Ford and EPA to continue research.....
Ford and EPA to continue research into promising nitrogen hydraulic hybrid powertrain
By CHARLES CHILD
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The EPA says it has developed a hybrid powertrain capable of achieving 70 mpg in a mid-sized sedan such as the Ford Taurus.
The car uses a conventional internal combustion engine attached to a pump to compress gaseous nitrogen in high-pressure tanks. Releasing the pressure pushes hydraulic fluid through a hydraulic motor, which turns the wheels.
Ford Motor Co. was sufficiently impressed with the hydraulic hybrid to sign a deal with the EPA last October to continue research. But Ford says the technology is a long way from dealer showrooms.
The test car, admittedly a crude prototype, is noisy. Its tanks, motors and pumps would be difficult to package under the hood, particularly in a small car.
"Ford certainly is serious" about the technology, said John Brevick, a project leader at Ford Research Laboratory. But he acknowledged significant hurdles: "The cost, the package, making it totally transparent to the customer, plus reliability, durability - are all issues that have to be worked out."
The hybrid's efficient regenerative braking gives it a significant edge over gasoline-electric hybrids, says the car's inventor, Charles Gray, 55, the top researcher at the EPA lab here.
The car captures 98 percent of the energy available from braking, compared with 30 percent for a gasoline-electric hybrid, he said. When the brakes are applied, the flow of hydraulic fluid that provides forward motion is altered in a way that returns pressure to the tank, making that energy available for use in acceleration.
A gasoline-electric hybrid stores the braking energy in a battery, which is inherently less capable than a pressurized tank of quickly absorbing and releasing energy.
Both Honda and Toyota are selling gasoline-electric hybrids in the United States. Honda last month started selling a gasoline-electric Civic that gets about 50 mpg.
Gray developed the engine on a modest budget, about $20 million over seven years, at the EPA lab here. He used federal money from the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles, a Clinton administration project to foster research into fuel-
efficient vehicles by Big 3 and government scientists.
The government required the EPA to keep quiet about the vehicle because the partnership was designed to help the Big 3 develop an edge over foreign competitors. But the partnership expired, freeing the EPA to talk about the hydraulic hybrid.
Hydraulic equipment is used widely in factories, construction equipment and on airplanes. So Gray had a supply of equipment to assemble his car. But the resulting mishmash of parts is noisy in the EPA's concept car.
Gray said the car was built to prove the concept. He is busy on a second-generation car that he said will be far more efficient and quiet. The first-generation powertrain would achieve 62 mpg on a car the size of the Ford Focus. Improved versions are capable of 70 mpg on a heavier Taurus, he said.
Gray is convinced his invention will wind up in showrooms.
"From a technical perspective, I truly believe it has a chance to be the prominent drivetrain in new vehicles in 10 years," he said. "I know that's a bold statement."
He said hydraulic hybrids will be more expensive than conventional autos. He declined to be specific. But he said gasoline savings would recoup the extra cost to the consumer in less than three years, assuming an automaker produced at least 50,000 per year to achieve sufficient econo-mies of scale.
Eaton Corp., a Cleveland auto supplier that manufactures hydraulic equipment for construction, factories and other uses, also signed an agreement with the EPA to develop hydraulic hybrids.
Eaton is concentrating at first on only one portion of the powertrain, which it calls hydraulic launch assist. The device captures braking energy in a pressurized tank. A hydraulic motor uses the pressure to help launch a vehicle from a stop. The company installed it on the Ford Mighty F-350 Tonka concept truck, shown at the Detroit auto show in January.
The technology is "not a dry hole," said Brad Bohlmann, business development coordinator at Eaton. "Hydraulic launch assist is proven. It will be commercialized."
HOW IT WORKS
In simple terms, here's how the EPA's hydraulic hybrid works.
1. A 1.9-liter diesel engine powers a pump that compresses gaseous nitrogen in high-pressure tanks.
2. Upon acceleration, pressure from the tanks is released, pushing hydraulic fluid through a hydraulic motor to power the wheels.
3. When the driver brakes, the hydraulic motor acts as a pump, boosting pressure in the nitrogen tanks and recapturing energy.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....