Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge Research in Motion

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge Research in Motion

Article excerpt

By Ronda Fears Journal Record Staff Reporter It was research in motion. Twenty-four college projects _ all using natural gas as a vehicular fuel _ rolled onto the Oklahoma Capitol com- plex Thursday, some easier than others. As experiments go, there were some quirks. The University of Maryland truck sputtered and had to be pushed to the Capitol steps. It was speculated that a head was blown. The Texas Tech University team members did one better, though. They turned their truck over along the way to Oklahoma and drove in with Plexiglas windows and a few crumpled dents. The purpose of the competition _ Natural Gas Vehicle Challenge _ is to foster research and offer a challenge to perfect the technology of natural gas vehicles. Primary sponsors are the State of Oklahoma, General Motors Corp.'s truck division, the Canada Energy Mines and Resources Department and U.S. Department of Energy. "This kind of a challenge, a project . . . is a very, very important part of engineering education," said LaMont Eldridge with the Society of Automotive Engineers, which is a lead organizer of the event along with Argonne National Laboratory. "The fact that you're focusing on natural gas is particularly timely. The economic forces are there. The environ- mental forces are there. The technology is there." West Virginia University's team set out to prove that existing technology was sufficient for use of natural gas as an alternative motor fuel. The eight-mem- ber team converted its truck to run on compressed natural gas and then read- justed internal engine parts to restore power, plus some. The conversion and engine readjust- ment would take a mechanic about four to six hours to do, said West Virginia faculty advisor Dr. James E. Smith. "Our goal was to demonstrate that the technology is there," said James Smith, also director of the Center for Industrial Research Applications at the university. "We were able to use parts right off the shelf." He said horsepower was actually increased and fuel-efficiency slightly improved. From early indications, he said, the truck was averaging 19 miles per gallon equivalent on the highway and 12 miles per gallon in town. Although compressed natural gas is the most widely promoted version of natural gas as a vehicular fuel, the University of Oklahoma team chose to use liquefied natural gas, or liquid methane. …
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