A five year project at Australia's University of Queensland has produced a hybrid gasoline-electric vehicle which may have assembly line potential in just a few years. Based on a Ford Falcon chassis, the vehicle uses a 1.3 liter (80 CID) gasoline engine and an electric motor for in-town stop-and-go traffic conditions.
Road testing performed in the city of Brisbane yielded fuel economy results 31 to 40 percent better than a comparably-sized conventional automobile, even when the electric motors were not in use. Power is delivered from the engine to the wheels through a computer controlled automatic transmission concept which allows a major reduction in engine size without a sacrifice of useable power.
The transmission system incorporates two forms of energy storage, flywheels and lead-acid batteries. When power is demanded, electric motors in the transmission system direct power in and out of the flywheels and batteries. Normal driving recharges the batteries or they may be recharged at any standard electrical outlet.
The prototype weighs in at 1680 kg (3696 lb), a rise from its weight of 1360 kg (2992 lb) in conventional form. Researchers speculate that a production version of this vehicle could be pared down to about 1530 kg (3366 lb). In spite of its small engine and higher weight, the hybrid vehicle produces considerably less pollution than a conventional automobile in its gasoline mode and none in its low speed, all electric, city mode.
The hybrid automobile is the brainchild of Professor Keith Bullock, head of the University's Department of Mechanical Engineering. He was assisted by Dr. Duncan Gilmore, his research fellow for the past three and one-half years, and departmental technical staff.
In the pure electric car field, the American Electric Vehicle Council (EVC) recently announced the results of its third annual survey of electric vehicle manufacturers. The eight firms which responded to EVC's telephone survey reported total production of 985 units and 981 units sold between July, 1981 and July, 1982. Total back orders were 222. EVC estimates total 1982 electric vehicle production at 1410 units and 1983 production at 3410 units.
The U.S. Army has awarded a $178,000 contract to Beech Aircraft for the installation of the Beech-designed cryogenic liquefied methane fuel system on a TH-55A helicopter.
Early tests will see the system installed on a test stand-mounted engine in order to establish performance characteristics including power output, fuel flow rates, fuel/air ratios and ignition timing. The system will then be mounted in a flying helicopter airframe and run through the entire helicopter flight training program.
The Army's main helicopter pilot training base at Fort Rucker, AL operates 144 TH-55A helicopters. If the testing is successful, a switch to liquefied methane would save the Army an estimated $10,000 per helicopter per year in fuel costs alone. Because methane burns much cleaner than gasoline, a significant decrease in routine maintenance and an increase in engine life can be expected.
Methane is a renewable fuel resource. It is the principal component of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and may be produced on site from landfills, sewage plants, animal wastes, and coal seams.
The National LP-Gas Association (NLPGA) reminds propane-powered fleet owners that it has established a voluntary Self-Certification Registration system for installers. This will allow the fleet owner to easily identify qualified installers who certify their work and adhere to the industry's accepted safety standards.
NLPGA is an industry organization which represents about 75-percent of all installers, including the major LP-gas marketers and independents. They maintain a registry of qualified installers and service facilities. Interested fleet managers should see their local LP marketers for aid in selecting an LP system for their needs as well as a qualified installer.
The Daisy (Diesel Assist Injection System) Diesel Booster is a newly patented product which Petro-systems is making available to diesel fleet operators. This system precisely meters dry propane vapor in a precise propane/diesel ratio. Since propane has a 110 octane rating and causes more complete combustion, a 20 percent reduction in pollutants can also be realized. Collection of carbon deposits is prevented, lowering excessive exhaust temperatures and lessening cylinder wall wear.