August 18, 2005

Plug-in Hybrids Equal Off Peak Power

Plug-in hybrids have an advantage that I hadn't thought of before. Plug-in hybrids or all electrics (perhaps to a lesser extent) are usually recharged at night and if they are adopted in a significant way they would go a long way towards balancing the load on electrical utilities.  Because of this the owners should be able to buy electricity at a lower rate during the off-peak period, much as many utilities give a lower rate for for water heater.  With the Internet, there are more alternatives available to regulate how the off peak electricity can be delivered and metered to your home.

I found this idea while I browsing through the Entropy Production Blog.  His posts go into great detail to explain potential savings of using off-peak power and the fact that if it is not used and everyone plugged there car in at 5 or 6 pm the plug-ins would cause an undesirable extra demand on the utilities.  His original post made on 8/8/05 can be found here and a follow up post made on 8/12 is here.

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August 15, 2005

New Electric Car

An electric car with a range of 93 miles, using Lithium-ion batteries and having a top speed of 90 mph has been announced by Mitsubishi Motors. The car, which is scheduled for sale in 2010, is driven by two motors on the rear wheels and will cost under $19,000.  Plans for sales overseas have not been decided.

Previous electric cars did not receive much popularity.  This one has considerably more range than former models, thanks to its Lithium-ion batteries which are just becoming available in mass production.  They are lighter and can store more energy per unit weight than NiMh batteries that are commonly used in hybrids.  With high prices of gasoline, a car like this makes sense for people that commute a relatively short distance or need a car that is primarily used to run around town.  It can be charged overnight by simply plugging it into an outlet at home at considerable savings over a gas powered car.

Read the full story "Mitsubishi unveils electric car for 2010", MSNBC

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August 05, 2005

Where Does The Energy Revolution Stand?

The Energy Revolution has met some major milestones In the six months since I have been writing this blog, in that there there have been several key developments relating to energy technology and policy which I would like to review and comment on. 

Transportation Fuels

My focus immediately became on transportation fuels, as I soon found out it was our most immediate concern. The development of technology and “roadmaps” that could lead to independence from foreign oil imports for the US and other countries have made significant progress in the last six months.  Although funding to accelerate usage of biofuels is totally inadequate, further evidence of the availability of potential resources is a major step.

  • The refusal of congress to institute new mileage standards for passenger vehicles and light weight trucks is a major disappointment. Causes of this complacency include: 1) Congress is unconvinced of the urgency of the problem 2) Lobbyists that are opposed to these standards are much too influential and 3) Congress would rather let market forces create a demand for biofuels and hybrid vehicles rather than getting involved.
  • Release of the Hirsch report which presented three scenarios for mitigating a decline in oil production. This report clearly indicates that if aggressive action to mitigate peak oil is not taken at least 10 years before it occurs we will face grave economic impact.  A must reading for all concerned about peak oil and the mitigation thereof.
  • Record quantities of ethanol are being produced in Brazil with 40% of new cars sold capable of burning 100% ethanol and all gasoline sold contains at least 25% ethanol. The country is nearly independent of oil imports and is becoming a major exporter of ethanol. Brazil is a model in the use of renewable fuels for the rest of the world.  Please take note!
  • Release of the Oak Ridge report stating that up to 30% of our liquid fuels could be produced from cellulosic materials.
  • Announcement by DOE that enzymes have been developed that permit using any cellulosic material as a feedstock to the production of ethanol. This development makes possible meeting goals for producing 30% of our liquid fuels from cellulosic materials. This occurance was anticipated in the previously item and makes biofuels a major, realistic alternative.
  • Announcement by CleanFuels that it was in the process of commercializing production of biodiesel from algae using smokestack emissions as fuel. This is significant in that it complementary, not competitive with other biodiesel production routes. At the same time the process also reduces CO2 and NOX emissions from power plants.  Though not nearly as far along in development as ethanol, algae biodiesel would make it possible to be the major biofuel.
  • Increasing sales and announcement of hybrid vehicles, which is our main means of conservation of gasoline.
  • Announcement by scientists at the University of Wisconsin that they had developed a process for producing Alkane based biodiesel from any carbonaceous material.
  • A new Renewable Fuels Standard in the new Energy Bill requiring a doubling in the use of biofuels to 7.5 billion gallons a year by 2012.  Biomass was redefined to include any organic material grown for the purpose of being converted to energy.  This is not nearly a large enough program to allow ethanol and biodiesel to replace our oil imports in a timely manor, but it is a step in the right direction.

Continue reading "Where Does The Energy Revolution Stand?" »

July 31, 2005

The US Energy Bill of 2005

The US energy bill of 2005 has received a mixed bag of reviews depending on your interests.  The folowing are the portions of the energy bill that appear to be most relevant to the topics I discuss:

A two-year extension of a tax credit to companies that produce power from renewable sources — an allocation worth $2.7 billion. The bulk of those funds will promote the construction of new wind farms, a boon to utilities and wind turbine manufacturers, while the remainder will assist biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric companies.

Biofuels : A 7.5 billion gallon Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) which would add billions of gallons of ethanol, biodiesel and other renewables to the nations fuel supply by 2012.  In addition to the RFS, the bill updates the small ethanol producer definition to 60 million gallons, extends the biodiesel tax credit through 2008, and establishes a 30% tax credit up to $30,000 for the cost of installing clean fuel refueling equipment, such as an E85 fuel pump.

Solar : Increases the permanent 10 percent business energy credit for solar to 30% for two years.   Eligible technologies include photovoltaics, solar water heaters, concentrating solar power, and solar hybrid lighting. The credit reverts back to the permanent 10 percent level after two years. The bill establishes a 30 percent residential energy credit for solar for two years.   For residential systems, the tax credit is capped at $2,000.

Geothermal, Wind: The bill continues to include geothermal energy in the Section 45 Production Tax Credit (PTC) for the full 1.9 cent/kwhr credit amount, but expands the credit period from five to the full ten years. As a result, geothermal and wind will now receive equal tax treatment -- the full ten-year, 1.9 cent production tax amount. Other technologies, such as open loop biomass, receive the full ten-year credit but for half the credit amount, or 0.95 cents/kwhr. The biggest clean energy perk in the bill was a two-year extension of a tax credit critical to companies that produce power from renewable sources -- an allocation worth $2.7 billion. The bulk of those funds will promote the construction of new wind farms, a boon to utilities and wind turbine manufacturers, while the remainder will assist biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric companies.

Direct users of geothermal energy may use a simpler procedure for leasing, or establishing a fee schedule instead of royalties payments. State and local governments are allowed to use geothermal resources for public purposes at a nominal charge.

Hybrid, fuel efficient vehicles: Close to $875 million in tax credits could be given to those who buy hybrid gas-electric vehicles before 2010.  The bill favors companies that are just getting into the hybrid business. Each manufacturer can apply the tax credit to just 60,000 vehicles.  Toyota sells roughly 150,000 hybrids per year and Honda 50,000 which means that a only a portion of their vehicles will be eligible for credits. The bill fails to include any provision for new fuel efficiency standards.

A new category of tax credits known as clean renewable energy bonds, or CREBs, that have an estimated value of $400 million. These tax-exempt bonds can be issued by local governments or electricity cooperatives to help pay for wind, solar, biomass and other specified projects.  An additional $194 million will go toward the two-year extension of excise- and income-tax credits for manufacturers of biodiesel, a soybean derivative that is blended with regular diesel.

Continue reading "The US Energy Bill of 2005" »

June 20, 2005

Rechargeable Nickel Zinc Batteries

A high performance rechargeable NiZn battery offers a viable alternative to hazardous NiCd cells

Nizn_battery That is the headline of an article that claimed that French and Spanish partners in EUREKA project NITIN SCOOTER made the breakthrough that will finally make nickel zinc (NiZn) batteries economically viable.  Tests conducted in-house and by independent testing centers, including the R&D Center of Electricite de France, demonstrate that their NiZn batteries meet commercial requirements in terms of high cycle life, high specific energy and power, and low cost.  The partners in this EUREKA project have overcome this problem and can now produce a safe alternative to NiCd that can be used for over 1000 charging cycles.

Continue reading "Rechargeable Nickel Zinc Batteries" »

June 10, 2005

The Bionic Car

Mercedes Benz has developed a concept car, streamlined like a fish in the water, powered by diesel engine and getting 70 mpg (US).The_bionic_car  Mercedes engineers found a creature in nature, the boxfish, that had aerodynamic and structural attributes similar to that required in a car.  The boxfish lives among the coral reefs and needs to conserve strength and move with the least possible energy consumption.  It must withstand high pressures and protect its body during collisions with a rigid outer skin while moving in confined spaces.  The boxfish has almost as good streamlining qualities as the water drop, the standard for the ideal aerodynamic form.  Its coefficient of drag is 0.06 compared to 0.04 for the water drop.  The first aerodynamic model of the car had a Cd of 0.09 and the final concept car has a Cd of 0.19.  Aerodynamics features of the car include shrouding of the rear wheels with plastic, flush-fitted door handles and the use of cameras instead of exterior mirrors.  The concept car has the following characteristics:

Length 13.9 ft, 4.24 meters
Width 3.9 ft, 1.l8 meters
Wheelbase 8.5 ft, 2.6 meters
Engine Output 140 hp, 103 kW
Fuel consumption (combined) 70 mpg, 4.3 l/100 km
Acceleration 0-60 mph (0-100 km/h) 8.2 seconds
Top speed 118 mph, 190 km/hr

Exhaust emissions are controlled with an oxidizing catalytic converter and a particulate filter, which reduces emmisions well below any planned standards.

Aerodynamics or streamlining of a car is becoming of greater concern as fuel mileage becomes more important.  The drag on the car caused by speed is proportional to the speed squared and thus is four times as great at 40 mph than at 20 mph.  At highway speeds it is by far the major contributor to horsepower requirement.

As can be seen from the Cd values for some other vehicles, the Cd is already an important aspect of car design: GM EV-1 all electric - 0.19, Honda Insight - 0.25, 2004 Corvette coupe - 0.28, 2004 Toyota Prius, Honda Accord and Ford Escape - 0.29, 2004 Buick Park Ave - 0.32, 2005 Ford Explorer - 0.41 and Hummer H2 - 0.57. 

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May 28, 2005

More Hybrid Vehicles

On May 27, Purolater Courier Ltd of Canada announced that it had introduced ten hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and one hydrogen fuel cell electric (FC-HEV) into its fleet in Toronto.  An additional 20 HEVs will be introduced shortly in other metropolitan areas.  If these vehicles live up to expectations the company plans to add up to 100 to its fleet annually. They emphasized the reduction in emissions from the vehicles. The HEVs are expected to eliminate up to 50% of emissions compared to its current vehicles.

The FC-HEV is one of the first put into service in Canada (or any where else?),  It is hydrogen fueled and Purolater is developing a hydrogen generation and refueling system. It will generate hydrogen from water using renewable energy, such as wind power.  The Canadian government highly subsidized the FC-HEV.

Azure Dynamics Corporation made the powertrains and according to their website it has a memo of understanding with Purolator to supply up to 3,000 powertrains.

This sounds great! How about converting our postal fleet to vehicles of this type.

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May 27, 2005

More About Batteries

When researching for my plug-in hybrid post, I came across a report by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) regarding the status of battery technology for the hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicle markets which is good reading for those interested in a more in-depth analysis of batteries and their assessment of the state of the technology at the time the report was written. The state of the art of Lithium-ion batteries has improved significantly since this report was written as evidenced by the use of these batteries in their use in the the applications cited in the previous post.

According to EPRI, p 2-8, the cost projected for mass produced lithium ion batteries is comparable or lower than NiMH batteries.   70% fewer cells are required and the cost of materials can be expected to be less than in NIMH batteries.

I also came across a statement by SAFT, "their batteries have been selected for the electric and hybrid demonstration vehicles of most European and American manufacturers."

I have incorporated these items into my post About Batteries so that they will be part of the more formal post.  It was also brought to my attention that I implied that Federal Express was using Valance batteries in their hybrid delivery vans.  I could not find any such reference on the web so I clarified that statement.

May 25, 2005

About Plug-in Hybrids

Plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) are similar to regular hybrids (HEVs) except that they are able to run for significant distances at cruising speed in the all-electric mode, like a battery-electric vehicle (BEV).  They can be used for daily commuting in the all electric mode not producing any emissions during the commute.  Because much of their use is in the all-electric mode their fuel (gasoline or diesel) economy is in the range of 80-120 mpg.  PHEVs are the most important near term solution for reducing dependency on our decreasing supplies of liquid fuels.  They differ from HEVs by having a larger battery pack and a built in battery charger that lets the vehicle be plugged in to an electrical outlet for charging.  They have an internal combustion engine (ICE), like a HEV and can run in the hybrid mode while their batteries are being charged by the engine.  Extended trips are made in the hybrid mode, thus not having the the limited range of a BEV.  It is usually assumed that a range of 20-30 miles in the all electric mode would be sufficient for most commuting.  The all-electric range is strictly a function of the size of the battery pack and the speed at which you are traveling.  In longer trips in a PHEV, the fuel mileage would be higher than an HEV because the larger batteries could absorb more power from regenerative braking and coasting, as well receiving a significant amount of power from their batteries.

In addition to eliminating emissions during commuting where they are of most concern, PHEVs cost less to operate because they are using electricity for power much of the time, rather than gasoline.  Electricity is less expensive because: 1) it is produced by a more efficient process than burning gasoline in an ICE and 2) its power is derived from a less expensive form of energy than gasoline, the majority from coal. 3) because the vehicles would be charged overnight they would be eligible for an off-peak rate.  This also would minimize the impact on generating capacity.

Continue reading "About Plug-in Hybrids" »

May 18, 2005

About Hybrid Cars

Hybrid cars are selling better than expected, to the dismay of American car makers.  A hybrid is similar to a conventional car except that its drive train has been modified to have both an internal combustion engine (ICE) which drives the front wheels and one or two electric motors, powered by batteries, that drive the rear wheels. 

Plug-in hybrids are hybrids that can be plugged into an electrical outlet while the batteries charged, would be even more economical and not use nearly as much liquid fuels as the hybrids that are now available.  Plug-in conversion kits are starting to become available, but at a fairly hefty cost. 

Battery technology is always of concern when powering a car that is partially powered with batteries, especially when they are constantly being charged and discharged.  Batteries on hybrid cars are usually guaranteed for 100,000 miles, although the expected life is said to be greater than 150,000 miles. Toyota, the largest producer of hybrids, has stated that they have not had a single claim on their batteries. 

The biggest disadvantage of a hybrid car is its initial cost, which is about $3000-$5000 (US) more than the conventional version of the car.

Continue reading "About Hybrid Cars" »

May 16, 2005

About Batteries

Hybrid cars are now attractive and battery powered cars and plug-in hybrids are becoming possible.  This is directly attributable to the advances in battery technology in the past few years.  Hybrid cars are both the beneficiary of this technology and are the driving force for improvements.  Battery powered cars still are limited in range, perhaps between 30 and 100 miles before recharging.  Plug-in hybrids do not suffer any mileage limitations and offer the greatest economy of any of these cars.  However they require a larger battery pack than a hybrid to gain this advantage.  For commutes or shopping trips of the same 30-100 miles they could be designed to run on battery power alone.  When the battery gets low the gasoline engine takes over and powers the car while recharging the battery.  Unfortunately plug-ins are only available as retrofits to regular hybrids such as offered by EDrive Systems for the Prius hybrids. They are quite expensive at the present time, but may be the preffered mode of travel in the future.

Lead acid batteries have been used in cars since the electric starter was invented.  They are heavy and do not have the energy density required for hybrid or electric vehicles.  Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are being used in current generation hybrids and Lithium-ion batteries are on the verge of being cost effective for hybrids.

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April 02, 2005

180 MPG!

A modified Prius is claimed to get 120-180 according to a report in EV WorldEnergyCS modified the Prius by installing their battery monitoring system, replacing the cars 1.3 kWh NiMH batteries with 9 kWh Valance Saphion phosphate based Lithium Ion batteries and an on-board charging system.  By plugging in and recharging the batteries overnight the car is able to to get 120-180 mpg for the first 50-60 miles of travel, until the batteries are nearly discharged. Then the average mileage drops back to about 50 mpg in the normal Prius operating mode.  The higher mileage is possible because 9kWh of electricity was taken off the grid to charge the batteries. Not really any net energy saved, but the saving in gasoline and reduced emissions along the driving route are significant.  The batteries have one-third the weight, twice the run time, faster recharge rate and higher cycle life then lead acid batteries.  According to a NY Times article the modification to the car would add $2,000 to $3,000 to the cars price.

March 31, 2005

Proven Technology for the Next 20 Years

With oil probably peaking in less than 20 years, if not five years, the more I think we need an alternative to the emphasis being placed on the hydrogen economy.  Demonstrated and emerging technology as listed below likely to be the dominant technologies in the next thirty years.  None of these technologies alone can get us there but together but in some combination they make sense.

  • The hybrid is here and can be ramped up as fast as anything.
  • Diesel technology can be used now, and should be, as lower sulfur fuels are brought to market in 2005-2006. They will reduce the environmental impact of diesels significantly.  What we need is more models to choose from as there are very few.
  • Electric cars and plug-in hybrids for commuting and shopping will be more attractive, with greater range, as gasoline prices go up and battery technology gets better as it is starting to.
  • Unconventional oil is already starting to ramp up and will continue as oil companies cannot meet the demand.
  • Ethanol production is already significant with 3.4 billion gallons produced in the US in 2004.
  • Production costs for biodiesel can be reduced by using newer technologies.
  • The Fischer-Tropsh process can be used to produce both ethanol and diesel in larger quantities, at lower cost, than current biofuel producers.  It can handle a much wider variety of feedstocks, like switchgrass, corn stover, wood chips, willows and poplars which are less costly.
  • Coal liquefaction is a proven technology and could supply all of our needs, but not in the required time period.
  • We can increase our electrical production from renewables like wind and concentrating solar systems.
  • More rapid development of unconventional oil in Canada and Venezula.

Continue reading "Proven Technology for the Next 20 Years" »