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Hydrogen vs. Ethanol Cars

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posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 11:13 AM
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My major was biology, not chemistry and I've read some articles about the pro's and con's of each but they either seems to be a very slight brushing over or more detailed than collegic organic chemistry. Can someone 'break it down' for me as to the differences and thoughts about the move to eco-energy vehicles?

I'm looking forward to what I'd call "Green Wars" between rival science and automotive technology to "get there first."

Also, wouldn't this cause a significant shift in the global economy? What other impacts to do see.

Speak up peoples, I wanna hear from ya.




posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 11:36 AM
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Originally posted by saint4God
Can someone 'break it down' for me as to the differences and thoughts about the move to eco-energy vehicles?


www.wired.com...


The vertical farm model is one of Hessel's ultimate goals, and OrganiTech has been busy laying the groundwork to make skyscraper farms possible. It's already using a system of robotics in high-tech greenhouses. "You might as well take advantage of the sunlight when you can," he says. "It's free energy."

Saving the cost of energy is a big part of OrganiTech's near-term business plan. As of mid-2005, it cost as much as 50 cents to transport a 1-pound head of lettuce from California (where 85 percent of America's lettuce is grown) to the East Coast, according to Ram Acharya, an agricultural economist at Arizona State University. If the lettuce can be grown near where it's eaten, it will have an automatic cost advantage.

OrganiTech can supply a complete set of robotic equipment plus greenhouse for $2 million. A system the size of a tennis court can produce 145,000 bags of lettuce leaves per year -- that's a yield similar to a 100-acre traditional farm. According to the company, it costs 27 cents to produce a single head of lettuce with its system, compared to about 18 cents per head of lettuce grown in California fields. Factor in the transportation costs and suddenly the automated greenhouse grower saves as much as 43 cents a head.


Use this technology to produce crops for ethonol right in the city or the burbs, no need to worry about topsoil erosion using this technique. I've heard that the best energy dense plants are Hemp and Surgar Cane. Still a number of barriers which are political in nature but this is my best solution right now.



I'm looking forward to what I'd call "Green Wars" between rival science and automotive technology to "get there first."


Ya it's shaping up to be very interesting and cutthroat, keep your eyes on hybrid technology, if either biofuels or hydrogen win out completely it will most likely use extensive hybrid technology to increase efficiency, range and performance. A very conservative Auto Review TV program reviewed a HyBrid SUV and they were raving. Sorry I cannot remember the exact specs except they clocked it at around 48 MPG. I'll try to find something about it on the web.



Also, wouldn't this cause a significant shift in the global economy? What other impacts to do see.


If America were to start funding various research initiatives aimed at producing a 200 MPG car or a car that runs on Electricity with a range of 500 miles and can be recharged in less then 10 minutes. You know like a Manhattan project for eliminating a potential security/economic threat. It could work, there are prizes being enacted to try to do these very feats but I think it needs some heavy government backing. Just imagine the markets that would be re-invigorated!

[edit on 27-10-2005 by sardion2000]



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:01 PM
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I tend to like Hydrogen more since its the most abundant element in the entire universe. Most of earth is covered in the stuff though its happily bonded to O2 at this time. The drawback of course, it takes energy to get thay Hydrogen out of the water. But luckly we have a nice natural ally to do this for free Pond Scum. Pond Scum has a metabolic switch that allows it to produce hydrogen from water. Scientist are already working to dramatically increase the amount of hydrogen that pond scum can produce. They have already had much success in doing this and claim to be nowhere near the limit it can produce. Future plans are to get enough hydrogen from a small pond of algae to continually run a dozen hydrogen fuel-cell cars.

Pond scum is pretty easy to grow and in the future we could have massive farms of the stuff making hydrogen for pretty much free.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:05 PM
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Let's look at ethanol first, since it's simpler when you're doing a comparison.

Ethanol works just fine in an internal combustion engine, as long as you take into consideration that the tank, fuel lines, injectors, etc. might require a different formulation to keep from being corroded by one fuel or the other. A polystyrene-butadiene fuel line, for example, might work fine with ethanol but be damaged by gasoline; a rubber line might work fine with gasoline and not with ethanol. Add to this that the heat of combustion and the innate kilocalorie amounts of the two fuels are different, means that you might need supplemental ignition fuel, like ether, to start the ethanol engine running, and so on.

Note that a large number of Brazilian cars are designed to run on ethanol ('alcool' in Portuguese) so there's not a lot of research that needs to be done.

In short, ethanol is simply a replacement for gasoline. It is "renewable" in that it comes from plants which can be re-grown; but there are disadvantages there as well:

1. Plants require a lot of land, water, and fertilizer. Constant monocropping and land reuse will drastically deplete the fertility of the soil, leading to the need for more and more artificial fertilizers, and running the risk of long term land and aquifer pollution.

2. The processes to plant, cultivate, harvest, ferment, and distill the ethanol from the feedstock is both expensive and energy-intensive, resulting in a costly fuel which -- in the long run -- requires almost as much energy to produce as it yields.

Hydrogen, although it can be used in a specially-modified internal combustion engine, is more often considered as the fuel for fuel cells, where electricity is extracted from hydrogen via a fuel cell utilizing platinum as a catalyst. A hydrogen engine is cleaner that alcohol, which, although it is cleaner than a petroleum-based product, is still a hydrocarbon.

But the biggest problem with hydrogen is that, although it's plentiful in water, it is not very cost effective to extract and compress it to where it's usable in a car. We can extract hydrogen from methane; but by doing so, we use up a natural gas already in short supply, have certain byproducts, and spend a lot of energy to do so.

Extracting hydrogen from water is innately cleaner, but requires much more energy to do so than the resultant hydrogen will produce. It might help to think of hydrogen not as an energy source but as an energy storage mechanism -- a "battery", as it were. This is because the energy you use to extract the hydrogen is analogous to the electricity to "charge" a battery: you get back less than you put out, thanks to our old friend Mr. Second Law of Thermodynamics.


The bottom line is that neither of these two approaches are more cost-effective that hydrocarbon (petroleum products) burning. This is not to say that burning hydrocarbons is a good idea; it is not. Hydrocarbon burning fouls the atmosphere, probably contributes to global warming, is a finite resource which could be used more effectively in making specialty plastics, and has a heavy price in both environmental degradation and/or geopolitical disadvantage in getting it out of the ground and into your car.

But from a strict cost-benefit point of view, it's the best approach we have for powering personal transportation right now.

There are ways, of course, that we could do it a lot better. The best approach would be to build a hybrid like the Toyota Prius, but instead of a 1.5 liter gasoline engine, we could use a 1.0 liter two- or three-cylinder "common-rail" diesel engine. Supplement this with the ability to plug in the batteries for recharging from the grid (that's "mains" to my UK colleagues) and you have a vehicle with an effective 200 mi/gal fuel usage since, if you recharge at night an commute less than 8 or 10 miles one way to work, you wouldn't have to use your internal combustion engine at all!

The grid electricity, of course, would require a fuel source, but hydroelectricity and nuclear fission are both much more cost-effective the burning coal or oil for your electricity. (Unfortunately, neither solar nor wind power is cost-competitive with either hydrocarbon burning, nuclear fission, or hydroelectricity.)



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:18 PM
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Originally posted by Off_The_Street
1. Plants require a lot of land, water, and fertilizer. Constant monocropping and land reuse will drastically deplete the fertility of the soil, leading to the need for more and more artificial fertilizers, and running the risk of long term land and aquifer pollution.


Did you check out the link I posted above? All those downsides can be completely eliminated with this technology.


Originally posted by ShadowXIX
Pond scum is pretty easy to grow and in the future we could have massive farms of the stuff making hydrogen for pretty much free.


Problem with pond scum is that the yield is still pretty pathetic. I've heard researchers working with the stuff are turning to Genetic Modification to get a 10 fold increase in yield, that's the bar to economic reality I believe as it's their target.

[edit on 27-10-2005 by sardion2000]



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:19 PM
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Originally posted by ShadowXIX
But luckly we have a nice natural ally to do this for free Pond Scum. Pond Scum has a metabolic switch that allows it to produce hydrogen from water.


Hm, wouldn't that be something to be dependant on pond scum? What's that make us?
Sorry, I think mankind's ego needs to take a few punches now and then.
Very informative though, I'd not heard of this angle on the subject.


Suddenly, this comic looks like a compliment:


(Thomas Crowne if you're around, name that comic!)

And, thank you all for the input, I'm enjoying the education!


[edit on 27-10-2005 by saint4God]



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:26 PM
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Originally posted by saint4God
Very informative though, I'd not heard of this angle on the subject.



Heres some links on the pond scum thing

www.sciencentral.com... at=3_2

www.berkeley.edu...

I just came across this awell It seems the pond scum itself could also be used as a biodiesel
and it grows faster than traditional crops. The pond scum double whammy.

tyler.blogware.com...



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:37 PM
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Great summary Off_The_Street! That's a lot of what I was looking for.

As far as the pond scum links, very interesting. I'd rather see what links are valuable to y'all then randomly hunting on my own.

Hey, if scum produces a good amount of energy, then certainly the more complex the organism, the higher the energy yield. Hmm....



or




posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:39 PM
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Sardion, you say "...all those downsides can be completely eliminated with this technology..." and you cite an article which says:


"...And since the crops would be grown with artificial lighting, servers, sensors and robots,..."


TANSTAAFL: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 12:56 PM
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I would say hydrogen would be much cleaner and efficient if this technology is developed.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 01:11 PM
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but looks like pen meets paper is doesn't pan out to a better solution.





Vision: Our Driving Conundrum

Fifty years from now, most parties would agree, hydrogen fuel cell technology will power our world—everything from artificial organs to cruise ships and certainly our automobiles. By then we will have figured out how to produce cheap, CO2-neutral hydrogen—perhaps by using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power to electrolyze water, perhaps with synthetic fuels (bio-ethanol and bio-diesel), perhaps by sequestering carbon from fossil feed stocks such as coal, perhaps with some fairy dust as yet undiscovered.

www.popsci.com...

"Fairy dust"? Did they just say "Fairy dust"? Somebody strap a harness on tinkerbell!




Just look at all that "free energy"


[edit on 27-10-2005 by saint4God]



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 02:50 PM
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The problem with your greenhouses and hydrogen is that they cannot compete for the dollar with hydrocarbons. You can pump out millions of barells of oil a day and send it to a refinery but what are the cost in getting ethanol from sugar cane or hemp, can it be done as quickly? There are also rendering plants which take organic matter and create hydrocarbons.

Hydrogen technology is a moot point. People make a big deal out of it, people do a lot of research, but very little of this seems to suggest anything other than that it is a pipe dream.

Ethanol creates a lot of top soil erosion and growing indoors creates are large consumption of electricity from a hydrocarbon power plant.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 03:08 PM
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What happens to the hemp or sugar cane after the alcohol is refined?

Perhaps dried and burned to produce energy in a clean burning device which could help to meet the energy requirements of the alcohol refinery itself?


I note as well, in automobile racing alcohol is used at a 2/1 ratio as compared to gasoline.
I've read figures that street driven, alcohol fueled auto's require a 1.7/1 ratio as vs. gasoline.
These figures held true in the alcohol fueled drag racer we used to run.

If per gallon costs between alcohol and gasoline are similar it doen's look like a whole lot will be gained and in fact, the poorer mileage of an alcohol car doesn't look all that appealing either.
Even if comparitive costs for either fuel is equal you'll have to carry up to twice as much alky as gas to have a similar range for the auto in question.

Not to mention alcohol can be a tough go for older cars that are not equipped with the proper corrosion preventing alloys for the fuel distribution and atomizing systems nor are many of the sealing washers etc. compatible with alcohol.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 04:24 PM
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hybrids will become much more popular in the years to come.

hydrogen fuel cells seem to be what most "peole in the bussiness" say is the thing to replace gasoline.

Personally, my favorite is all electric. Meaning have a drive-by-wire car, and run from the electricity in its batteries, and have it be a hybrid so can generate power from stopping. They need to put more money into batteries...thats where its really needed. Where I can just pull in to a power Station, and get a quick 5 minute charge, and be on my way.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 07:41 PM
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The solution to our hydrocarbon burning problems has been around for 50 years. Its called the fission power plant, and its making a big comeback. The new IVth generation plants are unbelievably efficient, and safe. There are now plans to build 5 new power plants, the first in 30 years.

Before everyone starts screaming about saftey and the environment, Id like to point out that there has only ever been one external radiation emission, in over 400 plants. This was an old facility, no other breach has ever occured. Plus, storage of spent nuclear fuel is not hard or dangerous as some make it out to be.

Uranium the fuel for these power stations is very plentiful, and can be found in large quantities in stable countries such as Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

The construction of these non-polluting power stations would be the ideal way to cut CO2 emissions in electricity generation, and would be excellent for splitting H2O.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 08:46 PM
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I think in this day and age, when terrorism is thought about more, that another nuclear power plant sounds like an enviting target.
But yes, they are very safe. (unless one goes critical
)

and Spent fuel is a problem, cause its radioactive, and it would be used as a very effective dirty bomb. Hence why the US Gov is spending billions on the Yucca Mountain project.



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 10:43 PM
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Using nuclear power for cogeneration is about the only curently viable method of mass producing hydrogen on the scale of supplying every car in America with fuel. I'm not the biggest fan of hydrogen; mainly for the reason that having 200 million idiots driving around with compressed hydrogen tanks in their cars sounds like the worst idea ever concieved (have you seen people driving recently...just watch them, they're fools). While I'm not really worried about terrorists taking out a nuclear plant (we already have multiple nuclear plant targets for them, what's a few more), I am fairly worried about where we are going to stuff all the radioactive waste. Yucca mountain has been stalled for a decade and who knows if it will ever come to fruition. Personally I think the best short-term solution is to put more $ into developing clean coal technology. We have made tremendous strides in combustion sciences over the past two decades in controlling emissions of both cars and powerplants, and coal is something we have a lot of. Some combo of clean coal and fission power would be the best way to produce hydrogen emissions-free.
Ethanol is a nice idea that needs time to develop. Yeah it sounds great, but as someone else already mentioned, it is extremely energy intensive to produce. If the production process can be made more efficient than it would be nice to grow our own fuel, since the U.S. rocks at growing tons of food. Maybe we could even divert enough of our agriculture away from providing food so that people won't be able to eat so much and not get so freaking whale-ish.
Next, this bit about hybrid cars being like magical fairy powered chariots is so bogus. Their dealership prices are artificially low because your tax dollars subsidize their production (at least if you're an American). You get to claim a tax credit between 1500-3000$ for a hybrid depending on make and model. Depending on your tax bracket that can mean anywhere from 200$ to 1000$. Even with this aid, hybrid vehicles are typically 6000$ more expensive than their 'normal' counterpart. Even if you gain 20mpg (optimistic) over your current car, at 12000 miles a year and 3$/gal gas that only saves you 900$ a year. Nothing to sneeze at to be sure, but 6000$/900$=that hybrid wont pay for itself for over 6.5 years. If you just go out and buy a 4-cylinder focus or civic you'll pull 30+mpg if you learn to drive stick. There you have good mileage for under 15000$! Why would you pay another 6 grand for a vehcile that will take around a decade to pay for the difference?!
Now for cars made of batteries. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see more r&d going into battery development because I think they are woefully underdeveloped. That being said, I would be extremely worried regarding how much a car that is battery powered is going to tip the scales at. Hell the battery under the hood weighs 50lbs and it doesn't drive the car anywhere.
Lastly, that car that 'makes its own fuel'...wow. That couldn't be more BS if the guys developing it were named Pons and Fleischmann. Even if that concept worked, it's not making its own fuel if you have to refuel it with metal...metal that is extremely energy-intensive to produce. Enough said on that little gem.


Here's the hybrid tax credit link for more details on that segment of my rant...
www.hybridcars.com...



posted on Oct, 27 2005 @ 11:08 PM
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There will be no "green wars". This technology will never come to full fruitation, excuse my pun. These kind of vehicles will stay an extremely small majority as they are now.

Electrical hybrids are the next wave of automotive technology, most major automotive manufacturers are now investing and researching this tech to its full extent. Electrical hybrids are not a pipedream like these green machines and Id say within the next 10-15 years, once the technology is streamlined, ALL newly manufactured vehicles will be hybrids or 100% electric.

Your next best bet would be hydrogen. I'll correct myself and say that maybe these ethanol and hydrogen cars will become fully realized, but not for a very long time.

You wanna make money? Invest in hybrids.



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 03:19 AM
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surgar and hemp. every single pulp mill in the world could be producing ethanol. i used to work at a pulp mill with an alcohol plant and it produced 19,000 gallons a day of 190 proof and 15,000 gallons a day of 200 proof.

and this was at a mill that only did 700 tons of pulp a day. just imagine what some of the mega pulp mills could produce. say a 4000 ton a day pulp mill.



posted on Oct, 28 2005 @ 11:45 AM
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Originally posted by Nipples
I'm not the biggest fan of hydrogen; mainly for the reason that having 200 million idiots driving around with compressed hydrogen tanks in their cars sounds like the worst idea ever concieved (have you seen people driving recently...just watch them, they're fools).



True enough on the driving habits of many.
My pet peeve is excessive speed in parking lots.

I don't see a problem with carrying a high pressure hydrogen tank in a car.
Especially if it was engineered to be under the floorboard and in the middle of the vehicle so as to gain maximum safety in case of a crash.
Seldom is the middle of the car so destroyed that a hydrogen tank in the middle of the car would be damaged let alone fail.

Fires are not a problem either.
Moderately high pressured tanks such as propane have a high temperature pressure relief valve so that in the event a pressure tank is exposed to high temperatures the relief valve will open and you don't have the catastrophic failure that some think will happen.

No one seems to mind carrying a tank of gasoline in their cars.
That's somewhat dangerous, but all of us live with it every day.

A high pressure hydrogen tank would be a step up in the safety department in my opinion.
Especially when you take note that many - if not all - gasoline tanks in modern cars and trucks are polyethylene or other similar plastic.
Not much fire resistance qualities in these.
Nor burst resistance and they're susceptible to cuts from sharp objects.

Sheet metal gasoline tanks can fail, but in the event of an impact, most times they simply bend in or crush and fire isn't a particular danger.

Gasoline fires tend to spread out when the containers burst and ignite.
Granted, the fire and resultant heat do rise, but the horizontal spread can be quite large comparitively speaking.

Hydrogen fires spread only a small amount and then go up.
As the hydrogen fueled Hindenburg fire did.
The lighter than air quality of hydrogen saved many people during the Hindenburg disaster.
Perhaps a moot point in a car wreck, but depending on tank location it could be better than the usual outward flame pattern of gasoline.

I've seen pressurization figures of 10,000 psi quoted for hydrogen tanks.
I doubt this figure for a couple of reasons.
People quoting high psi levels are generally writing against Hydrogen fueled vehicles in favor of their own system of fuels.

Oxygen tanks for welding seldom go over 3400 psi or so and Hydrogen would be much the same.

We used Hydrogen in the bulk power electric utility I worked at, but I can't remember the tanks pressure levels.
In any event, they were constructed similar to oxygen tanks and I doubt very much they were pressurized to 10,000 psi.

Hydrogen is safer as well as being friendlier to the environment.

I don't look for it to be a viable fuel anytime soon.
Not unless we license it's manufacture and distribution to the oil companies.
Then we're right back to a controlled supply.

Even so, I think sometime in the near future, some small time lab researcher will discover how to generate Hydrogen in such a way that a small refueling station set up to pipe in water and use modest amounts of electrical energy will replace the cumbersome and bad for the environment gasoline stations we frequent today.




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