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Methanol, future universal fuel?


VS’is well known, in France, we don’t have oil, but we have ideas. The small company ARM Engineering is once again demonstrating this. After accumulating a great deal of experience in adapting heat engines to ethanol (alcohol produced in France from beets, wheat and agricultural residues), the structure created by Marc Lambec moved on to what it considers to be the logical next step in terms of environmental protection, methanol.

A non-fossil fuel

This is another alcohol, which ARM preferred to rename G-H3 because it is a renewable methanol since it is produced by catalytic reaction from biogas. The latter being obtained by the methanization of agricultural residues, the methanol which derives from it does not enter into competition with food production while being practically neutral from the point of view of CO2 emissions.2.. Indeed, those resulting from its oxidation were absorbed in the ambient air only a few months earlier, by photosynthesis of the biomass used.

Easy to distribute

Among the advantages of methanol, mention should be made of its liquid state at ambient temperature and pressure, which greatly facilitates its storage and distribution. Better still, methanol can be used both in a heat engine to replace gasoline normally refined from petroleum, and in a fuel cell to replace hydrogen, a gas that is expensive to produce but above all very difficult to distribute and transport.

Usable by a thermal car

To run on methanol, a conventional petrol engine just needs to be adapted according to the same principle as an engine running on ethanol: the mixture needs to be enriched due to a different stoichiometry, and the intake air preferably has to be heated. to facilitate cold starts. A prototype of a Twingo 1.0 SCe modified in this way is already running on the bench, demonstrating the benefits of methanol compared to gasoline, both from the point of view of efficiency and specific power, its octane number high (109) making it possible to increase the ignition advance, or even the supercharging pressure if it was a question of adapting a turbo engine.

Marc Lambec, director of ARM Engineering, estimates that the conversion of a thermal car to run on methanol would cost a little more than that necessary to run on ethanol, but in any case less than a transformation on LPG .

Even better, such a vehicle could run on either methanol or E85 to increase its versatility. CO emission reduction2 compared to a petrol car is estimated at 95%, while the cost per kilometer would be reduced by 30 to 40%, close to that of a car fueled with E85.

And even by an electric

With regard to an electric car, the imagined transformation consists in equipping it, in addition to a small fuel cell then serving as a range extender, with a reformer, that is to say a catalyst allowing extract the hydrogen from a solution of methanol with added water.

Here again, ARM Engineering is working on a Renault Zoe prototype with an experimental device capable of continuously producing 5 kW of electricity. It is still little, but it already makes it possible to increase autonomy, while allowing rapid refueling with liquid fuel. The objective would be to use a battery of about twenty kilowatts allowing motorway use at stabilized speed without limit of autonomy other than to fill up in just a few minutes at a service station.

A new production sector to be developed

Indeed, ARM Engineering is betting in the long term on the large-scale distribution of renewable methanol. This ambitious but realistic plan would not only reduce CO2 of the existing thermal car fleet, but also to correct the main faults of current electric cars which will undoubtedly remain on the road for a good fifteen years: their insufficient autonomy and their too long recharging time.