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www.hypercar.com They were interviewing Amory Lovins on NPR recently and he's affiliated with the development of the hypercar. Some of the high points---fuel cell powerplant, carbon fiber construction, 99mpg equivalent, stationwagon/suv style. KEWL!

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2002


Very cool - I'd definitely take one! Although I'd probably have to wait to buy a used one as the 40,000 to 50,000 dollar price range is a *little* steep for me.

Thanks for posting this, John. I hope Hypercar Inc. is successful in getting them built to the parameters they've set. It's a pretty ambitious endeavor...

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2002

I like!!!! Hope they HURRY!!!!

By the way Joy, if your reading this, tell us how your hybrid is working out. Any problems since you last told us about it? I ask everyone I see driving one in town and they all seem to love em!...Kirk

-- Anonymous, January 05, 2002

Joy got a hybrid? When? What kind? I musta missed that one.

-- Anonymous, January 06, 2002

I'm too lazy to find the old thread, so I'll just tell ya, John. I got a Toyota Prius, hereafter known as Holly, as I don't like "Prius" (dopey name). Got her nearly a year ago. I have an older mini-van, which I kept for hauling around larger loads. The idea was to have Holly for most my "running around" etc. THAT hasn't worked out quite that way, as I acquired a large dog (German Shepherd) who will not lie down on command. So if I want to take her with me, we have to go in the van. If she stood on the back seat in Holly, I would not be able to see anything!

Anyway, I drive Holly whenever possible. She isn't very snappy on the pickup, and since I keep the display set on the mileage screen, I am acutely aware of the rotten mpg you get while accelerating (so I don't accelerate as hard as I am used to doing). I am also acutely aware of how small this car is and how vulnerable I am to all the large vehicles (usually SUV's and pickups) looming about 3 feet off my back bumper -- probably because I am not accelerating fast enough to suit them, the scum. This keeps me accelerating harder/faster than I would do if there were no one behind me.

I was getting an overall mileage of about 45 mpg, but that has dropped to about 35. I'm not sure why that is. I haven't spent a lot of time on longer trips lately, and the really short ones seem to get worse mileage. I am also running the heater more, and I notice that it takes the car longer to warm up (of course). So I think those factors are taking their toll on my gas mileage. But I didn't get her until the end of February and the weather was warming up then, so I am waiting to see if the mileage improves again when it gets warmer. We really haven't had any snow to plow through, so I can't comment on that!

The really odd thing is that everything seems to be uphill -- both ways. I'm always looking for opportunities to coast, and there seem to be darn few of them. Very weird. Also, almost all stop signs or lights seem to be at the bottom of the hill, so you have to stop and then accelerate UP the hill. There may be some good reason for this, but I don't know what it is!

It's still a better gas mileage than the mini-van gets! I did encounter someone with a Toyota Echo, which looks quite similar to the Prius. I asked her what kind of gas mileage she was getting, and she said about 38 mpg. Not bad! But that was back in warm weather as well. However, the electric motor that 'gets you going' from a dead stop is supposed to also cut down on pollution.

Oh geez, there is just now a report on the local news that sales of pickups as outstripped cars. 50% of the vehicles are pickups they say (I suppose, not counting semis, buses, etc.)!

-- Anonymous, January 06, 2002

Here's an article from this morning's straight press:

GM Calls Fuel Cells 'Holy Grail' DETROIT (AP) -- Automobile industry experts call it ``the holy grail'' -- a new type of fuel that would make gasoline obsolete and replace car fumes with a harmless mist.

But even with the partnership announced between the federal government and automakers to develop fuel cells that breath hydrogen, it could be a long time before drivers can trade in their gas guzzlers for cars that run on the new technology.

Fuel cells, first used by NASA in the space program, create electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the only emission is water vapor.

Hydrogen is an extremely flammable gas, however, requiring heavy tanks that can withstand collisions. The industry is working to develop lighter tanks that also are crash-worthy.

The alternative to hydrogen is more easily available fuels, such as gasoline, methanol, propane or natural gas. But using those fuels in the cells requires an extra piece of equipment called a reformer to extract hydrogen from them, adding heat, cost and weight. The vehicles produce some polluting emissions, although to a lesser extent than internal combustion engines.

The other major challenge to what automakers call ``a hydrogen society'' is a lack of a refueling infrastructure, or hydrogen filling stations.

One of the goals of the partnership announced at the North American International Auto Show last week, called Freedom CAR, is to develop such an infrastructure

``Because the government is going to focus on hydrogen as the ultimate fuel, the debate over whether we use gasoline, methanol or hydrogen becomes less important,'' said Thaddeus Malesh, an expert on fuel cell technology with the market research firm J.D. Power and Associates. ``They can let the manufacturers focus on using hydrogen, which is the cleanest and most effective fuel.''

The fuel cell partnership, announced by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, replaces a Clinton administration program to develop high- mileage vehicles.

``If this works this is the holy grail, this is the breakthrough,'' GM president and CEO Rick Wagoner told an industry conference Monday. ``We've done enough work, we think there are risks, and the payoff is not just for the automotive OEM's (original equipment manufacturers), it's the whole economy.''

Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club hail the advent of fuel cells. But they are skeptical of the motives of Freedom CAR, believing it is just a way to stall legislation that would raise fuel economy standards, called CAFE, corporate average fuel economy.

``Now that they're coming out with Freedom CAR, they say, `Don't raise CAFE now, wait 20 years,''' said Sierra Club Washington representative Ann Mesnikoff. ``The partnership makes no pledge to make or sell anything to the American public.''

One reason the automakers cite for the delay in mass producing fuel cell vehicles is the cost.

When the first prototype fuel cell vehicles were shown in the late 1990s, the automakers estimated the engines would cost roughly 100 times more than an internal combustion engine.

Malesh says that cost has been cut 90 percent since then, but is still too expensive for the mass market.

GM chairman Jack Smith says having the government's vast research capabilities involved in fuel cell research could help bring the price down even further.

``It's like night vision in a car,'' he said. ``The vision system came from the M1 battle tank, but that system cost $20,000. We had to get the cost down to $1,500 a vehicle.''

Aside from the lack of an infrastructure and high cost, not enough is known about how fuel cell vehicles will operate in real world situations, says Ballard Power Systems Inc. chairman and CEO Firoz Rasul. Ballard produces fuel cells for Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG.

Rasul says fuel cell vehicles will be put through real life applications beginning next year in California in response to that state's zero emission regulations.

``The program will confirm how they operate and will look at consumer reaction,'' Rasul said.

DaimlerChrysler introduced a fuel cell minivan last month called the Natrium that runs on arguably the cleanest fuel -- sodium boro- hydride, a chemical compound related to borax, which is used in laundry soap.

At the North American International Auto Show now under way in Detroit, GM is exhibiting a fuel cell vehicle it calls the Autonomy.

The car's chassis is a computer docking station of sorts. Only 6 inches thick, four small fuel cell motors -- instead of one large engine -- each power one wheel.

Mechanical braking and steering systems are replaced by those operated electrically. GM says Autonomy is its idea of ``reinventing the automobile'' for the 2020 timeframe.

``We created a compelling concept to exploit the technology and create many reasons why customers would want to buy this vehicle,'' said Chris Boroni-Bird, a leader in GM's fuel cell program.

``We want to create a pull and a demand for this technology,'' he said.

Pulling the public away from its long-honed habit of pumping petrol may prove to be almost as daunting as selling it on the technology.

``One hundred years of the internal combustion engine is hard to overcome,'' said Malesh. ``It's the gold standard by which you measure everything: cost, service, availability and performance.''

But Ballard's Rasul called Freedom CAR an ``assertive'' action that will move more automakers toward building fuel cell vehicles.

``I see the federal position one of setting a long term strategic policy and funding,'' Rasul said.

Each of the U.S. automakers plans to produce limited numbers of fuel cell vehicles, mostly powered with gasoline or natural gas, in the next year or so, but 2010 is still the soonest any of them will estimate hydrogen powered fuel cell vehicles could be available.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2002


This kind of "reporting" INFURIATES me!
(can you tell I'm pissed?)

...a new type of fuel that would make gasoline obsolete and replace car fumes with a harmless mist.

If pure hydrogen is used as a fuel, the only emission is water vapor.

The alternative to hydrogen is more easily available fuels, such as gasoline, methanol, propane or natural gas. But using those fuels in the cells requires an extra piece of equipment called a reformer to extract hydrogen from them, adding heat, cost and weight. The vehicles produce some polluting emissions, although to a lesser extent than internal combustion engines.

This is like comparing apples to oranges. Hydrogen is considered an energy "carrier" instead of an energy "source" like petroleum. Hydrogen has to be liberated from water before we can use it as a "fuel" (running an electric current through water is probably the most recognized way of doing this). My question to this "reporter" is: What type of energy are you going to use to "make" the hydrogen? You can't pump it out of the ground like petroleum. We get a FAR bigger energy return right now out of petroleum and gas than we would out of hydrogen from electrolysis (I don't even think you get 1 for 1 out of electrolysis - 2nd Law of Thermodynamics at work).

It makes FAR more economic (and environmental) sense to use gas and petroleum right now for fuel cells. If some process becomes available to cheaply liberate hydrogen for use as a fuel (hydrogen from algae is one *possible* route) at some time in the future then that would be great. But right now it's an absolute waste of energy to do so - unless you want to build lots of nuclear power plants to make it at night while they're off peak. That *would* work but the anti-nuke folks would have a coronary - thus I don't view that as an option.

I wish more folks (especially these "reporters") would read Walter Youngquist's book: Geodestinies: The Inevitable Control of Earth Resources over Nations and Individuals. They wouldn't look at our energy situation the same after reading it...

The BIG hurdle over the coming decades will be to find an *effective* (ie. sustainable and economical) way to liberate LOTS of hydrogen to replace petroleum's eventual demise. Anything else is an excersise in mental masturbation, IMO.

BTW EM, this rant was not directed at you. I just find this kind of "reporting" to be highly irresponsible. Not to mention that this cold I have has made me into a huge grump with a short temper... :-/

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2002

It's ok, Grumpy, no offense taken! (Didn't I TELL you to take your colloidal silver?!)

I know very little about this stuff actually, at least as far as the scientific intricasies go, so I thought this article would spawn some conversation, so I can learn. Thanks for the book reference; I need little encouragement to get a new book!

Hugs to you Jimbo with your big bad nasty cold!

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2002

It's ok, Grumpy, no offense taken! (Didn't I TELL you to take your colloidal silver?!)

Yes, you did say that. I'm willing to try quite a few "alternative" treatments for various ills but the colloidal thing *really* has me paranoid. I think I'll let others be guinea pigs for the time being. If, several years down the road, we haven't heard of people turning blue from colloidal, I may THEN give it a try. :-)

Back to hydrogen. I found a book at Amazon that looks interesting: Tomorrow's Energy by Peter Hoffmann.

Here's a reader's review on the book:

Peter Hoffmann is the editor and publisher of "The Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Letter", and this book focuses on the myriad uses of fuel cells, in great detail. But other uses of hydrogen are covered to some extent also. Topics discussed are automotive, utility, food production, home heating, hydrogen production, and many others. Hoffman notes in this volume time and again that hydrogen is an energy carrier, like electricity, and not an energy source, so it must be produced via energy sources such as coal, wind, solar, and nuclear, among others. Hoffmann does a very good job in this area, and the generation of greenhouse gasses is a central theme of this book, basically how we can generate hydrogen with little or no carbon dioxide buildup. As you may know, the combustion of hydrogen with oxygen only produces water. Safety of hydrogen use is another area extensively covered. The book begins with Hoffmann giving a history of hydrogen use and research over the past 200 years or so, right up to the present time, politics having an effect on our energy future also, of course. Senator Tom Harkin gives readers a very good foreward to the book.

The final chapter of the book attempts to extrapolate the future use of hydrogen. Various experts are quoted by Hoffmann as to what we may expect in the decades ahead with regards to hydrogen use. Hoffmann does himself say that the existing energy infrastructure may be difficult to replace due to the economic inertia of change, and many decades may be required, in the United States it's vast coal reserves may preclude widespread hydrogen use idefinitely. Overall, the volume is a good introduction to energy if sometimes a little short on the science. At the back of the book there are extensive notes with references to further reading for those desiring to do so.

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2002

Top Geologist Foresees End of Petroleum Era

-- Anonymous, January 19, 2002

Read the article (have read similar before too). Say the time line is off, that it's three times the longest time postulate here. That would be 21 years. In 21 years, I will be 70 years old, and I don't want to be dealing with that sort of situation in my elderly years!

My (still hazy) plan is to figure out where I should be "planted", then build (have built, actually) an energy-efficient dwelling, heated by geosource (ground heat). Since the heat pump that runs such a thing needs electricity, I would need solar panels or a wind turbine (or water turbine, but that is much more unlikely).

Say I bet I never told you folks about one of the workshops I attended at the MREA fair this past June. The gentleman who presented it is working on developing a wind turbine that can be used in cities and low-wind areas. I am not good on technical details, but I remember that instead of a "propeller" mounted on a tower, this was a long horizontal set-up. I think the turbines were called "squirrel cage" type, but I'm not sure. I know there was screening over it to keep out birds and insects. There were only drawings and photos of prototypes, and he wasn't forthcoming with a LOT of details, since he is trying to develop this and wants to patent it. I hope he is successful and keeps coming to the fairs so that I can keep track of what's going on.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2002

My (still hazy) plan is to figure out where I should be "planted", then build (have built, actually) an energy-efficient dwelling...

Speaking of energy-efficient homes, does anybody know of any URL's, books, magazines, etc., on house plans for building super energy- efficient homes?

So far I've found one website on EF home styles: Enertia® Building Systems"Homes" Page. It looks interesting but I wonder how well it would work here in southern MN (although the website *does* show on of these homes being built near Green Bay, WI).

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2002

One of the sponsors of MREA is Gimme Shelter. They specialize in energy efficient homes. Mark Klein, one of the gimme shelter owners, is a regular speaker at MREA.

-- Anonymous, January 20, 2002

I ditto John's answer. I've been to their workshop. Very interesting and informative. Jim, you're just gonna HAVE to come to the fair this year! ;-) :-P

-- Anonymous, January 21, 2002

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