PETROL SUBSTITUTES IN FRANCE.
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All France is most keenly interested in the question of petrol substitutes. .The problem is a two-fold one : a fuel is required which will relieve the present shortage, and steps must be taken to secure an adequate supply of home-produced fuel to meet the immediate and increased after-war demands. The former problem is much more difficult than the latter.
The Automobile Club of Marseilles is holdin,g congress next month with a view to obtaining an immediate petrol substitute. The Automobile Club of France intends to hold its paraffin carburetter competition postponed by the outbreak of war. Finally, the various motor papers are encouraging inventors to make known the result of their researches.
rip to the present Paris has tried coal-gas, which must. be ruled out as a practical fuel because of the scarcity of gas and of the wherewithal to make it. It has experimented with acetylene gas, which also must be eliminated because of scarcity. Lastly it has witnessed demonstrations of-" Genol." the exact nature of which is being kept secret, but-which is declared to be a special distillate from ooal oil obtained in such a way that the by-products required for making explosives are not interfered with.
The demonstrations have conclusively proved that motor vehicles can be run without petrol. But, so far, they have failed to give us a practical substitute for petrol, and as the monthly civilian allowance of petrol and paraffin is only 325,000 gallons foethe whole of. the Seine department (including Paris) the shortage is real.. Taxicabs are limited to 1 7-10 gallons per day, and lorries, unless employed on direct •war work, are equally restricted.
The Future Fuel in France.
After the war there is no doubt France will adapt a Mixture of alcohol and benzole as the national motor fuel, Particularly for commercial vehicles, agricultural tractors, etc. Alcohol as a motor fuel is no stranger to Frenchmen, and would have been adopted years ago but for the lack of a settled policy to prevent speculation and violent fluctuations in prices.
Before the war there were no motor vehicles running entirely on alcohol. But for two years the Paris General Omnibus Co. used a 50 per cent, mixture of benzole and alcohol, and only abandoned it for benzole owing to the steady rise in the price of alcohol. All the taxicabs of Paris, as is well known, employed benzole exclusively, this fuel being largely imported from Germany and England. It is the intention of the French Government to secure a monopoly of alcohol, and to encourage its use industrially while putting a high tax on its human consumption. The project comprises the placing at the disposal of motorists of a quantity of 22,000.000 gallons of alcohol per year, together with the fixation of prices for periods of five years.; the State would cover itself against any loss by means of special taxes on all alcohol used for human consumption. Before the war France consumed 65,000,009 gallons of petrol. It is estimated that the requirements for the first year after the war will be 132,000,000 gallons, thus fife supply of alcohol alone will not be sufficient to meet the needs of French motorists. There appears to be no doubt with regard to the provision of 22,000,000 gallons of alcohol annually; for in addition to the supply from beets, synthetic alcohol can be produced by the calcium carbide factories erected in large numbers since the war in the Alpine districts of France. Before 1915, when the Minister of War ordered all benzole to be extracted from coal-gas, very little of this fuel was produced in France. most of the supplies coming from England and Germany. All the taxicabs of Paris used benzole, but it was little known to private motorists and owners )1 commercial vehicles.
It is believed that the Government will insist on n30
the continued extraction of benzole after the war, thus giving to France an annual supply of 14,000,900 gallons. As this quantity of benzole is not sufficient to absorb all the alcohol to be placed at the disposal of motorists, on the usual basis of a 50 per cent. mixture, and as the alcohol cannot be carburetted with petrol, it is intended to make use of a mixture of 50 per cont. alcohol, 25 per cent-. benzole and 25 per cent. petrol. • Petrol alone is not soluble in alcohol, thus when used together the fuel in the tank becorries, after a while, so rich in alcohol as to be unsuitable for the engine. Fortunately, however, benzole will dissolve both alcohol and petrol. Long experiments carried out in the city of Paris by the Compagnie Generale des Voitures---the largest taxicab company in France —show that the mixture of alcohol, benzoic and petrol is very suitable without any other changes than minor adjustments of the carburetter. This mixture has been used notably on two-cylinder Renault taxicabs with Renault carburetter.
The Syndicate ofPublic Automobile Transportation in France is willing to assure the Government that it will consume, in the commercial motors belonging to its members, all the alcohol it is intended to place on the market. This will help the country over the initial period, during-which there Might be a certain doubt as to the success of alcohol as a motor fuel.
Whilst the various petrol. groups have distributing agencies throughout France, the State has no organization for the retail sale of alcohol as a motor fuel.
Commercial motor owners thus believe that after the war alcohol and benzole will be the national fuel for utility vehicles, while petrol will remain, for a time at any rate, the fuel generally employed for Nissenger cars. On this account they are willing to give to the Government every possible assistance in connection with its big alcohol sc-heme,but do not suggest that there • should be any restriction on the importation of petrol. All that is necessary is a safeguard against excessive competition against alcohol.
E.H.A.—the New Fuel Mixture.
In addition. to the alcohol, benzole, petrol mixture supported by the Syndicate of Public Automobile Transportation in France, there is a mixture known as the E.H.A., for which the late Professor Letombe was responsible. This consists of 65 per cent, alcohol at 90 or 96 degrees, 10 per cent. ether and 25 per cent. of a hydrocarbon, such as petrol, benzoic, solvent naphtha, or Borneo spirit. The ether being produced from alcohol this resolves itself into a 75 per cent. alcohol and 25 per cent, petrol or benzole mixture. Commercial motor users a.re not in favour of ether, which boils at 36 degrees Cent. and gives off inflammable vapours. Practical tests with E.H.A. show it to be a really Satisfactory fuel. On a Renault touring ear with four cylinder motor ef 75 ram. by 130 mm. bore and stroke, total weight 2314 lb., the consumption was :14 gallons for a distance of 62 miles. or nearly 19 miles to the gallon with the use of E.H.A., and exactly the same with the use of petrol. The average speed obtained with petrol was 21.7 miles an hour while with E.H.A. this speed was increased to 23.1 miles an hour. These tests were made just before the war, and if E.H.A. was not immediately adopted the reason is to be found in the fact that France was handicapped by her _Excise laws and dependent on Germany and Austria for practically all her alcohol. The new scheme now receiving the attention of Parliament, and which, it is interesting to note, has at last secured the support of practically all interested parties, will remove these oIel restrictions and abuses and make alcohol-benzoic a practical and prospectively-successful motor vehicle.