Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Electric Cars: Inches away from the Goal

Only inches away from the goal.

So some good news on the electric car front.

It's my position that when we achieve the ability to produce an electric car more or less comparable in size and interior space to todays vehicles which can drive for 8-10 hours at a reasonable speed (say 60 miles an hour) and be fully recharged in a reasonable time (say less than an hour) then we have hit 100% substitution.

Well we're close to that goal.
Recently the German Electricity company Lekker Energie converted a full size Audi A2 without taking up the trunk (i.e. a fully functional Audi A2) to an all electric car. The battery was a high efficiency polymer battery produced by German company DBM Energy. What makes that battery special is that it can be recharged fully in less than 10 minutes.

The test driver, Mirko Hanneman took the car for a pretty chunk ride of 375 miles without recharging at a speed of 55 miles an hour. He did the ride in just under seven hours. He drove from Munich to Berlin and when he reached Berlin he drove around a little and did a few chores before re-connecting.

Now call me a techno-cornucopian or whatever other slur you want but I reckon that covers about 90% of the anti-electric-car whining I have heard over the last ten years.

I'll go further than that: I declare this to be victory. Given that the charging time is less than an hour we have de facto achieved 100% substitutability. Not every vehicle on the market is capable of driving 400 miles without having to refill the tank. I'd say, in fact, that nobody realistically drives until their tank is completely empty in practise either. Most people will stop after say three to four hours driving and take a rest-room break or eat something and while they're doing that likely top up the gas tank. In this case the same paradigm would apply: take a rest-room break and maybe eat something while the battery is being topped off.
You could effectively drive round the clock to the maximum realistic human ability, same as you can now, assuming of course the availability of charging points.
The point is, now all the hard technical R&D has been done.

All that's left now is process engineering and construction of a network of charging stations to get this down to a reasonable price (and process engineering is just the thing multi-national companies are expert at and given that multi-nationals are the ones with the money invested in this then I'd say what we're looking at is a slam-dunk).

So we can now say with some certainty that we have the technology available for the pieces to enable the current paradigm to continue.

So much for "dieoff".


FYI The photo above is the Audi A2: kind of like a small-ish SUV. Other than die-hard pickup freaks, this would be more than adequate for the average North American driver and certainly surpasses the average rest-of-world vehicle.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Buses can be cheaply and easily converted to 100% electric grid powered TODAY

The Swiss company Furrer+Frey and Germany's Schunk have developed an overhead fast charging system which is similar in design to the overhead brushes you might find in electric streetcar applications. Combined with Altair-nano lithium batteries, the batteries can be kept topped up at the end of the bus route for 5 or 6 minutes at a time. This allows the bus to run all day long off of grid electricity. Which could of course be emissions free and peak oil defying wind power.

So sorry doomers, looks like the logistics infrastructure and the mass transit infrastructure isn't collapsing any time soon. Even if significant numbers have to take the bus in the interrim if we get a hard decline (unlikely) we will still be able to get our cheap plastic trinkets from wal-mart and be able to get there by bus.

Company spokesman Opbrid CEO Roger Bedell:
"It can be installed easily in any location, since it is unobtrusive and swings away from the road when not in use. Unlike building a tram or trolleybus system, the Bůsbaar can be installed in days at a tiny fraction of the cost.

With this system, it is possible to change most of the urban bus systems in the world from petroleum to electricity simply by changing diesel buses to fast charged hybrids and installing these charging stations. We can do this now."

Anyone else notice that? It can be installed in days.
Just let that sink in for a moment and then consider exactly how few of these we'd need to install under hard-crash conditions compared to how many charging points we need to keep all electric cars running.

Dieoff? Hit the snooze button.

The full story is here:

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Yet more on algae oil : double to triple increased oil yields breakthrough

So it seems there has been yet another breakthrough. Montana State University researchers have discovered that the addition of a cheap common chemical, the oil yield of algae can be doubled and sometimes tripled. That cheap chemical is common baking soda and it needs to be dosed at a particular stage in the lifecycle of the algae. It works on both algae and diatoms.

Interesting. So if that works then we *almost* have feasible yields for this stuff.
That being true, I think we have a reasonable case to say that a viable fuel-substitute for commercial aviation fuel is gradually coming into view.

Oh and this also likely works to increase *food* yields from algae too. One has to ask the question: could the algae be gen-modded to produce *Omega-3* oil instead of diesel?

Original link is here:

Monday, 4 October 2010

First Jet flight usings 100% synthetic fuel

Though I have argued that jet flights are the one application that cannot be easily substituted out using electricity, we are not out of options.

Jet Fuel can be synthesized from natural gas, coal, biofuels or a number of other more esoteric processes.

It's likely, however, that the expense of flights will be higher than they are today because of a combination of demand and limited availability of jet-fuel compared to todays near ubiquity of the fuel.

Nevertheless, it's unlikely that jet-flights will disappear entirely because
1. We can still do it due to the ability to provide jet-fuel through alternative pathways
2. There are applications that require jets such as high-speed transatlantic (or transpacific) journeys where traveling by ship won't cut it.

In other land based use-cases, as stated elsewhere we could substitute regular rail, buses or personal electric vehicles. In applications that required fast transit times, at least in Europe and Asia there are high-speed rail links.

In any case, the coal-to-liquids application has just been demonstrated on a trial basis by SASOL of South Africa as below:

"Lanseria, Johannesburg – Sasol, the world’s leading producer of synthetic fuels from coal and natural gas, today flew the world’s first passenger aircraft exclusively using the company’s own-developed and internationally approved fully synthetic jet fuel.

The fuel, produced by Sasol’s proprietary Coal to Liquids (CTL) process, is the world’s only fully synthetic jet fuel to have received international approval as a commercial aviation turbine fuel.

Sanctioned by the global aviation fuel specification authorities the jet fuel is the first fully synthetic fuel to be approved for use in commercial airliners. This marks a significant development in the adoption of clean burning alternate fuels for the aviation industry. The engine-out emissions of Sasol’s synthetic jet fuel, are lower than those from jet fuel derived from crude oil, due to its limited sulphur content.

The historic flights, from Lanseria Airport in Gauteng to Cape Town, kicked-off Sasol’s 60th birthday celebrations, by staging a fly-past at the opening of the Africa Aerospace and Defense (AAD) 2010 exhibition at Cape Town’s Ysterplaat Air Force Base. "

Original story is here:;jsessionid=PQSDEWYJUK0WHG5N4EZSFEQ?articleTypeID=2&articleId=28500003&navid=1&rootid=1