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The Challenging Road To More Fuel Efficient Automobiles

So far, automakers Ford, Nissan and Tesla are sharing part of a $25 billion dollar government loan program to the auto industry to develop a future generation of cleaner and more fuel efficient vehicles. For Ford and Nissan this likely to mean the development of more hybrid automobiles, while the tiny Tesla company focuses on electric automobiles. Almost as ambitious as the program to put men on the Moon in the 1960's, the Obama plan is to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, an awesome goal that can only be reached by crash programs into new technology development. However, at least the American government is helping to assist automakers towards this goal instead of simply mandating new future standards.

The automobiles developed by the Tiny Tesla company might be some of the most interesting of the next generation of fuel efficient automobiles. The Tesla Roadster is an all-electric automobile capable of speeds up to 0-60 in just 3.9 seconds which is a blisteringly fast speed on a par with Corvettes or other high end sports cars. Right now, the Tesla cars are capable of traveling 244 miles between charges thanks to a complex network of lithium-type batteries much like sturdy laptop computer batteries looped together. The newer sedan type body model which sells for a lower price than the sports car for $49,900 features an awesome claimed 300 mile range between recharges, and boasts a quick 45 minute recharge. The more expensive roadster sells for $101,500. The Federal government is so impressed with the Tesla automobiles that they are giving the tiny automaker a $465 million loan to build more of the model S sedan type cars. In addition, buyers of Tesla automobiles may be entitled to tax savings or credit of $7,500 or more from either the Federal government or their state governments, making the purchase of a $49,900 Model S considerably cheaper and a great bargain in many ways because of all the fiuel savings involved. And the Lithium batteries have a long service life as well.tesla_roadster2.jpg

Because electric motors make such high power and torque compared to gasoline engines, the 115 pound electric motor in the Tesla roadster produces power comparable to a large displacement sports car engine weighing in at several hundred pounds. However, the energy storage system which brings together the power of several thousand computer grade lithium-ion type computer grade batteries. But future versions of the Tesla automobiles will likely include larger new generation lithium-ion batteries especially suited for automobile use.tesla_model_s.jpg

The products from Ford or Nissan are more likely to be some new generation of hybrid versions of existing or new conventional models. The use of more hybrids should help both automakers to meet the tough future fuel efficiency standards, while the future of Tesla is to carve out a new marketplace with more reasonably priced, yet high end luxury electric cars. Reportedly, comic David Letterman bought one of the Tesla Roadsters and just loves the car.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (25)

Michael:
drlava:

When I was a kid, as a nerd, I envisioned the progress of technology as a line going up and up and up. I NEVER dreamed that there would emerge a group of people so backward, so superstitious, and so terrified of the future that they would try to impede the progress of mankind. By trying to stop stem cell research or embracing dead end technologies like gas and coal or thwarting action on climate change these mutants have left our country to play catch-up with technologies we should have fucking RULED!

But now : Steven Chu!!!!!

Mac Lorry:
By trying to stop stem cell research or embracing dead end technologies like gas and coal or thwarting action on climate change these mutants have left our country to play catch-up with technologies we should have fucking RULED!

And yet it's the so called liberals who have effectively stopped development of nuclear power in this nation. A power source that, with development of fast breeder reactors, could power the nation indefinitely without CO2 emissions, with higher reliability and a smaller footprint than either solar or wind energy. As for climate change, the majority of scientists now oppose the IPCC's position. New evidence points to the Sun's cycles of magnetic activity as the cause of most of the climate changes observed in the last 1,000 years.

Mac Lorry:

The plug-in hybrid like the BYD F3DM will go a long way in meeting future mileage requirements. The principle is that most people drive less than 40 miles a day, so if a vehicle has that much range on just battery power, then no gas in burned.

The beauty of the plug-in hybrid is that an IC engine gives it the same range as conventional vehicles. In addition, because the batteries only need to provide about 40 miles of range, they can be much smaller, lighter, and cheaper than those required for a pure electric vehicle.

The current electric grid is designed to handle 2 to 3 times the base load, and thus, it's already able to handle one plug-in hybrid per single family home in most locations if charging is done in off peak hours. The infrastructure is already in place to handle millions of such vehicles and with millions of such vehicles in use the demand for gas would be significantly reduced.

Now if we can just convince liberals that nuclear power is safe then the nation could move into a new era.

Sharla Port:

Regarding the politics of the DOE ATVM Loan awards:
Ford paid over $14M to elected officials and consultants in order to get the loan. Ford paid the third largest amount and Ford got the third largest loan. This is disclosed in public records searches and lobby filings just revealed. 21 elected officials had direct benefit from the deal.
Nissan paid over $10M to elected officials and consultants in order to get the loan. Nissan paid the third largest amount and Nissan got the third largest loan. This is disclosed in public records searches and lobby filings just revealed. The law and public statements by elected officials state that the money was to increase American competitiveness for America car companies yet the money was given to a Japanese company who will send all of the profits back to Japan. 7 elected officials had direct benefit from the deal.
Tesla paid over $100M to elected officials and consultants in order to get the loan. Tesla paid the third largest amount and Tesla got the third largest loan. This is disclosed in public records searches and lobby filings just revealed. Tesla's filings show that their business model is unsustainable compared to competitors, that they were 200% off on the BOM of their car, that all of their first funding was wasted so they have to pay back twice as much to investors as competing companies and that their technology is so old, it all needs to be redone yet they still got money. 18 elected officials had direct benefit from the deal. Tesla did not even read the rules for the loan and planned to build a building when the NEPA rules make that option impossible so they had to restart the process, which is supposed to put one into a new cycle yet they were kept in the previous cycle and put ahead of Fisker, Bright and others who had applied earlier than Tesla.
The ATVM program was created by Ford, GM & Chrysler lobbyists to pad their company's pockets and those three had pre-hardwired the entire $25B for their own pockets but something happened in the process when Senator Bingaman added a few key lines that opened the door for OTHERS to apply to build green technology and required that those who get the money were "financially sustainable" businesses. Back when the ATVM was authored to save Detroit, it was fully known that Detroit was going to go bankrupt. Ford had the same problems as GM and Chrysler but they went around the world getting bailout money instead of going first to US funds. As law required public exposure of the bankruptcy, Bingaman's brilliant plan to finally create a green transportation industry was revealed. The very people that had stopped green cars for over 100 years suddenly became the first people to, accidently, cause them to happen but now others could do it too. Once Detroit realized this, they tried to hijack the whole ATVM program with a takeback at the end of 2008 but that effort was defeated by a close late night vote. Now that it was out there, Detroit lobbyists and influencers fought to get the review of applicants delayed for as long as possible because they realized that, in a recession, most of the smaller competing interests could be forced to go out of business if they could just be kept away from the money for long enough. Major American TARP banks have said that the standard commercial loan process that each of these 26 applicants (not hundreds of applicants- There were 26 applicants in the round) should take 4 weeks at the longest and 3 weeks nominally. It seems clear that the loans were delayed due to political agendas and not process issues.
Bright Automotive had applied on time, ahead of the others, turned in low overhead numbers and a great path too profit but they were virtually ignored while intensive meetings were conducted with Nissan, Ford and Tesla because those parties paid for it. The law says that this, and the purchasing of favors, gave those parties an unfair business advantage using taxpayer dollars, over Bright. A case Bright would easily win if they choose to run with it.
Clearly, it isn't over yet. Stay tuned for the Senate, Congressional, Ethics Committee and media reviews of this one. Watch for the charts connecting who-to-who.
(Feel free to re-post this)

JLawson:

"Now if we can just convince liberals that nuclear power is safe then the nation could move into a new era."

Good luck with that. If we point to France, do you think it would help?

Lee Ward:

Nuclear power plant safety has come a long way. And if anyone can convince liberals that nuclear power generation is safe it's Obama.

By safe, it has to be able to withstand a terrorist attack. I'm not sure that's possible, and if it isn't possible I'm not sure it's acceptable to the nation...

...but then, when it comes to licking the hand of energy corporations, the Republicans are on their knees willing and waiting. The GOP 'concerns' about national security vanish when big energy corporate profits are on the line.

The Republican Party would sell America down the river, and allow terrorists into our country to rape and pillage, if the CEO of Exxon told them to.

Paul Hooson:

I've always been sort of supportive of nuclear power development, figuring that American reactors were relatively safe and that reasonable spent fuel disposal or storage methods were possible compared to the huge amount of energy that can be produced. Not all sections of the country have huge dams and waterpower like my region has to drive turbines to produce power. In many places, coal is mined and used to create electrical power, which seems like an environmental disaster compared to use of nuclear power. Coal mining is dangerous, leads to health problems for the workers, weakens and ruins mountains, and produces plenty of air pollution. Nuclear power is a much better solution, however wind farms and solar power are attractive alternatives as well.

The Tesla electric cars seem like a good alternative powered vehicle, however that idea of looping together thousands of laptop computer batteries seems bad to me. Larger batteries need to be developed to replace thousands of small ones. However, the basic mechanics of the cars are very good. They are very high quality cars that run very well.

JLawson:

Lee - you might be interested in the following...

In the 1980's Canada's Ontario Hydro Co. studied the possible effects of crashing a 747 into a containment building at a commercial CANDU reactor. A perfect hit was assumed, with all four engines impacting the building at the same time. The analysis showed that although there would be some concrete spallation off the inside of the walls, but no building penetration would occur.

After 9/1l, several nuclear adversary groups published articles which claimed that spent fuel storage pools would be vulnerable to aircraft attack. In fact, some pools are covered by light structures. While roofs could be destroyed, the pools themselves have very thick reinforced concrete walls. These walls are generally behind other large structures like water storage tanks and equipment bays, and would be very difficult to breach. The pool water above the stored spent fuel is 10 to 20 feet deep, and would deaden the impact of debris falling from overhead.

Safety of spent fuel in a storage pool depends on keeping the fuel under water. Draining of pool water is extremely unlikely, and there are many actions that could be taken to pump more water into a pool, if that should ever become necessary.

The conclusion of the sabotage work and of numerous other studies on accidents and attacks on power reactors is that while not impossible, the likelihood of actual release of a significant amount of radioactivity is extremely low. Thus, the probability of actual radiation exposure to members of the public from a terrorist attack or sabotage is also extremely low. Nevertheless, it is widely recognized that any attack on a nuclear facility would result in sensational news reporting and front page media attention.
From http://www.euronuclear.org/reflections/nuclear-facilities.htm - it's an interesting site and seems worth poking around a bit in it...

JLawson:

"however wind farms and solar power are attractive alternatives as well."

Yeah, except environmental considerations seem to override their attractiveness. Google up "feinstein solar project" for a sample. And their attractiveness isn't based (in my opinion) on how good a replacement they are, they're seen as 'eco-PC' alternatives, despite the intermittent nature of their supply and the inability to economically compete with any other form of power production.

Hydro's about tapped out, geothermal isn't feasible across most of the US. If you block coal, gas, oil, and nuclear - you're not left with much.

We're a technological civilization - we need a LOT of electricity to keep going, and solar and wind just aren't up to the job. (And there's no effective, efficient way to store the energy they produce, either. Last I saw, a few months back, any storage scheme from batteries to pumped water to compressed air underground storage was looking at around a 50% loss of energy in to energy out.)

Something's got to give.

Lee Ward:

Thanks to JLawson in 9 above. Informative.

marc:

hosoon - "The newer sedan type body model which sells for a lower price than the sports car for $49,900 features an awesome claimed 300 mile range between recharges, and boasts a quick 45 minute recharge."

Missed a few important parts of the sedan story didn't you?

First of all the base price is under 50k because of a $7,500 dollar tax break.

On a 220V outlet, the car can be recharged in 4 hours, not 45 minutes.

The cars is available with various battery pack options 1) 150-mile range pack at the base price you note, 2) The top option will be a pack using cells with a more advanced chemistry that offers a 300-mile range.

But note, option packages are being decided, with the only initial option being the battery pack. Customers will be able to buy the 150-mile pack and rent the long range (300 mile) pack for a trip.

The new car will have 440V charging capability and note, there aren't any public 440-volt fast charging stations (although there are some located at private locations, i.e., airports, run by ECOtality).

Paul Hooson:

Marc, you never seem to get spelling my name right. But regardless, thanks for adding more information to this discussion.

marc:

And I haven't ever seen a "hosoon" post that didn't contain either gross errors or was vastly incomplete if not flat-out misleading.

drlava:

Nuclear power is old technology. The most inefficient cost wise method to boil water ever conceived.

There are enough electrons falling in a 91 square mile are of southwestern desert to power the entire country if net metering and the HVDC smart grid were enabled.[solar thermal not photovoltaic].

The problem is stopping the absolute ignorance that conservatives/Republicans wear as a badge of honor.[and some democrats that are simply pussies]

drlava:

This is the future not nuclear power plants:


http://www.ecogeek.org/efficiency/2759

Doubting Thomas:

DrLava -

We can't use the deserts.

Sincerely, Sen. Feinstein.

Feinstein: Don't Spoil Our Desert With Solar Panels - Political News - FOXNews.com --- Feinstein said the lands in question were donated or purchased with the intent that they would be protected forever. But the Bureau of Land Management considers the land now open to all types of development, except mining. That policy led the state to consider large swaths of the land for future renewable energy production.

"This is unacceptable," Feinstein said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I urge you to direct the BLM to suspend any further consideration of leases to develop former railroad lands for renewable energy or for any other purpose."
Maybe she's got some defintion of 'suspend' that actually means 'build the hell out of', but somehow I doubt it. Solar ain't gonna fly, Lava, because it'll provide shade. And you can't have shade in the desert - it ruins the biosphere.
Paul Hooson:

Marc, I only posted a few highlight features of the Tesla cars from their own company website. My intent was never to list every option package available.

However, Sharla's comment about how much money some companies spent to lobby to get the government loans is pretty good. That's a great comment.

drlava:

Hey, Doubting do you believe the future of energy technologies is going to be decided by Sen. Feinstein?

You quote Fox News.......Got any quotes from "The Globe"?

Jay Tea:

Hey, lava -- the quote, from a very powerful senator to a Cabinet secretary, is three months old. If Fox had just made it up, then don't you think that Feinstein or Salazar would have brought it up by now? Don't you think that Media Masters would have pounded Fox over the head about it?

That says to me that the letter's legit. And it's entirely consistent with Feinstein and the Democrats in general.

J.

Mac Lorry:
There are enough electrons falling in a 91 square mile are of southwestern desert to power the entire country if net metering and the HVDC smart grid were enabled.[solar thermal not photovoltaic].

And there's enough wind energy in North Dakota to power the nation. Problem is it's not economicaly feasible nor is large scale solar energy. China and India are not buying into the carbon junk science liberals have swallowed in ignorance, so U.S. energy production has to be economically competitive with coal and oil or most manufacturing jobs will simply go overseas. Currently nuclear is the only non-carbon emitting energy generation technology that even comes close to being cost competitive with coal and oil.

What liberals don't get is that environmentalist's goal is to shut down our technological society by choking off it's energy sources. What environmentalists don't get is that once their plan starts to impinge on the American lifestyle their liberal patsies will be voted out of power with a vengeance.

Republicans will be given a mandate to repeal the carbon cap and tax (if it becomes law), abrogate environmental treaties, limit the endangered species act so that offshore drilling, coal mining, oil refining, and nuclear power projects can proceed on a fast track without court interference.

To prevent such a political catastrophe smart liberals (yes there are some) want to move to renewable energy sources, but only as the technology becomes economically competitive with coal and oil. The way to do that is to fund basic research and pilot projects.

Doubting Thomas:

Dr. Lava:

Fox stole it from the AP. We got it also.

Cordially, ABC News.

Feinstein Seeks Block Solar Power From Desert Land - ABC News-- California's Mojave Desert may seem ideally suited for solar energy production, but concern over what several proposed projects might do to the aesthetics of the region and its tortoise population is setting up a potential clash between conservationists and companies seeking to develop renewable energy.

Nineteen companies have submitted applications to build solar or wind facilities on a parcel of 500,000 desert acres, but Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Friday such development would violate the spirit of what conservationists had intended when they donated much of the land to the public.

...

Feinstein said the lands in question were donated or purchased with the intent that they would be protected forever. But the Bureau of Land Management considers the land now open to all types of development, except mining. That policy led the state to consider large swaths of the land for future renewable energy production.

"This is unacceptable," Feinstein said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "I urge you to direct the BLM to suspend any further consideration of leases to develop former railroad lands for renewable energy or for any other purpose."
Hmmm. Check the byline, Lava.

Notice how the environmental lobby and their Congressional supporters were all for wind power, until companies started to build offshore? Then they were all for solar - until it got to a point where the technology could be mass-produced and it more or less worked? Now they're slamming the brakes on building in some of the best real estate for solar power in the US.

You asked if I believe the future of energy technologies is going to be decided by Sen. Feinstein - and the answer is yes and no. There are solutions that are politically impossible RIGHT NOW that have been rendered so by the environmental lobby and the left.

We're told 'we can't drill our way out of an oil shortage', which is a manifest lie when we're not allowed by the laws that have been passed to tap massive reserves off-shore and in Alaska. (Hell, even Jimmy Carter was smarter than that.)

We're running out of options, we're running out of TIME, and the folks blocking the way are are more worried about staying in office and pleasing their constituencies than making sure the lights stay on.

You might think differently, but if you really want progress you might want to take a look at how the Democrats keep coming up with good sounding 'progressive' ideas that block workable alternatives... yet they never seem to appear in reality - and the Democrats have been doing it for DECADES.

What'll it take for your wakeup call - an electric bill so high you can't afford to keep your alarm clock plugged in?

Doubting Thomas:

By the way - what Mac's saying is true. IF you want US manufacturing jobs, we HAVE to have cheap energy.

Maybe it'll help to think of it as a game. You use the resources you have available as efficiently as possible, meanwhile looking for and developing the next 'level' of power.

Let's look at transportation from that standpoint.

You carried stuff on your back, until you could catch a horse. You carried it on the back of a horse, until the wheel was developed (which was more efficient, since a horse pulling a cart could carry more than just a horse) - and then carts and wagons ran up against the limitations of the horse. Beyond certain limits, you just couldn't move stuff with horses.

So some bright engineer figured out a way to use a stationary steam engine to move a mobile platform - and the idea of the railroad was formed. (As well as tractors and such - but we'll go with rail.)

The fuel? Wood. It smelled good, was relatively plentiful, didn't have noxious fumes. But as time passed - forests near the rail lines got cut back and wood prices went up - plus you had to use a LOT of wood since it wasn't very energy-dense.

So you had wood-fired locomotives for a while - but coal was a more efficient way to carry the energy. Then oil was discovered, and THAT suddenly was a more effective way to carry the energy you needed. (Let's see - shovel 3 tons of coal into a tender, or put in a hose and pump in 1000 gallons - tough choice, that...) What's next to power the rail grid?

How about your house or apartment? At one time, you had... fire. Rushes, candles, lanterns - it worked, and that was about it. Then gas lighting was invented, but it had drawbacks. Then electric lighting - and suddenly technology exploded. But the electricity has to be generated somehow.

We've used wood fired boilers - then coal, oil and gas. Nuclear power works too - but here in the US it's poison. Not so in France, they get 85% of their electricity from it.

So what's the next level? Solar? Wind? As Mac pointed out - they're not practical on a large scale. Solar power satellites? I'd love to see those, but again you'll see the environmentalists blocking it. Tidal? Too irregular, not concentrated enough. Hydrothermal? Google up OTEC - the most they've been able to get off that technology so far is a whopping 50kw - and that was in 1993.

We need to get to the next level - but we won't get there by dropping back to previous levels, or ignoring the proven dense energy options in favor of irregular, low-density energy sources.

OMG the sedan is beautiful. I want one so bad. Too bad I cannot afford even one hubcap on this car.

Ronk:

I like the sedan much more than the roadster. Either way, they are both fantastic.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

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