Some thoughts for Obama Motors to consider!
Only 20% of the energy contained in gasoline is converted to mechanical energy by a traditional internal combustion engine. Refinements in the internal combustion engine, improved aerodynamics, more efficient drivetrains and low resistance tires could make a greater contribution to increased milage and reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) production than advanced technology such as plug-in cars.
Among the adjustments that could help improve fuel economy are turbocharging with smaller, more efficient engines that produce the same level of power; advanced heat management and cooling systems, which reuse the heat produced by the engine for energy; weight reduction, including extensive use of high-strength steel; better aerodynamics; more efficient air conditioners, transmissions and lighting devices and increased electrification leading to full hybridization with electric motor and regenerative breaking-all of which currently exist.
These improvements are likely to make a far greater contribution to global CO2 reduction than electric vehicles because they may be applicable to virtually all of the projected 2 billion motorized vehicles. For example, Ford has begun production of what it’s calling the EcoBoost engine: a new gasoline motor that employs turbocharging, direct fuel injection, variable timing in the valves that control fuel and exhaust flow to make a smaller, lighter six-cylinder engine perform like an eight-cylinder engine.
It is important that we take a realistic view of the contribution that newer electric vehicles are likely to make to global CO2 reduction. The soon to be introduced “100 mile per gallon” plug-in Prius will allow the vehicle to operate solely on its electric motor for ranges of up to 40 miles on a single charge. The gasoline engine then takes over when the car must travel further. This is the reverse of the original 50-mile per gallon traditional Prius that relied primarily on its gasoline engine. The plug-in Prius differs from the Obama Motors, Volt, in two important ways, the Lithium ion battery is smaller and less is demanded of it and the gasoline engine powers the car when needed. Unlike the Volt the Prius gasoline engine is not just a supplemental engine to generate electricity for the battery.
One little fly in the electric vehicle ointment – Coal-fired plants produce approximately 50% of the electricity in the United States and 82% of power generated carbon dioxide emissions. The situation is even worse in China, which will become the word leader in motorized vehicles over the next few decades. If electric vehicles are charged exclusively by coal-fired electricity they produce more greenhouse gases than a traditional gasoline-powered combustion engine car. Improvements in the internal combustion engine will only further increase this gap.
That is only one of the problems faced by electric vehicles as executives of Toyota have pointed out: After the batteries are depleted on a plug-in hybrid, they become a heavy “boat anchor” until the car can be recharged. The executives also expressed reservations about achieving the level of battery durability that could be guaranteed with a long-term warranty. Even the claim that the plug-in Prius can achieve 100-mpg has been called into question. The extra weight resulting from larger battery packs, means that brakes, springs and subframes also have to be bigger and tougher, adding more pounds. “We can achieve 50 to 55 miles per gallon, but after that, there are diminishing returns”, one executive observed.
Unlike the classic Toyota Prius where the electric motor is essentially a back-up engine to the main gasoline engine, the plug-in Prius which can operate solely on its electric motor for ranges of up to 40 miles on a single charge before turning to the full capable gasoline engine. The Volt, is designed to go 40 miles solely on electric power. After the Volt’s battery is exhausted, a small gasoline engine on board recharges the battery. Because 80 percent of U.S. motorists travel less than 40 miles on an average day, they should rarely have to start up their gas engines. The battery is charged at an ordinary household outlet, hence, plug-in. Voila, “zero emissions” from the Volt – That is if you ignore the source or electricity.
The rationale most often heard for the impractical $40,000 Volt is that it would be a learning experience that can be used for future commercially viable plug-in electric vehicles. Since the taxpayers will fork-over $50 billion to the former GM, one wonders how much additional money taxpayers will be willing to donate for the opportunity to learn how to make an uneconomical “green car” that may not reduce CO2 emissions. Some day a car company will have the battery technology to make an economically viable all electric plug-in but not today and certainly not a government run company such as Obama Motors. But, it is instructive to contemplate what a $40,000 purchase from Obama Motors will get you as opposed to a less expensive proven plug-in Prius.
And God forbid that plug-in vehicles should actually become successful; one can only imagine how quickly their “green” environmental proponents will turn on them. Just the thought of having to dispose of 10, 20, 100 or 200 million huge lithium ion battery packs will drive the Al Gore’s of the world loopy. Even 200 million is only a 10% penetration of the 2 billion 2020 motorized vehicle market.
One additional thought – Why use gasoline? The reduction in carbon dioxide emissions when natural gas is substituted for gasoline in an automobile is about 25-30%. Natural Gas only has five things going for it – it’s Clean, Cheap Plentiful, American and the technology already exists. While there are only about 130,000 Natural Gas Vehicles (NGV) in the U.S there are nearly 4.5 million of these alternative fuel vehicles worldwide, mainly in Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Italy, Germany and India. This is not a pie-in-the-sky idea, but one that is easily implemented.