Fuel Efficiency - Driving Technique

Driving Technique

There is a growing community of enthusiasts known as hypermilers who develop and practice driving techniques to increase fuel efficiency and reduce consumption. Hypermilers have broken records of fuel efficiency, for example, achieving 109 miles per gallon in a Prius. In non-hybrid vehicles these techniques are also beneficial. Hypermiler Wayne Gerdes can get 59 MPG in a Honda Accord and 30 MPG in an Acura MDX.

The most efficient machines for converting energy to rotary motion are electric motors, as used in electric vehicles. However, electricity is not a primary energy source so the efficiency of the electricity production has also to be taken into account. Currently railway trains can be powered using electricity, delivered through an additional running rail, overhead catenary system or by on-board generators used in diesel-electric locomotives as common on the UK rail network. Pollution produced from centralised generation of electricity is emitted at a distant power station, rather than "on site". Some railways, such as the French SNCF and Swiss federal railways derive most, if not 100% of their power, from hydroelectric or nuclear power stations, therefore atmospheric pollution from their rail networks is very low. This was reflected in a study by AEA Technology between a Eurostar train and airline journeys between London and Paris, which showed the trains on average emitting 10 times less CO2, per passenger, than planes, helped in part by French nuclear generation. This can be changed using more renewable sources for electric generation.

In the future hydrogen cars may be commercially available. Powered either through chemical reactions in a fuel cell that create electricity to drive very efficient electrical motors or by directly burning hydrogen in a combustion engine (near identically to a natural gas vehicle, and similarly compatible with both natural gas and gasoline); these vehicles promise to have near zero pollution from the tailpipe (exhaust pipe). Potentially the atmospheric pollution could be minimal, provided the hydrogen is made by electrolysis using electricity from non-polluting sources such as solar, wind or hydroelectricity or thermochemically by the use of the Thorium fuel cycle in a molten salt reactor.

In any process, it is vitally important to account for all of the energy used throughout the process. Thus, in addition to the energy cost of the electricity or hydrogen production, we must also account for transmission and/or storage losses to support large-scale use of such vehicles. For this reason the use of the idea "zero pollution" should be avoided.

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