Rainbows and Unicorn Farts…

Tom James @ 19-06-2008

…are about as likely to solve the two little problems of peak oil and global warming as hydrogen fuel cell technology.

hydrogenSorry to flog a dead horse here but it’s always worth repeating something, especially if you’ve found someone who can express the idea more articulately than you can.

Joseph Romm of the Center (sic) for American Progress (centrist American think tank) writes eloquently on the reasons why hydrogen fuel-cell powered automobiles are a dead-end and that there are better alternatives:

More than 95 percent of U.S. hydrogen is made from natural gas, so running a car on hydrogen doesn’t reduce net carbon dioxide emissions compared with a hybrid like the Prius running on gasoline. Okay, you say, can’t hydrogen be made from carbon-free sources of power, like wind energy or nuclear? Sure, but so can electricity for electric cars. And this gets to the heart of why hydrogen cars would be the last car you would ever want to buy: they are wildly inefficient compared with electric cars.

I’ve never been entirely clear why investors, boffins, and the popular press like hydrogen fuel cells so much. And why the insist on using the buzzword the hydrogen economy, implying that this is capable of replacing our current oil-based transport setup. Is it just because the cars themselves don’t emit any carbon dioxide during operation? I don’t know, but I suspect some people, including automakers Honda are in for a nasty shock.

[story via Technology Review][image by mirrorgirl]


"Zero-pollution" compressed-air car coming to U.S.

Edward Willett @ 28-02-2008

ZeroPollutionCars

The French-invented Zero-Pollution MDI Air Car, already licensed to a car company in India, is coming to the United States, with the first reservations to be taken within the next couple of months, although it will be 2010 before any cars are delivered. (Via Gizmag.)

The car uses a compressed-air motor developed by MDI International. It’s a four-door, seats six, and boasts a don’t-bother-drag-racing 75 horsepower. It will run up to 35 mph entirely on air; if you want to go faster (up to 90 mph), you have to burn a little gas to heat and compress more air. It’s supposed to have very low maintenance costs (30,000-kilometre service intervals), a range of up to 1,000 miles, and cost less than $20,000.

Not surprisingly, it was one of the first entries in the Automotive XPrize competition, which aims to do for efficient, clean personal transportation what the original X-Prize did for private space exploration.

Sound too good to be true? It may be: here’s a skeptical take on the idea from Technology Review.

Time will tell, but if you’re an early adopter and you live in the U.S., now’s your chance to ensure you’ll be the first on your block whose car goes “Phffft!” instead of “Vroom!”

(Image: Zero Pollution Motors.)

[tags]alternative energy,transport,cars,pollution[/tags]


Brazilian ultra-compact cars running on ethanol, petrol, natural gas or electricity

Tomas Martin @ 05-02-2008

The dinky Obvio in front of a less efficient example of automobile construction…

Lotus and Brazilian car manufacturer Obvio have a number of versions of cute VW Beetle-esque cars that run on any combination of ethanol, petrol or natural gas. They also have optional upgrades to become plug-in electric vehicles. They have a very consistent design style and the car even features an inbuilt ‘carputer’ with GPS, details on nearby locations such as restaurants and virtual instrumentation. You can also use the console as a normal PC. The engine uses continuously variable transmission (CVT) rather than distinct gears which aims to cut down on fuel use.

The Obvio 828 is projected for sale at around $14,000 and the more sporty Obvio 012 is projected at $28,000 although the electric versions are currently a lot more.

[thanks to Alex Thorne for the link, picture via the Obvio website]


Efficient hydrogen producing – new method found

Tomas Martin @ 13-11-2007

Bacteria and added electricity produce large amounts of hydrogenResearchers at Penn State University have produced hydrogen gas at efficiencies not found before. Tweaking an existing method that previously produced poor rates and yields, the scientists found they could produce nearly 300% the energy used to kickstart the reaction.

Electron-generating microbes produce an electric current that is run through a fuel cell containing biological matter. By adding an additional jolt of electricity at the cathode, the bacteria breaks down the organic matter into hydrogen, without releasing much in the way of greenhouse gases. Whilst this is an early result needing mass study and production, it’s a very promising discovery towards clean fuel.

[via Daily Kos, picture via Wired]


Peak Oil may be closer than we think

Tomas Martin @ 08-10-2007

Are tankers going to be lonely in future?As you may know, as a writer and blogger, Peak Oil is one of the topics that fascinates me, ultimately leading to the 30,000 word fictional blog miawithoutoil I wrote earlier this year for the World Without Oil project. This editorial from the Buffalo News is a great summary of Peak Oil as it enters the public consciousness. Another good frontpage diary at Daily Kos yesterday detailed a few excellent potential strategies from the Energize America project, which emerged from Daily Kos to be a major player in alternative energy related politics.

I don’t think anyone would disagree that sooner or later the resources of the planet will run out. Finite oil was always on the case, even when I was at school. But according to some writers like Richard Heinberg, we may be very close or even just past the peak in global oil production, even if it takes a few years for the news to filter down the supply lines and alert the wide world. A former Canadian oil CEO thinks we’re pretty close too.

We are already being encouraged to cut down on fuel use by environmental campaigners and everyone concerned with global warming. Peak Oil presents a natural brake on the climate change bandwagon but in a sudden stop, things will get very unstable. By encouraging smaller cars and smaller commutes, alternative fuels and increased public transport, as well as building shops, jobs and facilities closer to home and utilising the great advantages the internet gives us with telecommuting and virtual goods, we could create a world that would ride out the shrinking resource climate without capsizing. We’d better start soon.

[photo by Boback]


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