February 1, 2007 4:00 AM PST

FAQ: Guide to alternative fuels

(continued from previous page)

5. Hybrid cars

What: Toyota scored big with the Prius, which runs on an electric motor and a gas motor: in the city, it mostly runs on electric, but switches to gas on the freeway. General Motors wants to cut the use of gas further with its Volt. In the Volt, which could be ready in two or three years, the gas motor doesn't run the car. Instead, it exists to recharge the battery. In the end that leads to less fuel consumption. Ford, meanwhile, is touting the Edge, an SUV in which a hydrogen fuel cell recharges the battery. The battery in the Edge also gets charged by plugging into a wall.

Similarly, several small companies have touted plug-in hybrids. These are similar to the Prius, but the battery for running the electric motor can be recharged through a plug.

Pros: The less the gas motor gets used, the greater the gas mileage and the lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Ford has also minimized the tasks for the hydrogen fuel cell so you won't have to worry about refilling it too much, especially if you charge the battery.

Cons: None that are too big. The public clearly likes hybrids. Still, Toyota has been the big success story here. It is unclear how well GM and Ford will do. Also, questions remain on whether the public really will buy hybrid SUVs and sedans. SUV customers tend to look at features beyond fuel efficiency, but the data isn't conclusive yet.

6. Electric cars

What: Better batteries are allowing car manufacturers to run cars wholly on electricity. Tesla Motors, Think Global and Wrightspeed are marketing all-electric sports cars and economy cars. Zap says it will do a mid-size sedan. Some companies are selling electric scooters and rickshaws into India.

Pros: The more a vehicle runs on electricity, generally the less pollution it creates. An all-electric car produces no tailpipe emissions. Emissions are created indirectly because the power plants that charge the batteries in these cars often run on coal. But in most cases, you see a big reduction in greenhouse emissions. Battery makers like Altair Nanotechnologies and Valence Technology hope to score big.

The mileage is fairly astounding; it only costs a few cents per mile to run an electric car. Tesla and Wrightspeed have also shown that electrics can hang with Ferraris and Porsches.

Cons: The range. Most of these cars can only go 100 to 200 miles before they need a recharge, although Zap says its car will go 350 miles. Forget conspiracy theories: earlier electric cars died out because they didn't get very far and had ornate charging procedures, say execs at Toyota, and even electric car advocates. Batteries also cost a lot of money. Building an all-electric car like a Honda Accord today would probably cost you $20,000 or more in batteries, says Ian Wright, founder of Wrightspeed. Progress is occurring and sales are growing, but it will take time to improve the battery technology.

7. Gas to Fuel

What: Shell and ExxonMobil are ramping up production of a fuel in Qatar called Gas-to-Liquids that's derived from natural gas. It significantly reduces the sulfur, carbon monoxide and other pollutants that belch from car tailpipes. And although more costly than regular gas, it should help crimp the air pollution in places like Los Angeles, or in New Delhi, where diesel buses are banned. GTL is made through a variation of the Fischer-Tropsch process invented nearly a century ago for turning coal into gas. (Irwin Rommel, the German field marshal in World War II, drove across North Africa on coal turned to liquid).

Pros: Instead of starting with coal, the GTL process begins with synthetic gas created in an industrial plant. The synthetic gas derives from natural gas--which is far cleaner than coal--and other materials. You can actually drink it. Food producers use a kosher-approved GTL derivative used to line juice boxes. It goes straight into diesel buses and cars. It's on sale in select stations in Europe and Asia.

Cons: It's expensive. A gallon of GTL takes an inordinate amount of natural gas. The oil companies are mostly only making GTL out of oil fields that are too expensive or difficult to connect to pipelines. While GTL is already being sold in select stations in Europe, it will mostly pop up in polluted megacities.

8. Compressed Natural Gas

What: A barbeque on wheels. CNG cars and buses run on methane, which pollutes less than regular gas. They've been around for years and can be seen at the airport all the time. Researchers at the University of Bath, however, are working on sportier models.

Pros: They've been around for years. Hence, there aren't technological problems to work out. The world's supply of natural gas is also fairly good. CNG taxis and buses are popular in places like Dubai because the oil fields are close by, according to Richard Steele, CEO of AFV Solutions, which makes CNG and hybrid-diesel buses.

China is eyeing more CNG cars, according to Barbara Finamore, director of the National Resources Defense Council's China Clean Energy Program. They want to clean up for the Beijing Olympics and "biofuels are not a good bet here" because crops can compete with food, she said.

Cons: Natural gas isn't renewable and, even though it's cleaner than regular gas, it's still a fossil fuel.

9. Hydrogen

What: For years, hydrogen was widely considered to be the fuel of the future. In hydrogen fuel cell cars, hydrogen and oxygen are mixed in a fuel cell. The resulting chemical reaction produces electrons, which power a battery in the car, and water vapor. There is no pollution created in the reaction. Toyota and Ford have talked about bringing out hydrogen cars in 2015 or 2020.

Pros: It will be nearly impossible to run out of hydrogen in the universe. The prototype cars have also continued to improve. Some hydrogen prototypes can run at over 100 miles per gallon. Engineers are also figuring out ways to store the compressed gas so hydrogen cars can still have a trunk.

Cons: Although the car doesn't belch pollution, making hydrogen typically produces large amounts of carbon dioxide at the factory. To make hydrogen, most producers combine methane with water and heat up the mix to 815 degrees Celsius, which produces 9.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen. Hydrogen is also expensive to make, store and transport. You can't send it down regular pipelines. Then there is that problem of building hydrogen filling stations.

Competitors aren't scared.

"Hydrogen is hopeless," said Martin Eberhard, CEO of Tesla.

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81 comments

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Add your comment
Biofuels in general
If biofuels are ever developed into desirable replacements for
petroleum, what is to prevent a competition between food and
fuel crops? Just because switchgrass grows where food crops
don't doesn't mean that it, or some other fuel crop, can't be
grown where food crops can. Do we really want to find out how
expensive food can become if energy crops, which as you say
take tremendous amounts of land per unit energy, become
attractive to farmers?
Poo-troleum sounds better, but how much fuel can be produced
this way? From numbers I looked up on the internet, it seems
that the production from 33 million acres of poo ponds would
be required to replace the 22 million barrels of oil we use per
day. That's a bit larger than 1 percent of the land area of the U.S.
Seems doable, but is there enough poo to fill the ponds?
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Switch grass and other grasses
I think the switchgrass idea would be good for the off years where farmers rotate their crops to let the land rest. But I am not sure how much switchgrass pulls from the soil... probably less than corn though.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
Link Flag
Biofuels in general
If biofuels are ever developed into desirable replacements for
petroleum, what is to prevent a competition between food and
fuel crops? Just because switchgrass grows where food crops
don't doesn't mean that it, or some other fuel crop, can't be
grown where food crops can. Do we really want to find out how
expensive food can become if energy crops, which as you say
take tremendous amounts of land per unit energy, become
attractive to farmers?
Poo-troleum sounds better, but how much fuel can be produced
this way? From numbers I looked up on the internet, it seems
that the production from 33 million acres of poo ponds would
be required to replace the 22 million barrels of oil we use per
day. That's a bit larger than 1 percent of the land area of the U.S.
Seems doable, but is there enough poo to fill the ponds?
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Switch grass and other grasses
I think the switchgrass idea would be good for the off years where farmers rotate their crops to let the land rest. But I am not sure how much switchgrass pulls from the soil... probably less than corn though.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
Link Flag
Source of energy is important
Interesting article but I think it only skims the surface.
Taken as a whole I believe electric cars can meet most peoples needs. How often do you actually have to drive over 100 miles in one go ? I expect like me it is probably one maybe twice a year.
But, what we need to look at is the source of electricity. If it is still from oil/coal burning power plants then we are just moving the carbon emissions.
For this reason I believe that alternative fuels only work when the product process is factored in. For electricity we need to crack wind/solar/wave/?
Then the source of electricity will be greener and the affect will be overall less pollution.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Long drives
I am one of those over 100 miles guys. I am in Arkansas and regularly need to drive over 100 miles in one go... or at least 50 there and then turn right around and drive back (with not enough time to "recharge").

I like the concept of the Cellulosic Ethanol. I saw a show on History channel (might have been TLC ro Discovery) the other day. And this stuff is can be created from the left over stalks from food crops (stuff that is normally just burned off). they are also looking at creating it from wild grasses.

The only downside I see to that concept (which also applies to standard ethanol and the biodiesel is that if we continually take away all the stalks and crops from the land without putting those nutrients back in... we will end up with fields that can no longer grow crops. It is the same thing that happened years back before the concept of rotating crops and fields took hold.

If this is the future fuels are crop or crop byproduct based... the US will have to put more emphasis on farms and farmers.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
Link Flag
Source of energy is important
Interesting article but I think it only skims the surface.
Taken as a whole I believe electric cars can meet most peoples needs. How often do you actually have to drive over 100 miles in one go ? I expect like me it is probably one maybe twice a year.
But, what we need to look at is the source of electricity. If it is still from oil/coal burning power plants then we are just moving the carbon emissions.
For this reason I believe that alternative fuels only work when the product process is factored in. For electricity we need to crack wind/solar/wave/?
Then the source of electricity will be greener and the affect will be overall less pollution.
Posted by ahickey (177 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Long drives
I am one of those over 100 miles guys. I am in Arkansas and regularly need to drive over 100 miles in one go... or at least 50 there and then turn right around and drive back (with not enough time to "recharge").

I like the concept of the Cellulosic Ethanol. I saw a show on History channel (might have been TLC ro Discovery) the other day. And this stuff is can be created from the left over stalks from food crops (stuff that is normally just burned off). they are also looking at creating it from wild grasses.

The only downside I see to that concept (which also applies to standard ethanol and the biodiesel is that if we continually take away all the stalks and crops from the land without putting those nutrients back in... we will end up with fields that can no longer grow crops. It is the same thing that happened years back before the concept of rotating crops and fields took hold.

If this is the future fuels are crop or crop byproduct based... the US will have to put more emphasis on farms and farmers.
Posted by arluthier (112 comments )
Link Flag
future
new fuel is our future

-----
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mortgage.emigrantas.com" target="_newWindow">http://mortgage.emigrantas.com</a> - all info about mortgages
Posted by darix2005 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
future
new fuel is our future

-----
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://mortgage.emigrantas.com" target="_newWindow">http://mortgage.emigrantas.com</a> - all info about mortgages
Posted by darix2005 (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Question about Hybrids?
With hybrids becoming more popular, it seems to me that are
just shifting the energy consumption from one bad source to
another. As an example if you charge you car's batteries with
household electricity, you are increasing the consumption of
Coal (to some degree) to generate that increase electricity usage.
Using Einstein's famous equation ( energy can not be created or
destroyed ) then it seems to me that a true hybrid should
substitute a true clean energy source for gasoline. An example (
although not practical ) would be a an electric car that could
recharge its batteries with solar panels built in to the body of the
car, and/or using solar panels at home to recharge it's batteries
when we are not using the car.
Posted by redison (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you misunderstand hybrids
Hybrids don't get their electricity from the power grid, like pure electric cars, they generate their own. They do this every time the car is braking, by using the electric motor/generator to generate electricity as part of the braking force. They also generate electricity when driving at constant speed when the gas engine is at its most efficient.

However, they still have the problem of batteries that are very expensive and contain nasty chemicals that present other environmental risks. They may burn less gas, but dollar for dollar they really don't save any money.
Posted by lschweiss (9 comments )
Link Flag
Errors
First, the law of conservation of energy is not Einsteins, it is a much older law that's been accepted by physicists for centuries.
Second, while it is true that an electric car (not a hybrid) moves generation from one place to another, not all sources are equally efficient. A large clean coal generator can be five times as efficient as an average gas car (and fivefold is already a HUGHE difference). But other energy generation methods are even more efficient and have lower environmental impact.
Finally, you can feed an electric car with energy generated in house, wether it's solar or wind power (the sun energy falling over the surface of a car, even with perfect efficiency, is not enough to run any decent car), so you get a car that's 100% clean.
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag
Question about Hybrids?
With hybrids becoming more popular, it seems to me that are
just shifting the energy consumption from one bad source to
another. As an example if you charge you car's batteries with
household electricity, you are increasing the consumption of
Coal (to some degree) to generate that increase electricity usage.
Using Einstein's famous equation ( energy can not be created or
destroyed ) then it seems to me that a true hybrid should
substitute a true clean energy source for gasoline. An example (
although not practical ) would be a an electric car that could
recharge its batteries with solar panels built in to the body of the
car, and/or using solar panels at home to recharge it's batteries
when we are not using the car.
Posted by redison (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think you misunderstand hybrids
Hybrids don't get their electricity from the power grid, like pure electric cars, they generate their own. They do this every time the car is braking, by using the electric motor/generator to generate electricity as part of the braking force. They also generate electricity when driving at constant speed when the gas engine is at its most efficient.

However, they still have the problem of batteries that are very expensive and contain nasty chemicals that present other environmental risks. They may burn less gas, but dollar for dollar they really don't save any money.
Posted by lschweiss (9 comments )
Link Flag
Errors
First, the law of conservation of energy is not Einsteins, it is a much older law that's been accepted by physicists for centuries.
Second, while it is true that an electric car (not a hybrid) moves generation from one place to another, not all sources are equally efficient. A large clean coal generator can be five times as efficient as an average gas car (and fivefold is already a HUGHE difference). But other energy generation methods are even more efficient and have lower environmental impact.
Finally, you can feed an electric car with energy generated in house, wether it's solar or wind power (the sun energy falling over the surface of a car, even with perfect efficiency, is not enough to run any decent car), so you get a car that's 100% clean.
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag
another problem with ethanol
um - you forgot that it's nearly impossible to get ethanol anywhere. That's a major roadblock in any of the alternative fuels - where are people going to fill'er up? The government needs to spend a little cash in setting up a widescale fueling infrastructure to make these fuels accessible (should these fuels come to market).
Posted by astodg (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
another problem with ethanol
um - you forgot that it's nearly impossible to get ethanol anywhere. That's a major roadblock in any of the alternative fuels - where are people going to fill'er up? The government needs to spend a little cash in setting up a widescale fueling infrastructure to make these fuels accessible (should these fuels come to market).
Posted by astodg (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oil isn't from Dinosaurs and plant matter
yikes! CNET gets it wrong. Oil was originally thought to come from dinosaurs because oil was found near bones. Geologists have a theory but there is no real sound evidence that explains where oil comes from. We know that there is oil in places that dinosaurs never were and under huge slabs of granite. New theories spout the abiotic theory that the earth creates oil. Regardless, we might NEVER run out oil. At this time, WE ARE AWASH in oil. The only reason gas is high because of regulation (different blends-adding ethanol increases gas prices), taxes, and refinery bottle necks.
Posted by floppydik (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmmm....
Do not underestimate your fellow humans ability to consume resources at an exponentially increasing rate. The earth may never quit producing oil, but our consumption rate could definitely exceed it's production rate.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Ah abiotic oil
Someone always brings that up. It's also known as "oil creationism" as in "we want oil to be 'renewable' so it is because we say so"

Explain why the United States had its maximum oil production in 1970, and with the greatest number of oil wells, expertise, transparency and technology in the world, has not been able to increase production ...
Posted by Clouseau2 (329 comments )
Link Flag
Oil isn't from Dinosaurs and plant matter
yikes! CNET gets it wrong. Oil was originally thought to come from dinosaurs because oil was found near bones. Geologists have a theory but there is no real sound evidence that explains where oil comes from. We know that there is oil in places that dinosaurs never were and under huge slabs of granite. New theories spout the abiotic theory that the earth creates oil. Regardless, we might NEVER run out oil. At this time, WE ARE AWASH in oil. The only reason gas is high because of regulation (different blends-adding ethanol increases gas prices), taxes, and refinery bottle necks.
Posted by floppydik (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hmmm....
Do not underestimate your fellow humans ability to consume resources at an exponentially increasing rate. The earth may never quit producing oil, but our consumption rate could definitely exceed it's production rate.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Ah abiotic oil
Someone always brings that up. It's also known as "oil creationism" as in "we want oil to be 'renewable' so it is because we say so"

Explain why the United States had its maximum oil production in 1970, and with the greatest number of oil wells, expertise, transparency and technology in the world, has not been able to increase production ...
Posted by Clouseau2 (329 comments )
Link Flag
I know this may scare a few people but their is one alt fuel not discussed.
Nuclear energy vehicles have been designed that would require very little material that could actually be transfered from car to car and that had little if no nuclear waste and yet were as safe as other cars.

I mean if we ever got over the stigma of the word nuclear this could be a real option.

If fact from what I have read the main Con would be in securing the material so it could not be removed by terrorist.

We might even be able to use nuclear waste material we are having trouble getting rid of now.

The vehicle I read about had pretty much no chance of contamination in an accident.

It seemed to actually be much more sound than anything else.

Let's not let our fear of this type of energy let us rule it out. We should be very sure it has low risk but it really is an option.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd be for it, but...
The politics would be intractable. Are you talking about a
radioisotope thermal generator? Once upon a time, pacemaker
batteries using that technology were developed and built, but I
don't know if any were used for that purpose. They did make dandy
calibration standards for neutron measurement systems, though.
Which of course means that they emitted neutrons. Which of course
would freak a lot of people out.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Bad idea IMO
Anytime you put something into a car you have to consider wrecks, explosions, etc. If we put radioactive material into a car, now we run the risk of a radioactive wreck site. I'd much rather see us go with electric cars and put a big central nuclear power plant somewhere.... like in the desserts of Nevada.... or a mile underground somewhere.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
I know this may scare a few people but their is one alt fuel not discussed.
Nuclear energy vehicles have been designed that would require very little material that could actually be transfered from car to car and that had little if no nuclear waste and yet were as safe as other cars.

I mean if we ever got over the stigma of the word nuclear this could be a real option.

If fact from what I have read the main Con would be in securing the material so it could not be removed by terrorist.

We might even be able to use nuclear waste material we are having trouble getting rid of now.

The vehicle I read about had pretty much no chance of contamination in an accident.

It seemed to actually be much more sound than anything else.

Let's not let our fear of this type of energy let us rule it out. We should be very sure it has low risk but it really is an option.
Posted by slim-1 (229 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'd be for it, but...
The politics would be intractable. Are you talking about a
radioisotope thermal generator? Once upon a time, pacemaker
batteries using that technology were developed and built, but I
don't know if any were used for that purpose. They did make dandy
calibration standards for neutron measurement systems, though.
Which of course means that they emitted neutrons. Which of course
would freak a lot of people out.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Bad idea IMO
Anytime you put something into a car you have to consider wrecks, explosions, etc. If we put radioactive material into a car, now we run the risk of a radioactive wreck site. I'd much rather see us go with electric cars and put a big central nuclear power plant somewhere.... like in the desserts of Nevada.... or a mile underground somewhere.
Posted by drfrost (467 comments )
Link Flag
Air-pressure Powered vehicles...
I mean, why isn't this something that manufacturers are looking into. You fill your car with pressurized air, and while you drive the air that enters the grill of your car also gets pressurized.

Of course it would be clean, and wouldn't require any farming, or labs. Seems like a cheap/clean alternative to me.
Posted by nyte3k (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, it's energy storage, at least...
The only question is how much energy for how much weight of the
tanks to store the compressed air. As for taking advantage of the
air entering the grill becoming pressurized, it will, but even at
mach 1 the pressure gain would only be about a factor of 1.9 over
atmospheric. That's why ramjets are only used above mach 2 or so.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Requires large amounts of energy to compress air
It requires more than just the ram effect of a vehicle driving to compress air more than just a couple of PSI. Any restriction in the grill would negate any gain. And to compress air it will take a lot of power and space to store the amount that would be needed to drive for any reasonable distance.
Posted by srwitt (4 comments )
Link Flag
Great Idea!
How about a wind-generator on the roof to charge the batteries on a hybrid vehicle?
Posted by pike49 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Air-pressure Powered vehicles...
I mean, why isn't this something that manufacturers are looking into. You fill your car with pressurized air, and while you drive the air that enters the grill of your car also gets pressurized.

Of course it would be clean, and wouldn't require any farming, or labs. Seems like a cheap/clean alternative to me.
Posted by nyte3k (19 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Well, it's energy storage, at least...
The only question is how much energy for how much weight of the
tanks to store the compressed air. As for taking advantage of the
air entering the grill becoming pressurized, it will, but even at
mach 1 the pressure gain would only be about a factor of 1.9 over
atmospheric. That's why ramjets are only used above mach 2 or so.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Requires large amounts of energy to compress air
It requires more than just the ram effect of a vehicle driving to compress air more than just a couple of PSI. Any restriction in the grill would negate any gain. And to compress air it will take a lot of power and space to store the amount that would be needed to drive for any reasonable distance.
Posted by srwitt (4 comments )
Link Flag
Great Idea!
How about a wind-generator on the roof to charge the batteries on a hybrid vehicle?
Posted by pike49 (2 comments )
Link Flag
ethanol from grain is a bad joke
Ethanol from grain is a bad joke. You get less energy per gallon that it takes to produce it!. An honest farmer (I come from the farm) will tell you that is ridiculous boondoggle. Heck, compare your gas mileage between the summer and winter blends. It is a wonderful way for large ag companies (think ADM) and for the petroleum distribution companies to make money. Everybody else loses.
Posted by bbahnmiller (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
ethanol from grain is a bad joke
Ethanol from grain is a bad joke. You get less energy per gallon that it takes to produce it!. An honest farmer (I come from the farm) will tell you that is ridiculous boondoggle. Heck, compare your gas mileage between the summer and winter blends. It is a wonderful way for large ag companies (think ADM) and for the petroleum distribution companies to make money. Everybody else loses.
Posted by bbahnmiller (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
A whole lot of Quibbles
Firstly, I doubt whether Nuclear power will be used in cars for a
long time at least. I'm certainly not afraid of Nuclear power, but
plenty of people are. Instead, I think we should be putting more
effort in research towards nuclear fusion. The world has an
almost limitless supply of hydrogen in the world's oceans. The
only drawback of Nuclear fusion is that it is very difficult to
accomplish, as it requires insanely hot temperatures, at least in
the hundreds of millions. However it is completely
environmentally friendly, with zero radioactive products. If you
ran one of hydrogen from seawater, you would only get
electricity, oxygen, useful helium product and some similarly
useful excess hydrogen, perfect for running cars. Of course a
small portion of the electricity generated would be used to
sustain the fusion process and electrolyse the desalinated water.
Almost unlimited amounts of extremely cheap energy, and
hence almost unlimited amounts of extremely cheap hydrogen
(and desalinated water for all us drought affected Aussie
readers).

There are two problems with compressed air. One is it is
outstandingly inefficient, and therefore any car would have a
shockingly short range. Also the concept of using the
compressed air at the front of the car to top up the tanks
violates half a dozen fundamental physics principles, the most
important being you can't get energy for free, or at least not in
that way. Ramjets don't need air compressors, but they still need
fuel.

Lastly, it is always better to take enrgy from the powerpoint than
to make it in your car. Petrol engines are only about 8% or
something efficient. Full power stations have the money and the
space to employ methods of power generation that are much,
much more efficient, therefore more power is produced in
relation to carbon dioxide in a power station than a car, whether
it's a gas guzzler or a Prius.
Posted by Erasmus_Dave (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fusion would be great..
If you are talking about H-H fusion, like the sun uses, that is
very far away indeed. Needs temperatures much higher than D-T
(deuterium-tritium) fusion, and we haven't really accomplished
that yet. And of course, as you probably know, D-T fusion
produces energetic neutrons that would activate a lot of the
structure, which would have to be periodically replaced, creating
radioactive waste.

Plus, all those neutrons are not needed to sustain the reaction,
so they could be used to surreptitiously produce plutonium by
introducing natural uranium into the neutron field, close to but
outside of the reaction chamber.

D-T fusion would have important advantages, but it would not
be problem free.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
A whole lot of Quibbles
Firstly, I doubt whether Nuclear power will be used in cars for a
long time at least. I'm certainly not afraid of Nuclear power, but
plenty of people are. Instead, I think we should be putting more
effort in research towards nuclear fusion. The world has an
almost limitless supply of hydrogen in the world's oceans. The
only drawback of Nuclear fusion is that it is very difficult to
accomplish, as it requires insanely hot temperatures, at least in
the hundreds of millions. However it is completely
environmentally friendly, with zero radioactive products. If you
ran one of hydrogen from seawater, you would only get
electricity, oxygen, useful helium product and some similarly
useful excess hydrogen, perfect for running cars. Of course a
small portion of the electricity generated would be used to
sustain the fusion process and electrolyse the desalinated water.
Almost unlimited amounts of extremely cheap energy, and
hence almost unlimited amounts of extremely cheap hydrogen
(and desalinated water for all us drought affected Aussie
readers).

There are two problems with compressed air. One is it is
outstandingly inefficient, and therefore any car would have a
shockingly short range. Also the concept of using the
compressed air at the front of the car to top up the tanks
violates half a dozen fundamental physics principles, the most
important being you can't get energy for free, or at least not in
that way. Ramjets don't need air compressors, but they still need
fuel.

Lastly, it is always better to take enrgy from the powerpoint than
to make it in your car. Petrol engines are only about 8% or
something efficient. Full power stations have the money and the
space to employ methods of power generation that are much,
much more efficient, therefore more power is produced in
relation to carbon dioxide in a power station than a car, whether
it's a gas guzzler or a Prius.
Posted by Erasmus_Dave (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Fusion would be great..
If you are talking about H-H fusion, like the sun uses, that is
very far away indeed. Needs temperatures much higher than D-T
(deuterium-tritium) fusion, and we haven't really accomplished
that yet. And of course, as you probably know, D-T fusion
produces energetic neutrons that would activate a lot of the
structure, which would have to be periodically replaced, creating
radioactive waste.

Plus, all those neutrons are not needed to sustain the reaction,
so they could be used to surreptitiously produce plutonium by
introducing natural uranium into the neutron field, close to but
outside of the reaction chamber.

D-T fusion would have important advantages, but it would not
be problem free.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Where oil comes from
oil comes from plants and animals. it doesn't exist without them. Astroids don't have any oil unless a plant or an animal was their to combine the raw materials to create it. While we're on misconceptions, how about the oxygen in the air. from trees and plants. Half right. from algae.
the water covers approximately 71% of the earth and algae grows on top of most of it. A tree shades its own leaves as well as grass. the conversion of CO2 to O2 works in sunlight. the more sunlight the more conversion as long as the other materials to make the conversion are there. Our oceans are are real treasure. There is more oil and everything else man might need at the bottom of the ocean than man has plundered in his entire existance. and most life starts with algae and plankton. We should be farming it. whatever man could remove would be replaced with in 24 hours.
Posted by Paninteas (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Where oil comes from
oil comes from plants and animals. it doesn't exist without them. Astroids don't have any oil unless a plant or an animal was their to combine the raw materials to create it. While we're on misconceptions, how about the oxygen in the air. from trees and plants. Half right. from algae.
the water covers approximately 71% of the earth and algae grows on top of most of it. A tree shades its own leaves as well as grass. the conversion of CO2 to O2 works in sunlight. the more sunlight the more conversion as long as the other materials to make the conversion are there. Our oceans are are real treasure. There is more oil and everything else man might need at the bottom of the ocean than man has plundered in his entire existance. and most life starts with algae and plankton. We should be farming it. whatever man could remove would be replaced with in 24 hours.
Posted by Paninteas (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
alternative fuels produced locally
would it be cheaper if major cities or states had their own fuel producing plants using one or more of the alternatives that work just for their area.
Say a city that is self supportive as far as fuel.

Just an idea please talk back tell me what you think.
Posted by 38prime (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How many kinds?
How many different types of fuel would there be? If transports
(dare I say cars...) wanted to travel among various cities, would
they have to be able to use, oh, I don't know, 25 different kinds
of fuel?

Not to be too picky, but I don't think there has been one kind of
alternative fuel produced yet, in the sense that a usefully
positive energy balance has been achieved. So far, everything
has been leveraged off of oil, which is pretty much free energy
lying around for the taking, from an energy balance standpoint,
as distinct from a financial standpoint.

If you had to burn ethanol to make ethanol, you'd only be able
to use a very modest percentage of the product for uses other
than making it. With oil, its pretty much the other way around-
you use a modest percentage of its energy to get it out of the
ground, process it, and transport it to the point of use.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
alternative fuels produced locally
would it be cheaper if major cities or states had their own fuel producing plants using one or more of the alternatives that work just for their area.
Say a city that is self supportive as far as fuel.

Just an idea please talk back tell me what you think.
Posted by 38prime (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How many kinds?
How many different types of fuel would there be? If transports
(dare I say cars...) wanted to travel among various cities, would
they have to be able to use, oh, I don't know, 25 different kinds
of fuel?

Not to be too picky, but I don't think there has been one kind of
alternative fuel produced yet, in the sense that a usefully
positive energy balance has been achieved. So far, everything
has been leveraged off of oil, which is pretty much free energy
lying around for the taking, from an energy balance standpoint,
as distinct from a financial standpoint.

If you had to burn ethanol to make ethanol, you'd only be able
to use a very modest percentage of the product for uses other
than making it. With oil, its pretty much the other way around-
you use a modest percentage of its energy to get it out of the
ground, process it, and transport it to the point of use.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
Who's in charge?
If oil drops below ~$55/barrel then alternatives become more attractive. But who sets that price? It seems to me as more advances are made on alternatives the oil price drops. Is this a coincidence? It seems designed (I hope I'm not paranoid on this) to discourage alternatives. If this is so, what if the goverment put an increasing tax on oil. That would drive the price up and then cause the oil companies to drop their price or else face the inceasing attractiveness of alternatives and thus the loss of their revenues. Does this make any sense to anyone?
Just a thought.
Posted by spothannah (145 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sounds backwards...
Alternatives are more expensive than oil, so when oil drops below
some price level (I have heard around $55), the alternatives tend to
be ignored again. So the price of oil needs to stay up to get
alternatives going.
Posted by billmosby (536 comments )
Link Flag
 

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