Welcome to the Energy Blog

  • The Energy Blog is where all topics relating to The Energy Revolution are presented. Increasingly, expensive oil, coal and global warming are causing an energy revolution by requiring fossil fuels to be supplemented by alternative energy sources and by requiring changes in lifestyle. Please contact me with your comments and questions. Further Information about me can be found HERE.



After Gutenberg

Clean Break

The Oil Drum


Blog powered by Typepad

« New Syngas Reactor to be Tested at Pulp Mill | Main | 11 MW Solar Tower Plant Dedicated in Spain »

April 03, 2007



Question is: would there be any advantage in making this new engine part of a hybrid system, too? Would it perform even better, then?

Jim fro The Energy Blog

Yes, such a comment is included in the MIT article.


Plugin hybrids increase average mileage from 25 mpg to 250 mpg. This kind of extra expense and complication added to the obsolete internal combustion egine will only keep the gas guzzling hype going a few more years.

Plus it gives fuel farming another excuse.

Very, very bad idea. And I seriously doubt it even works. Inject water at the right moment and the 25% increase in mileage would probably be real. But why spend more money on a failed technology, the internal combustion engine.


1000 to 1500 bucks for turbocharging and extra injectors, extra ethanol fuel system, extra computer chips and related control systems?

A turbocharger and related systems alone would cost 3000 more, even if mass produced.

MIT has been producing a lot of suspect "research" of late. Bought and payed for by auto and corn ethanol makers in this case? Yep, not much doubt.

Good luck when one of these monstrosities needs a tune up, or worse, a repair! Owners would be money ahead trading them in rather than getting all these complex systems to work right. Try paying to get a turbocharged car repaired, before you buy into this latest boondoggle.

greg woulf

This isn't really new technology. They've done ethenol injection before to cool the chamber and stop knock. This is just direct injection and it's a little more controlled.

I'd rather they spent more on battery technology, but I think this will work. The amount of ethanol they're talking is very small.

Anyway, I think this is a better bad than new typical combustion engines, but not as good as a solution.


Is maintenance and tuning just as big an issue for electronically controlled injection?

Point on PHEV 50 to 250 mpg is nuts on!

Multiple technology choices and economies of scale will drive battery prices down. PHEVs will dominate unless full EV becomes dominant mode. Then ICE is just another generator option for PHEV.

How does it compare to Isreali jet engine improvement?:
25-30% reduction in fuel use claimed. This is radical improvement in fuel mileage. (25% fuel savings => 26% higher mpg) (30% fuel savings => 43% higher mpg)

How about a drx favorite SOFC?:
(Franklin – SOFC=Solid Oxide Fuel Cell)

How about starrotor engine?:
(Starrotor – more efficient motor designs, more flexible fuel use)

George Bruce

"...relatively new technology of direct injection,..."

Pardon me, but this is a bunch of crap. Direct injection has been around a while. We call them "diesel engines." The efficiency gains they tout can be equaled or exceeded by decades old diesel technology, with no increase in cost over this approach and no ethanol.

Kent L

Claiming that PHEV's get 50 to 250 mpg is technically wrong and does the technology a disservice. You are completely ignoring the cost of the electricity needed to charge a PHEV's battery.

Please try and be accurate, because PHEV's are a great technology. We don't want to be criticized for being zealots, rather than realists.

barry hanson

"Claiming that PHEV's get 50 to 250 mpg is technically wrong"
Kent L.
No, drX is right on..it's 250 miles per gallon of liquid fuel...the problem is the liquid fuel part not the electricity. Elect will be generated in the 3-4 cents per kWh range soon enough with CPVs, see article in M-A '07 Distributed Energy (www.distributedenergy.com)

greg woulf

Diesels have problems, they're not the solution and they don't equal the smaller gasoline with direct ethenol mileage.

Plus Diesels weigh a lot more for that power so they aren't as suitable for hybrid use.

I'm a battery guy, so I hate defending any ICE, but this is a good technology even if it's not an earth shattering discovery.

If you notice they say in the article that it's all been done, just not all together.

Why hate on it? The patent system will reject it if it isn't new and the free market will reject it if it's not good enough.


"Diesels have problems, they're not the solution"

The last 24h du Mans was won by an Audi equipped with a Diesel. Diesel's better mileage is for now not an undefinite future like direct ethanol injection.

Pls, stay tuned to the technos, greg woulf.


Makes for a great generator engine for the Volt.


Maybe they should enter the next X Prize Foundation contest:


$10,000,000 at stake. The X Foundation might be just what we need to get the EV off the ground.


"the problem is the liquid fuel part not the electricity. Elect will be generated in the 3-4 cents per kWh range soon enough with CPVs"

Barry, having you been drinking the Kool-Aid?

Don't get me wrong, I am all about the prospects for solar, but large scale solar (as a meaningful contributor to our electrical supply) is still vaporware. It is unrealistic to avoid the impacts of electricity generation in the near, mid, and frankly long terms.

Harvey D.

Various size PHEVs with light weight-improved aerodynamic body + advanced higher capacity-performance ESU (batteries or super caps) + small flex fuel generator could supply most of our personnal transportation needs for generations.

A few dozen, 1500 MW up-to-date nuclear power plants, + wind mills + solar units could supply all the clean electrical energy required.

We have enough land to produce all the cellulosic ethanol/butanol required (for PHEVs) without over-reducing food supplies.

What is missing is the political and personnal will to do it.

Improved ICE may be OK if it leads to lighter, more efficient, on-board PHEV generators NOT to more muscle cars and large SUVs.

barry hanson

Did you read the article?

PARC/SolFocus are already in pilot scale production and anticipate availability for commercial/residential in 2008. Their current cost is $2.50 per watt, they expect with mass production that could come down to 50 cents or less. $2.50 a watt is already 6 cent electricity. What information in that article do you feel is not accurate?

Kit P.

All forms of BEVs are DOA because they are really elsewhere emission vehicles (EEV). Also ICE have improved in efficiency and emissions. To get consumers to change, there must be a compelling good reasons. People like Al Gore, GWB, and Arnold S. may talk about AGW, addiction to oil, peak oil; but show no leadership in there personal life.

If boys with electric toys can rationalize them as environmental friendly, do not be too surprised when 'clean' muscle cars are marketed.

Environmental choices are like real estate choices. The three most important factors are location, location, location. The battery guy can most likely tell you the best application for PHEVs. Capture that market and there is a future for BEV.

Kit P.

Barry, I read the article and found it very deceptive as your statement. While I look forward to the day that solar is more economical, that day is not here yet. There is a huge leap between unfounded predictions and actual data. However, that is beside the point.

Currently in the US, demand for electricity is growing faster than the growth of all renewable energy sources. The increased demand is being supplied by imported LNG and by 2016, the US will become a net importer of coal. PHEVs will only increase the demand for fossil fuel.

It is possible that the insignificant amount of electricity produced by CPV can meet the insignificant demand caused by PHEVs. In contrast, increasing the compression ratio of an ICE with ethanol (assuming no NOx increase) would clearly improve efficiency. Ethanol is also showing great promise but we do not know if if that promise is 10% or 30%.

Bottom line, the MIT idea decreases demand for fossil fuel while PHEVs increases demand.


Leadership in their personal life?

Increase demand for fossil fuel?

Kit P. you sound a bit too much like an oil lobbyist for my taste.

Anyone somewhat acquainted with the advantages of an electrical vehicle see through your lies.

Power plants, be it coal, oil, biowaste, etc. have been shown to produce far more energy for the number of inputs than a conventional ICE connected to a car's driveshaft. That is the advantage of electric. Along with a far cheaper fuel cost.


I get the feeling that Kit P. is a troll for the fossil-fuel interests.  Among his lies and half-truths:

  1. It's true that total demand is growing faster than renewables (EIA generation figures).  However, between the 2004 and 2005 numbers total consumption went up by only 67.4 billion kWh; production from renewables was better than 5 times that, and the huge increases in the installed base of wind power in 2005 and 2006 are not visible in those numbers.  Wind is doubling about every 2 years, so it will be meeting the increase in demand by itself in about 5 years.  After that it will be chewing into the market share of gas and coal.

  2. "PHEVs increases demand" [for fossil fuel].  This is flat-out false.  A PHEV is derived from an HEV, which is considerably more efficient than its ICEV cousin.  The PHEV also has the advantage of running off stationary powerplants which average around 33% efficient, instead of engines compromised for mobility and rapid power fluctuations.  Combined-cycle gas turbines could burn oil at around 60% efficiency, running a PHEV fleet on far less oil than putting it directly into the cars.

  3. "All forms of BEVs are DOA because they are really elsewhere emission vehicles (EEV)."  BEVs can run off electricity from solar, wind, hydro at any scale, or nuclear.  There are no "emissions elsewhere" from these sources, giving the BEV/PHEV an unmatched advantage:  it can start cleaner than an ICEV, and keep getting better over time.

Kit P.

Nathan, Nice personal attack. Tell me what productive occupation you pursue.

Clearly, you are not an mechanical or electrical engineer in the automotive or electricity generating industry. Electricity is a cheaper commodity than transportation fuel. If you want to discount the value of the investment in the EV fine. If you want to discount the storage waste fine. If you want to ignore the environmental impact of batteries, ok.

I am in favor of PHEV research but that does not preclude see the drawback or the merits of other technology.


As for the total carbon output:

A standard Prius gets ~45 MPG, which produces roughly 195 grams of CO2 (53 grams carbon) per mile.  That's roughly 2560 BTU/mile of energy.

A PHEV conversion Prius uses ~200 Wh/mile from the wall.  Assuming 7% transmission losses and the average 10200 BTU/kWh heat rate, it will use about 2190 BTU/mile of heat from whatever source.  If that comes from coal (using figures for Wyoming coal here), it yields 9610 BTU per pound and is 53.9% carbon.  This would produce 1120 grams CO2 per kWh at the plant or 241 g/mile.

Burn that coal in the Wabash River IGCC powerplant instead (40% efficiency, ~8530 BTU/kWh) and the carbon emissions drop to 201 g/mile:  a dead heat, even burning coal.  It also buys complete independence from imported fuel.  Substitute wind and nuclear for coal over time, and the car's emissions keep getting lower and lower.

A conventional car getting 33 MPG emits about 266 g/mile.

Kit P.

EP, a little hint. When you call someone a lier, do not post a link that verifies that position while failing to document your position.

From EP's link. Total renewable energy decreased in 2005. If fact it has been steadily decreasing since 1996 thanks to environmental regulations. Wind did increase in 2005. Drum roll please, a whole 0.5 billion kWh. Of course, wind generation did decrease in market share. EP likes to multiple really small numbers by really small numbers, you will get something besides a small number.

Wind power is growing steadily, but coal and natural gas capacity is growing faster.

EP did not post any data that verifies HEV performance in practical application. In fact there is a disturbing lack of data. At this point, PHEV is just a matter of conjecture. I have noticed that EP is a little loose with what figures he picks for efficiency. EP wrote:

- "A standard Prius gets ~45 MPG, which produces roughly 195 grams of CO2"
- "This would produce 1120 grams CO2 per kWh at the plant or 241 g/mile. "

What EP has done is shown that I was not lying without bothering to admit that.

If more efficient coal plant get built, 2 new nukes come on line per year after 2016, and a lot more windmill factories get built; then maybe PHEVs will use less fossil fuel.

I do love coal, every month when I get my utility bill. I would buy a PHEV if it made economic and environmental sense. Most likely I will be using a battery operated walker before that happens.


Average mileage is the key concept with plugin hybrids. The average trip length between overnight recharge is 23 miles.

So if enough battery capacity is installed to cover around 25 miles, that means that every trip up to the average length uses no liquid fuel. Providing the vehicle has enough power in electric mode alone.

For that the drivetrain needs an electric motor powerful enough to provide full performance. A paralell hybrid like the Prius has a smaller electric motor that is only powerful enough to drive up to 35 mph. the paralell hybrid relies on a combination of electric and ICE to attain full performance.

A serial plugin hybrid is designed with a more powerful electric motor that handles full performance alone.

So to boost average mileage to 250+ mpg a serial plugin hybrid is needed. Overnight recharge is fine, it uses cheaper batteries and does not need special quick charge "gas" stations.

Consider this typical example of my driving habits to understand how this very high average mileage would occur. On work days my drive is under 25 miles round trip. On one weekend day it is 25 miles again.

On the other weekend day I drive 55 miles between charging. So after the 25 mile battery range I have another 30 miles. Acomplished by using 3/4 of a gallon of liquid fuel. (biodiesel in a backup generator at around 40 mpg).

So my mileage over the week is 205 and I used 3/4 of a gallon of fuel. That is 273 mpg.

Now consider an sofc/microturbine backup generator that gets 4 times the mileage of the diesel generator. 3/16 of a gallon of fuel for the 205 miles. 1093 mpg.

Renewable electricity to charge the batteries would emit no carbon and cost the equivalent of 60 cents per gallon of fuel. And no wars would need to be fought to obtain that electricity, unlike oil based transportation as we know it.

Serial plugin hybrid technology, sofc/microturbine generators, and renewable electricity. The complete solution to GHG disaster and perpetual oil war.

Not to mention it would revive our economy by cutting the huge deficit and war debt incurred in the process of obtaining foreign oil. It would even revive our manufacturing base if this technology was mass produced here in the US.



I am a mechanical engineer, in fact I am an automotive engineer, specializing in engine development and electronic fuel systems. Perhaps i am also qualified to make a comment on this.

I agree that the idea has great merit. As does hydrogen initiated ignition of a standard ICE engine (reported between 40 and 60% reduction in fuel consumption). What i have trouble with is the implementation or rather the infrastructure. The fuels industry is so hard to move (i have direct experience).

so when I read comments like

It is possible that the insignificant amount of electricity produced by CPV can meet the insignificant demand caused by PHEVs

i have to disagree. You also say that the implementation of CPV is dubious. Have a good look at the grean and gold energy utilization of Spectrolabs 3J solar cells.

The roll out of this product technically far more straight forward that the roll-out of ethanol enhanced combustion (infrastructure).

Have a good, in depth look as much of the real information is not immediately obvious. I fact, I would encourage all readers to do so.




Amazingdrx wrote: Now consider an sofc/microturbine backup generator that gets 4 times the mileage of the diesel generator.

How could it be 4 times as efficient as a 40%-efficient diesel engine?

Is it 160% efficient?


Kit P. doesn't bother to note that the entire drop in renewable energy from 2003-2005 was due to a roughly 10 billion kWh decrease in net hydropower.  Wind production showed a stair-step increase, showing the effects of the on-again, off-again production tax credit.  Still, wind energy made up for a large part of hydro's decrease and will shortly outpace it.

Wind is competing with gas, which is expensive and getting more so.  The PTC isn't likely to be a factor ever again.

Had I compared the HEV to the PHEV using the US's average generation mix (roughly 50% coal), the PHEV would have come in around 130 gCO2/mile.  Comparing incremental contributions is similar.  It won't be long before the growth in wind outpaces the growth in coal.  As I said before, the PHEV will only get better with time.


Well I found 40% efficiency for utility grade diesel generators. A portable one suitable for a vehicle might get 35%?

So maybe double the mileage is a better aproximation. Put the sofc/microturbine backup serial plugin hybrid in this example at 545 mpg. My mistake. But anything over 250 mpg makes the point.

of course as battery range increases with better, lighter batteries and quick charge batteries become affordable and quick charge infrastructure becomes available. Mileage will go way way up. Until liquid fuel is hardly ever used.


How about microwave plasma ignition Mike?

Each sparkplug a microwave plasma torch? actually a fairly simple change that might boost gas ICEs to the efficiency of diesel?

But why bother? Just get rid of ICEs altogether and go with sofc/microturbine power completely compatible with serial plugin hybrid drivetrains.


Battery advances can increase the mileage of a serial plugin hybrid whenever the battery pack is replaced with a lighter, quicker charging, cheaper model.

You don't need to replace the car itself. 500,000 miles for a serial plugin hybrid would be feasible. Electric motors last a lot longer than ICEs. And with light weight rust free composite frame/body units they would look ok too.

As better and better batteries are mass produced mileage will increase and cost will drop. This is a clear path to real energy re-evolution. Investments by consumers, government, and industry would all be going in the same energy policy direction.

And that is what is needed to win these GHG/gas guzzler wars.


Amazingdrx wrote: Well I found 40% efficiency for utility grade diesel generators. A portable one suitable for a vehicle might get 35%?


The modern diesel engine has an efficiency of approximately 45% compared with about 30% for a petrol engine. Volvo is devoting significant resources to the ongoing improvement of the fuel-efficiency of its engines.

Amazingdrx wrote: So maybe double the mileage is a better aproximation. [...] the sofc/microturbine

The efficiencies of diesels and fuel-cells are about the same.


PEM fuel cells are much less efficient than the ~50-70% hydrogen-to-output-electricity figure used by Lovins (as we have only recently discovered). An overall figure of ~35-50% is probably more appropriate for normal use when all accessory and parasitic losses are taken into account. At the same time, the figure that Lovins uses for gasoline engine efficiency is too low for modern gasoline IC engines combined with high-efficiency transmissions; roughly 25% is closer to the real efficiency and this figure is climbing steadily. But this does not completely negate his point that fuel cells used in light-vehicle applications should offer about 50-100% better economy (not the 2-3X claimed by Lovins) than gasoline engines, especially at low load. Diesel engines, on the other hand, are substantially more efficient than gasoline engines, approaching the lower bound of the fuel cell efficiency range (35-50%) and potentially capable of much higher efficiencies. In hybrid-electric applications, they can currently offer higher efficiency with acceptable on-road performance (currently a problem with fuel cell and hybrid vehicles). If high-speed compression-ignition engines can be developed to operate at very high compression ratios and near-instantaneous combustion (offering a close approximation to constant-volume combustion), probably on gaseous fuels (and possibly even hydrogen!), much higher efficiencies are possible.

I would buy one today if ford or GM made them in America.


SOFC/turbines are 75% efficient. Boeing is developing small ones as backup power on their airplanes and to power UAVs.

That size would be suitable for vehicles.

Meanwhile, keep picking those nits (while the earth burns)buddy.

Gasoline powered cars are 14% efficient, chemical energy to power on the ground.


The links in the EVworld article for gasoline and transmission efficiency proof do not go to that information. The transmission link is an ad for a transmission shop. Hehey.

Nice source buddy.



The source is an article by John R. Wilson. The links are automated. No one put them there.


The Prius is 14% efficient at the wheels? Are you sure?



the Tank-to-wheel efficiency of the Prius is 37%
Kit P.

Where to start? I will start with Mike because he seems the most reasonable and qualified.

I bought a new Toyota Corolla for my wife last year because our good mpg car is with our college student.

Mike, convince me that I should have bought a HEV. The reason PHEV are DOA is that very few people will buy them because they are not any better than a regular old ICE.

I am a mechanical and environmental engineer with 35 years experience in the electric industry including developing biomass renewable energy. I can even calculate ghg credits.

I have two bottom line ICE powered 1989 cars with 250k miles on the engines. Now tell me why you think that a HEV is significantly better and give me data to show that it will benefit my wife's driving habits. I expect the Corolla to last at least 300K miles without major maintenance.

Kit P.

If EP thinks 0.5 billion kWh is a stair step, then he must be the kind of engineer who never learned to use a slide rule.

Over the next 5 years projected fossil capacity additions will out pace wind three to one. This does not take into account the very low capacity.

I am not trying to minimize the accomplishments of wind. They are remarkable. Any contribution is great. However, do not count on wind being a significant source of electricity that out paces coal.


Most wind which will actually be installed in the next 5 years isn't in "projections" because the planning horizon is as short as 18 months.  Fossil plants have horizons that long or longer; ergo, a 5-year view will pick up all the fossil but only a fraction of the wind.

Again, Kit P. either doesn't know this, or tries to deceive people by not mentioning it.



I didn't read the article; I just signed up for the magazine after following your link.

Questions I have:
What is the **installed** cost of the system?
How in the name of Apollo the sun god do you get $2.50/W to work out to $0.06/kWh?? For example, here we see that an industrial scale plant that works out to $4.96/W translates to $0.21/kWh (in a sunny climate).

Again, don't get me wrong, show me a solar system that I can put on my roof (and that of my school, my warehouse, etc.), for around $0.15/kWh fully loaded and I am all over it. But we aren't there yet, and I don't think we'll be in 2008 (though I would *love* to be proven wrong).

I quote someone who works for groSolar, a fast-growing PV installer in the Northeast:

"Brian I have been told to never say never but don't hold your breath waiting for $4 per watt. The people that keep saying that need to be pinched because they are dreaming."

I'm more optimistic than this person (who, again, makes their living selling PV), but not by a lot.


Yep if 15 cents per kwh could be reached by solar roof top application, it would take off. Especially with 10 cents in subsidies per kwh.

I think it's feasible in a turnkey installation with mass production and installation. But the design would need to be trough concentrating PV (at least 10 suns, 39% efficient)with heating/cooling capacity cogeneration. But the heating/cooling savings would need to be taken into account.

It would need to be installable like metal roofing with plugin features to standard electrical home/grid technology and standard water and home heating/cooling technology.

It would be cheaper in sunnier climes. But that average of 15 cents per kwh would do it. It might cost 5 cents per kwh in the desert (where standard air conditioning costs are astronomical)and 20 cents per kwh or more in very cloudy, temperate regions, like Seattle.

Kit P.

Seattle is winter peaking. It is also a place where they make jokes about seeing the sun in the winter such as calling 911 to report a UFO on the only clear day. It also has low price power with most of it coming from hydroelectric. Right now off peak power is practically being given away. The PNW send lots of power to California. Hint, put up solar where supper peak power is very expensive.

barry hanson

Here's how I figured it:
$2500 per KW is the installed cost.
That $2500 will buy you 65,700 hours at the peak power of the PV module.
65700 is possible at 25% capacity factor (efficiency) over 30 years of life, 8760 X 30 X .25).
That works out to 3.8 cents per kWh, multiply by 1.5 for balance of system and installation for 5.7 cents.

The example you sited is right on, I just spent $10,000 for an additional 1.75 KW but already had the inverter in place. They are quoting $7 a watt, which is what it costs these days. The point I tried to make is that, and this is my opinion, I think CPV is a legitimate breakthrough based on what the people at SolFocus/PARC, Suncube, Practical Instruments, Solaria, etc are saying: $3 per watt installed by 2009. They need 10 MW of orders to do that. The big difference is that my Sharp panels operate at 12%, the CPV operates at 25-35% efficiency.



Well done!

Buying the Corolla you have already managed to do what (it appears from here) the majority of North Americans are unable to. That is, buy a compact car weighing 1100kg instead of a 2000kg car.

We drive a BMW 318TDS station wagon with 240 000 km. I get around 50 MPG and have slowed down in the last few years to try and save more few. we are a family of four and I manage to get all we need in there (including holidays).

I also drive a 65cc direct injected 2 stroke scooter all year round that achieves 37km /litre real and its the quickest method to cover the 25km commute to work.

Every time I brake I think about the energy i am wasting (and that's on a 100kg scooter) so an energy recovery device is required. i think that we should even legislate this. I know that HEV is no better on the highway but we live in an increasing congested planet and stop starting is the future. Better go with the increasing trend or no?

About plasma ignition. I have already performed some analysis and in terms of benefit the tech falls into the good but small benefit basket (for sure to be done, but not the big hitter).

Again if i where going to go to the trouble of having separate infrastructure I would try the hydrogen initiate ignition. I have seen the FC (fuel consumption) improvements with stratified combustion and if this tech achieves 40 to 60 Air Fuel Ratio as stated, then the FC reduction is very real.

So that's my take. In any case, at the end of the day BEV for personal transport powered by solar and wind is where we will end up. I really i just a question of how long it takes.

Sorry for the rant!



Mother Goose exposes the main problem with the blog version of energy re-evolution.

Kit P.

Mike thanks for the answer. The reason I like biofuels is that I know that a certain amount can be produced while benefiting the environment based on LCA. This relatively small amount will be easy to blend into the existing infrastructure for fueling ICE. Over the next 20 years, we will figure out just how just how much can be produced within the carrying capacity of the US environment.

I think the way to go in rural America is biodiesel because modern diesel are very efficient. They are also now acceptably quite and clean.

I am hoping that the electricity generating industry will properly develop the PHEV market.


I couldn't help but chuckle when I read Nucbuddy's observation that "wind is competing with gas." A brief review of some of the comments and personal attacks on this blog confirm that observation. I think I'll go back to the conservative political blogs, where things are a little more civil.


SCC wrote: I couldn't help but chuckle when I read Nucbuddy's observation that "wind is competing with gas."

That was actually Engineer-Poet.

Engine Additive

Your article is very informative and the use of graphics adds to understanding the process. I think some of your sentences are too long, and a few minor commas are missing. One thing I was taught, never end a sentence with a preposition.

The comments to this entry are closed.

. .

Batteries/Hybrid Vehicles