It is time to examine our true energy potential. At this point, one important question must be asked. How much energy is there in each gallon of
gasoline? The answer may shock you. In the 1940's, engineers working in the petroleum industry declared that there is enough energy in each
gallon of gasoline to propel a relatively lightweight vehicle 480 miles along a level road. They declared that their challenge was finding out how to unlock all this energy from the complex molecules in gasoline. Now, for a closer look at what can and has been done with gasoline.
In the 1930's, Charles Pogue was obtaining 209 miles per gallon of gasoline in a standard two-ton Ford sedan, with a V8 engine. His special fuel system readily allowed for all this fuel mileage. What was Pogue doing to the gasoline in his fuel system to obtain this high fuel mileage? First, Pogue was heating gasoline vapors, using exhaust heat with a temperature in the neighborhood of 500-1000 degrees Fahrenheit. Let us now look more closely at what was happening.
Above a temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit, gasoline molecules begin to rapidly break down into a much larger volume of usable gaseous fuels. Pogue was thermal-cracking the gasoline molecules to make available the large amount of energy contained in them. In essence, Pogue created something similar to an early "propane" fuel system for motor vehicles, using gasoline as the "base fuel". And yes, a propane system, with the proper combustion controls, can give excellent performance, with low emissions.
Now for a closer look at gasoline. One U.S. gallon of gasoline contains up to about 125,000 Btu's or 36.6 kilowatt-hours of energy. An Imperial gallon, being larger, contains up to about 150,100 Btu's or 43.9 kilowatt-hours of energy. This amount of energy is equal to about 116 million foot-pounds of force, or more than 57 horsepower-hours. Let us put this amount of energy into perspective. It is said that the amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline can be enough to lift a 3,000 pound car about 37,660 feet, straight up in the air. This is a distance similar to that from sea level to the top of Mount Everest and beyond.
Now, we are not looking to lift a car straight up in the air: which requires a lot of energy per distance of travel. All we want to do is propel a typical car along a typical roadway. At 60 miles per hour, it takes about 10 to 20 horsepower for the typical car to maintain its speed. The energy in a gallon of gasoline could therefore allow the typical car to travel a distance up to 170 to 340 miles, if virtually all the energy was used to move the vehicle. It is well-known that our motor vehicles are very inefficient. Yes, there is a lot of room for improvement. But now, let us turn to an important question.