By on February 5, 2009

Reading GM’s FastLane Blog sometimes feels like watching the images generated by an underwater camera cruising through the Titanic’s sunken remains. Yes, I know, GM hasn’t cracked in two yet, never mind hit the ocean floor. But the blog’s extended periods of silence strikes this jaded journalist as, well, creepy. A sense of impending doom that’s also reflected by the editorial mix: half-assed attempts to address the key questions vexing GM’s “turnaround plan” (as bulkhead after bulkhead buckles under pressure), interspersed with exec-sourced, over-optimistic appraisals of GM’s prospects. And now, it looks like GM’s just given up, surrendering the floor to “resource analyst” Amory Lovins’ mob over at the Rocky Mountain Institute. Abundance by design™! ‘Cause austerity sucks, right?

The org’s 25-year-old Aspen-dwelling Bulldog-educated transportation consultant uses the platform (so to speak) to plug (so to speak) EV socialism (for real). Apparently, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Volt.” I said, Volt. Not Dolt. But I gotta say, I find the entire premise of Laura Schewel’s article pretty stupid.

I spend my every working (and sometimes every waking) hour trying to make the cleaner, greener promise of plug-in vehicles a reality. The barrier that keeps me up at night is not the high cost of batteries or if Smart Grid will happen. It is the fear that there simply won’t be enough plug-in vehicles soon enough to hit the greenhouse gas reduction targets we must hit. I believe that communities are the best bet for overcoming this barrier.

Consumers and automakers are in a chicken-and-egg situation: the uncertainty of consumer demand for a completely new type of vehicle makes it difficult for automakers to commit to plug-ins in significant numbers. This uncertainty, in turn, affects the building of charging infrastructure and other supporting technologies. This, in turn, creates uncertainty in consumer demand, and so on.

I don’t know about you, but I sleep better at night knowing that Laura is wide awake, helping GM add credibility to their electric/gas plug-in hybrid Hail Mary. I would however like to know exactly which greenhouse gas reduction targets “we” must hit. Kyoto? California? What? You would’ve thought GM would share my curiosity, but I guess not.

That said, you can’t blame them for sharing Ms. Schewel’s sense of urgency—assuming that GM suddenly understands what that phrase means. But who shares her sense that there’s some sort of techno-phobia re: plug ins? You use it like a normal car and plug it into a wall from time to time. The only uncertainty is how much it costs and whether or not the thing will run out of gas/juice and/or break. But Toyota’s got that sussed, one imagines. And, by extension (cord), GM. You know, eventually.

Oh, hang on. She means having lots of sockets available, right? So you can plug in at work or at the post office or something. We need a national plan! Just kidding, ’cause everybody knows that “making a comprehensive national plan will slow us down.”

Furthermore, the ingredients for plug-in success naturally vary from place to place, and a uniform U.S. approach would be a detriment to natural diversity. Of course, this community-based readiness approach should be paired with a national backbone of open plug and communications standards so that vehicles, products, and services can be operated on a national basis. The federal government should also provide funds for cities to implementing their plans.

As Mater from Cars famously opined, you hurt your what? You plug your plug-in into a socket, right?

As far as I know, I don’t need a converter for my shaver when I travel around this great nation of ours. If the plug-in electric vehicles of Toyota—I mean, tomorrow need some special big ass socket, well, let them sell me one. If an apartment complex needs a dozen or so, let them charge their tenants for the privilege of plugging in, tuning out and paying rent. If I’m at the post office needs one, forget about it. I’ll plug in when I get home. Next?

Nope. Ms. Schewel considers this one of those “stakeholder” deals. Which, to me, is the sound bite of my tax dollars flying out of my wallet.

These stakeholders [lots of bureaucrats, ‘natch] must create a coordinated, multi-year plan that makes owning a plug-in better than owning a traditional car for the first local adopters. We’re developing a long list of ways to do this. A few of my personal favorites: a “plug-in” concierge call-in service for all owners; federal and local incentives bundled at the dealer for immediate cash back; special parking spots; free electricity for your vehicle.

Didn’t the Soviet Union have a little bother with all their coordinated, multi-year plans? If I recall, they were a communist dictatorship at the time. I know the Earth is warming, but can anyone understand my gut instinct: let’s not go there?

Surprisingly, Schewel’s GM-promulgated propaganda doesn’t end there. For me the segment title “How Much is Enough?” pretty much answers itself. But for Schewel, the sky’s the limit. Or should it be “this guy’s the limit”?

President Obama’s goal of 1 million plug-ins by 2015 is not a revolution either. We need millions upon millions of plug-ins (coupled with smarter land-use planning to reduce driving, and huge investments in public transit).

Me? I need a drink.

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37 Comments on “Editorial: Volt Birth Watch 126: Gimme Some Lovins!...”


  • avatar

    A bit off topic, but this might be a good time for Red Ink Rick to grab his golden parachute and find the nearest exit before Obama puts a cap on his executive compensation as a condition for GM’s next bailout bonanza.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Once upon a time, GM was a well-run privately owned company. That GM would have either ignored such drivel or released a statement that its job was to respond to the needs of its customers, and not to government-funded dreamers. Sadly, that time has passed.

  • avatar
    Kurt.

    RF said “Me? I need a drink.”

    Me too.

    I think she brings up a good point or 2…maybe. First, a standard for plugs/recepticals – at least in the US should be adopted. I think this will eliminate confusion amongst idiots, I mean consumers and save manufacturers from developing proprietary standards then gouging consumers (ie Apple).

    Second, I don’t think the current national backbone could accept a million electric vehicles. Upgrades to infrastructure should be supported by government. That is not to say PAID for by government, but low interest government secured loans to private electric producers would not be out of the question to improve the grid as well as low interest government secured loans to private (small?) business to create the electric equivelent of a gas station.

    I not against government support but the government should never give anything away.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    For an educated woman, laura seems to have a lot of issues and misplaced beliefs. First up are these greenhouse targets, missing which will cause what? A giant blackhole to gobble the earth?

    What really stands in the way is the simple fact more energy is derived from dead dinosaurs than solar, or wind, and the resulting electrical equivalent is really high compared to a gallon of gas. We didn’t make the rules, we just have to follow them.Laura seems like a nice lady who has an impressive educational background. Maybe she should move to Tanzania and make that a better place to live.

    On an aside, where is all this cheap or free power going to come from? Not from coal or nuclear, those are evil industries that must be banished. How about billions for windmills? Not quite free energy, the maintenance and installation costs will take years to writedown while consumers pay 4-5 times as much for power.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The barrier that keeps me up at night is not the high cost of batteries or if Smart Grid will happen. It is the fear that there simply won’t be enough plug-in vehicles soon enough to hit the greenhouse gas reduction targets we must hit. I believe that communities are the best bet for overcoming this barrier

    The barrier really does exist isn’t the high cost of batteries, but their inherent suckage. Currently, pure-EV requires a big, fat compromise in functionality.

    Nope. Ms. Schewel considers this one of those “stakeholder” deals. Which, to me, is the sound bite of my tax dollars flying out of my wallet.

    Now this isn’t entirely fair. What makes boondoggle A (EVs, carbon taxes, health care) inherently more or less worthwhile than boondoggle b (prisons, wars in Iraq, the war on drugs)? Answer: None, besides your personal stance.

    If you can’t lick the battery problem (and we won’t, not for a while), the infrastructure problem becomes the only way to attack this, and the only way to encourage the growth of infrastructure is via subsidy.

    We subsidized the telephone industry, the cable TV providers and such, and yet we demand little back from them. We continue to artificially subsidize fossil fuel use by deferring or outright funding the costs of it’s use. Heck, we subsidize cars through road maintenance. The only reason no one (other than some extremely hard-core libertarians) gets their knickers in a twist about this is because we’ve already paid for it, or it’s something that a given person doesn’t find objectionable.

    Personally, I’d rather have thrown dollars at sockets on every street corner than get involved in untenable conflicts in politically unsavoury areas across the globe, and a cruise missle costs a lot more than a socket and a few kilowatts.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Hi. I am a idiot who flunked out of seminary. If you thought W was a dolt, get a load of my transcripts. Maybe he got a gentleman’s “C” but at least he graduated. I am going to tell you how to run your life because I have a Nobel Prize.

  • avatar

    GM’s dancing to the tune of the folks in power in Washington. Green is where the gov’t green is these days.

  • avatar
    70 Chevelle SS454

    I’ve actually had Bob Lutz himself spew this drivel to my face. He seemed confident, too, like his peons at GM have been too scared to comment on this “planning” garbage.

    Everyone at GM has either gone red, or they understand perfectly that their new masters in DC are left of Mao.

  • avatar
    montgomery burns

    As has already been pointed out, I’d like to know where all this green electricity is going to come from. Also the largest deposits of lithium to make all these EV batteries is in the godless, communist, Hugo Chaveze loving country of Bolivia.

    So much for relying on “people who hate us for our energy needs” argument.

  • avatar
    Engineer

    Not a good sight. It seems perfectly obvious, doesn’t it? If you drive less than 40 miles per charge, you are lugging a bunch of unnecessary weight in your Volt. If you drive more than 40 miles, you get an underpowered vehicle (how much fun is that?).

    True hybrids, meanwhile continue to give you the best of both worlds. Seems obvious which type of vehicle will sell itself and which is going to tax the system (and your wallet) as it tries to justify its existence…

    I’ve actually had Bob Lutz himself spew this drivel to my face. He seemed confident, too, like his peons at GM have been too scared to comment on this “planning” garbage.
    Good ol’ Bob! Remember the saying, hire a teenager while they still know everything? Bob’s confidence is of the same what-do-I-know variety.

    Trouble is, it seems to be spreading, especially in Wahington DC.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Ms Schewel’s ‘Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Engineering Sciences’ explains everything…..

    It’s not an Engineering degree, rather a typical liberal arts humanities degree with a marginal math skills requirement.

    Real Engineers do not have agenda’s in their titles:

    Electrical Engineer – sparks, flames and computers
    Mechanical Engineer – bend, break, and blow stuff up
    Civil Engineer – bridges, roads, and sewage lines thru recreation areas (and yes, that makes God a Civil Engineer)

  • avatar
    buzzliteyear

    I don’t know why I continue to beat my head against this particular wall, but here I go again:

    We, as a society, massively subsidize the externalities of petroleum/gasoline consumption.

    http://www.icta.org/doc/Real%20Price%20of%20Gasoline.pdf

    If petroleum/gasoline didn’t have these massive subsidies, alternative technologies like plug-in hybrids would be much more competitive.

    Until we’re willing to discuss energy options on a subsidy-neutral basis, we’re not going to be doing so rationally.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    “We subsidized the telephone industry, the cable TV providers and such, and yet we demand little back from them.”

    Well, cable and the phonecos made a huge infrastructure investment and we gave them a head start on cost recovery as an inducement for said investment. Even in my rural burb, I have three high speed alternatives for internet. I demand reliability and I have gotten it. As to land line telephone costs, a little checking will show that per-call costs have next to vanished compared to pre-Bell breakup. What more can I demand of them? (Msg to Crackberry users: your costs are your problem, not mine.)

    “We continue to artificially subsidize fossil fuel use by deferring or outright funding the costs of it’s use. Heck, we subsidize cars through road maintenance.”

    Isn’t it true that an EV would be 100% subsidized by the gas-burners? Even if we had unicorn powered transport, there is no realistic sensible way to get from local point A to local point B sans roads. What about that gas tax I keep paying the state and the Feds? Do you have hard numbers on overall road costs versus funding sources? What is the value to a non-car owner of fire/police/mail/commercial delivery access via the road system? Are they being subsidized? How you gonna get to work without roads? Want to get rid of roads – show me your Star Trek transporter.

    Lastly, licking the battery problem leaves a sour taste in my mouth – at least it did when I was a kid ;)

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “I mean consumers and save manufacturers from developing proprietary standards then gouging consumers (ie Apple).”

    The funny thing about Apple’s “gouging” is that my Apple products (I have several) are among the most satisfying products I’ve ever bought. Their systems approach provides a higher quality of ownership. Stuff that’s really good is worth paying for. YMMV…

    And, finally, since when is planning bad? To paint any planning with the “Commies did it” brush is to employ a really poor substitute for a valid argument.

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “Real Engineers do not have agenda’s in their titles:”

    Or, apparently, knowledge of grammar ;–}

  • avatar
    Potemkin

    Enough with the subsidies and government handouts. Never underestimate the greed of free enterprise. If a thing makes money they will build it. Like the infernal combustion engine when it first came on the scene the people with money will decide whether it is worth investing in and then the electric car will either take off or die.

  • avatar
    chuckR

    bunkie

    After trailblazing through the woods, you would find ‘roads’ to be a satisfying product, too.

    buzzliteyear

    Thanks for the link. I quickly scanned the pdf, but can’t comment yet, beyond a couple of obvious points. First, the need for roads is independent of vehicle propulsion source. Assigning the cost of roads to a specific fuel source is wrongheaded. Second, they have assigned a large and flabby number to environmental costs. Please show me the environmental cost of realistic alternatives. I look forward to reading their presentation, but already I’m smelling agenda….

  • avatar
    KixStart

    This is getting a surprising amount of heat over at The Ultimate GM Volt Fanboi site.

    And deservedly so… Why is GM bothering us with this crap? Why are they doing this to themselves?

    A key competitive differentiation for The Volt is the elimination of “range anxiety.” If GM successfully pushes the wider implementation of infrastructure to support BEVs, aren’t they reallyl erasing their competitive edge in RE-EVs?

    The “genius” of The Volt, if it can be said to have any at all, is that it should be 100% good to go without any infrastructure upgrades.

    GM can do more to promote an EV-friendly infrastructure by just building the damned car and getting on with it. Once people have cars with plugs, they’ll start to ask for places to plug them in. The EV-friendly apparatus will come along. Some cities and states will be particularly helpful in pioneering this (to reduce pollution) and the others will come along eventually.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Or, apparently, knowledge of grammar ;–}

    Engineers don’t need grammar or spelling. If an engineer spells something a certain way, it’s because that’s the way it should be spelled.

    Well, cable and the phonecos made a huge infrastructure investment and we gave them a head start on cost recovery as an inducement for said investment

    We handed the telcos a monopoly, we funded right-of-way, we funded development and so forth, both directly and through public research labs. We continue to allow companies to benefit from public research. In many ways (wireless spectrum licensing being the big one), the telecomm industry never really detached from the government’s teat.

    Note: I don’t mind this. My point was that if you’re against funding EV infrastructure on the grounds that it’s “your tax dollars”, you need to think about your why some things deserve “your tax dollars” and some don’t. And “because I don’t agree with it” or “Al Gore likes it” are not valid reasons.

    EVs, unlike corn ethanol, actually will solve a number of issues if the distribution issue can be overcome. I think that there’s some merit there, and I’d put my tax dollars behind it. I don’t think that throwing money at GM is necessarily the best way to do this, but enabling EVs to be practically recharged does remove a huge barrier to adoption.

    If we subscribed to the “don’t spend tax dollars on somethign that isn’t immediately, obviously revenue-positive” policy was in permanent effect, we wouldn’t have an Internet, among other things.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    Re bunkie :

    Asking for some slack here!

    I’m on the Blackberry pretending to be checking my email. Just got a little out of control with the apostrophe!

    Thank goodness I spelled everything correctly (which is unusual).

  • avatar
    chuckR

    Its not merely a matter of putting sockets on street corners or in garages. Really quick recharges move a lot of current in a short time period. You may need to consider Joule heating and Lorentz forces on the equipment along with magnetomotive/static forces on everything else, like Joe Average wearing a wristwatch or carrying a steel tool. There have been some gruesome industrial accidents caused by not respecting heavy industrial distribution panels. Perhaps some EE/gearhead could provide an assessment.

  • avatar
    yankinwaoz

    Geeze. Why does this have to be so damn complicated? I think a serious dose of KISS will will us move to an electric power based transportation system.

    (1) Electrical Generation.
    This feds can help here buy having the DOE commission a standard design small pebble bed nuclear reactor. France produces most of their electricity using standardize designs of nuclear reactors and standardized training and procedures for operations.

    The DOE can do the same for coal plants. Invite the US “clean” coal industry to put their money where their mouth is and produce an environmentally acceptable coal powered generation plan to compete with nuclear.

    Then let each community decide which standard plant they want, the nuclear or the coal, to generate their electricity.

    Each community can opt to supplement their production with green alternatives where it makes sense.

    (2) Electrical Distribution.
    The Fed can own this, and I think we need it.

    (2a) Build a DC based backbone grid for the country. If we are going to need more juice, we need a way to move it to where it is needed. Just like the feds built the Interstate Highway System, it needs to build this grid.

    (2b) The last mile distribution is left to the local power companies. They might need some money to do this. Give it to them. We rolled out cable TV to most of the country. We can do the same with power.

    (3) Standardize battery design.
    The ISO needs to create some specs for car batteries. The specs need to specify the dimensions and connection attributes.

    The idea is to create a battery industry that can compete to pack power into a standard size unit. This will allow car makers who want to use batteries to design standard places to put them. It will allow fuel stations to sell, rent, lease standard batteries. And it will allow consumers to buy batteries for their cars.

    With a standard design, you could have an all battery car where you could swap out for charged batteries at fuel stations. Or you could top off your own batteries at home/work. Or you could even carry some spares with you.

    This is similar to how you buy propane now. You swap out your cylinder for a full one at the store.

    I picture a hexagon shaped unit about 1 foot in diameter and 2-3 feet long that slides and locks into a cylinder in the car. Sort of like a big-ass “D” size battery.

    Another note: Battery may not be the best word. The “unit” can use any technology that fits, such as super capacitor, or chemical reaction. As long as it fits in the standard slot, and releases power within the defined parameters, then it should be allowed.

    Car owners could buy lower-powered cheaper units, or expensive high-power units, whatever matches their budget and needs.

    (4) Conclusion.
    Simple as that. Have the gov’t focus on the generation and distribution of large chunks of power. Have the ISO define power unit size and interface specs. Let the power industry come up with ways to pack power into units for people to consume. Let the car companies focus on building cars. And lets get this done now so that 10 years from now we can tell OPEC to go pound sand.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    The average house has a hundred amp service.

    If you take all that 100A at 240v you will get 24,000 watts.(at 10 cents killowatthour =$2.40 per hour) One HP is 746 watts so you can produce about 32 HP to charge the batteries. Now this is not going to be 100% efficient. Electric vehicles just don’t make sense as GM is finding out as they try to design the Volt.

    The niche for electric cars is small vehicles that can zipp around in town.

    Unless a major battery breahthrough is made this is not going to succeed. Why the Volt now has a gas motor. And this is the same reason electric cars died out in the early 19th century.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    yankinwaoz :
    February 5th, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Geeze. Why does this have to be so damn complicated? I think a serious dose of KISS will will us move to an electric power based transportation system.

    I think it’s a lot easier to just fill up with gasoline. I vote we keep things the way they are and if they don’t like it too bad.

  • avatar
    bluecon

    Or just drill, drill, drill.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ yankinwaoz

    Electrical energy efficiency of the future, happening right now, is going to deconstruct the massive (and extremely wasteful) interconnected grids.

    I’d invite you to check out local feed-in and combined heat/power but I think perhaps you are a nuclear fanboi and mightn’t be convinced otherwise.

  • avatar

    Just tax the carbon, and if EVs make sense they will happen. I find myself skeptical of this young lady’s going all Adlai Stevenson about communities doing this and that. I think Better Place makes more sense, and if it works, more power to it. See
    https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/does-better-place-have-a-better-plan

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    The “genius” of The Volt, if it can be said to have any at all, is that it should be 100% good to go without any infrastructure upgrades.

    Right. It’s an electric drive vehicle that delivers conventional car range, so it’s not disruptive to established habits.

    GM can do more to promote an EV-friendly infrastructure by just building the damned car and getting on with it. Once people have cars with plugs, they’ll start to ask for places to plug them in. The EV-friendly apparatus will come along. Some cities and states will be particularly helpful in pioneering this (to reduce pollution) and the others will come along eventually.

    Yes. Schewel is complicating something already engineered to be simple. If serial hybrids work anywhere close to objectives, they will be a transitional platform that take pressure off the need to solve the battery chemistry problems in a single breakthrough, and electric car support infrastructure doesn’t have to be built in a flash.

    Phil

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    The plug-in only electric is a folly unless gasoline is $20/gallon. A smart ICE and battery is the way to go. The Prius works as an urban scooter, although it’s not my cup of tea.

  • avatar
    T2

    -Pete Moran I agree. When the use of electric vehicles and V2G sytems are proposed, there is always that bigger picture that comes to mind.

    Sullenly wrote about combined heat and electrical power units (CHPs) earlier : –
    The August 2003 cascade event was an apparent series of failures of large single point power plants and circuit breaker systems.
    If we move a huge portion of electrical demand off grid to residential power units (RPUs) the number of single point generating plants AND spinning reserves AND V2G “smart” switches AND connected EVs is reduced. By as much as 1/3 total electrical consumption (DoE’s residential estimate.)

    While the need for commercial/industrial electrical demand will not decrease and can be serviced by HVDC circuits bringing distant wind and solar renewables, nuke and NG-fired plants – we can offload residential demand to NG-fueled RPUs now. A V2G component would then become a component of the residence/neighborhood providing reserve and backup services on a far smaller and less costly scale.

    The security issue is the most important. With hundreds of thousands (millions) of homes generating their own electrical power/heat via CHP – single point power outages become a non-issue. AND single point targets are minimized. Distributed power generation will always be far more secure than single point grid systems.

    from http://www.toolbase.org/Technology-Inventory/Electrical-electronics/combined-heat-power

    Since residential CHP units are very uncommon, the approval process will need to be evaluated on an individual basis and comply with local building codes. Once the CHP systems gain momentum with practical field experience, and obtain the necessary listings and certifications, the installation of CHP units should occur much like that of other energy producing systems such as PV or wind systems.

    I am not sure I favor that last statement comparing CHP to the ’boutique’ energy systems of solar PV and wind. Neither of these two options will threaten the displacement of your natural gas furnace and your electricity bill at the same time at a reasonable cost or with the payback of a CHP.

    Central Electricity Generating Boards are another example of socialising costs and privatising profits. Rate structures ensure that Residential Homeowners consuming but one third of the electricity will continue to pay two thirds of the total cost.
    T2

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ T2

    Thanks for your post. Most interesting.

    From your link;

    “Combined heat power systems are offer generating efficiency of about 90%, compared to about 30 to 40% for electricity from a central power station.”

    My employer is involved with two manufacturers who have large town sized trials in place in New Zealand and the UK right now. We’re seeing numbers easily confirming the above, but the trials still have a way to run yet unfortunately.

    We have CHP in our Frankfurt office building; it will pay for itself inside 10 years.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    PeteMoran, T2,

    I think that 90% figure includes the capture of the waste heat, presumably to be put to good use. The best power generating stations, using combined cycle, are now hitting 50% efficiency in converting the heat liberated by burning (whatever) into electricity.

    Siemens Combined Cycle Efficiency

    Note, that’s 1992.

    If you read the article, a 6KW unit also generated 10gpm of hot water. I guess I’d have to look at my power requirements but who needs that much hot water? That’s 600 gallons per hour. On even the coldest Minnesota days, I don’t think my furnace (hot water baseboard) circulates 10gpm of 160F water. On nice days it’s far, far less.

    Even if the system is sized about right for both heat and electricity needs, one or the other must be stored because demand won’t be identical, especially over seasons. It’s probably easier to store the hot water, at least for a day or two. Is there a way to use the excess heat, after power generation, to power an A/C system? That’s the thing that drives summer peak demand.

    And wind and solar can be employed in a system that’s distributed and flexible. There’s a lot to be said for both, especially in GHG abatement.

    On the other hand, I agree with you about the safety and security aspects of things like CHP. Locally produced power and a distributed, survivable, robust, diverse grid is far more critical to domestic security than confiscating toothpaste and shampoo and making you take off your shoes at the airport. The ability to generate and store a little power locally for food preservation and communications, at a minimum, is very important in disaster recovery. I have relatives up in ME and MA. Ice storms have crippled those states from time to time. Being grid-independent would mean a great deal.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    @ KixStart

    Good questions. Some of the CHP being trialed are sized at around 1.1kW electricity. The Stirling Engine designs can “throttle” to any combination of heat or electric generation without the concept of “waste” heat.

    Here’s a useful site as part of the wider trial.

    In the New Zealand trial, the units are interconnected via the internet so their activity is match to the town’s load. (They also have solar PV feed-in and wind). Their diesel gen-set plant has been retired completely. It’s really interesting stuff.

    One of the mistakes we think is being made for the US market is the emphasis on CO2. That’s fine in Europe because they’re already “believers” in AGW. In the US, the rabid naysayers/pressure-groups have been extremely successful in demonizing attempts to limit CO2. We think success roll out of these devices should be promoted on their energy saving benefits, and emphasis on that element rather than CO2 saving.

    The grid will still be necessary but it’s a much more a local proposition with solar feed in additional. Large capacity wind and massive solar thermal/wave might utilize the existing grid infrastructure for industry or base load in the case of solar thermal. It will be a transition of sorts.

    Anyway, I think our energy future is very exciting with some serious lateral thinking.

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    bluecon :

    The niche for electric cars is small vehicles that can zipp around in town.

    I agree completely. This just makes more sense; smaller, lighter cars that don’t need to travel huge distances. Get yourself an AAA membership for that odd instance where you might run out of juice. Full-size electric cars pretending to be useful are heavy, expensive and don’t have usable storage.

    Let’s just say for the sake of argument that people still used gas engines for a commute into the city or for carting 5 kids and a bunch of football equipment around town but used a small EV (car, scooter, whatever) for each stupid instance of running to the video store, grocery store, gym, bank machine and then back to the grocery store again when you realize you forgot something.

    Needing thousands of AA batteries to run a car seems like overkill and the whole EV discussion is far too hyped right now.

    If any infrastructure money is going to be spent to increase driving distances, it should go into Hydrogen instead. There are a million gas stations out there that could be converted to add Hydrogen for a quick fill up. The same couldn’t be said for pulling up to an electric pump and waiting a few hours for your next fill up.

    People will always gravitate towards convenience.

  • avatar
    T2

    -Kyle are you saying Hydrogen for the Hordes. I think not.
    Just what we need on exiting a supermart, a parking lot filled with potential Hindenbergs !

    Gasoline is dangerous enough but perhaps the Challenger malfunction wasn’t a good enough example with some people.

    Gasoline is still the energy storage medium of choice, heck they don’t even trust that you can fill your own BBQ tank.

    That said, many people could get by with a street legal golf cart but equipped with an electronic inverter and an AC motor, in place of the ten dollar foot switch and resistor combination, for those local trips. Of course they still wouldn’t be suitable for major interstate highways but that is not a necessity for many drivers.
    T2

  • avatar
    Kyle Schellenberg

    I’m not a proponent of Hydrogen, I don’t really know a thing about it, but I agree in theory it doesn’t sound completely safe.

    What I meant by infrastructure spending was that the environmentalists have the government by the balls, but spending money to generate ‘plug-in stations’ and ramping up the grid just because everyone is convinced that electric is the way of the future seems like a waste to me. People should expect to only charge their electric cars overnight at home but if they want to travel longer distances and still be labeled ‘green’, then Hydrogen seems like the better option.

    I’m sure if a Honda FCX Clarify had blown up like the Hindenburg, we’d have heard about it by now.

    Even hybrids make more sense than primary electric drive cars.

  • avatar
    T2

    Let me attempt to end this thread on subject.

    In my understanding Amory Lovins was a proponent for the Hyper car. The car would be made of composite materials where lightness is king. He was attributed the statement that you can no more expect to make an efficient car from steel than make a successful airplane from cast iron.

    In that regard the Hyper Car type of vehicle wouldn’t mix with the GM philosophy of every platform needing the abiliity to support a drop-in V8, particularly as the VOLT hybrid continues the tradition by dropping in a massive 16Kw-hr battery pack this time around.

    I am therefore surprised to learn that the Rocky Mountain Institute has changed their direction to heavier machinery. Series hybrids with 16kwh-hr batteries make little sense in engineering terms.

    There is a niche for an electric vehicle with a hundred mile range. How broad this niche will be depends on the perceived “range anxiety”. The range potential can always be increased by “Park and Ride” or a Daily rental as required.

    The series hybrid with no battery or ‘Virtual Battery’ technology, as I refer to it, makes a lot of sense when you crunch the numbers. Of course a guy like Lutz who is not technically literate and likes to play around with Halo cars instead is not going to see that. GM needs to get a real powertrain engineer in that position.

    That the official RMI stance also embraces plug-ins infers to me that their interest in the Hyper concept is fading. Pity, since Fiat is introducing two-cylinder engines for the Panda, one version of which, in turbo trim, produces 105Hp.
    T2

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