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[P]
Forget hydrogen, let's go electric

By MSBob in Op-Ed
Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:35:01 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)
Technology

Recently the mainstream media has been generating a disproportionate amount of hype regarding hydrogen fuel cell technology. Meanwhile traditional rechargable battery technology has made enormous strides making an all electric car a very viable prospect.


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While hydrogen fuel cell cars remain an expensive pipe dream, modern lithium ion batteries allow for energy densities that could allow an electric vehicle's range exceed that of prototype hydrogen cars. Contrary to popular opinion, power, torque and speed are not (and never have been) an issue with electric cars. Charge times are also being slashed and it would not be unreasonable to produce a vehicle that fully charges within minutes at a specially designed recharging stall with the existing state-of-the-art battery technology.

Electric motors enjoy higher torque values compared to internal combustion counterparts eliminating the need for a gearing system in order to propel a typical vehicle. There are prototype versions of electric vehicles that are far cry from your average milk cart image of an electricity powered car.

Naturally, just like any other energy source, electricity cannot be created without expelling another form of energy but electricity is the most versatile and practical energy carrier that we know. It's just as easy to generate electricity by burning coal and other fossil fuels as it is to power a generator using an ultra environment-friendly wind turbine.

There is a clear need to start replacing the current fleet of internal combustion engine based vehicles and a cheap, reliable technology is right here to do it. Why then is the automotive industry dragging its feet?

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Poll
No electric cars because
o The tech is not here 39%
o The demand is not here 13%
o I squeeze 12mpg from my 1954 pickup and that's the way I likes it 6%
o we have to wait "4 more years" 39%

Votes: 43
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o modern lithium ion batteries
o prototype hydrogen cars
o are not (and never have been) an issue
o prototype versions
o clear need
o dragging its feet
o Also by MSBob


Display: Sort:
Forget hydrogen, let's go electric | 136 comments (112 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
Why are you bothering? (1.25 / 8) (#3)
by Fen on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 03:31:52 PM EST

Do you work for an electric car startup? Are you just bored? Why not just go play video games or watch sports?

How will posting this gain you money?
--Self.

it's important (none / 1) (#5)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 03:37:01 PM EST

or hadn't you noticed that the need for petroleum funds wahabbi islam, or that diesel exhast leads to lung cancer?


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
This effect nothing. (2.50 / 2) (#7)
by Fen on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 03:44:23 PM EST

A story (probably to be voted down) changes very little. (Ghast) taking out a patent may be the best way to actually get things rolling.
--Self.
[ Parent ]
Just give up right now then? (none / 0) (#32)
by CanSpice on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 10:34:22 PM EST

Then we should all just give up and go home because what's the point of having kuro5hin if none of these stories are going to make a lick of difference?

[ Parent ]
Pah. (1.50 / 4) (#16)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 07:41:19 PM EST

Islam and lung cancer won't matter when we're all cyberthalamuses.

[ Parent ]
addendum: go nuclear (2.37 / 8) (#6)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 03:41:48 PM EST

even hardcore greenies are beginning to wake up and see that the question before us is that in the real world, it is more effective to support the form of energy with the least associated negatives, rather than oppose them all, to little real impact

nuclear has a "new" technology: pebble bed reactors

no china syndrome possible folks

adjust your opinions to the new reality, see that nuclear+battery technology is better than gas, coal, petroleum, etc. in terms of pollution and funding fundamentalist islam

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Exactly (3.00 / 3) (#8)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 04:00:31 PM EST

I live within 100km of a nuclear plant and my electric utility company who owns the plant sells electric power for a song (~$0.04US per KWh). The end result is that myself and all my neighbours use electricity to heat/cool their homes and many (myself included) use only electic powered yard tools. Neat, clean and cheap. And I will be the first in line to replace my last remaining gas powered machine as soon as a consumer oriented electric car hits the market.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
i wish more people would think like you (none / 1) (#9)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 04:05:04 PM EST

if people examined their attitude towards nuclear in light of the new highly safe pebble bed reactors, they would smack themselves in the head when they realize that their attitude towards nuclear keeps them locked in a petroleum polluting, fundamentalist islam funding world, and that their antipathy towards nuclear is simply a prejudicial hangover from outdated technology


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
Well look at it this way... (none / 1) (#12)
by gordonjcp on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 06:51:05 PM EST

Would you have bought a diesel car 20 years ago? When about the best thing out was the rattly, smoky Mercedes-Benz 5-cyl diesel, and the Peugeot/Renault/Citroën XU-series?

How about now, with the nice new common-rail diesels, and VW Golf TDi models that are faster and cheaper to run than the petrol GTi?

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
Yeah. (none / 1) (#43)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:14:46 AM EST

Oh no, the Three Mile Island disaster! It was so TERRIBLE, it's the reason we can't have nuclear! After all, it killed all of ZERO PEOPLE! SHOCKING!!

oh, well, wait. I have to be fair. One report said they expected someone, somewhere - this is to say one person - to get cancer who otherwise wouldn't have. (This hasn't actually been proven to have happened, though.) So you see why we can never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever EVER have nuclear power in America, period!


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Three Mile Island (none / 0) (#124)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:01:38 PM EST

TMI dramatically showed that nuclear plants, particularly the ones that were the result of piss-poor American/Free-Market engineering practices and engineering culture of the day, were far less safe than we had been told. A lot of fail-safes have to go wrong to get all the way to a partial core melt. TMI should never have happened - the fact that it did showed just how screwed-up the whole nuclear establishment was in America at that time.

I'm not opposed to nuclear power on principle, and I don't think TMI showed that it's impossible to do nuclear correctly. I don't think it serves anyone's interests to minimize the severity of the incident. Good engineering doesn't happen by rationalizing one's problems away, but by engineering them away.

[ Parent ]

Problem with nuclear is that it's expensive. (none / 1) (#15)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 07:40:02 PM EST

Any step to promote nuclear energy in the United States has to start with vastly simplifying the permitting and regulatory process. If it's not economically viable, there's no way major utilities are going to go for it.

[ Parent ]
well duh (none / 0) (#17)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:08:31 PM EST

we can argue about the cost of raw materials and energetic benefits from that, and nuclear is obviously cheap and efficient

the rest is regulatory nonsense, a totally different issue

if the us is serious about getting off it's reliance on fundamentalist islam-funding, lung choking petroleum, then it will wipe those regulations clean


The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

'nuclear is obviously cheap and efficient'? (none / 1) (#20)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:45:52 PM EST

There is little to nothing about nuclear power generation that I would term "obvious". Would you care to explain how you arrived at this conclusion?

[ Parent ]
Energy density (none / 1) (#21)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:51:28 PM EST

Energy density and Energy Return on Energy Investment are unbeatable for nuclear fuels. Even oil which carries the largest energy density of all known fossil fuels can't even hope to touch the energy density of uranium.

Nuclear is the way to go. The tech is there, the fuel is there and it scales extremely well. Additionally it produces almost no waste if the waste is reused in the reactor (technically possible but banned as a result of some dumb international nuke proliferation treaties).

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Still pretty vague. (none / 0) (#23)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:13:09 PM EST

Energy density and Energy Return on Energy Investment are unbeatable for nuclear fuels.

I'll buy the energy density argument on the fuel (processed uranium vs. refined fuel oil), but this is a largely irrelevant metric. Where did you get your figure for Energy Return on Energy Investment, and how was it calculated?

Additionally it produces almost no waste if the waste is reused in the reactor (technically possible but banned as a result of some dumb international nuke proliferation treaties).

That's a very big leap. Predicating most of your argument on the U.S. withdrawing from a major international treaty makes it tenuous at best.

[ Parent ]

breeder reactors are banned in the U.S. (none / 0) (#31)
by zrail on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 10:03:31 PM EST

because the ter'rists could knock them over for an easy source of weapons grade plutonium. of course, with pebble bed reactors doing the breeding (is this possible? i don't know) it wouldn't be worth the effort to extract the small amount of plutonium from the large amount of near-indestructable ceramic shell.

[ Parent ]
They are, but... (none / 1) (#34)
by Surial on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 11:13:18 PM EST

Breeders are technologically and fuel-economy speaking some extremely sweet deals. They generate an absurd amount of energy (which you can use to make aluminum, generate hydrogen for various applications where the need is too small to build a small nuclear reactor on the spot, and it's not practical to wire it up all the way from a big reactor)... and of course they get unbelievable amounts of energy out of  mere micrograms of nuclear material. It just has to be possible to pull a NORAD and build one somewhere in an extremely remote location, and just secure the hell out of it. 10 big breeders around the US could supply a heck of a lot of Pebble Bed Reactors.

--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]
PBR's can technically (none / 1) (#37)
by zrail on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 11:55:13 PM EST

run on pretty much anything, right? On a grams/KWH scale, how much better is plutonium from a breeder as opposed to mined enriched uranium?

[ Parent ]
am I the only one... (none / 0) (#41)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:09:29 AM EST

reminded of the "Mr. Fusion" generator Doc added to the DeLorean from the future?


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
well, they can't run on "anything" (none / 0) (#45)
by zrail on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:20:32 AM EST

even though Miller High Life tastes pretty damn nasty, I don't think it's quite radioactive enough to power a fission reactor, and I don't know if it contains enough energy to make a good fuel for a fusion reactor.

Excellent movie, however, and I commend you on your cinema reference choice.

[ Parent ]

I don't know what PBRs kan run on... (none / 0) (#76)
by Surial on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:43:30 PM EST

but given that breeder supplied material is basically 'free', in the sense that if you hadn't used a breeder at all, you wouldn't have any new material whatsoever, does it really matter?

As a side note I do vaguely recall that plutonium offers slightly more energy for its weight compared to uranium.
--
"is a signature" is a signature.

[ Parent ]

god. when did we become a nation of pussies? (none / 0) (#40)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:07:09 AM EST

oh noes! the terrorists might leave their caves in the desert, fly over here coach, and defeat our unrivalled military technology using box cutters!

I'm getting sick of this hysteria. You put a few miles of razor wire around it, inside that you put a few machine gun nests, you bury the facility inside underground with a strong bunker on top, and you have a SAM site or three and shoot down any - ANY - plane that flies nearby no matter what they claim.

There. Are they really saying no one in the Pentagon could have thought of what I just did in thirty seconds?


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
animocity toward breeder reactors (none / 0) (#44)
by zrail on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:18:23 AM EST

existed long before the current wave of hysteria in the United States. I'm sure it's existed since they were first theoretically proposed, because of the potential for security problems.

the problem, as with any complex security system, comes not from without but from within. the lucrativeness of a possible inside job cannot be overlooked.

[ Parent ]

So wait (none / 0) (#75)
by JahToasted on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:16:40 PM EST

you are saying its impossible to secure a facility that contains weapons grade plutonium? You do realise that the nuclear weapons that the US has contain plutonium and they must be kept in a facility somewhere, right?
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
yes, but (none / 0) (#77)
by zrail on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:44:17 PM EST

all of those are millitary installations, staffed with millitary people. that's a far cry different than nuclear power stations staffed by private citizens.

[ Parent ]
I don't see the difference (none / 0) (#79)
by JahToasted on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:31:55 PM EST

between a civilian working at a nuke plant and a civilian contractor forking on the development of a new nuclear bomb. In either case the nuclear material could be guarded by military personnel while the civilians work in the control room.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
security (none / 0) (#88)
by adimovk5 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:39:00 PM EST

zrail:.....the problem, as with any complex security system, comes not from without but from within. the lucrativeness of a possible inside job cannot be overlooked.....

JahToasted:.....you are saying its impossible to secure a facility that contains weapons grade plutonium? You do realise that the nuclear weapons that the US has contain plutonium and they must be kept in a facility somewhere, right?.....

It's possible to secure a facility against attack if the attackers use less than maximum force. If the attackers choose to use every means at their disposal and don't care whether they live or die (martyr), no facility can be secured against attack. The goal of security is to raise the level of difficulty to the point where the cost of intrusion is as high as possible without bankrupting the one providing security.

The US plutonium supply is far less secure than you might imagine. The greatest part of the security is provided by secrecy.

[ Parent ]

I dunno (none / 0) (#91)
by JahToasted on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:15:27 PM EST

that base they got built under a mountain in cheyenne wyoming seems to be pretty secure. I don't think al queda has enough suicide bombers to even make a dent in that 20 foot think steel door they got.
______
"I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames" -- Jim Morrison
[ Parent ]
But that base holds nothing of value (none / 0) (#92)
by zrail on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:31:57 PM EST

To a terrorist, what good would it do to blow up NORAD? They cant use it to conduct prolonged attacks because NORAD, for the most part, controls space-based surveilence and ground-based weapons, and there's no point in destroying Command and Control if you don't have the ability to follow through with a prolonged attack. Terrorists aren't interested in those because they cost too much. They're all about the hit-and-run that causes massive psycological damage to the largest number of people possible.

Also, there's no plutonium storage at NORAD, so your point is somewhat tangential to the current discussion.

[ Parent ]

dents (none / 0) (#93)
by adimovk5 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:50:33 PM EST

How much of a dent would poisoned water or air make? Do you remember the American soldier Hasan Akbar who tossed a grenade into his own fellow soldier's tent?

Outside the charred and blood-splattered tents yesterday afternoon, soldiers recalled hearing the suspect say as he was being led away by armed soldiers: "You guys are coming into our countries and you're going to rape our women and kill our children."

Prosecutors say Akbar launched the attack at his camp - days before the soldiers were to move into Iraq - because he was concerned about U.S. troops killing fellow Muslims in the Iraq war. "He is a hate-filled, ideologically driven murderer," chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Michael Mulligan said. He added that Akbar wrote in his diary in 1997, "My life will not be complete unless America is destroyed."



[ Parent ]
Martyrs != Thieves (none / 0) (#118)
by smithmc on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:18:11 PM EST


If the attackers choose to use every means at their disposal and don't care whether they live or die (martyr), no facility can be secured against attack.

If the attackers die during the attack, how will they steal the plutonium?

[ Parent ]

martyr/thieves (none / 0) (#119)
by adimovk5 on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 11:19:10 PM EST

.....If the attackers die during the attack, how will they steal the plutonium? .....

If the intent is only to steal plutonium the death would be futile. However, if the intent is to cause fear then the attack would be successful. On 9/11 the terrorists caused the destruction of four aircraft, a few buildings, and less than 10,000 lives. The reaction to the attack has cost millions of dollars. At the federal, state and local level dollars are being spent by the governemnt that could have been circulating in the economy. People are being employed by the new security apparatus in both civilian and government sectors. Those people could have been productive elsewhere. Citizens are being inconvenienced by red tape and security procedures that antagonize rather than protect. Freedom and much more has been lost because of the actions of four groups of martyr/thieves.

[ Parent ]

Security concerns are exaggerated (none / 0) (#134)
by syncrotic on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 06:18:54 AM EST

If diamond and gold mines can effectively keep their employees from stealing any product, I'm sure nuclear facilities can do it too. It's a simple matter of having enough security everywhere, and giving that security force the authority it needs to do its job effectively. In practice, that just means that it doesn't matter if you're god himself, you're going to be directly supervised, remotely watched, and searched. If this level of security is maintained throughout the entire fuel cycle, you have nothing to worry about. Really, we're talking about securing a few thousand kilos of metal, not occuppying a hostile middle eastern nation. Unlike the latter, the former is well within our capabilities.

[ Parent ]
You don't understand economics (none / 0) (#107)
by synaesthesia on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 12:54:46 PM EST

if you think regulation is a separate issue.

Defending a nuclear infrastructure is going to be even more expensive than defending an oil one. Not just physically defending the buildings and fuel stores, but also dealing with the knock-on costs of breaking international non-proliferation treaties.

By the way, it's "if we are serious", not "if the us is serious". Is English your first language?


Sausages or cheese?
[ Parent ]

"US" not "us" (none / 1) (#117)
by smithmc on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 10:14:56 PM EST


By the way, it's "if we are serious", not "if the us is serious". Is English your first language?

I would guess he meant "if the US is serious". The United States is a small country in central North America; perhaps you've heard of it?

[ Parent ]

Defense costs? (none / 0) (#133)
by syncrotic on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 06:03:19 AM EST

Defending nuclear infrastructure really isn't all that difficult. We're talking about physically securing isolated buildings that are, by their very nature, giant concrete obelisks. Securing fuel during transport is no more difficult than with any other high value shipment such as gold or cash. Environmental considerations during transport need not be any more troublesome than those concerning the routine shipment of deadly chemicals like chlorine or sulfur dioxide.

Most of the world's Uranium reserves and production are from the democratic and stable nations of Canada and Australia, so we don't even need to meddle in the affairs of hostile theocratic dictatorships.

As for the costs of breaking the NPT, just what would those be? That's supposing of course that building nuclear power plants is somehow a violation of the treaty - it isn't. The only real international consequence of an extended nuclear program would be bad press from the large obnoxious green movement in western Europe. Don't worry, they might not even notice - they're too busy getting rid of their last few safely operating nuclear power plants, installing wind farms everywhere so they can feel like they're doing something useful, and opposing genetically modified crops with irrational pseudo-scientific fearmongering that's really just a front for their vague philosophical opposition to "playing god."

[ Parent ]

Good news! (none / 0) (#38)
by Kasreyn on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:00:43 AM EST

Vastly simplifying the permitting and regulatory processes in this country is what the Grand Ole Party excels at! So just sit back and relax while they do their thing on all those nasty ol' regulations and constraints on corporate excess! What're you complaining about, citizen? Isn't your X-Box still running?


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
You have no idea what you're talking about. (none / 0) (#46)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:31:33 AM EST

I guess that's what posting on the internet is for, huh?

[ Parent ]
yeah nukular cars ! (1.50 / 2) (#68)
by fhotg on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 01:16:08 PM EST

Even though the concept is about 50 years old, maybe the breakthrough comes now.

And that would be fine: They might be "safe by design" but that doesn't mean that engineering skills creatively applied to such cars could not make planes and kerosine obsolete for the purpose of forceful architectural criticism.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]

hey moron (none / 0) (#72)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:02:51 PM EST

this addendum is under a story about ELECTRIC cars

i'll leave it to your boundless iq to figure out my point

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]

Why? Too expensive! (2.25 / 4) (#10)
by StephenThompson on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 04:33:04 PM EST

The cost of constructing and disposing of electric vehicles is too high. The electric vehicles that have been sold are subsidized by the manufacturer. Look at the spyder you link to, its a lead-acid battery car and they are *targetting* 38-45k (and only 150 mile range). Probably they can't even meet that target, not that its a reasonable price anyway. Add lithium ion batteries an the cost really goes through the roof. What I'd like to see is a comparison that calculates total cost of each technology and compares it to fuel price. Thus, at what price of gasoline does each technology start to compete. My understanding that today, the leader is biodiesel which becomes competative on a large scale when gasoline is at about $7 a gallon.

Why would it cost too much? (none / 0) (#18)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:18:08 PM EST

Electric vehicles are simpler and cheaper to build than gasoline ones and cost far less to maintain than gas cars except for the cost of batteries.

Lithium ion is expensive but not so expensive as to make electrics unviable. The lithium ion equipped model is 45,000 dollars. Not cheap but not out of the question either. Especially when gas goes up to 10 bucks a gallon or so.


I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Hybrids (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by adimovk5 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 06:58:49 PM EST

Hybrid cars are an excellent bridge to 100% electric cars. They can reduce the consumption of petroleum while providing owners with the distance and speed available in 100% petroleum vehicles. Improvements have been made in cell technology, kinetic energy reclamation, and fuel efficiency. Each generation of hybrids is more advanced than the last. Each advance in fuel cells and kinetic energy reclamation brings us closer to the day when electric vehicles will be the norm rather than the exception.

Why? (none / 0) (#19)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:44:57 PM EST

It looks like hybrids are too complicated for what they are. They don't let you run purely on electricity negating the main advantage of having an electric motor in your vehicle. They look kinda pointless to me. A half way house that we can probably do away with if Toshiba's new battery is as good as they claim.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
infrastructure (none / 1) (#26)
by adimovk5 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:27:29 PM EST

The infrastructure for petroleum already exists. The infrastructure for electrics doesn't. There are conversion costs in the transition from one mode of transportation to the other. Hybrids can replace current petroleum-only vehicles while the electric infrastructure is being established. Once the electric infrastructure is in place and the technology is mature, hybrids can become antiques relics of our Arab dependent days.

[ Parent ]
Good point but... (none / 0) (#27)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:31:57 PM EST

Wouldn't the (financial and energy) investment to make more internal combustion engines (which are of course necessary in hybrids) be better expelled in making the conversion happen faster?

I guess it's a tough question to answer without crunching some real numbers.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
investments (none / 1) (#30)
by adimovk5 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:51:49 PM EST

.....Wouldn't the (financial and energy) investment to make more internal combustion engines (which are of course necessary in hybrids) be better expelled in making the conversion happen faster?.....

Perhaps if you had no investment in the current state of the industry. Automobile makers and their suppliers are heavily invested in making internal combustion engines. The shift to electric engines would also mean abandoning ties with familiar suppliers. It would also mean unemployment for thousands.

Hybrids provide a transition for employees, employers, governments, consumers, manufacturers and many other groups.

[ Parent ]

not complicated (none / 0) (#29)
by adimovk5 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:44:21 PM EST

.....It looks like hybrids are too complicated for what they are. .....

Hybrids require software to negotiate the transitions between petroleum and electric engines. Toyota has software that enables efficient transitions and makes 60 miles per gallon possible. Ford has adopted Toyota's software/technology for its own vehicles.

The Prius is in its second generation and has made significant improvements over the first generation. Toyota sold over 50,000 Priuses last year. Wired magazine has a good article called Rise of the Green Machine.



[ Parent ]

Hybrids only reduce consumption. (none / 0) (#36)
by Kasreyn on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 11:54:48 PM EST

As long as they're getting charged from fossil-fuel-burning power plants, they're just going to be very fuel efficient and comparatively clean. We'll still be running out of fossil fuels.

Frankly, I worry that hybrid vehicles may be providing people a false sense of security, the idea that they somehow make the problem go away, when all they really do is give us some extra time to come up with renewable energy sources.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
more than fossils (none / 0) (#42)
by adimovk5 on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:09:30 AM EST

Hybrids don't have to be restricted to fossil fuels. If fossil fuels run low or get too expensive, the hybrids could be switched to bio-diesel, alcohols, methanes or other such things.

[ Parent ]
So... (none / 0) (#112)
by Shajenko on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 03:38:30 PM EST

Because hybrids can't get us 100% off of fossil fuels right away, we shouldn't even try to become more efficient?

Or are you saying something else?

[ Parent ]
I'm not saying that. (none / 0) (#121)
by Kasreyn on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:46:16 AM EST

I'm saying I think hybrids are a good thing, but over-focusing on them might obscure the fact that they don't actually solve the problem. They're an interim measure, useful for reducing consumption and pollution while we work out a *real* solution - how to generate the power without using polluting / nonrenewable sources.

I'm all for hybrids, but I worry that hybrids may become a convenient excuse to avoid kicking our oil dependancy.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
600mAh batteries (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by adimovk5 on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 07:06:30 PM EST

How many 600mAh batteries will it take to power an electric car?

Small and light, the new battery offers a high level of storage efficiency. The prototype battery is only 3.8mm thick, 62mm high and 35mm deep and has a capacity of 600mAh.


Let's do the math! (3.00 / 2) (#24)
by MSBob on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:16:44 PM EST

Given the typical 3.6V output it yields roughly 283 Wh/litre energy density. Assuming your electric car consumes around 200 Wh/mile it would require space of around 210 litres. Quite bulky compared to a typical 65 litre gas tank but not unimaginable especially given the space freed up by a smaller engine and no transmission. A bit of trunk space might be sacrificed in the early models and perhaps some space behind the rear bench but otherwise it looks quite viable to me.
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
I want an electric car. (none / 1) (#22)
by krkrbt on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 08:57:04 PM EST

Maybe I'll do a conversion some time.  Most days I only go 10-20 miles, so an electric would be ideal for me.  I wanted to buy a used EV1, until I learned that GM has crushed them all.  well - most of them, anyways.  Bastards.

There's a company that sells a generating trailer for extended trips.  It has wheels that steer, so you can back up with it no-problem.  Ah, here it is:  Range Extender for Electric Vehicles (check out the movie!).

It's complicated (none / 0) (#25)
by pHatidic on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:17:09 PM EST

Why then is the automotive industry dragging its feet?

Maybe because it would cost well over a trillion dollars to retool our infrastucture, and the car industry is almost bankrupt as is?

My dad just ordered a new prius this week, so we will probably be selling our old one. (The reason being that the new one is much safer). You shouldn't underestimate the amount we could reduce emissions and oil consumption if we all simply switched to hybrids, public transportation, and bicycles. Cf FedEx's plan to switch to hybrid trucks.

Torque profile for an electric motor is (3.00 / 3) (#28)
by Smiley K on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 09:33:38 PM EST

straight line. That is, 100% of maximum torque is available at all rpm.
-- Someone set up us the bomb.
Why. (none / 0) (#33)
by dhall on Mon Jun 27, 2005 at 10:46:25 PM EST

The fuel companies look forward to a future of hydrogen energy, since no hydrogen infrastructure exists yet. They will create the infrastructure and thereby create their new 'home'.

If we switched to electric cars, then the fuel companies would have to compete with the well-entrenched electric companies.

Biodiesel & methanol are the immediate future (none / 0) (#49)
by PhadeRunner on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 05:00:15 AM EST

I personally see the automotive industry going for biodiesel and methanol power before they go fully electric.  

Fuel cell is a pipe dream right now as the tech isn't mature enough; not only on the vehicle side but the capability of producing and transporting so much hydrogen.  It's much easier to modify the existing infrastructure to different liquid fuels than create a new hydrogen infrastructure.  

I also can't see the automotive industry abandoning ICEs completely, they've been building them for 100+ years and got pretty good at it!  There's something about the power delivery of an electric motor (whilst being technically better) that doesn't appeal to real drivers.  It's the same reason continuous variable transmission never caught on and the industry is now chasing semi-automatic manual technology like Audi's DSG and Zeroshift.

CVTs (none / 0) (#60)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:37:10 AM EST

I imagine CVTs haven't caught on because they are severely limited in the amount of torque they can transmit. Which makes them very little like electric motors in any sense.

[ Parent ]
I was talking about driving feel (none / 0) (#80)
by PhadeRunner on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 04:15:07 PM EST

Technologically they're very different of course, I was talking about driving feel.

CVTs and electric motors deliver 100% power all the time giving a very linear response.  ICEs working through traditional transmissions have very different power delivery characteristics with minimum power being delivered at low RPM and maximum power at a certain higher RPM which then tails off at the redline.  From a "feel" point of view this is how a car is "supposed" to behave.  

I don't know how you can say CVTs can't be made to transmit much torque.  A Williams F1 car had CVT transmission in 1993.  The technology exists, all that's lacking is the money to put it into mass production and get the cost down.  Money that's not there because there's no market for CVTs in road vehicles because they don't "feel" right.  

[ Parent ]

Such is the state of many technologies. (none / 0) (#87)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 07:52:57 PM EST

The technology exists, all that's lacking is the money to put it into mass production and get the cost down.

Reader quiz: What is this man talking about?

  • Cars powered by fuel cells
  • Cars with CVTs
  • A colony on the Moon
  • A solution to world hunger
  • Nuclear rocketry
  • A LISP machine
First right answer gets a cookie.

[ Parent ]
Get a life (none / 0) (#99)
by PhadeRunner on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 04:58:49 AM EST

Of course this statement applies to many other technologies, especially when taken out of context.  

I think you'll find that I was in fact talking about CVTs in cars something which was quite obviously qualified by the next sentence in my comment.  

Are you being deliberately obtuse or is it just that you can't think of a real argument against my original premise so you feel you need to lower yourself to quoting out of context to make yourself feel clever?

[ Parent ]

make a battery comparison. (none / 1) (#50)
by dimaq on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 06:16:54 AM EST

You are correct about technological advances as far as battery weight is concerned, but just make a battery price (as in EUR per kAh) comparison!

I made one, apparentely the cheapest battery technology is still [sealed] lead-acid. That already makes motorcycles too heavy and travel cars too expensive. City cars could live with SLA quite alright.

IMHO it all boils down to this - you want to carry around a few megajouls around. You could store them in a ready-to-use form (kinetic or capasitor), a nearly ready-to-use form (rechargeable battery), a sortof-ready-to-use form (hydrogen, combustible fuel). Depending on which you choose you have to use an appropriate engine to spin the wheels.

You also want to carry that energy for a rather long time (say, leave your car for a week) and safely, or rather in a controlled fashion. Current energy control tech doesn't really let us use kinetic storage (friction) or capacitors (leaks), makes rechargeable batteries expensive (expensive chemicals and manufacturing processes) and is completely up to the mark on combustible fuels (neatly stored in a can), plus the advantage that you don't have to carry the oxydizer (or it's equivalent in a battery).

The whole point of membrane based energy convesion (fuel cells, later bio-stuff might be possible) is to get rid of the piston engine, which is inexpensive (10% of car cost?) but unfortunately noisy (could be dealt with) and dirty (this too I reckon).

The whole point of using hydrogen (with fuel cells or internal combustion engine) is higher energy density and possibly cleanliness.

The two points of alternative fuels (natural gas or produced by decomposition, vegetable oil) - oil dependency (political) and renewability (still too expensive).

The point of alternative modes of transportation (whether rollerblades or metro) is to get rid of obvious inefficiency (1 ton car carries 100kg person). However why should we be efficient when technology already allows us to be lazy?

In short, in the past you had to carry a horse and a haystack as an energy source, now you do fine with a combustion engine and a can of hydrocarbons, in the future you'll get your electric and cold fusion.

just try to live long enough.

Although (none / 0) (#51)
by ljj on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 06:49:29 AM EST

A lot can be said for brevity and for the point the author raises.

Unfortunately there is just not enough in here to warrant a +1.

--
ljj

The problem is (2.50 / 2) (#52)
by nebbish on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 07:22:27 AM EST

how the electricity is generated in the first place. You're quick to mention that it can be generated by wind turbines but in practice most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. This means electric cars aren't much of an environmentally friendly alternative at all.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

That was a patently stupid comment. (1.12 / 8) (#59)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:33:36 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Yours is worse [nt] (none / 1) (#61)
by nebbish on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:40:47 AM EST


---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee
[ Parent ]

Not that I have anything against you (none / 0) (#109)
by Egil Skallagrimson on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:11:07 PM EST

but you are the King of the Hidden Comments section, friend. That's pretty cool.

----------------

Enterobacteria phage T2 is a virulent bacteriophage of the T4-like viruses genus, in the family Myoviridae. It infects E. coli and is the best known of the T-even phages. Its virion contains linear double-stranded DNA, terminally redundant and circularly permuted.
[ Parent ]

You're overlooking quantities of scale (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 01:39:25 PM EST

One large power plant tends to be considerably more efficient than millions of smaller ones.

[ Parent ]
Also easier to keep clean (none / 0) (#90)
by blackpaw on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:58:09 PM EST



[ Parent ]
you need to mention (none / 1) (#53)
by minerboy on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 07:39:19 AM EST

Where we get Lithium. Here is a good link to the details. While the price of Lithium Batteries have dropped, the cost of the number of batteries needed for a car will still be significant. Not to mention the energy needed to process the ore or recycle the batteries



Some points you missed (3.00 / 2) (#55)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 10:46:31 AM EST

Batteries still have issues and trade-offs.  Considerations:
  • Weight
  • Energy storage ability (amount that can be stored)
  • Energy transfer ability (how quickly it can be charged or discharged)
  • Cost
  • Battery Life.
  • Others like temperature effects, peukert's effect, etc that I won't discuss.
Lead Acid: Heavy, moderate to low energy storage, high transfer ability, low cost, rather short life.  The flooded golf-cart type batteries (also the heaviest) actually have the lowest cost-per-mile of any chemistry, merely because of their ubiquity, though range (mileage) comes at a moderate performance cost.

Nickel Cadmium: Only the flooded electrolyte type is suitable for vehicles.  Medium weight, good storage ability, good energy transfer, moderate to high cost, extremely long life (40 years).  NiCads are considered near the top of the list.  While they cost more, they last practically forever.

Fuel Cells: Not a true battery, as they "burn fuel" to create electricity.  These typically have a long startup time (30 minutes or more), are very expensive, difficult to use, and some run at high temperatures.

Lithium Ion / Nickel Metal Hydride / Other relatively exotic chemistries: These have very good weight & performance, but you can expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a battery pack suitable for a vehicle, and may require an "unusual" type of charger.  Often the batteries alone cost far more than a normal internal combustion vehicle.

Lithium ion cost (none / 0) (#56)
by MSBob on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 10:58:34 AM EST

Isn't the cost of lithium ion at least partially driven by lack of economies of scale?

It looks like the "miracle" Toshibal lithium ion makes recharge times less of an issue and battery longevity is much improved as is low temperature performance.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Also consider (none / 0) (#57)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 11:08:14 AM EST

Can your battery pack deliver 400+ amps on demand?  400 is a rather low number giving modest performance.

Sure, your starter battery in your car can deliver 1000 amps no problem, but your range would be awful, and the batteries would only last about 10 charges.

[ Parent ]

-1, where would the electricity come from? (3.00 / 3) (#66)
by lonelyhobo on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:53:39 PM EST

PETROLEUM?  OH SNAP and you've added a middle man.

Coal, more likely. /nt (none / 0) (#70)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 01:21:44 PM EST



[ Parent ]
Plus a few other options.... (none / 0) (#89)
by MSBob on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 08:56:06 PM EST

Nuclear Fission, Wind, Hydro, Tide, Natural Gas, Solar and maybe even Fusion one day... enough options for ya?
I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
-1, almost no content (3.00 / 1) (#69)
by Dont Fear The Reaper on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 01:20:56 PM EST

You mention a couple isolated features of electric cars, but make no attempt to place them in any kind of context. You mention peak oil, the general usefullness of electricity, and environmental concerns, but spend no time explaining why that means we should want electric cars. The handwaving about the general usefulness of electricity does not answer the question of whether is is useful in the specific case of powering cars. There is no meaningful coverage of where the electricity comes from which is critical for environmental concerns. There is no attempt to address issues of value and cost effectiveness relative to other potential solutions.

In short, this submission fails it.

Getting Electricity (none / 1) (#73)
by mberteig on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:05:33 PM EST

I wonder if the cost of a home-based solar system would be paid off quicker if it was also used to recharge vehicles.  I've been thinking of installing solar panels, etc. in my home in order to provide electricity.  The payoff time is a little long, but would it be shorter if I was also using it to charge the batteries in my car?  I bet it would.  This would be an interesting network effect type efficiency.


Agile Advice - How and Why to Work Agile
Problem is battery cost (none / 0) (#74)
by Anonymous Lemming on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 02:15:59 PM EST

I've looked at this fairly extensively, and you're looking at a very expensive battery bank (even with the budget lead-acid batteries). I think electric cars are great, but we need a quantum leap in battery technology. Sure, Li-Ion is promising, but at ~300 cycles and pricy to boot, I don't want to replace the bank every year. Every 10 years is okay, and for a reasonable price (less than 2-3k) I'm sold. As for the article, get some content and try again. I like this subject :-)

[ Parent ]
no content, and ignore the realities of production (3.00 / 4) (#78)
by CAIMLAS on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 03:16:58 PM EST

You're forgetting a myriad of important factors:
  • energy used to produce batteries (a LOT, when you consider the cost of the fabrication facility)
  • energy used in recycling batteries (a LOT)
  • the very short lifetime of lithium-ion cells (in a car? probably with every couple fuel changes.)
  • li-ion batteries will lose charge if left to sit, and will lose charge capacity as they get older. It will cost more to 'fill up' with each subsequent charge
The same problems exist for things such as solar cells. There is a very high initial energy requirement to create the cell. FOr a long time (and possibly even still), solar cell production required more energy to create the cells than they would be able to produce in a MTBF lifespan. Sure, they make a good energy source if you're off-grid, but they're just plain stupid for energy replacement.

Same goes for batteries.

The situation might be different if we had a surplus of 'free' energy production capacity as China will have in a matter of years (due to hydroelectric and nuclear). If people would be willing to dam a couple more rivers, there'd be no problem at all: there's more than enough energy in our rivers to supply all the electricity we need. Sure, it's not pretty, but neither is smog. And yes, it has ecological impact, but everything does - deal with it.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.

Nuclear fusion (none / 1) (#81)
by jd on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 04:41:28 PM EST

All the benefits of hydrogen (plenty of it), no waste batteries when the "memory" gets to the point where the battery can't recharge any more, none of the problems of converting energy many times with the inherent waste that always involves, absolutely staggering torque, and you never have to worry about tailgaters again.

You may be joking (none / 0) (#94)
by jeremyn on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 12:31:57 AM EST

But that's a helluva lot more practical than hydrogen ever will be.

[ Parent ]
so you can see the future? (none / 0) (#96)
by D Jade on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:11:22 AM EST

Who's to say that it won't become more practical to use hydrogen as a fuel source in the future.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
so you can see the future? (none / 0) (#97)
by D Jade on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:25:16 AM EST

Who's to say that it won't become more practical to use hydrogen as a fuel source in the future?

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]
Only half-joking (none / 0) (#115)
by jd on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 05:06:37 PM EST

Seriously, you DO want to keep the number of steps to an absolute minimum. You also want to have the most compact fuel system possible, as you don't want to be spending more energy moving the fuel supply than you are in moving the objects that need moving.

Storing hydrogen in an unstable form that decays into hydrogen gas is compact, and you can do quite well with it, but it isn't fast to refill and your "dead weight" (the weight of the empty tank) is going to be high.

So, if you are going to use hydrogen, you have to use it in a form that gets you the maximum return. Some sort of "cold fusion" system would certainly give you high returns, for the fuel used, if you can find a way to do it.

Fuel cells are not quite as good - the energy conversion isn't great, and you have to get the oxygen from somewhere. The air is 19% oxygen and 79% nitrogen, and when you burn nitrogen it consumes more energy than it gives out. Nitrogen will burn at current car engine temperatures, so will certainly burn in the high energy reactions of hydrogen and oxygen.

I've mentioned before ways of filtering out the nitrogen, using magnetic separation techniques, but that takes energy and you would need to do some very careful tweeking for it to gain you more than you'd lose.

Rechargable batteries would be great for regenerative braking systems, where you turn the wheels into a dynamo and regain some of the energy you're otherwise converting into heat via the brake system. Beyond that, they're useless.

I don't know what the perfect car engine would be, but I do know that it must meet an important criteria - it must be efficiently efficient. In other words, what you gain on the swings, you must NOT lose on the roundabouts. Otherwise, you are not really adding efficiency, you're adding an illusion by moving the inefficiency elsewhere.

[ Parent ]

Great (none / 0) (#136)
by The Voice of Reason on Sun Jul 03, 2005 at 10:29:27 PM EST

Now all you need to do is invent a fusion reactor.

[ Parent ]
Why there are few electric cars (none / 0) (#86)
by slashcart on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 07:29:15 PM EST

The expected developments in battery technology have not materialized. More specifically, nobody has devised a battery that simultaneously meets the 3 important criteria: 1) cost, 2) energy density, and 3) durability. Any battery that has a gravimetric energy density above 100 Wh/kg, a cycle life greater than 1000, and a cost of less than $100 per KwH would make the electric car a very attractive option.

Right now, several kinds of batteries can meet any one of those criteria, but none meets all three. Lead-acid batteries are cheap enough, but their gravimetric energy density is so low that only a few of them can be put in a car, limiting range. Nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries have adequate energy density and durability, but would cost ~$40,000 for a subcompact. Lithium Ion batteries have adequate energy density and could be made cheaply, but they deteriorate after only 3-4 years, and replacing the batteries every 3 years becomes expensive.

Once a battery is developed that meets all 3 criteria, I'm sure electric cars will be forthcoming.

Right now, research efforts are focused on improving the Li-Ion batteries, to make them cheaper and more durable. Research is focused on Li-Ion because that technology appears most promising, not because it's the best right now. The best batteries at present (for cars) are NiMH and NiCad batteries, but those batteries will never be cheap (Nickel is a very limited resource).

Whatever Happened To... (none / 0) (#127)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:17:24 PM EST

Kinetic/flywheel batteries? IIRC, they were actually used successfully on some large hybrid vehicles - European city busses - for a while.

[ Parent ]
Electrical cars cause pollution (none / 0) (#95)
by D Jade on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:10:22 AM EST

Think about it.
Where is your electricity coming from?
Mine comes from big power plants that burn lots and lots of coal every day.
More electric cars means they have to burn more coal.
Burning more coal causes more pollution.
A current car models in my country are equipped with catalytic converters and produce carbon dioxide.
Coal power plants produce carbon monoxide.
Carbon dioxide can be converted to oxygen by the natural environment.
Carbon monoxide cannot.
Carbon monoxide does more damage than carbon dioxide.

Therefore, until a large majority of our electricity comes from green energy sources that do not cause pollution, electric cars are no better than petrol cars.

Unfortunately for us though, our chosen corporation of choice doesn't want us to use green (renewable) energy, because then they can't keep suckering us out of money to pay for all of the fossilised trees they've bought... god we're suckers.

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive

Other considerations (none / 0) (#113)
by IAmNos on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 04:13:29 PM EST

It is more economical and easier to clean the emissions from one large coal burning plant than thousands of vehicles. In many areas of the world, electricity is being generated from more "green" sources than coal. Most of my electricity is from hydro and wind. Even if most of the power is being generated by the burning of fossil fuels, as technology becomes available, it will more than likely be easier to replace that one power plant than thousands of vehicles.
http://thekerrs.ca
[ Parent ]
Is it really? (none / 0) (#116)
by D Jade on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 07:58:35 PM EST

In Australia, we rely heavily on coal.

I'm a lay man when it comes to this kind of thing. But I always thought that carbon monoxide was worse than carbon dioxide.

Besides, I still have a hard time believing that those people who have invested so much in fossil fuels are going to allow their market to be taken away from them. I have a VERY hard time believing that.

However, it does seem that if the USAmerican government wants to continue its war on terror for much longer, it will probably have to encourage people to use alternative energy sources.

Seems like a bit of a catch 22...

You're a shitty troll, so stop pretending you have more of a life than a cool dude -- HollyHopDrive
[ Parent ]

The only real solution (none / 0) (#98)
by brain in a jar on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 03:52:41 AM EST

is to massively reduce our dependence on road transport.

Road transport requires a high energy density power source, and this will always be very costly in one way or the other.

We all know the problems with fossil fuels so I won't go into that too much. Hydrogen is expensive to produce, and difficult to store, a good deal of energy is lost when we convert some other form of energy into hydrogen. For reasons of energy density and relative ease of supply it is perhaps better just to burn methane in ordinary car engines.

As other's have pointed out, battery powered electric cars have their problems, mostly associated with the cost and performance of batteries. These are problems which vehichles such as trams, trains and trolleybusses powered by overhead cables do not suffer from.

Biofuels are also sometimes touted as a solution, but they are not. Farming to produce the biomass for fermentation is itself energy intensive (fertiliser costs, agricultural vehichles, harvesting and processing) and is using a resource which is relatively scarce i.e. fertile land. There are already widespread problems of land degradation worldwide due to soil erosion, and salt enrichment; processes encouraged by intensive farming.

Essentially electric and hydrogen are both solutions to problems which are no longer particularly pressing. They are solutions to air pollution with Nitrogen Oxides, carbon monoxide and Volatile Organic Carbon (unburnt fuel), problems which catalytic converters have greatly reduced. The real problem we face now is that we are consuming too much energy in total. There is no way of getting useful energy which does not have its associated environmental costs. These costs can be reduced but never eliminated.

The only real solution is the one nobody wants to talk about.

A lot less car use.


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

Uhhhhh, solar? (none / 0) (#103)
by QuantumG on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 08:44:53 AM EST

Electric cars are cool and all, but what you need is a solar panel built using quantum dot or bio technology, to recharge it. All of a sudden parking in the sun is desirable! Of course, we can also have solar panels on our homes to recharge our vehicles or just power our lights and appliances. But this is revolutionary technology we're talking about, and nothing revolution that threatens powerful vested interests ever happens in public.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
Solar powered vehicles are a joke (none / 0) (#111)
by syncrotic on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:56:03 PM EST

Some quick back-of-the-envelope math:

Let's say a car has 2m^2 of roof area that can be covered by solar cells. You get about 1000W/m^2 on the surface of the earth. Let's say you have magic solar cells that are 50% efficient at converting power to electricity, and that there are no further losses in the batteries and such.

2m^2 * 1000W/m^2 * 50% = 1000W.

On a hot sunny day, your car is being charged at a rate of 1000W.

Let's say that, during the course of your average drive, you need 20kW (27HP) to drive around. How far can eight hours of sunlight take you?

1000W * 3600s/h * 8h = 28.8MJ.

28800kJ / 20kW = 1440s.

Eight hours in the hot sun gets you a whole 24 minutes of driving time... using solar cells that haven't been invented, a low estimate of the power required during driving, and a full eight hours of direct sunlight to an area larger than the roof on most passenger cars.

If we use 25% efficient panels, you can simply half the driving time. If you take into account that your car may only get four hours of direct sunlight or 500W/m^2 because it's overcast, half it again. Suddenly you're down to six whole minutes of driving time.

In conclusion, I can completely dismiss the idea of a solar powered car with high school physics and simple arithmetic.

[ Parent ]

20kW? (none / 0) (#125)
by nictamer on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:09:36 PM EST

That's a bit high for continuous use. You're thinking of peak power, probably. While this matters to achieve higher speeds (say, over 50 km/h) over extended periods of times, this is not the case for many cases of commuting.
--
Religion is for sheep.
[ Parent ]
Perhaps (none / 0) (#126)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:10:48 PM EST

A solar-only vehicle that is like the cars we know (e.g., 1000+kg, seats 4 or 5, etc) may well be unworkable.

It could still be the case that solar cells providing supplemental charging on an electric car could be a net gain, economically speaking, over the lifetime of the car. Particularly if the cost of the cells comes down, and even if the efficiency never rises. It may be that the real promise lies in dirt-cheap cells, not more-efficient cells.

[ Parent ]

And On The Other Hand (none / 0) (#128)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 12:34:49 PM EST

If the parking space is covered with a solar-cell canopy, instead of the car itself, one could easily snare 8m2 to 12m2 of sunlight. Four times as much energy to work with, maybe more - and the car stays cool in the shade to boot.

I bet 20kW is more power than many modern gasloine-powered sedans need for freeway cruising, and may even be more than what's needed on a continuous basis even for city driving, once braking regen is accounted for.

Not that I'm expecting altruistic employers and mall owners to start covering their parking lots with expensive solar canopy chargers out of the goodness of their hearts. There are difficulties, surely. But I think it's more constructive and more fun to view back-of-the-envelope calculations like yours as a starting point rather than a stopping point.

[ Parent ]

Switching to all electric could be done. (none / 0) (#105)
by dxh on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 12:17:27 PM EST

We could (and I believe WILL eventually) switch to an all "electric" economy and eliminate fossil fuels all together.  

However this will not occur without a few things happening.

1) We have to move all our electric PRODUCTION away from fossil fuels.  This is much more important than moving piddly little engines like cars and lawn mowers to electric.

This would bascailly require moving a majority of production to using Nuclear Power, along with a healthy supplementation of solar, wind, hydro etc.  People need to get off the nuclear scare bandwagon for this to occur.

2) There are other "transition" alternatives than going "cold turkey" from todays gas engine cars to  battery powered electric cars.    

First of all, todays "HYBRID" car design is a total joke, and could only be come-up with by a bunch of people so involved with an exsisting industry(internal combustion engines) they can't think outside of the box.

A better way to make the transition is to move to cars which use ELECTRIC motors to power the wheels but use gas to power an electric GENERATOR to provide power to the wheel motors.  This is very efficent, and cost effective.  You can use something very simple and reliable such as a small gas turbine(which only has 1 moving part) to produce electric current and feed that to an efficent ellectric motor on each wheel (again only 1 moving part each).  You could put some batteries in this loop as well for conserve and store some energy etc to make it a little more efficent, but even that would not be needed if you didn't want to right away.  

This would be a good solution to moving towards an electric powered car economy because you would give a more natural progression towards improvements in electric motors, and battery technologies and once batteries are good enough you could eliminate the need for having your own personal generator.  

Heck if we did not have the exsisting car engine design, this is how we would design cars in the first place today.

This is the exact same design that Train Locomotives have been using for decades, they use a large desiel engine to power an electric generator and use that to power electric motors on the wheels.

That is how I would design cars, if I was king of the world.

Turbines bad! (none / 0) (#110)
by DDS3 on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 02:38:17 PM EST

This is very efficent, and cost effective.  You can use something very simple and reliable such as a small gas turbine(which only has 1 moving part) to produce electric current and feed that to an efficent ellectric motor on each wheel (again only 1 moving part each).

Turbines in cars were tried during the 50's.  They were a complete failure.  The reason why light General Aviation (GA) planes do not use turbines is because they are huge fuel hogs and generate large amounts of waste heat.

Turbines create huge amounts of waste heat, and require large amounts of both sound and heat insulation.  Turbines make a lot of sense when the air is thin; like at the altitudes that jets tend to fly (30k+ feet) because piston planes(1) just can't breath up there; and thin air means less friction.  On the road, the would not make much sense at all.

I will add that your notion of ICE+electric engines is very reasonable and stands are very solid ground.  Large ships tend to use diesel + electric.  As do many train engines.  Obviously, nuclear ships use nuclear + electric.

Long story short, unless a MAJOR breakthrough in tubine technology is looming just of the horizon (don't hold your breath), turbines are not anywhere near an acceptible solution for general purpose road vehicles.

(1) Piston planes can be super or turbo charged but doing so places a lot of extra wear and tear on them.  To boot, both technologies can only do so much.  Remember, it can't compress what is not there.


[ Parent ]

Diesel Electric Ships? (none / 0) (#123)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 11:52:34 AM EST

What ships use such a thing? I've never heard of that. What would the purpose be? Do you have any links?

I think you might be mistaken about nuclear vessels, as well. Steam ships have usually used the steam to drive an engine (piston or turbine) which turned the props directly. I think nuclear ships just replace a fossil-fuel boiler with a nuclear-fuel boiler.

[ Parent ]

Never Mind (none / 0) (#130)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 03:14:10 PM EST

It does indeed look like ship design is moving in the direction of Diesel/electric systems, although it's not the best choice for all ships.

Just like with locomotives, the Diesel/electric drivetrain works like a transmission, and may be useful for ships that change speeds a lot, or that frequently spend a lot of time moving slowly - cruise ships, short-range supply ships, etc. It also means the shipbuilders have more flexibility in positioning the powertrain, since a battery of smaller engines and generators can be distributed around the ship. Here's a PDF that discusses the issues a bit, and predicts a bright future for Diesel/electric maritime propulsion using superconducting generators and motors for peak efficiency. On the one hand, that's some impressive high-tech stuff. On the other hand, that's an insanely complex and expensive approach - something one wouldn't bother with unless the mechanical-electric-mechanical conversion steps were eating up a significant amount of fuel.

That is to say, there's nothing inherently more efficient about including the extra power conversion steps, but it offers certain flexibilities which can, in some cases, make up for the losses.

It looks like the big ships that cruise at a constant speed for long trips - container ships, tankers, etc. - will probably continue to use gigantic direct-drive Diesels, because the economies of scale make that the most efficient approach.

[ Parent ]

commonly used for (none / 0) (#131)
by DDS3 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 09:02:18 AM EST

ships which have to work in shallow water or very cold water operations (ice breakers) because of risk of hitting something with the props.  An electric motor is very good at absorbing prop strikes.  A diesel engine has to be completely torn down and rebuilt after a strike.  The cost (time and money) of tearing down some of these massive diesel engines is huge.  Electric motors, on the other hand, are fairly trivial to take apart, diagnose, and repair in comparison.

Additionally, diesel/electric combinations are VERY popular for military applications because electric is VERY quiet and can be made to run almost without vibration propagating into the water through the drive shaft.  This type of noise reduction is almost impossible with a diesel engine's drive shaft.


[ Parent ]

nuclear ships (none / 0) (#132)
by DDS3 on Fri Jul 01, 2005 at 09:08:46 AM EST

AFIK, nuclear ships drive electric generators because they have high power demands.  This is especially true for nuclear subs which must use electricity to create O2 from water and to drive desalination (sp?) equipment.  Since their power demands are so high (remember, carriers are small cities), it makes sense to drive a generator, which drives electric motors rather than a steam engine which is then tasked to drive huge generators plus a  drive shaft.  Plus, electric is MUCH quieter than any diesel or steam engine is and has much fewer moving parts.

I can not say that my assertions are true for carriers, but I've read and seen plenty about its truth for subs.


[ Parent ]

...and out come the armchair engineers. (none / 0) (#120)
by Lanes Inexplicably Closed to Traffic on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 11:33:16 PM EST

Moron.

[ Parent ]
Diesel Electric (none / 0) (#122)
by Western Infidels on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 11:50:01 AM EST

...use gas to power an electric GENERATOR to provide power to the wheel motors. This is very efficent...

But less efficient than just using the fuel to power the wheels directly. Every conversion - from chemical potential energy to heat to mechanical force to electricity back to mechanical force - wastes a good bit of energy.

Locomotives and giant mining trucks use Diesel/electric systems because building a mechanical transmission to capable of handling the huge ratio and power requirements is very difficult, not because the Diesel/electric cycle is more efficient. The generator/electric-motor set functions as a transmission, nothing more.

[ Parent ]

Why is ... dragging its feet? (none / 0) (#108)
by pms101 on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 01:10:22 PM EST

Because it's a heck of a lot easier to control access to petroleum than to electricity. There's no way to keep people from charging and using electric cars if they have commercial power.

Once oil goes away, we'll (obviously, if we still have a civilization) get more electric cars. By then, the people who sell us oil now will control the deuterium supply and own the giant generating plants.

It's the same principle as the intense research going into large scale fusion, when researchers admit that they see no prospect of ever producing commercially viable electricity that way. Meanwhile, the Farnsworth tube (as an example of a device that has achieved fusion in garage scale experiments) is not only ignored but buried, ridiculed, and patented to keep anyone from even trying to get it to work. It may _not_ be practical, (no one knows) but if it did work we'd have village scale electric generation with no need for huge plants and transmission lines and government control. Maybe that's scarier than waiting for fossil fuels to run out.

Exactly right (none / 0) (#114)
by arthurpsmith on Wed Jun 29, 2005 at 04:20:54 PM EST

All the major energy alternatives (fission, fusion, wind, ground solar, space solar) supply electricity. The transportation problem is a significant one - hydrogen was supposed to be the solution to converting electricity to a transportation fuel, but it's becoming more and more clear it's not suitable.

David Doty has produced a couple of interesting articles on the problems with hydrogen, Projections for Hydrogen Cost and Future Fuels, which outline exactly why hydrogen is unlikely to work.

Also noteworthy is a comparison of hydrogen and electricity in this study by the Institute for Lifecycle Environmental Assessment - hydrogen already loses out to purely electric vehicles, and it's not looking any better any time soon.

GM and Toyota are unfortunately destroying their existing electric passenger cars; one can only hope new models with better battery technology will be available soon.

Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


Look Deeper. (none / 0) (#129)
by God of Lemmings on Thu Jun 30, 2005 at 02:59:35 PM EST

Come on, think like a oil baron here for a second. Why would you allow a new technology to come into existence that threatened your business when you could simply get your friends in the auto industry to squash it dead. And don't think he isn't going to lobby on behalf of all those people who own gas stations, either. Electric cars won't happen easily. Hybrid cars? Have you noticed how a lot of the hybrid cars are being set up for power/performance rather than gas milage like they should be? Not if the petroleum industry has anything to say about it. The only thing they have a good chance on, is setting up a hydrogen/fuel-cell based market. Our only true salvation to being forever a slave of the petroleum industry is to hope one of those electric car startups succeeds wildly. Of course, investment in the promising ones will help greatly.

We need to think outside the box (none / 1) (#135)
by John Thompson on Sat Jul 02, 2005 at 10:42:14 AM EST

Any transportation idea that puts private, individual vehicles as its first priority cannot be seen as a serious move to sustainable resource usage. We need to stress public transportation, flexible work schedules (so roads and other infrastructure don't need to be over-designed for peak rush hour loads), human-powered transportation (pediestrian and bicycle friendly environment), railroads and save petroleum for those applications for which there is truly no other alternative.

Forget hydrogen, let's go electric | 136 comments (112 topical, 24 editorial, 0 hidden)
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