Revenge of the Nerd: Green, My Ass is Green


Don’t get me wrong, I am all for tough emission standards and good fuel economy, we must be responsible to our planet, a life boat in space. I just think that engineers and scientists should be the ones figuring out the best way to do this, not bean counters, tree huggers or worst of all celebrity advocates, liberal arts majors and politicians. I think that many of the “Green” solutions popularized lately by celebrities and politicians belong on the wheel of bad ideas rather than in our garages.

Some of my favorite automotive green bad ideas;

electric car with long extension cord

Plug in electric cars- This sucks due to the losses involved, electricity is generated by converting chemical to electrical energy at an efficient but still polluting creating power plant with a small but significant adiabatic loss; more losses are then occurred during transport via high voltage wires.  The biggie where most of the losses occur is charging the vehicle’s battery converting the electrical energy back to chemical energy. Then the chemical energy is converted to kinetic energy by the electrical motor that drives the car. The net energy being lost is greater than a modern IC engine. In order for the electric car to be truly viable, we need a battery technology breakthrough as current batteries are too inefficient.

funney electric car

Perhaps carbon nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes might offer lot of surface area for efficient use of electrolytes and electrodes but I dunno if this is getting close to practical yet. Close to room temperature superconduction might offer something but they have been working on this for years with no dice. Did I mention that when the battery wears out it creates several hundred pounds of uber toxic spooge that must be dealt with? The production of batteries has a pretty large environmental impact as well. When you add it all up electric cars actually pollute more than a conventional ultra ULEV over their lifecycle and are nowhere close to zero emissions. We need a later model alien space ship to crash to reverse engineer at Area 51 for this to work.  Some electric cars perform well, like the Tesla though. An electric motor has 100% of its torque available right from the go, giving them the potential to be pretty darned fast. I want to drive one of those.

Bio Diesel- Sure bio diesel gives tree huggers boners but NOX, and particulates from french fries are just as toxic as stuff made from dead dinos. Sure it recycles old cooking oil or can be made from renewable sources like corn (btw corn takes a lot of water, energy and fertilizer made from, you guessed it petroleum to grow), but you have to dope the oil with sodium hydroxide, then mix in a bunch of methanol (which is made from petroleum or natural gas which must be synthesized with an energy and greenhouse footprint of its own).  Then the heavy hydrocarbons in this mix are saponified and must be washed out of the mix with buku water.  The waste slurry is toxic, it is actually soap and perhaps this might be sort of reusable but it also is a toxic waste issue. Hummm, not so good I think.

bio diesel process

Hydrogen power- I like fuel cells, they kick ass, truly high adiabatic efficiency and near zero pollution. Hydrogen burns clean in conventional IC engines as well. If this sounds like the answer to all of our problems, then consider that it takes a lot of electrical energy to make hydrogen as hydrogen is created by the electrolysis of water. It usually takes burning something nasty or splitting atoms to create the power, another potentially yucky process to make a lot of electricity. We need Mr. Fusion to make this a workable green process. We also need Doc’s DeLorean with the flux capacitor to go get one. All is not lost though, I have seen Doc’s car at Delorean USA which happens to be next door to XS Engineering.

fuel cell

Does it seem hopeless? Does performance fit in here? Well it’s not gonna be easy but our best minds are working on the problems and solutions might become available if the politicians can be kept out of it. Some of the potential solutions have the ability to generate plenty of performance. So gotta use your melon instead of listening to rhetoric.  Stay tuned, I will probably rant more on this subject later. Remember most people who make up rhetoric are liberal arts majors, pot heads or both.  In the meanwhile I’ll be riding my 50cc Honda Ruckus.

Nerds rule the world!  Opposing viewpoints welcome…

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