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Anyone altering their driving habits due to outrageous gas prices?

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Old 05-07-2007, 01:31 PM   #46  
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GM, of all companies, showed a concept electric car called the Volt at this years's Detroit car show. When I looked it up on the web, it looked like a promising concept for a commuter car.

- Car plugs into 110 volt outlet in the garage.
- Range is 40 miles on batteries at a current cost of 80 cents worth of electricity.
- If the batteries drop below a certain charge, a small gas / diesel / ethanol powered generator kicks in to both recharge the batteries and power the engine. This allows the car to travel long distances.

For me, with an 11 mile drive to / from work, I would only need the generator to kick every now and then. Don't know if this will work with existing battery technologies.

Since only 6% of electric power plants use oil to generate the electricity, this would shift a significant amount of energy usage away from oil if this concept caught on. Even the "long range" commuters in my office are generally 50 miles round trip or less. And the direct pollution level from the car would be virtually zero.

No idea of when this will be available or what the cost. Like the concept, however.

One of the car magazines was evaluating fuel alternatives ("what will we fuel our car with in 20 years") and they felt that hydrogen fuel cells are more than 20 years out, past their prediction window.

Am I the only one to wonder, if everyone had plug in hybrids, would this be better/worse/same on the environment since some power plant still have to generate the power to charge the cars? Some fossil fuel would likely be burned in this process, unless we went with clean power production AND plug-in hybrids.
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Old 05-07-2007, 01:55 PM   #47  
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RedSIinPA,

In the short run we would be better off if a substantial number of people got a plug-in hybrid, since we would be moving these vehicles away from oil. That is assuming the power grid could handle this uptick in power usage. And assuming we are not creating problems with battery disposal / replacement.

Here is my reasoning as to why "oil is bad".
- Oil production is largely in the hands of people who do not like us or our values (excluding Canada & Mexico who are tied to us economically whether they like it or not).
- Oil has a huge impact on the economy beyond personal transportation. If there was a severe economic disruption in the oil supply, our economy would suffer.
- Oil pollutes the environment in several different ways.

So my short term hope is to find alternatives that we control to minimize the impact of the items mentioned above. We accomplish this with a plug-in even if we are just substituting one fossil fuel (oil) for another (natural gas, for example). Ethanol & biodiesel also help.

Hopefully in the near future our electrical grid can become "greener" as well. Advances are being made in solar technology. Perhaps tax credits could be given for houses incorporating solar panels on the roof. With this scenario, a plug-in hybrid would be substituting a non-polluting renewable resource for oil.

In the long run (long after I am gone) we as a society are going to have to find alternatives to oil. It really will eventually run out, and long before that happens, it will become too expensive to be used for fuel.
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Old 05-07-2007, 02:15 PM   #48  
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One of the car magazines was evaluating fuel alternatives ("what will we fuel our car with in 20 years") and they felt that hydrogen fuel cells are more than 20 years out, past their prediction window.
Again, that is a false almost criminal startement for a magazine to make.

Honda has sold a Hydrogen Fuel Cell car in California for several years and it functions very well. The technology is readily available, all we need is for the technology to be accepted and produced so there would be a reason to produce the fueling stations to supply the market.

Electric cars would be great but, if we went to electric vehicles in high numbers we would need to increase the ability to produce enough electricity to supply the increased demand. And we would be able to do this IF we would accept nuclear power plants being made all over the country to replace the coal powered versions we depend on right now (the pollution would be tremedously increased using the present coal powered electrical power plant technology).

The new nuclear power technology uses small nuclear fuel pods instead of the present technology of power rods, these do not produce enough heat to cause meltdown (no more 3 mile islands).

But, again if depends if we can convince the American public to accept this new technology.
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Old 05-07-2007, 02:28 PM   #49  
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unotis,

I take a walk every day and stop off at the main library. The article is in the issue of Road & Driver (or something like that) that is currently on the magazine rack. One of the articles mentioned on the cover is the "what will we be driving in 20 years" that I alluded to above. You may be able to find this by using Google.

I know that hydrogen fuel cells are the holy grail of fuels - think the exhaust is basically water vapor. The last that I read was that the industry was still trying to find a cheaper way to break water into hydrogen & oxygen. Interestingly enough, they are studying plants, who do this quite well every day (fortunately for us oxygen breathers).

I will certainly Google fuel cells when I get home, but if you get a minute, update us with what you know.
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Old 05-07-2007, 02:31 PM   #50  
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OH NO!!! I dont want a VQ35D(iesel)...NOOOOO!
Amen to that!!
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Old 05-07-2007, 05:25 PM   #51  
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There has been another "greener" fuel that has been available since the late 1960's:

Propane

I was in Paris, France in 1968 and rode in a taxi that had been converted to run on Propane as opposed to gas or diesel. It was less expensive, only needed a small adjustment to the carb and like HFC's - exhaust was water vapor.
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Old 05-07-2007, 07:49 PM   #52  
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There has been another "greener" fuel that has been available since the late 1960's:

Propane

I was in Paris, France in 1968 and rode in a taxi that had been converted to run on Propane as opposed to gas or diesel. It was less expensive, only needed a small adjustment to the carb and like HFC's - exhaust was water vapor.

All our cop cars in London are propane powered it kills abit of teh power but the offset in savings on fuel is unbelievable.
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Old 05-07-2007, 07:53 PM   #53  
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I am looking at the Smart car, and my mom lives in Broken Arrow, so I am up that way all the time. Will be in BA this Memorial Day.

If I go with the Smart Car I would want the diesel and might keep the Caravan to pick up plants, lumber, etc.

I have not seen any details as to where the USA tour will be, other than that it will start in LA. Also, have not seen a list of dealerships that will carry the car. There is a dealership in Benton (another Little Rock bedroom community) that is hoping to get to sell the Smart as well the last time I talked with them.
One of the firefighters my father in law works with bought the Smart for 2 and he loves it he goes from London to Toronto 185kilometers each way on less than a quarter tank of fuel. They sell like crazy up here there wa a waitlist of over 6 months for them at one point.
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Old 05-07-2007, 09:56 PM   #54  
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OH NO!!! I dont want a VQ35D(iesel)...NOOOOO!
I bet it wouldn't be too bad! Look at how awesome of a job companies like Benz are doing with their lineup of diesel engines. They are not slow either because they generate so much torque, and also have a wider powerband than ever before. I think it would be pretty funny to hear what a diesel variant of the VQ could sound like, although it would have to be radically changed.

As for propane and natural gas, the department I used to work for had an NGV Ford Contour that was pretty nifty. They told me that they converted it to run on regular gas after the only NGV filling station in the city went out of buisness. That was also when I started noticing that the local PD stopped using NGV Crown Vics as well. Not a bad concept, but the point is that none of the alternative fuels will ever work unless more filling stations are willing to start offering them at the pump. I've read that many gas companies are opposed to allowing stations to do this, but i'm not sure how far the extent of those threats run.

As for hydrogen power, advances have been made but I wonder whether that will ever be a feasible option in the shorter part of the long term. Obtaining it consumes a lot of resources, and the technology itself is incredibly expensive for the time being. Even then, you still have to concern yourself with what kind of driving range hydrogen powered vehicles can get on a single "tank" as the current prototypes right now arn't doing to well. My understanding is that some of the Ford prototypes are getting 90-110 miles per "tank."

For the time being, i'm going to root for a combination of E85 and bio-diesel since both are from renewable sources and are relatively clean. Ford and GM are doing an incredible job of adopting E85 technology into many of their vehicles now, although we still have the problem with the fact that Cincinnati only has one E85 fueling station downtown that is only open during limited hours.
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:02 PM   #55  
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We have propane also, but here in SK, Natural Gas is a good alternative. There are cars, buses and other equipment that have been converted. The major drawback right now is the cost of conversion and the limited number of filling stations.
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Old 05-08-2007, 05:16 AM   #56  
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Default Ethanol & biodiesel the most likely alternatives

Both Ethanol & biodiesel can work in exiting cars with little or no modifications, so they are the most likely fuels to succeed. Both have strong points and problems.

The problem with biodiesel is the amount of soybeans and water needed to grow enough beans to make a significant impact on oil consumption. The same problem exists for ethanol to a lesser degree, although there may be an alternative here if / when the techology is developed to convert biomass (grasses, wood chips, etc) into cost competative ethanol.

This is the same chicken / egg scenario that we have with the high def industry. To get more HD programming there needs to be greater HD television ownership, but for that to happen there needs to be more programming.

Wal-mart / Sam's Club has hinted that they may put E85 in their fueling stations across the country, but so far that has just been talk. That would have a huge impact if that happened.

Another thing that could help is an EPA approved conversion kit. There are kits advertised on the internet for $400 or so that would let my current car run on a blend of Ethanol, but the site includes the warning "not government approved" and "may void your car's warrenty".

This is a place where the government needs to lead and there is no clear vision in place as to where we should go. So the marketplace is gradually filling in the power vacuum. We are moving in the right direction, I think - it is just slower and less focused than I would like.
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:13 AM   #57  
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I think it would be pretty funny to hear what a diesel variant of the VQ could sound like,
Blasphemy!!
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:48 AM   #58  
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unotis,

I know that hydrogen fuel cells are the holy grail of fuels - think the exhaust is basically water vapor. The last that I read was that the industry was still trying to find a cheaper way to break water into hydrogen & oxygen. Interestingly enough, they are studying plants, who do this quite well every day (fortunately for us oxygen breathers).

I will certainly Google fuel cells when I get home, but if you get a minute, update us with what you know.
There are two basic ways to produce the fuel for hydrogen fuel cells.

Electrolysis of water: using electricity, it is fairly easy to split the water molecule to create pure hydrogen and oxygen. You could even have the ability to do this in a system at your house. The draw back to this system is increased electical usage needed to do this for a Hydrogen economy based fuel system, we would again need to construct many more of the new technology nuclear power electrical plants so we would have renewable power sources that would not pollute by using fossil fuels or coal. The hydrogen fuel is right now a just in time form of fuel, not easily storable (at this time) so it needs to be produced at time of usage/dispensing.

Reformation of fossil fuels: We could reform fossil fuels using what is called a "reformer" at the energy plants, Oil and natural gas contain hydrocarbons, the "reformer" splits these into hydrogen and carbon then we would just discard the carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Still this would be just a temporary solution because it still relies on a non renewable source.

So the ultimate solution (and easily done if we decide to do it) is to construct more nuclear power plants to produce enough electricity to set up the just in time fueling stations we would need to fuel all the enviromentally clean hydrogen fuel cell cars of the future.

Then, Ta Da we will no longer need to import oil from anywhere and we will stop air pollution and maybe even global warming (if we can only get rid of all those flatulent cattle).

Last edited by unotis; 05-08-2007 at 10:53 AM..
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Old 05-08-2007, 11:57 AM   #59  
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Default Ethenol / Biodiesel are the stop-gap solution

I think we will eventually end up using hydrogen cells in cars. While I don't have a timetable in mind, I do think that it is the next generation fuel for our vehicles.

Ethenol & biodiesel are intermediary steps that work because existing vehicles can be modified to use them. Existing fuel distribution centers can handle these fuels. There is no learning curve to fueling your vehicle - handled the same way we do gasoline. We probably cannot look at these fuels as long term, total replacements for oil fuels, since they come with a high cost as far as land & water usage. Land that would grow food and water that would be used elsewhere will now go to making fuel, and this will bump up food cost.

Ethenol & biodiesel buy us some time, which is why the US & European governments are pushing these options.

We need to look past the auto fuel issue and reduce energy usage in our homes and businesses. For example, switching from the old incandescent light bulbs to flourescent bulbs (which I have done at my house) reduces lighting energy useage by 85%. When they finally perfect LED bulbs, they could cut this even further.

We just need to know what we want to do, why we want to do this, how quickly we want to do it and how much of a commitment we are willing to make. For me these are:
What - total replacement of oil as a fuel in our country
Why - oil is a rapidly depleting resource that is not under our control.
How quickly - switch to E85 / biodiesel in 5 years.
How much commitment - same as we put into getting to the moon.

I want this not just because of the favorable environmental impact, but because I want to protect my quality of life here in the US. Right now that could be impacted very severely by disruptions in the oil supply. You have to figure that something will happen sooner or later to the oil supply and that it could push the world into a global recession.

So ethenol & biodiesel now, hydrogen fuel cells next.
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Old 05-08-2007, 01:59 PM   #60  
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I think we will eventually end up using hydrogen cells in cars. While I don't have a timetable in mind, I do think that it is the next generation fuel for our vehicles.

Ethenol & biodiesel are intermediary steps that work because existing vehicles can be modified to use them. Existing fuel distribution centers can handle these fuels. There is no learning curve to fueling your vehicle - handled the same way we do gasoline. We probably cannot look at these fuels as long term, total replacements for oil fuels, since they come with a high cost as far as land & water usage. Land that would grow food and water that would be used elsewhere will now go to making fuel, and this will bump up food cost.

Ethenol & biodiesel buy us some time, which is why the US & European governments are pushing these options.

We need to look past the auto fuel issue and reduce energy usage in our homes and businesses. For example, switching from the old incandescent light bulbs to flourescent bulbs (which I have done at my house) reduces lighting energy useage by 85%. When they finally perfect LED bulbs, they could cut this even further.

I want this not just because of the favorable environmental impact, but because I want to protect my quality of life here in the US. Right now that could be impacted very severely by disruptions in the oil supply. You have to figure that something will happen sooner or later to the oil supply and that it could push the world into a global recession.

So ethenol & biodiesel now, hydrogen fuel cells next.
I wish we could look at ethenol and biodiesel as having a real immediate impact but, people have too little of interest or knowledge of these (and too little wish to learn).

We need to make all the Hybrids work and use the fuel cost savings to influence the population to change over right away. We could actually show them they will not loose anything by going this way (no lose of power or drivability) just greatly decreased monthly fuel costs.

This might open people's eyes to all the other ways to save our planet, electric cars, hydrogen fuel cell cars, clean diesel cars/vehicles, nuclear power plants (that are safe and clean).
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