The future of fuel is still up in the air, with competing camps each advocating one thing or the other as solving mankind’s energy woes. Perhaps the real solution lies in combining different fuels into a single motor, and matching it with hybrid technology. Swiss Researchers have converted a diesel engine to run on natural gas, returning an incredible 80 mpg when coupled to hybrid technology.
Researchers led by Christopher Onder at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich took an already-efficient Volkswagen diesel engine and modified it to run on natural gas. Then, using just a little bit of diesel fuel to ignite the CNG at the proper time, making the motor even more efficient. This would solve CNG’s main drawback; it packs less energy than gasoline, requiring more fuel for the same distance, calling for larger, costlier fuel tanks. This can add $11,000 or more to the cost of a CNG-powered pickup, for example, while actually delivering worse fuel economy.
Similar technology combining CNG and gasoline engines is currently undergoing testing in many different countries. There are even kits to convert diesel engines to natural gas. But the combination of CNG and diesel fuel is a new take on current technology that could make CNG much more attractive to customers. If you could double the fuel economy of a regular hybrid for a few extra grand, why wouldn’t you?
Supposedly, by hooking this new engine up to readily-available hybrid technology, an 80 mpg car is feasibly possible using one of the cheapest fuels available, CNG. While the extra technology would add about $8,000 on top of the cost of a regular gasoline car, the return-on-investment using a cheap fuel in an incredibly efficient car could be measured in months. But will automakers actually implement it?
Source: Technology Review