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US Pumps $175M Into Advanced Auto Fuel Research 200

Posted by timothy
from the get-it-pump-get-it dept.
coondoggie writes "In the wake of new fuel efficiency standards, the Energy Department this week spotted 40 new research projects $175 million to develop everything from light-weight building materials to electronics and advanced fuel. Last month, the U.S. set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, saying they must hit 54.5 miles per gallon by Model Year 2025. The projects awarded contracts should address some of the issues involved in making cars and trucks more fuel efficient. At least that's the idea."
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US Pumps $175M Into Advanced Auto Fuel Research

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    • It's around 0.0001 times what they gave to the banks for free.
      How much do the oil companies get?
      How much do the agribusinesses get to make ethanol?

      It's laughable.

      • I almost wish agribusinesses would get fined for making ethanol, ethanol is truly laughable. It uses up valuable farm land to take 1 unit of "energy" and create 1.01 units of "energy". That 1 unit of energy that goes into making ethanol is almost always diesel, gasoline, or some other form of petroleum anyways. It is also only feasible because the corn industry is so heavily subsidized making corn damned close to free. The ethanol point aside, I actually agree that this would be a much better use of mon
        • It uses up valuable farm land to take 1 unit of "energy" and create 1.01 units of "energy".

          Even for corn, which has an insanely low EROI, you're getting 1.1 units of energy out. For more something like switchgrass, it's 6.4. And you can run farm equipment on biodiesel quite easily, since most of it's diesel anyway.

          • You just reiterated the GP post's point: the ethanol subsidy is a huge problem. Not only are the farmers growing the wrong damn plant to produce the wrong damn fuel, but we're encouraging them to do it!

      • How much do the oil companies get?

        How much $ and how many dead in the Middle East so far?

        It's laughable.

        Only on the outside.

  • by Mark4ST (249650) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @02:57PM (#37080384) Homepage
    I'm a little disappointed that they thing we'd even be using gasoline in that far-flung future. Aren't there a bunch of competing technologies just around the corner, if not ON that corner?
    • I'm fairly confident that they're all 3-5 years away from the market.

      • by Dyinobal (1427207)
        which is marketing speak for NEVER. Mostly because of patent hell. Seriously being an inventor now days sucks patents are hell.
        • I agree patents are an awful problem, but are you sure about your "mostly" claim? I.e., how do you know that most promised technologies simply don't pan out well enough to be commericially viable?

          • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @03:46PM (#37080634) Homepage

            You mean like the ones which prevent us from using NiMH batteries in cars [wikimedia.org]?

            You're not allowed to 'big' large NiMH batteries, for some definition of the word 'big' defined by the oil companies.

            • But I wasn't asking if there's a single case where patents are stopping advances in this area. I was asking the GP if he really meant it when he implied that the majority of advances never hits the market because of patent concerns. And if so, why reason he had for believing that.

              I think that especially with debates about patents, questions regarding how extensive are the downsides or benefits of patents become quite important.

            • by Surt (22457)

              That article and all of its links seem to imply that the patents in question have expired.

            • The wiki snippet says the patent is from 1982. Even counting a few years of filling, by now the patent should be expired : we are 29 years afterward.
            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              We really need to invent something better than NiMH and Li-Ion. Fuel cells or super capacitors perhaps, but battery tech has been lagging far behind demand for decades now. Capacity is too low, charging takes too long, lifespan is too short.

              Having said that EVs with Li-Ion batteries should become attractive in the next few years as prices fall. They are already very cheap to run, they just need to get cheaper to buy and replace the batteries. They are not general purpose vehicles but if you and your partner

        • I miss the good old days when you could invent something by waiting for someone else to do all the hard work and then taking it for your own. Inventing is supposed to be easy!

          • by umghhh (965931)
            It is not easy for your but it is easy for patent trolls - with enough cash and lawyers you can win any case or rearrange it in such way that in jurisdiction of choice your victim will not be able to defend. In case you misjudge your victim and the whole scheme backfires you can still buy the bloody thing and sue all others for infringement. It is not even patent trolls that do that - Apple is doing this these days too. Seems to be the a business model of today.
          • by Surt (22457)

            That would be funnier if patents weren't being granted for obvious 'inventions'. The obviousness qualification has unfortunately been dropped for patents filed since roughly 2000. As a result, you now have people 'inventing' things that are obvious to everyone in the field, and unless you have documented proof of your prior art and good lawyers and a good legal budget you are screwed.

      • I get passed by brand new LEAFs and Volts every day. EV-denialism is dead.
      • My biodiesel Volkswagen is 12 years away from the market.... meaning it was on the market 12 years ago!

        Biodiesel works right now and it's easy (I didn't have to modify the car or build my own fuel-processing equipment; all I do is go to the biodiesel fuel station and pump it into the car). It even makes the car run better and pollute less (not only does biodiesel have zero sulfur, but the car produces less soot too).

  • by sandysnowbeard (1297619) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @03:01PM (#37080418)
    The problem with alternative car fuels is that they're a solution to the wrong problem: the real issue is that it's not sustainable for every person on the planet to transport himself and two tons of metal an average distance of sixteen miles one-way as part of a daily commute.
    • and move to a 4 day work week. That will cut down on the need for transport and put more people to work as well.

      • by ncc74656 (45571) *

        and move to a 4 day work week. That will cut down on the need for transport and put more people to work as well.

        Replacing heavy machinery at construction sites with manual laborers wielding shovels would put more people to work, too. Having them dig with teaspoons instead of shovels would put even more people to work.

        Never mind that it'd be horribly inefficient and much more expensive. You're looking in the wrong place for savings if you go down that road.

        • They aren't the same thing. Your example is inefficient because it uses more labour to achieve the same result - a shorter working week would get less done but require less work to do it, which isn't less efficient.

          I dont' understand why we still have 40 hour weeks. Surely with all the technical improvements over the past few decades we can still be wealthy enough without as much work.

          • by RogL (608926)

            I dont' understand why we still have 40 hour weeks. Surely with all the technical improvements over the past few decades we can still be wealthy enough without as much work.

            Nobody's stopping you!

            You can go ahead and start working a 32-hour week; most likely, you'll make roughly 80% of a 40-hour week's pay. Might be hard to arrange, as most jobs include benefits, hard to break those down to 80% but some minor negotiation should get you there. Most people would rather get 5-days pay per week than 4-days. Many folks work overtime, more hours for more compensation. But not everyone; there are "part-time" jobs out there, and self-employed folks can set their own weekly max-hours

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              Nobody's stopping you!

              32 hours being considered "part time" is what is stopping me. You lose a lot of the benefits and protections that working full time brings. We would need to make 32 hours count as full time.

              The reason technology doesn't mean we can work fewer hours is because all it is really doing is allowing us to do more in a given time, and therefore do more complex and labour intensive things. We could decide to take some of the gains ourselves as reduced working hours by passing laws mandating the reduction with no re

          • by mpaque (655244)
            They aren't the same thing. Your example is inefficient because it uses more labour to achieve the same result - a shorter working week would get less done but require less work to do it, which isn't less efficient.

            Nah. We'll get the efficiency back via unpaid overtime.
          • by Joce640k (829181)

            we can still be wealthy enough...

            Good luck selling that one...

          • I dont' understand why we still have 40 hour weeks. Surely with all the technical improvements over the past few decades we can still be wealthy enough without as much work.

            So work freelance. You can choose how much you work, and your income directly correlates with how much work you do. Live somewhere cheap, and you can work a lot less than 30 hours a week.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>make full time 32 hours
        >>and move to a 4 day work week. That will cut down on the need for transport and put more people to work as well.

        Oddly enough, when they tried this in South America, it didn't work out very well..

        We have plenty of energy on this planet - talk of running out of fuel hundreds of years from now seems a bit premature. We *should* have fusion up and running by the time all our hydrocarbons and fissilables have run out.

      • by IrquiM (471313)
        We're having problems as it is getting qualified workers, cutting 20% on top of that would give us even bigger problems!
    • by rubycodez (864176)
      who says cars have to be made of metal? and there is plenty of abundant energy on this earth, no shortage.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The problem with alternative car fuels is that they're a solution to the wrong problem: the real issue is that it's not sustainable for every person on the planet to transport himself and two tons of metal an average distance of sixteen miles one-way as part of a daily commute.

      sorry, I disagree. In your world utopia, only the rich would have access to personal transportation. That's not the world I want to live in. Personal transportation waiting for you on your driveway is personal freedom. Focusing on efficiency and compact storage of carbon free electrical power will make that all sustainable and a lot of people happy.

      • Well, that's the world we live in just now I'm afraid. You are an American on Slashdot and that pretty much makes you rich (certainly in the top 5% globally). The vast majority of the world doesn't, and never will, have the kind of personal transportation you enjoy.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Why not?
          • Peak Oil mostly.

            • In Cuba, young people often scrounge up whatever they can find to make motor bikes. These little bikes can get up to 90-100 mpg and travel at 40 mph. I built one from a kit - it's not safe, is prone to technical problems, but it works.

              In India (which is not as poor as Cuba, but still poorer than the US), motorbikes and scooters are very common, and share the road with cars and bicycles.

              Anywhere, a fit rider can travel up to 30 mph on a regular unpowered bicycle. Anywhere, a rider can order an electr

              • My car was $1600, came out in 1991, and gets 30 mpg.

                That's nothing; some cars of the same model year and price get 50 mpg!

          • Because they're not American, that's why. There's a reason Americans have the highest level of stress combined with the best standards of living. Because Americans as a group bust their ass off both physically and mentally. Of course, some are living a more posh lifestyle off the backs of others but that's part of the worldwide ugly nature of humanity.

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              There's a reason Americans have the highest level of stress combined with the best standards of living.

              Not really, many European countries do better. Better and universal healthcare, lower working hours and more holidays, lower crime rates, longer life expectancy... France and Germany in particular, most northern European countries, and even the UK.

              • They're also financially falling a part. Your healthcare is as much of a joke as ours (love that bureaucracy and malpractice). The only reason Europeans live longer is because you don't cram fast food down your throat only to be washed down with a 44oz soda. As an American, if I see another fellow American eating like that, I will point and laugh.

          • by IrquiM (471313)
            Not enough room in the world for 14 billion cars
            • by maeka (518272)

              Not enough room in the world for 14 billion cars

              People need to drop this "argument". There's enough room!

              Let's take a low density urban area where a majority of people own cars, like Columbus Ohio for example. 3,556 people per square mile. It's a quite thinly populated urban area, yet if we take that as a model for all future cities we could put your 14 billion cars in a space not much larger than the country of India.

      • by trawg (308495)

        sorry, I disagree. In your world utopia, only the rich would have access to personal transportation. That's not the world I want to live in. Personal transportation waiting for you on your driveway is personal freedom. Focusing on efficiency and compact storage of carbon free electrical power will make that all sustainable and a lot of people happy.

        yeeeeeeh, I see what you're saying, but I don't know about that. At the risk of sounding like a non-US person casting aspersions on Americans, I feel like this might be a particular aspect of America, where having and owning your own car is not only basically a necessity to survive but also intertwined with this sense of "freedom".

        I remember hearing GWB do a speech at one point early on in the recent wars and he said something that I thought made it clear that he felt cars were a requirement for Americans

        • by qwak23 (1862090)

          As an American who currently lives in Japan, I couldn't agree more. I haven't owned a vehicle in over 7 years, If I need to go somewhere, I walk, take a bus, take a train, and if it needs to be exceptionally quick (to a point not readily served by trains), I take a cab. It's a little less convenient for somethings, groceries, checking my post box, etc but I manage. When I look at how much I spend on transportation and then look at the time I spend commuting and compare that to the cost of owning a car an

          • by trawg (308495)

            Phew, nice to hear some positive feedback - I was worried my post would be taken as just typical random American-bashing which it definitely wasn't (hopefully evident from the subtle Australian-bashing I was doing too).

            We have the same thing with the rite of passage as well.

            I spent a few weeks in Japan over two trips - my first one I was amazed and stunned that I was able to see almost the whole country through a combination of nothing other than walking and getting on trains. Cheaply and easily.

            I often won

      • As stated before it is already the rich who have personal private transport.
        I live in an industrialised country and have no car (or driveway.)
        My transport? bicycle, bus, train and very occasional taxi.

        I think that your idea of cars = freedom comes from living in a place that was planned based on near total car ownership.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      Do you have any evidence to support that statement, or are you just guessing? I can easily imagine a world in which fusion reactors or high-efficiency solar power generate plenty of cheap electricity, some of which is then converted into high energy density fuels, allowing people to drive their cars wherever they want. What makes you so confident that that can never happen?

    • by lymond01 (314120)

      Exaclty right. When we started making centralized shopping with huge parking lots, we just exacerbated the driving problem. I'd rather go back to neighborhoods that have the usual goods (basic groceries, bread, beer, wine, pubs/restaurants) and let the delivery guy drive his single truck around to outfit them all, rather than make 1000 people drive to a single location. If I could arrive home from work, walk to the store, walk to the gym, walk to dinner...my life would be 100% better. In certain areas y

    • by Mashiki (184564)

      You know I'm not sure that's the real problem. See there were already some really kick ass cars made in the last 20 years that got really good mileage. The problem? They were too good, or they were neigh indestructible. A 4 day, but long work week would be a good option for one thing, personally I'm a bigger supporter of that. I already work it in my job.

      Anyway, as for cars and all that? My old saturn sw2 gets around 43mpg on the highway, and that's not isolated. Most saturn owners that have the manua

    • by pz (113803)

      There is nothing in the article (or summary) that mentions alternative fuels. Read the article. There are projects on waste heat conversion to electricity, advanced lubricants, advanced (not alternative) fuel properties, carbon fibre manufacturing and testing, etc. It's all pretty hard-core applied materials stuff.

      Did anyone else notice that the submitting UID, coondoggie, is awfully reminiscent of the article's author's name, Michael Cooney?

    • by khallow (566160)

      the real issue is that it's not sustainable for every person on the planet to transport himself and two tons of metal an average distance of sixteen miles one-way as part of a daily commute.

      Why is that an "issue"? Some places have the space and wealth to do it. So they do. It's like complaining that because some people live in igloos, then it's an "issue" that everyone doesn't live in an igloo.

    • the real issue is that it's not sustainable for every person on the planet to transport himself and two tons of metal an average distance of sixteen miles one-way as part of a daily commute.

      Straw Man! Straw Man! The situation you describe applies to far less than 5% of the planet's population now. Most people on the planet don't drive to work, or take any form of nonliving transport. Even among commuters worldwide, most who drive themselves use a vehicle under one metric ton.

      India and China together constit

  • Did they consider we might be nearing the end of the road for pure gas efficiency? Just wondering if *any* science ever factors into these decisions. As if engineers can engineer anything given time!!

    A Prius may do over 50mpg but that is only because it does not run on gas for a decent portion of it.

    • All stock Priuses run entirely on gasoline. And will do so until the plug-in versions come out later this year. If they're getting 50mpg, it's because they recapture some of the losses and use the performance assist of the electric drive to get away with sizing the engine for average load instead of peak load.

      Don't be like those people who put "I am electric" stickers on their, as far as i can tell, completely unmodified hybrids....

      • A carefully driven Prius (going 50 or 55 mph on a level highway) can exceed 60 mpg. Recapture is helpful only in situations where the driver has to brake, and it's not as efficient as never braking. The Prius's drivetrain is not as efficient as it should be. (From what I've read, there's excessive loss in the transmission.) The proper sizing helps a great deal, as does the fact that the engine never idles, and that the engine can be precisely tuned for maximum efficiency by running at one speed.
    • by artor3 (1344997)

      The answer to your question is yes. Whenever they set these standards, the lobbyists from the auto industry work with them to make sure the standards are attainable.

    • No, no one is thinking of any of these things. That's why we have these Slashdot peer reviews, so you unsung geniuses can poke obvious holes in the plans of professionals.

    • by psiden (1071350)
      The Prius and others are interesting experiments but it will only be a small percentage of cars sold for many years to come. We also have to look at what we can do with the rest of the fleet. 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025 is an an extremely modest, if not pathetic, goal. My eight year old Citroën C5, considered a big car by European standards, is around 40 mpg. If I were to update to say a brand new Volvo V70 - also a big, comfortable and safe car - I'd do over 52 mpg (and less than 119 g/km CO2 emissi
  • For those not in the US, Google says [google.com.au]* that the target in TFA is equivalent to ~4.3 litres/100km.

    That figure is very close to the' 'official' stated fuel consumption of the Toyota Prius. So it's a pretty ambitious target considering we are talking about light trucks here.

    * (Google's unit conversion feature continues to surprise me with what it can do - in this case turning a distance per volume and turning it into a volume per multiple of a different distance. Nifty.)

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Yep. Does anybody know why it's going to take until 2025 to achieve this?

      2025 is so far away that they might as well not bother. Nobody's going to lift a finger until at least 2020 (and when they do it'll be to lobby the politicians for more time).

    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      I'm betting that trucks won't make that cut, so their prices will reflect a penalty/tax in them, and people (including myself) will pay the tax rather than have an under-powered truck. I only put about 5k miles on my truck (compared to 35k on my car) per year, but a 50MPG truck won't pull a trailer. Ever.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        Ever hear of things called superchargers?* They allow you to change the power output of your engine by pushing a button.

        Do you think it's necessary to drive something that guzzles 100% of the time when it only needs to guzzle a couple of times a year?

        (Superchargers...or similar technologies)

        A few months ago I drove an 'Eco' car which had a supercharger in the gas pedal. When the pedal hit bottom you could give it an extra push; it went 'click' and suddenly you got a load more power for overtaking. Do you no

        • by Pharmboy (216950)

          Superchargers are not the answer for heavy duty equipment, or else heavy duty trucks would have them, and literally NONE do. They have more basic, heavy duty engines that focus more on durability than technology. My 2005 2500HD has a Gen III 6.0L (gas), for example, even though Gen IV engines were already out. Heavy duty use tends to break "sophisticated" systems, and beg for more simplicity, which is why diesel is really the best solution.

          Heavy duty trucks need engines that develop high torque at very l

          • by karnal (22275)

            If I'm not mistaken, most of the heavy duty diesels available on the market now are turbocharged. Granted, mildly different than a supercharger in how they work/help, but they're there.

            Torque is king with pulling; diesel engines are handy for that.

            • by Pharmboy (216950)

              There are some critical differences in supercharging and turbo charging, which is why turbos are common and blowers are rare at the OEM level. More importantly, they don't turbo charge a light duty but highly efficient engine so it has pulling power when you need it. Instead, they are turbo charging a monster engine, solely for the purpose of giving you higher RPM passing power when you need it.

              With or without the turbo, the engines are huge and not making anything near 50mpg. It is a completely differen

  • That would be thorium. 1 gram would cost you under 10 bucks.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Make it hard to get a driver's license.

  • Does anyone know if the new fuel standards close the loophole that allow SUVs and trucks to be exempt from the standards?

    • According to Wiki, "light truck" means any vehicle capable of carrying less than 4,000 lbs. Your most popular minivans, SUVs and pickups will fit into that category.

      But note that the proposed standard is an average of the entire fleet. So in 2025, for every subcompacts with 100mpg, there could be an SUV with mileage essentially unchanged from today. (This isn't quite true. Each category--cars, light trucks, etc.--has to meet certain improvements within the category.)

      It's not a horrible approach. And the bes

  • You need to look no farther than the winner of the Progressive Insurance Automotive X Prize (mainstream class) [edison2.com]. They decided that light weight and aerodynamics was key. It had meet some tough standards [edison2.com].

    The goal: a car with mileage greater than 100 MPGe. The requirements: 4 passengers, 4 wheels, range exceeding 200 miles, 0-60 in less than 15 seconds, meeting Consumers Union dynamic safety standards and Tier 2 Bin 8 emissions.

  • Anything to spring us 15 years into the future so we can surprise the fusion researchers.

  • by Emetophobe (878584) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @06:42PM (#37081486)

    U.S. set new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks, saying they must hit 54.5 miles per gallon by Model Year 2025

    This seems extremely low to me, cars already do that today. When the U.S reaches 54.5 mpg in 2025 other countries will be on 75-100 mpg.

  • I see so many people driving cars with just themselves in it, burning fuel to haul empty seats with them. Why not build 2 stage detachable cars? A 2 seater for commuting to work that can be snapped to a back seat module for shopping, kids etc?

  • One thing I always hear when people talk about the uber small cars or the cars with very light materials is something along the lines of "what will happen to me if some gluttonous polluting selfish schmuck in an SUV or Minivan hits me?"

    I think they have a valid point.

    Cars are going to have to get lighter and less resilient to get gas mileage up. SUVS being on the road are a barrier.

    • by karnal (22275)

      I have a co-worker who drives a Dodge Caravan. I was looking at the BMW mini, thinking that it would be a neat small car to drive around in. He proceeds to call it a death trap. This mentality will always erode the mindset for smaller more efficient cars in the US.

      I was recently in Germany and was amazed at the differences in cars between the US and there. A lot of common-class cars (not luxury) are 2.0l or less turbodiesels. Partly due to the higher cost of petrol/gas/diesel. They're still not bad to

  • As long as ButaMax [butamax.com] (IIRC actually BP and DuPont) is able to wield control over the process for making Butanol affordably even though the studies were conducted at public institutions with public money, I don't give one tenth of one fuck about what the government spends on fuel research, since I know it will only be used to fuck me.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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