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regfootball

A stupid question regarding hybrids and electric vehicles.

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So GM will be putting IC engines on the volt.

So it still periodically has to burn some gas. Nearly all our cars in this country burn gasoline.

But some pundits say we should all have electric cars.

So why don't we get rid of the fuel on cars and just use all the fuel we burn profusely every day in our cars, we should use that fuel to power electric power generators instead? and just plug all the cars in.

Would we use more or less fuel this way?

Edited by regfootball
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So GM will be putting IC engines on the volt.

So it still periodically has to burn some gas. Nearly all our cars in this country burn gasoline.

But some pundits say we should all have electric cars.

So why don't we get rid of the fuel on cars and just use all the fuel we burn profusely every day in our cars, we should use that fuel to power electric power generators instead? and just plug all the cars in.

Would we use more or less fuel this way?

More Fuel. As you are adding another loss mechanism (transmission lines) into the system which is already inefficient. Making electricity with hydro, nuke, etc is far more efficient than with petroleum liquids.

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Because if you take the IC engine out of the Volt it will only go 40 miles. The number of batteries it would take to extend the range to the distance the IC engine does would be far heavier and larger.

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Tesla claims 300 miles on a charge on their newer car. Not bad, but what is the range of a gasoline car? A little more on a tank of gas typically, and then you can refill the tank. With current infrastructure, ICE, hybrid, and E-REV vehicles essentially have an infinite range. For this reason alone we won't see gasoline leave the car for quite a long while.

Speaking in longer term "what could be" terms, but sticking to existing technology, battery swapping station infrastructure (along with battery standards across manufacturers) would allow for electric cars to have that same essential infinite range. Fast charging isn't fast enough for this purpose, when "fast" generally means 3-4 hours instead of 8-12. Few people will be willing to drive 300 miles then wait for 3+ hours. Even 30 minutes would probably be too long for most people.

Centralized electricity production is vastly more efficient than home generation. It is for this reason alone that hydrogen home generators will be little more than a bridge toward hydrogen tech, but that's another topic. Centralized electricity production also allows for diversity in energy sources. Coal, hydro, nuclear, wind, and solar can all supply a portion of our grid without funding terrorist nations (though last I knew we were still buying a lot of nuclear fission material from Russia, but more for anti-proliferation reasons than an actual need). Petroleum power stations are and will continue to be a small contributor toward the grid, but transferring our use from cars to power plants seems like missing an opportunity to step away from dependence on foreign oil, when so many other power generation means don't require it.

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The beauty of the Volt system is that some years down the road, they can replace the traditional ICE with... well just about anything else that spins efficiently.

ICE engines were designed so they provide power over a relatively broad RPM range, but do so at the sacrifice of efficiency. Generators, however, are most efficient when run at a steady speed. By taking the need for power over a broad RPM range out of the equation, you then can concentrate on making the engine extremely efficient at a set RPM.

Thinking about this in terms of propulsion technology and alternative fuels; The next logical set for the Volt would be a bio fueled diesel. Diesels have a lot of power, but tend to keep that power to a much narrower rpm band. After that, I could see the Wankle being used for it's high RPM ability, inherent smoothness, high specific output and a narrower power band at a relatively high rpm

After that you get to the turbine and then all hell breaks loose. You can burn just about any flammable liquid you want to power a turbine. You can even take the exhaust heat from that and use it to spin a second turbine using steam. This part is interesting in regards to efficiency because Doble steam cars were get 15mpg in 5,000+lb cars that could do 0-60 in ten seconds in 1923.... imagine what they could do today.

The reason we don't.... .and won't... have all electric cars is the portability of electricity. Toting around a 15 gallon container of some flammable liquid is far more convenient and at this point lighter in weight.

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i guess i meant why not power our electric generation plants with fuel. then, we eliminate the need to manufacture and produce IC engines, gas tanks, etc. in cars, saving lots of resources too. we could potentially lighten our vehicles too to really make them more efficient.

of course, the notion of home generators is intriguing if combined with solar assist and stuff. food for thought. but then you would have to deliver fuel which is inefficient. if we did not have gas stations, we could reclaim the land for other use and not spend so much resources on making fuel lines and tanks.

my angle here is if the car itself can be simplified, and the distribution of the energy and the materials produce to make it work can be reduced.....

Edited by regfootball
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i guess i meant why not power our electric generation plants with fuel. then, we eliminate the need to manufacture and produce IC engines, gas tanks, etc. in cars, saving lots of resources too. we could potentially lighten our vehicles too to really make them more efficient.

of course, the notion of home generators is intriguing if combined with solar assist and stuff. food for thought. but then you would have to deliver fuel which is inefficient. if we did not have gas stations, we could reclaim the land for other use and not spend so much resources on making fuel lines and tanks.

my angle here is if the car itself can be simplified, and the distribution of the energy and the materials produce to make it work can be reduced.....

But your point still overlooks the range issue. You can't reclaim gas station land if cars are all electric, unless people no longer venture more than 150 miles from home. Until there is a vehicle with a range of something along the lines of ten thousand miles without a recharge (or whatever), there will be a need for infrastructure.

We also already addressed powering electric generation with fuel - it's far from the best option, it's not really even a mediocre one in the world of electricity generation. Home generation of electricity is so scaled down in terms of wind, or fossil fuel based generation that the inefficiency is astounding. The craze may be for people to put up power generating windmills, etc and try to be "off the grid", or supplement their power, but if everyone in the country did that, we would have wasted so much money it would be terrible. It would be comparible to powering a semi tractor by linking together a bunch of 3hp briggs & straton engines until we had enough power to pull a trailer. Could it work? Sure, but it would be such a waste of resources, both in creating the powertrain, and in operating it. Even with wind, which has no operating expense other than maintenance, would waste a lot of resources just in the building of a bunch of tiny wind turbines if every home had one.

In general, we can keep looking forward to the day when batteries have such a great range that we rarely have to charge away from home, that our cars don't support a battery swap station on every 3rd corner, but maybe 1/5 of that. Then we can see some gains in land use, etc.

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yeah, true. batteries are the key.

but how much fuel do we use in the US each year? like 2 billion gallons? i wonder how much electricity we could make with that.

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The craze may be for people to put up power generating windmills, etc and try to be "off the grid", or supplement their power, but if everyone in the country did that, we would have wasted so much money it would be terrible.

I have to disagree here. What you are overlooking is distributed power generation. Rather than have all of the generation capacity concentrated in a few small places you can spread out that power generation over a much broader area. Additionally the infrustructure required to distribute the electricity would be substantially smaller since most homes could generate most of what they needed for themselves. You have the added benefit of reduced transmission/transformer losses.

Personally, I don't think our current grid could handle the load of everyone switching over to plug in EVs. The grid is borderline meltdown as it is without that extra load. Perversely, our current economic conditions have reduced over all consumption so as to be able to hold off on grid upgrades just....a... little.... longer..... and as a country we are working dilligently to ignore that lurking problem.

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I have to disagree here. What you are overlooking is distributed power generation. Rather than have all of the generation capacity concentrated in a few small places you can spread out that power generation over a much broader area. Additionally the infrustructure required to distribute the electricity would be substantially smaller since most homes could generate most of what they needed for themselves. You have the added benefit of reduced transmission/transformer losses.

Are you talking about smaller plants spread around the country or larger plants which yet dispersed can be "concentrated" because of being fewer in number?

If former is the case, while true, due to economy of scales it is cheaper to concentrate having bigger power plants in fewer locations rather having smaller power plants in lot of locations. Because:

  • The amount of engineering, design involved in small or big plants is almost the same. What is different is probably adding more drawings, designs for larger capacity. But overall the plan drawings will have same basic design effort.
  • The regulatory process and time required for a small or a large plant is the same. In fact having smaller plants in different locations than a bigger one in one location would mean dealing with regulatory authorities from different areas, which may have different laws, thus causing different design and permit modifications.
  • Having centralized plants helps making universal grid easy and cheap rather than creating a cluster of cables intersecting each other from smaller plants.
Personally, I don't think our current grid could handle the load of everyone switching over to plug in EVs. The grid is borderline meltdown as it is without that extra load. Perversely, our current economic conditions have reduced over all consumption so as to be able to hold off on grid upgrades just....a... little.... longer..... and as a country we are working dilligently to ignore that lurking problem.

Yes, infrastructure is a serious problem in this country, which has been constantly overlooked. Everything was almost pushed to threshold by the boom and this current situation gave infrastructure a breathing room.

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Are you talking about smaller plants spread around the country or larger plants which yet dispersed can be "concentrated" because of being fewer in number?

I'm talking about residential solar and wind.

It costs about $10 billion dollars to build a nuclear power plant that powers about 100,000 homes.

If it costs $20,000 to install solar panels on a house (high end), then you could install panels on 500,000 homes for the same price as a single nuke plant. At the same time, you've dispersed the grid and reduced the overall load on the grid since those homes need less outside power.

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I'm talking about residential solar and wind.

It costs about $10 billion dollars to build a nuclear power plant that powers about 100,000 homes.

If it costs $20,000 to install solar panels on a house (high end), then you could install panels on 500,000 homes for the same price as a single nuke plant. At the same time, you've dispersed the grid and reduced the overall load on the grid since those homes need less outside power.

What power generation rates are you talking about for the nuclear plant and the solar panels you are using in your example? The unit price consumption of a solar panel plant comes close to 15c/kilowatt hour, which is much more expensive than about 7c/kilowatt hour for a coal plant (9-10c/kilowatt hour for nukes) and that is after federal and local subsidies and not counting infrastructure.

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$10,000,000,000 is the construction costs of a 1gwatt nuke plant.

A 1 gwatt nuke will power about 100,000 homes @ 10kwatt each.

The average residential solar installation costs about $20,000.

10,000,000,000 / 20,000 = 500,000 homes for the same money as one nuke plant.

Now, I'm not saying that those homes will be off the grid. But they can substantially supplement existing generation capacity. These are just construction costs.

What isn't factored into the cost of coal is environmental damage.

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$10,000,000,000 is the construction costs of a 1gwatt nuke plant.

A 1 gwatt nuke will power about 100,000 homes @ 10kwatt each.

The average residential solar installation costs about $20,000.

10,000,000,000 / 20,000 = 500,000 homes for the same money as one nuke plant.

Now, I'm not saying that those homes will be off the grid. But they can substantially supplement existing generation capacity. These are just construction costs.

What isn't factored into the cost of coal is environmental damage.

For time being let us forget coal as once CC hit it will be more expensive.

What is the wattage of the $20,000 solar system? It is not going to be 10kwatts - more like 1-2 KW. Besides that average lifetime of solar panels is 20 years while nuke plants are estimated to be 75 years. Don't get me wrong, you know my affinity about solar energy. But just like you said about ICE, I cannot see solar panels at around 25% efficiency completely offsetting a nuke plant with efficiency close to 65% any time soon. Supplement yes, offset no. We need large plants and small house plants too.

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For time being let us forget coal as once CC hit it will be more expensive.

What is the wattage of the $20,000 solar system? It is not going to be 10kwatts - more like 1-2 KW. Besides that average lifetime of solar panels is 20 years while nuke plants are estimated to be 75 years. Don't get me wrong, you know my affinity about solar energy. But just like you said about ICE, I cannot see solar panels at around 25% efficiency completely offsetting a nuke plant with efficiency close to 65% any time soon. Supplement yes, offset no. We need large plants and small house plants too.

3kw with current tech. If you take that as average, that works out to about 1.5gwatt.

Again, I'm not suggesting that solar will replace the need for new, traditional, generation capacity, but it will reduce the need for it.

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3kw with current tech. If you take that as average, that works out to about 1.5gwatt.

Again, I'm not suggesting that solar will replace the need for new, traditional, generation capacity, but it will reduce the need for it.

Case closed. :)

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here is my point:

-take the cost and material required to build a single large commercial wind turbine

-build as many personal wind turbines as you can with that material/cost

I bet money the power generation of those personal turbines added together doesn't compare to that of the large scale. On top of that, they aren't likely to last as long, and they will cost more to maintain/repair.

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So by my estimates we use 7 billion gallons of gas each year. Just curious if we even used half of that to make electricity if we could get more mileage out of our cars that way.

i know its a lot of practicality issues. I am just thinking, if in the end if we can actually produce more electricity burning that gas to make it. since we're intent on burning it anyways.

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So by my estimates we use 7 billion gallons of gas each year. Just curious if we even used half of that to make electricity if we could get more mileage out of our cars that way.

i know its a lot of practicality issues. I am just thinking, if in the end if we can actually produce more electricity burning that gas to make it. since we're intent on burning it anyways.

If we ignore all the practicality and infrastructure issues, yes, we would almost certainly get more miles per gallon if those gallons were burned at a centralized power plant and the energy were used to power electric cars. It's a super oversimplified way of looking at things, and the details ruin the idea, but yes, we would get more miles.

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If we ignore all the practicality and infrastructure issues, yes, we would almost certainly get more miles per gallon if those gallons were burned at a centralized power plant and the energy were used to power electric cars. It's a super oversimplified way of looking at things, and the details ruin the idea, but yes, we would get more miles.

well i'm glad someone acknowledged that. that's about all my thoughts produced.

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