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Guest Post: The Future Of Transportation: It’s A Relay Race…Not A Marathon

Tyler Durden's picture


Submitted by Sabre

The Future of transportation: It’s a relay race…not a marathon

In 2007, Shai Agassi starting a company called Better Place. The concept behind it was changing out batteries that power a car, instead of filling your car with gasoline. Shai Agassi looked at the problem correctly. He saw transportation fuel as a never ending relay race. But what if there was a technology that could do the same thing, without changing out the battery?

Let’s start with the problem. Gasoline is a finite resource but it provides a vehicle an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) limited only by the size of the vehicle’s tank.  The focus of scientists and engineers today is to develop a battery that can compete with gasoline as the vehicle’s fuel source. As I hope to show, that is proving to be a near impossible task.

Examine the Chevy Volt. The battery pack in the Chevy Volt weighs about 400 pounds. Running the Volt on the battery pack alone gives you between 25 to 50 miles of range after every six to eight hours of charging time. Once the battery pack is depleted, the gasoline engine kicks in (yes, the Volt has a gasoline engine).

What about hybrids like the Prius? This is where I will focus on the shortcomings of lithium ion.
The battery packs in the likes of a Prius are designed for longevity. Hybrid batteries use in the neighborhood of 15%-20% of their available power, as the batteries simply cannot handle deep discharges without dramatically reducing the life of the battery. So, a system of electronics is set-up in a hybrid to manage the amount of charge in the pack at all times.

This is where battery chemistry kicks in and it is not good. If only 15-20% of the battery power is available, batteries would still be acceptable if they could re-charge quickly. They cannot. Batteries have a fixed rate charge capability. If that limit is pushed, then the life of the battery decreases. Furthermore, batteries trickle charge the last 20% or so of their capacity, making them even more problematic, as that is the part that vehicles use for power to maintain longevity of the battery pack.

As a result, hybrids and vehicles like the Volt, lend themselves to stop and go traffic and short hauls. The battery pack does not lend itself to anything but that type of driving.

To counter these shortcomings, oceans of money are being spent on research projects throughout the world to develop a longer lasting battery. The scientific community is looking at the electrification of transportation as a duration/density issue or more simplistically a marathon. In Energy Secretary Chu’s words, here is what we need.

It will take a battery, first that can last for 15 years of deep discharges. You need about five as a minimum, but really six- or seven-times higher storage capacity and you need to bring the price down by about a factor of three. And then all of a sudden you have a comparably performing car; let's say a mid-sized car which has a comparable acceleration and a comparable range.

Is this possible?   Consider the first minute of this clip. It took twenty years to double the density of lithium ion batteries. Argonne’s partnership hopes to double density levels in the next three. Again, this is all about running a marathon when it comes to using batteries.

But there is a different way of looking at the electrification issue. Is there a technology that would lend itself to that of a relay race, instead of a marathon? The answer is undeniably yes. It is the capacitor.

A capacitor is a form of passive energy storage. It does nothing but hold a charge and release a charge. But the qualities of a capacitor lend itself perfectly for transportation in all areas but one (density) and that may be changing. Consider the following characteristics of some ceramic capacitors.

•    Almost instant charge and discharge rates
•    Long Life (will most likely outlast the car)
•    Not sensitive to deep discharges
•    No cell balancing (Batteries in series have voltage issues that require electronic monitoring)
•    No thermal runaway(Batteries are at risk of over-heating)

Visually, it would look like the following. The vehicle would have capacitor banks (ESS). While one bank is charging, the other bank is discharging its power. Hence, you have a never ending relay race between the capacitor banks.

The source of the power for charging the banks could come from a few sources.

Wheel production of electrical power.

Each wheel contains an electric motor which converts friction into electrical energy.  This is done by using the resistance when applying braking force and the movement of the car.

Regenerative Braking.

The electric motor applies resistance to the drivetrain causing the wheels to slow down. The energy from the wheels turns the generator which slows the vehicle down, which then produces electricity and stores it in the ESS.

There are a few individuals/organizations that are looking at this age old technology, Joel Schindall at MIT and this outfit in Germany  to name two of them. But the overriding issue with capacitors is energy density. While no one doubts the capability of capacitors to hold a charge, no one has solved the density issue. In my next update, I’ll present the case of an American company that may have a working model with enough density…sorry Eestor fans I am still waiting.


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Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:11 | 1356155 spanish inquisition
spanish inquisition's picture

For a second, I thought they were going to reinvent streetcars or by running power in the roads like slot cars. Or maybe we could run power cable under the road and make the car into a moving charger station like Ipods with 1 bank charging while 1 bank runs the car. The brake thingy is nice too.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:24 | 1356210 CPL
CPL's picture

Nobody gets to keep their toys in ten years.

It'll be horses, steam and if your city was built on it, canals.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:42 | 1356289 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I'll take "Nobody Gets to Keep Their Toys in Ten Years" for 65MM Ameros Alex...

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 07:51 | 1357302 pan-the-ist
pan-the-ist's picture

The problem with capasitors is their tendancy to release all of their stored electricy at once if there is a short.  I'll take exploding smart cars 35k Alex.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 21:03 | 1360245 mkkby
mkkby's picture

More like 40 years.  When the price of gas gets high enough I plan to grow an oil seed on an acre or so of my property and just run bio diesel circles around everyone.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:04 | 1356387 Long-John-Silver
Long-John-Silver's picture

You forgot Bicycles.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:48 | 1356532 CPL
CPL's picture

now...again.  Where do bikes world wide get made?  Please rethink that answer.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:53 | 1356685 PenGun
PenGun's picture

Certainly cheap bicycles are made in places where it's cheap to make things. China etc.


 Expensive and medium priced bicycles are made everywhere. It takes a very low tech setup.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:58 | 1356699 CPL
CPL's picture

Where are bike made again?

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:25 | 1356741 cartonero
cartonero's picture

More specifically, where are bike tires made?

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:28 | 1356886 LowProfile
Fri, 06/10/2011 - 04:59 | 1357170 Learn more and ...
Learn more and know less's picture

Transportation, and specifically private cars consume far too much resources to be viable in the mid-long term as a form of mass transportation.

We do not need to go back to the dark ages however, if only we could think a little bit more strategically.

Bicycles are part of the solution, as is a redesign of our urban areas, but ultimately it is Sharing that in the short term holds the most potential.

Bicycle Sharing schemes, Van Pooling, car sharing schemes, ride sharing schemes, of course equitable sharing of space, (with HOV lanes and of course plenty of bike and walking lanes), would massively reduce the resources devoted to transport.

Instead of investing all this money and brainpower into doomed technologies, we should invest in simple schemes to help people get around without a dependence on a private car.

Ridesharing for instance is such an easy, effective method to save half or even 3/4 of the energy used on a journey, and all the infrastructure needed is a website to find partners, along with HOV lanes, parking charges (either cheaper for sharers, or higher for single occupancy cars), and perhaps tax encouragements, to make sure it is used.

I believe that it is our economic system that must grow that stops us finding solutions that are more efficient, or certainly investing money in them to make them successful. If we all shared, got just as much mobility and convenience we didn't need to buy as many cars, what would happen to the economy? Much better to look at expensive impractical technical 'fixes'? In the UK the public support for the entire ride share sector is close to zero, while road building received billions, and subsidies for electric vehicle research millions.

Since I believe half of the energy used in the lifetime of a car is in the production, then we can see that anything that attempts to keep private cars are on the road is doomed.

At present in the USA there is almost one private vehicle per head of poulation, in Western Europe about 350 per thousand people, and China about 70 per thousand people. China is already the largest producer and market for cars, more new vehicles sold there last year than in the USA. It is however phyiscally impossible for China to have the same number of vehcles per capita the USA, there just is not the steel, or energy available on the planet, unless of course the developed countries give up all of their cars ... Fun times ahead!

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 08:48 | 1357423 earnulf
earnulf's picture

The problem with sharing is that you have to have a certain level of trust with the person or persons with whom you are sharing.     One of the reasons that private cars are so enjoyed is that the driver can determine who rides.     People no longer give rides to "strangers" because of fear, not because of economics.      Private vehicles also allow individuals who can afford it, the freedom to go where they want, when they want, without having to make a detailed plan of attack and hope it comes together.

Here in the US, we don't live in small, tight knit communities, we are spread out with commutes of up to two hours each way.    We don't have factory towns for the most part anymore and what happens if the person you depend on for a ride happens to be sick that day?

So it falls to public transport on scheduled routes, which don't include late night or early morning hours.    Public Transport also is not there in an emergency.

We need to look at all options, even unconventional ones, to see what can work, what can be made to work and what we need to change and the timeframe for that change.   We didn't give up the horse in a year or two, the same will not happen with the car.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:45 | 1357835 Learn more and ...
Learn more and know less's picture

Even in the USA most people stuck in traffic are all going from the the same suburbs to work in business districts, this is true even in the sprawl, of which places like New York and other Eastern Seaboard cities and of course Portland are fantastic exceptions.

The successful rideshare operations are for employers where people work together, and often know each other.

The car will be with us for a time yet, but sharing is perhaps the only way to solve the poor urban planning that will take time to correct. 

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:40 | 1357822 goldsaver
goldsaver's picture

Couple of questions:

Shared by whom? Am I to understand that I must buy a car and then be mandated to "share it"?

Shared with whom? Who determines who I share my car with?

If I dont have to directly buy this sharable transportation, who buys it?

With who's money? Nothing is free. The purchase price must come from someone. Or are you proposing that we are mandated to give additional taxes to the .gov to pay for this wonderful scheme?

Who decides where the vehicle goes? If I need to go to point A and my government appointed "share buddy" needs to go to point B, who decides where we are going?

Maintained and fueled by whom?

I could see a private enterprise purchasing cars and renting them for short periods of time, (hours or days) to whomever can afford them. Oh, wait, that already exists. Its called a rental car companies and taxi cabs!


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:57 | 1357895 Learn more and ...
Learn more and know less's picture

Bentley Cars, based in Crewe UK, has one of the most successful ride-share schemes.

The company has been extremely successful, as banksters and footballers, love the brand.

However, being a smallish town, the company has limited parking spaces, and the local government had big problems with the parking in residential areas and traffic caused by the expansion of the company.

Building on parking lots is also cheaper than moving premises, which they did, so they had a problem.

Building cars is not a high wage occupation, so the rideshare scheme focussed on the savings in fuel, taxed highly in the UK, and offered guaranteed parking spaces for staff who shared.

Those who share pay half of fuel and maintainance costs to the driver, or 1/3, 1/4, and the company provides the matching website for free. The local government charges a big parking charge for cars not parked Bentley's diminishing car park.

The company also offers a free weekend driving the top of the range car prize draw for sharers.

Now, people complain if they cannot find someone to share with, and the scheme is being extended to other companies in the region.

Does this answer your question?



Fri, 06/10/2011 - 18:08 | 1359753 goldsaver
goldsaver's picture

Partially. Thank you for an intelligent and verifiable response. Few questions:

I assume they are renting Bentley brand cars. No different that a rental car company.

I am also assuming that the rentals are not economical enough to replace day to day commuting and are reserved for special occasions.

I am also assuming that Bentley is not been subsidised by the UK government to do this.


Are my assumtions correct?

How is this any different than a couple of buddies and I renting a Ferrari from a rental car company and splitting the cost for aweekend event?

Full disclosure. I lived a few years in Germany and loved the train system. Of course there are many drawbacks to public transportation, Mainly been limited to departure and arrival points.

Years ago I read a website by an inventor of the California Cruiser (If I remember the name correctly). He proposed an individual transportation system based on elevated lines. Basically you got into a 4 passenger pod, paid for the travel from the start point and picked your end station. The pod would join the pod traffic and take you at high speed to your destination with no stops and remain at that station until the next paying customer needed transportation. Project never got off the ground. Sorta personal e-trains.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:48 | 1356916 Urban Roman
Urban Roman's picture

Pure fraud. Water is hydrogen that has already been burned.

The only way to "extract" it is to apply more energy than its energy of formation. In other words, a less than zero-sum proposition.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 01:31 | 1357032 Doña K
Doña K's picture

Me thinks extracting hydrogen by a simple and inexpensive chemical or bacterial reaction which will require minimum energy input, may be a game changer. Not sure if anyone is doing anything like that. 

I found this..

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 05:33 | 1357193 CalDre
CalDre's picture


Yup, that's right up there on my todo list, right after I finish my perpetual motion machine and cold fusion process ....

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 09:27 | 1357559 luigi
luigi's picture

Shure, but if you use energy for free to extract hydrogen in qhich to store the energy you will use later on, the problem becomes just how long it takes for the conversion device to make available more energy contained in hydrogen, than it took to build it.

In this sense one might consider the option to dedicate fotovoltaic panels to produce electricity in order to obtain hydrogen by electrolisys. The conversion efficiency is really laughable at, (14% FV*70% at most through electrolysis+ somewhere near 30% efficiency of fuel cell or more or less the same throug an ICE-engine). However sun still comes for free therefore you might take out the first conversion factor and start by the FV panel output: in this case total efficiency would be somewhere near 20%, provided the FV panel lasts long enough to provide enough energy to compensate the one used to produce it.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:02 | 1356716 Jalaluddin
Jalaluddin's picture

Has anyone mentioned fuel cells?

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:27 | 1356744 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Fuel cells are delicate, expensive and most run at a temperature of several hundred degrees. Not really suitable for vehicles, but they do fill a niche for apartment buildings and condos and perhaps someday homes.

They need a fuel source, so they really aren't an appropriate replacement for the gas or diesel engines. Why send fuel through a fuel cell when you can just burn it in an engine and save yourself a ton of money and engineering costs?

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:20 | 1356960 defender
defender's picture

I agree that fuel cells are expensive and delicate, but the main type that they would be running in a car is a PEM fuel cell, which runs at about 80C.  The two real problem with fuel cells and cars is the on/off cycles, and the cost of the precious metals that are used for catalysts.

Random fact of the day: Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFC's) can take over a day to get to working temperature.  If they are heated up faster, the components will peel off of each other, or crack from thermal expansion mismatch.  Of course, the ceramic required to make a car like this work would be half the cost of the car, and would be shattered in the first pot-hole.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:59 | 1357004 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Good grief. Talk about mis-guided.

The answer to electric cars is so simple, SO SIMPLE, any engineer worth his salt will kick himself in the nuts in frustration for not havign seen it.

These kinds of articles and approaches, with MIT in the midst (talk about a seriously mis-guided institutiion), make me laugh.

No one understands how we walk even. No one. And yet here we are reaching for the stars.


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 04:36 | 1357160 jeff montanye
jeff montanye's picture

link didn't seem to have electric car info.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 07:04 | 1357243 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

My design site:

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:52 | 1357864 goldsaver
goldsaver's picture

ORI, lots of pretty, mystic sounding words. Not a single actual design or idea.

Let me see if I can approach engineering using your system:

-Revolutionary design based on the secrets of the Puebla Indians.

-Using the mystical forces of the earth

-Provides 3k kilometers per gallon of air

-Improved ergonomics and guidance that allows passengers to arrive at their destination instantly and in complete comfort.


There, you see, I designed a transportation system, ORI style!

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 15:13 | 1359009 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Sarcyyyyyy!!!!! Of course Goldsaver, you expected drawings?

You could have e-mailed me and asked further if you were actually in a position or desired to do something radical, yes?


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 17:36 | 1359605 goldsaver
goldsaver's picture

Nope, but if you want to make boisterous claims you can not back them up with "trust me". That is the equivalent of coming out with a black box the size of a shoe box and claiming it is a unity energy reactor. Concepts, even spiritual ones, do not constitute proof or even a hint of proof.

Of course, if you are just trolling for suckers "for a limited time only, send me a million dollars and I'll show you whats in the box", try using spam e-mails and that begin with:

"Dear friend, my name is Prince Numumba from Nigeria and I have in my possession 10 million USD left to me by my deposed father that I need to transfer to the US...."

In other words: Put up or shut up!

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:00 | 1357659 Dejean Splicer
Dejean Splicer's picture

This Shai Agassi is some kind of special jew conman. When SAP bought his Top-tier company for $400million most people were shocked! Afterall Top-tier's products amounted to much to do about nothing. Portal, iveiw something, nothing.

But SAP brought him in and listened to him until they came to their senses. His vision created more worthless products. Layers ontop of real technology, nothing new, nothing innovative. Flashy, slick talk, empty. A marketer, no substance.

While he was at SAP Agassi managed to con them into buying his fathers bullshiz software company.... Another waste.

STAY AWAY! from this conman.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:12 | 1356157 g
g's picture

Yes, the conundrum is a viable battery technology, there are some promising technologies in research and development, but we are quite some time before they are commercially viable even if they pan out.


More on this if anyone is interested.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:06 | 1356394 Vampyroteuthis ...
Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

Battery technology is never going to be viable for automobiles. It will be a form of bio-fuel or other liquid fuel that will fill your tank in your modified car. The battery R&D is nothing more than a bunch of money being funneled to labs which will produce nothing. It is the nature of corrupt R&D these days. Especially in universities.

-the disgruntled doctor.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:11 | 1356403 Vampyroteuthis ...
Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture

Way to get funding in universities, claim it is nano-bio-cognitive-homosexual-feminist and you are guaranteed money. Good results, they do not matter.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:37 | 1356645 Ricky Bobby
Ricky Bobby's picture


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:34 | 1356762 BigJim
BigJim's picture

Don't forget to throw some carbon-footprint in there as well.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 05:48 | 1357209 shortus cynicus
shortus cynicus's picture

you have forgot <serious>...</serious> tag, some readers could think it was a joke

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:11 | 1356166 Derpin USA
Derpin USA's picture

The solution is vehicles which can run and charge on the electricity provided by the road they drive on. Think of the car as an electric toothbrush and the road as its base. This is called inductive charging.

If you put that technology on a vehicle like a Volt-type platform (tiny gas generator with batteries (or capacitors)), you'd be golden.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:30 | 1356220 CPL
CPL's picture

How do the roads get powered?  And guess how long that project would take with the morons running the show.


It would work.  But there is no client incentive, thereby....btw you aren't the client.  The assholes in charge are.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:15 | 1356727 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

Just talking out of my ass here, so don't expect too much.

Since everyone and their idiot cousin seem to think that solar panels could save the world (they can't- at least, not yet) how come no one has considered using the heat difference between blacktop and the grass in the medians/shoulders or the groundwater as a source of power?

If you've ever walked down a blacktop lane on a sunny day, you know there's a whole lot of heat energy being absorbed by the stuff.  Couple that with, for instance, the fact that groundwater tends to stay between 50 and 55 degrees, any you've got a reasonable spread.  While it wouldn't be all that useful during the winter, it could be a nice power offset during the summer.

Like I said, just blue-skying.  I doubt any given little patch of asphalt could produce much power, but there are a whole lot of roads, and sometimes little things added together can have a big effect- maybe enough to run those electric cars during the summer months.  Or even take some of the load off the grid when the air conditioners fire up.

Of course, they'd have to have enough $$$ to fix the potholes first, and a whole lot more besides.  Probably is not going to happen anytime soon.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:38 | 1356980 defender
defender's picture

Realistically, the temperature differential is too low to get a reasonable power output.  I think I saw someone get money to test something like this, but never heard the results (basically means that it didn't work).  This would basically give you enough power to run the street lights, but you don't need those very much during the day.

As to the inductive charging in the first post, the inefficiency of that method of charging would make it much worse than using a gas powered car.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:15 | 1356179 pitz
pitz's picture

Even if an electric car can be built to those ideal specifications, there's still the issue of actually providing the thing with electricity.  The electric grid is only 20-30% (at best) efficient at bringing thermal energy into usable electrical energy at a residential plug-in.  Going to a combined cycle diesel motor in a car can deliver efficiency that is greater than what the electric grid can supply.  So unless there's magically going to be a massive surplus of electricity from some unknown source... (unknown because, for a while, nuclear was touted as the saviour....)



Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:41 | 1356285 Dental Floss Tycoon
Dental Floss Tycoon's picture

It could still be nuclear.  Thorium reactors could do it without most of the downside of current nuclear technology.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:19 | 1356190 Sockeye
Sockeye's picture

There are some intereting ideas circulating about flywheel technology as energy storage too.
"Across all of these vehicle categories, Kinergy offers the prospect of enabling effective hybridization extending into market sectors where the use of conventional electro-chemical battery systems technology would be prohibitively expensive. Further potential Kinergy applications also include low-cost, compact energy management and storage systems for use in industrial and construction equipment, elevators, railway rolling stock, and local electrical substations and power distribution systems."

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:28 | 1356233 CPL
CPL's picture

Scam science.  I remember this called perpetual motion engine.  Entropy kills this one.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:28 | 1356237 anti Oligarchy
anti Oligarchy's picture

Flywheels are great until you try to turn a corner :)

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:47 | 1356319 Bwahaha WAGFDSMB
Bwahaha WAGFDSMB's picture

+1 physics

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:51 | 1356679 Jalaluddin
Jalaluddin's picture

Wouldn't a pair of contra-rotating fly-wheels solve the problem?

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:45 | 1356993 defender
defender's picture

Mount it so that it spins paralel to the ground, and you get the best car stabilizer ever.  Just don't go up or down hills.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:09 | 1356391 Long-John-Silver
Long-John-Silver's picture

The first rule of thermodynamics is -you lose-.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:26 | 1356201 Bárðarbunga
Bárðarbunga's picture

But then of course we run into the problem of charging the cars. Electricity isn't some free resource either. Our infrastructure isn't really equipped to switch over from gasoline to battery power.

Between the electrical grid being an ancient piece of shit and batteries being a tree hugger's wet dream, I don't see anything positive in my lifetime. The volt is an overpriced and under-engineered hopium car.

Capacitor density? If this were the only hurdle, someone would have a promising prototype by now. We still need the little ugly little word: Electricity. Nobody likes coal or nuclear. Where is the power going to come from? Someone say solar and our dreaming will be complete.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:26 | 1356219 anti Oligarchy
anti Oligarchy's picture

Totally agree,

When we can charge up a bank of capacitors at home with solar and wind, then unload that in a couple of seconds to a smaller bank in a car, only then will you see transformation.

One can hope that will happen soon, but we seem to be running out of Hopium in the US

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:31 | 1356255 CPL
CPL's picture

Would require at least...minimum around a trillion nonsense USD to fix just the US.  Thing with cars is the energy is portable as are the cars.


Weird how everyone is talking about cars being the problem.  I would have though planes would have popped up once...even trains.  Both are huge gas hogs.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:44 | 1356311 MayIMommaDogFac...
MayIMommaDogFace2theBananaPatch's picture

I would have though planes would have popped up once

TSA pretty much has the discouragement of flying covered -- not so much need for the shaming in this area.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:01 | 1356378 CPL
CPL's picture

The old rubber glove in the ass trick.  Problem is not US, Canuck or Euro travelers.  It's the 20% of India and China.  They have money and it's getting spent.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:48 | 1356673 pitz
pitz's picture

Planes are more efficient than cars for most of the trips they're operated on. 

An A320 series airplane gets over 50 seat miles per gallon, and requires a mere pittance of infrastructure investment compared to the highway system. 

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:18 | 1356730 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

I like both coal and nuclear, but that's just me.  Most of the other engineers I know are pro-nuclear as well.  It's a political problem- scientifically, it's a no-brainer.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:34 | 1356760 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

They need over confident nuclear engineers in Japan to help solve a little problem they are having. It ain't a political problem, its scientific, might be right up your alley.

Just head towards Fukushima and look for the evacuation zone, you want to go right to the center of it, there's a group of 6 reactors, 4 are off line, apply inside.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 04:11 | 1357143 Incubus
Incubus's picture

nuclear energy was never the problem: it's that idiot homosapiens don't have the attention span, will, or intelligence to properly utilize nuclear energy.


I'd say on general, we tend to get about 50-60 years out of stuff before complacency sets in and the baboons think because it works, it'll work forever without proper maintenance and safety precautions.


(fukushima should've been built differently, that place was a disaster waiting to happen, regardless.  And it's not nuclear energy's fault: as I've said, it's the failure of people, not the energy source.)

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:19 | 1357734 Fukushima Sam
Fukushima Sam's picture

You pro-nuke people are smart idiots and it is up to the rest of us to save the world from you, if it is not already too late.  The fact is that you cannot do nuclear power without risk, and the consequences when things go wrong are too great. 

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 21:23 | 1360281 mkkby
mkkby's picture

There is no way to separate the technology from the dumb monkeys managing it.  That is why nuclear power will never be safe.  We are better off being hot in the summer than having that contamination for hundreds of years.


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 04:15 | 1357144 Incubus
Incubus's picture

double post

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:09 | 1356858 Jay
Jay's picture

Exactly. Not many electric car proponents understand that the electric grid is in no shape to handle electric car charging in any numbers. But not to worry, even with the fat subsidy folks are not buying. If we could just overcome the energy density problem of capacitors all our problems would be solved. But then if we could just find some way to harness the power of unicorn tears all our problems would be solved too.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 21:29 | 1360285 mkkby
mkkby's picture

Don't you know, unicorns shit candy.  So once fermented, that is a free source of ethanol.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 01:25 | 1357029 Crumbles
Crumbles's picture

FOAF in Atlanta actually built a capacitance powered electric truck with small motors on each axel - hasn't been able to interest anyone in furthering the project. Plug and play but doesn't travel over 48 mph. Perhaps when gas hits 8 bucks a gallon. Wonder how many of these ignored inventions are out there in the economic wilderness.
And so it goes. Not!

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:22 | 1356202 Bwahaha WAGFDSMB
Bwahaha WAGFDSMB's picture

The power to weight ration in capacitors is...  I don't know.  Probably at least an order of magnitude less than batteries.  Wouldn't surprise me if it was 3 orders of magnitude.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:23 | 1356203 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

"Ultracaps" were the road-ready solution to regenerative-braking recapture about 4-5 years ago...

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:51 | 1357000 defender
defender's picture

They are still talking it up.  I just saw an article the other day suggesting using the carbon fiber frame as the ultra-cap.  The author just wasn't sure what kind of epoxy to use in the carbon fiber.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:23 | 1356207 plata pura
plata pura's picture

proper post. mortals will accomplish wondrous things when put to the task. verily as the back side of peak ancient stor'd sunlight aka oil comes like a ryan 0-2 heater these technological breakthroughs will come to pass. if not; (economik growth) which be nothing more than energy consumption will stop and a Jeffersonian dream will occur; hundreds, thousands even millions of little self sustaining farms.  

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:27 | 1356208 anti Oligarchy
anti Oligarchy's picture

Supercapacitors of some variety built with nanotubes is the most likely solution.  Most likely a long way off, and the environmental implications of nanotube fabrication are not solved for large scale. 


We'll figure it out AFTER we run out of oil, collapse, throw out the government, stop watching dancing with stars, and start innovating again.


Till then, cheap easy energy will continue to rule.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:31 | 1356226 knowless
knowless's picture

i mean, you got it already right? compartmentalise. if the battery can only give so much charge without destroying its life, then have 1000 smaller batteries that each give or take depending on their current state.. that's the point of this article right? it seems like a simple solution. just don't run them all parallel, there will need to be something determining the allocation of power to depleted cells.

another solution is to make the wheel itself an electromagnetic engine, so when you power the shaft, the spinning creates energy, less net energy loss.. i'm going to be pissed if anything i said is a viable solution, as i will never gain from my statements.

i am a dishwasher.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:28 | 1356238 Bindar Dundat
Bindar Dundat's picture

Yes the Capacitor is a good anwser. With new nano technology they will integrate the capacitor into the frame of the car....makes a lot of sense and structually it will be very sound.   Light and more room for people or golf clubs...

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:33 | 1356497 Uncle Remus
Uncle Remus's picture

Light and more room for people or golf clubs...

So instead of leaving room in the front for Buddha as Bangkok cabbies used to do, we'll have room for the block capo.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:32 | 1356240 Use of Weapons
Use of Weapons's picture

Holy shit, I almost thought about the GS paper on this, and how they were going to make the huge gap between hybrids and normal cars work....

Then I realised: GS' paper was in 2007 (?) and it was a pile of fucking wank. Seriously: I've seen better intel from Pakistani tribesmen asked where's Osama (hint: when they say "you [government] have him!", they kinda mean it chimps)

Then I went back, and re-re-read a book from 1965 called "Imagining the year 2000" and what the science was, especially around hybrid tech, and what was possible over 40 years ago. Then I thought... yep, that'd be the "lizard.. er.. human spirit".

Top tips:

#1 Google nuclear batteries, and how they have been used [true story, bro - sadly, ignorant monkies in Russia are stripping them of the saleable metals and making them large dangerous items]. No, really - free energy? Ye, for sure - if humanity wasn't totally fucking retarded and irresponsible, sure. Oh, and if the oil industry wasn't run by selfish twats.

#2 Rail. Yes. Wondered why it fails so badly? Take a look at Trams in the USA, and how trams were destroyed by car companies. *OMG CONSPIRACY.. er.. wait. WTF? They did this?* Yes, Car companies have spent (literally) 150billion crushing competition.

#3 I grow bored. Just get a clue, grab a source and work out how much $$$ your local congress / senator got paid by the motor/oil/petrol industry.



Then fuck right off, as your country burns. Because, you know... there's 6 billion people who no longer give a fuck.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:33 | 1356261 CPL
CPL's picture

7 billion actually

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:36 | 1356271 Use of Weapons
Use of Weapons's picture

Debatable, given I'm -330 mil from the US, discounting Japan's population at all, and figuring -150 mil for when cucumbers hit Africa.


But yes.. 6 billion is so last decade.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:09 | 1356392 CPL
CPL's picture

I go off the fact government lie like dogs on the rug.  No interest in "assuming" actual figures.  More people = more aid.  I'm convinced we're at the 7.4 billiion threshold.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 19:56 | 1356357 jplotinus
jplotinus's picture

The article's mention of the Prius (two sentences) is incongruent. The current, third generation Prius gets well over 50mpg, close to 60 in warmer weather. The article suggests there are limitations to litium ion batteries, but does not explain what they are or why they are limitations. If the next Prius gets, say 65mpg, plus has plug in capacity (as rumored it will), then the evolution of hybirds might continue to be the best way forward.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:20 | 1356437 CPL
CPL's picture

Please shut the fuck up about buyers remorse.


Don't get me started on how a hybrid is double the expense both energy wise and cost wise to a consumer.  Prius = junk.  They can't even find the money to put a proper muffler on it.  Next to the first gen Focus, there is NO CAR IN EXISTANCE that has more recalls and hidden secret warranties.


So no.  Fuck you and all the hybrid pieces of shit.  Other than a lease.


NOBODY ACTUALLY BUYS ONE.  They are rental cars.  nuff sayd.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 03:03 | 1357093 Urban Redneck
Urban Redneck's picture

Diesel-electric Hybrids in Europe get 80-90mpg

2 prototypes for next year get 300mpg (2 door) and 150mpg (4 door).

Yes the Prius is junk, but not all hybrids are Priuses.

Americans have no one to blame but their government and government motors for their lack of automotive options.  

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:22 | 1356455 Helmholtz Watson
Helmholtz Watson's picture

My car gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:02 | 1356380 Steroid
Steroid's picture

It is very hard to compete with a combustion engine. It uses a very energy intense fuel and it takes large part of its chemistry from the air. Moreover it eliminates its exhaust back to the air.

With an electric car the efficiency is very low and you have to carry all the time all of both the input and the output chemistry.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:11 | 1356404 alien-IQ
alien-IQ's picture

The following is an extract from EVWorld:

"In the summer of 1931, Nikola Tesla along with his nephew Peter Savo, installed a box on the front seat of a brand new Pierce-Arrow touring car at the company factory in Buffalo, New York. The box is said to have been 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 6 inches high. Out of it protruded a 1.8 meter long antenna and two ¼ inch metal rods. Inside the box was reputed to be some dozen vacuum tubes -- 70-L-7 type -- and other electrical parts. Two wire leads ran from the box to a newly-installed 40 inch long, 30 inch diameter AC motor that replaced the gasoline engine.

"As the story goes, Tesla inserted the two metal rods and announced confidently, "We now have power" and then proceeded to drive the car for a week, "often at speeds of up to 90 mph." One account says the motor developed 1,800 rpm and got fairly hot when operating, requiring a cooling fan. The "converter" box is said to have generated enough electrical energy to also power the lights in a home.

"The car is said to have ended up on a farm 20 miles outside of Buffalo, not far from Niagra Falls."

One of the legends about this car is that at one point Nikola Tesla took JP Morgan for a spin in the car. JP Morgan noticed that the car was not making any sound from the engine. When he realized that the vehicle required no fuel, but was getting its energy somehow invisibly and freely, he chilled on the idea, inamsuch as it would put a stop to the need for petrol to run vehicles. After that, allegedly, was when Tesla ended up with posh accomodations in the New Yorker hotel; and nothing ever came of the car or the concept.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:02 | 1356575 yakmerchant
yakmerchant's picture

Google: Ismael Aviso

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:44 | 1356672 alien-IQ
alien-IQ's picture

I'm familiar with him. I'm subscribed to his youtube channel and I've seen all his videos. Very interesting and (dare I say) promising stuff.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:32 | 1356483 Stuck on Zero
Stuck on Zero's picture

The lunacy of electric cars is that you have to run a powerplant of 33% efficiency to generate electricity which is shipped across country to a 50% efficient (overall) electric car to consume.  Why not burn the fuel directly in the car at 33% efficiency and you get to heat the car for free in the winter?  You can even do much better with the production of liquid fuels from the coal burned in power plants. 

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:43 | 1356517 alien-IQ
alien-IQ's picture

you are addressing what is now reality...and you are correct.

this article is speaking of what can be...and that is something to aspire to.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:07 | 1356590 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Electric cars aren't lunatic unless you insist on maintaining all the same infrastructure we're using to create electricity today.  That doesn't have to be the case, and in fact, it should be obvious this system is going to change dramatically.

Anyway, a 33% efficient car engine would be pretty freekin' great.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 01:13 | 1357018 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Yup, cars are 13-18% efficient to the wheels, at best.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:23 | 1356626 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

Using CURRENT are correct...see my post.

To add to the post below, a side benefit of my new electric 'engine' (not motor) could possibly be an over unity generator...the 2nd law of thermodynamics only applies to a 'closed system'...

nuff said.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:18 | 1356733 Monedas
Monedas's picture

Don't forget transmission line loss ! How about heating and air conditioning in these electric cars ???? My little KIA Soul 1.6 litre puts out 122 hp ! If everyone followed Monedas' example gas prices would collapse ! Monedas 2011 Right in so many ways !

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 20:43 | 1356521 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

It is not in the nature of mankind to face a problem and recognize that it has no solution.

This is such a problem.

Food is not going to get to the cities, and rather soon.

The problem has no solution.  Pain goes away when 5.5 of our 7 billion people do.  There is enough oil to keep 1.5 billion fed.  That 1.5 billion might also have enough time to advance further technologically, particularly in the field of contraception to ensure 1.5 B remains the number until the race can get off planet.

But for now, forever, we have outstripped oil's ability to feed us and a lot of people have to die quickly.  Our efforts should be focused on defining and arranging for who those will be (aka, someone else).

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:32 | 1356637 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

Well, why not start the Great Culling with yourself.

This 'problem' has been known about for 60 years or more. (M. King Hubbert) and there are solutions. The problem is closed minded graduates of so called Institutions of Higher Learning...modern pharisees who preach nonsense.

There is a solution to every problem, society however, and rich society in particular, may not like it and will oppose it.



Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:45 | 1356661 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

The solution is nuclear weapons.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:32 | 1356766 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

No, the solution is nuclear power.  Lots and lots of nuclear power- in power plant, not bomb form.

You already invalidated any safety or storage arguments you could ever make in calling for a die-off to 1.5 billion.  

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:58 | 1356815 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

Nobody wants to see 5.5 billion ppl die in a couple of years' duration.  But I can guarantee you that when it becomes clear that this must happen, there will be no volunteers.

It is a Very Good Thing that the US retains nuclear superiority.  It is our only chance.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:51 | 1356925 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

You Sir are a sick individual, probably a banker?

I hope, when 'your' solution comes, I will find out the answer to the question of the ages;

"Do bankers taste like chicken?"


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 21:47 | 1360319 mkkby
mkkby's picture

"It is not in the nature of mankind to face a problem and recognize that it has no solution."

He's not sick.  He's just not in denial.  Oil will run out.  The only argument is when.  You may say it's in 200 years.  Okay, then that is when the population will shrink dramatically.

And not just oil, every natural resource is finite.  Someday, if you want to build a jet airliner, you'll have to sent a team of scavengers to the dump with a request for a few million alluminum cans.  The future is not star trek.  It will all run out.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:44 | 1356778 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Purity of Essence.

Mandrake and Ripper courtesy of Stanley Kubrick.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:07 | 1356586 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

I don't comment here very often, because most of the posters here are far smarter than I when it comes to econ101 and advanced subjects, so what is the point? I lurk and learn, and say hi all. However, this electric motor thing has been my focus for years. Batteries are not the answer to the problem...and in a very ZeroHedge way, think about this...when 'everybody' is saying the same thing (ie batteries are the 'problem'), then, doesn't that cause you to think...?

The reason why, I will only reveal to ZH readers, commenters and trolls...


The electric motor, is 100 years old...think about that...

Also, think about this, Parasitic Power Conversion as you drive, not just during braking periods, which, if you think about it, would be F***ing USELESS on a long road trip. eh?

(I mean, if you don't have to hit the brakes, for 100 miles, then what Einstein?)

No. I went Galt a few years ago, literally, because of our broken useless shark infested patent system and regulations and taxes. So F*** them all ( not ZH ), it stays in the barn.

Imagine, running an 18 wheeler on an electric "engine", not a 'motor'...

while running it with the potential power you're oblivious to...right outside the window...

Solar? Forget it.

But, I can tell you what would happen if I were to release it all...I would be attacked, harrassed, sued, or even worse...


So... world... suffer bitches.

Unless one of you enlightened souls can give me a reason to put yet more money into the development of a new kind of ...well, better not say know how that patent law crap 'public disclosures'...




Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:43 | 1356657 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Mount windmills on the roof, so while you're driving 50MPHs, you've got a steady 50MPH wind generating mad electricity that powers the engine.  It's even simpler than the Galt train engine with its static electricity thingie.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:34 | 1356767 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

Exactly....half right.

Now do it without aerodynamic drag, and an electric engine with much higher efficiency than the alternator attached to your 'windmill' and throw in a little 'systemic isolation'...




Fri, 06/10/2011 - 01:16 | 1357021 Oh regional Indian
Oh regional Indian's picture

Good points all. See my site, you might find it interesting: years at it... you probably feel the same way as I do.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:40 | 1356777 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

If I were to say "I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I shall never live for the sake of another man, nor as another man to live for mine." could I have a little peek at it?

I know what you mean about the shark infested waters, and have burned a stack of blueprints now and again myself- nothing quite so dramatic as what you claim, but interesting in their own rights.  And also emphatically *not* free.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:20 | 1356618 Ray1968
Ray1968's picture

When they can fly a jumbo jet on batteries, then I'll be impressed. Until then, I'll keep filling up my Buick Dream machine on regular unleaded.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:35 | 1356642 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

Perfect example of a nasty dirty technology that must go away...

Bet me, airships make a comeback, and people will then travel like human beings, in style, instead of like a freaking sardine in a can.


Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:42 | 1356664 Ray1968
Ray1968's picture

For a second I thought you were talking about my Buick. The Beast shall live forever!

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:43 | 1356781 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

Perish the thought- Buicks are wonderful rides.  I am still sick at the thought of my last car move- from a nice Buick to a newish Cavalier.  Gas milage had to prevail, but at a severe cost in comfort.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:04 | 1356845 Kimo
Kimo's picture

Scotty, beam me up!

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:24 | 1356623 Libertarian777
Libertarian777's picture

how about

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 21:48 | 1356674 Peak Everything
Peak Everything's picture

I'm an engineer and I've studied the physics and the economics. We won't be flying or driving any form of cars in 20 years, and quite possibly as soon as 10 years. No amount of wishful thinking will change this.

If we are wise and lucky we will have some low speed public transit like diesel trains (long distance) and electric trams (short distance). Most of us will be walking or biking (and probably hungry).

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:29 | 1356756 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

As one engineer to takes all kinds. I think, you've been reading too much Kunstler...

No vision or imagination, a product of the modern educational system..

indoctrinated...not educated.

and yes, I'm an OLD engineer...with one particular skill....out of the box thinking.


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 04:31 | 1357152 Incubus
Incubus's picture

I've gotta agree with you on the education thing:  the people turned out by the education system these days are merely indoctrinated little humanoids.


They might as well be robots.


(I don't do engineering stuff anyway,  I'm more of a writer.)

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 17:42 | 1358294 epwpixieq-1
epwpixieq-1's picture

It is because the educational system has evolved around money. One person who has given so much to the world ( basically invented the 20th century ), has died without any money ( he was not interested in that ), and without recognition. His knowledge is cast away because, used in the industry, will de-concentrate resources from the hands of the few to the hands of the many. In this way it eliminates the power of control over the resources.

Those interested of the other side of the technical knowledge may start with "the Colorado Spring Notes of Nikola Tesla". But it is not easy ... It takes time to penetrate his ideas because they are so experimental and so unconventional. But the ones persistent and having the intellectual mindset will start seeing the different part of science, one that is not restricted by the laws humans invented for Nature, but only by the Nature itself.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 21:57 | 1360341 mkkby
mkkby's picture

As another OLD engineer I agree completely.  Most of the engineers I know think more religiously than scientifically.  Too lazy or scared to think outside the box.  Little more than corporate bureaucrats.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:06 | 1356723 Hooter Shaker
Hooter Shaker's picture

I'm working on a wi-fi electric car that sucks un-metered power through the air from overhead power lines.  After I get it all worked out, I'll have to keep it to myself or else the power companies will send a hitman after me.  I can count on you guys to keep it on the down low, right?

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:23 | 1356746 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

How do you think I power my house?

Mount a coil up close to the high line, and be ready to absorb it..


wi-fi? hahaha, your receiver coil will be so big and so high you'll crash into the lines, short yourself out and blow yourself up...

I was talking serious, am an engineer, and have been after this problem since the 70's...



Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:45 | 1356772 Hooter Shaker
Hooter Shaker's picture

I'm using a flux capacitor stuffed full of di-lithium crystals.  I'm an engineer as well....of the southern variety. 

I have a PhD in BS too...

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:25 | 1356740 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

We will solve the practical problem of producing hydrocarbons from CO2, water, and electricity first.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:25 | 1356750 bagpiper
bagpiper's picture

I pray you're right Yancey...



Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:55 | 1356805 CrashisOptimistic
CrashisOptimistic's picture

Physics is physics.  If you want a material with 5.8 million BTUs per barrel, and it doesn't have that energy in it now, you have to put it there.

That's your electricity.  People have been trying this for decades.  It doesn't scale.

We are getting a barrel of oil out of the ground and what we're getting is acres and acres of surface area that collected solar energy 180 million years ago.  This is why the whole algae thing won't work.  They expose to sunshine and they get only XXX acres of surface area collecting sunshine.

IT DOESN'T SCALE.  And it never will.  It's not an engineering problem.  It's physics.  

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:28 | 1356972 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

As a practical matter, one may not care if it takes 58,000,000 BTUs to make that barrel of hydrocarbon.  The form of energy storage may make it more valuable as oil containing 5,800,000 BTUs than electricity of 58,000,000 BTUs.  This is similar to something a lot of critics of tar sands and oil shale often overlook- the oil out of the ground doesn't even have to have equal energy of the natural gas or electrity consumed in getting it out of the ground- the only question is it profitable to do so.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:37 | 1356977 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture


Fuck smart grid, LFTRs in every county, local power everywhere for maximum redundancy.

Hell, we could probably replace all coal plants with LFTRs and have double the power if we just mined the fucking coal ASH for thorium (assuming there's scrubbers and flue capture instead of just releasing thorium into the air as radioactive pollution)..

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:52 | 1356806 Prometheus418
Prometheus418's picture

Again, not my field, and just blue-skying.

Are there any genetic engineers working on converting biological waste to a burnable fuel?

Gut feeling is that a tricky little bug in a vat might be easier than adding beakers of this and that, or a lot of tiny robots doing the job...

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:54 | 1356817 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Do we have too many houses or not enough people with jobs to buy them? The problem is we've built a society on cheap fuel, a wasteful inefficient system, that at times simply seems to exist to consume excess to drive the system forward.

The only real alternative is to build a more efficient society, while we try to solve our non-negotiable energy needs, like farming. The war machine is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels. Perhaps we can go back to war by proxy and just have two fat guys wrestle to determine the outcome of any and all disputes.


The simple answer is everybody drives less and a lot of people won't drive at all. Either we use our remaining higher priced fossil fuel from the back slope of peak energy making a more efficient society or we waste it trying to kill each other for whats left.

With humanities long history of peaceful cooperation, I'll let you guess which way it ends.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:42 | 1356981 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

One of those absurdist metaphors just came to mind, seeing so many thoughts on how to save the car.

Let's say it's 1700, and a plague has hit that has sterilized all the horses.  Naturally, all the smart guys are concerned.  "How can we carry on in a world with no horses?"

The most popular idea is to build steam-powered horses that burn hay and straw, and provide about one-quarter the output of an old-fashioned organic horse at ten times the cost.

Point, of course: if you're trying to save the car, you're wasting your time.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 12:56 | 1358340 epwpixieq-1
epwpixieq-1's picture

"The problem is we've built a society on cheap fuel, a wasteful inefficient system"

Exactly, in the turn of the 20th century there were 2 ways in civilization development. The profit-money system has driven the technology and the people in the most easy way of development.

Tesla has had another view and technology but it was not profitable for the investors, it would have profited the masses.

Instead of choosing sustainable growth with with the available electromagnetic resources and developing the technology, we went on sprint with using the fuels we dig from the ground.

The powers that be had it easy for the next 100 or so years, but as we all know, there is no free lunch,  and now the pay day for the entire human race is coming, so prepare yourself with REAL knowledge.




Thu, 06/09/2011 - 22:59 | 1356830 ciao
ciao's picture

F1 KERS and capacitors.  You may as well look at the Williams flywheel

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:00 | 1356833 RexZeedog
RexZeedog's picture

All this milaege crap is a bunch of BS from the wanker xecutives at the auto companies. In the pas, I bough all these cars new:

1) 1985 Plymouth Colt (Mitsubishi) - 40 MPG
2) 1988 Plymouth Colt (Mitsubishi) - 40 MPG
3) 1988 Honda CRX HF - 50 MPG
4) 1990 Honda CRX HF - 50 MPG

These were all standard shift cars and I was single (one occupant most of the time), but I counted my mileage very carefully and did indeed get the stated MPG, execpting that after about 100k, the 1990 Honda MPG was only about 46 highway.

CRX HF - 50 MPG !!!

The Colts were 4 seaters and the CRXs were 2 seaters.

WTF is wrong with the auto companies??? This was 25 years ago and mileages are going backwards!

Today, a standard shift Corolla gets only slightly better than the 32MPG my Corolla automatic gets - and never mind Honda - they killed the CRX to use the modified body for a stupid hybrid.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:34 | 1356975 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

You know EPA changed their mileage measuring methodology, right?

What's the mileage of those cars in modern EPA ratings?

Also, safety equipment, crash standards, and room enough for fat American asses.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:02 | 1356840 Kimo
Kimo's picture

mount the fly wheel horizontal..... you'll have an awesome stablizer!

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:18 | 1356866 Abraham Snake
Abraham Snake's picture

Why just this week I was looking at adding a new electrical storage layer to an electric bicycle with 18 high joule capacitors that just went on sale, yes, roughly $150 for 35 lbs. of capacitors will get me 250k watt seconds of energy, or a mild 1/3 hp for 15 minutes. Now, if the bike can tow a 100 or 200 watt solar panel, then I can keep the capacitors mostly charged for help on hills, and of course peddling would be essential. But the vehicle can't carry much extra weight or travel very far or very fast. No freight. Those 35 lbs of capacitors only hold the energy of a few ounces of gas, the energy density of the capacitors must be increased by a factor a few 100s to compete with gasoline on a weight basis and a factor of many 10s to compete with some of the newer battery technologies. And then you need to get the electricity from somewhere, perhaps 1/2 a basketball court of solar panels would be enough for a mid sized car, but it would take a thousands of gallons of gas or many tons of filthy coal to manufacture that many solar panels so we are back to square one. Nuclear energy has become a recurring nightmare, don't count on that as a savior. Geothermal is has potential the world over, but who's doing that? There doesn't appear to be any realistic solution or even a basic will-to-change for the near term. Yet people will soon be forced to adjust to a lifestyle that requires 20-50 gallons of gas per year instead of the current 1000 gallons. Super efficient hybrid solar bicycles you say? Yeah, I'm glad the young people are into them.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:28 | 1356971 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

LFTRs.  By the thousands, replacing first obsolete nukes, then coal (hell, keep mining coal for the thorium contained within, as well as feedstock for Fischer-Tropsch liquid fuels).

Build a big ol' LFTR near Yucca Mtn and burn that shit.

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:29 | 1356887 Barmaher
Barmaher's picture

Nissan Leaf, bitches!

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:29 | 1356969 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Put a class 2 hitch on it that will handle a rentable auxiliary power unit (APU), made up of a Bladon Jet microturbine and 5 gallons of fuel, and it would actually make some sense..  Drive locally on electric, rent the APU for long trips.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 05:00 | 1357182 Barmaher
Barmaher's picture

Who takes long trips? Fill up at home. While you're asleep. At 1/10 price of gas at today's prices. No oil changes. 


Put a class 2 hitch on this...

Thu, 06/09/2011 - 23:27 | 1356892 Fox-Scully
Fox-Scully's picture

Time for the Honda Hydrogen fuel cell!

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:04 | 1356935 TheMerryPrankster
TheMerryPrankster's picture

Don't forget to wish for the hydrogen fairy to make lots of cheap hydrogen which still has only 1/6 the power of gasoline so you'll need to to tow a large tank behind you or have every gas station in the nation convert to hydrogen overnight and then just remember to fill up 6 times more frequently and everything is hunky dory.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:26 | 1356964 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

Just to riff:

Like, wow, man, hydrogen's the second most plentiful thing in the UNIVERSE!  No problem, right?

(It comes right after stupidity.)

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:27 | 1356965 Dr. Kenneth Noi...
Dr. Kenneth Noisewater's picture

Howsabout Zn-air fuel cells?  Zinc is far more plentiful than lithium, and could be delivered in a slurry-like substance which could be pumped out when depleted and fresh material pumped in, less hassle than swapping batteries and more density (and lower cost) than supercaps.

Also, Sodium or Lithium Borohydride, the latter has a higher energy density than gasoline..


Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:44 | 1356989 keating
keating's picture

Problem solved - replace batteries with charged ones for a fee.,7340,L-4046774,00.html

Electric car company Better Place has unveiled its first battery-changing station, a major milestone in the company's planned rollout of the world's first nationwide battery-charging grid.

At Wednesday's demonstration in Kiryat Ekron, cars drove atop a sliding panel that opened to reveal a deep pit. From underneath, a robotic arm replaced drained batteries with fully charged ones.
Better Place says the process takes about five minutes - quicker than filling up at a gas station.
CEO Shai Agassi says 40 stations will be built throughout Israel this year.
Better Place is building a network of charging stations in markets around the world, beginning with Israel and Denmark.

Its partner, Renault, is making the cars, which are to be sold in Israel by the end of 2011

This solves everything - clean - cheap - a five minute change a little more often than a gas fuel up. batteries can be charged at night, when power is cheap. I can't see a hole anywhere. Local investors build a station and invest in batteries, pay for charging and collect from customers. Once this starts, it will go viral in every city in the world, since it will reduce pollution and be run by private companies. The all electric cars will have a simple mechanism, and the standard batteries don't need to be fancy, just removable and rechargeable.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:44 | 1356991 keating
keating's picture

Problem solved - replace batteries with charged ones for a fee.,7340,L-4046774,00.html Electric car company Better Place has unveiled its first battery-changing station, a major milestone in the company's planned rollout of the world's first nationwide battery-charging grid. At Wednesday's demonstration in Kiryat Ekron, cars drove atop a sliding panel that opened to reveal a deep pit. From underneath, a robotic arm replaced drained batteries with fully charged ones. Better Place says the process takes about five minutes - quicker than filling up at a gas station. CEO Shai Agassi says 40 stations will be built throughout Israel this year. Better Place is building a network of charging stations in markets around the world, beginning with Israel and Denmark. Its partner, Renault, is making the cars, which are to be sold in Israel by the end of 2011 This solves everything - clean - cheap - a five minute change a little more often than a gas fuel up. batteries can be charged at night, when power is cheap. I can't see a hole anywhere. Local investors build a station and invest in batteries, pay for charging and collect from customers. Once this starts, it will go viral in every city in the world, since it will reduce pollution and be run by private companies. The all electric cars will have a simple mechanism, and the standard batteries don't need to be fancy, just removable and rechargeable.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 00:59 | 1357008 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

This is a pretty old idea, actually, but the problem is still that you're doing 3 energy conversions to move around a large block of steel and plastic that isn't contributing anything to the picture.  It's an incremental improvement to a system which is basically fucked.

In a world with limitless and cheap access to electricity (say fusion-powered or something) this is a truly great approach.

In the world in which we generate electricity from (effectively) the same limited fuel sources we currently burn in cars, it's not really a big win.

Skipping the actual math 'cause it's getting late, say you switch 50% of the transportation market from oil consumption to coal consumption through this brilliant electrical service idea.  Our hundred year supply of coal was just cut to 20 years worth, and/or electricity prices just climbed through the roof.

So what's the NEXT solution?

(I want teleporters like from Star Trek.  That's my vote.)

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 02:00 | 1357063 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

I agree with you, but the Scotty in me says the dilithium crystals will get depleted.

Fri, 06/10/2011 - 10:31 | 1357790 blunderdog
blunderdog's picture

The matter/antimatter system will keep them charged indefinitely.  As long as the magnetic bottle isn't ruptured, no problem.

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