Turn Your Car Into a Plug-In Hybrid

Do you have a small, gasoline-engine car that gets about 30 miles per gallon? Would you like to get about 55 miles per gallon with the same car?

Well, you soon can (at least if you have 15 inch wheels or bigger) whether your car is front, rear, or four wheel drive. That’s very good news. The bad news? It will cost you about $4,600 to $8,600 – depending on your choice of batteries, lead/acid or lithium ion.

That is what it will cost to get an authorized dealer to install an aftermarket “Poulsen Hybrid Kit” on your car – as soon as the company has worked out the final product liability issues. The kit itself has already proven to work well.

The kit consists of two powerful electric motors that are mounted externally onto your car wheels. They are connected to the trunk-mounted batteries, and to dashboard instrumentation. The kit “does not affect brakes, steering, suspension, or any original safety systems.”

This device is the work of Danish mechanical engineer, Ulrik Poulsen. The electric motors “do not drive the car, but kick in to provide a power boost between 15 and 60 miles per hour. Regenerative breaking helps keep the batteries charged between nightly plug-ins. Range on electric alone is expected to be between 25 to 30 miles.”

Poulsen’s insight that led to this Hybrid Kit was the realization that “only 10 to 15 horsepower is required to propel a compact or mid-size car along a level road at a steady 60 miles per hour, leading to the conclusion that this relatively small amount of electric power would be able to cope with 70% to 85% of normal driving, only aided by the combustion engine during start-up and when extra energy is required for acceleration and for hill-climbing.”

If you are interested in reducing emissions while increasing your car‘s mileage (even if gas prices are now lower – for a while, anyway), keep checking the web for availability – http://www.poulsenhybrid.com . Poulsen expects his factory to be turning out 100 kits a day by the middle of 2009.

It’s Just Too — well — Renewable

Peak oil, global warming, environmental destruction, dangers from war and terrorism — it would seem we need to invest in energy security. Why don’t we?

We hear from the media that alternative renewables can only provide a small portion of the energy we need, and it’s not reliable. Solar power can only be generated when the sun shines, wind only when the wind blows, and so on. And that’s true, as far as it goes. It is true that renewables would have to be a mix.

But I just read an article on http://www.metaefficient.com (which they got from the Wall Street Journal) about the problems the Danish utility company is having with wind power. Because they have a lot of windy coastline, Denmark built enough windmills along it to generate 20 percent of their electricity.

But often, it gets really windy. When that happens, the percentage of electricity generated by the windmills can climb to 40 percent. If that happens, the price of electricity can drop to zero “leaving utilities scrambling to offload excess power or take a financial hit”.

So far, they have been selling the extra electricity cheap to Sweden and Norway. This is neither a desirable nor a long-term solution. So the Danish utility company is planning to build a country-wide system for charging electric cars with the excess power. (Israel is doing the same.)

So the problem in Denmark is that renewables are just so darn — well — renewable. The wind just keeps blowing. Blowing down the price of electricity. Thus the task of the utility company becomes finding ways to use excess electricity. In other words, to find ways to limit the supply of electricity enough to keep the price up. (Are you wondering why they need to keep the price up?)

And all this bother because they have built enough windmills to provide 20 percent of their electricity on ‘normal’ wind days. Kind of makes me wonder what would happen if they built enough for 50 percent wind power and 50 percent solar power — or 50 percent tidal power. Would electricity be virtually free except for small maintenance and labor costs? So abundant we couldn’t find ways to use it all?

Profit demands scarcity. Faced with abundance, our economy would be in ruins. It seems the name of the “man behind the curtain” in our energy woes is Profit.

Big Biofuel: An Even Worse Idea than Big Oil?

Two new scientific studies (University of Minnesota and Princeton) show that “if the full emissions costs of producing these fuels are taken into account . . . . They cause more greenhouse gasses than conventional fuels.”

The studies do hold out hope for the ‘second-generation’ biofuels such as switch grass grown on waste land, and algae — although other problems arise with these as well. Notably, increasing reliance on biofuels would use a great deal more water — an increasingly scarce resource itself — both in growing and in processing the biofuel feedstocks.

Widespread biofuel use also poses a new pollution threat. Formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and other aldehydes are produced when the alcohols in biofuels are burned.

Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead bodies — it isn’t good for living ones. Remember the FEMA trailers? It is banned by the European Union as a carcinogenic. Acetaldehyde is both carcinogenic and mutagenic.

Gas chromatograph studies comparing the air of Osaka, Japan (where no ethanol is used) and Sao Paulo, Brazil (where lots of ethanol fuel is used) showed atmospheric formaldehyde to be 160 percent higher in Brazil, and acetaldehyde 260 percent higher.

Eclipsing all these problems is the work of Professor Tad W. Patzek whose calculations “show that the entire surface of the Earth cannot create enough additional biomass to replace more than 10 percent of current fossil fuel use.” To grow enough fuelstocks for biofuels to replace our current fossil fuel useage would require 10.8 million square miles — and the Earth only has 5.5 million square miles of arable land.

So, in short, big biofuels:

  • Produce more greenhouse gasses just when we need less
  • Increase water usage just when we need to conserve
  • Produce more carcinogenic and mutagenic pollution
  • Use more land than is available for all other uses, including food.

Use of ‘second-generation’ fuelstocks like algae could safely replace a limited portion of our fossil fuel. But corn as a biofuel feedstock is a net environmental liability. It needs lots of fertilizer and degrades the land, and uses up almost as much energy in its’ growth, production, and transportation as it’s use as a fuel can produce. Still, 95 percent of the biofuel now used in America is from corn.

Why? The short answer is — Archer Daniels Midland.

ADM makes high-fructose corn syrup — used notably in cold drinks, and just about every other processed food. High fructose corn syrup is made by a process of “wet-milling” corn. The very same process used to make ethanol.

ADM has “billions in assets geared toward buying, moving, storing, and processing corn” already in place. Small wonder they are determined to make sure that corn remains the American biofuel crop. (ADM is also the main industry player in biodiesel and favors using soybeans — which have the “lowest fuel-yield per acre of any major biodiesel crop”.)

So ADM has joined with old pals like Monsanto, Dupont, and Burson-Marstellar in a front-group called “Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy” — giving it a budget of “several million dollars” to push a high pressure lobbying and advertising campaign. You can be sure that however much they spend it is because they expect to make much, much more.

So that’s the bottom line — not increased greenhouse gasses, not increased water scarcity, not rising cancer and mutation rates, not rising food costs and attendant hunger and starvation — but big profit from big biofuels.