View Full Version : Your choice for sustainable fuel?
09-03-2007, 04:02 AM
I'm wondering what everyone's favorite sustainable/renewable fuel is.
From my personal experience:
E85: 10% less mpg (YMMV), 10% cheaper with tax rebates. Somewhere around 30% more usable energy from same crude stock versus straight gas.
Diesel: significantly higher MPG, biodiesel can significantly supplement crude supply. NOX emissions (GHG) 8x or higher vs. gas.
Electric: Clean, OK power. Limited Energy. Impractical except as hybrid/PH.
Practical Definition: 300 regular miles, 30 min service or 8hr charge. 4 people, bags, 10s 0-60mph.
09-03-2007, 10:30 AM
I have lots of fat to burn off.
09-03-2007, 11:06 AM
I voted electric, but one could argue that both batteries and fuel cells are not an energy source, but merely a means of storing it. The advantage of both EVs and FCVs is they can use any energy source and in a worst case (conventional coal-fired plants), managing the emissions is far easier because you are dealing with a few thousand plants - not millions of tailpipes.
We are simply going to need a variety of energy sources in the coming years.
09-03-2007, 10:40 PM
Biofuels burned in my muscles, powering a bike. Like an electric vehicle, it isn't practical for everything, but easily covers my daily in-town travel. For longer trips and my wife's use, I would like an EV with small range extender engine (~20 HP).
09-03-2007, 11:33 PM
Didn't vote because all choices have their current weaknesses, but I expect ethanol from something other than corn making a play soon possibly through enzymes, probably genetically modified.
Electric has promise but renewable electric is a long way from making a significant dent in fossil sources.
09-04-2007, 12:41 AM
The only one of the choices that can be truly clean and green is electricity. Electricity is also the easiest to sustain by far.
09-04-2007, 02:40 AM
I guess I should clarify. Since practical solar/wind powered electric cars are a dream at this point, what is your favorite fuel in the short to medium term (10-15 years). Alternatively, what fuel do you think will make the most impact on the U.S. transportation sector?
___10% less on E85? We lose 3% on E10 here in IL. already let alone E85! The drop is more like 20 – 30% :angry:
___Bio is a not an in-expensive alternative no matter the crop it is pulled from including the various palm oils out of SE Asia, Rapeseed throughout much of Europe or Soybeans here in the US. For those making Bio at home from recycled restaurant grease, god bless them! Diesel’s are so much more efficient then gasoline engines in terms of thermodynamic efficiency thus the higher FE. The resultant increase of ~ 10% CO2 emissions due to the higher C content of Diesel vs. gasoline is somewhat negated even with a 20 – 30% increase in FE over the same distance however :(
___Electric is the way we are headed as it is extremely cheap and it is home grown. It takes as much energy to extract, refine, transport and pump into your tank a gallon of gasoline as it does to make the electricity to drive the same distance in a PHEV/BEV! Talk about a wasted energy carrier :( The only reason people would need a 10 minute charge is for longer trips. Otherwise, it takes all of 10 seconds to plug in your car at night and 10 seconds to pull the plug in the morning. This is far more convenient then going to the gas station and wasting 10 minutes once a week or more!
___PHEV’s are available today but the price is steep! It will not be so in the near future however and once we get that train a rolling, it will not be stopped. It solves so many of our social, economic and environmental problems in one fell swoop there cannot be a case made for fossil fuels to gasoline or diesel imho. Personally, a diesel powered PHEV-40 running on electricity for the daily grind, some B100 in the summer and maybe B20 in the winter would give us a lot of headroom for later developments into the BEV arena.
___Excellent poll by the way!
09-09-2007, 03:40 PM
Diesel for automobiles
Nuclear for large-scale electricity
Purpose-built self-sustaining homes including increased energy efficiency and solar panels to cut consumption on a smaller scale.
Photovoltaic cells on commercial and industrial to offset consumption.
09-09-2007, 04:13 PM
___10% less on E85? We lose 3% on E10 here in IL. already let alone E85! The drop is more like 20 – 30% :angry:
Not really. I expect we donn't lose anything from E10 compared to regular RFG.
Keep in mind the loss in E85 is not 1:1 with energy content. The different combustion characteristics (octane/ignition point, combustion speed) of E85 allow a tuned engine to only experience a 10-15% loss.
09-09-2007, 05:32 PM
The different combustion characteristics (octane/ignition point, combustion speed) of E85 allow a tuned engine to only experience a 10-15% loss.
Which is great in theory but is not yet seen in practice. Making up for the losses with a "tuned" engine involves a great deal more than just modifying control parameters. It requires substantial mechanical modifications including increasing the compression ratio to take advantage of that high octane rating. Unfortunately you can't burn regular gasoline in such an engine, which is why our "flex fuel" vehicles do lose efficiency on the order of 20-30% when running E85.
When somebody finds a cost-effective way to produce ethanol that provides ample capacity, is water-efficient, and doesn't compete with food production then I'll be more than happy to see it. Then we can build high-compression engines since they won't need to be able to run on gasoline.
09-11-2007, 12:53 AM
Actually brick, the biggest changes involve the timing and the mixture. New timing belt, new cam, adjust the carb (remember, I'm driving a 94), and 95% of the work is done.
How do I know? I run E85 in my Dodge's 318 (God, that's a great engine. inefficient as hell but sturdy and easy to work on). Just switching at the fuel pumps and I'm only seeing a 10-15% difference in fuel economy.
I'm not running 12:1 or anything like that, although my engine does run a little lean on E10.
09-11-2007, 06:45 AM
That may be what you can do easily on your own truck, and good for you for getting that far. But timing and mixture simply aren't the "biggest" changes. The essence of thermal efficiency for otto cycle ICE is the compression ratio, and the higher the better as long as you have stable combustion. You can increase it dramatically by virtue of the very high octane rating of ethanol, and who knows...if you can get to within 15% of gasolone on a stock bottom end maybe you could get it the rest of the way back up to par with a modified rotating assembly. But not if you need to run gasoline some of the time. That might not be the case if you had a way to vary the compression ratio through tricky valve timing but that would be pretty expensive.
The problem is, Detroit doesn't do it. Their cars do lose 20-30% of their fuel economy on E85, which is evident from browsing the ratings on fueleconomy.gov. For example, a '08 Silverado 2WD is rated at 13mpg on E85, 17mpg on regular unleaded. That's a 23.5% difference. For whatever reason they aren't "tuned" to the level that you have achieved. One possibility to consider in that case is emissions. Do you run lean? If so, you can bet that the NOx emissions are through the roof. And the manufacturers can't allow that if they want to sell cars in the US.
Point being, converting our fleet to ethanol is quite a bit more complicated than you converting your personal vehicle. Environmental and collateral economic concerns aside, it isn't going to work well unless our ethanol production and distribution capacity increases dramatically.
09-11-2007, 04:19 PM
I voted for electricity with the same caveats as Delta Flyer. It's not a really a source, although it's a great storage mechanism.
Actually, I hope they do solve the "storage problem", I hope they don't solve it too perfectly. Otherwise our roads will become crowded with overpowered, oversized EVs that drag the grid down, compete with current uses and force us to build lots of new plants.
My second choice is biodiesel. At some point it will start to compete seriously with food crops, but at least in this region we're not there yet. I don't mind the smell at all: the smell from my wife's car is faint but reminiscent of hot cooking oil.
09-11-2007, 05:22 PM
Don't forget about other bio-alcohol alternatives, such as butanol. May have some practical advantages over ethanol. Or DMF (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2%2C5-Dimethylfuran), which I've seen floated around recently.
The eventual solutions doesn't have to be something that we're all familiar with. Except perhaps dilithium crystals. Can't wait to invest in the first Dilithium Mine!
Oh, and btw I voted for electric. I mean, liquids are just so heavy, and messy. Ick
10-06-2007, 01:03 AM
How about wood or coal?
10-06-2007, 01:00 PM
Burritos rank pretty high on my list of favorite bio-fuels.
Although I have huge reservations about ethanol, I have to point out that it would be possible to have high compression for ethanol efficiency, and still run on gasoline. It could be done with variable valve timing. However, it won't happen the way the current CAFE standards are written.
10-15-2007, 10:36 AM
Ethanol for cars!!! It's produced from plants that grow and are natural air cleaners. Ethanol fuel is produced in the USA, so it benefits the environment and our economy! It's cleaner burning than fossil fuels. Existing cars can be converted to run on Ethanol very cheaply, because we'll run out of gas sooner than you think. New engines designed to run solely on Ethanol are more powerful and more efficient than any gasoline engine. So you burn a little more of it than the equivalent gasoline engine... Just grown some more plants.
I’ve yet to hear a valid argument against Ethanol, and I’ve heard and read them all. Any takers???
10-15-2007, 11:00 AM
Where are we gonna grow enough corn/sugar cane/switchgrass to get enough ethanol to power our huge and growing fleet of gasoline cars? Ain't gonna happen. Unless people start driving cars with not much more power than a lawn mower, there's no way we can rely on ethanol alone. Electricity is the best shot we have right now. An electric car with enough range to meet the needs of most people was doable (and done) fifteen years ago.
10-15-2007, 12:13 PM
Nice thought and I like the idea of electric cars, but where are you going to produce all that electricity? Coal power plants? Nuclear? Solar panels? Wind? Tidal? Geo-Thermal? The charging of electric cars will require a completely different infrastructure, one that will be difficult to implement before the gasoline is all gone. Plus a compete re-education of all drivers on how to drive, recharge and maintain their electric cars. One thing the USA has is real estate, perfect for growing our fuel. I agree, a change in driving habits, and size of the vehicles we drive will be required if we are to power all our vehicles on Ethanol, but it is possible, and most of the infrastructure is there to do it.
Electric cars are fantastic, but not the answer in the short term. Perhaps in 100 years…
10-15-2007, 12:32 PM
Completely different infrastructure for electric cars whereas the infrastructure exists for ethanol? Absolutely backwards. One of the nicer things about electric cars is that they allow our infrastructure to work better than it does now. The current situation involves very high loads during the day and much lower loads at night, which make it economically difficult to justify adding new base load capacity that is only needed part of the time. Lots of electric cars charging at night level the load so that the utilities experience less of a swing from night to day. We have the capacity to charge them now if only the auto manufacturers were willing to produce them.
Ethanol is much more difficult to distribute. Even if you can find enough land and water to grow all that plant matter and enough distillation capacity to make the stuff into fuel, you still have to transport it. And we do have plenty of pipelines, but you can't use them because ethanol literally soaks up water like a sponge. Right now we truck the stuff all over the country in order to ensure that it stays dry enough to be used as fuel. That's a much bigger problem to overcome than anything our electric grid would see as the result of EVs.
___Right now, Ethanol via corn can only supply upwards of 16 – 18% of the nations gasoline fueled transportation sector even if every ear of corn we grow were used for ethanol and only ethanol production. Right now, gasoline and diesel refinery consumption of electricity consumes easily 10 + % of what we consume for everything else on a daily basis. One gallon of gas goes away and 50 miles of EV comes back for 1/3 the price. Gasoline from well to wheel is now an energy carrier just as H2 is given where it comes from and that number is going south in one heck of a hurry due to ever more remote and deeper locations in which to pull the raw goo from … The energy needed to create the gallon of gasoline from raw crude out of the ground through the refining chain and into your tank at the station is approximately equivalent to just filling up a battery with the same amount of energy. This alone should wake the citizenry up a bit when they find out that we are bending ourselves over the table when we do not have too :rolleyes:
___WRT Bio-fuels, they are not cheap here in the US either. Brazil is making E100 for $0.60 - $0.70 per gallon (the magic of Sugarcane) while we make it for closer to $1.60. Still slightly more expensive than gasoline at $1.54 this week but close enough. If we could go self sufficient on Ethanol for a reasonable price, I am all for it. Switch and Elephant grass is a means to an end with regards to that goal given they do not need fertilizer’s, weed control or copious amounts of water but the cellulosic forms of production are by no means inexpensive and moving biomass from one end of the country to the other via truck or rail car can end up creating an even larger demand for a fuel we are not yet ready to turn the switch (no pun intended ;)) on for just yet.
___Without Ethanol, you would not see gasoline near the $1.50 range (wholesale) as we see it today yet big oil is still making a fortune even with oil at $80/BBl + on the spread to retail. With Ethanol, we cannot supply our daily needs for quite some time no matter what it is made from. PHEV and BEV’s can be filled as fast as they come into the market place because there will be a 20 year change over and with the 20 + year changeover comes time for new electrical generation let alone the hopeful reduction of refined gasoline helping the cause today.
___There is a lot of money to be made on the electrical generation side of this equation whether that be from Nuke’s or coal or the solar panels on your roof or in the back yard. In all cases, there is a reduction of GHG’s, dependence, geo-political tension and smog forming emissions let alone placing a few more $’s back in your pocket every week vs. the larger corporate entities which is always good for the economy ;)
10-15-2007, 01:03 PM
Whether we’re using corn to make ethanol or discovering new oil fields just so we can waste it by continuing business as usual in ICE cars, seems criminal on a generational scale to me. Ethanol is like 'hamburger helper' for our gas tanks, nothing more than an extender.
Every time I drive the freeways I’m reminded of the famous quote from the movie Sixth Sense: :(
"They’re walking around like regular people...They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead."
10-15-2007, 02:19 PM
OK, lets see.. With the current infrastructure in place, lets compare Ethanol to Electric.
Can I recharge at a gas station? No. Can I recharge at work? No. The only place I can recharge the electric car right now is at home at night. What if I'm plan on a taking a long trip? Do I have to stop every 100 miles for a nap and recharge?
Ethanol is transported to my area via rail, then distributed short distances via trucks. Sure Ethanol absorbs water, so does brake fluid, and that lives in your car for how many years? The infrastructure of fueling stations is there for ethanol. If we need to modify the gasoline pumps and tanks to store/distribute it, we can and it's only a modification, not a new system as an Electric recharging/battery exchange station would be.
In referance to the hamberger helper statement... To quote cousin Eddy. "I don't know why that call this stuff Hamberger helper, because it's just fine on it's own Clark".
10-15-2007, 04:59 PM
Why would you need to go to a gas station to recharge? Electrical outlets are everywhere. When EVs/PHEVs are more common, recharging stations will start popping up everywhere, because the electrical grid is already far-reaching and a charger is relatively cheap, especially when compared to the changes in infrastructure that large scale ethanol use will require.
As for having to take a nap every 100 miles... there are on-the-go charging concepts being developed. Picture a "charging lane" on the highway that has electrical contacts that mate to retractable contacts on the vehicle. Again, we already have power lines near many highways.
10-15-2007, 05:26 PM
OK, lets see.. With the current infrastructure in place, lets compare Ethanol to Electric.
Out of that post you have a single valid point, which is that it's tough to take a trip of more than a couple hundred miles in an EV with current technology. Some form of quick charging (10 minutes) is needed. The engineers have their work cut out for them there but they do have time while we transition from hybrids to PHEVs and finally to pure EVs some 20 years down the road. In the mean time, adding low-speed charging at any office requires hiring electricians who should be fairly well versed in installing 110VAC outlets by now. At most, you add to that some kind of meter so that you can pay for your juice. We figured out parking meters and ammeters so we ought to be able to handle it.
I don't really know what you're trying to get at with the brake fluid vs. ethanol thing given that you have maybe a quart of brake fluid in a sealed system vs. millions upon millions of gallons in transport at any given moment. Transporting by rail is certainly better than transporting by truck, but it's still far more energy intensive that forcing it down a pipe line. That's more energy out the window when you try to run the entire fleet on the stuff. And I really don't understand why modifying gas stations is "only" a modification whereas somehow adding battery exchange station or a fast recharge is a hugely complex technical undertaking?
Ethanol is fine when it provides a relatively small percentage of our energy needs but it just isn't a good bet as "the answer." It just won't scale.
10-18-2007, 04:05 PM
Fenrir, so you're planning on steeling the electricity from whatever power outlet you happen to be close to when you need to recharge? A charging lane.. Oh yeah, I saw one of those on the way into work this morning, so you're right.
To all who have posted on here. Sorry Guys, in my opinion you just don't get it. I'm not going to continue with this post, because I don't want to give the wrong impression on this forum, and I want to keep things friendly. We're all on the same team here, so lets agree to disagree.
___I encourage you to keep posting but you have to understand the realities of a PHEV/BEV powered by something we all have access to from anywhere by comparison to driving on Ethanol, Soy, Rapeseed or Palm based Bio, Butanol or H2. There is no stealing anything. Costco in the Phoenix area still has free EV-1 charging stations (although no EV-1’s to be found :ccry:) in some of their lots because the meager $0.30 of electricity you could draw off those chargers in an hour meant you were spending $100 over the same period in their store. An employer would gladly allow you to plug in pay $1.25 to fill a 12.5 kWh pack given the charge out rate for a $50K per year employee is somewhere in the neighborhood of $60.00 per hour. Is a $1.25 over a day even on the radar of an employer spending almost $500 per day on the same employee? If it was, I would gladly pay an employer $7.50 a week to travel over 250 miles on electricity alone! You can literally fill up a PHEV or BEV anywhere there is an outlet and at a price 1/3 that of a diesel, gasoline or ethanol to travel the same distance.
10-19-2007, 07:04 AM
A charging lane.. Oh yeah, I saw one of those on the way into work this morning, so you're right.Let me count the number of E85 pumps I see in a typical day.... none. I don't even know where the nearest one is, and I live in corn country. As Brick pointed out, we can't just start pumping ethanol from our current gasoline stations. Ethanol must be transported in tanker trucks- it can't be piped the way most of our gasoline is. So to switch over gas pumps en masse would mean a huge increase in tanker trucks on the roads (and a large increase in fuel burned). No, there aren't charging lanes on the highways yet. The number of convenient places to charge an EV is small right now, not unlike the number of places to get E85. The difference in my mind is that the current electrical grid is capable of handling a very large number of plug-in cars, and chargers are not complicated or prohibitively expensive to build and install, but our current petro fuel delivery infrastructure needs a lot of work at great expense to be able to deliver large amounts of ethanol.
True, we have a large amount of fertile soil in the US. But I think you grossly underestimate the amount of energy required to move our fleet of vehicles. We can't grow enough. Electric car: > 90% efficient. Liquid fuel car: <30% efficient.
10-19-2007, 08:08 AM
We're all on the same team here, so lets agree to disagree.
Works for me. In no way is anything I've posted intended to be directed personally at you. (I should have said that explicitly before now.) I simply think you have it as backwards as you think I do. No point in throwig rocks back and forth.
I think the reality of the situation will turn out to be somewhere in the middle, with a whole bunch of other stuff thrown in too. Whatever direction we go will involve substantial capital expenditure for infrastructure, production capacity, R&D, etc. etc. The logical conclusion involves some smart people finding the technological synergies between all of our available resources and combining them into something very different from what we have today: a transportation system with many power sources rather than just the one. PHEVs are one such synergy between gas/diesel and electricity, so it's not a far stretch to replace gas and diesel with ethanol and bio-D. Maybe we'll swap standardized batteries, maybe we'll have ultracapacitors and quick charging stations. Maybe we'll have three or four liquid fuel options at every station next to the plugs rather than just the petroleum nozzle.
It's kinda funny that this comes up because I'm in the process of reading a book on theoretical physics by Lee Smolin. The premise for the book is the entire field has gone sideways by abandoning many of the key principles of good science (e.g. independent thinking and requiring experimental evidence before accepting a theory). The result is that they have this thing called "string theory" that isn't so much one precise theory as an infinite number of theories. Little progress has been made since the mid 80s because its followers hang onto it so tightly while ignoring some significant problems with it. The relevance to this conversation is that "groupthink" is always bad. Having your horse in the race is great but the worst thing we can do is lose the independence by focusing on one alternative that might turn out to be wrong.
So I say go back to that E85 pump, I'm gonna keep my eye out for a big giant battery, and we'll try to help each other make the most of what we've got. That, after all, is the whole point of CleanMPG.
It seems that wee all agree that the only issue with "off the grid" electricity is the time that it takes to charge the batteries. Some companies are persuing ultra capacitors for their quick charger/discharge capabilities - but the stability isn't there yet.
That being said, what about a new kind of hybrid? A battery and capacitor in series. For ex. - Pull up to the electricity "pump", plug the cord into your car's on-board capacitor. Within 5 minutes you are ready to go. While you are driving away, the capacitor charges your battery, along with regenerative braking.
Any scientific pros/cons?
___The A123Systems, JCI/Saft and Enerdel Li-Ion’s can be quick charged without SuperCaps or other such exotics getting in the way. The problem however comes about from a quick charge infrastructure. Do you know the size lines and transformer it would take for a station to do quick charges on a car per minute (that is 10 cars over 10 minutes each). It would be phenomenally expensive vs. simply plugging in your car when you get home or when you park in the lot at work. Anybody that goes to the gas station wastes far more time driving to, filling up and driving off then someone plugging-in and un-plugging their car once or twice per day. It would be silly to think of going to the gas station if you can plug-in once or twice per day for 1/3 the cost.
___The long haul stuff is what bio-fuels can take care of if the PHEV’s are used like they are supposed to be used. Daily commutes and local gathering of goods are all electric and only your trip to grandma’s house once every few months uses the range extender.
10-19-2007, 10:21 AM
I think the issue with caps is they loose their voltage rather quickly because they store it at such low amperage. (I could be mumbling nonsense here)
That and the energy density of Caps are not that great when you take that into account so you'd just be better off having more batteries and extending the range further (weight factor of the caps/batteries)
10-19-2007, 12:33 PM
Just by being on this site, we all have the same (or similar) goals in mind, and I think that is very commendable. I have to agree with everyone, deep down I do see electric vehicles as being the future of transportation, it's inevitable, and it's a good thing.
Right now, ethanol is available to me, and I feel good using it for my daily transportation and not gasoline (or at least not much of it..). My first choice was to build an Electric car, but it was cost prohibitive. One day I'll build one though.
Weather we are driving electric, hydrogen, ethanol, or some kind of hybrid cars in the future I think a major effort has to be put forth by consumers, government, and private industry to get there. Right now, the majority of the world is addicted to gasoline, and that’s not good.
So to everyone on this site, keep up the good work, everyone on this site is heading in the right direction, which is less dependence on gasoline and that’s the future.
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