Fuel Efficiency a Must in Shipping

Posted : 11/26/12 3:21 AM

When it comes to fuel efficiency of vehicles, bicycles come in first. Given the number of calories it takes to operate them, bicycles are by far the best means of transport, but the modern world has a need to transport so much material that bicycles can only carry a small portion. The rest must be carried by motorized vehicles, which are most often powered by an oil based fuel. Given the rising costs of oil and the growing awareness of its limited availability, increasing attention is being paid to lowering consumption rates in transportation vehicles. Trucks are increasingly relying on composite materials that are lighter in weight than the traditional steel alloys that have been used in their construction. Less weight means better mileage. In addition, truck motors are being refashioned to take advantage of new methods for injecting fuel into cylinders. Pressurized injection and preheating of fuel allows for faster and more complete combustion, boosting power while also lowering emissions. Natural gas can be used where it is plentiful to power trucks. This provides a cleaner-burning alternative to oil based diesel. While ships continue to grow larger in capacity and fuel consumption, the actual amount of fuel expended per unit of cargo is declining. For example, a ten thousand container ship will burn more fuel than one with five thousand, but it will burn somewhat less than twice as much. The largest ship engines being built today are, in power to consumption ratios, the most efficient engines ever built. Half the available energy in the fuel is converted to motive power in these massive engines, while smaller truck engines convert a quarter or less. Railroads move loads with far greater fuel efficiency than trucks can achieve. The fuel costs per ton per mile are a fraction of what trucks use. This is a factor of the greater ease of moving goods over a carefully calibrated system of steel rails versus hauling them along the open road. Economies of scale also come into play. Locomotives are the original hybrid vehicles. Their diesel electric systems keep engines running at a constant speed for greater efficiency. Airliners have become particularly concerned about fuel consumption given the huge costs the industry creates. Boeing made extensive use of composite materials in its new Dreamliner to make it more fuel efficient. Better mileage was one of the main drivers for developing the craft in the first place.