Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Transportation Cleantech - Highway Vehicles

2012 Transportation Cleantech – Part 1, Highway Vehicles

We’re going to split our presentation of 2012 cleantech transportation patents into four major transport modes: highway vehicles, railroad locomotives, airplanes, and ships.
The US Energy Information Administration offers the following chart illustrating for 2011 the relationships between the nation’s primary energy sources and the sectors consuming that energy.

(Source: EIA)

The chart shows that petroleum comprised the largest single source of energy for the country, representing 36%. Of the energy-using sectors, transportation is the second-largest consuming 28% of the total energy consumed. Seventy-one (71) percent of the petroleum fed the transportation sector, and transportation derived 93% of the energy it used from petroleum. Three (3) percent of the energy used in transportation was from natural gas, and four (4) percent was from renewable energy sources. Thus, efforts to provide improved fuel energy in the transportation sector can yield significant savings in petroleum use.

Fuel Economy More Important Than Safety and Driver Control?

The US Department of Energy (USDOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) estimates that in 2010, highway vehicles including cars, light and heavy trucks, and buses used on average an equivalent of 11.6 million barrels (487.2 million gallons). This represented 86% of the daily US petroleum usage for transportation that year.
Ten-Lee Chang and Tien-Li Chen of Taipei, Taiwan seek to improve highway vehicle fuel efficiency in their 2012 US 8,177,682 patent, “Apparatus for improving vehicle fuel efficiency”. Their invention applies to conventional gas/diesel engine cars and trucks, providing “an apparatus for automatically adjusting the engine load to save fuel consumption according to the actual operation condition of the related system included in the vehicle. Another objective [provides] an apparatus for combining with the idling turn-off system controlled by a circuit so that the vehicle can automatically turn off after long idle duration to save fuel consumption and conveniently re-start.”

As they point out in discussing the prior art of their invention,
One of the reasons that the conventional engine consumes so much fuel is that the engine is still rotating when the car is idling. The car may be idle for a few seconds to a few minutes, or even longer. If the engine is turned off, the car must be shifted to N[eutral] gear or P[ark] gear to re-ignite. To prevent from overusing the battery power, the electronic devices inside the vehicle must also be turned off, which is inconvenient to the driver. [For] a conventional vehicle [when] the driver operates a first ignition switch [the] battery … supplies power to [the] engine ignition system … to start the engine. … [Whether] the air-conditioner is in use or not, [it] must be driven to rotate, and whether [the] battery … is fully charged or not, [the] engine … must pull [the] generator system … to continue charging [the] battery …. Similarly, when the car must temporarily stop in traffic, the engine maintains the rotation in the idling so that the engine is overloaded, leading to the direct increase in fuel consumption and lowering the fuel efficiency.
The invention provides an additional clutch and control mechanism to allow the air-conditioning system to be taken offline during idling conditions, to allow the generator not to charge the battery if a battery charge above a threshold is detected, and to turn the engine off after an idling time threshold is detected, while maintaining the electricity required to operate the other electronic devices inside the vehicle to reduce fuel consumption. When the car is ready to go, an added second ignition switch or the first ignition switch can be used to re-ignite the engine.

Personally, as the operator of the vehicle, I want to maintain the decisionmaking regarding when the engine turns off. If I am sitting at a stop light, idling, and I observe a vehicle about to rear-end mine, I don’t want my potential escape to be precluded because the engine has automatically turned off so that I can save gas to save the planet. Sorry, such things only go so far.