In a recent trip to Northern Ireland, I noticed gas prices range from 1.4 pounds per liter to almost 1.5 pounds per liter. In the U.S., that would be the equivalent of around $9/gallon! But the Fighting Irish of Northern Ireland haven’t allowed their low economy and astronomical fuel prices get them down. Instead, they’ve taken these hard times as an opportunity for innovation in the field of clean, green transportation. From diesel cars to e-cars to buses, NI is pushing the limits of technology.
Now when you think of the word “diesel,” what comes to mind are clouds of black emissions, a putrid smell, and a loud noise coming from whatever vehicle is using it. However, that is not the diesel I experienced. The diesel Northern Ireland drivers use is known as biodiesel. Biodiesel is derived from the oils of such plants as sunflowers and soybeans.
Vehicles, cars and buses included, that use clean diesel are characterized by quieter engines, smooth driving, and incredible gas mileage. This diesel doesn’t use a spark plug to ignite the fuel. Instead, it is ignited from the heat created when the fuel is compressed. The engines remain quiet because they function through direct fuel injection.
Instead of allowing all the fuel to be injected at once, now the fuel is shot into the combustion chamber in a series for each of the engine’s power strokes. Though the initial car price is more expensive than our tradition, unleaded gasoline guzzling engines, vehicles that use this clean diesel require less fuel and generally last longer. Thus, the price over time justifies the initial investment.
Electronic cars are becoming quite the hit in Northern Ireland. In fact, on March 29th of this year, the Department of Regional Development and the Department of the Environment in Northern Ireland launched a new program for their electronic cars which opened up 41 different charging points stretched out across the region.
Phase two of this program will include yet another hundred points to be added. These charge points, the first 41 supplied by Siemens, are comprised of three phase-AC voltage at a current of 32 amps and charges at 22 kilowatts power. The majority of them have two sockets so that they can handle charging two different cars at once.
Ballymena, Northern Ireland is home to a vehicle plant that is currently creating beautiful and fuel efficient buses. One of these buses is to be used shortly on the streets of London. Its design is the first to use the same fiber-reinforced plastic that is used in racing yachts.
In comparison to other buses of London, this bus will be more than 25% more efficient and emit less than half of the nitrogen oxides emitted by its fellow diesel double deckers. Also, because these buses use clean diesel, they are smooth-riding and ultra-quiet. The streets of Belfast, which currently enjoy their clean diesel double deckers, are loaded with buses but remain peaceful, pleasant smelling, and non-polluted.