September 2008


Hybrid Cars Counterpoint

 

If you have read my other Counterpoint articles, you might be wondering about Hybrid cars for better fuel efficiency and environmental concerns. I also considered the Toyota and Honda models when I bought my last car. Unless you are willing to pay more for a hi-tech car, with little improvement over conventional car choices, then read on for some fact investigation.

 

It’s not that we don’t want to do our part to help protect the environment. We’re all for burning less fossil fuel. I found out the same as this article referenced that a Honda or Toyota Hybrid estimated 36-45mpg and cost approximately $22,000. I settled on a Pontiac Vibe (Toyota Matrix) that gets 29mpg and cost $16,000. At 15000 miles/year of driving and $3.80/gal of gas that gives a savings of $382-698/yr. To make up for the increased cost of $6000 would take 8-15 years. The Vibe had considerably more carrying space (people and luggage) and was also roomier and simpler construction. It is expected that it should still be around after 8-15 years.

 

A good article to explain the Toyota Prius (now the largest selling hybrid car) is “An introduction by the U.S. Department of Energy to commercially available advanced vehicle technologies TECHNICAL SNAPSHOT featuring the Toyota Prius.” It explains how a hybrid car (Toyota Prius) works, the innovative features, and the performance. Another article is “How Hybrid Cars work.”

 

This article explains some “Hybrid Cars-Pros and Cons.”

 

This article gives “Hybrid Cars-Feedback” from owners of hybrid cars. Most are happy with their car and would buy another. Another article gives “Toyota Prius Hybrid testimonials and reviews.” It should be pointed out that this is only about 1% of the car market.

 

Some owners are disappointed in their gas mileage from the article “Hybrid Mileage Comes Up Short.” Their were several owners and articles that fell in this category.

 

This article gives reasons why the “Toyota Prius Falls Short.”

 

Look at this article on “Are Hybrid Cars Worth It?”

 

Consider the article “Hybrid Cars vs Gas Cars –Pros and Cons.”

 

This article covers “Prius Misconceptions.”

 

This article covers “Hybrid Industrial Market Trends” and why the cost to produce a hybrid may result in a future low hybrid market.

 

Other interesting articles:

 

  1. All about hybrid cars.
  2. Hybrid Car Review.
  3. Hybrid Cars Loosing Fuel Efficiency.

 

There was not much mentioned about the hybrid batteries and their cost. Most are made in Japan (little US technology) and manufacturers have 8 yr or 100000 mi warranties. Since hybrids have been sold, there have been few battery problems or failures.

 

The bottom line on hybrid cars is now your own personal priorities. Do you want a hi-tech car? Do you want a higher mpg car? Do you want an environmental friendly car? Do you mind paying higher car prices, or depend on the government for incentives? You can do almost the same with a smaller efficient gas car (not SUV). But will there be an expanding market for the Hybrid Car (not so far)?

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.

Solar Power/Energy Counterpoint


Solar Power/Energy refers to the utilization of the radiant energy from the Sun. It refers more specifically to the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either by photovoltaics or concentrating solar thermal devices. The amount of solar energy reaching the surface of the Earth is so vast that in one year it is about twice as much as will ever be obtained from all of the Earth’s non-renewable resources of coal, oil, natural gas, and mined uranium combined.


As of 2007, the total installed capacity of solar hot water systems is approximately 154 GW. China is the world leader in their deployment with 70 GW installed as of 2006. Chinese government officials signed an agreement on Tuesday (9/8/09) with First Solar, an American solar developer, for a 2,000-megawatt photovoltaic farm to be built in the Mongolian desert. Israel is the per capita leader in the use of solar hot water systems with 90% of homes using them.


Photovoltaics (PV) has mainly been used to power small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to off-grid homes powered by a photovoltaic array. Germany, Japan, US, and Spain have become the leaders in the PV market. It is expected that by 2009 over 90% of commercial photovoltaics, installed in the United States, will be installed using a power purchase agreement. Grid parity (cost), the point at which photovoltaic electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power, is achieved first in areas with abundant sun and high costs for electricity such as in California, Hawaii, and Japan. It is not common knowledge, but George W. Bush has set 2015 as the date for grid parity in the USA. Here are some examples of large-scale photovoltaic power plants and here are some more.


Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. The concentrated light is then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant.


Storage is an important issue in the development of solar energy because modern energy systems usually assume continuous availability of energy. Solar energy is not available at night, and the performance of solar power systems is affected by unpredictable weather patterns; therefore, storage media or back-up power systems must be used.


Solar installations in recent years have also largely begun to expand into residential areas, with governments offering incentive programs to make “green” energy a more economically viable option. The program allows residential homeowner installations to sell the energy they produce back to the electrical power grid. It has now been stated by the chairman of the 2008 European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference that photovoltaics can cover all the world energy demand.


The Solar Electric Power Association made a statement concerning the historical announcement that “The Pacific Gas and Electric Utility (PG&E) will develop two photovoltaic (PV) power plants equivalent to almost double the amount of current U.S. grid-connected PV capacity”.


Florida Power and Light (FP&L) unveils the plans to build Florida’s first large-scale solar thermal power plant (CPS), one of the largest such plants in the world. It also announced new solar energy projects that include the world’s largest photovoltaic solar plant and first “hybrid” energy center, coupling solar thermal technology with an existing combined-cycle generation unit.


As can be seen from the brief “Solar Power/Energy Counterpoint” facts article, solar energy is becoming one of the most viable alternatives for electric power generation. We don’t hear much about it, but it has the possibilities of playing an important part in the new energy resources available without much say-so from known government programs (except for insentives).

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.

Some more interesting articles:

  1. A Solar Grand Plan.
  2. Are solar photovoltaics just to costly?
  3. Solar Cell Production Jumps 50 Percent in 2007.
  4. Solar Power: The Pros and Cons of Solar Power.
  5. Machine Design Editorial: The Economics of Renewable Energy

Wind Turbine Power Counterpoint

 

I have become interested in the use of wind turbine farms that are springing up for producing electrical power. This article will look at some of the present facts.

See Panoramic Photos of an Illinois Wind Turbine Farm located near Paw Paw, Illinois.

 

At the end of 2007, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 94.1 gigawatts or approximately1% of world-wide electricity use. The largest producers account for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 9% in Spain and Portugal, and 6% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland (2007 data). Globally, wind power generation increased more than fivefold between 2000 and 2007. Wind power available in the atmosphere is much greater than current world energy consumption. The most comprehensive study to date found the potential of wind power on land and near-shore to be equivalent to 54,000 MToE (million tons of oil equivalent) per year, or over five times the world’s current energy use in all forms.

 

Cost per unit of energy produced was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the United States for coal and natural gas: wind cost was estimated at $55.80 per MWh, coal at $53.10/MWh and natural gas at $52.50. In the United States, wind power receives a tax credit for each kilowatt-hour produced; at 1.9 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2006. Without this tax credit there would be little new wind power generation in the US.

 

Advantages

 

  1. Wind power is nearly pollution free.
  2. Wind power is intermittent and unpredictable.
  3. Wind power allows for greater electrical power diversity.
  4. Reduced environmental impact for electrical power.

Disadvantages

 

  1. Electricity from wind remains costlier than that generated from fossil fuels.
  2. Aesthetic and wildlife issues have led to opposition emerging around the country.
  3. Wind farms require wind speed (min 6 m/s) and large tracts of space.
  4. Lack of electrical-grid capacity to carry the power from the isolated places.
  5. Much of the boom in the United States is being driven by foreign power companies with experience developing wind projects.
  6. Wind energy will not reduce US oil dependence.
  7. There are pitfalls in wind energy cost analysis.

 

From the facts, it appears that wind turbine power will be a viable source as long as there is a tax advantage or financial support. Wind energy costs can be cut substantially if a wind project is owned by a utility, and could also be sharply reduced if wind developers could obtain the same financing terms as gas power plant developers.

Of interest are the candidate’s views on technological issues: Energy, Climate change, Space program, skilled worker shortage, and technology.

Some more interesting articles: 

  1. Largest wind turbine.
  2. Wind power info.
  3. Delaware offshore wind farm.
  4. Great Lakes Wind over water.
  5. Wind Power poised for significant growth.
  6. Machine Design Editorial: The Economics of Renewable Energy

Natural Gas Car Fuel Counterpoint

Compared to gasoline, compressed natural gas (CNG) is cleaner, less expensive, and generally comes from domestic reserves. However, CNG vehicles also require some compromises, including the use of a special refueling infrastructure that is not widely developed in the United States. Natural gas burns so cleanly that CNG vehicles rival hybrids in producing extremely low levels of smog-forming pollutants. However, CNG vehicles tend to have higher greenhouse gas emissions than hybrids. Natural gas is normally used in the U.S. to generate electricity, heat houses and businesses, and as a component in a variety of industrial processes. In the United States, a very small amount of natural gas (just one-tenth of 1% of all gas consumed) is also used as a fuel for vehicles. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, just 20 percent of the natural gas consumed in the United States last year was imported, and most of those imports came from Canada.

Natural gas advantages:

  1. Gas costs are lower than gasoline (approximately 1/3).
  2. Natural gas is convenient and abundant.
  3. Natural gas prices have exhibited significant stability compared to oil prices.
  4. Natural gas vehicles have lower maintenance costs.
  5. Natural gas fillup time is longer for natural gas (approx 1 hr).

Natural gas disadvantages:

  1. Harder to find a natural gas station than a “regular” gas station.
  2. More limited driving range (approximately 2/3).
  3. Natural gas is not inexhaustible just like “regular” gas.
  4. Because of the fuel storage tank size there is less space in the vehicle.
  5. A brand-new natural-gas vehicle costs $4,000 to $8,000 more than a comparable gasoline vehicle.
  6. Modifications typically cost $3,000 to $5,000 to change over a vehicle.

No one seems to care about the natural gas vehicle. Not government officials. Not auto executives. Not consumers. Not even some environmentalists.T. Boone Pickens is now talking about a plan for natural gas vehicles.

By an odd confluence of public policy and private initiative, Utah has become the first state in the country to experience broad consumer interest in the idea of running cars on clean natural gas (natural gas at $.90 vs $3.95 for gas).

From the facts it appears that natural gas has very little chance as a car fuel. However read this article:

Should the U.S. switch to Natural gas for transportation?

Some more interesting articles for facts:

  1. Natural gas organization.
  2. Wikipedia on natural gas.
  3. This auto fuel still cheaper.
  4. Five things you need to know about natural gas for auto fueling.
  5. Natural-gas guzzler.
  6. Plunge in Natural Gas Prices; new 7-year low

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