Racing Cars to Become Greener

| March 7, 2013

Forrest Jehlik, a research engineer at the Illionois-based Argonne National Laboratory, improves different types of vehicle technology, including those using alternative sources of energy. He says that the Department of Energy aims at reducing dependence on foreign oil while Argonne National Laboratory researches alternative energy sources and new vehicle systems and thereby acts as an impartial arbiter. The researchers find things that advance vehicle technology, reduce costs, improve the environment and make things better for consumers.

The study has taken Jehlik into the auto racing industry where the researchers want to introduce green vehicles. Spearheading the effort is a public-private initiative promoting the use of non-petroleum fuels and state-of-the-art technologies in the motorsports industry.

In the Green Racing program the racing cars to become greener, more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient. The initiative hopes to introduce the breakthrough technology to the commercial market.

According to Jim McFarland, Jehlik will bring his alternative fuel knowledge and enthusiasm to the motor racing industry. Jim is a respected automotive engineer and columnist. He described Jehlik as the “bright light” and “driving force” that will help more people understand the advantages of using alternative fuels. Jim said Jehlik was the “go-to guy” who had helped in crafting the technology into the motorsports industry.

The Green Racing program is an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and SAE International, an automotive industry group. The American Le Mans racing series has adopted the project. As a result, many participants have used alternative fuels and latest technologies to become successful while reducing costs.

Jehlik explained that an alcohol-based renewable fuel that costs less than three dollars a gallon could be made from either corn or lawn clippings. Conventional race cars use leaded fuel with a price tag of up to 10 dollars a gallon.

Jehlik spends a lot of time testing cars under various climatic conditions at different speeds to determine both performance and energy loss. He then finds ways of making engineering modifications to make desired improvements.

He explained that vested interests and economic considerations are often given more weight than best science principles when making commercial and political decisions. Argonne National Laboratory focuses on pure research and then lets the results speak for themselves. The laboratory makes the findings widely available.

Jehlik said what makes them unique is the fact that they do not get paid if either ethanol or hydrogen wins out.

He explained that he grew up as “a hot rod kid” who always loved cars, and working with new vehicles still excites him. It always seems like Christmas to him whenever he gets a new type of test car or set of data on electric cars.

In 2005, Jehlik was the lead technical coordinator for the premier advanced auto technology competition meant for engineering students, which marked his entry into national energy laboratory. He used to work at General Motors where he was involved in developing proprietary combustion engines before joining Argonne.

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