Friday, January 14, 2011

I've Been Converted

Ever since I saw the Jaguar hybrid supercar, I started thinking about the possibility that electric cars that get their electricity from the electrical grid may not be the best green transportation solution out there: First, obviously, the consumption of electricity isn't entirely "green" in the fullest sense: better than using fossil fuels, but still uses resources. Second, more importantly, you can't recharge batteries with electricity in a few quick minutes and continue on down the highway like a normal car. (See here for battery technology, lithium titanate, that may change that, recharging in 10 minutes.)

Now finally arrives a car that has changed my mind completely about the direction in which the future of road transportation should and shall go: The Honda Clarity.

Similar to the Jaguar above: The Honda Clarity uses an online generator, powered by hydrogen (benefits: most abundant element in the universe; same cost as gasoline; refill times 3 minutes; exhaust is steam) to run an electric engine that drives the wheels. It gets the equivalent of around 50 miles per gallon.

I've done some reading on hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen engines... and there's a way to go. But the concepts embodied by the Jaugar Turbine and Honda Clarity seem to light the clearest path foward away from gasoline.


Chetumaire said...

The generation of H2 requires energy. If you start with 100kWh at the power generating plant, you'll end up with about 20kWh of effective energy by the time it used in the H2 vehicle. You've just wasted 80% - not green. A Chevy Volt type system seems to me to be the way forward.

Jungle Jil said...

I'm inclined to agree with you about that insofar as the best use of gasoline goes (though clean diesel is probably even better), but as a vehicular motor that operates completely free of fossil fuel (which is the most salient aspect of future car technology in the long run), I think this Honda Clarity is probably the most practical option currently in development.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Jil

after creepily spying on the blog for months without posting, i shall offer some insight on this particular topic.

First, electricity will work. Hydrogen uses much more power to create the same movement of an object, although better than compressed air for instance.

Second, you can charge any battery in 10 minutes. The problem is you need more amperage than the power supply at your house. Most chargers take hours because they are cheap and cannot handle high amperage, just high voltage. 100 amps at 120v ac is like 7 ,3hp circular saws running at the same time. Need a huge supply for that.

Third, lithium is useless in any form because it costs $50 a pound raw. If cars were mass produced with lithium it would be $200 per pound, or over $40,000 per battery

Fourth, we have ultracapacitors that can easily replace batteries if you want instant charging. They would require charging every 5 minutes of driving, which is fine if you have charging stations at every house, store etc.

Fifth, MIT has developed ultracaps with nanocarbon fibers instead of the carbon film to hold electric charge. When this is ready it will be the solution.

Sixth, even it MIT fails, anyone can buy lead acid batteries, a cheap e-motor kit and make an electric car. When the batteries become sulfated, you shock them with a welder / add Epsom salt to rejuvenate them. Shorted cells are easily rebuilt.

I need to take a walk now after all this typing. -phil

Jungle Jil said...

Thanks for the input Phil.

I do have high hopes for battery tech... and I instinctively understand that this is where the greatest potential for advancement exists.

The principal thing is, however, that at this moment in time, without factoring vaporware and "potentials" into the equation, hydrogen (or, at least natural gas, of which The United States has the largest reserves) generators connected to an electrical motor represents the best alternative to fossil fuels at this particular moment in time.

What the future holds... I'm inclined to see things your way with rose-colored glasses on.

One thing though: I don't think battery power will ever get a passenger jet from New York to Tokyo, or a freighter ship from Singapore to Long Beach. I'm curious as to what solutions those features of the transportation industry will use.

Teacher Phil said...

You're right. No way they can fly planes with batteries... unless you parked it every hour on a massive aircraft carrier/power generation station in the ocean. But the airlines can't even feed passengers let alone build waterworld. The ships will continue to use diesel because there is lots available at the $8/gal price range (tar sands). I hate the tar sands and I'm never going to work there but it will be one of the things powering ships. -P