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Old 10-28-2010, 10:51 AM   #61
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Though, frankly, if we could just convince more people to drive Civics and Corollas...
I'm with you. Simple solutions are usually the best ones.

I'm against subsidies, but if subsidies must exist, then let's subsidize any vehicle that can transport 4 adults and achieves over 35mpg combined. The higher the fuel efficiency, the better the subsidy. Imagine something like: $3,000 for 35mpg, $4,000 for 40mpg, $5,000 45mpg. Now that will make an impact that no hybrid nor EV can ever dream of.

But we (the government) need to continue to spend large sum of money for a better future. Not to subsidize the current idiotic hybrid/EV program, but to finance research in battery, may be with the goal of doubling the energy density in 5 years and quadrupling it in 10 years. Then and only then EV would become a viable alternative at a reasonable cost.

The government should also immediately start a new mandatory requirement on Drag Coefficient (Cd) for all passenger cars to be sold. Using the Cd of the current Prius as the minimum requirement, and tighten it as the years progress, may be 10% every 5 years.
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Old 10-28-2010, 11:22 AM   #62
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But we (the government) need to continue to spend large sum of money for a better future. Not to subsidize the current idiotic hybrid/EV program, but to finance research in battery, may be with the goal of doubling the energy density in 5 years and quadrupling it in 10 years. Then and only then EV would become a viable alternative at a reasonable cost.
But why? Why should government decide that chemical batteries reversibly storing electric energy is the very best road ahead? There are lots of ways to skin this cat, let the engineers and folks trying to make money figure it out.
Batteries with high energy densities are possible already. Nano lithium batteries, etc have higher energy densities than presently fielded commercial batteries, and they cost a lot more. If we're counting on a government R&D program to decrease the prices for batteries, I think we're using the wrong tool for the problem.

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The government should also immediately start a new mandatory requirement on Drag Coefficient (Cd) for all passenger cars to be sold. Using the Cd of the current Prius as the minimum requirement, and tighten it as the years progress, may be 10% every 5 years.
It might be better to address the problem directly (goal: decreased fuel use) rather than direct an approach ("better Cd"). For example, aerodynamic drag is not a major factor in fuel use for vehicles employed in low-speed stop and go driving. Even for vehicles going faster for longer periods, drag reduction comes at a price. Making a vehicle very "slippery" may cause it to have a less practical shape, and also may require it to be heavier, decreasing mileage in town. Building a more aerodynamic car might result in a car that burns more fuel.

Every long-haul truck could be made much more aerodynamically efficient if it had a fairing on the back to smooth the airflow at the back of the trailer (the shape of the back of a vehicle is sometimes more important than the front in reducing drag, and an abrupt flat plate at the back is a very "draggy" shape). Trucking companies would LOVE to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet by 2%. I can only guess that companies don't mount fairings to the back of trucks because it is not practical. Maybe if fuel prices go up, it will become practical. I have noticed more trucks with fairings underneath the trailers (running lengthwise) to decrease turbulence and drag. Apparently this is now a practical approach.

Less regs and direction, more market-based solutions. If necessary, use the market to get the desired result. A modern sedan with three people in it is more fuel efficient than an $80,000 super-EV with one "green-conscious" driver. When fuel prices are high enough, people will again modify their behavior and manufacturers will produce the vehicles they want.
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Old 10-28-2010, 03:19 PM   #63
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Trucking companies would LOVE to improve the fuel efficiency of their fleet by 2%.
That's what railroads are for!
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:53 PM   #64
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That's what railroads are for!
If those truck drivers would just go NASCAR and get in really close to each other for some drafting, they'd approach the aerodynamic efficiency of a train. Then we'd have to work on rolling resistance in these big-rig highway-trains--I think steel wheels would work great in this regard if those safety monsters at the NHTSA would just loosen up a little regarding stopping distances. Finally, we'd need to reduce the inefficiencies from having all those engines running--a single engine running at higher output is more efficient. For this, I propose that all the trucks simply mechanically link up while underway and have the lead truck pull them (lead truck gets reimbursed for fuel and maintenance electronically via automatic credit to his account from trucks in the train). When the "train" slows down due to hills, the rigs in the back can contribute some joules.

All patent pending . . .
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:29 AM   #65
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All patent pending . . .
My daughter had never seen a triple-trailer truck rig until she went on a Mainland school trip. It freaked out the entire group, and I'm including the adult chaperones in that description.
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Old 10-29-2010, 08:02 AM   #66
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But why? Why should government decide that chemical batteries reversibly storing electric energy is the very best road ahead? There are lots of ways to skin this cat, let the engineers and folks trying to make money figure it out.
Batteries with high energy densities are possible already. Nano lithium batteries, etc have higher energy densities than presently fielded commercial batteries, and they cost a lot more. If we're counting on a government R&D program to decrease the prices for batteries, I think we're using the wrong tool for the problem.
The first oil crisis happened in the early 70s, almost 40 years ago. The "engineers and folks trying to make money" still haven't figure out a way yet.

I agree that there are more than one way to skin a cat. But for this particular cat, the choices are very limited. Public transportation does not work, car pooling does not work, small/efficient cars does not work, bike lanes does not work, concentrated living does not work, etc... This is the USA: We are in love with our cars, we don't want to live in small, cramped apartments (unless financially forced to). We are brainwashed to avoid diesel in spite of its higher energy density. We talk about living green but we don't practice it.

No, Electric Vehicle (EV) is not the only solution to the problem but it's definitely the most promising one in the foreseeable future. Its main problems are battery cost, weight and longevity. Those problems are just too enormous/costly for a private company to solve. That's why I suggest the government involvement. And research in battery does not just benefit the EV. Laptops, cell phones, GPSs, tools, cameras and countless other electronic devices will benefit greatly with a better battery.
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Old 10-29-2010, 09:16 AM   #67
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That's why I suggest the government involvement. And research in battery does not just benefit the EV. Laptops, cell phones, GPSs, tools, cameras and countless other electronic devices will benefit greatly with a better battery.
The Navy's submarine force has been using lead-acid batteries since Nimitz was an ensign. They're a lot less explosive today than they were a century ago, and the technology has been extended to its absolute limits, but they're still lead-acid batteries.

I suspect that if govt research was the easy answer then we'd have been making the same advances in battery tech that have been made in submarine propulsion, acoustic quieting, sensor sensitivity, and other areas. Heck, we even figured out how to get rid of the periscope's hull penetration.

Or maybe govt research is the answer and it's just not there yet.

I think one motivational aspect of a high-density battery will be $250/barrel oil...
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Old 10-29-2010, 10:04 AM   #68
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The first oil crisis happened in the early 70s, almost 40 years ago. The "engineers and folks trying to make money" still haven't figure out a way yet.
I don't think you can come to that conclusion. There are just physical limits to what can be done and still provide a safe, comfortable, affordable vehicle that uses far less oil than cars did 40 years ago. ICs have their limits (Carnot Cycle), and it isn't that we have not "figured out" how to make an EV - the economics just don't make sense.

As a parallel, think back to when some really big flat screen TVs were demonstrated as an example of what could be done. The engineers "figured it out", but they didn't go into production with those units because they would have cost far more than the market could bear. That is where we are with EVs, and as we have discussed before, batteries simply can not be expected to be on the same price/performance reduction curve as pure electronics. Those chemicals have physical limits.

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Public transportation does not work, car pooling does not work, small/efficient cars does not work, bike lanes does not work, concentrated living does not work, etc...
I don't think we've exhausted the possibilities. On the contrary, we've barely tapped them.

Didn't we see a several % reduction in gasoline usage when we hit $4? And yet, no big infrastructure changes happened at all, and there was no time for long term solutions to take hold. Now imagine if we all were told that gas would be that high and continually rising forever - people would make long term changes that would result in even more reductions. Not too many people are going to move closer to work immediately when gas prices jump, but over time it will be a higher priority in the job/home decision. So over time, commutes will go down, more people will request some tele-commuting days, etc. That and a million other things that just happen because people take action.

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We are brainwashed to avoid diesel in spite of its higher energy density. We talk about living green but we don't practice it.
I don't have the facts/figures handy, and no time to look them up right now (maybe someone else can post them), but IIRC, the higher usage of diesel in Europe is because they had lower pollution standards than the US. So who's being 'green'?

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No, Electric Vehicle (EV) is not the only solution to the problem but it's definitely the most promising one in the foreseeable future. Its main problems are battery cost, weight and longevity.
Those are big problems. And who is to say that batteries are the best solution, maybe there are alternatives. As samclem has mentioned, if we let the govt fund one area, maybe the real solution dies on the vine as it can't get support. I could give real world examples of exactly that scenario in other alternative energy areas - govt involvement stifled innovation. The guy took his technology (and jobs) to Europe - DOH!


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Those problems are just too enormous/costly for a private company to solve. That's why I suggest the government involvement. And research in battery does not just benefit the EV. Laptops, cell phones, GPSs, tools, cameras and countless other electronic devices will benefit greatly with a better battery.
I would completely turn that statement around 180 degrees.

It is EVs that benefit from the pursuit of better batteries for "Laptops, cell phones, GPSs, tools, cameras and countless other electronic devices". There is already a very high amount of private investment pushing better batteries for these products. Just look at how much batteries have improved over the past 15 years. Would government involvement help that?

Think back to how so many new technologies went from expensive, large, rare, and finicky to cheap, common, small, and reliable. They (mostly) didn't get subsidies or get "pushed" into the market. At first, the expensive, large, rare, and finicky product fit a niche for someone - it made economic sense, even at that high price. Example: a solar panel and battery might make economic sense if it would be very expensive to run power to that spot. So the product fills that niche, without subsidies. Later, as further development makes the product better, there are additional niches where the product makes sense, and that keeps going until everyone has one. But not before - the subsidy would just mean we collectively pay for something that doesn't meet our needs. Bad decision.

It isn't just demand that drives product improvements. It is advancing technology that makes for improved products that creates bigger markets and that creates the demand. I don't think you can do that "artificially" (subsidies), it has to happen as technology advances, and a lot of that is just a progression that takes time and experience. There was demand for $40 VCRs when they cost $1800. But no one could make a $40 VCR until the various technologies that all work together progressed. Silicon circuits didn't just jump to their current state - they HAD to go step-wise, generation by generation to make improvements, learn how to bring yields up, and then try the next thing. No amount of money can bypass that process, and it takes time. Since there is already plenty of incentive for better batteries, more money thrown at it just isn't going to make a significant change, no matter how much you "wish" it were so.

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Old 10-29-2010, 10:18 AM   #69
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I suspect that if govt research was the easy answer then we'd have been making the same advances in battery tech that have been made in submarine propulsion, acoustic quieting, sensor sensitivity, and other areas. Heck, we even figured out how to get rid of the periscope's hull penetration.
For sure it's not easy, or cheap. And as with all researches, there's no guarantee. We might get there or we might not.

What's the harm of putting together a bunch of super scientists (with no agenda) together and let them find a way. May be we'll get lucky and get the same speedy result as the Mahattan Project (from the scientific point of view only.)

It will cost a lot of money, and hopefully for the right reason. Certainly can't be worse than the recent "gas guzzler buy back" program or the current hybrid/EV subsidy.
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Old 10-29-2010, 11:39 AM   #70
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What's the harm of putting together a bunch of super scientists (with no agenda) together and let them find a way.
The private sector is already doing it. Why bother with having the Govt do it? And I'm quite certain that batteries are important to the military, so I bet we are already funding this research - in fact I know it.


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It will cost a lot of money, and hopefully for the right reason. Certainly can't be worse than the recent "gas guzzler buy back" program or the current hybrid/EV subsidy.
If we are actually going to accomplish anything at all, we need to set a far higher standard than "not worse than Cash for Clunkers"

A little back-of-the envelope perspective on conservation versus EV use:

Let's say Joe Commuter talks to his boss about telecommuting just one day a month. Let's also say that Joe and Joan decide they could carpool just one day out of every two weeks. Those are pretty modest changes, no big sacrifice, no new technology required. Yet, out of a 20 day work-month, that would be a 10% immediate reduction in fuel for commuting (I gave half-credit to carpooling to the other party). Not everyone can do that, some jobs require physical presence, but surely many could do much more with the proper incentives. Let's say on average that we achieved this modest level for half the commuters - an overall 5% reduction in fuel use.

If we use a round figure that an EV still consumes about half as much fuel (to generate, transmit and charge the batteries) as a conventional vehicle that a an energy-conscious person would buy, that means to accomplish that same 5% reduction, we would need to have 10% of the commuting fleet be EVs.

Now, which is easier, which can be accomplished faster and cheaper? If we really want to reduce "something" (is it energy use, fossil fuel, CO2, destruction from mining, ...?), we need to define what it is and then find the best solutions. Picking one and crowning it King/Queen is not going to get us there.

Considering how much of our electricity comes from coal, I'd suggest you compare the ecological damage of coal mining (habitat destruction, leveling of whole hillsides, erosion, hazardous run-off) and burning (sulfur and acid rain, mercury pollution, particulates and radioactive emissions and remember, no catalytic converters on coal plants) to the relatively benign process of drilling for oil (drill a hole, pump out the oil, cover the hole - done) and burning ti in our low emission vehicles (catalytic converters, fuel injection, sensors, computer controls). Sure, a few oil wells have had major leaks, but how does that compare to the damage done every minute of every day mining for coal? That is too routine to make the news.

Considering all that - do EVs really get us where we want to be (wherever that is - I don't think it's been defined - that is part of the problem)? I'm not sure we should invest a penny in pursuing EVS - they will make sense when they make sense, why "push" it?

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Old 10-29-2010, 11:58 AM   #71
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The private sector is already doing it. Why bother with having the Govt do it?
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Because the private sector's end result is not satisfactory yet. For myself, I still want a laptop that can run twice as long on battery without weight or cost increases.


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Let's say Joe Commuter talks to his boss about telecommuting just one day a month. Let's also say that Joe and Joan decide they could carpool just one day out of every two weeks. Those are pretty modest changes, no big sacrifice, no new technology required.
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Yes those are modest changes. Unfortunately Joe Commuter is not on board.


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Considering how much of our electricity comes from coal,
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NO! No coal, no oil. Hopefully all additional electricity to sustain EVs will come from NUCLEAR plants. Wind and solar too, but only when they become competitive, price wise (and excluding government's subsidies)
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:34 PM   #72
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RE: The private sector is already doing it. Why bother with having the Govt do it?

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Because the private sector's end result is not satisfactory yet. For myself, I still want a laptop that can run twice as long on battery without weight or cost increases.
What makes you think the Govt could achieve this faster than what private industry is doing (and they have made a lot of progress, batteries are far better than just 10 years ago)? You use a foregone conclusion as justification.



RE: Let's say Joe Commuter...
Quote:
Yes those are modest changes. Unfortunately Joe Commuter is not on board.
OK, so Joe commuter doesn't care. So why should the Govt throw subsidies and other $ (Joe's dollars) at a problem that Joe Commuter doesn't care about?

Joe Commuter "cared" and took action when gas was $4. He probably did more and did it more quickly than any govt sponsored gasoline conservation program.


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NO! No coal, no oil. Hopefully all additional electricity to sustain EVs will come from NUCLEAR plants. Wind and solar too, but only when they become competitive, price wise (and excluding government's subsidies)
OK, nuclear probably makes a lot of sense for our electricity going forward, and wind and solar could play a part. But if we don't include that in the equation (the $7,500 subsidy does not), it isn't much of a "solution". How many Megawatts worth of coal plants have been given permits in the past 3 years? How many Megawatts worth of NUCLEAR plants have been given permits in the past 3 years (versus old plants being de-commissioned)? I don't know but I'd guess we are not making much progress in that area.

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Old 10-29-2010, 12:39 PM   #73
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So what's your solution?
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Old 10-29-2010, 01:13 PM   #74
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Here's my opinion of what is going to (or should happen). Battery research has run its course.. and all we got for it is very low capacity to store electricity for high cost, not to mention the difficulty in getting rid of them.

What is our most abundant power sources in the US? Nuclear, natural gas, and coal. Clean coal technology has run its course. Nukes may work in submarines, but not in cars. Natural gas has had limited research. It is used as a substitute for gasoline in internal combustion engines.

Serious fuel cell research has barely begun. Recently it is beginning to show some real promise. Here is a recent article http://www.plugpower.com/technology/fuelcelloverview.aspx.

This gem is for residential use and uses hydrogen extracted from natural gas to produce heat and electricity. Natural gas can be used to produce hydrogen, with one common method being the hydrogen reformer. Though not directly applicable to cars, this article shows that product development on fuel cells is making progress, where as most other technologies are standing still. New membranes, new heat tolerance, increased efficiency is being accomplished. Waste heat can be use to drive a heat pump or used to simply to heat the car.

Now look at the cost per kWh. Natural gas is competitive with oil. Taken from Oil versus Gas fuel for your Heating needs Admittedly old data, but a useful comparison none the less.

Price kWh content $/kWh Efficiency $/kWh
Oil $2.000 per Gallon / 40.1734104 = $0.050 / 80% = $0.0622
Nat. Gas
$1.500 per Therm / 28.9017341 = $0.052 / 80% = $0.0649
Propane $2.000 per Gallon / 26.300578 = $0.076 / 80% = $0.0951
Electricity $0.150 per kWh / 1 = $0.150 / 100% = $0.1500

My point in this discussion is that the we do not yet know that best solution for making our cars more efficient and cost effective. I will suggest that fuel cell technology using natural gas as a fuel has lots of potential for developing increased efficiency in the future.

This may not be the final technological answer - something new could easily be discovered. However, one fact stands out.

If the government needs to get involved, keep to efficiency standards. Instead of fuel efficiency standards, it is probably better to focus on cost efficiency standard - just to allow for the greatest possible flexibility in promoting innovation.

Government cannot get into the business of picking winners and loosers by encouraging one technology over another. If our goal is to get cars off our dependence on foreign oil, then, lets make that a separate standard. Each year a car maker's fleet must consume less and less oil (or a penalty will apply). But let capitalism figure out how they can meet these goals. It just may be that large cars with low gas mileage will simply be priced right out of the market.
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Old 10-29-2010, 01:49 PM   #75
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So what's your solution?
The short answer is that I don't need to present a solution to realize that something else is not a viable solution.

But I'll humor you and provide some ideas on "solutions". But first, you need to define the "problem". And one of the biggest problems is that people try to provide solutions w/o defining the problem. So, you first.

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Old 10-29-2010, 02:18 PM   #76
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Serious fuel cell research has barely begun. ...

My point in this discussion is that the we do not yet know that best solution for making our cars more efficient and cost effective. I will suggest that fuel cell technology using natural gas as a fuel has lots of potential for developing increased efficiency in the future.
I think you may be over-optimistic on fuel cell efficiency, and how much it can be improved (wiki):

Quote:
It is also important to take losses due to fuel production, transportation, and storage into account. Fuel cell vehicles running on compressed hydrogen may have a power-plant-to-wheel efficiency of 22% if the hydrogen is stored as high-pressure gas, and 17% if it is stored as liquid hydrogen.[29]
Again, it all depends what the goal is. Reforming Nat Gas (a Hydro-CARBON) into hydrogen for fuel cells does nothing for CO2 emissions, unless the overall process moves the car with less Nat Gas input overall.

I'd have to look it up, but I think power-plant-to-wheel eff of an EV would be significantly higher than that fuel cell.


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If our goal is to get cars off our dependence on foreign oil, then, lets make that a separate standard. Each year a car maker's fleet must consume less and less oil (or a penalty will apply). But let capitalism figure out how they can meet these goals. It just may be that large cars with low gas mileage will simply be priced right out of the market.
I still say that is too indirect. The mpg of a fleet just isn't that closely related to how much oil we use. Three people sharing a 20 mpg vehicle are doing better than a single person in their 40 mpg vehicle. Nothing about that sticker mpg dictates if I move closer to my job, ride share, combine trips, etc. In fact, it can disincentive it.

Again, $4 gas caused a drop in oil consumption, and the fleet mpg hadn't changed one iota. IMO, fleet mpg is "small" thinking.

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Old 10-29-2010, 05:11 PM   #77
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Let me summarize that article: Electric cars are not good because if you have a problem in your system and can't charge up your car, you will run out of juice.

That is, the guy had problems and "range anxiety" only because his car was broken and couldn't be charged.
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Old 10-29-2010, 05:26 PM   #78
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Let me summarize that article: Electric cars are not good because if you have a problem in your system and can't charge up your car, you will run out of juice.

That is, the guy had problems and "range anxiety" only because his car was broken and couldn't be charged.
Yes, the broken charger really isn't a representation of what the capabilities are. But "range anxiety" is real. Maybe you didn't have time to get to a full charge, or you had to run some short trips in the AM and then need to make a trip to a place 35 miles away and back. Get stuck in traffic, have to use the heater or AC, and that routine drive might be a problem.

The Volt at least solves that problem.

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EVs are more suited for reducing localized pollution, such as here in DFW, where level orange is the standard...

Total pollution, maybe not so much.
True, but I'd bet there are better ways to reduce that than some small % of EVs.

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Old 10-30-2010, 03:30 AM   #79
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I think you may be over-optimistic on fuel cell efficiency, and how much it can be improved (wiki):

Again, it all depends what the goal is. Reforming Nat Gas (a Hydro-CARBON) into hydrogen for fuel cells does nothing for CO2 emissions, unless the overall process moves the car with less Nat Gas input overall.

I'd have to look it up, but I think power-plant-to-wheel eff of an EV would be significantly higher than that fuel cell.
First, I'm not seeking to reduce CO2 emissions as a primary goal. I don't believe global warming is a "grave and growing" environmental threat. In the back of my mind, if I can find two equal alternative ways to power a car and one of them reduces CO2 - then the carbon reduction alternative wins. But, nobody is dying from global warming and I believe we have time to find a find a solution to that issue (if it is indeed a problem) on a much larger scale than focusing on cars

Second, on the issue of fuel efficiency, that is a hard one for anybody to get their arms around. For example, see if you can follow raw petroleum, still in the ground - and track the gross energy required to transport, and convert that oil into gasoline and power an typically inefficient automobile internal combustion engine down the road. Even if you come up with a number, then factor in things like oil spill clean-ups, etc. I bet the total efficiency is less than 5%.

Plus, I am not advocating fuel cells exclusively. Lots of new technology is hanging in the wings, including raw hydrogen. Combine that with off-peak electrical generation rates from things like solar or wind, plus a way to produce hydrogen at the service station, and hydrogen could be the best choice.

I just want the free market making the choices, not Washington DC with subsidies.


Quote:
Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
I still say that is too indirect. The mpg of a fleet just isn't that closely related to how much oil we use. Three people sharing a 20 mpg vehicle are doing better than a single person in their 40 mpg vehicle. Nothing about that sticker mpg dictates if I move closer to my job, ride share, combine trips, etc. In fact, it can disincentive it.

Again, $4 gas caused a drop in oil consumption, and the fleet mpg hadn't changed one iota. IMO, fleet mpg is "small" thinking.
Yes, I agree. I grabbed at what amounted a common measuring stick - and you are right. History has shown that is not a good way to measure progress.

My goal primary goal is to wean ourselves of petroleum. Foreign oil has caused nothing but one big problem after the next since the 1970's - that should be obvious. And now, as petroleum gets increasingly hard to find and bring to market, the problems are growing proportionately. For example, I think as human beings we have an obligation to save portions of this planet in a "natural state". Drilling in the Arctic region, with its impact on both nature and the people living there, is environmentally irresponsible. Drilling at 5000 feet is irresponsible. The water pressure at that depth is incredibly high and we are just asking for more problems like the BP Oil spill when we drill at that depth.

We are backing ourselves into a corner with our dependence on oil. 40 years of back-to-back problems haven't moved us away from that corner either.

This problem needs to be handled just like we stopped the use of cancer causing pesticides. If the government doesn't set up a time-tiered program to get our transportation system off of petroleum, we are just going to stay fat, dumb, and increasingly in trouble. I don't know the precise yard stick to measure our progress in weaning ourselves of oil, but surely one exists.

Briefly, urban planners are indeed hold a great share of the blame for our dependency on oil. Big, colored, zoning maps showing residential here and commercial there, etc. has compounded our problem. The local 7-11 probably has saved more gasoline than all our other efforts combined. The reason is they are close to home.

The correct approach would have been to allow some industry and commercial property to mix into residential areas. An office building can fit into a residential area, provided the proper infrastructure is in place (ie, roads, electricity, etc.) Wouldn't it be nice to walk to work and walk to the store?

But urban planners have dictated that everyone needs cars to live. Many cars. This is a big issue with me, since one of my wives was an urban planner and I saw exactly how this worked. Nobody wanted a school "in my back yard", so now, you need a car to take kids to school. This is only one example. It is a complex subject with no easy answer - but needs to be recognized by more people so we don't compound our mistakes in the future.
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