Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Hybrid Cars: Forbes/Newsweek Discussion

Newsweek Middle East regional editor Christopher Dickey and Forbes.com editor Paul Maidment discuss the future of energy. Topics include energy independence and the Middle East, hydrogen fuel cell technology, and hybrid cars.

A few choice quotes and my comments:

"The United States has just about the cheapest gasoline in the industrialized world. In Japan and most Western European countries the price at the pump is three times higher or more. That's largely due to government taxes that are intended to limit consumption--and they do. Outside the USA the public has a much greater incentive to demand better gas mileage, and is more likely to buy the cars that deliver it."

"Those who emphasize hydrogen over, say, hybrids tend to be dreaming about a distant future at the expense of concrete solutions today. " -

Toyota's promotional material for the Prius assures buyers they won't have to plug in their cars. But why shouldn't we have the option to plug in our cars if we want to? Electricity is much cheaper than gasoline and if it's generated from clean renewable sources like wind power produces zero emissions. Companies like Ford who recently scrapped production of an all electric model would prefer to promote a distant hydrogen future than manufacture electric cars today.

"What is the latest on the "strong" hybrids that can be switched to run on electricity or fuel? I hear these class of hybrids would be able to run around town at speeds of say 35 to 40 mph on electricity and not go to fuel unless it had to run at higher speeds for a long distance trip." -

Imagine plugging your car in at home or work or at a free street recharging point. Sound unrealistic? Well we already have an extensive electricity infrastructure whereas no hydrogen infrastructure at all currently exists. By having "strong" hybrids we can plug into a clean renewable electricity supply helping wean ourselves off our oil addiction.

"Few politicians think far beyond their next election campaign, and, as we've seen, no major American candidate has been willing seriously to impose the taxes and regulations that could force the public to change its wasteful consumption habits. So it's politically smart to tell folks the theoretical future is bright--but sometime after the end of the second term--while doing as little as possible to rock the boat in the meantime." -

Our energy problems require long-term and global thinking.

Newsweek Forbes discussion on the future of energy

What are Plug-in Hybrids


Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

It's nice when I'm ahead of Forbes.

7:16 p.m., September 23, 2004  
Blogger Jason G. Williscroft said...

Here's one reason why we shouldn't plug in our cars, at least not in the States. Our power plants, in general, are running at well over 95% capacity. It's been 20 years since we added any major new capacity to our system, mostly because the environmental lobby slaps down any proposals to build new plants (and then blames the government when their power goes out).

Sources like wind and solar may be interesting options for the long-term, but with current technology they barely add a drop to a very large bucket. Unless we came up with some new capacity, widespread plugging-in would result in big trouble.

Besides: the vast majority of our power is generated by coal & oil plants. After transmission losses, you think this power is cleaner (or cheaper!) than generating it on-site using an efficient gas engine in a hybrid configuration? Think again.

Jason G. Williscroft
The Dead Hand

5:18 a.m., September 30, 2004  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Jason asks:

the vast majority of our power is generated by coal & oil plants. After transmission losses, you think this power is cleaner (or cheaper!) than generating it on-site using an efficient gas engine in a hybrid configuration? Think again.Yes, Jason, I do think so.  My 40-MPG car costs approximately 5 cents per mile for fuel these days; a plug-in hybrid using 340 watt-hours per mile and charging with $0.08/KWH electricity costs a mere 2.7 cents per mile.  On top of this, even the average coal-fired plant is more efficient (33%) than the typical automobile (17%); if a coal plant gets scrubbers it effectively "cleans up" everything it feeds, and re-powering with an integrated gasification combined-cycle system can raise efficiency to 40%, eliminate sulfur emissions and nearly triple the output.

Our power plants, in general, are running at well over 95% capacity.Which powerplants?  I'm sure this is true of nuclear and some fossil-fired base load plants, but that is how they are designed.  Gas-fired turbines run at a much lower capacity factor on average.  We may need to change our mix of powerplants, but our total generation capacity even today is over 900 GW with about a 2:1 daily swing while our average power consumption in our vehicles is about 200 GW.  The grid is more than capable of moving this energy during the off-peak hours.

5:34 a.m., September 30, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We've spent 252 billion in Iraq. That would build 560 energy towers like the 200 MW tower the Australians are building and add 112 GW to our capacity. Cost estimates for power from these towers are below coal or gas. They produce no greenhouse gasses. Their are also versions that desalinate seawater.
The PIHV's are a winner especially when combined with E-85 ethanol fuels made with the new Cellulose Ethanol technology.
Heck, between CE, Energy towers and PIHV's we can be energy self-sufficient, have lower costs, create 5 million jobs and literally stop all carbon emissions in 15 years.
If we only had a leader not owned by the oil lobby.

12:22 p.m., November 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Jason g. Williscroft. People think that buying and using a hybrid is cheaper and better for the economy. but what they do not think about is how those cars are made and produced in factories that generate power through coal and oil. Those factories generate more pollutants when manufacturing these special hybrid cars than what a gas engine does in a normal lifetime.

5:32 a.m., December 05, 2007  

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