The Road Ahead : August September 2008
WITH PEDR DAVIS top gear T top g WITH PED Plan for coal-fuelled cars THE vast quantities of gas trapped within coal seams may be used to make automotive diesel or liquefi ed natural gas (LNG). Operating from Chinchilla, Linc Energy is said to have developed a means of producing diesel fuel in an underground coal-gas process. It plans to produce 20,000 barrels a day. Other companies – one backed by Shell – expect to convert coal seam methane gas into LNG. Initially it will be used for generators but the potential is there to power vehicles. Meanwhile, Shell and Virent Energy Systems have a scheme to convert plant sugars directly into petrol, rather than ethanol, using a nickel-tin catalyst. Detecting exhaust fumes WITH exhaust fumes a major cause of gas poisoning in vehicles, Singaporean company Techpro has launched a monitor to detect fumes leaking into the passenger compartment. The company says that accidental exposure to colourless, odourless carbon monoxide – a big component of exhaust fumes – is the number one cause of gas poisoning in cars. Even small exhaust leaks can cause headaches, nausea and driver drowsiness. Nobody knows how many accidents they contribute to. See pedestrians at night TOYOTA has released the top-of-the-line Crown hybrid in Japan with a night vision system that warns of pedestrians ahead via an LCD panel in front of the driver. Complex pattern recognition system cameras can recognise people walking beside the road and a yellow square then appears around them on the display, depicting the scene ahead. The system works at speeds between 15 km/h and 65 km/h, which covers most busy pedestrian areas. At present, it recognises pedestrians only but Toyota is working on an advanced version that can also recognise bicycles and animals. F A Q S 58 Cars that can’t crash VOLVO is searching for the ‘uncrashable car’, a dream it believes is not impossible. In the fi rst step, it has developed a city safety system that prevents a car running into the back of the vehicle in front during stop- start driving conditions. Using an optical radar monitor, it runs 50 calculations a second to determine the exact braking pressure required to stop the car before it hits the one in front. If necessary, the system can implement automatic braking. A high proportion of collisions occur at speeds under 30 km/h (i.e. in heavy traffi c). The new feature will be standard on some Volvo models next year. New batteries for hybrid WITH production of petrol-electric hybrids and plug-in city cars tipped to exceed one million units annually within two years, the search is on for better, cheaper and more environmentally friendly batteries. Currently, most hybrids use nickel-metal-hydride batteries but the lithium-ion design – the type you use in a laptop computer – is expected to replace them. Sanyo and Volkswagen will invest nearly $1 billion to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries which are smaller and more powerful than the current equivalent. Separately, Nissan and NEC Corp have joined forces to mass produce lithium-ion batteries starting next year. No. Bio-diesel is produced from feedstocks such as vegetable oils by a process known as esterification. It is a renewable fuel, but its chemistry is different from normal petro-diesel. It won’t work with some engines. Renewable diesel is the fuel derived by treating fats and oils such as tallow (meat industry by-product), mixing it with hydrocarbons from crude oil and passing it through an oil refi nery hydro-cracker. This produces propane and diesel fuel with chemistry indistinguishable from normal petro-diesel. As far as we are aware, only BP make this What’s in a name? Q. A. Are bio-diesel and renewable diesel the same thing? AUG/SEP 08 product in small quantities, for southern Queensland and northern NSW. Pedal around Q. A. Entering a roundabout, when should I give way to a cyclist? You are required to give way to any vehicle, including a bicycle, already on the roundabout. The give way rules for cyclists using single lane roundabouts are the same for other drivers. On roundabouts with more than one lane or line of traffi c, cyclists are able to travel in the left-hand lane, even to exit more than half- way around the roundabout, but they must give way to any other vehicle leaving the roundabout.
October November 2008
June July 2008