Future of aviation/auto gasoline?

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Wayne, Jan 17, 2019.

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  1. Jan 17, 2019 #1

    Wayne

    Wayne

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    Folks -
    I, like many of you, have an airplane engine that burns gasoline. In my case the engine is a UL Power which requires 93 Octane non leaded fuel and will likely come from an automobile gas station. With vehicle manufacturers world wide focusing heavily on electrification (a combination of a new market opportunity plus environmental/Government factors) it seems inevitable to me that my source of fuel is going to be getting scarcer and scarcer until it eventually runs out. I expect it's price to rise with declining consumption.

    Since General Aviation is such a tiny market for gasoline compared to the automotive market where does that leave us for fuel? Is there going to be a large enough market to justify a refinery to produce gasoline until we get a workable electric solution?

    If we do get a workable electricity based energy source will we be retro-fitting our older airplanes or are we looking at a total loss, followed by a huge investment in a new airplane that many of us can't afford?

    Looking on the bright side, if we do get forced into new aircraft, there really will be a need for a cost effective run about plane so there will be a new market of some kind.
     
  2. Jan 17, 2019 #2

    spaschke

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    Don't worry, mogas will be around and easily purchased in our lifetimes. I doubt we will see a time when aviation fuel is more common than mogas. Autos, trains, and airplanes and tractors will need petroleum based fuel for cross country trips even if electric cars become the norm for city driving. Most of our country is not city (yet).
    Diesel could take over as more common than gasoline, but that only means an engine change.
     
  3. Jan 17, 2019 #3

    jedi

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    The issue here is more basic than fuel. I am going to provide crude estimates here so don't hold me to the numbers. Average age of autos is perhaps 10 years. Average age of GA airplanes is much longer more like 30 years. Result? The auto industry responds to market changes three times faster than the aircraft industry/market and user.

    Aircraft in general will have more problems with obsolete systems than automobiles as long as the production volume disparity remains. The aircraft dependency on the more predominant automotive industry will also remain.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
  4. Jan 17, 2019 #4

    Tiger Tim

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    Electric light replaced oil-burning lamps a century ago, yet you can still buy lamp oil easily enough. Is it as cheap and plentiful as it once was? Of course not, but it is still being produced and can be found.

    I don't expect gasoline to be much different.
     
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  5. Jan 17, 2019 #5

    blane.c

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    I've heard this debate for like 40 years … we did lose 80 octane (red gas) like 30 years ago and gas was a big topic in round motor land with 5404 gallons of fueling capacity and thousands of flights flown a year, a fairly large single consumer with a single point of failure for a whole fleet of aircraft. Despite one refinery in USA and one lead supplier from Russia we still getting gas. There still is a need is what I am thinking, probably something military, it would be nice to identify it because likely general aviation isn't enough need by itself.
     
  6. Jan 17, 2019 #6

    dcstrng

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    At least in our area 91 octane car-gas is readily available, 93 less so… but if you hunt a bit you can find either in ethanol free or ethanol impregnated, then you can haul it to the airport. Notwithstanding the lower BTU rating, I don’t mind running the 10% ethanol (either) as almost any low/mid performance engine can be adapted to run on it (long term storage with the stuff is quite another matter, in my experience). What I do mind is having to turn my car/truck/tricycle into a tanker and hauling gallons of the stuff to the airport… which rather spoils the fun of cross-country flying without a pre-positioned ground crew. Doubt general availability of car-gas will be an issue in my lifetime, but convenient availability is already an issue (IMO).
     
  7. Jan 17, 2019 #7

    12notes

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    This is a good thing. Petroleum is a finite resource, electricity is not. The less petroleum used for cars, where weight and energy density is not that great an issue, the more left for aircraft.

    The price increase on a product when it becomes a niche specialty item is minuscule compared to the price increase on a finite, irreplaceable resource when supply gets low.

    Although I believe electric power for aircraft will become a pound for pound acceptable replacement for petroleum based fuel, it will take 20-30 years at least, and there may be some unforeseen barrier (technological, economical, or political) that will stop advancement in this field. In that case, the more petroleum left for aircraft, the better.
     
  8. Jan 17, 2019 #8

    blane.c

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    I used to go to bulk fuel sales with a 55 gallon drum and get it filled then get it out of pickup at tiedown when nearly full (fill up plane first) and it is a pain, but I didn't want to haul around gas in the back of my truck all the time. I think now I'd get a thirty gallon or maybe two or three fifteen gallon, I am not up to wrestling a 55 gallon any more.
     
  9. Jan 17, 2019 #9

    Dana

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    There is such a barrier, and you already mentioned it... energy density; no possible electrochemical reaction can ever come close to burning gasoline.
     
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  10. Jan 17, 2019 #10

    Pops

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    There are 2 places to buy 91 non-ethanol auto fuel in the county. You can't get 93 non-ethanol in the state. My 1981 Chevy 3/4 ton truck will not pull itself with 10% ethanol and the same for my MF farm tractor. I can't drive the truck anyplace where I need to get fuel. Both has the stock engines from new. Getting ready to buy a new GM crate engine for the truck that will burn the 10%. Thanks DC for making laws for the people. I will say no more.
     
  11. Jan 17, 2019 #11

    Topaz

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    You can't get non-ethanol gasoline in California at all anymore, excepting 100LL aviation fuel. Even the agriculture and boating fuel is E10, by state law. The last vendor that sold non-ethanol ag fuel in the state closed up a few years ago, I understand, when their waiver expired.

    However, like blane, I've been seeing hand-wringing about the "end of aviation gasoline" for years now. Yet you can still get it, no problem. A "drop-in" replacement that doesn't cost its weight in platinum hasn't been found, and the aviation community still has just enough pull with the legislators that our expensive "investments" aren't going to be grounded simply for fuel. We continue to have the argument that our usage is minuscule compared to even other recreational gasoline users. There's easier "low-hanging fruit" with more get-votes value out there.

    Honestly, with the reduction in GA flying hours and new pilots over the last few years, the biggest danger to 100LL, IMHO, is reduced demand. We're eventually going to use so little that it's just not worthwhile for the refiners to produce the stuff. Then we'll have to switch to mogas, and it'll be 50 years or better before that becomes scarce. Electric propulsion is the future, but even with recent advances, energy density remains the issue, and will continue to be "the issue" for some time.

    There are far, far, bigger issues facing GA than fuel availability. I'm not terribly worried about this one.
     
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  12. Jan 17, 2019 #12

    Toobuilder

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    If one has a "GA class" homebuilt there isnt much worry about automotive fuel. It may not be a drop in for 100LL, but fuel systems and engine management solutions exist today to accomodate fuel from the corner gas station. If anyone is interested enough to pay attention to my posts, my 540 Rocket is equipped to run on "California grade" bang water. It can be done.

    As for the end of gasoline in general - I've been hearing that story for 45+ years. According to the "experts" of the 1970's, we should have run completely out of oil years ago. Yet we have more known oil reserves than the time of those dire predictions. Also, as soon as an alternative energy starts to look promising, expect the price of oil to plummet as the oil producers instantly rush to remove all incentive for the consumer to switch.
     
  13. Jan 17, 2019 #13

    blane.c

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    Can we start an alternate energy rumor that they will believe?
     
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  14. Jan 17, 2019 #14

    rv6ejguy

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    Swift unleaded aviation fuels are already being sold in many places across the US and expanding monthly. Another possible alternative and reasonable priced: https://swiftfuels.com/ul94-map.

    I'd love to stop hauling 91 mogas out to the airport here. Looks like there are plans for them to enter the Canadian market.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
  15. Jan 17, 2019 #15

    12notes

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    This is only true if you ignore LiF, assume 100% efficiency in using that energy density (internal combustion is around 30% efficient ,electric motors are around 90%), and ignore the weight savings in the electric motor compared to the equivalent gasoline engine. I already ran the numbers on this in another thread, there are two reactions that would beat the usable energy density of gasoline in small planes, Li2O2 and LiF. Li2O2 has a maximum theoretical energy density of 43.2MJ/kg, gasoline is 46.8 MJ/kg. In the post linked below, I was using numbers from the video in the thread, which incorrectly used half the actual energy density for the battery, (which I then halved again for supporting systems), the LiO battery still had more power and range than the gasoline equivalent.

    http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/forums/showthread.php?t=28680&p=408208&viewfull=1#post408208

    LiF batteries have a theoretical maximum 10 times the energy density of jet fuel burning at 100% efficiency. But probably won't be practical - fluorine is nasty stuff.

    If we get near half the theoretical maximum energy density out of Li2O2, it'll be beneficial in small planes. But that will take a couple of decades, at least.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2019
  16. Jan 17, 2019 #16

    blane.c

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    What about water? H2O. It has it all fuel and oxygen, just add heat. Safe to transport too.
     
  17. Jan 17, 2019 #17

    Wayne

    Wayne

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    Hi folks!
    I'm encouraged to hear your replies - you all have good reasoning versus my airport bum's response to electric planes "it will never happen" which clearly is ridiculous. Heck - if I can get to the 1,000 TBO on the ULPower I'll be happy with that.
     
  18. Jan 17, 2019 #18

    Derswede

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    Water is going to cost double in energy cost...generate electricity to crack water to "Brown's gas", then to store and compress it in a small enough volume to use in a plane. Many years ago I was involved in a CNG pump experiment in Argentina with ELF to convert taxis to CNG. Fuel cost was very low per gallon equivalent compared to gasoline.

    Biggest problems were shorter range, much larger tank, and cost of infrastructure. It, like hydrogen, are good fuels. Unfortunately, the difficulties of transfer, storage and loading into vehicles are much greater. Your common driver is not going to properly handle such fuels, though there is lots of testing and research on how to "fill the tank" (but that is a solvable problem...early in the car era, some states said that the average driver was too stupid to fill their own tank....so every pump had to have a "Trained" attendant. Think two states still have those laws...New Jersey and I think Oregon.) But if that is the only fuel available, guess we are going to have to modify everything to accommodate such new fuels. Cost will be great, but (hopefully) there will be some benefit somewhere??. Unless someone can invent a Shipstone battery (Google shipstone battery and Heinlein)

    Derswede
     
  19. Jan 17, 2019 #19

    Tiger Tim

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    There’s always the steam diesel...
     
  20. Jan 18, 2019 #20

    Geraldc

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    Diesel auto conversions running Jet A1. Europe is full of low mileage cars getting wrecked and there are very good suppliers doing petrol conversions.
     

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