Monday, June 07, 2021

Electric Cars

 Eaton Rapids Joe has a post up about electric cars.  It's a good read, and while not comprehensive, it highlights the problems we're going to have when we finally make the switch from gasoline to electric. The problems with that switch are legion.

It's bad enough that the batteries are expensive, and will surely wear out.  They use rare-earth minerals that are hard to dispose of, and the supply chain is simply not set up to deliver the amounts of raw materials and finished batteries that the market will demand.  On the other side of the supply chain is the question.  Many experts tell us that we will have to increase the capacity of our electric grid to deliver the kilowatts that the widespread use of electric cars will demand.

The short answer is "much more of everything".

These challenges are not insurmountable, and eventually we'll get there, if the market demands it.   My hope is that the next big leap will come, not from a big corporation, but from some dreamer tinkering in his garage.  Someone who has an inspiration and the perseverance to fail a thousand times before he finally gets it right.

The most common, most vital substance on this earth is water, and it is composed of two elements with high energy potential.  Oxygen and hydrogen.   My grandfather tinkered for years on an engine that would run on the hydrogen and oxygen generated from a bank of batteries.  He could make it run, but he could never generate enough power to make it pull itself.  He finally abandoned the project.  But, it worked, if not in the fashion he wanted it to work.  

We may get to electric cars one of these days, or we might have a tinkerer who has an "Ah-ha" moment and leads us in an entirely new direction.  Somewhere, someplace, and at some time, a Dr. Brown will invent a Mr. Fusion.  Then, we'll be off and running.


Termite said...

Invent a battery that weighs 6 lbs and can store 36 kw/hrs of energy. That's roughly the equal to a gallon of gasoline.

You'll be a billionaire very shortly.

Glypto Dropem said...

And can be fully charged in less than 5 minutes.

I have a whole list of items that are no compromise must have or do before I ever consider an EV. None of them conform with the present laws of physics.

Xoph said...

As someone who used to work with it and teach hydrogen safety it is scary stuff. The plan was the windmills would dump all their extra power into electrolyzing water into hydrogen for clean power. Safe distribution of hydrogen is an issue most especially refueling your vehicle. Hydrogen is so small it always leaks (good news it floats upwards at 23 meters/sec) but the longer your distribution line the more you will lose. It takes .13 joules (if memory serves) to ignite, a static spark has more than enough energy. It has a wide explosive limit range, 4%-73%. It can auto-ignite by expansion (opposite of ideal gas law I know, hydrogen is very special). Hydrogen is something you use when there is no other choice.

A high capacity battery that is practical won't come out of someone's garage, high tech labs aren't getting it done. If it was simple, it would have been done by now. The problem most especially will be manufacturing in quantity to the necessary quality. The theory requires consistency and purity at the atomic level.

I used to work in the power industry. My personal opinion follows.

If you want to know where the cheapest and most reliable power in the world is, it is the US. We are of course working to change that. Manufacturing in the US is actually cheaper than anywhere else in the world for energy intensive manufacturing, it overcomes the labor cost. We are of course working to change that. Nuclear power can deliver safe and economical power but we haven't really updated our technology for the last 30 years (I'm talking about building new plants). We haven't dealt with waste disposal. Government sites (Hannaford and Savannah River) could not even follow their own regulations. Fossil fuels emit pollutants (CO2 is plant food, its the other things that are problems. Water vapor is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2)

In short, our system is made up of the cheapest and most robust solutions. We should experiment and work to develop the next generation before we need it but none of those solutions are ready for prime time. The one source of cheap power we are ignoring is nuclear (worth a whole rant all on its own). Windmills are very expensive to maintain and have many other drawbacks. Solar is the same. Hydro is developed in the US and we have gotten what we will get.

First world countries need cheap and reliable power or they are no longer first world. Practical choices are nuclear, coal or gas.

Termite said...

Water vapor is a MUCH more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2)


And there's very little humans can do to limit atmospheric water vapor. Ditto all the greenhouse gases that volcanoes pump out every years.

Few days ago on another forum, a poster said we need to quickly reduce the earth's human population by half, and then probably half again.

I posted: "You should lead by example. I can FedEx you some Temik to swallow, give me your mailing address."
He stopped posting....