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YESTERDAY WE WATCHED postWWI engineers, their spouses, and guests having fun and games at the summer 1919 meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers.
Today in Part 2, the engineers get down to business and are presented with a dire future only 20 years away.
S. A. E. Standards. The extra spaces in punctuating S. A. E. were part of the typography of the era, in contrast to today’s SAE International. But the promulgation of automotive standards was and remains an essential function of the organization. SAE International is busy these days with standardization involving electric vehicle expansion and autonomous vehicles. Back in the early 20th century, everything was new and expanding.
Among “Standards Submitted for Adoption” at the summer 1919 meeting were those for Rating of Storage Batteries; Cable Terminals for Generators, Switches, and Meters; Section Dimensions of Single and Dual Solid Tire Wheels; and Solid and Pneumatic Tire Equipment for Commercial Vehicles.
An Historical Pause. Practical pneumatic tires were first used on bicycles in 1888. Michelin tried them on motor cars in 1895, albeit not successfully. Addition of the inner tube in 1911 encouraged pneumatic tire fitment to cars. Truck tires of pneumatic type evolved later.
The Engine-Fuel Problem. Joseph E. Pogue, Division of Mineral Technology, United States National Museum, Washington, D.C., delivered a paper that probably got everyone’s attention.
The Trade Association Journal restated Pogue’s provocative question: “What steps, if any, can be taken to insure an ample supply of engine fuel at a price favorable to the continued growth of automotive transportation?”
The journal wrote, “With an annual consumption of approximately a third of a billion barrels, this country has reserves estimated by the United States Geological Survey scarcely to exceed seven billion barrels, or not more than 21 years’ supply, even at the present rate of consumption….”
The journal continued that deposits of Mexico and Central and South America, “which are already being called upon to supplement our domestic production, are being hastily exploited as sources primarily of fuel oil and therefore unavailable directly for gasoline production.”
“The automotive industry,” the journal said, “has an unescapable concern in the problem because the highly specialized fuel requirements of the prevailing type of automotive apparatus limits the quantity of engine fuel that may be commercially produced from the output of crude petroleum.”
Volatility an Issue. “The decreased volatility of gasoline,” the journal reported, “is a fact that must be faced irrespective of all other considerations.”
Cracking, One Solution. Based on Pogue’s assessments, the journal wrote, “The most effective (immediate) means for expanding the supply of gasoline is through rapid development of ‘cracking’ methods of refining whereby gasoline is made from fuel and kerosene.”
Hitherto, only the lighter portions of crude petroleum were dedicated to motor fuels.
Heavy Fuels Too (Hello, Rudolf Diesel). The journal continued, “ ‘Cracking’ is enmeshed, however, with the counter expedients of adapting the present type of light engine to burn an increasingly heavy fuel and developing heavy oil engines to handle the heavy slow-traction portion of automotive transportation.”
Diesel trucks were to appear in the next decade. Diesel passenger cars didn’t appear until the mid-1930s.
A Cooperative Effort, in 1919. “At the present time,” the journal noted, “the newly formed American Petroleum Institute, representative of the oil industry, has under advisement the establishment of an agency of contact and co-operation with the automotive activity.”
And, just in case you wonder, petroleum had already been discovered in Persia (modern-day Iran) in 1908, though large-scale exploitation of Middle Eastern sources didn’t evolve until the late 1930s.
Another tale for another day. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022
My grandparents were all born around the end of the 19th century and saw the rise of the ICE automobile from its beginning. Now about 100 years later I’m watching its slow demise. Three generations from start to finish.
If human civilization survives this century (definitely not a sure thing) and continues for another couple of millennia, then at some point the ICE car that has been so central to my life will be just a few paragraphs in some kid’s world history book (will they still use books?). One of those “ancient inventions” that came and went. Interesting thought.