Thursday, December 11, 2008

Car has big footprint and gasoline is hard act to follow

Someone sent this to a mail art show I compiled in the 1980s. I'm not sure where this picture was taken or what magazine it was cut out of. I used it in a collage.

There was an interesting segment of Science Friday on NPR Dec. 5 08. It was talking about the "energy density" of gasoline.

Hard to beat gasoline for energy output per pound. Our best batteries, so far, the lithium ion batteries only produce about 1 / 100th of the power per pound as gasoline.

Amazing! Pound for pound, gasoline is 100 times as much energy. No wonder our economy can't shake it's dependency on gas.

Hydrogen does better. Per pound it can have 4 times the energy of gasoline, but it takes up a lot more space. For unit volume, gasoline still has around 3 to 4 times the energy equivalent of hydrogen. In other words, hydrogen is light weight, but it takes up more space. Requires a bigger tank.

This was part of a book called "Physics for Future Presidents" by Richard Muller. He was interviewed on that segment of the show I just heard.

Reducing energy consumption is still the easiest way to go. We haven't found a miracle fuel that replaces gasoline yet.

Making the car lighter, of course, helps, but for safety, a pop can is light and crushes too easily.

I still like my bicycle which goes slow enough to not crush so bad.

My bicycle is especially good when I'm able to use trails and road shoulders away from the traffic.

Motorcycles are faster, but they go right in the traffic lane. Little protection.

Who's in a hurry anyway?

Public transit is good for both speed and safety.

Trains and buses are great and a friend of mine recently made airline reservations from Austin Texas to Seattle. He said the plane ticket was actually cheaper than the cost of gas if he were to ride his motorcycle all that distance.

Imagine that, it's actually cheaper flying that long a distance at least. That's because you're sharing the fuel bill with more than 100 other passengers on the plane.

Imagine how efficient trains or buses can be.

Even though I ride my bike, I've thought about an idea for a solar car. Yes, run the car on sunlight.

Problem is, solar panels need to be bulky to have a lot of capture area. Big capture area to power a car.

That doesn't work driving down the road since a car needs to be aerodynamic. Can't have a giant solar panel catching the wind.

So, have foldout solar panels.

Yes, park the car, then fold out your bulky panels and let it charge the car while you're at work. Fold it back up when you're ready to drive home again.

OK, you say it's too much work.

Also you're worried that vandals will damage your panels. Other cars might bump into you're bulky panel setup in the parking lot.

Then you're using the panels to charge that battery. A lithium Ion battery?

Able to store 100 times less energy than it's weight in gasoline. No wonder it hasn't caught on yet. Still good to do the research.

Experiment. I'm sure it will get better eventually.

Meanwhile, I'll still take the bus and ride my bike.

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