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Old 04-09-2004, 02:01 AM
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The future of the car and the environment

Thought I'd start a thread on the future of the motor car, with particular reference to the impact of cars on the environment.

As we know, the car relies on the internal combustion engine, which in turn uses oil. Oil is a rapidly dwindling resource, with various estimates on how much is left. I've heard that there may be as few as ten years of oil reserves left, although the exact number of years is open to interpretation. It is a fact that oil will run out, though.

With this in mind, what is the most likely direction that the car will take. Will fuel cell hydrogen cars become the norm? What about the infrastructure required for these cars. How long will this take to develop? Or is there other potential sources of fuel once oil supplies run out? Perhaps electric cars? Or methonol?

Personally, I do think that hydrogen fuel cells will be the way to go. From what I understand, hydrogen fuel cell cars will provide most of the performance of petrol/diesel powered cars, but without any emissions. Provided the hydrogen is produced from a clean source (ie: not from oil driven power stations, which just shifts the problem), we can totally eliminate emissions coming from the exhausts of cars.

Also, how do we solve the problems of congestion? The car is a remarkable device in terms of enabling people to easily and cheaply move from point A to B. Not to mention the freedom aspect. However, in the cities they tend to be an inefficient form of transport. In many of the larger cities, the average speed is as low as 10 km/h. Not only that, most cars driven in cities only have one passenger. How do we solve the problems regarding congestion? Increase public transport options and bicycle lanes help. As do automated motorway warning systems which advise of problems ahead and alternative routes.

Finally, a friend of mine once explained that the main problem of the car is that the manufacturing process behind the car is too "energy intensive". Of course it is. The steel, plastics and rubber industries are all energy intensive, and the car wouldn't exist without them. I think his point was primarily intended to suggest that if the car was somehow banned and all the industries associated with it went out of business (thus resulting in mass unemployment and anger amongst the workers affected), then a more desirable economic/societal system to capitalism would emerge. While I myself have some problems with capitalism (although at present, I don't see any alternatives that I prefer), I don't agree that the car should be banned on the basis that it is too "energy intensive". However, I do think that ways should be found to reduce the overall impact of the car on the world's resources, for example through recycling.

Now, before you attack me for being a tree hugging greenie, believe me when I say I am a car and motorsport enthusiast in every way. I also care for the environment. The issues I've raised are important ones, and as enthusiasts we should be able to discuss them. The car will be around many decades to come. However, I believe the industry has reached a cross roads which will determine how the car survives and in what form.

Your thoughts please. Also, perhaps we can have the engineers explain in simple English, some of the technical aspects of alternative fuel cars.
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:10 AM
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Doesn't the BMW 7 Series have a hydrogen engine as an option? I'm sure I saw it in an ad somewhere.
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:11 AM
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Hydrogen power is all very well, but you still need energy from power stations to produce hydrogen, so the overall level of pollution won't be affected untill a truly 'green' way of producing electricity is implemented.

What I would like to see is Hydrogen fuel cells in normal passenger cars, and sports cars using a hydrogen internal combustion engine.
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:29 AM
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just a quick reply on the oil reserves, it could be that "easy" crude oil supplies will dwindle quite rapidly, but more costly ones (the tar sands in Canada and the shale oil in Venezuela) can last much longer, but are much more expensive to extract. Oil reserves are not only physical, but are also a function of the price. The economics of the internal combustion engine will therefore change, opening possibilities for other energy sources. It appears that the major oil companies are betting on hydrogen.
Whatever the propulsion, the basic energy needs to produce a vehicle will remain the same, but these could be supplied in a more concentrated way, for instance through nuclear energy (yes, this is a can of worms).
It can be safely said that within 10-20 years the years of cheap, individual motoring will most likely be over, and the biggest consumer in the world, the USA might start to realise that there are limits to freedom. It is interesting to see the Pavlov like reaction of the consumers there to fuel prices which are only one third of what we pay in Europe. They might be in for a shock.
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Coventrysucks
Hydrogen power is all very well, but you still need energy from power stations to produce hydrogen, so the overall level of pollution won't be affected untill a truly 'green' way of producing electricity is implemented.

Quite true. Switching to hydrogen by itself won't solve the problem. It will simply switch the source of the pollution. So, how do we go about producing hydrogen in an environmental sound way? I remember reading something about a process of extracting hydrogen from sea water. Apparently such methods would have zero emissions. Maybe an engineer can it explain the process in simple terms and someone can tell us how far away we are from using such processes.
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Old 04-09-2004, 02:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henk4
It can be safely said that within 10-20 years the years of cheap, individual motoring will most likely be over, and the biggest consumer in the world, the USA might start to realise that there are limits to freedom. It is interesting to see the Pavlov like reaction of the consumers there to fuel prices which are only one third of what we pay in Europe. They might be in for a shock.
You're probably right, unfortunately. As an enthusiast who isn't particularly rich, I do hope your prediction turns out to be wrong. I hope I'm not forced to give up my private car due to the reasons you've just mentioned.
To inject a touch of optimisim...I've read that current fuel cells vehicles can be compared to the early petrol cars of the 20th century. And that in 1900 it was hard to find a petrol station, but by 1910 a massive infrastructure for the petrol car was already in place (in the US at least). Maybe history is repeating itself, and hydrogen (or some other alternative) will become the cheap source of energy that oil was in the 20th century. It may come down to simple supply and demand. I recognize the problems we face, but lets hope that a cheap source of energy can be found and the infrastructure to support it developed.
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Old 04-09-2004, 03:03 AM
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There is also the option to use biodiesel, which can be grown ad libitum. This will first need to remove the antipathic feelings that many people still have against diesel engines. The biggest thread for current oil supplies is the economic development of both China and India, where it can't be that long that much more people will require/demand individual transport. If that takes off than the sheer mass of those countries will deplete any reasonable reserve.
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Old 04-09-2004, 07:24 AM
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I think Methanol is a viable temporary alternative fuel source, I've had this site bookmarked for quite a while http://www.methanol.org/fuelcell/special/amipromise.pdf an incredible amount of information on Methanol and Methanol powered cars though a bit drawn out, I also wonder as to how biased it is.

For members who are enviromentally concerned - but don't want to be bored to tears, I suggest downloaded (from Kazaa, etc.) GROW MORE POT by Jello Biafra, its a spoken word file. He touches on the use of hemp plants as alternative to trees for paper supply, Methanol extraction from hemp as opposed to cornstalks, a replacement for soy and a little bit on medicinal values ... plus its entertaining (the download, not necessarily the hemp )!!!!
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Old 04-09-2004, 05:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by henk4
There is also the option to use biodiesel, which can be grown ad libitum.
I saw on Top Gear(what a program!! ) a diesel car being run on some sort of cooking oil(probably vegetable,cant quite remember) without any ill affects at all,with the AA bloke who was driving saying that the car felt as responsive as with diesel,if not more!

bring it on i say,much as i like petrol i think diesel(or equivelant substitute) is the fuel for the future
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Old 04-09-2004, 11:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dashers
I saw on Top Gear(what a program!! ) a diesel car being run on some sort of cooking oil(probably vegetable,cant quite remember) without any ill affects at all,with the AA bloke who was driving saying that the car felt as responsive as with diesel,if not more!

bring it on i say,much as i like petrol i think diesel(or equivelant substitute) is the fuel for the future
Can you imagine the guys like Shell and Exxon turning into farmers? There are going to be a lot of vested interests opposing such a change.
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Old 04-10-2004, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spastik_Roach
Doesn't the BMW 7 Series have a hydrogen engine as an option? I'm sure I saw it in an ad somewhere.
BMW has quite a history with hydrogen vehicles, actually...tracing back a few decades. They've never offered it as an option, but I suppose the very affluent buyer might want to buy one. It wouldn't be impractical, either, because they use converted multi-fuel engines (hydrogen or gasoline).

A fleet of forty 750ih taxis were (and probably still are) used to take people back and forth from the Munich airport to BMW headquarters. I think it's a great idea
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Old 04-11-2004, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by henk4
Can you imagine the guys like Shell and Exxon turning into farmers? There are going to be a lot of vested interests opposing such a change.
True,hadnt thought of that.It is not really a fesiable prospect,as the huge numbers of cars around would require stupid amounts of vegetable oil.however,when the oil does run out these large companies are going to have to change or go bust,which is unlikely(though they prob wont be farmers,they will just switch and start exploiting all the patents theyve been supressing )

ive done a bit more research,and the vegetable oil was used oil from a mexican resteraunt,wiht a cap-full of white spirit to thin it or emulsify it or somehting.
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Old 04-11-2004, 01:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dashers
ive done a bit more research,and the vegetable oil was used oil from a mexican resteraunt,wiht a cap-full of white spirit to thin it or emulsify it or somehting.
This explains some of the side effects when eating mexican food!!
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Old 04-14-2004, 06:10 AM
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sorry for the late entry to this thread, but i just ot back from a weekend getaway. a much needed one i might add !!

back to the topic, i personally am a very big fan of solar energy. it is free to acquire, cheap to install and capture and has basically no emissions.
we actually utilize solar energy at our beach house for providing necessary heating. and i think that solar energy is a key factor for tomorrow's energy demands.
i think most of us have some previous experience reading about the pioneer trials made for solar based cars and hoe they can be quite practical. the main issues with solar energy however, is storing it for use during nights and unsunny days. there is not yet a truly practical way to be used for storage of solar energy. most of the stored energy gets depleted quickly enough to make it unpractical at the moment. further study and research will surely oversome this problem.
other problems facing this technology might be geographic considerations for particular regions. such as places with no considerable sun during winters and very cloudy places that could make utilising solar energy very unpredictable.
i think with the placement of solar panels on the roof, that would force all those stupid people that drive around with snow stacked on their roofs to get some exercise !!


moving on to more radical and personal thoughts. something along the lines of the Misho theory !!
isnt there some way of utilizing the actual movement of the car to generate energy ?? as a car moves we all know that its wheels spin, maybe we can sort of hook up the wheels to a generator and use their rotating action to provide some considerable energy. sort of recycling the cars kinetic energy, making a car more sustainable.
this theory is essentially what a dynamo does. it utilizes the engine's movement to spin the dynamo and generate electrical energy.
maybe we can sort of make a much highly effecient dynamo that is capable of generating enough energy to operate the electrical equipment and help the engine with some mechanical work as well.
i know it sounds very weird and strange, just give it some thoughts and tell me what u think !
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Old 04-14-2004, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misho
moving on to more radical and personal thoughts. something along the lines of the Misho theory !!
isnt there some way of utilizing the actual movement of the car to generate energy ?? as a car moves we all know that its wheels spin, maybe we can sort of hook up the wheels to a generator and use their rotating action to provide some considerable energy. sort of recycling the cars kinetic energy, making a car more sustainable.
this theory is essentially what a dynamo does. it utilizes the engine's movement to spin the dynamo and generate electrical energy.
maybe we can sort of make a much highly effecient dynamo that is capable of generating enough energy to operate the electrical equipment and help the engine with some mechanical work as well.
i know it sounds very weird and strange, just give it some thoughts and tell me what u think !
I think you just described the efforts that are being undertaken with the hybrid propulsion cars, the Prius the Honda and may be the Italdesign Toyota.
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