Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 03

Wood-Powered Cars: History Repeats Itself

Posted in Biofuels | Transportation

Wood-Powered Cars Few people that are ripping around the streets in today’s gas guzzlers will remember wood-powered cars, but if things continue the way they are, they may be lucky enough to see one pull up next to them at the light. Wood-powered cars are starting to pop up again as yet another means of saving our fossil fuels. Wood-powered cars made their first big appearance in Europe during WWII. A wood gas generator was attached to the vehicle so that the drivers could save fuel, yet still keep their cars operational. Looking at some of the pictures from back then, the cars literally look like they have a wood-burning furnace attached to the hood or trunk. It may have looked funny, but it was actually very efficient.

While this technology showed incredible advancements over the next decade, it became obsolete as soon as the war was over and countries started to see some normalcy come back into their lives. With the apparent need to conserve gas for the war effort gone, the odd looking devices were no longer used and the automobile returned to normalcy.

Because of the renewed effort to save our fossil fuels and reduce the carbon footprint that is left by current automobiles, wood-powered cars are again getting some attention. There is a renewed interest and there is actually somewhat of a cult following starting to develop all over the world. While the contraptions may look quite a bit different from the antiques that were used during WWII, they are still serving the same purpose.

There is one obvious drawback to the vehicles, and that is that they are definitely not aerodynamic. Whether the car owner chooses to mount the furnace to their car or pull it via a trailer, there is quite a bit more drag created when exploring the local roads. However, this particular power source is not about speed, it is about conservation. Look for this technology to start popping back up at auto-shows and for it to gain a lot more attention from green enthusiasts.

  • Bob

    I still think it’s a bad idea. It is novel, but the majority of people are not going to want to have their car look like a science project.

    Alt energy projects must be practical and work, which is why our goal here is to make the hydrogen generators smaller, more compact, able to fit into the existing cars without major modifications, and still be able to extend mileage.

    You also don’t have to cut down a tree- simply add some water (less than a gallon of water a month to increase your mileage 30%-40%).

    And you can drop emissions tremendously – one of our customers’ mechanics thought the machine was broken because emissions had dropped so low…

    HHO Generators are the the most practical alt energy source available today.

  • Carl

    I can see this taking off in rural areas, especially on vehicles used for farming, but otherwise I doubt it’ll make a big impact elsewhere.

  • Gary Bohannon

    I want one. We own acreage and have years of surplus wood begging to be cleaned up. Great idea!

  • Mike Maybury

    Good, but rather strange!

  • Popo

    You know that in countries like Africa they have problems to find wood for fire (cooking). And I doubt that this will be the answer, we do not have enough wood, so this will only work if only a few people use it. But it’s a good idea for using the left-over wood from the industry.

  • Kai

    I think it’s true what Bob and Carl say. The car has to look cool but be efficient. There aren’t a lot of trees in big cities either so we’d have to be importing them from other states. Then I also worry about using up the trees for our cars. We can’t have trees grow fast enough if, let’s say, the world switches to these cars. If these cars take off, then I doubt I’ll see them in every corner of the world.

  • Jaycub

    Wood gassifiers could be a great source of fuel. I disagree with Popo because grass, algae, weeds, any dry plant matter should work.

  • Jason

    Sounds great near some 3rd world jungles. Where in north america or europe is getting gasoline harder than getting wood?

    Not that this has any chance of seriously taking off, but I’d also bet it would cause massive smog if it did. That leaves it to being a good idea for some rare individuals, but unmarketable to the public.

  • chris

    i think its a definite no. although like jaycub says that we could use other dry matter, but the problem is in the burning process.

    alternative energy should offer a way to produce energy without oxidation process.

  • Erik V

    Hello all,

    Here is a Swedish site about wood gasification, , showing several projects. Maybe you can use Google translate to read it. It is interesting as an emergency solution, but the fuel consumption is quite high, about 15-20 litres of wood (cut in small cubes) per 10km.

    Personally I hope someone can combine this hot air engine with a wood-pellet burner and some solenoid operated valves ( and turn it into a “biomass fueled ir-hybrid”… Any takers?

  • Erik V

    Sorry, I forgot this one, . A small electric serial hybrid powered by a Stirling engine fired with wood-pellets.

    Speaking wood-powered cars, I mean.

  • EnviroWhacko

    They should put this on the Starship Enterprise. Of course, compressed air will have to be brought along so the entire contraption could fly through space.

    Warp speed? Warped lumber is all they would get…

  • Roy Leggett

    Any fibrous material, whether it be wood, grass, wheat straw or corn stalks and cobs should work in these cars. The science and knowledge is available but big oil companies would fight any use of these cars. A friend built a carburetor that got him over 100 miles per gallon of gas but the government told him he had to run tests on it and the tests run over 2 million dollars. He gave an interview to the local tv station and while doing the interview, wore a mask, breathing the fumes out of the tail pipe( 100% oxygen) He died a couple of years later from natural causes and that was the end of it. The blue prints for the carburetor disappeared

  • ganeshbrhills

    It seems to me, we cannot use any wood – like we use for camp-fires – for this to work. For maximum efficiency, it needs to be hard wood, cut to size of say, 1 to 2 inches dia x 2 to 3 inches long. These special requirements could be a pain.

    I remember having traveled long distance in a Bus run on coal; I even helped turn the hand operated blower which kept the fuel burning… that was way back in 1945 or 46?

  • Don Kosnik

    Obviously it doesn’t make any sense to drag a furnace along with every car. What is needed is the ability to capture and bottle the gas at a central facility and then refill an on board container similar to those used for propane powered vehicles.

  • John De Reggi

    Hey everyone,
    I actually built several of these recently. A little one for my lawnmower and one for an old truck I cut up to power a generator and heat the house. We had some success in moderation. We burned wood chip mulch provided to us for free by the tree work guys. Need to have a pretty low moisture content before it worked very well. Many lessons to learn you wont’ get it right the first time. The old truck and a PTO generator was not the best way. If I had done this with a gas powered generator I may have had something. On a budget of very little things are not easily accomplished. I’m willing to entertain the idea of a funded venture in this direction if anyone wants to contribute monetarily. I have somewhere a auto cad design that is easily customized to fit any size especially for the purpose of microscale project size distribution. I see no reason not to do this on a micro scale. Especially if the exhaust is fed into a green house growing great big tomatoes while propertly using the CO2 and emitting oxygen. My little project would power and heat several houses for free basically. The government actually mandates reverse metering at prefered rates for suplus electricity.

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