Why I loath Top Gear. Aside from the jerk who hosts it.
Why I loath Top Gear. Aside from the jerk who hosts it.
I should know by now. Don't read the comments. Some idiot going on about how since electricity comes from coal they're no better than combustion engines. Except not all electricity is coal. Electric motors are vastly more efficient than internal combusion engines (10-20% efficient) and touting hydrogen cars as the answer. Now I have no objection to hydrogen cars, but assuming that battery technology is not going to improve while hydrogen storage is improving (still a problem) is daft.ReplyDelete
Clarkson's politics are utterly repellent.ReplyDelete
Also complaining about how electric cars are no good because there aren't enough charging stations. Somehow I don't think when the first cars were rolled out that there was a petrol station on every corner either.ReplyDelete
Speaking as a person with a degree in Automotive and Diesel technology I have seen first hand how electric cars are not the future. Please bear with me and I'll explain some things about electrics motors and batteries and about what I do see as the future and why.ReplyDelete
Electric motors are heavy...very heavy and there is no way around this at the moment. Densely wound copper wire, specially coated and very thin is what gives a motor it's power. While they do provide an extreme amount of instant torque they are not the sturdiest of components and are difficult and expensive to repair. On the other hand internal combustion engines are larger, for the same weight to horsepower and do not have instant torque like and electric. This makes them easier to control. Also they are easy to repair and less expensive to do so over all.
Batteries: Here we get into a huge can of worms and some are rotten. Yes, batteries are improving and will continue to improve but will always have some serious limitations as it's in the basic build of a battery. First you have weight, yes they are getting lighter but only with more rare elements unless there is a new breakthrough for a material that can be used then we are going to reach a cap soon. They are also toxic, toxic to build, to dispose of and heaven forbid one catches fire. The big rotten can of worms most people skip over is that the process of mining, shipping, building disposal of the batteries being put into most hybrid cars. While new studies are showing the initial process is not as bad as once thought they haven't fully disclosed the impact of the "end of life" the batteries are having and instead are just saying "recycling will reduce the impact".
Copper shortages are going to be an issue with electric cars. Copper is required for the batteries and the motors and it's something that has a large environmental impact. Sadly you can't be for electric cars and against strip mining as strip mining is how most copper is mined. Granted there is copper in your non electric car today but it's much less. There is less copper in your car than in one electric motor, a lot less.
Yes, that's a lot going against electric cars, and that's before you get the oil companies involved. Politics will come into play and as we all know the oil companies have a HUGE influence when that happens. I'll get to that in a moment.
Hydrogen, not hydrogen fuel cells but liquid hydrogen is what I see as the future. I give you a few reasons why and then one killer that will push it over the top.
First of all, it's abundant. In fact as far as we know it's the most abundant thing in the universe. Much more so than copper, aluminum, and of course fossil fuels. It's also easy to extract from ready sources.
Second, it's what our cars run on today. Before you go saying "It is not!", you need to know what your car uses for fuel. Gas and diesel are both hydro carbon fuels. Hydro as in hydrogen. Yes folks...your cars already run on hydrogen, just a crappy ass version of it. With a slight tinker to your injection system, a new computer pack, some special fuel lines, and a tank your car (the one you drive every day right now) can be converted to run on pure hydrogen. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty of environmental impact stop looking at building something new and start looking at how to make what we have green. Less mining for resources, break the "reliance on other countries" for our fuel and materials. Your car will run better, get more power and more "MPG" than it will on fossil fuels. An added bonus is that will actually clean the air. Yeah, you read that right, I said it will clean the air. It does this by burning the unburnt fuel from other vehicles. It takes the dirty air in and will actually make and exhaust gas analyzer read backwards. I've seen it happen and it freaked me the hell out. I thought the machine was broken and didn't believe it until I had tried it on multiple vehicles with multiple machines.ReplyDelete
Third and most likely the most powerful, although it shouldn't be is politics. Right now the largest producers of hydrogen are the oil companies. They produce it as an additive to gas to make it burn cleaner. These same companies have a history of buying up and stopping technology. When it no longer becomes economicly viable for them to keep wasting their current non renewable resource they will jump ship to something they already have on hand. Gas stations around the country will be retrofitted with hydrogen tanks, solar panels and water collections ports (to collect the exhaust from your car, which will be water vapor). The oil companies will now be the hydrogen companies with a sideline in petroleum products as engine lubricants, plastics, and rubber.
While electric is a nice thought it will eventually lose out. I actually look forward to the day where I can drive a hydrogen retrofitted 1955 Chevy Nomad all the from Chicago to LA on route 66. I'll have that roaring V8 in front of me and l be leaving clean air behind.
Notes; I have a degree in Automotive and Diesel technology and have worked on everything from the average car, diesel engines of all sizes including trains, dual fuel engines and have extensive experience repairing industrial electric vehicles.
One side note. We can still have that oversized monkey screaming "More power!!" with hydrogen powered internal combustion engines, for better or worse.ReplyDelete
Scott Crandall The two biggest issues with hydrogen, as far as I can tell, are:ReplyDelete
1) It is not really an energy source - it is a storage and transport mechanism, and the energy cost of storage (as opposed to generation) is quite high (I seem to recall that it is at least 5 times the stored energy. Elaine Walker may be able to provide a more accurate figure.) compared to the storage cost of electricity, or, indeed, fossil fuels. And, just like electricity, that energy has to come from somewhere.
2) The storage container is has to contain extremely high pressures, making it an accident risk. The same argument can be made for many of the high-energy density batteries, except that it possible to construct those in isolated cells, limiting the rate of energy release.
Also, there is one minor issue - a hydrogen fuelled engine will still produce some NO2 and NO - so it cannot be claimed to be completely non-polluting, although I will admit that the levels involved are much lower than in a fossil fuel engine.
Storage is not an issue. Yes it's under extreme pressure to be kept a liquid, or even a compressed gas, but the tanks are very tough. Takes a 357magnum round to penetrate and then the tank doesn't explode it just releases the hydrogen and it dissipates to gas quickly and floats away. Because of the pressure it actually isn't able to ignite. I've actually been present at testing of storage containers for propane, natural gas, and hydrogen while working on the prototype dual fuel conversion of postal vans (they decided propane was a better option at the time). Even in the presence of an open flame all were much safer than a gasoline tank. We didn't test batteries during that program but having been called to attempt repairs on electric vehicles after a fire I'd feel much safer in hydrogen powered vehicle. You also get about the same amount of range as you would with your gas powered vehicle and the ability to fuel up in a matter of minutes.ReplyDelete
Here in Arizona hydrogen can be obtained with the use of solar energy. It's possible for the average driver to create and store enough hydrogen for use of their own vehicles. It does require water but some conversion kits include a water vapor recovery system that allows you to reclaim part of the exhaust.
Yes there is some NOx emissions and occasionally some hydrocarbon from the oil used for lubrication but when compared to the amount of pollution footprint that would be created in manufacturing a whole new vehicle and considering copper supplies in the long run electric vehicles are not going to be the solution. Actually NO alternative power source is going to be THE solution. It is going to take a balanced approach taking into account more than just the fuel source but also what is going to be involved in the production of the vehicle itself.
Nice thing about hydrogen conversion is that a very large part of are transportation system could be converted to it, diesel engines do require more modifications. Everything form small generators to trains (basically an over-sized generator anyhow). In fact it can be used in any type of internal combustion engine.
It's just a shame that the production of the hydrogen is not energetically efficient. I wish it was. But the clean way - electrolysis, is fairly energy intensive. The dirty way is easier true, as a by product of petroleum refining. As for storage that still is an issue. There are various methods being trialled, sure there's compression, but you need much more energy to compress hydrogen than methane, the small molecules mean you can't treat it exactly the same way. And if you're going to convert your internal combustion engine to use it instead of petrol or LPG then you are still limited by Carnot's Law and will get 10-20% efficiency rather than the 70-80% efficiency a fuel cell has. Now I'm not discounting hydrogen powered cars. We've had a bus trial here and there were positive signs, and I know, at least before the global financial meltdown that Iceland is aiming to have hydrogen as its energy storage fuel. It can do this because it has lots and lots of geothermal and hydroelectric energy making it effective to convert the water to hydrogen and oxygen.ReplyDelete
And yes I am aware that hydrocarbons contain hydrogen. In a much easier to transport form, but with the carbon dioxide downside.
I do agree that we need a balanced approach for the future.
Whatever the pros and and cons of petrol, steam, electric and hydrogen car, can we agree that it was a reprehensible act to deliberately falsify the performance of a vehicle's capability on a popular television show?ReplyDelete