Thursday, October 23, 2008

100 Years of Internal Combustion

In October of 1908 Henry Ford introduced the legendary Model T, starting the revolution that put the world on wheels. Here we are 100 years later and the internal combustion engine is still our primary means of transportation.

The Model T ran on ethanol and got 25 MPG. The internal combustion engine has not improved much over the last 100 years; Other than becoming more dependent on oil.

Now we (America) are importing oil to feed our needs. Importing it from, well anywhere we can, friend and foe. This means we are funding both sides of the war on terror.

Some of the pollution from those 1908 Model Ts is still in the atmosphere today, 100 years later. See the atmospheric lifetime of greenhouse gases.

Photo By Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press

In 2006, 244.2 million vehicles were estimated to be on the road. This is with only 13% of the world's population owning a car. Millions of cars will be added to the World's roads in the next few years. If they are fossil fuel burning internal combustion powered, we are in trouble. This will increase crude demand, drive up oil prices, degrade air quality & increase global warming.

So what can we do? 

Many of the cars that these Model Ts displaced were electric cars. Yes, there were electric cars on the road in the early 1900s. There were even plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). Unfortunately, they were nearly impossible to operate with 12-15 levers and pedals, you needed to be a skilled vehicle engineer just to operate them. Today however, anyone can operate a PHEV. The intricacies of those dozen levers is now controlled by an on-board computer. The driver needs only to step on the gas pedal, scratch that, accelerator pedal and the computer determines which energy storage can best propel the vehicle.

If you cannot wait for the PHEVs that Detroit and others are promising in 2010, you can have a 2004-2009 Prius, Escape, or Mariner converted to a PHEV today. Check out Hybrids Plus, Hymotion, CalCars, Plug-in Supply & many other places that can get you powered by American, or otherwise locally generated, electrons.

Model T 100 years old link
25 MPG Model T link


  1. So, you hit a spot that always gets to me. The internal combustion chamber has basically not changed. Power by a contained explosion. Sure, one could argue that the Rotary Engine made by Mazda was different but where is that now? and besides, it is still a contained explosion. Although, I will probably be banned from this site for saying this but this is a pretty cool contained explosion W-16 engine

  2. Another thought that you need to research for me.... The 6 stroke engine. This is the same as a 4 stroke engine (intake, compression, power, and exhause) BUT when the engine gets warm it adds an additional compression and power stroke by adding water into the cylinder instead of gas. The water turns to steam, expands and pushes the piston down for an additional stroke with no added gas.

  3. I cannot tell you any more about those technologies than the wiki articles you reference.

    I can say that after all the decades of research, currently the best way to increase gas mileage is to use the internal combustion engine (ICE) less by partnering it with an electric motor.

    On a side note, when I was taking auto-shop in highschool the teacher made a big deal about the difference between an "engine" and a "motor" and if you referred to the engine as a motor you were yelled at. During one of these rants, some smart–aleck kid asked "if it is an engine, why is it held in by 'motor' mounts?". That stumped him and resulted in a glare that I am sure reduced my, uhmmm his, grade.

    Now I know the answer, they are called motor mounts because they were originally used to mount electric motors. Then when the ICE came along they just used the same parts.

  4. WORLD'S FIRST SOLAR POWERED EV: In 1962 - The International Rectifier Company of Culver City, CAlifornia unveiled a solar energy-powered Baker electric (1912 vintage) car. The Vehicle was outfitted with a roof deck composed of 10,640 individual solar cells. (Peak at my pics):


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