Can you start a Diesel engine without electricity?

When 200 year old technology is still being used, it’s a sign that we got it right over 200 years ago. Even though, technically speaking, in modern alternators, the coils are stationary and it’s the magnetic field that rotates.
The process is extremely efficient, over 98 percent of the input energy comes out as electrical energy in large modern alternators. There is little room for improvement. Some are filled with hydrogen for both its cooling capability and windage loss reduction.
Even the smaller motors and generators, under 500 horsepower, are achieving conversion efficiencies of 95+ percent.

It’s not the only technology that hasn’t significantly changed in over 100 years. Violins still work the same way they did when Stradivari built them. Guns still work pretty much the same way they did in 1900. Bicycles still work the same way they did when the Wright Brothers repaired them.
Some things just defy significant improvement, ok, they are using carbon fiber in the expensive bicycles and synthetic strings on some violins, but that’s a quantum step, not a revolutionary improvement.

By the way, quantum is one of the most misused terms in the English language. A quantum is to energy what an atom is to matter, the smallest possible increment.

@B.L.E brilliant point and this is part of what this book explores.

My goal is to make the science accurate - regardless of how improbable. Quantum theory says that all outcomes consistent with the laws of physics are possible. In this case, the main character lives “further down” the probability curve so while electricity works as it normally does for everyone else, electrical things break (always with a rationale reason) around him - or more actually, if he was able to perceive something powered by electricity, it doesn’t work. The likelihood of that happening is ridiculously small but still possible. It is explained in the book through the low probability that it took the Cubs 108 years to win their next World Series.

The reason I asked the original question about the car is I a) wanted to confirm it was possible to operate a car without electricity and b) hear how a group of knowledgeable car people would go about trying to solve the problem because the main character is a curious kid and will have some fits and starts before he lands on the answer.

Won’t the assumption that man-made electricity being different from natural electricity against the scientific principles, putting the novel right in the middle of novels about gravity-defying superheros who can shoot lasers from their eyes?

Have you considered a special electrically and magnetically insulating suit for the main character, so he can drive a normal American gasoline-powered car with all the electronics in it?

If you are still searching for electricity-free vehicle ideas, how about an air-powered car, as someone mentioned before? I think that idea had been floating around since 1920’s.

Or, a hybrid car that is air or diesel powered with unbalanced flywheels. The uneven motion makes it (almost) perpetual, if friction is reduced. The motion will not be smooth, but it’s a special car with dampeners to isolate the vibrations.

I am a bit confused here. I’m sure you don’t want to give away the story but at first I thought you were doing a novel based on an old TV show where the government released molecular sized machines into the atmosphere that prevented E-fields from forming, therefore anything that relied on electricity did not work.

Later you say the grid is down, since cars and trucks, both diesel and gas use a battery as their main source of electricity and not the grid, they should not be affected. But now it seems that there is something about this kid that prevents E-fields from forming in his vicinity. If that the case, cellular would not work either.

Electricity is formed of E-fields and H-fields. H-fields are magnetic. You would want to make sure that production of H-fields are not blocked because if he disrupted the earths magnetic field, the Van Allen belts would collapse, Solar winds would soon sweep the earth clean of its atmosphere and basically your novel would not get finished, and if it did, there wouldn’t be anybody to read it.

I was serious about the carbide lamps, even thinking you could run large fiber optic cables with a flapper, slide away flapper, maybe through brake pedal action, and transmit the light to red lenses in the back.

There used to be a British and European motorcycle get together every month at a certain burger joint on the lake. One gentleman would frequently show up with an antique BSA single cylinder bike that actually had a carbide headlight and tail light.
The engine also had exposed hairpin style valve springs.

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What you suggest makes sense, actually. I don’t know how I missed the logic. :thinking:

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Would that be you?

Possibility deputy dog.

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Picture 2

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I remember these from my first job (working at a truckstop) :

Somebody beat you to it:

“The Day The Machines Stopped” by Christopher Anvil 1964 Monarch Press

In the story they found a way to start diesel engines with compressed air.

I have an Amish friend who is not allowed to have anything electric. Diesel engines are allowed for industrial and farm purposes. He has a small one that starts with a crank and spring.

When I first got into trucking. I met a road driver for Motor Express. He still had his kerosene lanterns from the early 20s when trailers had no lights of any kind. Each trailer had 6 hooks that looked like huge coat hangers, ome on each corner and one halfway down each side. Every road driver had a steel cable that threaded through 6 lantern and wrapped colpletely around the trailer. The ends were padlocked together and he had to stop every 2 hours to check the tires and refill the lanterns.
A trip from Buffalo to Cleveland took 8 hours for the 200 miles. He went to bed in Cleveland and came back the next day.

How about jacking up the rear wheels and with the tranny in high gear turning the wheels by hand?

Sounds like a recipe for major injury. At least to me.

Safer than breaking an arm with a hand crank kick-back.

Even in high gear, the engine will be making around 3 revolutions per turn of the rear axle. I can’t imagine anyone strong enough to get an automotive size diesel over a compression stroke with such a gearing disadvantage. You may be able to do it if the transmission includes a really tall overdrive high gear and combined with the 2:1 planetary gear reduction provided by the differential spider gears when the other wheel is on the ground. Still the jerk of the engine starting may transfer enough torque to the grounded wheel to bump the truck off the jack which would likely immediately stall the engine, and possibly injure you in the process. I’d start my lawn mower by lifting it up and flipping the blade by hand before I’d attempt this.
Better to just let it roll down a hill and pop the clutch.

No, if it’s warm enough out the glow plugs aren’t needed but without a way to crank the engine it won’t matter. Diesel engines take quite a bit of a power to crank. Since they don’t need spark plugs they rely on tremendous compression causes the fuel to ignite. That’s why on diesel engines they have a really beefy starter. I suppose manual trans clutch dump while rolling down hill would work but I’ve never tried it on a diesel.