From the article:
As the Nazis prepared for war in the 1930s, German engineers and scientists were handed the problem of meeting propulsive energy needs if imports were cut off. They went at it with a Teutonic vengeance and eventually came up with the solution of gasifying substitute fuels, notably wood, peat and coal. Soon, engineering texts were peppered with exhortations to use only those energy sources that were plentiful within the borders of the Reich.
The systems were less convenient than gasoline, but they worked. When the German war machine ground to a halt in the spring of 1945, gasoline was all but a distant memory in occupied Europe. The busses and other motor vehicles necessary to keep the war time economies functioning, and even many German army trucks and tractors, had long since been converted to substitute fuels.
As Eisenhower's armies restored European freedom and petroleum again flowed in the arteries of industry and commerce, the substitute systems-known in Denmark as "stoves"-were gleefully thrown on the trash heap. They were after all symbolic of war time want and deprivation. It is therefore one of the ironic turnabouts of history that this 40-year old technology should now be gaining new currency.
During World War 2, I traveled many miles in wood gas powered vehicles. I learned about the substitute fuels first as a young engineering student in Copenhagen and later as a slave laborer under Nazi tutelage. The scent of a barbecue fire still takes me right back to those days.
When Mark and I embarked on writing this book, we decided to take it beyond a mere technology review, placing it instead in the relevant time frame of present day American needs and potentials. Our store of substitute fuels is different from those of Hitler's Germany, and improved designs are possible with the lighter, heat resistant materials developed over the last three decades.
We have stayed within the metric system to simplify design calculations and because it seemed appropriate in a work which attempts to look into the immediate future. We have standardized the generic designation for these units because there is no succinct English term for them. They were defined by various jawbreaking agglutinations of Wood-Coke-Air/Gas-Heater-Generators. We settled on PEGASUS, contracted from Petroleum/Gasoline Substitute Systems as both short and descriptive.
Knowing the enormous amount of collective ingenuity and initiative this nation possesses, I have no doubt that Americans will seize and improve upon the fuel substitute technology to the point of ultimate perfection. The potential for pegasus units lies not just in wheeled vehicles but in virtually every combustion engine used, perhaps even elsewhere, too. The other day a fellow yachtsman pointed out to me how cozy a pegasus would be on a boat, doubling as heater and fuel producer while burning sundry driftwood and flotsam.
He is right, of course. And it is already technically feasible for you to read your morning newspaper and then use that same paper to power your automobile to commute to work.
The prospects opened by the pegasus are fascinating indeed.
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Drive On Wood is a partnership of Wayne Keith & Chris Saenz.