Monday, April 20, 2009

The Fast Lane to the Future with Electricity

The Project P.U.M.A. EWeek has up a roundup of electric, hybrid or incredibly fuel efficient cars that will be shown at the 2009 New York Auto Show and, presumably, at many auto shows around the country over the next year.

You know what the first one will be:

The third-generation Prius hybrid vehicle has more "oomph" under the hood than previous iterations, with an expanded 1.8-liter engine, 160 hp and roughly 50 miles per gallon for combined city/highway driving.

But how about:

The Mini E is powered by a 150 kw (201 hp) electric motor fed by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The car has a range of 156 miles "under ideal conditions," and 104 miles "under normal conditions." The BMW Group’s public field trial will use 500 cars; actual mass production, however, could be a long time away.

Or:

The Karma’s sleek chassis moves from Point A to B utilizing a hybrid "Q Drive," featuring a gasoline engine that powers a generator that charges a lithium-ion battery that powers the electric motor that drives the rear wheels. The car uses its electric motor for the first 50 miles of driving; after that, it operates as a regular hybrid vehicle.

Also on view: The Scion IQ, the Chevy Equinox, the Cadillac Escalade, and the Cadillac Converj. We feel sorry for the American car companies: struggling with survival while upheaval in the general car market becomes imminent can’t be easy. And the technology is still so new, getting the public onboard may be an uphill struggle.

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And where’s the nuclear industry in all this, if anywhere?

“Clean” electric cars are a shill for the nuclear power industry. There is no dirtier or more foolhardy source of energy than nuclear.

So there you go.

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Well, actually, there’s a fair amount of debate of how to absorb a huge new need for electricity within the current system.

The BBC lays out the issue nicely:

In the future, more of the UK's electricity is expected to come from nuclear power stations or from alternative energy sources such as wind or wave power. Both produce energy when they can rather than when consumers want it.

Nuclear power stations are less able than, say, coal fired power stations to adjust production to meet demand peaks during the day and troughs at night. Similarly, wind and wave power will produce a lot of electricity during a stormy night, regardless of whether or not consumers and companies want it.

Electricity generated at night when nobody wants it must either be stored or it will be lost. If the UK as a nation had a fleet of these cars being charged overnight, then the power industry's income from drivers would come on top of the income it currently gets from homes and companies.

Of course, a lot of new nuclear plants will replace older nuclear plants, though generally producing more electricity into the bargain. We’ll let the wind and solar folks do their own “shilling,” but the overall idea is to power “green” cars with “green” energy.

So, really, there you go.

We didn’t want to take away from EWeek’s slide show, so here’s the Chevy-Segway Puma. The name is an acronym: Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility vehicle. Frankly, that just seems a stack of words to fit puma, but that’s how it works sometimes. See here for more, including more pictures and videos. We expect it’ll be at the auto show.

6 comments:

Rod Adams said...

Why do you believe that the BBC "lays out the issues nicely" with the following statement?

In the future, more of the UK's electricity is expected to come from nuclear power stations or from alternative energy sources such as wind or wave power. Both produce energy when they can rather than when consumers want it.
Nuclear power stations are less able than, say, coal fired power stations to adjust production to meet demand peaks during the day and troughs at night.
If that were true, how can submarines and aircraft carriers operate at widely and rapidly varying speeds.

Nuclear fission power is extremely responsive, but large, central station nuclear plants designed without a desire for load following are not. Neither are supercritical coal fired power plants or super efficient combined cycle gas turbines.

Unlike solar and wind power - whose output is controlled by the weather - nuclear fission power is under the control of human operators and designers. We can CHOOSE how and when to produce the power we need. If we ever did conquer storage, the greatest beneficiary would be a power source that can fill up the storage on demand, not one that may or may not have power available during the lulls in final demand.

Rod Adams
Publisher, Atomic Insights

Anonymous said...

What's the source of the notion that nuclear units are "less able" to load follow?? They were designed to load follow and they can do so nicely. The utilities dont run them that way for one reason only - they are the cheapest source generating, and so they would be the last to take off.

JD said...

They were designed to load follow and they can do so nicely. The utilities dont run them that way for one reason only - they are the cheapest source generating, and so they would be the last to take off.This, and the Xenon spatial oscillations that can be induced during load following.

Anonymous said...

"This, and the Xenon spatial oscillations that can be induced during load following."

Xenon transients are very well understood, predictable, and accounted for in the design of the rod control system and the boration/dilution controls. Design basis was a daily load cycle. See for example the CE Sys80 SAR (CESSAR). Not used in practice, because there is no reason to throttle back on the output of the cheapest marginal MW-hr.

autostry said...

If UK plans to use nuclear, wave and wind power, they need to come up with a device that would store all of that generated energy for future use. But wouldn't the stored energy be more dangerous?

GRLCowan said...

"But wouldn't the stored energy be more dangerous?"

More dangerous than what?

It is when combustion potential energy is most concentrated that it is safest.


(How fire can be domesticated)