Tag Archives: Fuel

Driving to a better place

I read about Shai Agassi’s plans for electric cars in Wired last summer and while it is high profile, with big name partners including Nissan Renault, I just wondered whether it was another software millionaire playing with cars (see Tesla as exhibit A). His plans are set out in more detail at betterplace.com , including a high minded vision:

  • A world living free from oil.
  • A planet healing and thriving.
  • And our environment and economy brought back into balance with each other.

The video of his speech is found on TED and it is worth watching for the undoubted enthusiasm – oil free nations such as Israel and Denmark by 2020 is the dream – I am still just a bit cynical (surprise). Key aims are affordable and convenient, no new science, using existing battery tech. Charging points everywhere so you can always charge and easy battery swaps, like gas stations.  All good in theory…

What is interesting is the willingness to go with an open source, but standards based infrastructure approach. A lot of the solutions being supported by programmes such as the UK’s Technology Strategy Board  Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Project will play into the hands of monopoly suppliers.

BTW Wired are launching a new UK print version this month – how brave is that? I remember the short lived Wired UK from 1995, but then I was the only subscriber 🙂

MotoGP could be exciting once more

Amongst my reading of learned journals  – “Coach and Bus Weekly” , “Treehugger Monthly”, “Economics World”, “Which Behaviour” – I await the delivery of Performance Bike  magazine each month with great anticipation. They tell me that the new Suzuki GSXR 1000  (“The ultimate evolution of the GSX-R family. Born to be on the track.”) beats the Honda Fireblade (“Stronger Looks. Sharper Performance. Astoundingly Responsive Control.” ) by 0.1 secs. in perfect conditions on a test track. Great.

In Bike magazine, amidst the 600cc race replica shootouts and after a foray into alternative fuels last year ( a Triumph 675 fuelled by apples!) Rupert Paul writes this month about how we could make racing fun again and get great bikes for the next three generations. After describing his vision of the 2016 Estoril GP, with a wide range of competing fuels – methanol, bio-ethanol, batteries, LPG, solar, fuel cell, etc. – he says:

“this is what racing could be like – a feast of competing technologies not seen since the 1920s. All it would take is one rule: to limit every machine to a fixed amount of start-line energy” 

This view of the near future is prompted by a paper by Turner and Pearson of Lotus Engineering, home of the Exige 270E Tri-fuel. They recognise that current racing regs, particularly F1, do not encourage fuel savings or alt tech (or social responsibility). If racing really does improve the breed and we get trickle-down then let it lead the charge to new technology. 

The TTXGP at 2009’s Isle of Man TT should be the first opportunity to test the theory… hopefully I will be there.

The paper, “The Application of Energy-Based Fuel Formulae to Increase the Efficiency Relevance and Reduce the CO2 Emissions of Motor Sport”, is available from SAE.

Why stop at racing – if all new vehicles had a inception and lifetime energy limit, based on a common megajoule measure, then manufacturers would rethink their fuel strategies pretty quick.

Eco transport – before the crash

Ah, yes, time for the reviews of the year, and in our specialist area how does transport – general, green, any mode – fare in the analysis, especially in the economic context where eco innovation is:

  1. Our saviour, or
  2. Too expensive

The US transport top ten trends from Inhabitat includes the death of the SUV, green cars saving the industry, high performance sports cars saving the planet , (pedal) bikes are cool, etc. The view from over there suggests some naivety about what we achieve in Europe, however. Conclusions for 09: more mass transit and greener cars – thanks, I could have guessed that. Although for mainstream US of A that may be still too radical.

And imagine my disappointment when the electric  GM Chevrolet Volt concept car of 2007:

became the boring pre production car shown in 2008 (first deliveries in 2010, kids):

I was not the only one to be disappointed

But before I pour self righteous scorn on my brothers across the sea what have we identified as worthy of mention in the UK and Europe? What Car votes a turbo diesel Ford Focus as its green car of 2008 and Toyota for its technology. The Eden Project and the Co-op sponsored the sexy green car show in summer 2008. ..and er, that’s it, apart from a few comments on the “fuel crisis” in the review of the year in mags such as New Scientist.

PS thanks to Oxtran to alerting me to “Traffic Jam”, the review of the last 10 years of sustainable transport  – which ended up on my xmas shopping list (sad but true).

Fuel prices – the HP solution

It would be way too easy to comment on the fuel price “crisis” as hysterically reported in the UK press this week, but…

Are we going to see repositioning of car prices, especially for used cars, on the basis of fuel economy or as in previous petrol price panics will we forget the real cost of travel by car pretty quick, accepting the base level cost change. Certainly on nearly life expired cars, which depreciate less than £1000 a year (i.e. my 9 year old Volkswagen, worth £1,500, with 140k on the clocks) the annual fuel bill is the biggest expense – so do I change it to a more fuel efficient car to reduce the annual operating cost?

Its certainly too early to see an impact on the business of promoting sustainable transport alternatives. 

As I still pay £30 to replace the ink cartridges on my £35 printer perhaps we could see a new disposable car model develop or is there a flaw in this analogy?

[PS watching MotoGP from Mugello while blogging this – oh, the irony]