Why ‘waste not, want not’ is an unattainable energy goal

FINANCIAL TIMES 🔒 | You can cook a pretty good meal on the engine block of a truck. Savvy drivers know how to wrap a piece of beef, onions, potatoes and carrots in heavy foil and leave the package on the engine for a few hours to provide a hot dinner at the end of the day. The reason that is possible is central to the physics of energy, and offers some important insights for thinking about efficiency.


Like any engine, an internal combustion engine cannot turn all of the energy it uses into useful work, in this case moving the vehicle. Diesel engines have achieved thermal efficiency — the proportion of heat transformed into work — of a little over 50 per cent, with a Cummins engine achieving 54 per cent.

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