Saturday, February 17, 2007

Build your own alternative fuel vehicle

A popular class at Santa Rosa Junior College, California

At Santa Rosa Junior College in Petaluma, California, mechanics and do-it-yourself environmentalists are learning how to convert a standard car into an alternative fuel vehicle running on ethanol, vegetable oil, or electricity. The class was created two years ago by diesel truck mechanic Mark Armstrong and has quickly grown in popularity. The maximum number of forty students filled the class soon after registration opened this year and another forty had to be turned away.

Mark Armstrong teaches his students a wide variety of skills; for example how to solder and braze so that they are able to assemble an ethanol converter from dozens of copper pieces. In other sessions, students are taught such things as how to install a filter for purifying the vegetable oil or a heat exchanger that brings the vegetable oil to the correct temperature to enable the fuel injectors to work efficiently. Converting a car to run on electricity requires the most extensive alteration since additional room has to be created for fifteen battery packs, which usually involves reconfiguring the suspension.


Article 'Alternative fuels class flooded' in The Press Democrat

Friday, February 09, 2007

My car is saving the food in the freezer

A car and emergency power supply all in one

The more we rely on electric power, the more vulnerable we become when there is a grid power outage. Is that an argument against the development of electric cars? ‘We won’t even be able to recharge our car batteries during a power outage,’ critics say.

A small California-based company, AC Propulsion, has turned this potential disadvantage into an advantage. It has developed battery systems for cars that can be charged by plugging into the house mains as well as delivering electricity back to the house. That would make it possible to run lights, the freezer and even electric heaters off the energy stored in the car.

And if these battery systems are used in a plug-in hybrid vehicle, they can be paired with the car’s gasoline engine to recharge the batteries. So you will still be able to drive if necessary during, or immediately after, a power outage.


Article 'Electric Cars: What Happens When the Power's Out?' in the MIT Technology Review