27 Jan 2011
Let's be blunt here: there is no way that there will be a mass move to electrically powered cars and/or other vehicles (vans/lorries/buses etc.) unless the range of operation is increased to match the 500 kilometres (300 miles) or so that we can achieve in the portable package called liquid fuels. And the all too familiar phrase we hear "Oh yes there is, if the price of oil reaches $200 a barrel!" for that is pure poppy cock! The only way to stop people using their cars which run on liquid fuels is to increase the price of this over-night to around the £4-20/5-00 (€5-00/5-60) per litre rather than the current pricing. Even then those that still want to use their vehicles at this rate will still do so. It should also be remembered that even at these prices the cost of manufacturing electricity will rise proportionately…there will be no winners here!
I have to say that what we need to do here is what the Swedes and Finns are doing. If the Swedes and Finns can go forth with Ethanol in their Saabs then why cannot the UK with the same initiative. All we see is a tinkering at the edges yet there are innovations afoot with the development by Genesyst UK in the development of its two Biomass from Waste sources to Ethanol plants in Yorkshire. The first is understood to be to produce 75 million litres of Bioethanol at South Milford with the second likely to produce over 200 million litres of Bioethanol at Goole. And then we should recall that the same company is expanding its efforts in proposals for Malta with a 85 million Bioethanol plant proposed to be fully operating by 2014 and an even larger one scheduled to follow suit at 200 million litres during 2015. These plants will we understand be the first of a major series of between 30 and 40 similar plants being proposed to built by the same company in a major drive to fulfil the needs of supplying 20% and more of the bioethanol across the UK and the Mediterranean Basin using the same technology which will be using Biomass/Lignocellulose feedstocks derived from Waste and Biomass obtained from farmed Macroalgae developed by their partners.
By Making Bioethanol from these sources it is understood as end-users the public would be able to benefit in two ways: the first in a low cost solution for treating Municipal Solid Wastes and the likes and the second in the production of renewable fuels for transport at around 2/3 of the current cost of gasoline per litre.
28 Jan 2011
SimHull makes some good points. I agree with him and I can add further points.
First of all, with a government deficit, we simply don't have the financial resources to subsidise an electric car industry which is in its infancy and promises at the moment only to produce vehicles with limited range that will compete directly with other short range modes of transport; that is bikes, buses and local mass transit.
A large scale replacement strategy is going to demand massive investment in a comprehensive recharging infrastructure (not a few token charging points tucked in the corner of a car park), and it would simply be unsustainable, first to financially subsidise the electrification of a whole transport fleet, and second, in terms of the energy and resource costs of prematurely replacing vehicles that have many years of service.
Cynically, I think promoting electric vehicles is a diversionary tactic to legitamise the continued escalation of taxation on hydrocarbons and it ignores the potential of greening the current transport fleet , simply by changing where the fuel comes from. In other words, transport can be decarbonised simply by changing to low-carbon fuels.
Real advances are being made with biofuels, but I do think the effort needs to be steered away from ethanol towards producing 'drop-in' hydrocarbons such as biobutanol, green gasoline and bio-diesel. Microbial advancements also means that there is growing potential to convert CO2 to hydrocarbons which will produce a second set of renewable hydrocarbons. These advances see beyond the narrow thinking of environmental discourse that accuses biofuels of competing with food production and speeding up deforestation to processes which are sustainable and gradually replace traditional fossil based petroleum.
The increasing oil price is doing two things. First it is encouraging the exploration and discovery of additional oil reserves and stimulating the production of synthetic fuels from coal and gas. This means that oil will rise, but only to cover these costs. Peak oil is not a myth, but its not as close as we think. Oil price spikes are more of a symptom of "political peak oil" because of political demand constraints. With a better focus on renewable hydrocarbons peak oil will arrive in the form of peak consumption rather than production, as renewable hydrocarbons replace fossil based ones.
28 Jan 2011
Chilledgibbo: I am beginning to like other people standing out of the crowd and making comments.
We read that the potential for the PRC and India to have an available fleet of cars suitable for 1 in 5 as being a major promotional issue by 2025 (according to the President of PRC) who also made the other equally relevant comment that the West should not chide the PRC with the people's aspirations for personal cars (at this ratio) when in so many in the USA/Canada and in the EU countries have 3 4 or even 5 cars per household. It doesn't take an awful lot of credence to work out the potential that if (and it looks fairly reasonable that) the PRC India and Brazil (and the other countries that want to catch up with the rest) go for the universal use of 1 car for 5 people by 2025 then we will be in desperate straits for transport fuel by that time. To put it another way - we (the World) would have a further 1,000 million cars on the roads by that time and in addition to an already dwindling oil stock we would require the availability of a new supply of oil equivalent to the whole of the Middle East Africa and South America to be available to meet these new vehicles, in addition to finding new sources to replace the others, to have been developed by that time. Electrically-driven cars will not provide this alternative for although the Chinese say that they can make 10 million by 2020 that is a mere drop in the ocean of the total. Equally and pointedly the source of Electrical energy needed to provide a sustainable and continuous source of electricity for these vehicles is not available from renewable sources and therefore we will end up using the older routes to make electricity from coal oil and nuclear.
Making Renewable Fuels from non-food sources has always been the way forward, but to divert prime agricultural lands and to use flora that protects the ecological balance of other species is equally not the way forward. Utilising discarded materials to make substitute transportation fuels is an option, and so utilising the Ligno-Cellulose Biomass discarded in waste to produce a common platform of chemicals that can make Ethanol is perfectly feasible as Genesyst and ST1 are proving with their programmes. I read that these do not need to use Bio-engineered organisms for such a process as these have proven and are now being investigated to be a potential Environmental Risk to Plant Species. As to whether these companies make the transport fuels Biomass-Ethanol/Propanol/Butanol/DMF or Biomass-JGas is not an issue, the only concern is in the balance between input Carbon and Output Carbon. The lower order Carbon rich fuels Ethanol, Propanol and Butanol work because they do not require the same quantity of Carbon as the Hexane/Heptane/Octane in traditional Petrol/Gasoline which they can be blended or substituted and their energy comparisons can be off-set.
Contemplating providing substitutes for the higher order Carbon-Rich fuels (Diesel for example) from generic Biomass is to a certain degree (but not wholly) more interesting. Rudolf Diesel recognised this in his early developments using Biomass Oils – alas the whole issue was overtaken when Oil became King. I would prefer to think that instead of looking at C12 and C11 as the marker for Diesel derived from oil we look at a different marker for Diesel with other sources, and here you allude to the developments of Microbial Developments and I wonder whether in the light of the major concerns voiced elsewhere whether this is the right pathway. Strangely you did not mention Micro-Algae, the potential is there although I suggest that it may be at least a further 15 years away to get the “mechanics of production” working.
The parallel developments of Macro-Algae (in farmed shallow lagoons at 400 mm deep) containing salt (sea) water, brackish water as well as clean (unsalted) water which is fed carbon dioxide to produce Biomass is also available. And with yields of Lignin-free Biomass (tailored by hybridisation to be rich in C6 Celluloses or C5 Hemicelluloses) and yields of Ethanol per hectare at 25 to 30 times that from Sugar Cane and Corn this is a serious break-through in providing an acceptable alternative to Terrestrial Flora. This system is currently in production at four hectares and is going to be used in the Mediterranean and for Carbon Dioxide sequestration at a number of industrial sites as part of the whole development mentioned earlier.
As you say we need to replace the dominance of Oil and here is a development that will do it.