The internal combustion engine has been a remarkable invention that has reshaped human society. It revolutionized fast travel, increased agricultural productivity, and created millions of jobs. It also helped build a thriving middle class. However, it was not without its flaws. It also resulted in widespread environmental destruction and bestowed wealth on rogue despots. With the end of the Oil Age, society must transition to a new energy and transportation system.
Alternatives to the internal combustion engine
The transition from combustion engines to alternative fuels is gaining momentum in the United States. A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that nearly half of U.S. adults favor the phaseout of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, while the other half are ambivalent. Alternative fuels can be used in place of gasoline, diesel, or even electricity.
Internal combustion engines produce tremendous thermal energy by burning chemical fuel. These engines typically use air as their source of oxygen, but they can also use nitrous oxide for more power. This process releases a large amount of thermal energy, carbon dioxide, and other chemicals at high temperatures. The combustion temperature varies depending on the chemical makeup of the fuel and how it is compressed.
Today’s I.C. engines contribute to approximately 25% of world power and produce 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Developing new and more efficient alternatives has long been the goal of engine researchers. Over the last two decades, ground-breaking articles have been published in the International Journal of Engine Research. Those developments have led to significant advancements in the I.C. engine of today.
The concept of noise pollution is changing with the new scientific research and the increasing number of reports pointing to the direct health effects of noise pollution. In the future, the noise will no longer be dismissed as a nuisance or an annoyance. For example, a recent study from Harvard University around 89 U.S. airports found that aviation noise caused 2.3% of cardiac hospitalizations. The impact of noise on the heart is likely to become more critical.
As a result of increased air intake in the engine, the exhaust from the combustion process is enriched with nitrogen oxides, which are hazardous to animal and plant health. They also contribute to the production of ozone, a secondary air pollutant. Ozone is dangerous in the ground and stratospheric atmosphere and harms human and environmental health.
Cost of electric motors
Electric motors have several advantages over fuel-burning engines, including a longer life and low maintenance. Unlike an ICE, which requires regular oil changes, gaskets, and valves, an electric motor has just two major components: the rotor and stator. The rotor spins inside the stator, and an air gap prevents rubbing. This means that the bearings are the only parts of an electric motor that will wear out.
Electric motors are also becoming cheaper. Battery technology has advanced quickly in recent years. Tesla and other companies have led the way in finding more affordable alternatives to neodymium, the magnet used in electric motors. Even Toyota, the world’s largest car maker, has announced plans to reduce neodymium production by 20 percent and replace it with cheaper alternatives.
Electric motors are expected to replace internal combustion engines, which are now dying worldwide. There will be less demand for petrol stations and fewer petrol stations. That means less money for the petrol industry, which means less money for the government. Moreover, electric motors are much more environmentally friendly and reduce emissions.
The cost of an electric car conversion kit may be as low as 5,000 euros, including subsidies. The conversion costs are much cheaper than buying a new car. In Europe, a handful of companies offer the conversion service. Converting a small vehicle can cost up to 8,000 euros, while a mid-size passenger car can cost up to 13,000 euros. There are also procedures for certifying a retrofitted vehicle for public roads.
Fuels used in internal combustion engines
Alternative fuels have emerged for I.C. engines and fuel cell hybrids. These fuels are renewable and low-carbon sources. They improve combustion and reduce emissions. These fuels can be produced from biomass feedstock and emit lower levels of CO2 and H.C.
Fuels for internal combustion engines are characterized by their energy density (LHV). Powers with higher LHVs are more suitable for vehicle propulsion because their energy density is high. This enables vehicles to achieve vast ranges. In contrast, gaseous fuels are less ideal because they require pressurized tanks and can produce high levels of pollutants.
In the long run, however, I.C. engines will remain in use. Although popular media and the general public would like to see their demise, the reality is that these engines will continue to operate for many decades. In addition, manufacturers are invested in these engines and will continue to improve them. Moreover, society needs these engines to achieve cleaner air and lower CO2 emissions.
Alternative fuels for internal combustion engines are becoming more accessible. This will lead to greater fuel efficiency. By replacing the fossil fuels in internal combustion engines with biofuels, we can reduce tailpipe CO2 emissions by as much as 50%. Alternatively, we can combine combustion technologies with electrification. Significant OEMs, such as Toyota, have even released patents to make hybrid technologies more accessible. These companies have developed hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles.
Impact on human health
The global community is increasingly concerned with the impact of combustion on human health. As a result, it has developed methods for pollutant characterization and set health standards. Studies have shown that exposure to air pollutants emitted by combustion processes causes an increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The effect of combustion pollution is also associated with reduced work capacity, reduced manual dexterity, and reduced learning ability.
Particles emitted by combustion processes account for approximately seventy percent of fine airborne particles. About half of these are due to primary combustion. However, bursts can also create additional classes of particles ranging from 10 to one nanometer in diameter. These particles primarily contain elemental carbon, sulfur and nitrogen anions, metal cations, and transition metals. Smaller particles are more harmful to human health and induce oxidative stress.
The 10th International Congress on Combustion Byproducts and Health Effects was held in Ischia, Italy, from June 17 to June 20. There, delegates from academic, government and industrial scientists met to discuss the impact of combustion on human health. Congress aims to improve knowledge about toxic emissions and how to mitigate them.
Airborne fine particles increase the risk of many diseases, including lung cancer and cardiovascular disease. However, the causes of air pollution are not entirely understood. Studies have shown that the effects of air pollution can be reduced by switching to a cleaner fuel. But this approach cannot prevent the emissions of all pollutants.
Impact on the environment
The transition from gasoline/diesel ICEs to hybrids and electric vehicles could reduce GHG emissions significantly, but the transition to fully electric and gas hybrid vehicles will take decades. In the meantime, it will be essential to continue improving combustion engines for both the economy and the environment. This means considering the acquisition and recycling of critical materials and cost and user requirements.
The most significant contributors to air pollution are the combustion of fossil fuels, such as oil and coal. This process is responsible for generating short-lived climate pollutants such as carbon dioxide. According to a recent United States interagency report, human activities are the leading cause of climate change. Fossil fuel combustion is responsible for 35 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
Fossil fuel combustion also contributes to various health problems, including cancer and a wide range of respiratory disorders. This is especially detrimental to children, as the effects can persist throughout the child’s life. Exposure to air pollution increases the risk of various developmental disorders, such as autism, and can lead to impaired cognition and development.
Although the internal combustion engine has been an incredible boon to transportation, it is an aging technology. As carbon dioxide emissions rise, concerns over its environmental impact are growing. The Global Carbon Project has projected that global carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 4.9% in 2021. That means that by 2021, carbon dioxide emissions will return to record levels.