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Gas, and fuel-efficient cars, is this true?


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#21 of 150 OFFLINE   GordonL

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Posted May 10 2004 - 07:59 AM

That doesn't mean it's not solvable. Throw enough time and money into it, someone's bound to come up with a solution. I read somewhere that the Gov't has allocated somewhere around $130m this year to do fuel cell research. $130m! Compare that to the billions we spent on the war to "protect" our oil "rights". There's no doubt in my mind that if the Gov't put as much zeal into developing alternative fuel sources, the problem would be solved.

#22 of 150 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted May 10 2004 - 08:06 AM

Let's leave the political comments aside, please.

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#23 of 150 OFFLINE   Eric_L

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Posted May 10 2004 - 09:03 AM

Pretty easy to spend OPM, eh?

#24 of 150 OFFLINE   Scott Diedrick

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Posted May 10 2004 - 10:39 AM



Actually, the method you suggest for powering cars is impossible. You can’t power a fuel cell car by just pumping water into it. Fuel cells generate electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen through a catalyst to create water. Extra electrons are produced to be used by the electric motor, lights etc. If all you put in the car was water, you would have to extract the hydrogen from the water to put into the fuel cell. Any system you used to split the hydrogen from the oxygen would have to supply some electrons to the hydrogen that were split off the oxygen. You would in effect be splitting water, pumping the output (hydrogen and oxygen) into a fuel cell and getting the water right back. If you somehow made all the steps 100% efficient, which is impossible, you would have a great system that produced 0 net energy.

The generation of the hydrogen for the fuel cells is one of the great problems with the idea of fuel cell cars. Since there is no great store of H2 around for us to get we have to split the hydrogen from something else. This takes energy. So basically we are moving the energy generation from your car to a power plant. This can be good if we can do it efficiently. But the technology for the fuel cells, plus the hydrogen generation and storage tech for the stations are a way off. Plus we would have to build up not just the infrastructure to deliver the hydrogen, but we would have to up our power generating ability to provide power for all these new hydrogen plants.

Howstuffworks.com has a good breakdown of the problems with fuel cells as they stand now. It has nothing to do with lobbyist, oil companies, the illuminati, etc. Fuel cells just aren’t there yet. The best solution we have at the moment to really reduce oil use and pollution is the hybrid system. It increases the efficiency of the cars we have by about 30% and can reduce pollution by a huge amount per car. Car companies will start selling more of them once the buyers start showing their willingness to buy the current crop that is coming out.

#25 of 150 OFFLINE   Christ Reynolds

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Posted May 10 2004 - 10:58 AM

can we PLEASE try to work in some kind of conspiracy? i heard that the black helicopters are powered by fuel cells! CJ
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#26 of 150 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted May 10 2004 - 12:32 PM

Fuel cells are a pipe dream that will never work. Hydrogen is not an energy source, it's an energy sink. That means it takes more energy to extract the hydrogen than the hydrogen eventually yields. Also, the technology is very old (hydrogen fuel cells powered early '60s US Space technology). If it was feasible it would have been explored indepth in the 70s during the energy crunches. What is real is very small European cars getting near 100mpg on diesel.
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#27 of 150 OFFLINE   Erik.Ha

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Posted May 10 2004 - 01:14 PM

The problem with "very small European cars getting near 100MPG on Diesel" is the same problem people had with "very small european cars getting near 50MPG on Diesel" in the 70s. 1. Safety. Very Small= less crashworthy. 2. Practicality. Very small= Tough to squeeze mom, dad, and 2.3 kids in. Most families dont buy a car JUST for dad's work commute, and then another vehicle for family outings. They make damned sure that every car they buy has enough room for every member of the family to fit comfortably. 3. DIESEL. DIESEL STINKS. Its smelly and noisey and no matter what they tried, they couldn't get Americans to buy the things. Its very unlikely we will see "solid hydrogen fuel cells". To make them palatable to consumers (i.e. acceptable range/cost per mile), the current prototypes for hydrogen fuel cells are all using liquid H and are using the ENTIRE FRAME of the vehicle as the fuel cell. The obvious problem with this is, again, SAFETY. The Frame of the modern automobile is the most important part of the vehicle's safety systems. Current auto frames are designed to "crumple" so that they absorb the majority of the impact in a high speed crash, rather than transfering that force to the vehicle occupants. If you design the frame to be the fuel tank, and the fuel is liquid H, you obviously can't allow that frame to deform in even the most minor way in a crash(anybody remember the "pinto"?). Thus you're talking about driving what amounts to a battering ram (a solid non- compressing structure) down the freeway at 70 mph... In a crash, instead of the frame acting as a big spring, slowly (relatively) bleeding off the energy of the crash, the frame remains solid and stiff. When it hits another object also designed like a battering ram (say, another fuel cell vehicle) all of the energy of the crash is transfered to the persons who are unfortunate enough to be sitting ON THE BATTERING RAMs when they strike each other... Think "ejection seat."
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#28 of 150 OFFLINE   GordonL

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Posted May 10 2004 - 01:27 PM

You're right, it can't be done today. I never said it was possible today. However, a lot of technology that exists today were once thought impossible. At one time, the amount of computing power sitting on your desktop required a large room. Given enough time, money, and a bit of innovation, it certainly is possible. And if you think the current state of fuel cells has nothing to do with lobbyist and oil companies, well, you're a bit naive. I'm not implying that there is a conspiracy going on, maybe there is, maybe there isn't - but the big oil companies have hundreds of billions of dollars at stake here. If you had a guaranteed steady supply of customers and you could continue to supply them for the near future, why would you want to upset the applecart?

#29 of 150 OFFLINE   BrianW

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Posted May 10 2004 - 01:46 PM

Scott, you beat me to it. Gordon, expecting the energy required to extract hydrogen from water to be less than the energy you get to recombine it is essentially a perpetual motion (or energy) machine. And last I checked, no amount of time or money will circumvent the laws of thermodynamics. We're better off working within the laws of nature. And it's for this reason, Phillip, that you're right when you say that production of hydrogen will be an energy sink. But I still think it needs to be explored. We can get hydrogen from renewable sources (like corn), or from plentiful sources (like water). If we can figure out a way to use a renewable energy source (like wind, sun, or waves) to extract the hydrogen in large, centralized facilities, then the hydrogen simply becomes a (hopefully efficient) means of storing and distributing that energy to our cars, homes, even to our laptops and cell phones. The goal is to have hydrogen's versatility and efficient infrasture outweigh its added cost of production. And never mind cars - if we replace all our various, ultimately disposable batteries in all our gadgets and toys with hydrogen fuel cells, then that will be a huge leap in justifying hydrogen's extra cost of production.
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#30 of 150 OFFLINE   Erik.Ha

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Posted May 10 2004 - 02:09 PM

Gordon, my obvious question for you is, "where are you planning to get all this water from?" There is a reason we use petroleum for energy. THERE IS LOTS OF IT, AND THERE isn't ANYTHING ELSE WE COULD BE DOING WITH IT... We can't drink it... We cant water our lawns with it... You cant even make a decent vinegarette with it. We didn't discover oil 130 years ago... Its been bubbling to the surface of the earth and getting in our way for hundreds of thousands of years (there are references to petroleum fields in the Bible... They cursed them because they were dirty and sticky and a complete PITA... Their decendents are laughing now). It took us that long to invent something to do with it... Water on the other hand is ALREADY a scarce commodity, especially here in the western U.S. I have an idea... Lets invent a car that runs on DIAMONDS. Hear how silly that sounds? Unfortunately, what you propose is a solution looking for a problem. 1. There is no incentive to sink BILLIONS of dollars into researching the issue. There is NO SHORTAGE OF petroleum. There is enough oil to do exactly what we're doing for the next 250 years AT LEAST. (thats about as long as the U.S. has been an independent country. Think about what the world looked like then, and what it looks like now...) If we haven't figured out something new by then, we don't deserve to. We'll all be long dead by then anyway. The problems with patroleum are political in nature, rather than true scarcity. Why is this an issue? Because nobody wants to invest in a new technology that REALLY isn't needed... WHY? If they invent the car that runs on water, what will OPEC do??? DUMP the price of gas until its below that of water (already a scarce commodity in many parts of the world) killing ANY incentive for consumers to pay off the inventor for his investment. Since there is NO Scarcity of petroleum, OPEC has 100% control of the price and can torpedo any alternative. 2. Governments have never been the catalyst for innovation. Private investment has. If there is a buck to be made discovering how to power cars off my 93 year old grandmother's farts, someone will invent it without the government taxing me for it. 3. The problem with a lot of the "new forms of energy" arguments is they are uneconomical and unrealistic. The fact is, a unit of energy is a unit of energy. All forms of energy have inherent costs and benefits, that are unique to each. What time has shown is, there is no FREE RIDE. All the alternative forms of energy have shown they aren't as efficient or practical as the common forms used today. Some pollute more, some cost more, some require too many man hours to process, some are too volatile. What we've learned is, despite gas's drawbacks, it is really the most palatable option we've found yet. Hydroelectric hurts rivers, Wind requires ACRES of land for very little power in return. Nuke is dangerous and poses the problem of waste disposal. Solar is expensive... I can today go get a solar system for my home. Cost? $20,000-$30,000... That's AFTER 40 years of R&D on solar power... So much for "prices will come down over time". Why would I install this when my monthly gas+ electric bill is about $130? It will take 19 years for me to recoup that investment... I probably won't own the home that long. The system will need major overhaul before it ever pays for itself in a reduced energy bills. In other words, its UNECONOMICAL. The other argument is "if we just spent the money researching it, wed have the answer by now." Wrong. This is childish and illogical and flies in the face of everything we know. We've been researching cancer for 100 years. Still no cure, despite TRILLIONS of dollars invested from public and private sources. So much of the debate comes down to "if we just spent the money to research it, we could power cars off of Unicorn tears." Im sorry, I just don't share that opinion.
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#31 of 150 OFFLINE   Mike Lenthol

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Posted May 10 2004 - 02:35 PM


Wonder if you have to be 21 to fill up that car Posted Image

#32 of 150 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted May 10 2004 - 03:13 PM

Erik- why in the world would you think that they'd abandon crush zones just to implement fuel cell technology? The undercarriage of the vehicle isn't the tank, it's the fuel cell. The tank is a pressurized, multi-walled, composite piece located elsewhere in the vehicle. And, I think your notion of heavier=safer is a bit misguided. It's selfishly safer, at the expense of whoever you plow into. I think Volvo has clearly shown that one need not build a 4500lb vehicle with a raised bumper to adequately protect its occupants. Gasoline is the best we have TODAY. It is not the best solution we have for Tomorrow. In the near term, fuel cell technology will still be fossil-fuel based- liberating hydrogen atoms from hydrocarbon chains is much easier than water. That's how most will work. Water-based hydrogen sources will come much later, when we are using "infinite" sources (solar, wind, tidal, hydro, etc) to liberate the hydrogen. Might I ask if you're in the energy business? I used to be in Nuclear Power, and I currently work with Hydrogen on an almost-daily basis, so suffice to say I have a different view than you. Brian- I've seen a few papers on micro fuel cells. They aren't THAT far out. A few more years. Looks like Methanol will be the fuel of choice.
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#33 of 150 OFFLINE   Ray Chuang

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Posted May 10 2004 - 03:27 PM

Actually, you can get a car with pretty decent fuel efficiency without sacrificing safety--ever heard of the Audi A2 sold in Europe? I've heard that the second-generation Mercedes-Benz A-series coming out real soon will definitely be available in the US market, though it will be a gasoline-electric hybrid that will be the only US model. And unlike the original A-series, the car will sport a longer wheelbase to accommodate American-sized people front and back.
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#34 of 150 OFFLINE   Steve Schaffer

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Posted May 10 2004 - 03:57 PM

The currently available (though there's a 3 to 6 month waiting list) Toyota Prius has an epa city rating of 60mpg. It is designated as a mid-size car by the epa and weighs 2890lbs. It's typical selling price is about the same as a comparably equipped Camry mid-size sedan, and at that price Toyota makes a profit on the car, which was not the case when the first generation Prius was introduced 4 years ago. The current Toyota RAV-4 compact SUV with 4wd weighs 3119lbs, a difference of 329 lbs or 2 average male passengers. It's not inconceivable that a hybrid RAV-4 could use the exact same drivetrain as the Prius and still exceed 50mph in the city where aerodynamics play a very minor role. The current Prius 0-60 acceleration is about the same as that of a 98 model 4 cyl Camry, perfectly acceptable for family use. The hypothetical hybrid RAV-4 might be a tick or two slower but SUVs typically are a bit slower than mid-size sedans. Toyota has not chosen to do a hybrid RAV-4. Instead their first hybrid SUV will be a version of the current Lexus RX-330, analogous to the Toyota Highlander. This is a larger and heavier vehicle and will probably use a V6 gas engine rather than the 4cyl in the RAV and Prius. It probably won't do 50+mpg in town, but I'd expect high 30s to low 40s easily. I think Toyota wants to expand hybrid offerings into larger vehicles than the current Prius drivetrain will handle, thus greatly expanding the number of potential types of cars and trucks they can offer with this technology. With the current Prius and upcoming RX-330 hybrid drive systems they will be able to offer anything from subcompacts to full-on luxury cars with hybrid drivetrains. Hybrid may be regarded by many as a stopgap, and it probably is, but the gap it's stopping is quite a large and long one given the radical changes in fuelling infrastructure and vehicle design necessary for fuel cell and/or hydrogen. Hybrid is here now, it works, it uses currently available fuels very efficiently and with minimal emmissions (the Prius produces as much pollution over a 10 year period as would be produced by 1 gallon of housepaint drying). It can be put in currently produced vehicle platforms and sold at prices competitive with old tech vehicles and still make a profit for the mfg. It doesn't require the owner to do anything any differently than what they're used to doing with their conventional cars. For the time being some service procedures are best left to the dealer. Having seen the extra money spent by most independent shops misdiagnosing engine management system problems on today's conventional cars, I don't see this as a major change.
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#35 of 150 OFFLINE   Erik.Ha

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Posted May 10 2004 - 03:58 PM

Sorry... But when it comes to safety, I care about ME and MY family, not the other guy who I've never met. YOU DO TOO. Call it selfish. I call it honest... Not to be calous, but I dont particularly care if you or your family make it home safely... and I dont expect you to care if I do. Let's face it, neither of us are going to attend the funeral of the guy who died on the 101 freeway tonight, who caused my commute to be 30 minutes longer or any of the other hundreds of people who died today in auto accidents. I do however care a great deal that MY wife and child make it home safely, as Im sure you care for those close to you... Therefore, I wrap my loved ones in the biggest, heaviest, highest safety rated car I can afford, MILEAGE BE DAMNED... And Volvo's aren't exactly light weight... They weigh in around 3500 LBS, which for a sedan, is pretty freakin' hefty... How do you design a crumple zone that is seperate from the carraige of the car? Make the car longer? At some point, the frame comes into play in an accident. No way around it. The designs I have seen, have casued a LOT of concern for experts I know in the field of auto safety. I agree, Gasoline will not be the best solution forever. Obviously. At some point, other solutions will present themselves. The ones in vogue now do not show the promise worthy of government funding to "look into". I think you are correct that Methanol is promising. The problem with Methonol is it doesn't address the real underlying issue for those driving this debate, and thats dislike for the internal combustion engine... No, Im not in energy, although I do have some friends in the field. My wife is an automobile liability defense attorney. Read: I hear the details of crashes on a daily basis, and I see LOTS of pictures of dead crash victims... Men, Women, Families... Children... The one that stays in my head is that of a young man sitting in the seat of a honda civic, looking absolutely normal... Except for the fact his brain was sitting in the passenger seat next to him... Look at enough of those and you stop worrying about pollution and time at the pump... I know more than I ever wanted to learn about failure analysis. The fact is, polution and oil cartels are BAD... But they arent as immediate a threat, or as life shattering, as your son in the front seat, and his brain in the back because the car you bought him was a sardine can waiting for the key to peel it open to come along in the form of a U-haul.
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#36 of 150 OFFLINE   Christ Reynolds

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Posted May 10 2004 - 04:02 PM

i have read the vw jetta is a pretty safe car, and the tdi (diesel) is advertised at 49 mpg highway. actual mileage reported on tdiclub.com is up to 60 mpg with no modifications. CJ
And then when I feel so stuffed I can't eat anymore, I just use the restroom! And then I CAN eat more!

#37 of 150 OFFLINE   Christ Reynolds

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Posted May 10 2004 - 04:07 PM

this is an awful way to think. and thanks for putting words in all of our mouths. of course you care about your family more. but if we are in an accident, after i see my family is ok, i care about the other guy. and you should too. CJ
And then when I feel so stuffed I can't eat anymore, I just use the restroom! And then I CAN eat more!

#38 of 150 OFFLINE   Mike Wladyka

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Posted May 10 2004 - 11:36 PM

i am pretty sure if more money was put into solar power, fuel cells, etc...there would be a definite increase performance of the technology. Just look at the first gas engines develop back in the early part of last century, they were terrible (performance wise) to today's counterparts...fuel cells and solar cells are still new technologies even if they are 40 years old, just now have we seriously begun to look at these technologies, so the point that they have been around for 40 years without major breakthroughs is moot. once the decision is made to go to lightier cars, there will be advances made to make them safer. of course there are other problems associated with light cars such as being blown around more by the wind and sliding around more in the winter, especially in the north.
Now they show you how detergents take out bloodstains, a pretty violent image there. I think if you've got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn't your biggest problem. Maybe you should get rid of the body before you do the wash.

#39 of 150 OFFLINE   Philip Hamm

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Posted May 11 2004 - 12:56 AM

Wow, got some data to back that up? I'd love to read it.
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#40 of 150 OFFLINE   Todd Hochard

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Posted May 11 2004 - 01:06 AM

Think outside the box. The frame of the fuel cell itself can be designed with these crumple zones. I was just looking at one such frame at Epcot on Sunday, in the GM Propaganda area. I could see the crumple points all along this bare chassis/fuel cell.
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