How the Energy Minister failed his MoT 

Posted: May 1, 2019 by oldbrew in Emissions, Energy, Politics
Tags: , , ,

For non-UK readers: the MoT (Ministry of Transport) test is the annual road-worthiness check for vehicles at least three years old.

Let me start with an anecdote, writes Julian Flood in The Conservative Woman. It’s relevant so please bear with me.

A friend needed an MoT on his 4×4. We’re a working village and many of the big Range Rovers and Toyotas you see are working vehicles, not status symbols. This one has had a hard life but it does the job. Drive from home, into the garage, up on the ramp.

There was a problem. It registered only vanishingly small levels of NOX and particulates, so obviously the test kit had failed. It had to go back the next week after the machine was recalibrated.

Drive from home, into the garage, on to the ramp. No NOX, no CO, no HC, no particulates, or at least levels too low to measure.

After much discussion and head-scratching the car was put to the back of the queue and tested again at the end of the day. Start up, on to the ramp: normal and perfectly safe emissions.

The tester hadn’t been told that this was a conversion, a petrol engine which starts on petrol and then, when it is warm, runs on compressed natural gas. The first two tests had been carried out on the engine at working temperature when it was so non-polluting that it didn’t even register, the third when it was cold and running on petrol.

Petrol bad. Natural gas good.

This is how we could convert carbon-rich machines, cars, central heating, if we frack our own natural gas.

Continued here…which brings in the Energy Minister.

  1. David Davis says:

    Sounds like an unusual vehicle.

  2. stpaulchuck says:

    and how much did it cost to convert it? and what’s the payback time? Oh, and then there’s the whacking great tank for the natgas.

    They’ve got taxis in Manila running on that. The trunk space is barely big enough now for your hand carry and the suitcases go into the passenger compartment. No thanks.

  3. oldbrew says:

    Beats electric cars though. LPG tank…

  4. ivan says:

    Not such a strange car, it sounds as if it was a standard bi-fuel conversion using CNG rather than LPG. The big problem with CNG usage is the availability of CNG filling points and the fact that the tank has to withstand a pressure of up to 3600psi see;
    The actual conversion is now quite simple but is not a DIY operation because of government regs.

  5. GregG says:

    Another possibility instead of using CNG is to use alcohol, preferably butanol or biobutanol. Butanol is a four-carbon alcohol with a formula of C4H9OH and is closer to gasoline than ethanol.

    A fellow in the U.S. discovered that GM designed the Chevy Volt (aka Opel Ampera in Europe) to run on ethanol. All it needed was a little computer re-flash to make it think the engine was in a Chevy Cruze, which uses the same engine. The newer Chevy Volt (2016+) can run around 60 miles on electricity from the battery and then switch to the internal combustion engine-generator to provide the required electricity to continue. This engine can be run on E85, which is 85% ethanol (or butanol) and 15% gasoline.

    Currently, most ethanol for E85 is produced from corn. I believe that food should be eaten and running a vehicle on 190 proof Everclear, well, such a waste, though possible.
    However, there are several companies working on making alcohol from cellulose for use by vehicles, including jet engines. From Wikipedia: “One promising development in biobutanol production technology was discovered in the late summer of 2011—Tulane University’s alternative fuel research scientists discovered a strain of Clostridium, called “TU-103″, that can convert nearly any form of cellulose into butanol, and is the only known strain of Clostridium-genus bacteria that can do so in the presence of oxygen.” It’s probably expensive or has low yield or we’d have heard more by now.

    Some creative person is inevitably going to discover an inexpensive alternative to petroleum for providing current civilization’s motive force. Forget flying cars…where is my free energy generator?

  6. oldbrew says:


    90 percent of new cars sold today in Brazil are flex fuel due to consumer demand, and these vehicles now make up about 70% of the country’s entire light vehicle fleet – a remarkable accomplishment in less than fifteen years. As a result, Brazilian consumers have a choice at the pump when they fuel their cars and most are choosing sugarcane ethanol for its price and environmental benefits, making gasoline the alternative fuel in the country.

  7. Schrodinger's Cat says:

    Fork lift trucks operatiing in factories use bottled gas to avoid noxious gases, fumes and airborne contamination such as soot.

  8. Luther Burgsvik says:

    There was a chap back in the 1970s who had managed to get his 1953 Hillman to run on methane derived from chicken manure, so the technology has been around a long while and is proven to work. Which makes me wonder why hasn’t it been implemented yet, even on a small scale at farms where folk would clearly benefit from it?

  9. dennisambler says:

    I was at Ag College in the late 60’s, (chickens) and the College was experimenting with a methane digester for chicken manure. Trouble, was, in Scotland it was too cold for the bugs to multiply sufficiently so extra heat had to be added to warm up the mix.

    The whole thing exploded on Presentation Day, oh…dear.

  10. GregG says:

    I recall methane digesters being popular in the 1970’s as well. I believe that they are still used a lot in India. …and it appears that they are becoming popular again in California and Minnesota, where there are plentiful cows.

    If you can get a methane digester to work in Minnesota when It’s minus 50 degrees F outside, you should be able to get them to work in Scotland. The bugs are happy at 100-105 degrees F, so you either have to provide heat to the digester with an electric coil and/or insulate well and let them generate their own heat. That’s how composting toilets work.

  11. Luther Burgsvik says:

    An exploding methane digestor full of chicken manure, oh dear oh dear. Well I bet that they left Presentation Day with something worse than egg on their face after that incident…

  12. oldbrew says:

    We seem to have drifted a bit off-topic here 😊