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Thread: free driving?

  1. #1
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    free driving?

    Actually, maybe.
    An ad runs in our only large state-wide newspaper occasionally advertising a small car that runs exclusively on electricity. It has a range of about 50 miles on a full charge. Enough for commuting or local shopping, etc. Price is about $5,000.00. Not much compared to almost anything else out there.
    Then, yesterday, I was perusing my Northern Tool catalog looking for a solar charger for my camper trailer battery and saw that they offer two wind powered electric generators. The little one is a 400 watter and costs $599.00. That would keep the little car going between trips. (provided you get an occasional breeze ) Even going with the big 1.8Kw at a little over $5,000.00, you would still be in the $10,000.00 range for the car, a lot less than 'real' cars. And this one will provide a lot of juice for your home as well. Methinks we all may be going that direction before long.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    . Methinks we all may be going that direction before long.
    I think so, too. But guess who is going to produce the batterys and all the rest? The same companys that now are witholding them to keep us using petrol.
    Best regards,
    Toni

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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toni Ciuraneta View Post
    I think so, too. But guess who is going to produce the batterys and all the rest? The same companys that now are witholding them to keep us using petrol.
    Toni - I'm quite sure no one is withholding any battery technology from the market. There's a bunch of problems with the existing battery technology that many companies are working hard to fix. Improved batteries will make it to market soon and there will be continual improvement beyond that (just like with automobile technology).

    In the development of the GM Volt, for example, the biggest problem is the batteries. GM is just betting that acceptable batteries will be available in time for shipment in 2010.

    The primary problems are: capacity (it takes about 0.4kWh/mile), weight, heat, life, and safety (think "not catching on fire"). The batteries also have to be safe in a crash.

    The people who make batteries have nothing to do with selling gasoline so they have no incentive to delay availability of improved batteries.

    I look forward to plug-in hybrids. I believe they are the best solution for reducing gasoline usage. The infrastructure is here today to deliver the power, and the drain will be at night when demand is presently low so we won't have to build lots of new distribution and generating capacity to support plug-in hybrids.

    Hydrogen has a bunch of problems which I can expand on if you're interested.

    Mike
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  4. #4
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    I'm not Mike. But it is well known that it requires a lot more energy to break down water into H & O than the H gives off. This despite the fact there are a bunch of guys, most can be found on UTube, who claim to have invented 'free' energy hydrogen motors that run on water. They just fail to mention how much electricity is required to bust up the water molecules. Ain't no free lunch-ride yet.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    I'm not Mike. But it is well known that it requires a lot more energy to break down water into H & O than the H gives off. This despite the fact there are a bunch of guys, most can be found on UTube, who claim to have invented 'free' energy hydrogen motors that run on water. They just fail to mention how much electricity is required to bust up the water molecules. Ain't no free lunch-ride yet.
    Since I drive a Ram 2500 diesel, and I'm paying about $4.60 a gallon I have been looking at some alternatives. This story caught my eye...
    http://www.thetrucker.com/News/Stori...ngineburn.aspx

    There are many companies that are selling the electrolysis(sp) hydrogen kits, it's the weeding through them that takes time.

    Ted

  6. #6
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    The problem with hydrogen is the inefficiency of the energy usage. Let me walk you through the calculations.

    First, there's the question about where you're going to get the hydrogen. Most hydrogen produced today is from fossil fuel (steam reforming of natural gas). But that doesn't get you off fossil fuels, so let's assume you're going to generate the hydrogen from electrolysis of water. In industrial level production, it takes almost 40kWh of electicity to produce 1kg of hydrogen. But the process is only 70% efficient - that is, the "potential" energy in the hydrogen is only 70% of the electrical energy that you put into the electrolysis.

    Then you need to compress the hydrogen so that you can ship and store it. Let's say that 10% of the (original) energy is used to do that compression and storage. Next, you're going to put that hydrogen into a fuel cell to produce electricity. But a fuel cell is only about 70% efficient. So the energy you have coming out of the fuel cell is only 42% of the energy that you started with.
    Compare that to a battery system. A lithium ion battery is almost 99% efficient (power in to power out). This requires controlling the charge rate to limit heat generation and not discharging the battery all the way to zero. But even if you don't do max efficiency, you can probably get 90% efficiency out of the battery.

    So the comparison is between 90 - 99% usage of the energy input for batteries compared to about 42% usage of the energy input for hydrogen.

    With hydrogen, you're going from electricity to hydrogen - then you have to compress and transport the hydrogen - then use the hydrogen to generate electricity again. All of that conversion and transporation is wasteful compared to just staying electricity.

    We have no infrastucture in place for hydrogen. To get to where we could have hydrogen filling stations on every corner, it'll take a massive investment in hydrogen generation capacity, pipelines, and retail outlets. You can't put hydrogen through the existing pipelines.

    With batteries, the electrical grid is in place. Also, since the batteries will be charged at night, it will not require additional generation and distribution capacity until an awful lot of battery powered cars are sold. In fact, adding demand at night will make the power generation and distribution system more efficient because it will even out the demand over the day.

    The only advantage I can see for hydrogen is that you can fuel up the car faster. With batteries, it takes time to charge the batteries.

    All this begs the question of how are we going to generate the electrical power in the first place (whether for electrolysis or for batteries). It will require that we build more nuclear power plants, as well as more green power sources.

    I'll address some of the specific questions in another post.

    Mike

    [One might argue that there's losses in the transmission of the electricity to the consumer to charge the batteries. But the same losses exist in transmitting the electricity to the place that generates the hydrogen. So the net is essentially a wash.]
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 07-07-2008 at 01:58 AM.
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  7. #7
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    I'm a firm believer in capitalism - someone will bring new battery technology to market - not because they want to save the planet, but because there will be one heck of a lot of money in it. Nobody is withholding anything that will turn a buck. That's not meant to sound cynical, just the facts as I see them.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Thoits View Post
    Please do And if you could also expand on why one can't generate as they go to keep the car charged.
    I have seen sail boats with wind generators topping off their batteries as they sail.
    Why couldn't there be a wind turbine built in? Or hook a generator up the wheels that aren't driving?
    Let me see if I understand your posting. I think what you're saying is that some generator will be used to charge the battery as you drive. That generator would be driven by the "wind" of the car passing through the air, or driven from the non-driving wheels.

    You could certainly stick a wind driven generator on the car and use that to drive a generator. But that wind driven generator will cause increase wind resistance for the car, which has to be overcome by additional energy to drive the car forward. The same logic applies to a generator attached to the non-driven wheels. Mechanical power must be taken from the wheels to drive the generator. That mechanical power comes from the power source for the car.

    In both cases, since the conversion systems are not 100% efficient, you get back less than you put in so both are losing propositions.

    You can use a wind turbine at home (or on a boat) to generate electricity to charge the batteries because you're taking energy from the wind (which gets its power from the sun).

    There's also the "systems" that claim to generate hydrogen in the car and inject the hydrogen into the intake system to generate power. But if you look at the system, you can see that it's a losing proposition. The electricity to do the electrolysis of the water has to come from the car's generator which takes it's power from the engine, which gets its power from the fuel. The electrolysis is maybe only 50% efficient in a car. Then an internal combustion engine is only about 20% efficient in converting the potential energy in fuel to mechanical power (the rest goes into heat). So, at best, you get 10% back for the energy you put into the hydrogen system in a car - it's a net energy loser instead of a net energy gainer. If it was a net energy gainer, you'd have a perpetual motion machine.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 07-07-2008 at 01:18 AM.
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  9. #9
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    Why aren't we following the train technology and putting a single cylinder engine with a generator in them? I understand this is a simplified version of a locomotive, but they move large tonnage using this technology. A car or truck would be excellent. Batteries to me aren't the answer, it is a generator utilizing an economical engine in tandem for conditions.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathan Shively View Post
    Why aren't we following the train technology and putting a single cylinder engine with a generator in them? I understand this is a simplified version of a locomotive, but they move large tonnage using this technology. A car or truck would be excellent. Batteries to me aren't the answer, it is a generator utilizing an economical engine in tandem for conditions.
    Actually, that concept is used in the proposed plug-in hybrids - not a single cylinder engine but a three cylinder (if I remember correctly). The engine/generator unit is optimized for generating electricity for the battery. Then power to drive the car is drawn from the battery. This allows the engine to be more efficient since it can run at an optimized speed, and only have to run at that one speed. When not needed, it shuts off.

    In many existing hybrids, the engine is used to drive the wheels, as well as charge the battery.

    Mike
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