Technology versus Fuel

Driving a gasoline/petrol/diesel car is the end result of a very long and very complex process.

First of all the sun shines on some plants. They convert about 5% of the energy into carbohydrates which are either left to rot or used as dinosaur food. Every conversion reduces the efficiency further. Luckily, the process of turning plant matter and dead dinosaur into oil has concentrated the energy by a factor of a gazillion (it takes a lot of dinosaurs and a few million years to make a litre of gasoline). It then needs to be drilled, shipped to a refinery, refined, shipped to a gas station and then put into a car which converts about 70% of the concentrated energy into waste heat. As an added bonus it releases the carbon stores from the carbohydrates into the atmosphere as CO2, which is a greenhouse gas. Which is not good.

Ideally we’d use Solar to replace most of this. Why?

Solar is a technology, not a fuel. It converts solar radiation into electricity with an efficiency of around 30%. It doesn’t require millions of years; it takes about 8.3 minutes for the sun to release radiation to it hitting the solar cell and making electricity. The cells are passive, quiet and last a really, really long time.

Critics of solar have said the energy needed to produce solar panels (and the chemical processes needed) outweigh the environmental impacts of the oil business, though I’m not sure they’re counting the mining, shipping, refining, shipping and burning never mind the effluents.

But it’s hard to measure that. It’s hard to verify the accuracy of that.

I’d rather think of it this way. We like our gadgets and cookers and fridges and cars and televisions. We might want to make sure they will work well in the future. Seems a shame to burn dinosaur bones to run a smartphone especially when its possible to run the thing on free solar radiation.

Fossil fuels are getting more and more expensive. The “Watt-hours per dollar” in stored energy is getting smaller and smaller. We’ll want to keep our hydrocarbons for very specialist uses and not waste them on Instagram.

It’s possible to get solar panels installed in Northern Ireland but most “lease” places won’t touch you if you don’t have a south-facing roof. You can pay for someone else to install them if you don’t have a south-facing roof or you can install them yourself on any old roof.

So, my plan is to learn a lot more about photovoltaics, batteries, inverters, charge controllers and electric motors over the coming months. Let’s see if I can’t at least get our kettle working on 9 minute-old solar energy.

EEVC

eevc-splash

Sad to have missed the EEVC conference (click-thru on the image).

That’s a frighteningly impressive lot of partners and organisations who are part and parcel of the whole event.

I just wish there was any sort of legislative attempt to adopt these types of vehicles in Northern Ireland.

Electric Air

A LinkedIn conversation: http://lnkd.in/bynwF7S

For more personal and leisurely travels, helium balloons with solar arrays and electric propulsion and attitude adjustment would seem obvious.

I’d like to see the skies filled with vacationing aerial nomads.

Personally I’d love to see more LTA craft out there. I’m a fan of sailing and a personal dirigible appeals to that sense of “We’ll get there, eventually”

In fact, that’s the advertising campaign – An unfeasibly attractive couple and their 2.4 kids lounges on a sunbathing platform. Looks like they’re on a cruise ship. Camera pans up and out and they’re 1000 ft up, where the air is clear, sparkling seas beneath them.

We’ll get you there. Eventually.

It’s becoming easier and easier to be self-sufficient and go green while still maintaining a semblance of current lifestyle and luxury.

Regarding the Elon Musk Gigafactories: via Bloomberg

The facility will also churn out stationary battery packs that can be paired with rooftop solar panels to store power.

It’s becoming easier and easier to be self-sufficient and go green while still maintaining a semblance of current lifestyle and luxury.

Problems new and unusual

We are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that ‘it can’t be done!’
– W E Boeing Snr

La Jamais Contente
An early electric racing car, La Jamais Contente, built by Camille Jenatzy. In the 1890s, electric cars were the ones to beat.

The Scottish Aviation Scamp is a small concept electric city car that was designed between 1964 and 1966 by Scottish Aviation.
The Scottish Aviation Scamp is a small concept electric city car that was designed between 1964 and 1966 by Scottish Aviation.
The Peel Trident was the second three-wheeled microcar made by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man. It was launched at the 1964 British motorcycle Show held at Earls Court.
The Peel Trident was the second three-wheeled microcar made by the Peel Engineering Company on the Isle of Man. It was launched at the 1964 British motorcycle Show held at Earls Court.
The Renault Twizy is a battery-powered two-passenger electric vehicle designed and marketed by Renault and manufactured entirely in Valladolid, Spain.
The Renault Twizy is a battery-powered two-passenger electric vehicle designed and marketed by Renault and manufactured entirely in Valladolid, Spain.

100% electric transportation and 100% solar by 2030

I don’t find just Tony Seba believable, I find his conclusions inevitable. While I am sceptical on driverless cars, it’s because of human nature not because of doubts about the technology.

When you add the variables of the efficiency of electric motors, the possibilities of software for improving how we drive and the virtually endless resources of renewable energies, the result is plain.

This is why I’m starting a new thing. This.