Help From The Military: Reaching the 54.5 MPG Goal May Come Sooner Than Expected
|   Monday, June 11, 2012
Over the course of history, significant technological advances have been made in times of great strife, namely wars. The last violent conflict left us with many new technologies, which in turn have been refined during the Cold War. Even with a relative state of peace at this moment, military advance still continue at a frantic pace. The auto industry is a secondary client of those advances, in this particular case we are talking about improved fuel efficiency.


Near Detroit, at the Tardec facility, a series of experiments are being conducted by the military in the hope that tanks, transporters, and so on, will become more fuel efficient. That would mean less fuel convoys and dead times waiting for refueling, among other consequences.

Bloomberg reports that the facilities there are experimenting with different types of batteries and fuel cells, like hydrogen cells. Work is ongoing but sooner or later palpable results will be felt. After all, this is the facility with rolled out a large number of technological innovations since 1941 onwards, first for the military then for civilian use.

However, the most promising avenue pursed is tied with using residuary heat as a way to power up some systems or recharge batteries. Estimates say that about 30 percent of the energy obtained by burning fuel is wasted as heat. Even more, that heat damages other systems, leading to frequent maintenance work. If the figure goes down, costs will do the same too, because component life will increase and the need to refuel will likewise drop.

On the field of battle components wearing and breaking down put the life of soldiers at risk, so any amelioration of the situation is a welcomed action. And if the military mange to develop a cost effective and efficient means of doing that, that would lead to huge advances in the auto industry. It is not a coincidence this lab is placed in Detroit, home of automotive giants.

Such a system will benefit everyone greatly, except oil companies naturally. The 54.5 mpg milestone all car makers are forced to meet by 2025, else they risk serious fines, might be achieved earlier.

As we all know, military gear is extremely expensive and durable, seeing that vehicles operate in a wide variety of climates, but those costs will go down significantly since the city and highway aren't nearly as dangerous as a desert. Therefore, the level of complexity will drop and, hopefully, automakers will adopt this new tech.

That would be a best-case scenario. Research in that direction is still far from providing a feasible answer to the question of how can fuel efficiency levels be driven up. But putting wasted heat to work is only one option, maybe a breakthrough will come from hydrogen cells. Already GM is interested in conducting its own experiments on the Tardec facility, alongside military engineers.

Until we get any good news from the R&D facility, we will have to settle for the hybrids we have on the market today.
PHOTO GALLERY
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