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Todd Steif's profile photoHagen Patzke's profile photoRay Pope's profile photoShawn Hanvy's profile photo
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I work next door. This was actually pretty sweet. 
 
Nice done.

But about the claim of gas saved and less CO2, do they take into account what takes to generate the amount of electricity needed?

According to wikipedia, 44.5% of US electricity becomes from coal, 24% from natural gas and 19% nuclear. Only a small fraction comes form environment-friendly sources (wind, water, sun). So, instead of burning inside the car, they're burning on electricity plants. And with more electrical cars, more plants will be needed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_the_United_States#Generation
 
+Claudio Estrugo In terms of emissions, nuclear doesn't count for much. Opinions will vary on how environmentally friendly nuclear is, because "environmentally friendly" is such a woolly term.
 
Awesome way to showcases concept cars! I hope this really catches on with auto makers... 
 
Nuclear power is very clean and green when it is done correctly. 
 
+Shawn Hanvy "Very clean" if you don't consider the nuclear waste disposal and the pollution caused by the mining of uranium.
 
Tell that one to the Japanese.!
 
Spent fuel can be recycled to minimize the amount of waste.  That waste can be controlled and not pumped into our atmosphere for everyone to breath.   One small uranium mine supplies the same amount of energy content as nine larger coal mines.
 
yeah, log scales are for pansies!
 
As long as you can't safely dispose of the nuclear waste (or convert it into something harmless and useful), it is plain stupid to generate more of it. In a few words: look it up... "use brain with internet". :-)
 
Declaring nuclear as "stupid" on that basis alone seems a bit much to me. Nuclear reprocessing reduces that waste quite considerably.

I'd far rather we weren't using nuclear fission, and given time perhaps we can end up on solar-based renewables (and nuclear fusion?). In the meantime it's a contest of cost/benefits for fossil fuels versus nuclear fission.

In my view nuclear fission gets an overly bad reputation compared to the fossil fuels (most specifically coal). Certain nuclear operating companies need to get their act together, also.
 
John, did you look up how long that "reduced waste" after "reprocessing" is going to be around? Usually the "reprocessing" generates and concentrates super-high-radioactive waste with unfortunately long half-life times.

We are talking "thousands of human generations" here, not just a few hundred years. For "half-life", not for "stuff that is then mostly harmless".

As a boy, I was very found of nuclear energy. All waste problems would surely be solved in ten to twenty years.
Today - thirty years later, with still no real progress on the nuclear waste front - I'm starting to get extremely scared.

At least it will actually not be my problem. I'll be long dead. Luckily. OK, so then let's build that new reactor, yeee-haaa!
 
I would rather control the nuclear waste than fill the air with  coal ash and CO2
 
nothing can be done with nuclear waste cause it don't go away
 
+Shawn Hanvy
Where he learned that? Likely he "used brain with internet". :-) [SCNR, no offense intended.]
Really, there are enough articles and explanations available. Look up "half life" and "Plutonium isotopes" (and "nuclear fission"), and you should get quite a good impression.
 
Not to mention that you loose efficiency every time the stored energy is changed from one format to another.

 gas burning (combustion) -> electricity -> stored electricity (car batteries  -> electric motor  

Each step has a loss which when summed up can be far less efficient than an efficient gas burning vehicle to begin with. 
 
Edit: TL;DR: it's complicated.

Quite true (with caveats). Additionally there's the cost of energy distribution (one source[1] I see quotes this at 10% loss, another quotes ~6.1%[2]).

In the one case you have the combustion engine (or equivalent) in a car. The benefit here is that the fuel energy is spent to produce kinetic energy and (waste) heat, with minimal-to-no conversion losses. Downsides include only a limited subsets of fuel are available (petrol, diesel, some others) - some are fossils, some are renewable but controversial bio-fuels. Some fuels are simply not available/practical in all situations (nuclear, hydro-electric, solar(?) etc.).

In the other case you have electrically stored energy, which involves the aforementioned conversion/distribution losses - which are significant. But this isn't the whole story.

* When braking, an electrical vehicle can translate at least some of the kinetic energy back into stored energy [3].
* Central electrical generation facilities can potentially produce electricity at a greater efficiency with the benefit of scale production, and not having to make compromises to limit vehicle mass. [citation needed]
* Whilst traditional vehicles rely on a limited set of power storage/generation fuels (typically combustion/carbon-based), electricals are not limited to these sources. Therefore, this is an apples/oranges comparison without a deeper insight.

On this last point, the question is how the additional electrical energy is produced to charge vehicles. This is complicated by the ratio of electrical generation changing over the course of the day, and from day to day:
* often gas-fired plants being fired up to make up extra power during peak times, (also stored hydroelectric power, but that's effectively generated from off-peak and slack generation capacity),
* nuclear and coal creating a large baseline of electrical generation capacity,
* solar, wind power generation, as weather, tides etc. allow (we're at the mercy of nature on this, with some level of predictability),
* "other" - my catchall bucket for everything else.

Ideally we'll move towards the renewable and clean sources over time, ones which don't incur long-term and potentially catastrophic (certainly contraversial nuclear fission). Nuclear fusion is an interesting and real possibility, but does not in the near-term (~10 years) provide a sustained and power-positive reaction.

The key here is that electrical cars have the potential to be effectively clean-"burn". The present electrical generation notwithstanding.

All that said: I'm neutral on electrical cars (I have no financial or other interests in cars or electrical generation - I don't actually drive a car - ha!).

Edit: One minor thing electrical cars certainly do is move the combustion pollution from the cities/urban areas out to the power plants. This is probably more of a human health argument than anything else. It's probably something that will be measured more in retrospect, such as the (sometimes unexpected) effects of (for example) smoking bans.

[1] http://www.mpoweruk.com/energy_efficiency.htm
[2] http://www.nema.org/Products/Documents/TDEnergyEff.pdf
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regenerative_brake
 
Gasoline engines are only what...30 percent efficient?
 
Depends which engine your looking at. Carbed V8 vs. a fuel injected turbo 4cyl...
 
So what happens to all the batteries when they die? Are they recyclable? Do they have any chemical waste? 
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_efficiency#Internal_combustion_engines quotes it peaking at 75% for petrol, but varies depending on the RPM.

Incidentally, I believe this is why diesel trains have the seemingly perverse step of converting: combustion -> kinetic -> electric -> kinetic to give a broad speed range whilst running the diesel at its most efficient and having good torque across the range.
 
There is no doubt in my mind that oil companies have repressed fuel efficient technologies/vehicles. Using an opressive patent system many oil companies hold on to patents developed in 1940's and 50's.
 
Tesla counts recycling as part of your car and charges accordingly as part of your total price. I don't know about other manufacturers...
 
+Kyle Nicolay [citation needed]. It wouldn't surprise me if there was some truth there, however.

On the plus side: patents are, by definition, public knowledge, so that's discoverable, albeit only via the byzantine language of patents.
 
@ John

Don't those trains use regenerative technology to charge their aux batteries too? I think they do. Only if I could drive a personal train to work. :) 
 
Thanks for your info! but I don't believe this planet can wait 20 years for fuel saving technology to be available.
 
So when everybody sells their used Tesla as the batteries are going out what then? The more you get into it there are a lot of things to sort out before all electric will be a viable solution. Especially for larger vehicles and long distance traveling. 
 
+Chris Souther I'm pretty sure they do, yes.

In the case of electric trains, some of the power might go back into the grid that powers them - but an electrical/railway engineer would have to correct me there as the reverse conversion might be fraught with AC-grid synchronization problems that are way outside my field of knowledge.
 
Not electric trains but normal diesel ones, using their brakes to generate electricity for auxilary items like HVAC, lights, etc... Electric trains are a whole nother can-o-worms
 
Nuclear power is currently our best source of clean reliable energy. People like you +Hagen Patzke who think they know what they are talking about is the reason why the public is so scared of fission.
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+Shawn Hanvy
Then please don't criticise, but educate me. My knowledge is limited, and I'm happy to learn. Maybe you can put my mind at ease by telling me what new and wonderful advances in nuclear waste technology you know about. But I would really like facts, not opinions.
Half-life of radioactive isotopes is a fact. To my knowledge we don't have any technology to "neutralize" radioactivity. This makes me worry.
 
+Hagen Patzke, my apologies for my short temper. When an atom undergoes fission the two fission products have too many neutrons for the atom to be stable. The atoms will emit energetic particles (radiation) to become stable, to have the proper neutron to proton ratio. There is unfortunately not much funding into "neutralizing" radioactive materials. It may be possible to bring those long lived fission products to a more stable element by smashing it with protons. However I will be starting some research into using the radiation those isotopes emit and turning it into electricity. Think of it as mix between a battery and a solar panel. There are still challenges to solving our energy problem. We cannot be greedy and rush into a quick solution either. Building safer and cleaner reactors is very possible but extremely expensive compared to coal. Look up the amount of radioactive materials that is released from coal plants. It is more than a properly functioning nuclear plant would ever release to the environment. 
 
hagen: thorium power plants can use other radioactive materials, esp waste power rods, as neutron sources--and reduce the half-life of the other material as part of the interaction.
Ie, it eats (some) radioactive waste.
 
Oooooraleeee, está bueno......

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+Shawn Hanvy
Many thanks for the explanation and insight!

As much as I advocate more urgently needed research into nuclear power, as much I am scared of too many greedy people thinking of short-time benefits only, trying to go "the cheap way", even if it means polluting earth for thousands of millennia.

When I was a boy, we thought that all remaining problems in using nuclear energy could be overcome in a few decades.
Current problem (here in Germany, e.g.) is how we store alone the existing waste safely for several millennia. The salt caverns proved to be unsafe, even if geologically stable.

God help us all if someone decides e.g. to blow up one of the 'intermediate' surface storage sites.
 
+Paul May Thanks for the facts!
Hmmm... sounds interesting. And an alpha-emitter is actually manageable. As long as its not made into an aerosol - and you get rid of the Radon it produces - this looks promising.
As stated to Shawn: I believe we do need research. But until we have good and solid results from that we should not mindlessly produce waste - on an industrial scale - that we can't possibly handle safely. [We probably anyway still waste too much of the available energy, b/c it is cheaper than improving the processes using it.]
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