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Science Technology

GM Investing in Fuel Cells 330

artemis67 writes "MSNBC is reporting that GM is getting ready to invest heavily in hydrogen fuel cell technology, believing that it is the way to go to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions. They believe their cars can go 500 miles without refueling, and possibly create their own hydrogen by chemically converting (not combusting) gasoline. The article can be found at MSNBC." Of course, the financial details aren't given in terms of dollars, but when the largest automaker recognizes that a seachange is coming, that's something to note. Or, they could be hedging their bets. Yeah. Probably the latter.
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GM Investing in Fuel Cells

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  • If I'm getting 500mph, why in the world would I even care about seeing hydrogen at the pumps? A (small by todays standards) 10 gallon tank would give you a 5000 mile range. That's treating fillups the same way we treat oil changes today. I don't know about you, but I'm not to worried about what exactly is at the pump if my fuel costs (at $2 a gallon for gas, I assume you buy the nice stuff) for the entire life of your vehicle (100,000 miles, probably a little low, but remember you have to average out people totalling their vehicle right out the lot and letting it rust, etc..) are $400. I can see dealers advertising free fillups for the life of your car with these. Heck, the gas station as we know it might disappear (or be cut back at least) as most people might just get a fillup with the oil change or whatever general maintence you need.

    Down that path lies madness. On the other hand, the road to hell is paved with melting snowballs.
  • Can't create carbon out of nothing. The only way the CO2 gets created is by the yeast consuming stuff with carbon in it.

  • Here's the thing to remember about 'remaining reserves' calculations. They aren't based on the amount of oil in the ground, they are a purely economic calculation based on the amount of oil that can be extracted profitably at a given price.
    This figure varies widely based on the input variables, and so it's always necessary to get and present those numbers along with the conclusion.

    Worldwide, the reserves figure hovered just below 10 years for most of 90's. Hence, it's no real surprise that oil prices have trended higher.

    The source for all this is Dr. Clement Henry's Politics of Oil [] class at the University of Texas at Austin, which I took 7 or 8 years ago. Trust me when I tell you that UT is a good place to learn about the oil world.

    Don Negro

  • "Dubya .. are you ready to practice what you preach?"...

    Of course not. It's our (GOP) goal to destroy the planet. Our only desire on this planet is to watch it burn while we dance around on our children's graves singing hallelujah.

    Not only do we want to destroy the planet, but we want to see all our children wielding guns.

    We want only the rich to have money, start wars for no reason, and keep everyone from making their own decisions.

  • Except that most likely, the tank is no long 500 feet away from you but somewhere else.

    To start any fire you need three things: enough flammable material, oxygen, and a spark. When you shoot the gas can, which has probably a good amount of air above the liquid, you give it ignition from the heat of the bullet and air, and voom.

    With the compressed gas, there's no air inside the tank, so puncutering the side of it will only cause the gas to be released. However, if you now lit up that existing gas stream (with another well placed shot, for example), you might get a nice flame out the side, but the gas will be moving so fast that the flame cannot get inside the tank. But the key here is that that gas IS moving so fast as to have a significant amount of kinetic energy that the tank will basically become a missile to provide the reaction to the gas's action. And this is the inherient danger of a hydrogen-storage fuel cell system; if you crash your car as to rupture the 'gas tank', you'll create a possibly worst hazard by flying sharpnel (which can hurt others around), as opposed to just igniting your car (and hurting only yourself).

  • Actually, that's wrong; the world has about the same amount of proven reserves as it did back in the seventies, because there have been new discoveries. There have been massive oil finds in Saudi Arabia recently, as well as in Venezuela and in China in Xinjiang province (which apparently has a couple times the proven reserves of the United States).

  • Big companies like IBM GM and Ford spend a lot of money each year on things that won't be a product for 20 years. Why because in 20 years it might be a great product. Remember for a GM $20 million (or whatever) is a non trivial but not really large amount of money. Ofcourse its in GM's intrest to make better cars. I'm sure they have lots of other reasearch projects into all sorts of things in a number of centers around the world. Some of them will pan out and be seen in cars of the future, some won't. But if you don't fail some of the time you are not being inovative enough.
  • The fact that the Bush administration is backed by "Big Oil" *should* not interfere with the fact that the man still has a job to do. At this time, Oil is the most cost effective naturally obtainable resource available to the US, if ONLY we could get to it.

    During the Clinton administratrion, they tried (and thankfully failed) to "restructure" health care so that it was in the hands of government agencies in its entirety. Did he do this out of the goodness of his heart? No - he did it because he was backed by the pharmecudical industry, and they knew it would be easier to scam the US government rather than the individual HMO companies out of millions each year.

    Don't get the idea that polital agendas aren't anything else. So what if he wants to drill the oil out of the ANWR? What is it going to do sitting in the ground? Will it solve the Energy Crisis in California? Will it keep gas prices down here in the US. No, it won't. Keeping us from that oil is what keeps us dependant on foreign countries for our energy, at least until I have a neuclear reactor in my car (we have a lock on Uranium and Plutonium).

    Also - how much farther hands-off do you want him to get if he doesn't repeal laws that hurt business.

    Secret windows code
  • The proposed drilling area in the ANWR is about 6000 acres at the edge of it. What is going on the land outside of the ANWR in that location? Oil Drilling! IMHO, 6000 acres out of a few million isn't that bad as some people want to make it. Besides, with the horizontal drilling techniques available, they don't have to drill that many wells.

    BTW, I always thought the Gary's smell was due to the collective stench of the inhabitants.

  • And these animals can only give birth in an area that's approximately 3 miles by 3 miles? That's a pretty lame reason to hold up development, IMHO. I would think that if they are hardy enough to live in that environment, they could certainly have their calves someplace else. Once the wells and pipelines are in place, they could still still go back to some of the same areas. The original Alaskan pipeline is elevated in several spots in order to not disrupt animal migration, so the same thing could be done here. I'm also sure that some of the Eskimos wouldn't mind having the option of working for the oil companies too.

    Why is it that the tree huggers want to freeze progress in order 'to save nature for future generations'? Several wilderness areas are being closed off to the public, so what's the point of 'saving' them, if the public isn't even allowed in? Why not work with these companies and make sure that they operate in a responsible manner? I've been to places in the mountains of my home state where there used to be open pit gold mines a few years ago. I wouldn't have known that if someone hadn't pointed it out.

  • Though they haven't been very public about it, GM has been investing in fuel cells for years. They've been sponsering student competitions for more environmentally friendly cars (not just solar ones), and footing the bill for those who used fuel cells. Also, they've been making their own fuel cell vehicle prototypes for years now, and some of them even work.


  • Even the best gasoline engines in cars are in the range of 20-25% efficient (ie: at best 25% of the fuel is converted into usable energy... the rest is waste.)

    Including the Honda, which mostly just runs the gas to charge the batt, and as an assist when you really need the extra shove?

    As a special case there was a cross country "race" where minimum fuel use was the key issue. A gas car won. A normal stock gas car. Driven by the then-editor of Car and Driver. Of corse he was drafting behind a truck on the whole trip...

    Yeah -- the hypemasters forget that there's more to a car than just running it, but they forget on both ends. They forget about production and transmission of gasoline too...

    Yep, I did overlook moving (and cracking) the gas.

    ... and they forget about creation and disposal of parts and fluids... the electric car has very few moving or replacable parts... the batteries are about the only problematic ones. Compare that to all the crap in a combustion engine.

    Electric cars still have breaking systems (the ones that stop you), more complex ones because they try to recapture the energy. Alternators (as part of the break systems), wiper systems, and a host of other parts. All of which have broken at one time or another in at least on car I've owned.

    I think electric cars can do without a transmission, but I'm not sure all do. They generate a lot of torque, so some electric cars may choose to reduce that. Electric cars have extra parts -- two or four electric motors that are way bigger then any electric motor a gas car has! Or maybe only one, but then you get the full glory of a differential and the rest of a traditional drive train (no timing belt though).

    When I was in collage I did my own car work, many of the parts I replaced had nothing to do with the gas motor. Of corse a few were because VW hadn't discovered electricity :-) (if you don't get the joke the VW Rabbit used vacuum to do a lot of control functions modern cars use electronics for).

    However with the possible exception of the battery I don't think any parts of the car contribute anywhere close to 1% of the pollution that the fuel does. They do contribute to how reliable people feel the car is, and that will help influence whether you can sell the things or not, but they pollution represented by one change of the transmition fluid isn't noticeable next to the gas that took you 100,000 miles.

    Anyway... you said it "probably" polutes less... just thought I'd clue you in a bit.

    I'm still not convinced. I'm not convinced either way though. Electric cars could well pollute less, depending on the source of the eletrictricty, and the real cost of making gas. Would be nice to know though.

    It would be good if the law actually did know. Whatever this law rates is going to shape how low emission cars are designed, not reality. If something makes the car (+ support systems) pollute less, but this law doesn't recognize it, then it is unlikely to happen. If it makes the car + support systems pollute less, but the law sees it is more, then it will not happen. I don't dislike it because it bashes my precious gas cars, I don't like it because it might bash something better then electric cars.

    ... so we build more nuclear?

    Well, that seems a bit unlikely, we haven't built a new one since the late 70s. It doesn't look like we will do it again anytime soon. (and yes, I think nuke power can be pretty good)

    We use superconducting transmission lines? We've got more efficient cars.

    So? Build a more efficient oil cracker and you get more efficient cars. Oh, and cheaper winter heating. And cheaper electricity. And cheaper plastic army men.

  • Any idea if they count the power station emissions and the environmental cost of replacing lead acid cells every couple of years for electric vehicles?

    They don't. I don't think the envromental cost of the batteries is all that significant, but the economic cost may be (it is about half the cost of the EV1, and has to be done every three years or so).

  • CA, and some other states have a low or zero emission requirement. Anyone that sells more then X cars must sell some small percent that have very little or no emissions.

    In my opinion the law is flawed in that electricity is assumed to have zero emissions, rather then a guess at the emissions required to produce the electricity (which may be more then some extreamly efficient gas cars). The Honda gas/electric car for example is assumed to pollute more then the EV1 even though it probably pollutes less.

    Anyway the Fuel Cells may well be looked at as a way to meet the low/zero emission laws, and not as a replacement for gas. Of corse if people like the fuel cell cars then that may change. Well, like them for the price they can be produced. The EV1 was liked by a fair number of people (it had a ton of torque), but GM leased it for about $30k, it cost them more like $60k to make them. People would have to like them a whole lot to pay $60k for them!

    Actually the law is more flawed then that, but I don't generally like new (or old!) laws anyway.

    P.S. yes I do find it ironic that CA has "electric car laws", and is sticking to them in the face of an electricity crisis, but the electric car laws don't actually require electric cars (they are strongly tilted towards them though)

  • If electric cars catch on I would not be suprised if auto engineers produce "muscle" electric cars, possibly ones with torque so high they instantly obsolete internal combustion for people who want such cars.

    Yes we don't know how to do it yet, but even today the most powerful motors are electric (in ships an railroad engines). The problem is that the generators of the electricity are too big (all such motors are to desiel or nuclear generators because that is the smallest way to produce that much electricity)

  • I think you grossly underestimate the horizontal distance involved!
  • It used to be fairly common here in the States for gas stations to offer a couple of grades of unleaded, leaded, and diesel. Nowadays (at least in New England, where I live, and a few other places I travel), the typical stations offer 3-4 grades of unleaded and that's it. About 1/4 of stations seem to offer diesel, and I haven't seen leaded gas anywhere in years - it's been about 25 years since the typical new car here used it.

    There are a few places that handle the natural gas vehicles that are starting to be used in short-haul trucking and for public transit buses, but not the average consumer station.

    - -Josh Turiel
  • I like the sound of so-called "BioDiesel". This is a combustible fuel produced from a crop (for example oilseed rape).

    This would seem to be the perfect fuel, since it would have energy density comparable (more/less - don't know) to existing gasoline/diesel but the big advantage of zero overall carbon emissions.

    But but but...burning it produces CO2.

    Well yes, but at least that much carbon had to go into growing the plants in the first place. So the net carbon increase in the atmosphere is zero. Of course, you might still get nasty sooty particulates which mess up people's lungs, but we'll wait for "fuel cells driven by gasoline/diesel" to get a cleaner version.

    Does anyone have more info about this kind of fuel? In particular any down-sides? (Other than the fact it doesn't seem to be popular at the moment?)
  • Are you completely fucking stupid? Let me see if we can get to the bottom of this: if someone has a problem with policy X, they should go get training in X and fix the problem themselves. So if I have a problem with, say, the AIDS epidemic, then the only way to "impress" you is to go to medical school and train myself, right?

    As opposed to waving your arms and jumping up and down (or posting dysfunctional ravings on a techie bulletin board)? In a word, yes.

    But your examples are flawed -- it's not a policy or a disease or a license: it's a component (or a catalyst, if you prefer). Oil is not something people want (in particular) -- it's something that enables us to do what we want. If you don't like that component, come up with a better one, don't whine and complain about how you don't like the current one.

    Put in terms of computers, it's like a library. You don't like the current X libraries, because they're bloated. Okay, don't whine and bitch about it, go fix the code or write new ones. Don't know how? Go learn. Don't want to learn? Then accept the fact that there are people (like me) who aren't interested in listening to your infantile whining. Serious, constructive criticism is always welcome -- blind, hand-waving lunatic raving isn't.

  • Yes, but the hydrogen in the Hindenburg wasn't stored at 345 atmospheres.
  • Hehe. That's great.
  • Good point. But I'd want to see some serious crash testing before I made any conclusions about safety. 1/4 thick or no, if it does rupture, it will be bad.
  • Besides, I've yet to hear one good argument against drilling in ANWR or whatever. Other than "but it's wilderness!"

    And if that argument isn't good enough for you, or the majority of the people... welp, we're fucked. Been a nice few million years. The dinosaurs are laughing.
  • Why should that argument be good enough for me?

    Because we've destroyed so much wilderness already, that we endanger ourselves by wantonly destroying more. It's time to start to slow down our pace, and I think a damned good start is not drilling in a wildlife refuge.

    Guess what - your house used to be on wilderness. Guess it's time to wreck the cities and let the wilderness come back...

    Right. And by putting those words in my mouth, you make me sound like a loon. But you're the one not happy with how much we've already destroyed. Yes, they cut down trees to make my home. Why must we cut down _more_, for no demonstrable benefit?

    Do you really think that the "well, we destroyed to get where we are, so more must be ok" argument is going to last us to the end?

    Do you really think that piddling amount of oil will make your gas cheaper? Will it truly let us continue consuming at our current rate even a tiny bit longer? Make us less dependent on foreign oil? Please.

    I ask you: Why should we drill in a national refuge? You're answer seems to be "why not?"

    Either demonstrate that drilling in Alaska will cause irreperable harm using actual facts or just shut up.

    Ever seen an oil drilling operation? That is my demonstration.

    But see, I think we see this in different lights. I think that prior to being able to drill for oil in a wildlife refuge, where the caribou of an aboriginal people [] give birth, you should have to demonstrate that it will not have any lasting harm.
  • 6000 acres which happens to be right where the Porcupine Caribou heard births, which are important to the Gwich'in aboriginal peoples that live near there.
  • LA and Gary, Indiana are bad, you say. Well, how would you know. If you hiked from between them and Alaska, then Kudos and hats of to you. But I don't think that likely. If you have a solar powered car, then Kudos and hats of to you.

    Right. Because of course you're not allowed to observe that LA is a smog-obscured shithole or wonder how long the Gwich'in will last without caribou if you've ever so much as farted a pollutant. I drive a nice, fuel-efficient Tercel, by the way. Certainly not as good as it could be, but a step in the right direction from the Expedition. I'd like an electric, or biodiesel, or even better solar. Sadly they aren't adequate yet.

    These "you're no better" arguments are truly tiring. They are dodging the issue. I'm not claiming any moral superiority. I don't shit roses. I'm not any better - I like my car, and yes my synthetic material tent and Coleman stove when I go camping. It just has become an increasingly unavoidable conclusion to me that we have to change. We have to slow down. The first step is figuring out where we are headed, and seeing that it's not good. That's where I am.

    We're not 'all' fucked if a few oil wells are drilled.

    Is no one here able to look long-term? Do you really think it will stop with just a few wells? Do you think this is the only wilderness area we have destroyed, or will if we allow it? It's just a few wells, but a few wells on top of more and more and more -- where does it end?

    This is a preserve we're talking about. It's one of the few areas of this planet we've set aside and said "okay, let's not screw with this." Except now we want to screw with it. This is not a good prescedent.

    And no one gives a shit if you don't want to see it because it might desecrate your idea of wilderness.

    Heh. "My idea." As if someone's idea of wilderness has a big oil drill pumping away in it.

    If you haven't seen it, then you don't know what you'll be missing once it is gone. Maybe that's the problem -- too many people never really see the parts of the planet where humans are visitors, and thus don't think anything of their destruction. Don't think it will affect them when it's gone.

    But unless you go to sleep at sundown so that you don't have to use electric lights, you'll have to agree that we owe our current standard of living to burning the stuff.

    Well, no shit. At what point did I say we should live a low-tech life? Obviously I like high-tech, I'm a frickin computer engineer.

    The key point - the point that everyone is going to get, either sooner or later - is that if we want to maintain our lifestyle, we have to find a way to do it that doesn't depend on unreplinishable resources, that doesn't disrupt the already reeling ecosystems of our planet, that doesn't give us a 20 year time limit before we really are fucked.

    What happens when the oil runs out? Did you think about that? I have, and it sucks.

    You think drilling is going to lengthen our oil supply? No way. You know what will happen? We get more oil, oil prices go down, and then oil _consumption_ goes way up, possibly (like it did before) beyond what the drop in prices would make seem reasonable. We run out of oil faster. Ford makes a bigger SUV, and we run out of oil faster. Drilling in the ANWR is counter-productive to maintaining our lifestyle.

    There's only so much oil. You can keep searching, you might find some here and there, but it will run out. The question is, at what point are we going to react? Are we going to wait until there is no more oil, or are we going to do something now, while there is still time enough to wean ourselves of it. If we start soon enough, maybe we'll get luck and be able to make our oil supply last until when it finally runs out we truly won't need it anymore anyway.

    But people who don't care dictate that this won't happen, so in the meantime I'd study up on survival skills if I were you.
  • Aside from the strange double-negative...
    Doing my research, I found it funny how all the pro-drilling opinions would meantion how the "natives" were for the drilling. What they don't tell you as that by "natives", they mean the Inupiat nation. They are for the drilling, because they want jobs. What these reports don't mention is that the other nearby nation, the Gwich'in, are strongly opposed to drilling. The reason is that the area be drilled in is the birthing area of the caribou which they depend on much like the plains native americans.

  • You sound like a stereotypical caricature of a republican: don't give a fuck, long as it makes a buck. Sad, because some republicans care.

    A single childs footprint in a 120x120 piece of real estate... Wow, that's small... No. The ANWR is huge. The result is a big-ass footprint. And unlike a child's shoe tread, this footprint is going to be a stinking, filthy, contaminated cesspool of pollution, disrupting the lives of wildlife all around. So I wouldn't see much human presence. How much would I hear? Or smell? It doesn't take much drilling to be drilling the fuck out of something.

    And what makes you think it will stop there? Considering that the amount of drilling there is now zero, I observe an alarming trend. And since the oil industry has done such a great job with the coastal plain [], I'm sure they'll do a great job preserving the AWNR.

    Not that you'd give a shit, and neither would Neal Boortz. Well, I would. I've been to Alaska. I've been to the refuge. And when I go back, I don't want to see a damn oil drill there. How long till someone finds something valuable in Yellowstone?

    I'm sure the locals would love the jobs. If I knew a way to give them jobs without drilling, I would. I don't. Sad. But this isn't just about them. I'm not telling them what is best for them. It isn't, in the short term anyway. But what, you think they are the only ones this decision will affect? I'm not saying what's best for them. What I'm telling everyone who will listen is: "Hey, cut it out [], or we're all fucked."

    What's the lesson of California? Have you ever been to LA? You ever been a few miles out of LA, and not been able to see the damn city? It's fucking disgusting. Or Gary, Indiana, which you can tell when you are driving past by the smell. And it had to get that bad before they started to open their eyes and say "gee, this is kinda fucked."

    The answer isn't to expand "present" energy sources. Those sources will be gone soon, ANWR drilling or not. We need to change our methods, and attitudes, or we will be living like our ancestors. And like or not, you will be too.
  • You drive your car for 1,000 km at 100 km/hr, while your 4-stroke 2 L engine runs at 2,500 rpm. Your engine burns 1,500,000 liters of air, plus some gasonline. Dry air at sea level has density 1.225 kg/m^3. 1,500,000 liters of dry air at sea level has mass 1800 kg.
  • This impressive range seems to have more to do with your car having a massive fuel tank (860/50 = 17 gal), than 50 mpg being a particularly revolutionary efficiency. Well above average, but not a technological leap.
  • Think about it: which is more palatable to the user: an extra $10k powerplant in a $10K economy car, or an extra $10K in a vehicle that already costs $50K?

    Especially since the fuel cell/electric motor is whisper-quiet, a big plus for the luxury market, and provides freedom from guilt, which is a big luxury in and of itself. Plus, Caddy really needs some way of distinguishing itself from the rest of GM.

    They should also try the tech out in their big truck chassis, where the improved mileage would really pay off when those chassis are used to build cargo vans and Winnebagos. God, an extra $10k would be just a blip on a $100K+ Winnebago, and the mileage would be a huge selling point.

    Can you imagine how many people would buy a Caddy Suburban that got 30 MPG?

    Jon Acheson
  • by Thag ( 8436 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @10:33AM (#155205) Homepage
    If all you want is a fast quarter mile, electric cars can already do it: modern electrical engines have enormous amounts of torque, and you can simplify the powertrain by moving the motors out near the wheels, saving weight and making it even faster.

    The problem is range, but hopefully fuel cells can solve that problem.

    People are already making electric dragsters that are seriously fast:,1287,1191 2, 00.html

    Jon Acheson
  • You sound like a typical democrat. You spout lots of "emotional rhetoric" but give no facts to back up your feeble claims.

    The following is a quote from a well established nationally recognized synicated talkshow host.

    "The Democrats and anti-capitalist environmentalist weirdoes who never have and never will visit the ANWR will continue to protest; the people who actually DO live in the ANWR will continue to lobby FOR the drilling, and the leftist media will continue to distort the facts.

    Just remember: The amount of the ANWR on which you would actually see any human presence - including drilling and production equipment - would equal about one child's footprint on a 120 x 120 foot piece of real estate. Another example ... it would equal about one-half of a square inch in the corner of a 9 x 12 foot rug.

    Sounds like it would be a real disaster for the ANWR, doesn't it?" -- NEAL BOORTZ

    If you really want to see some numbers, see his May 1 web page at

    In the light of reason it sure DOES NOT sound like the ANWR is getting the "fuck" drilled out of it. And dont forget...the locals want the jobs taht come with the drilling...but that doesnt matter much to you as long as you get you way. QUIT TELLING OTHERS WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM...LET THEM DECIDE.

    It seems you have forgotten the lesson of California. Stifle expansion of current and future energy sources...voila...rolling blackouts...and hot tempers. If you want to live like our ancestors 100-150 years ago my guest...but dont do anything to force me to live the same way.

    But I wonder about you...falling hook, line and sinker for the Democratic Party's watermelon adgenda...socialist/communist idealogy thinly veiled with a veneer of environmentalism.

  • The hydrogen in the Hindenburg wasn't stored in a tank with walls 1/4 inch thick either. A tank of hydrogen is safer than a plastic or paper thin metal 10 gallon gas tank.
  • > 500 miles per tank? That's not a very ambitous goal, IMO.

    Well, they're probably thinking of their darling Suburban, which thinks it's in heaven when it gets 10 mpg. On fuel cells, you might actually be able to drive it on vacation.
  • Americans are a notorious stingy lot.
    The alternative fuel cars- pure electric, hybrid,
    and natural gas- all have cost premiums of 20-50%.
    They don't do well in the market except for a few
    dedicated enthusiasts.

    The proposed Cheney-Bush energy program has a
    $2000 tax credit for alternative fuel cars,
    so that could help.

  • Let's keep in mind that Power Companies own most of the patents/technologies related to Solar Cells. As soon as advances were made that looked like they may scale to become viable choices for consumers, the big corporations bought out most of the smaller companies that were making the advances.

    I've certainly heard this, and it wouldn't surprise me, but I've never actually seen any hard -- or even soft -- facts. Do you have any references?

    More likely than not, GM is hedging their bets. At worst, it turns out to be a great PR move. At best, they take the lead in Clean Automobile Technology.

    They're gonna have to play catch-up with other auto companies who've been investing in fuel cell tech for years, like DaimlerChrysler and Toyota.

  • A major car company finally clues in that gas reserves are dropping, and that traditional engines are harmful to the environment! wow.

    It's not like they're the first, though I'm sure their PR staff is happy that some people seem to think so. DaimlerChrysler, Toyota, and Ford -- at least -- have all made investments in fuel cell technology. Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. publicly said, "The fuel cell will end the 100-year reign of the internal combustion engine" almost a year and a half ago.

    Fuel cell tech is great PR, and if they can get it working, such vehicles will (probably) be a hell of a lot easier (read: cheaper) to build, so their margins can be bigger. And they're probably already prepping to lobby for tax breaks for people buying fuel cell vehicles, so they can get a nice sales boom when the changeover starts.

  • I wouldn't be caught dead in all kinds of cars, simply because some models have a very un-manly perception.

    Real men don't care what other people think is "un-manly".

    the VW Bug, or anything from VW - forgive me, but I'm not a big fan of post-Nazi automakers

    Are you aware that Henry Ford -- you know, of Ford Motor Company -- was a big support of Adolf Hitler, et al? (Not that I'm convinced it's still relevant in that case, either.)

    Are you aware of the oppressive policies currently supported by some US-based corporations in various parts of the world?

  • Agreed, in fact Evonyx [] broke a world record [] for fuel-celled powered electric car with a distance of 217 miles using a zinc fuel cell installed in a modified Honda Insigt in October of last year. They had planned on traveling from New York to Detroit (600 miles) on one fuel cell. They said that technical difficulties stopped them, but there was enough power left in the fuel cell to reach there goal.

    They haven't updated there webpage in a while, so I have no idea what has happened since. I hope they are successful.
  • ...
    And yes, you can blame the government and auto companies for "forcing" us to use Artic oil wells, but when someone turns off all their appliances, leaves their 65 degree house, gets in their SUV, drives to the 55 degree airport, boards a...

    Have you tried to buy a high mpg car recently? 10 or so years ago we purchased a Toyota station wagon that got over 30 mpg. Last year we started looking again and ... whew! We're still holding onto the old one. It may be a bit decrepit, but at 12 years old (we got it used) it still gets better gas mileage than any of the brand new one's we looked at, except the Prius (a hybrid). And the Prius didn't come in a station-wagon equivalent (mandatory).

    It isn't all people making free choices. Some of the choices are quite constrained.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • OK. Not my favorite answer, though.

    I like the one where you vitirfy the high level waste and use it as a heat source for a few years. When it gets cool enough to not be worth bothering with, you encapsulate it in parafin (or tar or asphalt or ...) and stick it down a hole somewhere. Hardly matters just've already used up most of the high-level radiation waste, so what you're doing is basically safety-first stuff, and wax over a vitrified hunk of stuff it pretty safe anyway. The was keep the water out and traps the radiation. You could probably use it for building insulation (OK, that's a bit of hyperbole, I think), but just to be safe, bury it in a pit. Preferably where nobody is going to be digging without being warned. But if everything collapses, Ug mark II won't be hurt anyway. Or at least only him personally. (I envision the size of the vitrified chunks as about the size of a large glass brick. And similar composition [you mix in a bunch of melted sand during the vitrification process]).

    Now I'll be the first to admit that there may be some problems with this solution, but I don't know what they are. OTOH, I didn't invent it. I just heard of it and thought it sounded good.

    Caution: Now approaching the (technological) singularity.
  • What if the state or the feds loaned people the money to build solar and wind, and the people paid them back over time, using the money they otherwise would have spent buying power from the grid?

    Initial cost to consumer is zero, since the money is loaned to them in full.

    Long term cost is equal to whatever the cost of power would have been for them anyways, and once the loan is paid back, their cost goes down to almost zero (less than zero if they feed power back to the grid)

    Initial cost to the government is high, but the loan is paid back in full with the money saved.

    Long term saving for government is huge, if even 10% of Californians (Nevada, Arizona, Texas) put solar panels on their house.

    What if every new house (over a certain size/value) built in California had a Solar Panel on the roof... cost to be paid back by the owner over time, with monthly payments equal to whatever their energy bill would have been that month?

    This is my great idea. Steal it. Use it. Make it happen.
  • There was an article in the last issue of Home Power [] about a guy who makes his own biodiesel. Seems to be a pretty simple, if time consuming, process. He goes around his local area and gets the old vegetable oil out of the fryers at restraunts, filters out the food then mixes up his fuel. Granted, it can be a bit on the dangerous side, so kids don't try this at home.

    I will post some more about this tonight when I get home. There were some URLs and stuff in the story.
  • It is not. A gallon of biodiesel costs about 70 cents a gallon.
  • Sorry for the lateness of the links:

    The Veggie Van [] - the guy also wrote a book called "From the Fryer to the Tank" all about making your own fuel

    National Biodiesel Board []

  • Or, they could be hedging their bets.
    Or looking for good publicity while not spending very much by their standards? Or am I being too cynical?
  • We're not destroying this planet. The planet is doing just fine. It's we who are slowly diminishing our capability to survive on the planet. The planet will still be around when we're gone, and it will once again clean itself.
  • The basic idea is just-in-time reforming of gasoline to hydrogen in the car, converting hydrogen to electricity in a fuel cell, and then propelling the car with an electric motor. This scheme has several advantages:
    • Refueling is with a liquid (gasoline or perhaps methanol), eliminating the hazards of transferring compressed hydrogen.
    • The liquid fuel can come from sources other than fossil fuels. Methanol can be synthesized from solar, hydroelectric, or nuclear power. Think of it as a convenient, portable, and transferable battery rather than a non-renewable resource.
    • Hydrogen gas is not stored on board the vehicle. It's simply extracted from the liquid fuel as needed. Startup can be accomplished with a small bank of batteries.
    • Electric motors use energy more efficiently than combustion engines.
    • Since electric motors are already included, regenerative braking is practical.

    There are many companies and universities hard at work on adapting fuel cells for cars. The focus right now is getting the size and cost of all the components down to be practical for consumer vehicles.


  • Yes and No.

    500 miles is the point where there are few, if any arguments against fuel cells.

    What isn't mentioned is the amount of fuel required to do it.

    Hybrid technology is a stepping stone anyway. If we continue to use gasoline for a while so people switch to fuelcell, so be it. But, once all the cars on the road are fuelcell based it would be possible to switch over to hydrogen at the pumps.

  • Please produce the patent numbers for them, and document GM not being willing to license them.

    Patents are public documents. People like saying companies buy up the patents and then noone can use them, what they often forget is that the patent can atleast be referenced.

    A lot of conspiracy nuts have hid behind this misunderstanding for 50 years.

  • someone pointed out a Metal fuel cell article at IEEE, heres a blurb...

    These experts point out that if gasoline were not already established as an irreplaceable part of modern life, it would probably never be approved as a fuel in today's regulatory environment. Hydrogen, although not nearly as dangerous, has scared people ever since the Hindenburg airship disaster more than half a century ago. When hydrogen leaks, the gas tends to rise and dissipate, unlike heavy gasoline vapors, which tend to gather in low places and wait for unsuspecting victims to touch them off.

    Article []

    Carefully watch the footage of the Hindenburg and you'll note it was the canvas and it's coating which is the significant source of flames after the first second. The hydrogen wasn't the problem.

  • Now, for the info that will get me modded down as flamebait: I don't believe drilling for more energy is immoral. I believe that it is highly moral, as oil and every other natural resource is used to save our lives. The ambulance that saves a heart attack victim's life is gasoline powered...

    This is very true, and a good point. However, the counterargument is that there is a chance that by continuing to use fossil fuels we will cause much greater harm in the long term, in the form of flooded coastal areas, more droughts and floods, and in general a biosphere that behaves very angrily.

    do you think that by making energy a plethora of government regulation, of weaving generalities, of moral wrongness, that ANYONE would ever want to be innovative?

    Very few are proposing anything like that, and those who do wield little (if any) political power. Careful with your straw men... However, energy is still a very profitable business to be in despite (or arguably because) of regulation. It can remain profitable while being nudged toward being environmentally friendly, as well. If incentives are put in for companines that bring clean technologies to market then there will be companies who will pursue. It's possible to encourage environment-friendly products while lowering the amount of regulation: if you do (a), you don't have to worry about regulations (b), (c), and (d).

    - Rev.
  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @09:00AM (#155263) Journal

    The following is a quote from a well established nationally recognized synicated talkshow host.

    Wait... You're using a talk radio host as a source? And I bet you think you're a free thinker, too! "You are all individuals!" "Yes, we are all individuals!"

    Mooo, cow, mooooo. Follow the herd. Liberals: Bad. Conservatives: Good. Always. And they're not "environmentalists" they're "environmentalist weirdos." Use the right language, for Big Radio insists on it. Mooooo, cow.

    Wow, I disagree with the Republican Party on some key issues! I must be a libruhl! Bwahahahahaa. Morons.

    The thing about you Freeper clones is that you really are easy targets. I get this guilty kind of pleasure from fucking with you guys.

    - Rev.
  • Actually, even though your point about hiding the pollution in a different source is correct, doesn't the efficiency become a big factor?

    We can cut out a lot of the fuel refinery waste (in energy usage and pollutants) to make car fuel, the pollution of the trucks and tanker ships that transport the gas to the stations, the pollution of the cars themselves, and maybe get the power companies to move away from coal burning power (very, very unlikely).

    Though I don't know for sure, I wouldn't think that much power is really lost in the resistance of the power lines. I'm sure that some is lost, but is it really a crapload? If you have a percentage, I would be really interested to know it.

    It's not a magic bullet, but more efficient engines will help tremendously (if only to lower the price of gas from supply and demand).

  • But the EV1 sucks as far as being safe, at least in my book.

    Think about it - it uses lead-acid batteries - they are stacked nearly everywhere there is a bit of room - a line even runs down the center of the vehicle.

    So, if you don't mind being splashed with sulpheric acid in an accident...

    Furthermore, these batteries (all rechargable batteries) have to vent gases. Many times (esp in the case of lead acid batteries), these fumes are corrosive, and smell real bad. If proper venting to the air isn't done right, those fumes are going to end up in the cab of the car...

    I have heard that the EV1 has this problem. I don't believe the EV1 uses gel-cells either, but regular style car batteries (they may be deep-cycle as well, but pretty much liquid based).

    There are many better examples of electric cars out there other than the EV1...

    Worldcom [] - Generation Duh!
  • More from the Post []
  • Also, the government is looking at a permanent storage facility at Yucatan Mountian(?) in New Mexico because it is the most seismecaly stable places in the country.

    It's Yucca Mountain, and it's in Nevada. It's the "third rail" in this state, as anybody who announces he's in favor of the dump might as well kiss his political future goodbye. The states that produce nuclear waste (Nevada isn't one of them) don't want a dump in their backyards, so the Democrat majority in Congress pushed a bill through in 1987 that says only Yucca Mountain is to be considered as a dump site.

    Breeder reactors and waste reprocessing would be the smarter approach as they'd greatly reduce the amount of waste that eventually gets thrown out, but (as someone already noted) you can thank another Democrat, Jimmy Carter, for putting the kibosh on that idea.

  • Wow, you must have studied to be an asshole. I wonder if you are really like that in real life.

    "All you greenies want your cake and eat it too. You want electricity and big SUV's and all of that, but you don't want to pay for it and you don't want to accept that there is a price to pay for it."

    Who does? Who are you talking to? I'm sure you'd just as soon criticize people who use bicycles and public transport and buy locally grown food as cuh-razy green tree-hugging commie nuts. I don't know who you are talking about, but there are no "greenies" I know of that "want electricity and big SUV's and all of that" fact, that conspicuous consumption is EXACTLY what they despise. Yet when they do something about it, they are all of a sudden crazy loony greens. I think perhaps you are talking about Bobos (who, yes, have co-opted much of the environmental movement - hey, soccar moms, buy your "RealSimple" magazine subscription now!).

    "Either you want us to live in the dark ages (LITERALLY) or you're willing to accept a few mooses and ducks and shit like that dead. You might live in a fantasy world where you can have it both ways, but the REAL world is a lot different."

    And you might live in a totally black and white fantasy world where any progress MUST come at a cost to the environment, where no compromises are possible, and where you can peacefully go about your life conscience-free conveniently convinced that there's nothing you can do about it anyway...but the REAL world is a lot different.
  • "So what if he wants to drill the oil out of the ANWR? What is it going to do sitting in the ground? Will it solve the Energy Crisis in California? Will it keep gas prices down here in the US. No, it won't."

    Because, you know, the environment is obviously something we should exploit for immediate gratuitous desires (hey, mother earth's next door, I think we should go rape her - we'll just explain that we "didn't really want to pay money for a hooker" and she'll understand). Hell, we could get a whole 130 DAYS out ANWAR. Let's just disregard that the problem is not with oil supply, but with *refining* capacity. But we wouldn't want to build more refineries, that would bring down the profit margin!
  • I can't speak for Ford, but GM has been working on alternative vehicles for quite awhile now ... nothing has made it to market yet (unless you count the EV1), but they have been spending R&D money on it.
  • The drilling of ANWR will not involve just a single, tiny well in a secluded location. It will involve scores of them scattered throughout the region.

    Sources, please. The Greenpeace flyer doesn't count.

    and it doesn't involve blaming environmentalists for a California problem that was caused by a right-wing deregulation fiasco of unimaginable proportions.

    "Deregulation" never happened in California. Price controls and massive bureaucratic obstacles to producing and selling power happened.

    Now that you've established that you are a morally superior individual to those of use who want to rape the earth and kick puppies, what exactly do you propose to do about the problem that our civilization requires large amounts of energy? Conservation is fine and well, but as CA demonstrates that by itself is not sufficient. And I'm guessing you're not a huge fan of nuclear power either, so what's the answer?

  • Excellent ad hominem, but you seem to have left out the part where you actually refuted his claims.

    Here [] is an article stating that the Eskimos who actually live in the area support drilling, and based on past dealings with oil companies do not believe it would not harm the environment. But I'm sure you know more than they do.

  • Fission products have an inherent environmental advantage over most other poisons. The mercury from the coal plant, the lead in old house paint, the arsenic in your well water... these things are toxic forever. Fission products decay away!

    Yeah, except that neither coal, house paint, or well water produce additional toxins: they just shuffle around the stuff that's already there. Fission reactions, however, produce these hideous poisons not found in nature (on earth anyway) basically out of thin air.

    And sure 50K years is not long by geological standards, but it could sure bung up our civilization, and the next 10 civilizations after ours. Here's hoping we can find a way to warn them about it...


  • Hey, good point. In 3,000 years, then we might feel like pushing earth towards the sun a bit [], eh? But let's not be hasty...


  • Bush has already announced his intent to drill the fuck out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

    No kidding. Personally, I think they should set up an offshore rig and hire Burns Slant Drilling Co. [] to get at the oil. Then the pretty animals can run around freely, and we get our oil! It's win-win!


  • Much of their value is in the fact that they are zoned as gas stations. Converting a gas station to something other than a gas station these days poses some environment expenses. In order to make gas burn cleaner, gasoline has become fairly toxic stuff, so gas tanks must be either maintained or removed (carefully). A single drop of MTBE (a gasoline additive) can render millions of gallons of water undrinkable.
  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:28AM (#155287) Homepage Journal
    BMW has already demostrated that a hydrogen combusting car is feasible. The safety tests with their fuel tank show it's no less safe than a gasoline tank (In fact, the hydrogen tends to disperse very quickly, while gasoline tends to just hang around and become an environmental nightmare IF it doesn't catch on fire and explode.) Their car can also switch between using hydrogen and regular gasoline for those times when you can't find a gas station that serves hydrogen.

    It seems to me that an ideal solution would be to build a shitload of nuclear reactors, use the electricity generated to power the grid as well as electrolyse water into hydrogen and oxygen, and retrofit current gas stations to handle hydrogen. Fitting fuel cells into cars just adds an unnecessary step, since the eventual goal invariably seems to be to have gas stations serving hydrogen anyway.

  • Ice ages are regular events. There's another one coming RSN in geological terms. Sure, maybe it won't be for thousands of years. But maybe it will be this year. (cue scoffing laugher)

    Will that be before or after everyone stops whining about global warming?

  • I'm interested in getting a hybrid or electric car for my next vehicle, and I was hoping anyone could refer me to some web pages that have good, up-to-date info on technologies, products (i.e. what vehicles are available from what manufacturers?), environmental issues, etc.

    For all relevant data, note that I'm in the U.S. and plan on staying here, so directing me to the site of a company that only manufactures cars in Germany isn't going to help. Thanks in advance!
  • Yes, fuel cells and electric cars are all neat ideas, but the current administration is encouraging the consumption of the world's rapidly dwindling oil supply.

    Quite the contrary, actually. Many prominent Democrats are begging the President to put price caps on energy right now, energy that is produced by oil (among other things).

    However, any first year economics student can tell you that price caps screw up the balance between supply and demand. When the government sets a price cap on an item, they are pricing it below what the market rate is. When a product is selling below the market rate, the demand generally increases. In effect, putting a price cap on energy would cause Califonians to use a lot more energy, and burn up a lot more oil in the process.

  • Look into the air powered car. .a sp

    Talk about cool - with a filter on the exaust this thing would have NEGITIVE air pollution. And it runs as good as an electric. The down side is there's no big company controlling AIR (Yet) so no one would make money off of fuel.


  • Toyota is selling this car (the Prius) at a loss, to get a foot in on the technology, as well as comply with certain California laws stating that a certain percentage of ZEV's (zero emissions vehicles) must be sold. Besides, this car may be efficient, but it's ugly (IMO) as hell. Who's going to buy an ugly, underpowered car? In response to our European friends who wonder why Americans need such powerful cars: Americans generally are the most idiotic and thoughtless drivers in the world (and I'm an American, so no calling this flamebait). They have no concept of what the passing lane is for, and often prefer to idle along in it, blithely blocking others from passing. More importantly, they often don't allow cars to merge onto highways by moving over. It's dangerous pulling out into traffic here. You need that power to get around the idiots. Try driving in New York City sometime. I only get angry in my car anymore...
  • Your complaint conveniently leaves out that GM has has electric cars far longer than Toyota/Honda have had their hybrids. Take a look at the GM EV1; it's used primarily in fleets.

    First off, it is not a complaint. It is an observation. Secondly, I could give a rat's ass about fleets and the EV1. I am talking about consumer vehicles. Ford has had the Dearborn, MI police department on methane-gasoline hybrid vehicles for years and years now. GM has been working on pure-electric vehicles for ages. Chrysler..well, I have no clue what the hell Chrysler is up to anymore... My point is that the Big-3 will not introduce any type of alternative fuel vehicle to the mass-market. Period.

    I am cynical. I really hope (for the sake of us all) that I am completely wrong on all of this but I am afraid that I am not. The Big-3 does not care about civil-responsibility, they care about the bottom line. If it sells, sell it! Now, that is not necessarily wrong, especially if you are a shareholder, but it would be nice if a stronger effort toward greener vehicles could be made.

    It is kinda like Ford calling the Expedition an 'LEV' (Low Emissions Vehicle) just because it passes the guidelines that Ford's lobbyists got through congress. I sometimes feel that they are brainwashing us into thinking that something magical is happening under the hood that makes a V8 efficient again. Oh yeah, and we need a V8 to get through the tough terrain of the suburbs.

    I think the Big-3 would be even more prosperous if they would stop playing into the 'penis-complex psyche' and take another angle, like to come up with a realistic first-step into the next-generation of vehicles. A hybrid that has power, is very safe, yet has a very classic look.

    Face it, 20 years from now, I hope to God that we are not all driving cars that get 9MPG. Unless the Big-3 get on the ball, they are going to get hurt and fall behind.
  • by Dman33 ( 110217 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:16AM (#155308)
    Back in the late 70's the Big-3 were having fun producing big muscle cars and fuel economy was not a factor in design or in the forecasting. Most Americans laughed at the Hondas and Toyotas. Then the fuel crisis hit and the Japanese carmakers were suddenly taken seriously by the consumers.

    Shortly afterward, the Big-3 made feeble attempts to compete with the Japanese automakers. The Big-3 got through the tough times, but it sure wasn't pretty.

    Now it is the really early 90's. The economy is on the rise, gas prices are stable, things are good. Ford throws an SUV chassis onto a pickup frame and the Explorer is born. It is featured in Jurassic Park and suddenly everyone wants one.

    The next thing you know, the 'Bigger is Better' mindset catches on. By now, the mid to late 90's are here, the internet is booming, the stock market is great and gas prices are still pretty good! The Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions, Excursions etc are the hot thing for the soccer-moms now cuz everyone has one. 9 MPG is the standard, but nobody cares!

    Meanwhile, silently Honda and Toyota R&D are working on this concept. It is a hybrid system that will allow a car to use both a gas and electricity. 60 - 80 MPG is the projected outcome. Most scoff at the lack of power and the unrealistic use of this type of car.

    Then the bottom falls out. The market goes down, an oil tycoon gets elected, and OPEC thinks that we need a reality-check. The economy settles down, the gas prices skyrocket, Explorers are flipping like hotcakes instead of selling like hotcakes and suddenly the $50,000 SUV that gets 9 MPG is not the best idea.

    At the same time, the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius take to the market. Yes, they are small. Yes, they are not speedsters. Yes, they are $20,000 and get unprecedented fuel mileage.

    Now, Ford and GM harp up. "Hey, we are working on these nice little fuel-cell technologies. We rule!"

    Sounds a little like GM's 'Impact' concept car from the mid-80's to me. That never materialized, nor will this. It is just history repeating itself... so don't worry. Perhaps after you pay off the Excursion you can get a loan to buy a Peterbuilt or Kenworth... just maybe.

    Well, that is just my take on the situation. Just some guy from Detroit.
  • Leaded auto gas in the US was phased out in the 80's. Here in California, we typically have 3 grades of gas available, rated by octane number, 87, 89, and 92. Some rare stations will only carry 87 and 92 octane, which is how the stuff is actually produced. The 89 octane stuff is a mix of the other two. There's also usually one or two speed shops in any given area that sells 115 octane racing fuel, fills NO2 bottles, and also sells nitro-methane to the psychotic speed freaks.

    Diesel availability varies by location. In the inner city, it's available near the freeways to support trucking. Often these are "cardlock" facilities, open only to commercial traffic. In the suburbs, and rural areas, about 40% of the stations seem to carry diesel. In the western US, diesel pickup trucks are popular with small businesses, farmers, and the odd individual nutcase like me that likes to get 20mpg in a 8000lb. vehicle. European style auto-diesels haven't met much success over here, but they can be found.

    About half the stations have some minimal form of LPG fueling system, but these are almost never used for fueling LPG powered vehicles. Rather, they're used for filling barbeque fuel tanks, and LPG tanks for campers & travel trailers, motorhomes, etc...

    Other alternative fuels out here are bio-diesel, which is manufactured from vegetable oil, and pretty much a direct replacement for petro-diesel, and CNG. Bio-diesel is not easy to find, but popular with the yacht crowd since it's biodegradeable. A vehicle fueling station opened recently in San Francisco. CNG is compressed natural gas, and is popular with short haul trucking & delivery, and municipal buses. These virtually always have their own fueling facilities, closed to the public. It is possible for a homeowner to buy a compressor and fuel at home, since most homes are tied to utility NG sources. But it's not a popular choice.


  • There is a rather long but interesting article [] in the Ottawa Citizen [] regarding the 'total' amount of CO2 produced by fuel cells. How clean fuel cells actually are, depends a lot on the source of the fuel. For example, they list the following data:

    All were compared to the benchmark car, which emits 248 kilograms of carbon dioxide for each 1,000 kilometres driven on ordinary gasoline:

    - A car using grid electric power in Alberta (dominated by coal generation) to make hydrogen would emit 237 kilograms of carbon dioxide per 1,000 km driven.

    - A fuel-cell vehicle obtaining its hydrogen from an on-board gasoline reformer would emit 193 kilograms covering the same distance.

    - Vehicles using on-board methanol (extracted from natural gas) reformers would emit 162 kilograms per 1,000 km.

    - Vehicles using hydrogen made from natural gas at urban retail outlets would emit 80 kilograms per 1,000 km.

    - Vehicles using hydrogen made at large natural gas refineries would emit 70 kilograms per 1,000 km.

    The article goes on to say that 'Big Oil' is really pushing the on-board gasoline reformer technology as it would make very little difference to their bottom line, but people would think it is environmentally friendly. The relevent parts are:

    The favoured option of car makers like GM and oil companies seems to be on-board reforming of ordinary gasoline into hydrogen. That would require the least re-tooling of billion-dollar auto plants and maintain gasoline sales, while passing on the costs of the fuel cell and reformer technology to new vehicle purchasers. The pollution reductions would be meagre, but this option has a huge strategic advantage: the gasoline supply network is already in place.
  • I will be sad to see the day that Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes are replaced with front wheel drive super efficient/super slow cars.

    Then again everyone thought the Muscle car era was over when the late 70s hit and right now you can buy showroom cars that do the quarter mile in 13 seconds or less. Maybe they will make a few fast ones in the future too.
  • they cling to fossil fuels like a whore to a man's cock. gasoline? bah!
  • You have some good points here. "Or the drinks would cost half as much." (Completing your quote from "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

    However, I'd like to point to General Electric HomeGen []. Published reports and stats on this show a very extremely low emmissions rate. How [sic] do that happen? I have to admit that I'm not up to the technology involved (my EE is twenty years out of date) but the specs on pollution show very low CO output.

    I was going to put some stats here about the FC, but I just browsed the site and I don't see them anymore. (They were there about five months ago.) As I recall, the thing does 7KW full bore and costs about US$12,000, but I can't re-check those stats.

    This is a re-badged device. I forget who the OEM is, but I'm sure a search would turn them up.

    I'm actually looking at these generators to

    extend operation of our computer center during power failure

    reduce battery maintenence costs (we spent US$12K last year on new batteries, and will again this year

    reduce our battery count to gain space. (With the generators, we will only need 1 hour of run time on batteries, vs. the 72 we have now.)

  • You might live in a fantasy world where you can have it both ways, but the REAL world is a lot different.

    Actually, you can have your cake and eat it too. Business does not have to rape the environment to turn a profit. []

  • What's a seachange?
  • Not sure if this is the same thing, but there is a showroom in North Hollywood/Eagle Rock/Glendale somewhere that I passed full of these two front tire, one rear tire bubble shaped one seaters. Looked like they were selling Pontiacs from the same dealership, but maybe I was mistaken. Looks very similar, like a nose without a face, some minor differences in paint and shape in my memory. I couldn't help remembering the "Speck" rental car from that McDonalds (or was it Burger King?) commercial for supersized fat-bomb meals. Mind, I plead guilty to currently being in the market for a new truck (not the biggest, but still under 20 mpg) to replace my older V6 Camry (also well under 20 mpg), in spite of being a big fan (in theory) of these hybrid cars. (If the Prius sold closer to a low end Camry / high end Corolla, I'd be more tempted. I ran the numbers, and it would take about nine years, at my driving rates, to make up the cost differential compared to a similarly outfitted gasoline model, even with savings... and it's an untested engine. Never buy first generation.)
  • "Deregulation" never happened in California. Price controls and massive bureaucratic obstacles to producing and selling power happened.

    >sputter I'd like to know what you define legislative mandates (under the last Republican Gov, but delayed as a time bomb that that ineffectual loser Davis couldn't even see until it had not only exploded under him, but proceeded to shower the atmosphere with sun-killing radioactive dust - sorry, got lost in the metaphor) to force state power utilities to sell plants off to *unsupervised* companies eager to underbid on them and then overcharge for selling back power *generated by plants originally built by the state* but now owned by companies *including one of the biggest private funders of the Bush/Cheyney campaign* and under investigation for suspected collusion and conspiracy to artificially inflate shortages to increase profits.
  • This is the problem with both induction motors and battery motors: they don't eliminate the fossil fuel consumption, they just hide it at the power company.

    It sounds like you're not very familiar with the technology. Take two identical combustion engines producing identical emissions. Put one under the hood of a car, and use the other to charge a cell, which you then use to drive an electric car. The electric car will do the same commuting as the combustion car yet total emmissions can be ten to a hundred times less. How is this possible? Because the inefficiency of combustion engine cars is simply mind blowing.
    Not only do they require wasteful, expensive kludges like the clutch, no only do they frequently operate at 0% efficiency (they emit pollutants even when you are not using them - just waiting at the lights), not only do they simply dump the vast majority of their energy (every time you hit the brakes, you throw away all your energy, then burn yet more fuel to get back up to speed when the light turns green, as opposed to electrics which convert your kinetic energy back into storage when you brake), but they are simply insanely inefficient even when running at maximum efficiency under ideal conditions, which don't exist in the real world to begin with.

    And on top of all that, even the dirtiest power stations are far cleaner energy generators than cars to begin with, and in many areas, the powerstations produce no emissions.

    Bottom line: It's simply a joke to claim that electrics just hide the emissions. They don't. Electrics are genuinely cleaner by orders of magnitude. When you discover how much cleaner they really are, you realise why combustion engines are causing so great a pollution problem in so many areas. When you learn how electric motors beat the pants of combustions in all other areas too, you lose all respect for those crude, smelly, noisy, victorian contraptions. The big problem is that the full power of the electric motor cannot be brought to bear in a car until the problem of storing electric power is solved. Until then, electric cars will be running underpowered with tiny electric motors (and even then are still giving combustion motors a hard time).
  • Sure, if you don't mind me dumping 1310 pounds of lead acid cells in your backyard every couple of years

    Oh come on. Lead acid is a joke. Any electric car that runs on lead acid is either an obsolete model, or a half-hearted token attempt to grab some PR. Look into polymer batteries, flywheels, fuel cells, etc. Pointing to a lead-acid electric car in order to defend sticking to what you know is like pointing to Win3.1 to defend the command line user interface on home computers.
  • Show me the electric car that can do all that, and cost less than $20k (without government subsidies hiding half the cost)

    Show me the gas-powered truck that can do all that and cost less than $20 (without the huge subsidies hiding most of the cost). Right now, the $$$ cost of petroleum vehicles is a mere fraction of the real cost we pay. Not to mention the huge subsidy that gas effectively enjoys compared to electric when it comes to infrastructure, because gas is currently established tech while electric is currently not.

    Like I said, while electric motors are more powerful, cheaper to buy, cheaper to run, more reliable, faster, smaller, quieter, longer-lasting, more efficient, lower maintenance, etc than gas motors, they have one big disadvantage - the form of energy they use is incredibly difficult to store, and until that probem is solved, electric vehicles will benefit from only a few of the advantages of electric motors. In other words, the combustion engine is still going strong, but doesn't stand a chance - technology is continually inproving the storage of electricity, and storage of electricity is the only thing preventing electrics from sending combustion engines the way of the steam engine.

    I don't dispute that your gas truck is the best cheap-n-nasty way to go at this time. What I'm saying is that the demise of the combustion engine is inevitable, simply because they are such utter crap, and an infinitely superior technology is slowly heading towards becoming viable in small vehicles.

    Of course, like the steam engine, enthusiests of combustion will remain a long time after.
  • Fuel cells are NOT batteries or capacitors, glorified or not.

    Note the use of the word "Fuel" in "Fuel Cell." They can not put the fuel companies out of business. They need fuel to work! Now, the types of fuel may differ. The amounts may differ. Some companies may fail. Others may start producing different types of fuel. But it's not like fuel cells can eliminate the need for fuel.

    Even if/when we switch to batteries or capacitors instead of fuel cells, the electricity to charge them will need to be produced somewhere. As we shift our cars from fuel to centrally generated electricity, we'll need to increase our capacity to generate electricity. At that point it will probably be a fight between the oil companies and the coal companies. Somehow I don't think that solar, geothermal, wind, tide, hydro, and nuclear plants will completely replace all other electrical plants.

    So I predict that we'll be powering our cars (directly or indirectly) with fossil fuels for a very long time into the future.

    And I predict that the fossile fuels will be sold by the same countries and companies as today. Or at least merged companies that can trace their roots to today's companies.

    I don't think the oil companies are facing destruction. I think they're facing a changing market that will require them to spend money on lobbyists, chang the configurations of refineries, and otherwise adapt. This will affect their profits in the mid-term. But in the short and long-term, they're just as strong as they ever were.

  • You can't quote a size of an oil reserve without quoting the price that the reserve was estimated at. All oil reservoirs have huge quantities of "marginal" oil that cannot be economically recovered at $12/bbl oil, but CAN be economically recovered at $25/bbl. Remember that the estimate made in 1970 would have been done on an oil price that bears no relation to today's price.

    Another problem with this "we are running out of oil" cry is that new technology makes oil available that was considered garbage only a couple of decades ago. I just spent 6 months doing engineering work on a 150k bbl/day oilsand mine in northern Alberta... this mine has a 30 year life (at US$12/bbl oil). Only 20 years ago, this deposit would not have been included in the inventory of available oil because the technology to recover it didn't exist.

    At this moment the oil supply is quickly using up the $10/bbl supplies, is tapping much of the $20/bbl supplies, but hasn't touched the $30/bbl supplies. When the cheaper stuff is used up, whole new inventories of expensive oil will appear (get your gasoline charge card ready!). At that crude price, the alternatives to gasoline are beginning to look attractive (read alcohol, coal gasification, etc) and they will begin to take market share from crude oil.

    Regarding fuel cells:

    Remember that 76% of the US energy consumption comes from oil and coal (Mining Engineering, May 2001, pp40-41). If people want to run electric fuel cells in their vehicles, those cells are likely going to consume power generated by coal.

    All a fuel cell does is convert your car from a gasoline burner, to a coal burner!

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @09:03AM (#155406) Homepage Journal
    An interesting article, however you appear to give less credit of 25-40 sited by BP Amoco's well regarded statisticians to upbeat assumptions by USGS of 85 years. Better read the whole article again.

    Assuming the world, and importantly the US as a major consumer, becomes more energy efficient than lowered demand could string inexpensive energy out for a long time. But more than a decade of US gas prices not rising (actually falling if you adjust dollars for inflation, 1.25/gal 2 years ago was cheaper than 0.25/gal in the mid 60's) have encouraged waste and inefficiency.

    A few friends have done or are planning electric or other alternatively powered vehicles, but for the most part, the average point of view seems to sum them up as freaks. We'll see how well GM's car moves if/when the new car sale requirements start to kick in in California (or a challenged and thrown out as toothless state laws which interfer with interstate commerce.)

    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by clinko ( 232501 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:56AM (#155413) Journal
    If this can be done with gasoline this will probably work. All those gas stations have to do something. But... I was thinking about this a couple days ago. Imagine how much money Texaco is worth in land value. Every gas station you see is in prime location.
  • I don't think the majority of the public understands how deep our dependence on oil and its byproducts is. Everytime you hear about some new way to conserve fuel, use another kind, etc, people get their panties all damp thinking about how cool that is. The fact is that it would take years, maybe decades to ween the world off oil. We use it in about every product you can think of.

    And yes, you can blame the government and auto companies for "forcing" us to use Artic oil wells, but when someone turns off all their appliances, leaves their 65 degree house, gets in their SUV, drives to the 55 degree airport, boards a huge jet, flies to the Artic and takes a cruise on a huge cruise ship to "appreciate" nature, maybe we should look at our priorities. Using a ton of natural resources to go see them doesn't make alot of sense.

    I for one got gas 6 times last year, get over 30 miles to the gallon and ride my bike/bus most everywhere. Conservation is the real short-term solution. People shouldn't keep using as much fuel as possible becuase there will be an alternative one day.


  • by Martini Man ( 265244 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:48AM (#155433)
    The following is a quote from a well established nationally recognized synicated talkshow host.

    ROFLMAO! Neal Boortz?

    For people who may be unfamiliar with this "man", he is the author of a "book" called The Terrible Truth About Liberals, wherein he accuses anybody who is left of far-right of wanting to confiscate all private property and kill children. Talk about perfecting the straw man argument. For you to suggest that Neal Boortz is an objective source of information and that he is well-versed in matters related to exploratory drilling is ludicrous; it is childish and borderline hateful. It hints at the mentality of an 8 year-old.

    The drilling of ANWR will not involve just a single, tiny well in a secluded location. It will involve scores of them scattered throughout the region. It will require the absolute decimation of the landscape. The oil corporations will have to maintain large "kill fires" where the bodies of caribou and bears can be disposed of before they are photographed by the media. In short, it will turn one of America's most cherished national treasures into something out of a Mad Max movie; a post-apocalyptic wasteland that is a mere shadow of its former self. And for what? ANWR doesn't even contain enough oil to run all of the vehicles in the United States for a single day. But we'd better get drilling right away!

    I do get a kick out of you accusing me of "falling hook, line, and sinker" for an "agenda" right after you get done quoting a Neal Boortz propaganda piece verbatim. Pot, kettle, black. At least my agenda doesn't involve the rape and pillage of the natural world, and it doesn't involve blaming environmentalists for a California problem that was caused by a right-wing deregulation fiasco of unimaginable proportions.

    At any rate, this is all academic now, anyway. Now that we've got a Democratic Senate, drilling in ANWR is dead. It is dead. It's not gonna happen. You oil-worshippers will have to get your fix by putting poisoned water dishes in your backyards and videotaping squirrels in their death throes. The tragic thing is that the movement to preserve the environment used to be a Republican thing (conservationism; an attempt to preserve God's creation.) In recent years, their attitude has changed to "plunder God's creation so we can make as much money as possible." They may not realize the ultimate irony until it is too late.
  • by Martini Man ( 265244 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @07:03AM (#155434)
    For years now I've been hoping that somebody would put some serious effort into developing clean fuel technologies that would reduce our dependencies on fossil fuels and other polluting agents. If GM, one of the heavy hitters in the automotive world, is committed to this, that's great. But I have to admit that at this point in time, I'm a bit cynical. How long will it take for the Bush administration (both the President and Vice President are former oil executives are heavily indebted to Big Oil for getting elected) to put a stop to this? Will the Grand Oil Party sit back and watch this without trying to do something about it? Somehow I doubt it.

    Bush has already announced his intent to drill the fuck out of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. If technologies appear on the horizon that make oil appear less important, the public will be even less receptive to drilling than they already are. This will make it impossible for Bush to help his oil cronies set up lucrative oil wells up there. And if he pisses them off, look for huge repercussions in the 2002 and 2004 elections. For Bush, it's "do or die" .. if he doesn't get ANWR full of oil derricks by 2003 he will be a one-term President.

    This is why "clean fuel" efforts will be fought to the death. It's interesting that this administration has pledged to take a "hands off of business" approach, and to not impose any more government regulations. Well, the proof is in the pudding, Dubya .. are you ready to practice what you preach? Somehow I doubt it.
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:53AM (#155445) Homepage
    • But, once all the cars on the road are fuelcell based it would be possible to switch over to hydrogen at the pumps

    Just out of interest, how many types of fuel do you get at a typical US gas station? In the UK, we have 3 or 4:

    • Unleaded petrol.
    • Lead replacement petrol (has recently replaced leaded and is designed to burn in older engines without burning out the valves)
    • DERV diesel.
    • (In an increasing number of stations) Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG).

    It's getting so you need a map of the station to pick the right pump. ;)

  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @09:41AM (#155446) Homepage
    • more than a decade of US gas prices [...] actually falling [...] have encouraged waste and inefficiency.

    High prices wouldn't necessarily drive lower usage. In the UK, I pay GPB 0.8 a litre, or $4.97 a gallon. Prices in the UK have risen in real terms over the past decade, and yet our energy usage keeps increasing. We bitch about it, but we soon get used to it. We demand higher wages, we cut back elsewhere, we get our employers to pay, but we still keep driving our cars.

    Why? Same story as in the US, I expect. Our public transport is privatised, unreliable and lousy (figuratively and literally). I can commute ten miles from my suburban home in comfort in 15 minutes, or can pay more to make a horrid 1.5 hour, 30 mile meandering trip via 2 busses and 2 trains, if they all feel like showing up that day. I could cycle, I suppose, but I can think of less painful ways of committing suicide.

    On the other hand, our domestic energy isn't taxed anywhere near as harshly, so there's no incentive to insulate (other than token gubmint grants to the poorest peons).

    It's all very frustrating. I'd like to make a difference, and I don't like being beaten with the fuel stick, but the alternative carrot is a pretty unappetising prospect.

  • by freeweed ( 309734 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:04AM (#155450)
    Recall back in the 70's it was determined that the world had 40-50 years petroleum remaining, at current rate of consumption. Even with more efficient vehicles, more are in use that ever and the draw on petroleum reserves is still very high. Many gulf states will run out of petroleum in the next 10 years. Iraq, because of the embargo, and Saudi Arabia will be among the last, 20 years tops, at current rate (BTW this is why OPEC has cut production and raised prices.)

    Actually, in the 70's the warnings were for a LOT less than 40-50 years. In some cases, as little as 10. Once the panic calmed down, and OPEC made a few more billions, suddenly there seemed to be a lot of extra oil. New reserves were discovered, and things like the Alberta Tar Sands suddenly got a lot more viable. The sands have been estimated to have anywhere from 10, to as much as several HUNDRED years worth of the world's current oil use, it all hinges on being able to extract it for a reasonable cost.

    After 20 years of cheap oil prices, the shieks and dictators in the middle east are a lot poorer than they want to be (20 years of near-constant warfare in a 3rd world country doesn't help many economies). Suddenly, OPEC cuts production - they don't even lie about it, claiming it's due to supplies getting low. Their official statements basically add up to 'we feel the prices are too low, so we're raising them', ie: WE WANT MORE MONEY AND THERE'S SWEET FUCK ALL THAT ANYONE CAN DO ABOUT IT. That's why they're called a 'cartel'.

  • by Spamalamadingdong ( 323207 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @08:42AM (#155465) Homepage Journal
    Gasoline will probably never allow a direct fuel cell...
    As I recall, it's already been done. The Monolithic Solid Oxide Fuel Cell has been run directly on hydrocarbons. If the coking problem can be beaten, this will eventually include all of the hydrocarbons in gasoline. At the low temperatures involved there is essentially no NOx produced, and the other emissions can be oxidized quite effectively.

    The problem with running on such hydrocarbons, at least as far as global warming is concerned, is that you're producing the CO2 at the vehicle tailpipe. This makes it difficult and expensive to do anything other than release it into the atmosphere.

    ... and the reformers will always be dirtier than methanol.
    Eh? Methanol itself comes from reforming (oxidizing) methane, then you have the same CO2 issue. You may be able to get rid of all nitrogen oxides and most hydrocarbons and CO, but you're not going to be able to deal with CO2 as effectively as you can with off-vehicle reforming.
  • However, I think nuclear energy is certainly a great solution for most power needs. BUT UNTIL we figure out a way to either recycle or safely dispose of nuclear waste, it's simply not a good alternative.
    That's the stock anti-nuke line: say it would be great if we could just do X, but we can't do X (while blocking efforts to find ways to do X and ignoring known ways of doing X while propagandizing that X is impossible to do). This tactic has taken in lots of unsuspecting people, including yourself from the looks of it.
    What do you put nuclear waste IN?
    The first issue is how you define "waste". If you are talking about the raw fuel as it comes out of the reactor, cladding and all, you're defining it much too broadly (you're throwing away over 90% of the energy inherent in the original uranium). If you are talking about the fission products, it's a much simpler issue.

    Fission products have an inherent environmental advantage over most other poisons. The mercury from the coal plant, the lead in old house paint, the arsenic in your well water... these things are toxic forever. Fission products decay away! Even icky nasty plutonium decays back to uranium with a maximum half-life of less than 25,000 years; if you can put it someplace where it can't leak out for a million years, 40 half lives will have passed and only a trillionth will remain.

    There are a few fission products that last millions of years, like technetium-99. The anti-nukes raise this like a banner, but they don't tell you these two important things:

    1. An element with a half-life of a million years is 100,000 times less radioactive than one with a half-life of ten years. In other words, it takes a whole lot of technetium to be dangerous.
    2. It's easy to stop technetium from migrating in groundwater. It's less chemically active than iron, so all you have to do is plant your waste deposit in the middle of a bunch of scrap iron or steel. The technetium plates out on the steel and iron ions go into the seeping water instead. (This is how dissolved copper is recovered from the water trickled through piles of ore; the mining companies buy the steel cans from your recycling bin and run the copper-sulfate mixture through them, let the iron-sulfate run off and smelt the remains for the copper.)
    Seal it in lead barrels, then dump it? Great, now we drink leaded water until the radioactive material seeps through.
    Convert the metal radwaste ions to salts, absorb the salts in zeolites, press the zeolite powder under heat to form it into solid billets (inside stainless-steel cans), stick the cans in concrete bunkers above ground until the fast-decaying isotopes have bled off most of their energy and the heat output has mostly disappeared, then dump them in the mine shafts under Yucca Mountain with a few feet of iron filings as a buffer against groundwater seepage (the iron will be there for much longer than the technetium; there's still native iron on Earth from before the rise of oxygen-producing plants). That's a lot more secure and responsible than anyone has ever been with the nasty crap from coal ash.
  • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Wednesday June 13, 2001 @06:56AM (#155472) Journal

    Metal-based fuel cells (using aluminum or zinc) may prove a better solution than hydrogen, providing better energy densities and less hazardous handling.

    There's a relevant and interesting article [] in IEEE Spectrum [] this month.

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.