exceeds Australia’s total fuel usage…cheap oil is running out and Australia needs to bet on some alternative fuel
technologies and get on with them.”
Dr Haritos told Conference delegates that biofuel produced from food-related sources are called ‘first generation’ biofuels and those from non-food sources
are ‘second generation’ fuels. In Australia, first-generation biofuels are being used currently, but second generation ones are still in the experimental
“Current non-food sources, including forestry and crop waste, could produce up to 30 percent of Australia’s fuel needs and that could be enhanced by the
development of algae-based biofuels and those derived from plant crops such as pongamia,” said Dr Haritos.
However, Dr Haritos cautioned that ‘whole of life’ ramifications’ assessment needs to be performed before any alternative biofuel source is adopted. She
quoted the familiar situation with biofuel derived from palm oil, where wholesale deforestation has been carried out, prompting the EEC to adopt a
policy of sustainability assessment for biofuels.
The need for this whole of life assessment of alternative fuels was reiterated by Professor Simon Washington, of the Queensland University of Technology
and by Professor Neville Jackson from the automotive development company, Ricardo Group.
ICEs Aren’t Going Away
The need for Australia to implement alternative fuels action was made patently obvious by other presenters at The Cars of Tomorrow
Conference 2012, but little has been done since.
All the forecasts for cars and trucks included internal combustion engines (ICEs) as vital parts of the mobility mix – as far out as 2050.
Many overseas countries that don’t have the luxury of Australia’s wide open spaces for potential alternative-crop-fuel growth know that they’re stuck with
fossil fuel or biofuel imports for the foreseeable future. That’s why there are global targets for direct action on CO2 reduction, or for reducing fuel consumption and, hence, CO2 emissions.
According to Tali Trigg, energy analyst with the International Energy Agency, one of the most successful initiatives was introduced in France in 2008.
Under this bonus/malus (Latin:good/bad) arrangement the buyers of high-CO2-emitting cars pay a penalty and the
buyers of low-emitters score a bonus. The structure has been designed to be revenue neutral, with the malus penalty payers financing the bonus people.
Vehicles with CO2 emissions of 131-160 grams per kilometre are the mid-ground, scoring neither a bonus or a penalty.
At the upper end of the scale, vehicles that emit more than 250g/km attract a €2600 penalty and those with less than 60g/km, collect a €5000 bonus
The effect of this policy was immediate: between January 2008 and November 2009 the sales of vehicles with CO2 emissions
in the 101-120g/km range increased from 20 percent of the new vehicle market to over 50 percent! Each of their buyers was rewarded with a €700 bonus
Ricardo’s technology and innovation officer, Professor Neville Jackson, gave Conference attendees a projection of how this independent, but highly influential,
vehicle research and development company sees the future. ICEs remain a key part of the company’s strategy.
Before getting into the mix of solutions Ricardo envisages, Professor Jackson talked delegates through the Gartner Hype Cycle as he saw this famous curve
applying to the automotive R&D industry. We remember the initial excitement over insulated ‘adiabatic’ engines, electric vehicles, hydrogen propulsion
and fuel cells, homogeneous charge combustion engines, biofuels and plug-in hybrids, but reality is far less than initial PR suggested.
Neville Jackson pointed out that Ricardo sees no ‘magic bullet’ to solve the global transport energy crisis: just hard work and persistence.
In the short term, to around 2015, Ricardo saw growth in downsized and boosted-induction ICEs with low-speed torque enhancement, stop/start functions,
friction reduction, advanced thermal systems, micro-hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.
the medium term, to 2025, the forecast is for more extreme downsizing to two- and three-cylinder engines, with combined turbo-supercharging, 48-volt
micro-hybrids, plug-in hybrids in premium and performance vehicles, electric city vehicles, lean-charge stratified combustion systems and low-carbon
Looking out to 2050, Ricardo expects that plug-in hybrids will dominate, backed up by very high specific-power ICE range extenders, more low-carbon fuels,
exhaust and coolant energy recovery, and advanced thermodynamic engines with possibly split-cycle and heat-pump designs.
In another crystal-balling exercise Ricardo did for the UK Auto Council there’s hope for energy storage breakthroughs to power full-hybrid and plug-in
hybrid vehicles, by around 2020-2025, with a hydrogen storage breakthrough to power fuel cell electric vehicles by around 2030.
EVs Aren’t Cool
Several presenters made the point that electric vehicles aren’t seen as ‘cool’. It’s apparently not just their limited operating
range that results in disappointing customer take-up.
John Conomos AO, Australia’s Automotive Industry Envoy, said that hybrid sales haven’t been as expected: high-voltage safety issues and uncertain resale
values being two reasons. Even in China, where there are electric vehicle purchase subsidies up to A$8000 and free charging for the life of the vehicle,
sales haven’t got close to targets.
Making electric vehicles appealing to buyers is an essential requirement if fossil fuel consumption is to be cut and emissions targets are to be met, and
the FIA (The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) is doing its bit. The FIA is the governing body for world motor sport and the federation of
the world’s leading motoring organisations.
Garry Connelly, from the FIA Institute, an international not-for-profit organisation that develops and improves motor sport safety and sustainability,
highlighted some motor sport initiatives that are helping in this regard. He pointed out that the FIA phased leaded fuel out of motor sport back in
the 1980s and has encouraged the development of low-emission diesel technologies – diesels have dominated the 24-hour Le Mans race since 2005.
The latest FIA initiative is the Formula E Championship for electric race cars that is due to start in 2013. Eco Car has also heard rumours that the FIA
is seriously considering introducing hybrid powertrains to the Formula 1 Championship.
Formula 1 fans are already familiar with KERS – kinetic energy recovery system – that was introduced to F1 in 2009. In this system a high-speed flywheel,
operating in a vacuum to eliminate air-friction losses, contributes power to the driveline.
Proving that the ‘racing improves the breed’ the F1 KERS principle is being developed further by a consortium consisting of Optare, Ricardo, Torotrak and
Allison. As with KERS used in F1 the flywheel spins in a vacuum, but to eliminate troublesome vacuum seals, flywheel power is transferred remotely,
via a non-penetrative magnetic coupling. Prototype testing shows a 20-percent reduction in CO2 emissions in urban
The Cars of Tomorrow Conference was an invaluable glimpse into our likely automotive future and it’s to be hoped that the public service experts who attended
the event will be able to convince the Australian Government to act quickly on alternative fuels policy.