Category Archives: Energy

Honda fuel cell…yawn

I know, I should be excited about fuel cells. The Governor of California says it is important, but I honestly do not see them playing any significant role for many decades to come. The AP has posted a story that includes the bad news with the good:

The biggest obstacles standing in the way of wider adoption of fuel cell vehicles are cost and the dearth of hydrogen fuel stations. For the Clarity’s release in California, Honda said it received 50,000 applications through its website but could only consider those living near stations in Torrance, Santa Monica and Irvine.

Initially, however, the Clarity will go only to a chosen few starting July and then launch in Japan this fall.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a statewide network of hydrogen stations, but progress has been slow.

No kidding. He might as well have called for statewide adoption of unicorns. Where are these expensive hydrogen stations going to come from? Big oil? Energy companies? Ha.

The state has also recently relaxed a mandate for the number of zero-emission cars it aims to have on roads. By 2014, automakers must now sell 7,500 electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, a reduction of 70 percent.

Talk is cheap, obviously. Why reduce the pressure for demand? Hydrogen is a pipe dream since it requires a massive investment in infrastructure technology that does not even exist yet. Diesel, on the other hand, could achieve similar results with technology that is present today and does not require a change of heart for the oligopoly of big energy companies. Perhaps I should say oil-gopoly?

The US energy department paints a pessimistic picture for hydrogen fueling stations:

If hydrogen were priced to provide cost parity with conventional vehicles, most hydrogen infrastructure stakeholders could turn a profit in the long run, but break-even would not be achieved for many years.

Unconventional approaches are needed to improve capacity factors and reduce the capital cost of the hydrogen infrastructure, especially in the early years of infrastructure development.

Here is a real shocker, for example:

Utilizing existing excess hydrogen capacity can result in significant capital investment reductions in the early years. These cost reductions need to be examined on a regional basis, for example, in the Midwest, 50 percent of the population is within 100 miles of an existing hydrogen plant.

If you want the fuel, you will have to live in low-value industrial regions like those favored by giant chemical plants (e.g. ammonia). Sound like a good trade-off to you? Do you want to live next to an oil refinery to get petroleum into your car? No, of course not. Again, diesel needs only natural sources of oil such as plants, animals and minerals nearby. Imagine living near a forest, or restaurants, or a coast-line with algae, or even a desert with algae for that matter. I see the hydrogen generation/transportation problems many decades away from being solved, or presenting a suitable model.

Diesel wins Le Mans race for fifth straight year

The first year of the LMP1 class win was a wonderful story, the second year a “told you so”…the third year was “anyone still doubt the future of diesel“…and now the news is almost not news anymore. Diesel engines should be the future of mobile power-plant technology in 2010 the way PCs were the future of computing in the 1980s. USA Today reports that Audi continues to leave gasoline in its dust:

Audi and Peugeot completed a record of more than 3,200 miles around Circuit de la Sarthe in France, a trip which 55 cars began but only 20 finished. The lead Audi and Peugeot, both diesel-powered LMP1 prototypes, were never separated by more than a lap, thrilling a record 258,000 fans.

The top cars are diesel. Way to go Audi R10 TDI!

It is a 5.5 L (335.6 cu in) all-aluminium twin-turbo 90° V12 engine, with common rail direct fuel injection of more than 1600 bar (23,206 psi). Its output should be 485 kilowatts (650 hp) (regulated) and 1,100 N·m (811 ft·lbf) of torque, and its usable power band is between 3000 and 5000 rpm. Its benefits are a broad range of usable power, high torque and economy.

Two Garrett TR3076R turbochargers limited by the regulations to 2.94 bar (42.64 psi) absolute breathe through two 39.9 millimetres (1.57 in) intake air restrictors. It uses the latest Bosch Motronic (MS14) management, provided by Bosch Motorsport, 1600 bar piezo injectors, and makes a low noise for a race car. It can be difficult to hear the R10 on a track when other cars are present because of the much lower noise level.

Economy and silence in a super-power diesel race car! Amazing stuff. This is not your grandmother’s diesel.

Fuel conservation gives Earnhardt Jr the win

I did not notice the whining about fuel economy in 2003 by Dale Earnhardt Jr., as captured by – Fuel strategy gives Earnhardt Jr. top five – July 28, 2003:

Earnhardt indicated next weekend’s Brickyard 400 would be the same story, exacerbated by two-and-four-tire strategies and the specter of fuel mileage, another issue he said he’s had enough of.

“Tony (Eury) Jr. is always on me about fuel,” Earnhardt said of his car chief, who calls his races from atop the pit box in conjunction with his father, crew chief Tony Eury. “It’s never close, it’s always short.”

Junior said after his last pit stop the crew told him he was “about a gallon short” of having enough fuel to make it to the finish.

“He (Eury Jr.) said ‘Don’t scrub your tires and you’ll save some fuel.’ I said, ‘man, I’ve been through this too many times with you.’ I’m getting tired of hearing it from my guys when they tell me that I need to save fuel.

“There is no book on how to save fuel. I mean, every time they say ‘save fuel’ I say, ‘all right, tell me how to do that again?’ I’ve been around this sport a long time — I don’t think anybody really knows.”

Well, apparently Junior has figured it out and is all the better for knowing. The big news today is that he has won a race in Michigan by applying fuel conservation. The articles I have read point out that stopping for fuel would have dropped the driver 25 places! Big kudos to Tony for his sensible energy strategy:

The most popular driver in NASCAR won this one by gambling, going the last 55 laps on the 2-mile oval, including three laps of overtime, without stopping for gas.

He gave most of the credit for his first win in more than two years to crew chief Tony Eury.

“We came in on that last stop and we were going to be about six laps short, and I saved six laps of gas,” Earnhardt said. “So, (we were) just real lucky. I have to hand it to Tony Jr. for being a risk-taker. … He’s done a good job this year getting us good finishes, better finishes than we should probably have.”

Perhaps Eury could consult with Bush and Cheney now and give them some tips on how to keep America from falling behind; better security and more success from higher availability. Imagine a Dick-infomercial where the VP says “Be a winner. Conserve energy.”

Or perhaps Eury could now convince Earnhardt to drive a diesel race car.

Subaru Diesel Test Drive

Be still my heart. Subaru has created a turbo diesel boxer Legacy

Subaru finally has a diesel-and it’s the first boxer turbodiesel in a passenger car. Ever. The diesel option not only gives the company a real presence in Europe, but the engine’s excellent fuel economy-near an estimated 50 mpg on the highway-will make it easier to comply with the upcoming CAFE legislation.

YES! YES! YES! 258-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve flat-4 at 50mpg and AWD. Woohoo! Better yet, it meets the Euro4 emission standard with 148 g/km of CO2 thanks to technology enhancements like common rail, oxidation catalytic converters, particulate filters, and Exhaust Gas Recirculation.

Sadly, like most consumer technology these days, it will be introduced to the US at least two years after being sold in Europe and Asia. WTF?

I bought my diesel VW at a far lower cost than the gasoline variant. In fact, it used to be one of the cheapest engine options on the VW line. The dealers barely wanted to carry them on the lot. Now, given the clear performance and efficiency advantages of diesel in foreign markets, Americans are not only still waiting, but the story is that there might be a surcharge :

It would make perfect sense in the Forester, and perhaps the Impreza. However, when it comes to sales, the success of this engine in the U.S. is going to depend on the cost factor. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced, not even for European markets, but this engine option could add $2000 or more to the bottom line for America.

Why does this upside down and backward situation not surprise me? Who loves the “market”? Come on America, stop pissing around with all the hydrogen mumbo-jumbo and let in the Diesel revolution. What gain is there from by delaying this kind of innovation from reaching our shores? Car manufacturers should be given incentives to bring 50mpg full-size full-power automobiles to us.