Discuss how internal combustion engines, diesel engines, electric (and hybrid) vehicles, and fuel cells produce energy. Then plan a road trip and determine the best vehicle for the route.



  • Water
  • Carbon Rod
  • Zinc strip
  • Wires
  • Empty spice container
  • Salt


  • Hot glue gun
  • Haynes Build Your Own Internal Combustion Engine kit
  • Horizon Fuel Cell kit
  • Computer with internet connection


What presenters do

Comparison of Vehicle Technology:

  • Use the “Haynes Build Your Own Internal Combustion Engine” kit or watch a short video clip to understand the 4-stroke engine cycle (intake, compression, power, and exhaust). Discuss how a stronger explosion inside the engine’s cylinder will make the pistons move faster.
  • Compare a diesel engine’s compression ignition with an internal combustion engine.
  • Discuss the types of fuels that can be used in an internal combustion engine or diesel engine.
  • Build a simple battery (Instructables Guide) or watch a simple video clip to understand the flow of electrons from the negative to the positive terminal.
  • Discuss how electric (and hybrid) vehicles store energy in batteries. Then, use the Horizon Fuel Cell kit or watch a video clip to understand how hydrogen and oxygen are turned into water and produce electricity in the process.

What visitors/students do

  • Plan a road trip and determine the best vehicle for the route. The choices include a vehicle with a traditional internal combustion engine, a hybrid vehicle, a flex fuel vehicle, and an all-electric vehicle. Consider the type of route you’ll take and research the refueling/recharging stations along the way. Will you be able to complete the journey without running out of fuel/energy?

Conclusion/Follow up Questions

  • What fuels are needed for the different types of engines?
  • Which engine would you want to use?


Next Generation Science Standards:

  • 4- PS3: Energy
    • A: Definitions of Energy – The faster a given object is moving, the more energy it possesses
    • B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer – Energy is present wherever there are moving objects, sound, light, or heat. Light and electric currents transfer energy.
    • C: Relationship between Energy and Forces – When objects collide, the contact forces transfer energy so as to change the object’s motions.
    • D: Energy in Chemical Processes and Everyday Life- The expression “produce energy” typically refers to the conversion of stored energy into a desired form for practical use.

Thinking Questions

  • Convenience: How easy is it to refuel your vehicle? Are refueling stations located close to your route?
  • Affordability: How much does a vehicle using this power source cost? Howe expensive is it to refuel or recharge along your route?
  • Reliability: Will this power source work well along your route? Is this power source commonly available for the type of vehicle that you will be using?
  • Environmental Effects: What are the potentially harmful effects of extracting the power used in you vehicle?
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