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Methanol Operation

Well-known fuel, possibility for supply network

Methanol is produced under pressure and with heat, e.g., out of natural gas. Producing fuel this way you would become less dependent from oil deposits. The internal combustion engine can be easily adapted to methanol. Compared with hydrogen methanol has the advantage that at the moment (2005) already several ten thousand metric tons are produced yearly. Methanol can also be converted more or less directly into current with the help of fuel cells. Indeed, the initially relatively positive attitude of the vehicle producers towards ethanol has clearly faded recently. At the moment fuels based on Ethanol are favoured, e.g., because of their higher evaporation warmth.

Unfortunately, there are CO2 and efficiency issues

The boiling point of methanol lies in between that of petrol and diesel. It is very toxic for people, attacks plastics and contains only about half the energy concentration of petrol/diesel, a fifth of hydrogen. If a fuel cell is operated directly with methanol, harmful CO develops, which is by the way not the case if operated with hydrogen. Turning the CO into CO2, you have to stuff the - anyways already quite expensive - diaphragm of the fuel cell with much more additional catalytic converter material. Unfortunately, this leads to a decrease in efficiency.

Intermediate step towards a hydrogen energy economy?

Of course, a complete network of filling stations for gassy substances would make sense. Maybe cars running on natural gas might fit in. But as long as there is no dense network of hydrogen filling stations or the possibility of producing hydrogen through photo voltaic in one's own house, we must fall back, probably, on methanol as a fuel. It can be fueled and provides the car with a substantial range. The energy density of diesel oil, partly over 1000 km, is probably out of reach for the future.

Methanol fuel cell as substitute for accumulator

There is another reason for methanol. In combination with the fuel cell it competes against the accumulator. If, e.g., a laptop should be operated for a long period of time without electricity supply, the fuel cell could be worthwhile, in spite of its high price. For vehicles it will probably take at least until the year 2015. However, there are first tests to substitute the fuel cell with the combination generator/battery.

Specific heat value: 19,900 kJ/kg (average)

Wikipedia about Methanol

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