Journal of Transportation Technologies, 2011, 1, 67-82
doi:10.4236/jtts.2011.14010 Published Online October 2011 (
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Overview of Energy and Environmental Issues in
the Passenger Automobile Industry
Olaleye Michael Amoo1, R. Layi Fagbenle2
1Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, Connecticut, USA.
2Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osu n State, Nigeria.
Received July 10, 2011; revised August 13, 2011; accepted September 2, 2011
The global supplies of petroleum are on the decline and the dwindling resource has become increasingly dif-
ficult to access. Improved technology is increasingly been required to access petroleum that is in hard to
reach geographical environments and has chemical composition that is not entirely compatible with existing
processing techniques. Alternative energy involves energy from renewable and non-depleting sources such
as wind and solar, offer many opportunities for research and development and are been widely developed
globally. These sources of energy are expected to reduce the threat of a changing climate, air pollution and
oil dependence caused by the automobile industry. There are many economic, environmental and societal
benefits of employing various alternative energy sources or options in the passenger automobile industry for
motive power. Transitioning from a monoculture of hydrocarbon-based transportation will be just as signify-
cant as investments in research and development needed to develop a portfolio of cost-competitive and safe
alternative powertrain technologies that can effectively retire the fossil fueled internal combustion engine,
without much of any economic stress. In this work, we couple energy and environmental issues to obtain a
realistic indication of the future of alternative powertrain technologies for the future of the passenger auto-
mobile industry.
Keywords: Energy, Alternative Energy, Environment, Efficiency, Automobile Industry, Vehicles
1. Introduction
Besides the tens of millions of passenger vehicles that
are already in operation today, tens of millions more
automobiles and light trucks will be manufactured in the
near future to satisfy increasing demand among the
growing middles classes of China, Brazil, India and Ma-
laysia as well as other burgeoning economies around the
world. At the same time, many experts caution that peak
oil has nearly been reached, and some analysts empha-
sizing that peak oil has already been reached and alterna-
tive fuel sources must be identified today to replace the
growing demand for current fossil-fuel products. Taken
together, these two inexorable forces, growing consumer
demand and declining fossil fuel sources, are going to
have profound implications for the passenger automobile
industry in the years to come. The automobile industry
offers a unique environment for innovative technologies
for a cleaner environment and to gradually severe ties
with the mainstream fossil fueled internal combustion
engine. However, the design of future, modern, efficient
and ecologically benign vehicles is going to require
among other developments, significant improvements in
powertrain systems. To determine the current state of
technologies and how the passenger automobile industry
is using innovations to promote energy-efficient and en-
vironmentally friendly solutions and what future trends
can be discerned from current events and research direc-
tions in the industry, this article provides a general re-
view of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly litera-
ture, followed by a summary of the research and impor-
tant findings in the conclusion. The scope of the subject
matter in this article is however vast and the length of
this review is constrained. Therefore, a mere outline of
certain topics within energy and environmental issues as
they apply to the automobile industry must suffice in-
cluding limited citations to provide more depth to the
reader. The choice of coverage is admittedly subjective.
However, throughout, special attention is given to op-
portunities for research and development (R & D).
2. Fossil-fuelled Vehicles-Efficiency,
Environmental and Economic Issues
2.1. Internal Combustion Engines: Piston and
Wankel Types-Bsfc (Brake Specific Fuel
Consumption), Overall Efficiencies,
Environmental Issues
During the late 19th century, innovations in ICE tech-
nologies were providing new opportunities for applying
this new source of power in ways that could help move
men and materials. By the fin de siecle, the internal
combustion engine had become the most promising new
technology for providing easier transportation as well as
transportation modes such as air flight that would not be
possible otherwise [1].
The efficiency of early designs was more important
for improved performance than it was for fuel economy
[2], but there were some significant developments during
this period that would have important implications for
future directions in more efficient motor designs and
operation [3]. The efficiency of modern ICE is measured
in terms of brake specific fuel consumption (BSFC). The
fuel economy of the engine is usually expressed as the
BSFC, the ratio of the mass of fuel consumed per unit of
mechanical work output by the engine shaft. The relative
values of the BSFC involve the specific operating condi-
tions to which the engine is exposed. Within the just
concluded decade, the most economical (i.e., the mini-
mum) BSFC was about 0.27 kg/kWh for gasoline-fueled
SI engine, while for diesel-fueled CI engines, it was
lower, at about 0.20 kg/kWh [4]. Internal combustion
engines would also take other turns in evolution that
would have implications on BSFC, including the stan-
dard piston-driven engine as well as the innovative—but
fuel-hungry—rotary engine which are discussed later.
2.2. Piston
During the mid-19th century, a number of so-called
free-piston atmospheric were developed based on a prin-
ciple that was first demonstrated by the Swiss engineer
Isaac de Rivaz in 1827 [5]. These early models used a
piston that was attached to a long toothed rack which
was moved from beneath by the force of gas expansion
resulting from burning, a technique that provided move-
ment without restrictions [5]. The partial vacuum that
was created during this phase of operation forced the
piston to return to its original position and complete the
working stroke.
By the turn of the 20th century and beyond, piston-
driven ICE were the powertrain of choice in passenger
automobiles, all but a handful of the world’s one billion
motor vehicles produced during the twentieth century
were powered by a four-stroke gasoline-burning ICE [6].
The heart of the engine is a piston moving back and forth
inside a cylinder in four cycle or ‘strokes’. The four-
stroke piston cycle operates as follows:
1).On the first stroke (called the “intake stroke” or
“suction”), the piston descends, filling the cylinder with
a mixture of air and gasoline drawn through an open in-
take valve;
2).On the second stroke (“compression”), the piston
rises as the intake valve is closed, thereby compressing
the gasoline/air mixture;
3).On the penultimate stroke (“power”), the piston
once again descends, forced down as the gasoline/air
mixture is ignited and explodes; and,
4).On the final stroke (“exhaust”), the piston once
again rises, pushing the spent gases out the now-open ex-
haust valve. This four-stroke piston cycle is illustrated in
Figure 1.
2.3. Wankel
Less common than the piston-driven version, the Wankel
engine has nevertheless been used in a few commercial
applications. As shown in Figure 2 below, the Wankel
engine has a rotor with three points which is geared to a
The rotor rotates in a chamber that is closely fitting and
slightly oval-shaped; this configuration creates the right
conditions for the power stroke to be applied to each of the
rotor’s three faces as they are driven past the engine’s sin-
gle spark plug [5]. In some configurations, two or even
more rotors are mounted coaxially; however, in these ar-
rangements, power strokes must be timed sequentially.
Although the Wankel engine typically weighs about 25
Figure 1. The two-stroke piston engines for motorcycles,
small boats and other power applications are similar but
complete the above four processes with only two strokes
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Figure 2. Schematic illustrating rotary engine cycles [45].
percent less than piston-driven engines because it just has
two moving parts (i.e., the rotor and the output shaft), fuel
consumption levels for these types of rotary engines are
high and its exhaust emissions are also relatively high in
pollutant content compared to piston-driven engines.
A description of the operation of a rotary engine pro-
vided by the Mazda RX7 [7] Association indicates that:
1).A rotary engine works on the compression of in-
come- ing air which is mixed with gasoline at this time.
2).At the peak of compression, the spark plugs fire, ig-
niting the compressed gas and supplying the engine’s
3).The exhaust leaves the engine and the process is re-
4).Due to the design, a rotary engine can generate
much more RPMs than a standard piston motor and they
are very durable [7].
On average, engine speed for Wankel engines is about
5,500 rpm. The NSU Ro80 was the first production car
to use a Wankel engine; however, an open two-seat ex-
perimental prototype (the NSU Spyder) preceded this
production version. While licenses for the Wankel en-
gine were acquired by Alfa Romeo, Peugeot-Citroën,
Daimler-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Toyota, Volkswagen-Audi
and others, Japan-based Mazda has been the only con-
temporary passenger automobile manufacturer to use a
Wankel engine with an existing production car. Over the
years, research into using Wankel engines for aircraft
was conducted and a limited version of a motorcycle
using a Wankel engine was produced, but these initia-
tives failed to generate much interest [5]. According to
these researchers, while Wankel became director of his
own research establishment at Lindau, on Lake Constance
in southern Germany, Mazda continued to improve the
rotary engine and by the time of Wankel's death in 1988,
the Mazda RX-7 coupé had become a successful, if not
high-selling, Wankel-engined sports car.
In all cases, though, improving the respective BSFC
rates of both rotary engines and piston engines of various
types has become the focus of an increasing amount of
R&D in response to skyrocketing energy costs and in-
creasing consumer demand, particularly from burgeoning
economic powerhouses such as China, India, Brazil and
Malaysia. Thus, the predominant powertrain remains the
gasoline-fueled, spark-ignition four-stroke engine in the
vast majority of passenger vehicles today which are more
fuel efficient than their two-stroke counterparts and emit
less pollutants as well. Balancing this carbon footprint,
though, is the fact that two-stroke engine powered vehi-
cles such as motorcycles are lighter and therefore require
less total fuel to operate and cost less to manufacture
than their four-stroke counterparts in all ranges of pas-
senger vehicles [4].
2.4. Tyres and Road Friction Issues.
To put this topic into perspective, as of 1966, expendi-
ture on passenger car tyres was approximately £100m
(one hundred million British pounds sterling), [8]. In
today’s monetary terms, such a cost expenditure would
be exponentially higher even adjusted for inflation.
Anything that detracts from the optimal performance of a
vehicle on the roadway will decrease fuel efficiency, and
friction of all types has always been the bane of automo-
tive engineers. Despite the challenges that are involved,
the numbers of tyres that are involved (about a bil-
lion-plus at any given point) mean that even modest im-
provements in passenger car tyre performance can trans-
late into millions of barrels of oil saved together with the
concomitant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The
performance of tyres is a measure of the coefficient of
friction which is the ratio of friction force to normal
force to cause sliding expressed as a unitless value (i.e. a
measure of the friction force generated between the
treads of the rubber tyre and the road surface divided by
the load acting on the tyre [9].
At present, automobiles and light trucks provide the
majority of passenger transportation and the majority of
these types of vehicles use passenger tyres. According to
the U.S. Transportation Research Board, most vans,
pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles that are catego-
rized as light trucks by the federal government are con-
sidered passenger vehicles [9]. In spite of technological
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
innovations that have produced longer-lasting tyres than
three decades ago or so, passenger automobile tyres still
require replacement every few years as a result of normal
wear and tear, and approximately 200 million new tyres
are purchased in the United States alone each year [9].
During periods of economic downturn, the replacement
of four passenger car tyres can represent a significant
investment, and consumers should be aware of several
factors in their evaluation of alternatives. In this regard,
industry experts emphasize that, the tyres consumers buy
will affect not only the handling, traction, ride comfort,
and appearance of their vehicles but also fuel economy,
which is the average number of miles a vehicle travels
per gallon of motor fuel (typically gasoline or diesel fuel).
Fuel economy is affected by how efficiently tryes roll
across a surface, with the efficiency being a measure of the
tyre’s ability to conform to the surface while retaining its
original shape to the maximum extent possible to reduce
mechanical actions that would otherwise be translated into
useless heat that requires more fuel to propel the vehicle.
Current initiatives to improve the efficiency of passenger
vehicle tyres have been more expensive than conventional
methods, making progress in this area limited [10].
By combining various designs, material composition
and construction features that contribute to improved
rolling resistance levels, tyre manufacturers can help
increase the fuel efficiencies of passenger vehicles, as
well as reduce noise, improve vehicle handling and tyre
resistance and appearance in the process. As with any
mechanical part, tyres must be adequately maintained
with pressure levels being particularly important for per-
formance. Recent innovations in technology have also
helped with this aspect of tyre maintenance, and tyre
pressure monitoring systems (TPMSs) are now available
that can alert operators when a vehicle’s tyres become
under-inflated. In some configurations, TPMSs employ
tyre-mounted sensors to monitor and transmit tyre te-
lemetry data to a receiver; in other cases, wheel-mounted
speed sensors are used to identify wheel rotational
speeds that can then be correlated with differences in tyre
pressure to alert operators to under-inflation. Research
efforts must equally continue to quantify effects of vari-
ous road surface characteristics on tyre wear.
2.5. Aerodynamics-Styling and Streamlining Is-
Another very important way to reduce friction, improve
fuel efficiency and improve performance is to improve
the aerodynamics of the vehicle design.
Aerodynamics is a subject matter that deals with two
areas which are internal flow similar to that which takes
place in a pipe or external flow which takes place around
a solid object like a passenger automobile. We are con-
cerned here with the external aerodynamics. The contin-
ued increase in fuel prices and regulations on GHG
emissions have led to an increase in pressure on automo-
bile manufacturers to enhance current designs of pas-
senger vehicles using minimal changes in their shapes or
aerodynamics to reduce drag.
One of the main causes of aerodynamic drag on pas-
senger automobile vehicles is in the separation of flow
near the vehicles rear end. There are also two types of
drag we are mostly concerned with which are form drag
and surface friction drag. Form drag refers to the aero-
dynamic performance qualities of the vehicle’s surfaces
with respect to the environment in which it is operated,
with form drag being related to the shape of a vehicle’s
body [11]. Surface friction drag on the other hand is
similar to form drag, and this refers to those parts of drag
that are represented by the components of the pressures
at points on the surface of a vehicle’s body that are re-
solved tangential to the surface [12]. Surface friction is
caused by viscous drag in the boundary layer around the
object and the drag force FD follows the drag equation, in
which u is the velocity of the object whose surface area
is A and which is moving in a fluid of density ρ.
The drag coefficient CD ranges between 0.2 and 0.5
for streamlined passenger vehicles while that of more
bluff objects is greater than 1.0 and least bluff is less
than 0.1 [13]. Drag can be reduced by shaping the vehi-
cle to be very smooth like an airfoil or a fish, but today’s
passenger vehicles are obliged to have a body shape that
is rather aerodynamically bluff, not an ideal streamline
shape as seen on an airfoil or fish. To reduce flow sepa-
ration mentioned earlier, one well-known example is in
the use of dimples, similar to those on gulf balls [14].
Dimples causes a change in the critical Reynolds number
(the Reynolds number at which a transition from laminar
to turbulent flow begins in the boundary layer). One
other method, which is commonly used in the aerospace
industry, is in the use of vortex generators (such as rear
bumper spoilers or wings) to prevent flow separation.
Vortex generators themselves have the tendency to create
drag, but they essentially reduce drag by preventing
separation downstream of the flow. Whichever method
or combination of methods is going to be adopted by the
automobile engineering community, to reduce fuel con-
sumption and save energy to protect the global environ-
ment, boundary layer control is going to play a signify-
cant role in future automobile aerodynamics.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
3. Renewable/Clean Energy based
Vehicles-Efficiency, Environmental &
Economic Issues
3.1. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Vehicles (SPV-Vs)
A purely solar-power powertrain driven vehicle has his-
torically been considered impossible by most automotive
engineers. The day may still come when passenger vehi-
cles that resemble current models in size and function are
tooling down the highway powered by little more than
sunlight, but it would appear that day is still in the future.
There however has been an increase in the attention on
the integration of solar energy into future passenger ve-
hicles. This integration would work best if coupled to
either electric or hybrid architecture. The first model of
hybrid vehicle powered by solar panels was launched by
Toyota in 2009 demonstrating some level of feasibility
for such an idea. A hybrid solar vehicle essentially has
many similarities to a HEV for which many studies have
been done by many researchers. Many researchers be-
lieve, though, that in one form or another, solar energy
represents the most promising alternative energy re-
source across the board, particularly in the long term. It
has been remarked by Boaz [15] that, solar-powered ve-
hicles are long overdue and would effect a transforma-
tion in cities such as Los Angeles and Mexico City. Price
and value are the two main concerns of a SPV-V. The
primary value of SPV-V is that it is good for the envi-
ronment. In addition to avoiding the accumulation of
greenhouse gases, increasing reliance on solar energy
would wean the world from its reliance on petroleum,
world reserves of which will eventually run out. Aca-
demic competitions for solar-powered vehicles also take
place each year in the United States and interest contin-
ues to grow [16]. In 2008, there was a solar car that made
the first round the world trip which covered 52,000km
across 38 countries and ended its journey at the United
Nations (UN) climate change talks in Poznan, Poland
with the clear message that alternative energy technolo-
gies like solar are ecological, economical and can dras-
ticcally reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases. Never-
theless, because of their inherent reliance on the sun and
the associated limitations of conventional batteries for
energy storage, solar-powered cars remain primarily on
the drawing board; by contrast, so-called hybrid pas-
senger vehicles that use two or more different fuel
sources (which could include solar power, but more
typically biofuels) are becoming increasingly popular as
discussed in a later section. Solar photovoltaics in vehi-
cles would need to have a useful life of at least15 years,
similar to photovoltaics used in buildings that have a
useful life of 20 years or longer, unless they are cheap
enough to where they can easily be replaced over time
[17]. One aspect where solar energy might contribute
more, which offers an opportunity for research and
which is rarely mentioned is in the paint being applied to
vehicles. Since every vehicle that rolls off the production
line is painted, it is only imperative to develop nano-
based solar paints that can absorb solar energy which can
be used to charge the battery in a solar hybrid electric
vehicle or to power other electrical systems in the vehicle.
SPV-V will need to generate electricity from the sun
using ever part of the vehicle surface. These paints will
however be developed to not have any adverse effect on
the quality of the paint application process or in later
years of vehicle use. In addition, solar can be embedded
into the fabric of vehicle seats that will also generate
useful amounts of electricity even though it may be be-
hind glass. Tinted glass on vehicles can also contain
photovoltaics that have a 15 year life span. These ad-
vances in photovoltaic and silicon solar wafer technolo-
gies for future vehicles can only be feasible when price
of manufacturing has been significantly reduced and are
competitive with fossil fuel prices. Solar has already
been used in a record breaking 24 hour flight of the all
electric solar impulse plane, so the future in terms of
automobile applications can only be considered bright
and feasible.
3.2. Biofuelled Vehicles
Biofuels for transport produced from biomass such as
animal and plant waste are attracting considerable atten-
tion globally. For the most part till date, biofuels from
sugar and starch are the only biofuels that can be sup-
plied in considerable amounts [18]. There are some im-
portant factors that must be taken into account when
evaluating the relative efficiency of biofuels for passen-
ger vehicle use today. Biofuels have a lower energy den-
sity as compared to diesel and petrol but have much
higher combustion efficiency than diesel or petrol. On
the one hand, because they include a percentage of “re-
newable” energy resources such as corn-produced etha-
nol, biofuels can be said to reduce overall demand for
fossil fuels and the importance this has for any country’s
strategic domestic energy needs. On the other hand,
though, even the most efficiently produced biofuels re-
quire significant amounts of fossil fuels to produce,
process, refine, package and transport that may not be
included in the overall carbon footprint analysis. It has
been remarked by Hayes et al. [19] that, just as world
energy prices soared in the summer of 2008, so did grain
prices and food prices in general. These market changes
increased the attention to biofuel policies and eroded
some of the political support that the sector had received.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Since corn remains the crop of choice in biofuels pro-
duction especially in the US, increases in its use for bio-
fuel production would invariably lead to increases in the
price of corn for food products. Moreover, even in those
cases where they produce fewer pollutants than regular
gasoline products, the energy required to bring biofuels
to market will have a concomitant and cumulative effect
on greenhouse gas emission rates as each level in the
supply chain contributes its share to the overall total [19]
and the land dedicated to biofuel production remains
unavailable for other purposes [20]. On balance, biofuels
may provide a temporary stopgap measure to help extend
current supplies of fossil fuels, but the supporting tech-
nologies must be improved to make the end-to-end proc-
ess more efficient in order for biofuels to become a vi-
able alternative source of fuel for passenger automobiles
in the future. In addition, from raw materials to biofuel,
the costs of production need to be competitive with pet-
rol and diesel. Costs will drop as many policies, initia-
tives and standards are designed and deployed to stimu-
late and support the biofuel industry. Brazil so far repre-
sents a model example to the world where bioethanol
produced from sugarcane is price competitive and there
have been estimates of as much as 90% GHG savings.
[22]. New technological systems often require supportive
economic policies [18] and biofuels present such an op-
portunity for supportive policies as it lowers environ-
mental impacts and GHG emissions when compared to
fossil fuels.
3.3. Natural Gas Vehicles
Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles (CNGVs) vehicles are
among the more promising alternatives to conventional
fuel sources that are being explored at present [23].
Natural Gas (NG) which is mostly methane burns more
cleanly than conventional fuels like diesel or gasoline
and produces 30% less CO2. Accordingly, NG, unlike
other alternative fuels, is capable of simultaneously pro-
viding significant economic, developmental, energy se-
curity and safety benefits relative to conventional gaso-
line. As of 2007, there were approximately 114,000 CNG
vehicles in the United States and about 3,000 Liquefied
Natural Gas Vehicles (LNGVs) [24]. About 66 percent
of these NGV’s are passenger vehicles (about 1,800)
versus approximately 240 million conventional (primar-
ily gasoline) passenger vehicles; in addition, just 0.01%
(1,100 of 16.1 million) new passenger vehicles sold in
2007 were NGV’s. According to this industry analyst,
“For MY 2010, only one NGV was available from an
OEM for purchase by consumers—the CNG-fueled
Honda Civic GX5—although there are a number of com-
panies that convert vehicles to CNG before they are sold
(usually as fleet vehicles). These technologies, though,
will require a significant investment in distribution infra-
structure to replace the existing types of fuel pumps that
are used with conventional fuel products [25]. For exam-
ple, existing major fleet operations that rely on CNG
include the U.S. Postal Service, Pepsi-Cola and United
Parcel Service, all of which were forced to con- struct
their own refueling stations. In fact, about 50 percent of
the 800 to 1,000 natural gas refueling stations in the U.S.
are currently privately owned or are situated on govern-
ment sites such as military bases that are not open to the
public and many of the CNG refueling stations that are
available to the general public require a keycard or other
previous financial arrangements with the dispensing
company [24]. Though NG is cleaner than coal, gasoline
or diesel, it is still a carbon based fossil fuel and its by-
products of combustion are CO and CO2 which still leads
to environmentally damaging GHG emissions. It is even
more dangerous for GHG emissions than CO2 so leakage
into the atmosphere contributes strongly to GHG emis-
sions. It can also cause severe and damaging explo-
3.4. A Comparison of Fossil-Fueled Vehicles and
Renewable/Clean Energy Vehicles-Effciency,
Environmental and Economic Issues
While the internal combustion fossil fueled vehicles have
improved in efficiencies over the years, it is however
difficult to see path to dramatically increasing their effi-
ciencies. Renewable and clean energy vehicles provide
much improved efficiencies over conventional ICE vehi-
cles. They also provide a longer driving range or miles
per gallon, an important metric to the average consumer,
over ICE vehicles especially in a hybrid power drivetrain.
Environmentally, while fossil fueled vehicles are also
been improved upon to reduce harmful tailpipe emissions,
they will still have considerably higher emissions than
clean energy vehicles. Electric vehicles for example have
zero tailpipe emissions when compared to fossil fueled
vehicles. Even though the electricity used to charge bat-
teries in electric vehicles is currently mostly produced
from burning fossil fuels, the emissions associated with it
from power generation are still lower. While much work
still needs to be done to improve clean energy vehicles,
they are however better for the environment. The eco-
nomics of fossil fueled vehicles when compared to clean
energy vehicles indicate that clean energy vehicles are
cost prohibitive today. Increased adoption and use along
with governmental incentives in the short to midterm
timeframe will help to bring their costs down and in-
crease affordability.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
4. Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs)-Efficiency, En-
vironmental & Economic Issues FuelCell Energy Inc. based in Connecticut, USA. Table
1, however shows some features of different types of fuel
cells. Proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells so far
seem to be better suited for the passenger automobile
industry. The efficiency of a fuel cell system is hence
defined in terms of the fuel utilization efficiency, number
of electrons transferred in the electrochemical reaction,
actual cell voltage and the enthalpy of formation as
shown in Equation (1).
4.1. Fuel Cell types, Their Current
A fuel cell is device that converts the chemical energy
inherent in a fuel (e.g. natural gas or a clean fuel like
hydrogen), along with an oxidant (e.g. oxygen) into elec-
tricity, heat and products of reaction. Inside a fuel cell is
an electrolyte and electrodes in contact with the electro-
lyte and it is at this interface that the chemical reaction
takes place (Shown in Fi g u r e 3).
Hydrogen-fueled fuel cells are compact, quiet, clean
and as chemo-electric converters and not Carnotian (Sadi
Carnot 1796-1832) heat engines, highly efficient [25]. At
first blush, fuel cells would appear to be the answer eve-
ryone has been looking for in the alternative energy
market. After all, fuel cells helped astronauts reach the
moon and return safely, and they have been shown to be
efficient in passenger automobile applications. Hydrogen
FCV are expected to play a significant role in a hydrogen
based economy. Fuel cells, through research efforts con-
tinue to show improved performance, durability and cost
competitiveness. Larger scale production of fuel cells
will most likely commence 5-10 years from now espe-
cially by companies such as Ballard based in Canada and Figure 3. Schematic of a fuel cell.
Table 1. Salient features of several fuel cell types [34].
Electrochemistry Advantages Disadvantages (Anode) Fuel/
Mobile Ion
PEMFC Low temperature operation
Need for hydration of membrane, low
current densities, acidic nature, catalyst
CH3OH, H2/H+
Alkaline (AFC) Mature technology, low temperature
operation, high power density
Electrolyte corrosivity, fuel free of trace
CO2 to avoid carbonate formation H2/OH+
Direct Methanol
(DMFC)-Proton exchange
Low temperature operation, allows
direct introduction of hydrocarbon fuel
to stack
Low power, several competing mechanisms,
slow cathode methanol oxidation reaction CH3OH/H+
Direct Methanol
Low temperature operation, allows
direct introduction of hydrocarbon fuel
to stack
Carbonate formation resulting in loss of
alkalinity limiting its life time CH3OH/H+
Phosphoric Acid (PAFC)
Mature technology, demonstrated
uninterrupted operation for long period
(1 year)
Electrolyte corrosivity, complex system if
hydrogen is generated from methane ref-
Solid Oxide (SOFC)
High reaction rates, low precious
metal catalyst requirement, direct
introduction of methane into fuel cell
for 'internal reformation'
Complex sub-systems (air and fuel pre-heat-
ers, and complex cooling systems)- resulting H2, CO/O2-
Molten Carbonate (MCFC) Direct introduction of methane or coal
gas into fuel cell Electrolyte corrosivity H2, CO or HC/CO32-
electrical energy produced
enthalpy change in fuel oxidation
is the Gibbs free energy change of reaction
expressed per unit mole of the reactant or product and
h is the enthalpy change for a ‘combustion’ reaction in
a fuel cell. Accordingly, every fuel cell vehicle is also an
electric vehicle. The electric traction system works si-
lently and at high efficiencies. The electric engine pro-
vides smooth acceleration with high torque and allows
for less gear shifting than ICE. Electric vehicles may be
designed with two gearshift instead of modern, but ex-
pensive, six gearshift boxes. Moreover, fuel cells are
environmentally benign because they are not burdened
by the need to process toxic exhaust emissions because
the gas preparation has already taken place prior to the
entry of the fuel into the fuel cell. Despite these attributes,
the majority of fuel cells require pure hydrogen for their
operation to alleviate problems of impurities such as
catalyst poisoning and membrane failure making fuel
storage considerations a major obstacle to the deploy-
ment of this technology. Nonetheless, hydrogen being
the lightest element in the periodic table of elements is
also the most abundant element in our universe. Al-
though hydrogen is a secondary form of energy, it can be
produced from any primary energy source such as oil,
coal, natural gas, nuclear (as a source of electricity for
electrolysis of H2O), and from several renewable ener-
gies. Hydrogen is energy of the future. It’s environment-
tally and climatically benign. It will effectively decar-
bonize our fossil based energy system and will guarantee
clean transportation through EV that will have no range
limit. Hydrogen energy is Kyoto compatible [25]. It so
far remains the last missing addition to a continuously
developing energy mix [26]. Since hydrogen is energy
that exists everywhere, there can be no monopoly, mar-
ket speculation, manipulation or a hydrogen cartel in the
frame of OPEC.
Hydrogen does not occur as pure hydrogen on planet
earth. It occurs bound with oxygen in the form of water
or bound with carbon in a range of hydrocarbons. To
separate hydrogen from water, electrolysis is the widely
established method which electrically separates water
into its components of hydrogen and oxygen as shown in
HO EnergyHO
Other methods of producing H2 are briefly discussed
in Table 2.
Table 2. Production methods for hydrogen.
Production Methods Brief Description and Status
Uses sunlight to split water using a photoelectrode or a semi-conducting material. Incoming light
produces enough voltage to split water into its constituent gases. Still in its early stage of develop-
Biomass Gasification
This is achieved by extracting H2 from H2-rich biomass like wood chips and agric waste by heating in
a controlled atmosphere. Its main hurdle has been more economic than technical and increasing de-
mand for H2 will make the production process economically viable.
Coal Gasification
H2 is produced from coal by reaction with steam. While this produces H2, coal mining is damaging to
the landscape and burning coal produces harmful GHG emissions. However techniques are been
developed to sequester the harmful emissions such as CO2.
Steam Methane Reforming (SMR)
Virtually all H2 produced worldwide comes from natural gas reforming which is done in a two-step
process producing H2 and CO2. These steps are CH4+ H2O 3H2+CO and CO+ H2O H2+ CO2
This production process is relatively inexpensive and efficient producing moderate CO2 emissions.
Sequestration of harmful CO2 will also be required for this process. It is a commercially available
production method and widely used with a reforming efficiency of 65% to 75%.
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
The high pressures needed for compressed hydrogen
tanks storage (typically between 5,000 and 10,000 psi)
used for refueling and operating fuel cell vehicles do
require carbon fiber and aluminum liner coatings to ac-
commodate the design requirements. These high pressure
levels are necessary, though, in order to achieve per-
formance comparable to gasoline-powered engines. Like
gasoline, hydrogen can be dangerous in the event of ac-
cidents [27]; in response, some fuel cell vehicle proto-
types feature metal hydride storage systems that are de-
signed to accommodate the high weight and low stored
energy-to-weight ratios as well as the energy input levels
that are required for hydrogen tank operation. There is
also ongoing research underway to find ways to store
hydrogen in nanofibers, with some scientists maintaining
that it might be possible to produce vehicle ranges up to
several thousand kilometers per tank filling.
At present, the majority of fuel cell vehicles employ a
compressed hydrogen design. Despite obstacles in the
Wheel of progress, these obstacles are been dismantled
through research by creative solutions and technological
advancements and progress, however small, is been
achieved. Reduction in the cost and weight of fuel cells
will provide for significant improvement and should
gradually lead to a more increased adoption or integra-
tion of fuel cells. With increased number of FCV being
manufactured, issues of a lack of infrastructure for refu-
eling should also begin to see an increased ramp up
where by the consumer and general public can easily pull
into a hydrogen fuel station, fill up and drive off. While
hydrogen storage and safety issues still need to be thor-
oughly addressed especially for motive power applica-
tions, water and thermal management issues equally still
need to be addressed for fuel cells.
4.2. Likely Future Development Paths
In the short-term, the transition to alternative energy ve-
hicles will likely involve several types of hybrid vehicles
(HVs) that are capable of using renewable energy sources
while still possessing the ability to run on an internal
combustion engine as a backup [28]. Hybrid electric vehi-
cles (HEVs) will probably emerge in the short-term as a
major compromise between all-or-nothing approaches.
HEVs combine an electric motor and battery pack with an
internal combustion engine to improve efficiency. Some
versions of HEVs recharge batteries while the vehicle is
being operated, thereby reducing reliance on external
chargers; in other versions of HEVs, charging after use
by plugging them in is required, but in either case, [23]
emphasizes that, range and performance can be signify-
cantly improved over electric vehicles. Ultimately, then,
one or a few alternative energy methods will emerge as
frontrunner in this quest for viable replacements for fos-
sil fuels, including the use of electric vehicles which are
discussed further below.
5. Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Electric Vehicle
Battery Charging Systems-Efficiency,
Environmental and Economic Issues.
Some of the major obstacles to the introduction and use
of EV today are the limitations of the conventional bat-
teries that are used to store the energy needed to power
them and the economic and environmental issues that are
associated with their deployment, and these issues are
discussed. Continued technological advances in the auto-
mobile industry have placed a renewed and ever increase-
ing pressure on battery manufacturers and OEM battery
providers to meet design challenges of improving fuel
efficiency while meeting the demands of power hungry
electrical applications.
5.1. Charging and Discharge Efficiencies of The
Main Electric Vehicle (EV) Battery Types
With traditional gasoline products, consumers simply
pull up to the pump, fuel their vehicles and go. Although
in the U.S. consumers are required to pay inordinately
high prices for the privilege, the refueling process is
typically fast and convenient. In very sharp contrast, the
batteries used in most electric vehicles at present require
relatively lengthy recharging times compared to the
amount of travel that each recharging can provide
[20,21]. Ref [30] identifies some key requirements for
future automotive batteries. The existing charging effi-
ciencies of EV batteries must be improved to reduce re-
charging time, and innovations are also needed to help
produce the same type of operating efficiencies with EV
batteries that consumers are accustomed to with their
gasoline-powered ICE. Battery cell architectures or as-
sembly still needs to be explored in such a way that in-
creases power output, reduce weight and without any
detrimental effect to battery performance such as thermal
runaway. There is also a role for automobile electronics
themselves to play in the efficiency of automotive bat-
teries of the future [31]. Remarkably, whilst energy and
power densities of automobile batteries have increased
progressively, and weight, volume and cost have contin-
ued to decrease, these areas still represent an area of op-
portunity for R&D.
5.2. Economic and Environmental Issues
As with biofuels and fuel cells, there are some significant
economic and environmental issues associated with the
batteries used to power electric vehicles. New technolo-
es may solve certain problems but they may also intro-
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
ce new ones. EV batteries could also cause an additional
waste disposal problem. Nevertheless, Battery Electric
Vehicles (BEVs) can provide enormous fuel savings for
consumers. For instance, the results of a 2007 study
conducted by the EPRI estimated the costs of operating a
plug-in hybrid electric vehicle would cost the equivalent
of about 75 cents per gallon of gasoline [20]. In an era of
$4.00-plus a gallon gasoline (U.S. price), this cost effi-
ency would appear to be highly attractive irrespective of
the other constraints involved; however, the 75 cents per
gallon estimate was calculated by using a wide range of
variables, significant changes in any of which could eas-
y increase the costs of electricity. Some estimates also
indicate that the use of plug-in type electric cars could
save the equivalent of about half of current U.S. oil im-
rts and a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pa-
fic Northwest National Laboratory showed that existing
electricity generating resources could provide the energy
needs for 75 percent of America’s current fleet of pas-
nger vehicles without the need for any new power-en-
ating plants. Replacing this 75 percent of passenger ve-
cles would save approximately 6.5 billion barrels of oil
each day, representing about 52 percent of the country’s
current oil imports [20]. The environmental impact of
recharging electric vehicles is also less than gasoline-
owered counterparts, with a follow-up study by the non-
ofit EPRI in 2007 estimated that it might be possible to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10.3
billon metric tons by 2050 in a high PHEV penetration
scenario. Moreover, there are signs that solar-and-wind-
owered electricity generation will become increasingly
available in the future, providing an even cleaner source
for recharging such a national fleet.
In order to gain the maximum return on any invest-
ment in alternative energy resources for environmentally
sustainable purposes, though, it may be necessary to in-
corporate other initiatives into a broad-based, compre-
hensive approach. For instance, an environmental sus-
tainability initiative at a resort in California included: (a)
using renewable energy and renewable energy vehicles;
(b) use of lake water, (c) ecological food products and
long-lasting inventory items; (d) use of fewer chemicals;
(e) limiting air and water pollution; and sorting waste to
reduce the weight of waste per guest; and (f) ensuring
that waste is handled properly by local authorities [31].
6. Possible Lim its to Efficiency &
Environmental Gains and Benefits From
Current R&D Effort.
One of the potential limits to any environmental gains
realized through current R&D projects is the increased
demand for inexpensive and efficient passenger vehicles
that will create a corresponding increase in the amount of
overall energy needed to manufacture and power these
increasing numbers of vehicles particularly in the devel-
oping countries with rapidly expanding middle classes.
In this regard, there is the possibility that, the availability
of cheap and very economical vehicles may trigger a
demand response in the form of increased vehi-
cle-mileage. In this case of PHEVs, though, the envi-
ronmental impact of this increased demand would be far
less than with gasoline-powered vehicles and the in-
creased commerce and quality of life issues that would
result appear to make this a less relevant factor for many
developing nations today.
7. Impact on Developing Countries of Africa
7.1. Market S hare in Eac h of the Ab ove Cate gor ies
Internal combustion based engine technology has radi-
calized African economies. It determines Africa in more
ways than just motive power alone. Life in many cities in
Africa would be less comfortable without water pumps,
which are mostly powered by hand while many others
are powered by the ICE, solar power or grid electricity.
Life would equally be less comfortable without ICE-
driven electricity generators and motorized transportation.
The emissions with attendant poor air quality from these
ICE-technologies is however becoming of national con-
cern in a large number of countries on the African con-
tent, where anthropogenic emissions of combustion par-
ticles have considerably increased [33].
The respective market shares of alternative fuel pas-
senger vehicles for the countries of Africa will likely be
a function of individual consumer purchasing power,
gross domestic product and availability. While availabil-
ity will depend on individual countries’ political and
commercial will to bring alternative fuel vehicles to their
markets, the respective economic indicators of the
top-ten African nations in terms of their gross national
per capita income is more readily discernible as shown in
Table 3. Figure 3 is however a graphical breakdown of
Table 3 for the top 5 African nations.
While all of these leading African nations are on track
to gain increased access to their official development
assistance (ODA) from he international community in
the future, the top five appear to be most well poised to
support an alternative energy vehicle initiative and these
top five countries are illustrated graphically in Figure 3
As can be seen from Table 3 and Figure 4 above, of the
five leading African countries in terms of personal income,
Botswana, Gabon and South Africa appear to represent the
most viable markets in the near term for alternative fuel
vehicles and the respective market shares for each type of
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
hybrid based on their higher per person income levels.
South Africa, though, does appear to enjoy a competitive
advantage based on the country’s experience in the automo-
bile manufacturing industry. As can be seen from Figure 5,
where the x-axis indicates years from 1980 to 2003 and the
y-axis indicates number of vehicles produced, South Africa
has experienced modest but consistent increases in its
automobile manufacturing capacity.
Table 3. Gross national per capita income: Top-Ten African countries (as of year-end 2010) [46].
World Rank (out of 170) Country Gross National Income Per Person
64 Botswana $3,201.68
66 Gabon $2,861.97
68 South Africa $2,751.22
74 Tunisia $1,983.58
85 Namibia $1,728.70
93 Tonga $1,371.78
96 Swaziland $1,219.70
97 Djibouti $1,199.84
119 Cote d'Ivoire $593.05
120 Angola $567.12
Gross National Income Per Person
Botswana: Gabon: South Africa: T unisia: Namibia:
Figure 4. Graph of gross national income per person: Top Five African nations as of year end 2010 [46].
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2001 2002 2003
Passenger Vehicle P roduction
Figure 5. Passenger ve hic l e produc tion in South Afr ica [35].
By taking advantage of recent developments in best
industry practices and state-of-the-art technologies,
South Africa could increase adoption rates of hybrids
and electric vehicles in the short term. Based on South
Africa’s experiences, the other developing countries of
Africa could implement their own fine-tuned versions
based on local needs and preferences. Clearly, this is a
fluid situation and any number of factors could affect the
outcomes of investments in a specific technology today
[36] as well as how measures such as “fuel economy”
should be defined, and even the best models are qualified
by these fundamental limitations [37]. Therefore, identi-
fying the most appropriate direction for private-public
sector investments in alternative energy for passenger
vehicles and mass transit applications represents an im-
portant and timely enterprise for these developing coun-
tries as well as emerging economic powerhouses such as
China that have established ambitious GHG reduction
goals [35].
7.2. Cost, Prices and Affordability Especially of
The latest Models Incorporating Efficiency
and Environmental Improvement Strategies
Of the 200 million vehicles on the road at present, about
133 million are passenger vehicles but just 300,000 of
these are hybrids of some type, defined as vehicles that
run on more than one source of power [38]. Although
configurations vary, the majority of hybrids currently
operate using a combination of rechargeable batteries
and conventional gasoline [38]. Factors that will need to
be taken into account in determining whether the latest
models provide the requisite savings in cost and reduc-
tions in toxic emissions to justify their investment in-
1).Fuel, purchase price, and tax incentives are impor-
tant factors to consider; however, other savings and ex-
penses can be difficult to estimate.
2).Insurance costs are generally lower for hybrids.
3).Battery replacement and electricity usage expenses
can tip the scale the other way; the hybrid battery packs
generally last 150,000 to 200,000 miles.
4).Using the 15,000-mile-a-year average of the
American consumer, traditional Honda Civics costs
about $17,110, and it gets about 30 miles per gallon in
the city and 40 highway. At $2.92 a gallon, this sub-
compact car costs $1,296 in gasoline in one year. At
$22,900, the Honda Civic Hybrid will initially cost a bit
more, but with an average of 50 miles per gallon, a year
of gas will cost $878. In 10 years, taking into account
inflation at 3 percent but not factoring in any possible
changes in gas prices, the gas savings of a hybrid reaches
almost $5,000 [38].
5).After 10 years, the operation of a hybrid will ulti-
mately save about $1,229 [38].
Affordability can be regarded as the price of an item
as a percentage of monthly personal disposable income.
Price affordability of vehicles in African nations will
inherently depend on several factors such as per capita
income, inflation, strength or purchasing power of local
currency, country size, societal and cultural factors and
infrastructure, to name a few. With such vehicles incor-
porating advanced alternate energy technologies that
improve the environment, affordability becomes even
more difficult for the bulk of the African continent. Ef-
forts to combat poverty and create jobs which could also
be done through investments and adoption of alternative
energy technologies must be doubled, as must the neces-
sary road infrastructures and networks be expanded to
increase affordability of cleaner and less polluting vehi-
cles on the continent.
7.3. Possible Future Development Paths for the
Many developing nations appear to be well situated to
take advantage of hybrid technologies in expanding their
national fleets of passenger vehicles. At the national,
regional and local governmental levels, hybrids and
CNG-powered vehicles could be used for large light ser-
vice vehicle fleets (this approach is already being used
by the U.S. Postal Service as noted above) or for com-
mercial applications (as with United Parcel Service and
Pepsi-Cola). The investments in such initiatives stand to
provide a significant return on investment as
also noted above, and current trends indicate that
adoption rates for these alternative technologies will in-
crease in the near term. A study by [39] analyzed hybrid
and CNG-powered vehicle adoption rates in the Euro-
pean Union according to several potential scenarios, in-
cluding an “alternative technologies emerge” approach
that projected a mix of alternative powertrains (e.g. gaso-
line turbo, hybrids and
CNG) of 55 percent of total sales by 2035. Projected
adoption rates of gasoline- and diesel-hybrids and
CNG-powered light service vehicles for the EU are de-
picted in Figure 6.
While Bodeck et al. [39] remark that the scenario may
appear grim in terms of the adoption of renewable energy
technologies, it is however important to note that both
diesel hybrids and gasoline hybrids have components of
renewable energy from the biofuel side that could result
into a net positive effect on the environment. In fact, as
can be readily discerned from the projections for hybrids
and CNG-powered vehicles through 2035 in Figure 5
above, the respective market share of such vehicles in the
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
Figure 6. Projected adoption rates of hybrid and CNG technologies in the EU 2005-2035 [39].
EU and their adoption rates are modest making the need
for urban mass transit additions to the mix vitally impor-
tant, and these issues are discussed further. The gasoline
hybrid market share projections indicates studies that
have been performed by several research groups such as
Nomura Research Institute, Frost and Sullivan and so on,
showing market share growth of these alternative tech-
(a) Urban Mass Transit Focus. As noted above, a number
of major operators, including United Parcel Service,
Pepsi-Cola and the U.S. Postal Service already used
compressed natural gas to fuel to their massive fleets
and the use of alternative fuel vehicles for urban mass
transit has become the focus of an increasing amount
of attention in recent years. The existing urban mass
transit systems that are in place in developing coun-
tries such as Botswana et al. are certainly suitable for
adding hybrid and electric vehicles to their to existing
fleets and replacing outdated vehicles with these al-
ternatives whenever possible [40], with available re-
sources being the overriding constraint to any such
initiative. To buttress further, most developing coun-
tries desperately need these cleaner solutions for their
mass transit systems to help reverse the enormous
amounts of toxic emissions that are currently being
generated by aging and inefficient gasoline-powered
mass transit systems [41].
(b) The UAE (United Arab Emirates) Renewable Energy
Based City Model. This is an ambitious project
sponsored by the UAE government that will span
decades in an effort to “transform oil wealth into re-
newable energy leadership” [42]. The three-phase
project is designed to create the world’s first city that
is truly renewable-energy powered in a highly inte-
grated fashion, including the provision of the infra-
structure needed for renewable-energy powered pas-
senger vehicles [43]. The successes and failures of
this bold project will provide some useful best prac-
tices for other countries as they seek the most effec-
tive renewable energy alternative for their own
unique needs.
8. Impact on the Developing Country of
With respect to the Chinese automobile industry, this is
currently the largest and fastest growing automobile
market in the world, the impact economically, environ-
mentally and politically will continue to be profound.
According to a 2001 report by the World Bank, Beijing
and Shanghai lead the way in air pollution amongst mega
cities of the world. An increase in China’s living stan-
dards and quality of life has led to a significant surge in
demand for quality automobiles and this growth is ex-
pected to continue for the foreseeable future. This growth
has led to structural changes in China [47]. Government
policy and regulatory instruments to promote economic
development through the automobile sector has been one
of the main driving forces behind the continued global
increase in demand for oil and increase in market price
of oil. This is invariably detrimental for the environment
in terms of GHG emissions. The Chinese environment
Copyright © 2011 SciRes. JTTS
will suffer from increased pollution to urban cities and
surroundings. This has however led the Chinese gov-
ernment to make climate impacts as part of its policy
agenda [48]. There is an ongoing push to begin to shift to
production and use of more energy and environmentally
friendly vehicles. Efforts are also been made to reduce
and replace oil imports with domestic natural gas re-
serves. Where barriers exist, so do opportunities for im-
provement. Climate change mitigation efforts need to be
accelerated. Domestic capacity for technological innova-
tion, development and advancement for urban transpor-
tation, a robust transportation infrastructure, carbon cap-
ture and storage need to also be a top government and
private sector priority. Market and consumer incentives
that heavily favor use of alternative fuel vehicles and fuel
refiners should be promoted. As a still developing coun-
try, China will be able to draw on past experiences of
industrialized nations and will be well positioned to
equally benefit from new and future automobile techno-
logical innovations.
9. Conclusions
The review work showed that a number of alternative
energy sources are being actively promoted as potential
replacements for current gasoline- and diesel-powered
engines. Among the more promising of these potential
alternatives were natural gas and fuel cells based on their
proven track records of performance and cost effective-
ness. These and other emerging technologies, though,
will require an enormous investment in infrastructure in
order to support their widespread deployment.
One of the harsh realities of life in the 21st century is
the inextricable relationship between modern life and
petroleum products. Virtually every area of human life is
touched in major ways by petrochemicals, and humanity
has come to rely on fossil-fuel based technologies for
their livelihoods and ways of life. Breaking this powerful
bond will require time, of course, but the handwriting is
on the wall for all to see and the day will come—sooner
or later—when the last drop of oil is extracted from the
earth and the natural processes that required tens of mil-
lions of years to create it will not replenish it soon
enough. Taken together, these trends demand that steps
are taken today to ensure that viable alternative energy
sources are developed and deployed in ways that will
avoid a collapse of the global economy with the devasta-
tion this would cause. A drastic problem often requires a
drastic solution, therefore, further efforts into research in
all alternative energy resources needs to drastically in-
crease, with a special focus on natural gas and biofuel
technologies for the short term and solar-power, hydro-
gen and fuel cell technologies for the long term, to help
ensure that the passenger vehicle industry can continue
to provide the essential transportation services needed by
an increasing number of consumers in the 21st century
and beyond.
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