Hybrids and Hydrogen: Cures for the Gas Pump Blues?

Written by Cory Chandler

News Release

Date: April 25, 2006
CONTACT: Cory Chandler, cory.chandler@ttu.edu

Alternative Fuels Researcher Says Alcohols, Hydrogen May Have Automotive Future

LUBBOCK -- “Hydrogen has a future, but it will be a few years before hydrogen production, distribution and on-board storage are really available. Hydrogen fueled engines will be practical much sooner than fuel cells.” Timothy Maxwell, professor of mechanical engineering, Texas Tech University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering.

Rising costs at the gas pump could prime consumers for new fuel alternatives, Maxwell said. Hybrid vehicle sales in the United States are growing as a wider variety of models attract consumers.

Hybrid electric vehicles with diesel engines could be even more efficient than hybrids fueled by gasoline, Maxwell said, though he noted that they are more expensive.

Other fuels like ethanol, methanol and mixtures of those alcohols with gasoline could increase in popularity, he said, while options like liquid petroleum gas or propane likely will see more use by farmers and ranchers.

Researchers in Texas Tech’s Mechanical Engineering Department have been involved in alternative fuels research since 1988, when they were first awarded a 1988 Chevrolet Corsica to be converted to operate using a combination of methanol and gasoline. Since then, the department has been involved in vehicle design projects and research programs using methanol, ethanol, natural gas, hydrogen and hybrid electric drive trains. They have cold-started methanol engines, operated engines using enriched oxygen and studied the long-term effects of engine operation using pure methanol.

Maxwell is the author of “Alternative Fuels: Emissions, Economics and Performance.” During his 30-year-career, he has worked with automobile manufacturers including Ford, General Motors and Chrysler.


CONTACT: Timothy Maxwell, professor of mechanical engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3563, or tmaxwell@coe.ttu.edu.