Cars could be powered by coal in the future thanks to a revolutionary new process of extracting energy, Fox News has reported. But how? Energy has traditionally been farmed from coal by burning. Its power can then be used (say) as heat to warm buildings or steam to power pistons. But burning coal releases chemicals such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and most experts believe this is bad for the environment. Such chemicals can be seen emerging from coal power stations. In contrast, scientists from Ohio State University in the United States have spent fifteen years (and several million dollars of government money) developing the “clean coal” technique. This - courtesy of iron-oxide pellets - releases energy from coal by heating it rather than burning. The reaction is then contained in a chamber from which pollutants cannot escape. The only waste products are water/ash and metal from the iron-oxide can be recycled. The process has worked in a small laboratory so there will now be more experiments at a far larger facility in Alabama.
Implications Of Coal Powered Cars
So, let us assume these forthcoming tests will be successful. What would then need to happen before coal powered cars became common? First and foremost, the motor industry would need to be convinced there is enough black stuff in mines to make the fuel viable for the foreseeable future. There is, however, only a finite supply so this could be problematic. The technology would also have to be fitted to cars which would need to have reasonable performance, long term reliability, and sensible price tags. Repairs would have to be affordable too. Motorists would also need to accept the new fuel which is a big ask. Consider, after all, how negatively some motorists react to hybrid and electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan LEAF. Even if the fuel was fantastic in every way there would still be prejudice to overcome. To be popular, there would also have to be a national network of refuelling stations similar to today's liquid based outlets. Without this the cars could be limited to very short journeys. Developing the fuel, the vehicles, the infrastructure and the marketing strategy would clearly cost billions so the challenge is immense. That said, 'where there is a will there is a way' – so watch this space.
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