Archive | Fuel Cells

U.S. Scientists Developing 'Green' Aluminum Water Rocket Propellant

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 8 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they are developing a new type of ‘green’ rocket propellant that consists of a frozen mixture of water and “nanoscale aluminum” powder.

The aluminum-ice, or so-called Alice, propellant is described as being more environmentally friendly than conventional propellants and could be manufactured on the moon, Mars or other water-bearing bodies.

Purdue University Associate Professor Steven Son said the Alice propellant might be used to launch rockets into orbit and for long-distance space missions, as well as generating hydrogen for fuel cells.

Purdue is working with NASA, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Pennsylvania State University to develop Alice.

Assistant Professor Timothee Pourpoint said the tiny size of the aluminum particles, which have a diameter of about 80 nanometers, is key to the propellant’s performance.

“It is considered a green propellant, producing essentially hydrogen gas and aluminum oxide,” Pourpoint said. “Alice might one day replace some liquid or solid propellants, and, when perfected, might have a higher performance than conventional propellants. “It’s also extremely safe while frozen because it’s difficult to accidentally ignite.”

Research findings were presented during the summer at a conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and will be published next year in the conference proceedings.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Office, Other0 Comments

New Fuel Cell Harvests Electricity from Sugar and Weed Killer

PROVO, Utah, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Researchers at Brigham Young University say they have developed a fuel cell that harvests electricity from glucose and other carbohydrates.

“Carbohydrates are very energy rich,” said BYU Professor Gerald Watt. “What we needed was a catalyst that would extract the electrons from glucose and transfer them to an electrode.”

The researchers said their solution turned out to be a common weed killer. Watt, whose great-great-uncle James Watt was the inventor of the steam engine, said the effectiveness of the cheap and abundant herbicide is a boon to carbohydrate-based fuel cells. By contrast, hydrogen-based fuel cells, such as those developed by the General Motors Corp., require costly platinum as a catalyst.

The study reported experiments that yielded a 29 percent conversion rate, or the transfer of 7 of the 24 available electrons per glucose molecule.

“We showed you can get a lot more out of glucose than other people have done before,” said chemical engineering Professor Dean Wheeler. “Now we’re trying to get the power density higher so the technology will be more commercially attractive.”

The research is reported in The Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Engineering, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Other, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

German Energy Company Mixes Renewables and Hydrogen for Power

PRENZLAU, Germany, Sept. 25 (UPI) — An energy company in the German state of Brandenburg is building a new type of power plant that combines several renewable sources with a hydrogen storage system.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the project “trend-setting.” German wind power producer Enertrag earlier this year started construction of the world’s first power plant that combines wind turbines, a biogas unit and a hydrogen storage system.

The plant, located in the Uckermark, the region Merkel grew up in, is intelligently combining the fluctuating renewables: Three wind turbines with a total capacity of 6 GW produce green power; when they generate more than needed, for example at night, the excess power is used to convert water into hydrogen, which can be stored. A biogas unit produces biogas from maize supplied by 21 local farmers; together, the biogas and the stored hydrogen are used in two combined heat and power plants that generate electricity and heat that are fed into the local grid. In the future the hydrogen could also be used by cars with fuel cells, Enertrag says.

With this new power plant, which is due to start producing energy early next year, the company “has found an innovative solution to the challenge of feeding renewables into the grid according to actual demand,” Merkel said in a statement in April, when the plant’s foundation stone was laid. Matthias Platzeck, the governor of Brandenburg, said the concept has excellent chances of being exported to other states and countries.

Virtual power plants have long combined renewables, and others have mixed wind and solar energy, or wind and biodiesel production. But the $30 million plant is the first time that involves hydrogen to store the fluctuating renewable energy. This has convinced experts. Earlier this month, the power plant concept won the Clean Tech Award, which honors innovative projects and technologies that help save natural resources.

Several local universities are technology partners to the plant. Two entrepreneurs from the public relations industry founded Enertrag, which today is a major wind farm developer. It operates more than 400 wind turbines in Germany, Britain, France and Poland with an annual yield of 1.35 billion kWh of electricity — enough for around 1 million people. It has roughly 250 employees.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Cars, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind1 Comment

Residual Garbage Transforms Into Electricity, Biofuel and Fuel Cells

Jack Oslan is a many who recently grabbed our attention when reading through the Fresno Bee’s web site. Oslan operates a business in the San Francisco Bay area called TerGeo Ventures Incorporated. TerGeo, as a business, transforms all sorts of waste into electricity, biofuel and fuel cells.

This month’s Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo sponsored a panel on the future of energy for California’s Central Valley. Sanford Nax, an author for the Fresno Bee has more on Oslan, the panel, and TerGeo Ventures…

Oslan was in Fresno on Friday to participate in a panel discussion on the future of energy in the Central Valley. The panel was part of the Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s annual business expo, held at the Radisson Hotel. The event was expected to draw about 1,000 people.

He said the nation’s landfills are closing at the rate of one a day, and the remaining 3,000 are reaching capacity. “Pretty soon we will run out of places to put our trash,” he said.

His company, he said, can convert much of the garbage into synthetic gas, which is then sold as energy. What’s left becomes inert ash, which is sold as soil conditioner or used in construction, he said.

TerGeo is hooking up with a farmer to process garlic skins into energy to help power his growing operation. “It will take the overflow, and instead of paying to haul it away, we can use it to create power to run back into the farming operation,” he said.

Such partnerships will become more likely and more cost-effective as technology advances, experts say. And the University of California at Merced plans to be a leader in developing those renewable energy technologies.

According to Nax, next year’s expo held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce will study another environmental issue that hits close to home – that of water.

Posted in Business & Economics, Electricity, Fuel Cells0 Comments

Bristol Robotics Laboratory Creates Microbial Fuel Cell Robots that Feed Themselves

We live in a world of technology. Our kids grow up with computers as one of their best friends. They even mature together: The kids who grow up expect their systems to grow with them, which means that old computers are constantly replaced with new ones. Technology is evolving faster than we ever thought possible and I doubt that anyone will be surprised when machines become almost independent of their creators.

The biggest problem with self sustaining machinery is fuel. Just like we consume countless varieties of foods to keep us going throughout the day, a machine’s hunger pangs are generally alleviated with gas, electricity and batteries. The ideal machine, however, should be able to ‘survive’ on naturally occurring foods that are sustainable and abundant.

Science projects today, voracious
self-serving servants tomorrow.
(Image: Bristol Robotics Lab.)

This is where the Ecobot comes into play. Engineers at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory were motivated by the idea of developing autonomous robots able to collect energy from their surroundings, foraging for items like rotten fruit (similar to any other animal), while eliminating unnecessary waste from their systems after having consumed the ‘meal’. The design is nothing short of genius (if not eerie) and revolves around the robot’s Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC).

Bristol explains the MFC design for their Ecobot model: “the Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology is employed to extract electrical energy from refined foods such as sugar and unrefined foods such as insects and fruit. This is achieved by extracting electrons from the microbial metabolic processes. To be truly autonomous, robots will be required to incorporate in their behavioral repertoire actions that involve searching, collecting and digesting food. The robot will be designed to remain inactive until sufficient energy has been generated to complete its next task.”

The first Ecobot (aptly titled Ecobot I) was developed in 2002. E.coli bacteria were incorporated into the design and they powered the robot after ingesting sugar. The first ecobot was a small, simple robot that used the microbial energy charging its fuel cells to do nothing more than roll towards areas with more light. The light-loving Ecobot is described as a “960g robot, powered by microbial fuel cells (MFCs)…This robot does not use any other form of power source such as batteries or solar panels. It is 22cm in diameter and 7.5cm high.”

In 2004, an alternative robot was developed that used sludge microbes instead of E.coli bacteria. These sludge microbes seem more capable; digesting more complicated foods like dead insects and waste (like rotting produce) to fuel the MFC. Also, this technology seems much more beneficial to the environment.

Bristol has also been working on an underwater version of an ecobot that uses mechanical ‘gills’ to strain microorganisms into its fuel cell.

It is important to note that the robots developed by the laboratory are the first step towards the creation of incredible machines that are comparable to metal animals-foraging for foods that naturally surround them when fuel cells run low. Bristol’s findings are essential for the development of these complicated machines. Right now all we see is potential, but it would be incredible to have robots slurping up garbage strewn through parks, simultaneously cleaning up our messes and energizing themselves in the process. But, that is a long way off.

Posted in Animals, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Fuel Cells, Microorganisms, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar1 Comment

Smart Cleantech Catalysts

The problem for scientists and engineers has been that in order to tune a catalyst to do what is desired, you need to know how it adapts during a reaction. Trouble is, watching catalysts in action has escaped the reach of scientists until now.

With the aid of powerful spectroscopy technology, U.S. Department of Energy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists observed catalysts restructuring themselves in response to various gases swirling around them.

The spectroscopy helps provide a window into these reactions for tuning catalysts. These insights are expected to help improve pollution control as well as fuel cell technologies. Smarter catalysts hold promise for removing toxins from water and helping feed hydrogen fuel cells.

Scientists used an advanced spectroscopy system at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source to study nanoparticles composed of two catalytic metals.

In the lab, Gabor Somorjai, a researcher who holds joint appointments with the Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s department of chemistry, teamed up with spectroscopy expert Miquel Salmeron of Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and UC Berkeley’s department of materials sciences and engineering.

The two scientists observed how particles changed their composition in the presence of different reactants. Prior to these observations, scientists had to rely on snapshots of catalysts taken before and after a reaction.

The scientists said that the observations gleaned from watching catalysts change in real time is extremely valuable in helping design smart catalysts that change as a reaction evolves.

Armed with this information, scientists think they can develop nanoparticle catalysts and reactants tailored to most efficiently yield a product, whether it’s gasoline or cleaner emissions.

Nanodiamonds

Posted in Engineering, Fuel Cells, Hydrogen, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Both Sides of California Proposition 7

It is difficult to put both sides of any initiative into a few words and capture all the nuances, but here are some observations for voters to consider as we go into the last days before the election. The points made here are based on very recent conversations with people intimately involved with the campaigns both for and against Prop 7. While everything revealed here was on the record, sources will not be disclosed. Here is the Legislative Analyst analysis of Proposition 7. If you wish to view for yourself the areas in the bill cited below, click here for full text of Proposition 7 (this is a .pdf and will not accommodate text searches, if you prefer to keyword search the text, please click here for the full text in a format that permits text search):

The question as to whether or not Proposition 7 excludes producers of electricity under 30 megawatts is hotly disputed. The NRDC has put out a talking points memo that states “Prop 7 could exclude smaller renewable energy providers from participating in California’s energy markets; it excludes renewable power facilities smaller than 30 megawatts from counting toward the measure’s new requirements.” And if you read the text of the measure it appears this is true. You can read for yourself section 14, which states “Section 25137 is added to the Public Resources Code, to read: 25137. “Solar and clean energy plant” means any electrical generating facility using wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, biomass, biogas, geothermal, fuel cells using renewable fuels, digester gas, municipal solid waste conversion, landfill gas, ocean wave, ocean thermal, or tidal current technologies, with a generating capacity of 30 megawatts or more…” But proponents of Prop. 7 claim this is a misinterpretation, noting that the amendments to the Public Resources Code only refer to the projects that are eligible for expedited siting permits. If you skip through each section’s preamble, you will see the amendments to the Public Utilities code only go through Section 11 of the initiative, then beginning with Section 12 the amendments to the Public Resources code begin. According to the proponents, they are not connected, and therefore no change is being made to the existing renewable portfolio standard in terms of what would be a qualifying project.

According to one source, the reasons the big solar companies are against Proposition 7: have more to do with the fact the initiative would require them to use union labor, ref. Section 24 “All solar and clean energy plants receiving certification pursuant to this section shall be considered a public works project subject to the provisions of Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 1720) of Part 7 of Division 2 of the Labor Code, and the Department of Industrial Relations shall have the same authority and responsibility to enforce those provisions as it has under the Labor Code.” Our position here is unequivocal – the government should normalize taxpayer-supported (or rate-payer supported) benefits so all workers get the same deal, upgraded social security and universal opt-in medicare (available to anyone at any age who wants to buy it and competing with private sector insurance); collective bargaining in America has become an anachronism that preserves special treatment for those folks lucky enough to work in heavily regulated and subsidized, relatively noncompetitive industries such as government and public works. Normalizing taxpayer and rate-payer funded benefits to benefit all workers might reduce some union worker benefits, particularly in the public sector, but would render most unionized workers in the totally competitive private sector better off, make America more competitive, make municipalities and large manufacturers solvent again, and would use our taxes to protect ALL American workers according to one set of rules.

Several reasons were thrown around as to why the environmental groups oppose Proposition 7: those in favor of Prop. 7 have suggested the 30 MW reason is not their true concern. The expedited siting provisions of this bill – which we believe are absolutely necessary if utility scale renewable energy is ever going to get built – will trample many cherished prerogatives of the environmental community. Another reason cited is the environmental community objects to the mandatory 10% cap on the premium the utility will be directed to pay renewable energy producers. But it should be noted this is a cap, not a floor, and if there is sufficient supply of renewable energy, the renewables producers will begin to compete under the cap to win contracts. As for the 10% cap not being sufficient to incentivize renewable energy construction, this is possible but completely dependent on the future price of fossil fuel, natural gas in particular. The notion that environmental groups oppose Prop. 7 because the penalties to the utilities for not achieving RPS targets have been slashed to $.01/kWh vs. the current $.05/kWh don’t really make sense, when you consider the initiative also removes the $25 million cap on these penalties. Under Prop. 7, renewable electricity production will need to increase to about 500 gigawatt-hours per day, more than five times what it is today. At $.01 per kilowatt-hour, you have $10,000 per gigawatt-hour, which implies if the 2030 standards were imposed today, the utilities would be paying about $40 million per day in fines. Not much of an objection there.

At the end of the day – why would the utilities oppose Proposition 7? They are investor owned, but publicly regulated. They earn a return for their investors according to a strictly managed set of pricing and cost recovery formulas. They will make money with or without renewables – why wouldn’t they be renewable agnostic? Proposition 7 appears to have flaws, but not necessarily the flaws that are being made most public. Actually moving this fast – installing well over 100 gigawatts of renewable energy generating stations (full output) is a logistical challenge that may simply be impossible. It is also important to consider what better technologies may emerge, rather than quickly build large scale projects based on current or near-term technological solutions.


FUEL MIX FOR U.S. ELECTRICITY GENERATION 2006


Can California go from about 10% to 50% renewables in under 20
years? If sunny California can do it, can the rest of the U.S. follow?
(Source: U.S. DOE)

The most significant potential problem with Proposition 7 may be how to facilitate the level of investment necessary to build this much capacity. We stand by our analysis of Prop. 7′s costs as reflected in our posts “Costing California Proposition 7″ and “California Proposition 7″ published earlier this year: It will cost a minimum of $330 billion to install this much renewable generating capacity – that is based on $2.5 billion per gigawatt, a 17.5% yield, and a need to increase renewables output to 500 gigawatt-hours per day (forget about electrification of the car at anything less than this). Adding to amortization of capital the costs for interest, return to investors, operating costs, and transmission infrastructure, it is likely adding this capacity will result in deliverable renewable electricity priced at about $.20 per kilowatt-hour to the consumer. Can renewables deliver electricity for less than this? It is certainly possible, but it would be helpful to see the numbers. Big solar – big wind – can you show us your assumptions? How do you arrive at projections of wholesale prices of $.04/kWh (wind) or $.07/kWh (solar), and what price does that translate into for the retail consumer?

And of course we would need a crystal ball to know the future cost of natural gas. Anyone who doesn’t think the price equilibrium of fossil fuel remains volatile hasn’t been following the news of the past few weeks.

Posted in Business & Economics, Electricity, Energy, Fuel Cells, Geothermal, Infrastructure, Natural Gas, People, Retail, Solar, Tidal, Wind3 Comments

Renewable Stock Indices: BioFuel Energy (BIOF) & the Dangers of Hedging Strategy

We are pleased to announce a new feature on EcoWorld’s Business & Services page, the proprietary stock indices compiled by Mark Henwood, Editor of the financial blog Camino Energy. Since January 2006, Henwood has compiled data on pure play publically traded renewable energy companies, and now manages five perpetually updated indices – Renewable Electricity, Solar, Biofuel, LED Lighting, and Fuel Cells. Featured below is the latest of Henwood’s weekly commentaries – we expect to bring you much more from this unique and very useful resource:

Solar and LED-Lighting rise sharply, BF Energy highlights risk and drags Biofuels down (week ending 8/15). Emerging markets, EAFA, and commodities (DJP) fell while the US market S&P 500) was flat.

While Biofuels is the fourth largest strategy behind Renewable Electricity, Solar, and LED-Lighting it highlighted a all too familiar risk for energy producers. Many energy producers seek to reduce their risk associated with volatility in commodity prices by entering into hedging strategies. The key point of these actives is to reduce risk, not profit from speculative positions. After all, the largest, professionally managed financial institutions are proof even the pros get burned by speculation and I certainly don’t want any sustainable energy companies I invest in engaging in speculative positions.

Apparently, even engaging in hedging involves a certain amount of skill. If management doesn’t get it right the hedging strategy can wipe out the value of a company faster than the worst operational decisions. BioFuel Energy (BIOF) is a case in point. On Tuesday the company opened at USD 2.60/share. After reporting at 12:46 pm that it had insufficient current liquidity to cover USD 46 million in hedging losses on corn contracts, roughly equal to its market value, the stock started plunging, 64% to close at USD 0.94/share. While the stock rebounded some late in the week, shareholders lost 38.5% of their value for the week. Coming after Aventine’s (AVR) February problems with the not so safe auction rate securities, I hope management of biofuel companies devote enough attention to their financial dealings to avoid crises.

Mark Henwood is the founder of Camino Energy, an information provider specializing in globally traded sustainable energy stocks.

Posted in Business & Economics, Electricity, Energy, Fuel Cells, Solar1 Comment

Geothermal in Hawaii

It Isn’t Oil!

Geothermal energy: Clean, stable, always available

In 1881, King David Kalakaua had the bright idea of using Hawaii’s fiery volcanoes to produce electricity and light the streets. It took technology the next century to catch up with the visionary king.

On the Big Island of Hawaii, nearly 20 percent of the electricity we consume is produced naturally by tapping the Earth’s heat. It is firm, strong power that the island truly depends upon, enough to continually power 20,000 residences.

When the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, heat from the Earth’s interior is always available.

Puna’s geothermal power station
delivers 30 megawatts of power,
with potential to deliver much more.
(Photo: Puna Geothermal Venture)

Puna Geothermal Venture, the only commercial geothermal facility in the state, has been generating sustainable electricity for the Big Island for 15 years.

Under a Power Purchase Agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Company, PGV sends all the electricity it produces—30 megawatts—to the utility. It could provide much more.

The slopes of Kilauea Volcano are the state’s best resource. The only other island with significant geothermal resources is Maui, but its potential is considerably less.

Geothermal electricity:

  • Accounts for 30 percent of the state’s renewable energy—more than wind and solar combined
  • Saves 144,000 barrels of oil a year—more than 1.8 million barrels since 1993
  • Diversifies Hawai‘i’s energy sources
  • Means a much cleaner environment
  • Creates jobs and other economic benefit
  • Is a clean, stable, renewable source of power
  • And . . . it’s local!
  • Puna Geothermal Venture invested heavily in new equipment and technologies to get where it is today. State-of-the-art equipment is used to drill wells deep into volcanic reservoirs—a mile or more—and bring up hot fluid and steam. The steam drives turbines that generate electricity.

    Geothermal is also ‘green’: No oil or other fossil fuel is used in the operation.

    The plant has near “zero” emissions because the brine and gases that are left over are injected back into the Earth, well below the water table, through another set of wells called re-injection wells.

    This is called a binary or closed-loop circulation system, meaning that no excess gases or fluids reach the open air. It is one of the most advanced methods for producing geothermal energy. All PGV wells are this type.

    Other uses are possible besides generating electricity. Geothermal could contribute to the manufacture of other technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells. It could also provide direct heat applications such as drying fruit and lumber, greenhouse propagation and aquaculture projects—even heating buildings.

    And there are economic benefits. Puna Geothermal Venture has 30 full-time employees and various other contractors. Many live in Puna District.

    PGV seeks to be a good neighbor, keeping the community informed of its activities via newsletter, a 24-hour response line and online information.

    Geothermal energy is the backbone of renewable energy resources in Hawaii. As the electricity demands grow, Puna Geothermal Venture stands ready to expand the project to meet the needs of the community.

    Tours of the facility, for groups or individuals, are available but must be booked in advance. Call (808) 965-6233.

    Posted in Art, Buildings, Electricity, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Fuel Cells, Geothermal, Hydrogen, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Volcanoes, Wind6 Comments

    Venrock's Matt Trevithick: A New Mind for Alternative Energy Innovations

    In 2004, in mid-career, already having grown and sold two companies, and after an extensive investigation into the energy-related applications of nanotechnology, Matt Trevithick joined the Venrock team. Venrock was started in the 1930′s by Laurance Rockefeller, with their first big hit being an investment in McDonnell Aircraft Company. Since then, Venrock has scored again and again, making early investments in Apple, 3Com, and Intel, to name just a few. Venrock recently announced Venrock V, a $600M fund, and they have over 2.0 billion under management.

    Matthew Trevithick.
    (Photo: Venrock)

    Trevithick has a personal heritage of innovation, being a descendant of Richard Trevithick, who in 1799 was the first inventor to develop a high-pressure steam engine, and in 1800 built the first full size steam-powered vehicle, called a “road locomotive.”

    Last week we had a chance to catch up with Matt and talk about Venrock’s investments in clean technology.

    “New electrons,” technology and techniques that efficiently harness and store energy and electricity are a focus of Venrock’s clean tech portfolio, both in terms of who they’ve invested in and where they’re looking to make new investments.

    As Trevithick noted, “when we step back and look at opportunities, I think we will see an all-electric future, and there are a lot of ways to get us there.”

    One of Venrock’s newer portfolio companies is Transonic, pioneering a new combustion concept that could deliver huge fuel savings. Transonic’s new fuel injector has the “glimmer of greatness” that Venrock always looks for. “The inefficiencies with internal combustion engines is largely due to waste heat – if you had a faster ignition pulse you wouldn’t have as much engine or tailpipe heat, and you would be able to shrink the overall engine size,” said Trevithick. “This is a novel technology, and if it works it will have a novel impact.”

    Another company Venrock has bet on is Boston Power, a company manufacturing lithium ion laptop batteries. Boston Power’s “Sonata” line is reputed to charge in 30 minutes, last three years, and have superior safety and sustainability characteristics. A relatively new entrant, it should be interesting to see how these advantages help Sonata in the market, and also what additional products Boston Power may introduce that build on these technologies.

    The transition to the electric age won’t happen overnight, according to Trevithick. The evolution of the car provides a good illustration of the challenges facing electricity technology. As he put it: “With electricity, we have always had a better motor, but with gasoline, we have a better fuel. History tilted in favor of the fuel.”

    Indeed, if you look at the energy required to move a car one mile, expressed as BTUs (yes, I’ll start using Joules soon!), a gasoline engine that gets 25 MPG, given about 125,000 BTUs per gallon of gasoline, requires about 5,000 BTUs of fuel input per mile. An electric car that gets 3.5 miles per kilowatt-hour, given there are about 3,450 BTUs per kilowatt-hour, only requires about 1,000 BTUs of fuel input per mile. The electric motor is five times more efficient than the gasoline powered motor. But until now, there has not been a good way to store electricity.

    When asked about the series hybrid, a technology where an onboard gasoline (or diesel) engine runs at a highly efficient constant RPM, solely to turn an electric generator which in-turn powers the electric motor, Trevithick didn’t hesitate: “It’s the future,” he said. We couldn’t agree more.

    When asked about fuel cells on cars, Trevithick was diplomatic: “There’s a lot of interesting technology there, but it hasn’t been market pull, it’s been technology push. To mass market [automotive fuel cells] they have to target primary purchasing characteristics – lasts longer; costs less. Otherwise they [fuel cells] will succeed on secondary purchasing criteria – indoor operability; low heat characteristics – which will make them successful in niche markets such as for forklifts.”

    Regarding whether or not $100+ per BBL oil is enough to drive innovation towards the new electrons of the coming electric age, Trevithick was skeptical. “Fuel is still too inexpensive to impact behavior.” But he threw in an interesting nuance: In the USA where the average new car is $30,000 or more, the annual fuel costs probably will only total about 10% of that – not much compared to the lease and insurance. But in developing nations where a new micro-car such as the Tata Nano can be purchased for $2,500, operating costs will be a significant portion of the annual expenditure. In these environments, fuel costs are already substantial enough to stimulate adaptation.

    Posted in Business & Economics, Cars, Electricity, Energy, Fuel Cells, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

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