How to double the MPG of an SUV running on gasoline

Simple, build an SUV that runs on batteries and electric motors, then burn that same gasoline at more than double the efficiency of an ICE in a thermal power generating station to generate electricity to charge the batteries.

Internal combustion engines, or ICE powered vehicles, roll down the road plowing through the atmosphere by way of energy extracted from liquid fuels. Energy contained in liquid fuels is converted to mechanical energy by expansion of hot gases in an engine’s cylinders. The start of the power stroke converts the vaporized air-fuel mixture into extremely hot, high pressure carbon dioxide and water gases. The fuel’s state is transformed from a dense hydro-carbon chained liquid into individual species of hot CO2 and H2O gases via combustion with atmospheric oxygen.

Thermal efficiency of an ICE to deliver mechanical work from heat energy is roughly 20%, meaning that 80% of the heat energy contained in the fuel is wasted, blown out the tail pipe and radiator system. The problem with piston powered ICE vehicles is one of thermal dynamic inefficiency. Hot gases expanding in the cylinders during the power stroke cool and work is done as per Boyle’s law of gases. The expansion and cooling of hot combustion gases is how heat energy is physically converted to mechanical energy and waste heat, but because the temperature of the exhaust gases are still very high, with them goes a lot of unharnessed energy.

The solution to ICE inefficiency is simple, burn the fuel in a better method in order to extract more bang for your buck, and that better method is a thermal power generating station. A modern thermal electric power station can burn any type of fuel with a thermal efficiency as high as 48%, and when combined in a co-generating facility that uses an electric generator’s waste heat to supply nearby heating and absorptive cooling requirements, the overall efficiency of the fuel burned can be as high as 89%.

Consider also the additional energy expended during the extraction, refining, production, and delivery of gasoline and diesel fuels; a steam boiler system even when powered by coal starts to look pretty good. Large amounts of electrical energy are used by refineries during the refining processes to run pumps and provide heating. Fuel products are treated with hydrogen injection during cracking to produce lighter fuels from heavier oils. These extra energy inputs could be eliminated if the raw crude oil were simply burned directly in a co-gen facility producing combined electricity, heating, and cooling services.

When one drills down to the nuts and bolts of conventional gasoline and diesel fuels used for transportation, one finds that coal powered thermal generating stations are not really the devil they’re made out to be, and in fact, the real devil is in the extremely inefficient way our society uses oil products for transportation fuels and internal combustion engines.

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