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Chevrolet Volt pre-production IVER prototype - click above for high-res image gallery

We long ago had a chance to drive the Chevy Volt mule in all-electric mode, and more recently took a ride in the IVER (integration vehicle engineering release) version. We found the Volt's performance was rather impressive for a vehicle still under development. It was clear at that time that there was still room for improvement, though, and the question of how it would perform after the gas-powered generator kicked in remained unanswered since GM was not allowing anyone from outside the company to experience it. Would there be a sudden jolt of power during the transition or would it perhaps produce a howl reminiscent of the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz? Now it seems those questions are being addressed as GM has just started to allow media to drive the IVER and experience that change.

So how was it? According to Lindsay Brooke over at the New York Times, the initial moments, as the engine comes to life, are "inaudible and seamless." Very nice. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the sound suddenly surged as the car became cognizant that its battery was lower than desired and attempted to quickly return to its preferred level by revving itself up. Clearly, there is still some refining to be done. The overall impression was extremely positive though, the regenerative braking in particular garnering some amount of praise. We look forward to soon gripping the wheel for ourselves and giving you our in-depth reaction. Thanks to wincros for the tip!



[Source: New York Times]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 62 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      Joevoicie,

      You state that we have been told repeatedly that FC units for cars would be practical and economic in 5 years.
      Maybe so, if you listened to what small start-up companies such as Ballard were saying, to raise funds, or reading some journalistic hype, particularly if you were not following the technology at all closely.

      Present arguments for the relative nearness of fuel cell technology are much more soundly based, and it is not essentially germane to it whether some have ill-advisedly said that it would be ready prematurely.
      The gains in power, compactness and cost are real, not relative, and many of the ways in which it will be further advanced are quite clear.
      In, say, 1990, none of these things were true, and those who gave credence to some sensational newspaper articles or PR pieces have no-one but themselves to blame.

      If you look at the progress that Toyota, Honda and BMW have made in the last few years, then around 2015 does not seem unreasonable to hope for some economic practicality.
      Are we sure to succeed? By no means.
      But neither are we guaranteed to be able to get the very large improvements in battery costs and power that we need to move that into a state of universal applicability.

      Sure, if we manage to build lithium/air batteries economically or some such then the market for fuel cells would be much reduced, but on current trends of improvement it appears that fuel cells with a large lithium battery are perhaps the best bet to get decent range, if you want to avoid using an ICE as in the Volt, which as I mentioned introduces more complication than sticking to all electric.

      As for the price of hydrogen fuel stations going up with fewer users, of course what we are looking at is keeping the number of users at each station roughly constant, and building less to save costs.
      I am less familiar with the infrastructure needs in the States, but certainly in the UK and elsewhere in Europe a ~40mile all electric range would be fine around town, and the vast majority of journeys at distance are done on the motorway.
      The numbers of hydrogen stations needed would be really very limited, as you would primarily be putting in the pumps on the motorways.

      This may in any case be needed even if the vast majority of cars were pure electric, as it is an awful lot tougher to do long distance truck journeys on any variant of battery technology.

      I see you have not addressed my own preferred solution, which builds on the work of Vovo and others, and is base on methanol, DME or biogas, all of which can be used in variants of fuel cells, or in adapted ICE or Sterling engines.

      There is no way in the world I can see folk lugging trailers behind them, anymore than erecting sails to go down the motorway!
      It is so much simpler just to hire a more powerful car.

      We have a whole raft of new technologies maturing at a similar time, give or take 5 years.
      It is my contention that there are significant synergies between them, and that together they can be greater than the sum of their parts.
      Premium cars such as Rolls, BMW and Mercedes would certainly like long range without lugging around many hundreds of kilograms of rarely used batteries, and their premium cost gives some flexibility to implement fuel cell technology.
      That would certainly be their preferred option to having a tiny ICE engine blasting away at high revs.



        • 5 Years Ago
        Joe, I still think you have not made enough allowances for the fact that the vast majority of journeys are under 40 miles, and so no-one will need to go anywhere near a filling station, and that if you do need to go on a longer journey there are relatively few routes out from major conurbations.

        Where I live, in Bristol, England, you certainly would not need to fill up for running around town.
        If you want to go further afield, there are a choice of around 5 or 6 major routes out of the city.
        Whether you are using hydrogen or anything else, building 5 or 6 filling stations is not really challenging.
        And this is for a city/urban area of 500,000/1,000,000

        Most of the time people are topping up to run around town. Eliminate that and most of the infrastructure disappears.

        Perhaps things might get a bit inconvenient for country dwellers, but that is nothing new.
        • 5 Years Ago
        At this point, I think we should point out that Ballard got out of the automotive Fuel Cell business over a year and a half ago:
        http://green.autoblog.com/2008/02/21/ballard-out-of-automotive-fuel-cells-still-working-on-buses/

        Sure they're still making fuel cells for buses and larger applications like that, but that's not exactly relevant to discussion about the performance of a series hybrid passenger car like the Volt. If Ballard, one of the foremost players in the fuel cell business, thought fuel cell passenger vehicles was a viable solution, I'm sure they wouldn't have completely backed out of that market.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ballard are a 'small start up company' relative to the likes of Toyota or Mitsubishi, and since fuel cells were a major part of their business had every incentive to hype it's readiness.

        In fairness, since I have referenced Volvo heavily, I should say that they are developing reformers on board with a view at this time to producing on-board auxilliary power for trucks, and see them running purely on fuel cells as very much one for the further future.

        This scenario depends partly on how rapidly you think that supplies of fossil fuels will decrease, or whether you think that this is not really a problem and that the main thing is reduction of CO2 emissions, which appears to be Volvo's stance.
        My own opinion on the subject is summed up by the Uppsala University's report, which sees oil supplies declining from the current 85mb/d to around 75mb/d by around 2030 - at a time of rising world population and increasing demand from the BRIC countries.
        http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/PeakOilAge.pdf

        Therefore I see much heavier incentive to move on from oil than perhaps the folk at Volvo currently see.
        Due to the likely impact of resticted oil supplies, in addition to the financial shenanigans that have been going on, opportunities for economic growth may be limited, and so relatively modest battery powered vehicles may be popular in spite of their range limitations.

        So I am not talking about fuel cell vehicles and an extensive hydrogen infrastructure rapidly being introduced and keeping current transport patterns going.

        I am though looking at the difficulty of running trucks etc on electric batteries, and suggesting that we will anyway have to roll out some infrastructure perhaps based on natural gas or biogas to keep the trucks going.
        You can't switch to rail in short order.

        The natural gas can be burnt as is, or perhaps reformed on board or at central stations by the road, and could be used in fuel cells if they can be done at any reasonable cost.

        So the argument I wish to present is not that by 2015 we will be producing millions of passenger cars running on methanol fuel cells, but that over a period it may be found that this or similar technology may be found to be the optimum to which we will work, after severe problems with maintaining personal mobility in the face of oil shortages.

        Of course, if you differ at any point in this narrative you may reach very different conclusions.


        • 5 Years Ago
        @David Martin
        I think we agree on much more than either of us first assumed.

        I do like using alcohol based fuels as an hydrogen carrier in fuel cells. They can be burnt in ICEs and have a seemless integration into FCVs without the need for additional infrastructure.

        I think we are both on the same page for heavy-duty fleet applications.

        However, for light-duty (passenger cars), the BEVs have the lead and the ONLY disadvantage that BEVs have compared to FCVs is range. If both vehicles in the same class would cost the same, the BEV would be cheaper to operate, more efficient, and cleaner. (sure you can stack the deck with BEVs getting energy from 100% coal while FCVs getting 100% from NG or renewables, but that is not accurate).

        The convenience of extra range comes at the cost of an immense infrastructure.

        Fuel Cell range-extenders still require an infrastructure to be built. And therefore doesn't make sense either.

        Since range-extenders are meant to cater to only the rare road trips (5%) of driving, It is vastly cheaper, and easier to make range-extenders use regular gas, diesel, or biofuels. The carbon footprint would still be very small. And biofuels can help mitigate this.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Good question David.

        I do believe that it might be feasible for individual trucking/bus companies to start building their own filling stations. They can either steam reform their own H2 using purchased natural gas at 65% efficiency or truck H2 directly from refineries.

        This will allow some private corporations to essentially build a mini infrastructure in select industrial zones instead of a massive government funded initiative to refuel America.

        But alas, since BEVs have a substantial lead in the light-duty market, and without the need for initial infrastructure, the lead will expand. When enough of the privately-owned "mini infrastructure" Hydrogen stations are around, the BEVs will be widely accepted and have sufficient market placement that passenger FCVs cannot enter the market.

        Nonetheless, I will concede that fuel cell range-extenders might by poised to supplant gasoline range-extenders once privately-owned "mini infrastructure" Hydrogen stations are around. *But I still think that a towable, rentable trailer is best suited for the rare 200+ mile road trip instead of lugging around extra weight and displacing volume that could be used for more battery.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I understand what you are saying. And maybe the condensed nature of the UK and Europe leads you to believe that it is easier to implement.

        The problem (not overestimation) is that "infrastructure" is NOT scalable.

        You cannot build fewer stations without making the network of station more spread out and therefore less convenient. As If you decide to scale down a network of stations to reduce costs by an "order of magnitude", then you thin out the functionality of the network.

        Example. Only 10 FCV drivers live in the city. But some live downtown, some live on the outskirts, some on the west, some the east, some north, some south. Sure with only 10 drivers you only need 1 hydrogen filling station. But then 9 out of 10 drivers will have to go several miles and possibly 30min to an hour out of their way to get to one filling station. If FCV owners cannot fill up at home, they need VERY convenient stations.

        Back in the old days, when gasoline cars were just coming out, the first places that sold gasoline/petrol were pharmacies, as a side business. (wiki) And that was easy to do because you could just transport and store the fuel in cans. You cannot do that with compressed hydrogen gas.

        Home delivery is a better option for such few FCVs, yet much more expensive per user because then they would need to pay for the fuel used to transport individually

        And all this because of range anxiety and/or the rare road trips.

        *** "I also can't see how you have addressed my other two points" ***
        I did address those points. I agreed with you. I like it. Sorry, but I can't disagree with you ALL the time :)
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mark,
        If you wish to determine for yourself whether the information on LFTR reactors is true, you only have to investigate the links I have given.

        As for the economics of solar, I don't know how to explain it's incredible cost any more clearly.

        What is free market about forcing the utilities to buy power when it is not needed?
        This is a cost, not a benefit, and almost no real CO2 reduction has been acheived at cast cost.
        As for the US having a better solar resource than Germany, absolutely, to the point where it is perhaps becoming possible to use solar to supplement power output in hot climates where the problem is too much heat, which has got nothing to do with providing most of the power for the grid, and in reality means that you need to burn lots of natural gas to run the turbines enough of the time to make it worth while.
        As for solar PV, again all the costs are a matter of public record.
        Cost out installing it for your home, then take off all the subsidies as that is just getting someone else to pay your bills, and allow for back up and plan for no grid connection, because agian you have just laid the cost on someone else.
        Solar PV is hoplessly, fantastically, hugely expensive.
        All the talk of grid parity discounts anything but the marginal cost of producing a kilowat of energy at the most favourable time of day.
        Your own question about advanced nuclear, if it is so good why isn't it all over the place, applies to solar, except that solar has not got the enormous opposition that nuclear has.
        Go ahead and put solar PV on your house, and the cost will become obvious, if not to you then the taxpayer.

        As for Germany at least not having the problem of plutonium, in fact Germany will be stuck with it for hundreds of thousands of years amd will have to pay vast amounts to bury it if it does not go ahead with the build of advanced reactors which can use it as fuel.
        It is countries using LFTR's and other advanced reactors which will solve this problem, not Germany.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joe, you said:
        'Since a PHEV with a 40-mile electric range and a Fuel Cell range-extender requires TWO new technologies, it will be very expensive compared to a regular gasoline "range-extended" PHEV.'

        I disagree. The technologies seem complementary to me, and the costs would not be additive.
        We seem to have been talking at cross purposes, as in a series of posts I have been arguing that an ICE moter and batteries are not naturally bed-mates, but fcs and batteries are.

        Why suffer the relative inefficiencies of the hydrogem fuel cycle, when you can mitigate it by haveing a fairly large battery?
        Why build the fc to power acceleration, when a battery can help?
        Why carry a lot of weight in batteries for a long range when a fuel cell can do the job?

        As for a plug in powered by an ICE, this does not sit well and involves a lot of extra complication and weight compared to an all-electric fc/battery combination.

        On the occasions when you need to power a car for a long run, or you need to power a truck, it makes a lot more sense to me to use methanl, DME or biogas and reform it for use in a fuel cell, if needs be at the station, but hopefully in the car, than deal with hydrogen throughout the chain.

        It will never be as efficient as using electric, but that has limited importance if you are only using it for long journeys and freight transport.

        Of course, if we manage to develop a lithium/air battery or similar then you would not need to bother, but arguably that is still a fuel cell/battery combination - it is just that it is in one neat package!

        Using fuel cells and batteries together means that you only need relatively modest improvements in either, as opposed to the very demanding task of improving them individually to answer every need.
        Ideally, for a car you would need around 75kwh of storage - doing that at a reasonable cost with a battery is very tough indeed.

        Combining fuel cells and batteries means that you can easily get the needed storage for decent range, whilst the batteries mitigate the inefficiencies of producing fuel for the fuel cell, and the number of service stations.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joe,
        I have just come across this link:
        http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/a-car-powered-by-zinc/
        And:
        http://salamanderian.com/our_car/index.html

        They are building a car with this zinc-air technology, which gets 244wh/kg at the cell level and is far cheaper than lithium - 1/10th the cost, they reckon, at $3,600 for a 30kwh pack.

        The cost per kilometer is far higher than for even the Prius though as they need to use zinc and reform it outside of the pack.

        I contacted them, as it seems to me that this would be ideal to put a plug on and get good costs per kwh on average.
        A 10kwh battery would drop the average cost per mile way down.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joevoicoe said:
        'It is not the Fuel Cell itself that will make the whole endeavor a non-starter. Not the platinum, or the 51% efficiency, or the complexity (all of which can be reduced).

        It is the Chicken or the Egg infrastructure problem. Yes, the U.S. is much harder to implement a new, several hundred billion dollar infrastructure.'

        You can't run trucks on batteries. If you think that oil supplies will become restricted, this means that the infrastructure will have to be rolled out anyway, regardless of whether you think it will be used by private cars.
        In my view this will probably be just in motorway stations if it is hydrogen, or more likely in the form of methonol, DME or biogas, which all woud need a much less expensive infrastructure than hydrogen.
        These fuels may be reformed at the station, or on board, but in any case will provide the skeleton of an infrastructure to support their use in EV cars.
        If youa re not going to provide this, how are you going to keep the trucking industry going?
        Rail will take ages to roll out.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I wouldn't call Ballard a "small start-up company". They've been making fuel cells for the transportation sector since 2000, and have very close business ties with Daimler-Benz and Ford, among others.

        However, I agree with you that fuel cells are much closer to commercial viability than their critics will admit. If you follow this blog closely, you'll notice plenty of articles about fuel cell progress, and those posts generally generate many times the number of comments as posts about BEVs, mostly because some commenters refuse to accept the technological progress and seem to feel the need to denigrate it.

        Almost every major car maker is calling for the development of a hydrogen infrastructure, and the global business community is working with the world's major economies (Japan, Germany, UK, United States, and others) to bring hydrogen fuel cell vehicles closer to market.

        Five years has never been so close. Besides, it's such a cliche to complain that FCVs are always "five years away" - how long have we been waiting for a commercially viable EV of any kind? Since the late 19th century - in every decade you can find articles about electric cars and how they are just around the corner.

        I also agree with you that the idea of range-extending trailers is absurd. Most people can barely handle driving a car, much less the added difficulty a trailer entails. Never mind the extra weight, and the aerodynamic drag the trailer would add to the load of the car.

        The quiet operation of a fuel cell is ideal for the luxury car market. The major complaint in this post regarding the Volt is not that the ICE isn't powerful enough, it's that the ICE makes a strange noise. Fuel cells operate silently - noise problem solved.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I suppose I was not entirely clear in that last post.

        I do agree that FCV technology has advanced and will continue to advance over the next decade. But if you have read my posts on other FCV related threads, you would know that I think the following:

        It is not the Fuel Cell itself that will make the whole endeavor a non-starter. Not the platinum, or the 51% efficiency, or the complexity (all of which can be reduced).

        It is the Chicken or the Egg infrastructure problem. Yes, the U.S. is much harder to implement a new, several hundred billion dollar infrastructure.

        The problem is that you cannot sell even one FCV to a non-fleet, non-lease, regular buying customer unless that person can fill up in the city/town that he or she works and lives (even as a range-extender). And that would require several well placed filling stations each with the resources I have mentioned above. There is no easy way to just add hydrogen filling to existing gas stations.

        And without several hundred thousand FCVs already on the road, no company or venture capital is going to pay to build the hydrogen infrastructure.

        Car manufacturers HAVE been making progress with the vehicle technology, but on a small scale. Because without infrastructure, full production is a bad investment.
        ***Now publicly, they have been claiming that FCVs are only 5-10 years away because they want to spark interest in government to build this hydrogen infrastructure for them. It doesn't get build, so the year after they make the same claim. FCVs CAN be ready soon, but only if someone will build the infrastructure.

        -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Now, regarding BEVs:

        "But neither are we guaranteed to be able to get the very large improvements in battery costs and power that we need to move that into a state of universal applicability." -David Martin

        Batteries have no problem with power... your thinking energy capacity. Right now, battery technology is good enough for prime time acceptance. CHARGING SO MUCH DIFFERENT THAT FILLING UP:

        100 miles is good enough for BEVs. 400 miles per charge is ONLY necessary when you NEED to fill up at select stations as it is your only option. Charging is done at home and therefore more available. Only the rare road-trips are problematic.

        Now cost IS a problem for batteries. But it is the SAME problem that fuel cell price has. Economies of Scale. Once factories come online. Once raw materials are secured. Once production ramps up. The batteries will be affordable enough for wide market acceptance. That is why almost every automaker has an EV model being produced by 2013.

        By 2015, so many EVs will be on the market that drivers will change their habits and learn that they DO NOT NEED long range except on occasion. Yes, renting a whole car for a trip is an option if they do not like trailers. But it is vastly cheap to rent a towable trailer. And the "backtracker" range-extending trailer by AC Propulsion has automatic steering for reverse mode so anybody can use it.

        I haven't addressed you solution on methanol, DME or biogas used in FCV because it is not a bad idea. Much of the infrastructure problems of transporting, compression are not existent in that scenario. But the development for powerful enough and durable enough Fuel Cells for this purpose is even farther behind than regular h2 FCVs.

        ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        Conclusion:
        BEVs have a "head and shoulders" lead in development compared to FCVs. And with only a much cheaper charging infrastructure (which is not needed but more for convenience), implementation is happening right away and therefore will increase it's lead against FCVs.

        Despite the limitations of batteries, they are quickly becoming the preferred choice of the industry.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "I still think you have not made enough allowances for the fact that the vast majority of journeys are under 40 miles" -David

        Yeah... I thought this was primarily a discussion on pure Fuel Cell vehicles versus pure Electric vehicles.

        Your thinking of something like the Chevy Volt but instead of an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) as the range-extender, put in a fuel cell. In that case, the argument goes right back to cost of the vehicle.

        Since a PHEV with a 40-mile electric range and a Fuel Cell range-extender requires TWO new technologies, it will be very expensive compared to a regular gasoline "range-extended" PHEV.

        Since the purpose of a PHEV is to be able never (or hardly ever) use the range-extender, then the cheapest, easiest solution would fit best. That would still be gasoline or biofuels. The Chevy Volt has a flex-fuel (E85) capable range-extender. And there are already thousands of stations serving E85 already.

        So I am not saying it wouldn't be a good idea, or that it isn't feasible for this market. All I am saying is that in this light-duty market, there are already MUCH better (cheaper, cleaner, more convenient, more efficient) solutions available that will out-compete even the best hydrogen solution.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "If Ballard, one of the foremost players in the fuel cell business, thought fuel cell passenger vehicles was a viable solution, I'm sure they wouldn't have completely backed out of that market."

        Just because a company prefers to focus on one sector does not mean that other sectors are not viable.

        Examples following your logic:

        1. Boeing builds jets. But they only build commercial jets, so private jets must not be viable.

        2. Apple sells computers. But Apple doesn't sell a netbook, so netbooks must not be viable.

        Ballard has great experience in building fuel cells, and they prefer to focus on the stationary and heavy duty end of the market. I don't see any problem there, especially since the automakers are focusing on smaller automotive fuel cells.
        • 5 Years Ago
        *** Sorry for the multiple posts, but ABG cuts off the post with the arrow-left symbol.

        ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

        "and the costs would not be additive."

        I do concede that scaling back the Li-Ion battery pack to make room for a range-extender is a cost effective solution. And I do like how fuel cells are much cheaper now. Although It will not be cheaper than a IC range-extender.

        The Math:

        You can only scale down the Fuel Cell stack (PEM) power to a certain level.
        Passenger cars typically use 20kw - 25kw of power during highway cruising. That is certainly lower than peak power of 100kw. But that still makes for a significant cost.

        In your scenario (please correct the premise if incorrect):
        1) You would have the cheaper, smaller Li-Ion battery at about 24kwh (Leaf), which would be around ($12,000 by todays low volume prices @ $500/kwh) and ($4,800 by projected high volume prices @ $200/kwh). And would take a car an average of 100 miles per charge for a typical passenger car.

        2) Then add a Hydrogen Fuel Cell range-extender capable of at least 25kw which would costs ($100,000 by todays low volume prices @ $4,000/kw) and ($2,500 by projected high volume prices @ $100/kw). And would provide charge-sustaining highway speeds for a typical passenger car.

        3) Then add a carbon fiber hydrogen tank capable of at least 10,000 psi. $1,000

        Total cost of power production for a HFC/Li-Ion hybrid electric (IF both technologies are produced in high volume over 500,000 units per year) = ^^^$9,300^^^
        And the NEED for a LIMITED hydrogen infrastructure.
        ***Not bad at all. Cleaner, more efficient than a gasoline/biofuel range-extender but not as durable!

        2a) However, since flex-fuel engines currently can be produced at $30/kw (although IC engines needs to be rated for 45kw peak to get the needed 25kw to account for additional losses), the range-extender will cost $1,350.

        3a) No expensive tank either.

        Total cost of power production for a gas/Li-Ion hybrid electric = ^^^$6,150.^^^
        And NO NEED for additional infrastructure.
        ***Not as clean (unless biofuels are used), but certainly cheaper and more durable than the 1500 cycle lifetime of h2 storage systems and the catalyst poisoning of the PEM.

        Conclusion:
        Although HFCs provide a good solution if mass produced, the "rarely-used" (5% of driving) aspect of a range-extender makes it target for the CHEAPEST (and most durable) solution with less regard to the slight improvement of hydrogen over conventional/bio fuel.

        And without the need for a single hydrogen filling station, the automakers will decide to get the "chipper chicken" -Steve Martin.


        sources:
        http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/hydro/executive_summ.html
        http://www1.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells/storage/storage_challenges.html
        www.fveaa.org/fb/Low_Emiss_Range_Ext_149.pdf
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_cell

        ---------------------------------

        Also, DME and biogas fuel cell stacks are way behind with respect to $$ per KW. They are only feasible for low power (less than 250 watts) applications.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I am excited because I believe we are narrowing our disagreements.

        @letstakeawalk
        Allow me to answer you directly. As I am sure you agree, I have been a moderate in my dislike of FCVs. I do acknowlege the plentiful advancements to fuel cell technology. And I certainly do not wish to denigrate it. I simply believe the infrastructure requirements cause it to be a non-starter in the passenger vehicle market. I have said before that for the heavy duty market is much better suited for hydrogen due to batteries being bulky at that scale. Hydrogen for heavy duty applications need only compete with natural gas and biofuels. Since heavy duty applications can construct a micro infrastructure (self-owned filling stations), they aren't held at a disadvange like the light-duty fleet.

        I also agree that folks are working hard at bringing the FCVs to market. But since the infrastructure demands such government incentive and capital, it becomes a chicken/egg paradox.

        Regarding the "5 years away" phenomenon. I think you should read more on the history of battery electric cars. After all, you posts (and others) forced me to research fuel cells more. There was a time when 38% of all cars in the U.S. were BEVs. Not much in quantity, but a big market share. But since efficiency and environmentalism was non-existent, the cheaper and faster IC cars out competed the BEVs into extinction.

        I am glad for this competition, it "fuels" the advancements in both technologies. BEVs will find their market in passenger vehicles (the low hanging fruit of transportation revolution) and FCVs will find their own market. Just not the light-duty market because BEVs will out come to market faster, cheaper, and more efficiently.

        >"I also agree with you that the idea of range-extending trailers is absurd. Most people can barely handle driving a car, much less the added difficulty a trailer entails. Never mind the extra weight, and the aerodynamic drag the trailer would add to the load of the car." -letstakeawalk

        Now who is being mean.
        But all those concerns have been addressed by AC Propulsion:
        http://www.fveaa.org/fb/Low_Emiss_Range_Ext_149.pdf
        ***Please read, you will like how they solved your concerns!
        Both air and rolling resistance from such a small, light motorcycle engine requires only 10% more energy. ***And this is only during those rare road-trips INSTEAD OF ALWAYS CARRYING EXTRA WEIGHT OF A RANGE-EXTENDER like the Volt or Karma.

        They even made a system that steers the small trailer for you when backing up, making the "difficulty" problem a non-issue.
        www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN8g3bcU7ZM
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joe, I am enjoying the discussion even if the layout here does make it rther episodic.
        To be clear on the circumstances in which I feel we might move to a fc/battery hybrid:
        Progress in both would have to be substantial, but not so great that assistance was not needed.
        For instance, lithium/air batteries would mean that an fc was not needed for long journeys, and cheap production of hydrogen and fuel cells would mean there was no point in batteries.
        I would also not see a fc/battery hybrid until after 2015 at the earliest, so we are talking medium term, not right now.

        To comment on your figures:
        There is little point in building something as capable as the Leaf, as it would only need the fc to switch on very rarely.
        To follow the 80% rule in engineering, where you get most of the benefit with a relatively small input, something with the all-electric range of the Volt should be fine, and would cover most of the journeys greatly reducing the amount of hydrogen needed and the number of filling stations.

        Presently the Volt uses 16kwh, but it is engineered very cautiously and some other batteries can be used to a much lower depletion rate of around 80%.
        By 2015 I would expect this to be typical, and so perhaps 12kwh would do.
        So the battery costs might be around $2400, the fc around $2500 as you say
        We'll use your price of $1000 for the hydrogen tank, although it seems possible that basalt fibre could do the job at a fraction of the cost, and BMW are also moving to mass produce carbon fibre in car use which may rather reduce the costs if that alternative is offered.
        The total then is $6,900 as against perhaps $6150 for the ICE range extender option.
        However, you have not only got away from oil use which the ICE would not totally do, but you are looking at an all-electric system.
        I would have thought that the savings from not having the complications of combining an ICE and a electric system would easily cover the difference.

        The other comparison is with a conventional ICE car.
        It seems to me that you could throw out so many parts like the transmission that the difference in cost once everything is up and running would be much lower than the $6900 indicated.

        All this is assuming one heck of a lot of progress, of course, and may prove impractical.
        They'd be nice vehicles if the technology did work out though, and overcome the disadvantages of both batteries and fuel cells.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "and the costs would not be additive."

        I do concede that scaling back the Li-Ion battery pack to make room for a range-extender is a cost effective solution. And I do like how fuel cells are much cheaper now. Although It will not be cheaper than a IC range-extender.

        The Math:

        You can only scale down the Fuel Cell stack (PEM) power to a certain level.
        Passenger cars typically use 20kw - 25kw of power during highway cruising. That is certainly lower than peak power of 100kw. But that still makes for a significant cost.

        In your scenario (please correct the premise if incorrect):
        1) You would have the cheaper, smaller Li-Ion battery at about 24kwh (Leaf), which would be around ($12,000 by todays low volume prices @ $500/kwh) and ($4,800 by projected high volume prices @ $200/kwh). And would take a car an average of 100 miles per charge for a typical passenger car.

        2) Then add a Hydrogen Fuel Cell range-extender capable of at least 25kw which would costs ($100,000 by todays low volume prices @ $4,000/kw) and ($2,500 by projected high volume prices @ $100/kw). And would provide charge-sustaining highway speeds for a typical passenger car.

        3) Then add a carbon fiber hydrogen tank capable of at least 10,000 psi. $1,000

        Total cost of power production for a HFC/Li-Ion hybrid electric (IF both technologies are produced in high volume over 500,000 units per year) = >>>$9,300>$6,150.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Joe,
        It still seems to me that you are vastly overestimating the needed infrastructure to provide even the most demanding of the possible fuels, hydrogen, to the main trucking routes, and are basing your remarks on a one for one replacement of eixisting petrol infrastructure.
        Since we both agree that local traffic for passenger cars will gbe electric, that dense an infrastructure is simply not needed, and the costs are reduced by an order of magnitude.

        I also can't see how you have addressed my other two points, that IMO we will actually use liquid fuels such as methanol, which don't have anything like the hassles of hydrogen,a nd that we are going to have to do something or the other to keep the trucks rolling anyway.

        It is the very introduction of EV and plug in vehicles which mean that rolling out a hydrogen/methanol/whatever infrastructure will be a much smaller task than it would be is we were not using battery power and electric for most of our transport.

        It costs a lot less then to build the infrastructure for the remaining part.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mark,
      Even at the latititude of the Mohave desert you only get around 25% of the soloar incidence that you get in the summer during the winter due to shorter days and weaker sunshine. You can't possibly store energy for months in that sort of quantity.
      In practise, what is used is solar thermal as that is far cheaper. Ignoring for a moment the huge water use for cooling that is needed in a water stressed area, what they actually use to make up when the sun isn't shining is natural gas.
      In fact, these plants can more accuraqtely be called natural gas plants assisted by solar.
      Both Japan and Australia are now making fuel cells for the home. This would mean that the gas could be used at approaching 100% efficiency, heating the hot water whilst it was generating electricity.
      The solar contribution relative to employing this technology would be less than zero, at vast cost.
      It's advocate's claim that in Europe we can get our power from the Sahara.
      If you dig into the figures, even it's promotors are looking at a cost of $500bn, only getting around 15% of Europe's power and not until 2050.
      They don't say where they are going to get the water from in the Sahara.

      So it can't solve the problem, and would be vastly expensive.

      Solar photovoltaic in the home is staggeringly expensive, and entirely dependent on using the grid to provide power when it is not, and feeding power into the grid usually when it is not needed.

      To assess it's real practicality, look at the cost and take out the subsidies in purchasing it and also take out any connection to the grid by providing battery back up.

      You are around an order of magnitude out in costs.

      Wind is the nearest to commercial viability, and there is a case for making more extensive use of it in the US.
      The difficulty and cost of a high rate of penetration should not be underestimated though.

      The simplest way of evaluating the real present potential of renewables is to look at the experience of Germany, who pay a larger premium for renewables than would ever be accepted in the US.

      Their carbon emissions now are much, much larger than in nuclear France:
      http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article2982694.ece

      The WWF and Alliaz delt with this to show Germany as the most effective in carbon reduction by simply increasing the output of French Carbon to show the nuclear part as though it were produced by natural gas!
      In a small footnote they said that they did not much fancy nuclear, so had altered their figures!
      This is typical of the way that renewables fanatics grossly distort figures to suit their predjudice, most usually by presenting installed output as though it were average output, so they trumpet the power of a wind installation as 1GW, when the wind only blows there 30% of the time so you get 300MW average.

      This is greenwashing, not practical engineering.

      The only source which can provide the power we need at a cost we can meet without destroying the economy is nuclear power.
      It has been providing clean, safe, cheap electricity for the majority of French needs for many years.

      Renewables are a bit player, and one which is being used to distract attention from practical solutions for idealogical reasons.

      Your GW refererence links to a chart which covers the past few hundred thousand years, and shows temperatures rising and falling in an almost one for one correspondence with CO2 levels.
      As I said, correspondence does not prove causation, but it seems to me a dumb move to assume that this is just coincidence.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, Mark, a halving of the cost by subsidy is a massive change to perceived cost.
        You also have amortisation costs, which apply to the grid as well as the individual, and so in areas where the energy need does not coincide exactly with the peak use, the system is just transferring the cost of batteries or whatever to the grid from the individual.
        The somewhat episodic nature of communication on this site due to the layout prevents me checking my exact words, but I certainly did not mean to say that the use of solar pv in hot areas to meet peak load is not do-able.
        It is when people try to infer from this that you can use it for base load that the figures get silly.

        As for heat storage for use in the winter, it is already done in many apartment blocks in Sweden.
        AFAIK though it is usually done by simply collecting the thermal heat, and putting it into underground water tanks.
        Why create the inefficiencies of transforming the energy from one form to another?

        This engineering was done in the past, when air source heat pumps which cost shed loads less than ground source were not efficient at low temperatures.
        New CO2 pumps are fine in the coldest Minnesota winter, and operated in conjuction with a similar system to the pragmatic Swedes where nuclear power is important would power colder regions just fine without the huge and CO2 emitting construction projects implied by fitting ground source heat pumps on any scale.

        I don't want to come across as being as against solar thermal in residential applications - in China much of the hot water is supplied this way, in millions of rooftop installations.
        It is daft that they are uncommon in America.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "As for the economics of solar, I don't know how to explain it's incredible cost any more clearly.... Solar PV is hoplessly, fantastically, hugely expensive."

        David, I did bit more research into solar power in California, and it doesn't appear to have such poor economics as you suggest. The subsidies only concern the initial capital expense of installation and basically bring a $30,000 system to $16,000. Now while that is definitely substantial, I wouldn't call it incredible, hopeless, or fantastical, and could certainly be narrowed down or reversed in the near future with expected reductions in cost of PV panels and increases in efficiency.

        Here is what the subsidy would look like for the average homeowner:

        http://www.solarcity.com/residential/solar-pricing.aspx

        Regarding rates, it appears that in the daytime you sell it for $0.15 / kWh during peak demand, much less than that outside of this time, but peak demand coincides with peak production for PV panels. The rates seem reasonable.

        http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/AGENDA_RESOLUTION/78711.htm

        And here is the average price homeowners buy it at:
        http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_b.html

        Considering that California, Nevada, and Arizona could reasonably provide enough solar power to supply 100% of the continent's daytime energy demand, I see no reason why solar could not become a major player in the future. The economics really aren't that bad, and will only improve. I'm not familiar with Europe, which is what you are describing, but in N America it seems fine to me.

        "What is free market about forcing the utilities to buy power when it is not needed?"

        But it IS indeed needed in the daytime, that's when demand is highest, and that's also when the sun shines.

        "Cost out installing it for your home, then take off all the subsidies as that is just getting someone else to pay your bills, and allow for back up and plan for no grid connection, because agian you have just laid the cost on someone else."

        It's a $14,000 capital expense subsidy. And why do you need to plan for no grid connection in a power failure when you have solar panels on your roof, but you don't when you don't have solar panels on your roof?

        "You can't possibly store energy for months in that sort of quantity"

        Actually, interestingly, you can. But this isn't with PV panels, it is with solar thermal and using a ground sourced heat pump. This is something I have figured out but haven't analyzed the economics yet, it might be a game changer. It is more applicable for northern areas that get warm summers and cold winters. What you do is use a heat pump in the winter to heat the house. But in summertime you have solar heaters all over your roof and you pump the same glycol fluid through it that the heat pump uses, through the same pipes in the ground, but you are instead using a pump that is powered via a few solar panels up there with the solar heat panels (or just grid electricity if that is cheaper). The ground source you use would have a layer of insulating material on the bottom and sides, kind of like an insulated swimming pool filled with soil. This would be installed during the initial construction. So the summer heat is transferred to the soil, where it is stored until winter when you pull it out again to heat your house in winter. This is what ground source heat pumps do anyways, the summer heat is stored in the soil for months after winter comes, but I haven't heard of anyone actively pumping solar heat from your roof down there for use later in the season.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Noise needs to be coupled to an increase in speed, strangely enough. This is also a complaint when using a CVT. Personally, the whirring of a generator wouldn't bother me to much. It's more other brands marketing, that make people aware there is something missing in life :-)

      But then, I also have no problem with diesel engines.
      • 5 Years Ago
      David,

      Thanks for the thoughtful post:
      "As you would expect from a normal distribution curve, we have already found most of the big, cheap fields, and now have to exploit smaller and more expensive fields."

      This is why I believe the transition to renewables will happen fast. Oil is getting more expensive and renewables are getting cheaper. At current prices I don't believe the Tar Sands are doing much activity right now.When demand drops within 10 years because everyone's bought a cheap EV are we really going to be investing in extracting difficult oil? I doubt it.

      "Regarding nuclear power and renewables, I feel that renewbles are OK in certain situations and for some uses - solar thermal to provide peak power in areas where it is very hot and the main problem is keeping cool - during the day in Arizona, for instance.
      It is entirely fanciful at anything like present levels of technology to imagine their providing most of our power needs however."

      I don't see why not. If you cover your house roof with solar panels you produce much more energy than you use over a year. Just plug into the grid and use other base and peak power to even out the spikes. Currently, solar panels are about 1-10 times more expensive than grid parity depending on where you live. Considering the pace of development in this field I can see that gap closing soon. Additionally, if you covered your EV with solar panels you could go 20 km a day.

      "Correlation though is not the same as causation, and in I feel that many who believe in GW have overstated their case."

      Scientists mostly attribute milankovitch cycles to causing ice ages. These are long term wobbles in the earth's rotation which cause different amounts of sunshine to hit the northern and southern hemisphere. What you see is that an ice age will go for a while, then suddenly end. These temperature cycles, although matching up with the nice sinusoidal curves of the orbital cycles, are anything but nice and smooth. At some point when an ice age ends, what you see is that temperature initially starts shooting up, which is then followed closely by CO2 and methane about 500-800 years later. This is evidence of a positive feedback effect. The magnitude of this positive feedback is called "climate sensitivity". The problem is, CO2 is well beyond anything seen in the last several million years. And interestingly, while the sun has gotten progressively hotter over the last few hundred million years, CO2 has simultaneously dropped.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Co2-temperature-plot.svg
      • 5 Years Ago
      The problem isn't the car, it's the stupid driver and his or her stupid expectations. Americans want a car where they prod the go pedal and the car lunges forward with exciting sounds, and the rest of the time the engine sounds like a distant sewing machine. Drivers complain if they have to mash the pedal to the floor or downshift to maintain speed going uphill, even though that's part of having a horsepower curve; I suspect that's partly why 1.5L and below engines in the USA are dead, because they require driving at over 4000 RPM on occasion and it scares stupid drivers. I've heard people complain the Prius is underpowered because they had to floor it to join an on-ramp, as if flooring it is bad.

      I can only hope that the Volt's video game dashboard distracts stupid drivers from their dated misconception that engine vroom can only be an indicator of massive forward thrust.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Judging from the state of the financial system, poverty seems likely to fix the problem of excessive driver expectations :-(
      • 5 Years Ago
      Those Chevy logos in the center display and on the wheel are awful! I hope that's not standard. Please... we don't want to be reminded that this is a Chevy product when we're driving it.... Here's a hint.... look at the styling of the Tesla Roadster. They have ANALOG speed gauges. K..I..S..S..
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, GM used an LCD screen with the sole purpose of displaying the Chevrolet logo 100% of the time and for nothing else, because, you know, electronics are so cheap nowadays that it was cheaper to do that rather than to make a physical logo made out of plastic and mount that on the dashboard.

        P.S. If you looked at the other photos, you can see that the center LCD screen shows other stuff too.

        P.P.S. Looking at other Blogging websites, it looks as though the LCD display in front of the steering wheel is customizable. Perhaps there will be "digital analog" dials to appease you. Sheesh.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For understandable reasons research is focussing on developing batteries and fuel cells in tow separate design efforts, and in the field of fuel cells have mainly focussed on using hydrogen, the simplest to use on-board and which kicks the issues off onto the infrastructure.
      However, it is also possible to look at what the characteristics we would like are.

      If you put batteries, fuel cells and reformers together you are asking a lot of technology, but OTOH they work together to mitigate each others issues.

      For batteries, you can overcome the issues of range and cost for long range.
      For example, a car which can fully substitute for an ICE vehicle really needs at least 50kwh, and preferably 75kwh or so.
      If you take the batteries in the Leaf as some sort of base line minimum for a car which can be useful without compromising size and comfort too much, then you have around 26kwh extra to the 24kwh Leaf at minimum.
      If you allow for progress in battery technology, you might be looking at $300/kwh.
      That's around $8k extra for decent range, or 34kwh extra compared to the Volt, at a cost of $11k extra if you are going the plug in route.

      To my mind, looking at the price of present fuel cell vehicles makes no sense, as they are prototypes and have not really got a great deal to do with final production costs.

      Toyota reckon they can bring fc vehicles down to the same ball-park as ICE in around 5 years.
      It is going to minimise costs for a fc setup if you have a fair amount of battery energy to provide acceleration, and in a fc you have no problem with noise as you do in a small ICE, not to mention that you can throw out a lot of the stuff needed to run an ICE as the fc is still pure electric.

      A heavy battery input would much reduce the force of two arguments against hydrogen fuel cells, as a lot of the time most vehicles would be running on pure electric so the inefficiencies of producing hydrogen or methanol would not matter nearly as much.
      As for infrastructure, if only perhaps 40% or so of miles are done using the fuel cells, and that is mainly on long journeys, the needed infrastructure is much reduced, which is one of the main strikes against hydrogen.

      This would be further reduced by the use of methanol or DME, although of course you are then doing on-board reformation.

      Volvo is making good progress in this technology, applying it at the moment to trucks to build a variety of multi-fuel vehicles, including some which use biogas - much more efficient than ethanol.

      Of course, some of the steps needed to do this may not work out,a nd nothing is happening for at least 5 years, but there would seem to me to be advantages in this approach as opposed to just seeking to increase battery size to improve range.

      Cars like a Rolls-Royce Phantom, which may use up to around 100kwh of batteries if they go for pure batteries, might be the first to find it more economic to combine batteries with a fuel cell, but also for makers like BMW who will be reluctant to sacrifice either their performance heritage or range would surely find this an attractive route.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "Toyota reckon they can bring fc vehicles down to the same ball-park as ICE in around 5 years."

        They (and others) have been saying "in 5 years" every year for the past 10 years now... Are you going to believe them next year, or the year after?

        "As for infrastructure, if only perhaps 40% or so of miles are done using the fuel cells, and that is mainly on long journeys, the needed infrastructure is much reduced, which is one of the main strikes against hydrogen."

        Problem with infrastructure is that if demand for it goes down, the cost skyrockets.

        How much would each kg of hydrogen cost if a brand new filling station only gets 5 customers per day? Sure you could build fewer stations, but then they wouldn't be placed in convenient locations. And it is not like simply adding another pump to existing gasoline stations. Hydrogen stations need separate pumps, tanks, compressors, pipes, logistics, distribution, etc. Pretty much the only thing that a hydrogen filling station can keep is the convenience store and employees.

        So if you put FCVs on the road but go half assed on the infrastructure, the costs will be transferred to those 40% who still fill up with H2.


        My solution would be to use biofuels in range-extenders (towable, rentable, or on-board) to supplement driving on longer trips. The filling infrastructure is already here. And the flex-fuel technology is already here and cheap.
      • 5 Years Ago
      While they are fun toys for engineers, PEM fuel cells will never be cheap enough to use in a mass-market vehicle.

      In 2015 the range extender (if present) on an electric vehicle will be an ICE-based genset running on fossil fuel (gasoline/E85, diesel, or natural gas/LPG)

      They are both cheap and able to use existing fuel infrastructures.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Sorry, but the cost (both capital and operating) rules out PEM fuel cells.

        At best they are only about twice as efficient as an ICE, currently cost 100x as much as an ICE, and also use a much more expensive (and hard to handle) fuel.

        If some bright engineers could adapt for vehicle use a fuel cell that can directly burn a more complex hydrocarbon (natural gas/LPG, or ideally a liquid fuel) then fuel cells would have a better chance in mass-market vehicle applications.

        But again, fossil-fueled range extenders are so cheap to make and operate I don't see that happening by 2015.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Bill, that is a fairly absolutist statement and implies full knowledge of all the confidential work some very clever guys around the world are doing in their labs.
        I am not a bigfan of PEM myself, and prefer other approaches, but would not be that dismissive or assume that no-one can dream up a wrinkle I haven't thought of.
        OTOH, I am completely dismissive of EESTOR, and think it is a load of hoey! ;-)
        • 5 Years Ago
        It does not make any sense to compare the costs of a prototype to those of a production model.
        I would agree that we won't have fc/battery combination cars by 2015, but the advantages of putting a farily substantial battery into fc cars is so substantial that I can't see that they will not do so as soon as they have the basic technology in place.
        Being all electric they would combine much better with batteries than ICE engines do.
        ICE will remain the system of choice if someone manages to find an inexhaustible oil well.
        Until they do it seems that we have no choice but to move on to other fuels and ways of using them.
        A fuel cell battery combination would seem to be one way of doing so which would mitigate the disadvantages of both.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Neil your understanding is wrong. With a 16kWh battery you can take tons and tons of regen braking.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think the energy capacity of the batteries is what he was asking about. The question was *how fast* can the batteries absorb energy. That is one of the drawbacks of current, production ready battery technology. You simply cannot dump an arbitrarily high amount of energy into it in a short period of time. Kind of like trying to fill a gas tank... you might have a 30 gallon tank, but that does not mean you can fill it with 30 gallons of gas in one second (the limiting factor is the size of the filler tube, just like batteries only being able to charge at a certain rate).

        That said, I have no idea how GM is handling this one... Perhaps they only capture a small amount of the regenerated electricity?
        • 5 Years Ago
        It'll take enough almost all the time in regular use. If you brake hard, you lose energy, otherwise you can capture most of it with regen.

        On the track, you can't capture enough because on the track you use hard braking all the time.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Hi,

      It is my understanding that the amount of regenerative braking is limited by how quickly the battery can take the charge. Maybe GM has used a (ultra?) capacitor to do this? (Which then charges the battery as fast as it can take it.)

      Sincerely, Neil
      • 5 Years Ago
      Regenerative breaking should be better then the prius because their electrics motors are bigger and more powerful and the battery is larger.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Mr. Martin,

      Thank You for a lucid, cogent and cognizant set of posts. I would like to say a few things about the seemingly outright rush to abandon fossil fuels. I believe it is necessary to do so, at least partially, for the foreign trade aspects and the politically risky status of the whims of Oil Sheiks, and worse the Oil Commissars.

      But it is NOT because we will "run out " of fossil sources any time soon measured in hundreds of years. Athabasca alone would provide all the fossil needed for the better part of a century. Tapping the domestic Shales would do for another century or or two. The deep waters finds off Brazil and in the Gulf, and likely finds in deep water off the Atlantic states, would delay the day of "running out" considerably. The Peakist argument that we will soon meet an ever receding point, in which "HALF" the oil to be found, has been consumed, is then somehow instantly changed to it will run out tomorrow. Nonsense. When half HAS been found we will as many hundreds of year s a as we have had, especially as demand falls off, as it will.

      Nor is there any longer any reason to say that ICE fossil fuel cars can't ever get clean. The best, routinely, are joining the Zero Pollution group, expressly created and reserved for BEVs and FCEVs. Electrification is coming with in the next decade . When or if it becomes the majority of Ground Transport is really not a true consideration. Transport is the last growing market for Oil. When it starts to shift to electricity, the demand picture will shift dramatically. As will prices. The Oil Cartel will break as all cartels eventually do; and we will return to the status quo ante bellum, or before 1973, when Oil was priced and sold commensurate with some relation to the cost of production. For the past 40 years, such has not been the case.

      The only benefit of the Oil PRICE Crisis, and that is all it ever was; it was a PRICE, not a supply crisis, is that the Price allowed the creation and deployment of advanced technologies that would not have seen the light of day for a half century yet. Furthermore it led to the creation of vast industries such as deep Ocean drilling, and Athabasca, that will not shut down. They will remain the high price producers, but the investments having been made; and the technologies developed and installed, they will continue to produce, at the margin, even as the Cartels collapse.

      In short Oil PRICES will likely continue to fluctuate wildly for another half a decade. And then enter a dramatic decline of very long endurance.

      We will likely never end up with much very expensive, intermittent, un-reliable, non base-load "renewables" electricity. But Fission LWRs have been "perfected", and answer all the genuine critics demands of the '70s, save for the zany know littles who marched and screamed simply to meet chicks. A large pipeline of these to-be-constructed plants is developing around the World, and when the actual Construction begins in a year or two, they will join the electricity creating grid in a mere four or five years later,substantially altering generation mixes. Despite what untrained critics are saying, Fusion is coming and with gathering force. ITER will make that plain as will inertia Ignition. By the time the decision to purchase and build Gen IV Fission plants comes post 2035, Fusion plants will be a full and I think a preferred alternative. The Oil PRICE Crisis long gone, the Energy Supply problem will have been solved essentially forever.

      Some eternal pessimists will point to AGW as a remaining problem. But 21st century Science is revealing that the CO2 effect is way overblown and the concerns misplaced. The North American continent is already a net neutral CO2 continent, actually a net Carbon sink, absorbing both all the natural CO2, and all the man made CO2 from the 6% of the World's population that produces 25% of the World's goods. Electrification of Ground Transport will only make that sink even bigger.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Mr Petersen,
        Thank you for your kind words.
        We are dealing with large subjects which should properly be addressed in a considered manner.
        If you wish to discuss them at leisure you are welcome to contact me at: brittanicone2007 at yahoo dot co dot uk.

        In a much compressed form I would briefly address your points as follows:

        Peak oil is indeed not about 'running out' of oil, but refers to the likely rate of extraction at any given price point.

        For example, 'peak oil' for the US was in the 1960's, and yet oil extraction there is still running at around half the rate of that at peak, and the US is still one of the largest producers in the world.
        Technically, the depletion curve has a 'fat tail' and it seems reasonable to assume that world exploitation rates will folloe a similar curve.
        Indeed, the figures I have quoted from Uppsala University based on the most authoritative reserve estimates we have, those of the IEA, but reduced in respect of their unexplained assumption of much faster exploitation rates of the discovered reserves than has been the historic norm indicates a reduction from the current 85mb/s to only 75mb/d by 2030, far from 'no more oil', but a severe enough shortfall to cause the most severe difficulty.

        Similarly, within the same kind of timeframe the vast Athabascan reseves are more or less irrelevant.
        It is the possible rate of increased exploitation which counts.
        At the moment we burn vast quantities of natural gas to extract them, and they are difficult to ramp up and cost a lot of money to do so - likely more than current prices.
        I actually think that we can avoid burning natural gas to extract them, and that either nuclear power or microwaves will do the job, but that is going to have limited effects within the next 20 years - these technologies take time to develop and deploy.

        We differ as to whether current prices are geologically based or due to political considerations.
        I would argue that unless there were some geological basis for current prices, it would not be possible to maintain a cartel.
        Part of this is due to the unequal distribution of reserves, but it should also be noted that jever since the mid-sixties annual oil extraction has exceeded annual discoveries and development.
        Without a severe discontinuity that obviously can't carry on.

        As you would expect from a normal distribution curve, we have already found most of the big, cheap fields, and now have to exploit smaller and more expensive fields.
        The finds off the coast of Brazil are a case in point.
        They are far smaller than the old, massive discoveries in Saudi, and seem likely to cost even more than the current relatively high price of oil to develop.
        They are deep in the ocean, and deeply buried.

        Regarding nuclear power and renewables, I feel that renewbles are OK in certain situations and for some uses - solar thermal to provide peak power in areas where it is very hot and the main problem is keeping cool - during the day in Arizona, for instance.
        It is entirely fanciful at anything like present levels of technology to imagine their providing most of our power needs however.

        The technology I favour for nuclear is the liquid fluoride thorium reactor, which has been demonstrated, has no risk of explosion since it is low pressure but high temperature, can use as fuel all the current 'waste' from reactors and the weapons program, and is arounf 100-300 times as efficient at burning fuel as current reactors.
        No new breakthroughs are needed to build them, unlike fusion reactors.
        The reason the program was discontinue is that they are lousy at producing weapon's grade materials.
        More here:
        http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/index.php

        This ain't gonna get us out of the problem in the next few years though, as it really does not matter how much oil we have, if the cost of getting it is too much for our economy to bear, and causes permanent recession.

        This post is going on forever, so to briefly address the last point, I am not too happy with the quality of the argument on either side abour Global warming.
        I feel though that correlation of Co2 levels with Global temperatures is conclusive:
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080514131131.htm
        Correlation though is not the same as causation, and in I feel that many who believe in GW have overstated their case.
        Conversely it seems to me ill-advised to dismiss the possibility of any effect in the light of this strong correlation.

        Whether oil is at maximum in an ablsolute sense or not, I can't see us having adequate inexpensive supplies of oil to carry on wi
        • 5 Years Ago
        You make some dumb fringe claims about AGW. You say: "The North American continent is already a net neutral CO2 continent, actually a net Carbon sink, absorbing both all the natural CO2, and all the man made CO2 from the 6% of the World's population that produces 25% of the World's goods." Where did you get that from?

        In the real world of accepted science, "The U.S. Climate Change Science Program ... The results show that the continent's fossil fuel emissions are outpacing the land's natural ability to absorb carbon dioxide by three to one." http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-9816262-54.html
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