Friday, December 19, 2008

Arctic FlowAir - Purpose by Design

I live in an area of the world where winter temperatures hover around the -40 degree mark and at this point, Fahrenheit or Celsius makes absolutely no difference - it's all the same.

If you believe that your vehicle is well built and well designed, this is the place to test it because if it's not rugged enough, the Arctic environment will be more than happy to point out any engineering flaws or design weaknesses you may have overlooked along the way.

In the Arctic, we need a power source that uses an exothermic reaction to power an engine. Heat is required at these temperatures because the engine and passenger cabin must be artificially heated in this climate.

Vehicles operating in extreme cold currently use the internal combustion engine as a power source, primarily because of how much heat they generate and release. Even though these engines are extremely inefficient, excess heat is easily shunted away from the engine cooling systems for use in heating the interior of the cabin for the passengers.

What other alternatives power sources are available to power a vehicle at these temperatures? This is the one area of the world that battery powered vehicles will have a difficult time to operate in, especially considering current battery temperature requirements. Most batteries loose their ability to hold or convey charge at extreme temperatures. But then, what does that leave us with? Hydrogen fuel cells are a possibility, but once again we are faced with using hydrocarbons as a primary source for hydrogen, unfortunately.

This leaves either the internal combustion engine or the FlowAir dual-energy engine as viable vehicle power sources, especially in colder climates.

I can hear people already arguing that you need a BIG MOTOR to produce enough heat to operate effectively. This is bull. I used to own a Toyota Previa minivan that had a 4 cylinder 2L engine and it heated twice as good as the P.O.S. domestic thing I own now, and it has a 6 cylinder 4.2L engine. My Previa (North American model) had absolutely no problem providing a comfortable internal cabin temperature on a -40 degree day. 

It's not about engine size or output, it's all about insulation and correctly designing the cabin airflow to act as a shell, insulating the passengers from the elements with moving airflow on the outer edge of the vehicle. Toyota understood that with their design. The Previa even feature air ducts that were built into the outer wall and side doors for channeling the air completely around the front seats. This created a temperature buffer that evenly regulated the whole vehicle interior. In essence, it was an ARCTIC DESIGNED HEATING SYSTEM:

I remember driving home at 120km/h in -40 weather, sitting comfortably in a long sleeve shirt with my jacket draped over my seat. I have never been able to do that in any vehicle since, no matter what the engine size. It's all about design.

So then, let's look closely at the FlowAir dual-engine design. It has an external heat source that should be adequate in providing enough heat for the engine and the passenger cabin. If we consider that the MiniFlowAir is a fiberglass and foam  composite body, it's insulation value compared to a solid steel vehicle body would be far superior at retaining heat in the passenger cabin. All that the unit would require for an "Arctic" upgrade would possibly be redesigning the internal airflow to shield the occupants from the vehicle shell. Everything else should be adequate for the task of operating at extreme low temperatures.

One final note: In an era when Peak Oil is an immediate reality and fossil fuels are on the decline, the FlowAir dual-energy engine has one main advantage and that is the ability to use multiple variations of liquid fuel. Even though it might be easier to use petroleum based fuel for the immediate future, it will be much simpler switching over to other fuels with FlowAir dual-energy vehicles.

Oh yeah... don't forget the "air" part of it either... :)

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