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A natural gas vehicle (NGV) is an alternative fuel vehicle that utilizes compressed natural gas or, less frequently, liquefied natural gas (LNG) for propulsion. With oil imports surging and climate change continuing to advance, many policy-makers, industry leaders, and analysts claim greater NGV fleet penetration enhances U.S. energy security. The potential development of large amounts of shale gas has furthered the calls for natural gas to be more fully deployed as a "transitional" fuel until more sustainable sources can assume a larger role in America's energy mix. The hope is that renewable energy sources, by supplanting the gas that produces 21% of our electricity, will allow natural gas to be used as a substitute for petroleum-based products, such as gasoline and diesel.
From personal automobiles to heavy-duty 18-wheel trucks, NGV proponents argue the immediate advantages of expanded use are twofold. First, NGVs are powered by North American fuel, as over 80% of the natural gas consumed in the U.S. is domestically produced and imports come mostly from Canada. Second, the California Energy Commission reports NGVs emit 29% less greenhouse gases than gasoline-powered vehicles and 22% less than those using diesel. Hence, the opinion that greater NGV use improves U.S. energy security is spreading:
"Natural gas is cheap, green and American-made and it is time we encouraged the use of natural gas vehicles here in America," Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, Democrat
"Converting [conventional vehicles] to compressed natural gas gives us an opportunity to promote energy security and support a clean-burning alternative," Jon Huntsman, Governor of Utah, Republican
"NGVs can have an immediate and positive impact on the issues of air quality, U.S. energy security, and public health," Southern California Gas Company
"I am continuing my call to implement a real national energy policy that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil through [greater use of] natural gas in our transportation system," T. Boone Pickens, legendary oil and gas executive
Unfortunately, any approach dead set on decreasing dependence on foreign oil today -- dangerously approaching 70% of total usage -- by any means necessary could undermine U.S. energy security in the years ahead. As opposed to maximizing energy security by merely utilizing a domestically produced resource, the use of natural gas to fuel America's automobile fleet could ultimately establish the same precarious dependencies that have made oil usage a national security concern. The new infrastructure required to relevantly incorporate a "transitional" fuel into our transportation sector would cost hundreds of billions of dollars and, in reality, commit us to a commodity whose long-term prospects are not much better than those of oil. This paper examines the three key issues that make the switchover to NGVs a demanding and risky endeavor: 1) Technical Issues 2) Production Issues and 3) Market Issues.
There are several drawbacks to NGVs, most notably the lack of fueling infrastructure. According to Natural Gas Vehicles for America, only about a half of the 1,100 fueling stations nationwide are available to the public. With about 180,000 gasoline stations, the funding to make natural gas a pragmatic alternative would come at the expense of more lasting energy solutions. NGVs have less cargo space because the fuel is stored in cylinders in the trunk (extra storage tanks displace the vehicle's payload capacity). NGV service is difficult due to the specialized expertise involved, and many owners complain station compressors cannot maintain sufficient pressure to fill tanks completely. The lower energy content of natural gas decreases the vehicle's driving range and increases fueling stops. These deficiencies contribute to a lack of popularity, as only about 150,000 of the 10 million NGVs worldwide are in the convenience-obsessed U.S.
Vehicles running on natural gas demand more fuel because their engines are less efficient. Dedicated natural gas engines need to be more commonly available. Currently, most NGV engines are gasoline retrofits where the compression ratio has been altered. Retrofitting used gasoline engines is a slow and expensive process that must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Utah, a state depending on heavy tax incentives to boost NGV use, is asking the EPA to streamline the onerous and expensive certification process that continues to constrain broader deployment. The ongoing credit crisis has pushed the manufacture of NGV equipment, which is more expensive than that of conventional vehicles, into further decline. Low sales and the high costs of adding NGVs to a lineup give dealers even more of a disincentive to carry them.
By the end of last year, the lone automaker to sell NGVs in the U.S., Honda, had its vehicles exclusively available to consumers in New York and California. The "Phill" by Fuelmaker (a company owned by Honda) is the sole manufacturer of a natural gas refueling appliance for residential use, but it, too, is only available in certain states. These supply scarcity issues demonstrate an overall lack of competition within the industry that has made the costs associated with NGVs artificially high across-the-board.
Displacing even a portion of the 250 million petroleum-based vehicles on American roads is no small feat. The Hirsh Report, a 2005 peak oil mitigation study, indicates it takes 17 years to replace just a half of U.S. automobiles. Today's petroleum-based vehicles are of higher quality and have better fuel economy. NGV proponents tend to overlook the long lag time between replacing older vehicles with newer ones. It simply does not make sense for most consumers to get rid of their current automobile. Without heavy tax subsidies and incentives, which should be reserved for a more sustainable vehicle revolution (electric?), the push for extended NGV market share will only get more challenging.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, domestic natural gas production in 2008 totaled 21.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). Unless this figure can be substantially elevated, enough NGV fleet penetration will overextend U.S. gas usage, as only 0.13% of the 23.2 Tcf consumed last year was as vehicle fuel. Climate change legislation forthcoming under the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress has our reliance on natural gas, for residential, commercial, industrial, and electric power use, expected to surge -- the familiar "dash to gas" slogan. For example, gas enthusiasts also promote it as a replacement for coal (a fuel that supplies a half of U.S. electricity).
The extraction of natural gas from tight, brittle shale formations is viewed as the industry's main chance to expand domestic production. In recent years, gas companies have applied a combination of advanced well drilling and completion technologies to shale gas formations to reverse what had generally been accepted as a permanent decline in U.S. production capacity. Shale gas development, however, which the industry boasts is the game-changer in U.S. (and North American) production, faces a rather hazy future.
The ongoing credit crisis and critically low prices are effectively grinding production in the four major U.S. shale plays -- Barnett, Marcellus, Fayetteville, and Haynesville -- to a sudden halt. Unlike petroleum, the majority of gas produced in the U.S. comes from independent exploration and production companies, not the super-majors. The financial crunch has pushed many of these smaller firms to the economic brink, as sunken prices have substantially reduced the recoverable reserve assets producers rely upon to secure loans. This is an enduring production problem because entry fees into the shale gas business regularly run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
The horizontal drilling technique companies are banking on to expand production is about five times more expensive than traditional vertical well drilling. Ambitions are now sputtering, as companies are working to cut drilling expenditures. Baker Hughes reports the active U.S. directional/horizontal rig count is down about 50% from last year's peak. Vertical rigs are down over 60%. Because idle machines become less effective over time and often force workers to seek alternative employment opportunities, the slowdown could have longer lasting consequences than many industrial leaders care to admit. Indeed, John Richels, President of Devon Energy, says it could take an additional two years for companies just to reassemble rig crews once demand and prices rebound.
Further, horizontal wells are a major disturbance for surrounding citizens, particularly in densely populated areas. They often require up to 80 acres of land and five times the truck volume of a conventional well. The fracturing technology involved uses four million gallons of water and can swiftly erode local water conditions. Residents of Forth Worth, an area struggling to balance the interests of those parties impacted by the Barnett play, are lobbying Texas lawmakers to raise operating costs. Energy companies can offer thousands of dollars per acre for the lease bonus and very high royalty percentages, but many mineral owners remain uninformed. "Uncertainty often exists as a result of these high sums because many owners do not know the difference between leasing their mineral rights and selling them," says Bill Sinclair, of the National Association of Royalty Owners of Texas.
The long-term benefits of shale gas production to a community are of debate because the cumbersome wells have steep decline rates. A shortage of reliable data, detailing the amount of gas U.S. shales could ultimately yield, has left more questions than answers. If the disadvantages of shale gas development prove to outweigh its advantages, the major shale plays, along with the "newfound abundance" the industry touts, could fade as quickly as they appeared. With an NGV fleet then being forced to scramble for fuel, the prospects to buy from afield stand in direct contrast to U.S. energy security.
The functionality of NGV infrastructure requires reliable access to a fuel whose market has a very chancy future. Natural gas prices, which are continually being linked to the price of oil, are extremely volatile. From 2005 to 2008, for instance, the price of natural gas ranged from a low of $3.56 to a high of $12.17. The growing competition within various sectors of the global energy economy makes the procurement of gas a more difficult task today than in previous times. Long-term contracts and the inability to shift in and out of markets make the purchasing process more inflexible than that of oil. Natural gas is much less fungible and has historically been sold on the domestic and regional levels where pipelines cement the supplier-buyer relationship. The burgeoning LNG trade, however, is changing market dynamics by making distant transport a viable export option.
The U.S. is now set to join the new global gas market that will interconnect countries, continents, and prices in an oil-like fashion. In fact, many analysts project the extension of LNG infrastructure will merge the three distinct regional gas markets -- North American, Western European, and East Asian -- into a single global market within a decade. The rapid expansion of transportation infrastructure, such as tankers and hubs, is constantly making natural gas a global commodity riddled with the same market uncertainties that plague the oil business. The inevitability of this picture eventually coming fully into focus must serve as the impetus to reexamine the path NGVs could lead us down. It is a stark reminder of how a lack of foresight today can have dire consequences far into the future.
Russia, Iran, and Qatar own nearly 60% of the world's natural gas reserves and have discussed creating a "gas cartel" to possess more power over supplies and pricing. In increasingly tight energy markets, more "troika" influence is antithetical to U.S. energy security. Russia, known to use its vast energy resources as a political weapon, has simply not made the necessary upstream investments to increase production and remains an unpredictable supplier. Iran uses most of its gas for re-injection into petroleum fields for enhanced oil recovery operations and is controlled by an erratic dictator who has publicly stated Israel must be "wiped off the map." Qatar, although seen as more politically benign, has recently capped gas production and placed a moratorium on export projects in favor of domestic industries and conservation. Indeed, optimistic projections of LNG supply frequently ignore the dangerous nature of worldwide politics and every country's devotion to act in its own self-interest.
Unfortunately, the majority of reserves not yet committed to long-term contracts are located in the Middle East and Former Soviet Union. Outside investment possibilities in these areas are extremely limited. Indeed, resource nationalism and the rising clout inefficient state-owned companies have on energy production make a globalized natural gas market a U.S. national security concern. A single gas market would give geopolitics, regional and interregional alliances, national policies, and other precarious factors even more influence in determining our level of energy security. With BP confirming North America has just 4.5% of the world's proved natural gas reserves, foreign supplies cannot be expected to adequately materialize.
If NGVs achieve the level of fleet penetration many hope they do, we could be forced into an arising global gas market where capricious producers control the bulk of the reserves. Conventional North American production has peaked and unconventional reserves are promising but hardly assured. An overextension of natural gas is already likely because, due to inherent limitations and reduced credit options, renewable energy projects are struggling to get off the ground. Wind and solar energy appear unlikely to displace natural gas-based electricity generation anytime soon. Apt et al (2008, 2009) and others indicate the federal Renewable Portfolio Standard NGV advocates hope will change this is simply not practical and could actually create a public backlash against renewable energy policies.
Overestimates of U.S. gas supply have become somewhat habitual. Wishful thinking and political expediency, however, cannot change the reality that we not hold the reserves to justify significant NGV use -- demand is expected to grow in other sectors of our energy economy and around the world. Using precious government resources to erect an entire infrastructure to accommodate an uncertain "transitional" fuel that, in the best case, is only 29% more "green" than petroleum exemplifies precisely the type of short-term thinking that has perpetuated America's energy insecurity. NGVs should remain exactly where they are now: in a small niche market.
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I could be wrong, but as far as I am concerned you have got it right this time. Congratulations and thanks for an excellent article that deserves to be distributed widely..
What I mean is that before diving into a natural gas dream world, present gas reserves should be carefully evaluated by the decision makers and their advisors. I wrote a book on natural gas once that doesn't have much to say about today's natural gas market, but one of the conclusions I reached was that the US (and perhaps North America) is not particularly rich in natural gas, given the likely future demand. Of course, if they are patient, producers of natural gas might be able to make a lot of money, but I don't know what this will mean for those of us on the buy side of the market. There is also the matter of what is down the road for shale gas.
I hope that you stick with this subject. I'm not sure that we are getting the information on natural gas that we deserve, nor the analyses, and for what it is worth I think that you have a lot of important things to say..
James Carson 7.24.09
So.... Your argument is that NGVs are not the perfect solution and that adaptation will take time and money.
Are you aware of the vast natural gas resources that lie under the United States? Apparently Ferdinand isn't. Are you aware that the vast coal reserves in the US can be converted to natgas? Are you aware that in the 1970s, natgas was widely adopted as a vehicle fuel, especially in commercial fleets? Are you aware that in the short term markets that natgas prices are less than one-third that of fuel oil prices on a per Btu basis, and in the long dated contracts less than half?
You said that natgas reserves estimates are over optimistic. We would have long ago run out of this resource were the estimates accurate!! We are ALWAYS going to run out of the stuff in 5-10 years. In fact, I can't recall a time when the unproven reserves have been this high.
Harry Valentine 7.24.09
Most privately owned non-commercial vehicles operate in urban areas. Many homes in urban areas have access to natural gas for home heating or to operate stoves. There is the option to refuel NGV overnight using technology tailor made for private homes. Many industries also use natural gas to heat buildings and could refuel vehicles that are used in urban pick-up and delivery service during the overnight hours.
There are ongoing breakthroughs happening in fuel cell technology and in electric battery storage technology. Ultimately the cost of the energy and the cost of operating the vehicle will determine what kind fo market will develop for any of the vehicle propulsion technologies.
Xuguang Leng 7.24.09
The author raised some excellent points.
Even there is plenty of cheap NG available (there is not), the best course of action may not be gasification of automobile. Electrification of railway may be a better alternative to conserve oil. Building a few power plants and transmission lines along railways may be cheaper than building NG stations and pipelines all over the country. Converting NG to electricity to drive train may more efficient than compressing NG to drive car.
Jude Clemente 7.24.09
One of the misconceptions being thrown out there is ng is "clean." You see this on buses all over your town. NG is not clean. It is CLEANER, than gasoline - yes, by 29%. But the NG industry, which is pretty well organized, sees the writing on the wall and wants to promote their product as good for the environment as possible. Coal to liquids is a good option, although the environmental lobby will never let it happen, because gasoline engines do not need to be replaced (that is a main problem with NGVs).
What I am saying is that "adaption will take time and money" and the result is not worth it. For energy security we must see farther down the line, not 10 to 15 years out. The surplus gas now can evaporate as soon as it came about. Natural gas is a valuable fuel, of course, but it is only part of the energy mix - it cannot play all parts - as the industry likes to say it can. Look at the EIA projections in recent years about where our gas will come from, it changes every year! Conventional, to LNG, to Unconventional (shale). It is far too risky of a transitional fuel to do a switchover - that is why electric vehicles should take priority, as news story after news story tells about another $200 million going to NGVs. "Unproven" reserves are just that. Being "technically feasible" is a tricky subject. It is "technically feasible" to put all the residents of Pittsburgh on the moon, it does not mean we should do it. EOR, to me, offers a more realistic approach to fueling our fleet with gasoline, than switching over to natural gas.
James Carson 7.24.09
The debate is not whether natgas can "play all parts". That is a straw man argument anyway. The debate you generated was whether NGVs were a viable direction and you claim that it is not. I disagree.
Your argument about "energy security" and being able to forecast beyond 10-15 years out is nonsense. We have NEVER been able to forecast ANYTHING that far out with any degree of accuracy. You pointed out that EIA projections change every year. ... Well, of course they do. The futures markets change every day. New information continually comes to light that changes our view of the future.
You also need to define what you mean by "cleaner". SO2 and NOX emissions from natgas are pretty much negligible.
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.24.09
Oh yes, James. I'm quite familiar with the situation with natural gas reserves in the United States - and in North America too for that matter - and I am NOT impressed. The figure for reserves has been changed because of the 'shale gas', but the natural depreciation of those reserves should insure that the investment in this gas that you think will take place will not take place. I also gave a talk on the gasification of coal in Hong Kong many years ago. I said then that a great deal should not be expected from it, and I say that again.
The true picture where natural gas is concerned will not be available until the present macroeconomic difficulties have been straightened out. Of course that picture t is already quite clear for me, but I'm a student of nuclear energy at the present time and so I will try to stay out of this debate. Besides, I suspect from reading his paper however that Mr Clementé doesn't require any help from my good self.
I would like to know where this love of natural gas vehicles comes from. I understand that Boone Pickens is quite fond of this option, but his fondness for wind and coal doesn't seem to have earned him another biillion. And by the way Mr and Ms America wherever you are, are you aware that a gas 'OPEC' may come about next year?
Jude Clemente 7.24.09
The point is significant NGV use will put us on a path that we are now on with oil. We do not have the reserves. Of course we cannot forecast that far out - I am talking about something much more long-term. We know two things: other countries (Russia, SA, Qatar, Iran, Venezuela, etc) have the reserves and NG is becoming a global market. Under the cartel that Banks is talking about, we will be in a position then like we are now with oil. Shale gas, as Banks said, is what the industry is banking on, and it has its vast array of issues.
This is not about EIA projections, this about making choices now that will have long-term negative impacts. What road is an energy choice taken now going to put us on? That is really what I am talking about here. Electric cars are the obvious choice - NG is not that much better than gasoline - they are much more sustainable. That is where the precious resources should be going.
Jim Beyer 7.24.09
I think this author is mistaken on several points, and I am in broad agreement with Mr. James Carson (who'd a thunk it?).
Let's address a few of them:
NG is not clean:
This is wrong and misleading. While it is not perhaps the cleanest fuel in theory (H2 might be cleaner) it is mostly clearly the cleanest fuel in practical use today. The fuel burns a little cooler, which allows NG vehicles like the Honda GX to get great emissions ratings; the GX is one of the only cars to have the AT-PZEV, and it's not even a hybrid. NG vehicles generally have very low NOx ratings, even lower than cars that burn H2.
Every hydrocarbon fuel emits CO2, so you can't do much about that. Methane (CH4) has the most chemical bonds per carbon atom, so it is the cleanest hydrocarbon fuel available. Any other one is dirtier.
NG cars are an interim solution Again, I disagree. I think they could become part of a final solution for vehicles. NG (methane) can be the third fuel of vehicles powered also by electricity (low cost, expensive storage) and synthetic liquid fuels (like ethanol, high cost, low cost storage). Renewable methane (which can dovetail nicely with our extant NG infrastructure, as well as any more of it we decide to build) is moderate in cost and moderate in storage cost. In a nutshell, you car of the future uses low cost electricity for the first 10-20 miles, methane for the next 40-100 miles, and expensive ethanol or gasoline for the rare trips the require long range. That provides the range that consumers demand at lowest overall cost. Maybe a miracle battery will come along, but that's unlikely. Maybe a miracle fuel will come along, but that's even MORE unlikely. As oil dries up, methane will become more attractive as a vehicle fuel because it's not THAT bad and we have an infrastructure in place. One could argue for methanol as well, but its bulky (for a liquid fuel) dirty to burn, and poisonous.
Methane is difficult to store in vehicles Somewhat true. But still easier than hydrogen. And probably it will always be cheaper than batteries. Recent advances in charcoal-like materials have promise in greatly increasing the density of methane storage systems. This is definitely a tractable problem.
We will run out of NG Could be. But NG vehicles can run on renewable methane. Either created viable biomass sources, or synthetically via electrolyzed hydrogen, some CO2 (plenty of that around) and a Sabatier reactor. Unlike gasoline, or even batteries, methane is a fuel source that one could have explicit local control over. Methane generators are not hard to build. India has been building them for 100 years.
NG or methane is tied to the IC Engine Also not true. SOFCs (Solid Oxide Fuel Cells) run great on methane. For stationary and perhaps mobile applications. With efficiencies double that of IC engines.
NG or methane is the fuel that hydrogen was supposed to be. It has all the benefits of hydrogen in terms of synthesis from renewable sources (via the Sabatier reactor) and the additional benefits of having an extant infrastructure and a viable technology to use it (IC engines as well as turbines).
Jim Beyer 7.24.09
Barring some miracle battery development, all-electric vehicles will NEVER be competitive with a hybrid fuel strategy that includes methane or liquid fuel; even synthetic (e.g. expensive) liquid fuel.
Why is this the case? This is because batteries are so expensive. So the marginal cost to double the range of an all-electric vehicle is to double the size (and cost) of the battery pack. This is despite the fact that the marginal value to the consumer (of the increased range) is fairly small. But the consumer WANTS the range because occasionally they drive 300 miles in a day.
But with a hybrid vehicle (burning ethanol or methane) the marginal cost of the increased range is tiny (just a bigger tank). When those rare long-distance trips are actually driven the cost may be high because of the fuel purchased; but the overall cost to the driver is lower and the value is higher.
Getting a cost-effective plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) on the road won't be super easy, but definitely possible. It notable that the main issue effecting costs remains the batteries, and not the extra IC engine that needs to be carried around. I guess something that's been optimized for 100 years might still have some retained value after all.
James Carson 7.24.09
<< I am in broad agreement with Mr. James Carson (who'd a thunk it?). >>
... I am speechless. Could you post a link to elaborate on what you mean by "renewable methane" and "charcoal like" methane storage?
Electricity markets are my thing at RisQuant Energy. Natgas is central to my work as a fuel particularly as it is the fuel most often on the margin in the power markets, at least during on peak periods. My conclusion is that there is more than enough methane in the US and worldwide at current $/mmBtu to supply our needs for a very long time. As an important bonus, it helps reduce real pollution in addition to CO2.
Renewable methane would be any methane created from renewable sources. This could include the creation of methane via the anaerobic digestion of biomass (such as occurs in landfills) or the production of synthetic methane via electrolyzed hydrogen (getting the hydrogen from processing NG would be silly....) and CO2. The reaction in a Sabatier reactor is:
CO2 + 4H2 -> CH4 + 2H2O + heat
Essentially, hydrogen is so reactive it "burns" in a CO2 environment, creating methane and water. Sabatier reactors are a mature technology; the space station even runs one 24/7 to keep the air scrubbed for the astronauts.
Synthetic methane is problematic cost-wise because electrolyzed hydrogen (hydrogen from water) is still quite expensive. But it addresses the storage and end-use problems that have plagued the full-on hydrogen economy. The bond energy loss in creating methane from hydrogen is about 20%. No free lunch. But for that cost, you get a fuel with an extant infrastructure and something 3X denser and much easier to store.
James Carson 7.24.09
A typical automobile gas tank holds 15 gallons, and so carries 1.85 mmBtu of energy (115400 Btu/gal). That is equivalent to 1850 CF of methane (1000 Btu/CF). At the claimed compression factor of 180:1 for the nano-porous carbon, that means a tank of 10.28 cubic feet or 77 gallons. That is about 5x the current size. Ouch.
The MOF is 28% better, but sounds expensive. I wonder how these technologies will function under real world conditions. That tank would be expected to operate in an ambient temperature range of -30F to +110F where I live.
I also didn't see any information on how long it took to refuel these beasts.
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.25.09
Oh boy, here we go again.
Thus far we have a couple of issues in the discussion. The availability of natural gas, methane, and methane vs electricity (in one form or another).
Where natural gas availability is concerned, I'm with Jude Clementé all the way. The suppliers are getting smarter, which means that they are not going to make a lot of NG available at bargain basement prices - such as those that exist today. To me tht is the bottom line, and what we seem to be getting in many countries is what we have with nuclear: the TV audience being tricked into believing something that is economically and probably technologically absurd. ´ What about this methane business. The comments of the two James' make it clear to me that they not only know more than I do about methane, but a lot more. For me the only thing that seems to have registered is that methane is often considered a more malicious greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane may turn out to be the best fuel in the world, but to tell the truth I've never seen its beauty expressed so vividly as Jim Beyer has done above. Jim, maybe you belong on Madison Avenue.
He also makes or appears to make an interesting case against electricity, but here I don't know yet if he has made a sale - although I admit that he might be right. But regardless, as far as I can tell, the wide spread introduction of methane - THE WIDE SPREAD INTRODUCTION - as a motor fuel is something for the future, and perhaps for the very distant future. In addition, for what it is worth - which probably isn't much - I'll continue to believe that electricity is - in the words of Irving Berlin - the tops.
Jude Clemente 7.25.09
Methane is a greenhouse gas that traps 20 times more heat than co2. In fact, in india, where there are 283 million cows, methane from cows is a serious serious problem (check out sing story in TIME magazine on April 11).
The battery problem for PHEVs is a serious issue no doubt. Especially because they are manufactured overseas, not here. Trading in our oil dependence for an addiction to foreign batteries is not a very good swap. Even with PHEVs the key issue at hand is how to get the old cars off the road. Cash for clunkers has its issues - simply google that - and again, these cars are just resold. Buying U.S. gas guzzlers in Mexico is a big deal - Ciudad Juarez was recently reported as having 25,000 used U.S. guzzlers. (check dickerson story in LA times in 2008 or 2007 for that story). In Thailand they used old gas guzzling engines for boats.
But again, Americans feel good because it is not happening here. In fact, our efforts end up equating to zero because the emissions are just being transferred, which is why the Institute for Energy Research says if we eliminate the U.S. transportation sector, the world will make up for those emissions in two years. If we eliminate all of our GHG emissions, the world will make up for that in 8 years. Sorry, but what we do as far as "saving the Earth" is more and more equating to zero global impact.
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.26.09
Jude, you say that trading oil dependence for an addiction to foreign batteries is not a good swap. The bottom line here is getting rid of oil addiction, because it must be true that batteries can be manufactured in the U.S.
But let's be clear as to what getting rid of oil addiction is all about. It's not being in a position where you have to buy oil at outrageous prices, especially when the macroeconomy is in danger of a meltdown. However there is no reason to label the buying of foreign oil as an addiction, which some people seem inclined to do.
Jim Beyer 7.26.09
I'm not sure about the relevance of methane as a GHG w.r.t. it's utility as a fuel source. CNG vehicles, even old ones, leak very little methane. I corresponded with a Ford engineer at one point and found out their CNG Crown Vics emitted less (unburned) methane on a 500 mile trip than a single cow burps daily.
I'm not sure the exact weighting of methane versus carbon dioxide for global warming, but it's not 20 times. The molecule itself is about 20 times more able to grab heat, but it decays to ordinary CO2 after about 90 years, so the overall weighting is more like 7 or 8.
With respect to batteries, I'd have to run my numbers again, but I'm pretty sure even at $300 per kw-hr storage and 3000 charge cycles, PHEVs make more sense than all-electric, and we aren't even close to those numbers yet.
James, as I said earlier, the CNG tank need not hold all 15 GGE of fuel; just a few would be fine to greatly lower the customers' overall fuel cost. A small tank for liquid fuel would allow for greater range and to interact with the extant liquid fueling infrastructure.
Maybe a tri-fuel system seems a bit clunky, but it would work, it would not be unduly expensive, and relies on no miracle technology innovations to occur, which frankly, and unlikely to happen anytime soon.
James Carson 7.26.09
Dual fuel systems were common in the 1970s. I wasn't sure whether they would be feasible today with more sophisticated fuel systems. Nevertheless, I think that you need to consider the consumer's time as a cost variable if the frequency of refueling is increased. They will.
Jim Beyer 7.26.09
Assuming one can plug-in you vehicle at home, then refueling frequency will decrease substantially. The Chevy Volt, for example, does not need to go to the gas station at all if it is driven 50 miles per day or less. People modifying Priuses for plug-in operation report getting 1000 or more miles before their gas tank needs refilling.
I don't think that will be a problem.
James Carson 7.27.09
By dual fuel, I meant CNG & gasoline, not electric. Nevertheless, you may have a good point wrt nightly refueling and range with a small tank. Fifty miles, however, is too short.
Jim Beyer 7.27.09
One problem with the Chevy Volt (which is electric and gas-powered) is that the gas is used so infrequently it runs the real possibility of going stale in the vehicle. (The Volt wasn't designed correctly, in my opinion, but that's another story.) CNG doesn't go stale. I guess if you went with 4 GGE, you could get 120+ miles per tank, maybe a little better. I guess that would be the size of a 20 gallon gas tank.
You raise a valid point about an engine optimized for gasoline and CNG use. But I think the automakers can do this now; all of the E85 capable cars have to deal with different fuel streams.
Jack Ellis 7.27.09
Mr. Clemente has written an excellent article (cannot believe I agree with Dr. Banks...again). It's rational, thoughtful, and considers the oft-ignored time and cost of swapping out infrastructure.
Natural gas powered vehicles are a good choice for urban mass transit, particularly for their lower emissions of soot and other nasty pollutants. The required volumes of fuel are modest and the cost of changing out refueling infrastructure yet again, should it become necessary, is similarly modest. Although natural has is piped to many homes in the US, gas distribution systems likely lack the throughput to accommodate large numbers of residential refueling stations (electric vehicles face a similar problem with existing electric distribution facilities) and the pressure in natural gas distribution lines is a fraction of one PSI - not at all suitable for recharging a natural gas storage tank.
Electric vehicles have their challenges. Assuming the technical and cost hurdles can be overcome, some sort of liquid fuel made from non-food crops that can be grown on marginal land with minimal amounts of water and fertilizer would be the ideal - low infrastructure replacement costs, high energy density, minor modifications to existing vehicle technology.
It's still too early to call a winner but natural gas for personal transportation is not a bet I'd want to make.
Roger Arnold 7.28.09
Good article and good comments. Mr. Clemente brings up vaid cautionary points that need to be addressed by those who advocate mass conversions to CNG fueling as a solution to our our precarious oil dependency. The infrastructure problem is truly formidable. Residential refueling is viable -- at a high premium in capital cost per vehicle serviced -- as long as CNG vehicles remain a niche market. It is not viable if a substantial fraction of vehicles on the road are converted to CNG. The pipeline infrastructure would be overwhelmed.
If anything, Mr. Clemente lets the gas industry off lightly on the negative impacts of tapping tight shale gas. Frac'ing operations don't just require a lot of water, they produce a lot of very contaminated waste water that can be extremely difficult to treat or otherwise dispose of. In addition, the wells decline quickly, with as much as half of the total gas that a given well will produce coming in the first year. Yes, there are apparently huge reserves of gas locked up in tight gas formations, but producing that gas requires a continuous campaign of new drilling and frac'ing. It's not cheap, and would probably never have gotten started if the industry hadn't believed that $12 / mcf would be the new price floor.
Do we even have sufficient reserves of barium for drilling mud to support the level of drilling that would be needed to obtain most of our gas supply from shale formations? And steel for the drill stems and well casings?
OTOH, Jim Beyer is right about the attractions of "renewable methane". If storage problems preclude widespread adoption of hydrogen, then methane is arguably the next most easily and efficiently produced renewable fuel. Although methanol and di-methyl ether (DME) are reasonably close contenders. Both are more easily and more densely stored than CNG. But for that matter, synthetic gasoline and diesel aren't very much harder to produce. The big hurdle is up front, in producing the hydrogen for whichever renewable fuel one might choose to produce.
Jim's also right about the advantages of a plug-in hybrid with a high temperature methane-burning SOFC as the auxiliary power source, rather than an IC engine. But I'd go a step further, and look toward mass-produced SOFC - CT hybrid power plants. Thermal conversion efficiencies of 75% are feasible; the SOFC achieves 50 - 55% off the top, and the CT then converts 50% of the high temperature SOFC waste heat. With automotive-level mass production, the capital cost per kW of power could probably be brought down to only a few hundred dollars. At that point, distributed power generation and vehicle-to-grid operations become extremely attractive.
Note, however, that the high temperature SOFC - CT approach doesn't require methane; it would work equally well with hydrogen, methanol, ethanol, DME, or a variety of other light hydrocarbons. The biggest argument in favor of methane is that it can be produced by low-tech methane digesters. That's a big plus for developing countries -- or what this country could become if the social collapse predicted by some really comes to pass.
Len Gould 7.28.09
1) Natural Gas is a not anywhere near as "climate friendly" as many would like to claim. a) It's traansmission losses ae often very high, much higher than electricity.
2) In "production" of natural gas, often very high ratios of CO2 are also extracted from the gas wells, sepaated at the site, and released directly into the atmosphere. Ths one place where I've seen this measured and documented is Indonesia's gas fields, where the ratio by volume of CO2 released to natural gas produced is 1 to 1, eg. 50% CO2.
3) "The battery problem for PHEVs is a serious issue no doubt. Especially because they are manufactured overseas, not here. Trading in our oil dependence for an addiction to foreign batteries is not a very good swap." -- We are about 10 years of less from completely automated robotic manufacturing of very complex items. (We'd be there now if labour weren't so cheap). At that point, the advantages of China and Mexico etc. simply evaporate. Once this present round of offshore factories wear out and need replacement, we'll see manufacturing for eg. the N American market re-patriate to fully automated hands-free plants which eliminate the shipping penalties.
Jim Beyer 7.28.09
Who run bartertown? Roger! (I'm just a little raggedy man....) [Apologies to 'Mad Max' fans...]
I can see a good deal of anxiety over methane comes from the precarious state of natural supply. That is somewhat beside the point when selecting a fuel that can be synthesized. As I recall, no one lamented the poor state of our hydrogen wells 5-10 years ago.
A single home in a temperate area typically uses far more gas annually than a single car would use. 100 cubic feet is about the same as a gallon of gas. It's not hard for a home to burn through 100 gallon gasoline equivalents in a single month. The pipeline infrastructure will NOT be overwhelmed, especially during the summer months. And yes, I'm sure there will be plenty of STEEL for the drill stems. (Sheesh....) I dunno about Barium. I guess that means fewer enemas...
"If storage problems preclude the widespread adoption of hydrogen..." They do and they will. Along with PEM fuel cells not becoming reliable enough or cheap enough.
Let's put this in crystal clear terms: methane is 3.2 times denser energetically than hydrogen. Hydrogen storage has perhaps been getting a bit better, but so has methane, so they continue to track fairly well. That means even if a fuel cell is 100% efficient (an impossibility) then a methane engine need only be 31.25% efficient (a possibility) to have a greater range for the same tank volume. Hydrogen is hopeless for vehicles.
Reasonable people can argue about the merits of methanol, DME, or Butanol. Or Ethanol, for that matter. My generic answer to all of these is that there is no free lunch with respect to liquid fuels. Liquid fuels are darn convenient; granted. But when it comes to making them from biomass or purely synthetic sources, you PAY for that convenience. Of course, you could make them from coal, but you pay a huge carbon price for that; and one could argue that such coal might be best simply burned for electricity.
And synthetic gasoline IS that much harder to produce, assuming synthetic sources. You are throwing away a lot of hydrogen bonds to get that convenience. That means $$$, unless you are making it out of scoops of coal.
The good and bad of methane is do you want to pay a lot for a tank once or do you want to pay a premium for your fuel every time you gas up? To me, this argues for a small methane tank and a tri-fuel strategy, The point to remember for vehicle fuel storage is that the first gallon equivalent stored is used all the time, so it should be an expensive container using a cheap fuel (e.g., electric battery). Conversely, the last gallon equivalent stored is used quite infrequently, so it should be a cheap container holding an expensive fuel (e.g. plastic tank of gasoline). Methane and it's tankage falls somewhere in between. (H2 falls somewhere between batteries and methane which really means it falls through the crack and makes little practical sense at all. But I've said that already.) Note that this also explains why all-electric vehicles make little sense unless one is comfortable with a very limited range.
In terms of hydrogen in SOFCs, one has to ask: where did the hydrogen come from, and why is it now being used to make electricity? If it was electrolyzed, why not just use THAT electricity in the first place? If it was from NG or coal, why not just burn that? And if it was from electricity generated some time ago (a temporal shift) then one will find that should this duration be longer than about 1-2 weeks, then one is better off making CH4 (via Sabatier reaction) and storing it that way, instead of dealing with H2 storage. Once again, hydrogen is the 'tweener' storage between electricity and methane. Hydrogen probably wouldn't make sense even if we DIDN'T have an NG infrastructure in place. Given that we do, it's hard to believe we still talk about it.
James Carson 7.28.09
Len: Please cite a source for your view that transmission losses are greater for natgas than power. Energy vortex says otherwise. "Typical energy losses in natural gas transmission systems range from 1-2%. Energy losses on a large electrical system range from 5-8%."
at the bottom, shanghaigas offers - "May I contribute a rule of thumb for your reference. For large natural gas transmission pipeline built in plain terrain and without extreme climate circumstance, the compressor driven by modern gas-fired turbine normally consume 1% of its throughput gas every 400km. This is summarised from quite many projects worldwide."
I'll accept his 1% / 400 km as the friction losses in the pipe requiring replacement in transmission. From here to our gasfields in N British Columbia is 3600 km, or 9% losses due to friction. Then there's the fuel inputs to the field compressor which must bring the gas up to 1000 psi pipline input pressure, say another 4% (based on the 1% / 400 km being the fuel needed to boost the pressure from 750 psi to 1000 psi, typical pipeline booster operating prssures). Then, if th gas goes into storage at the destination prior to use, another eg. 1% (generous - typically storage compressors are huge, and perhaps 1/3 of all gas used goes in-out once). That's a total of 15% transmission "shrinkage".
Your mileage may vary depending on your distance from gasfields, but it is very common to transport natural gas a LOT further than electicity.
Len Gould 7.28.09
Then of course, there's LNG.
Len Gould 7.28.09
I would note that a 1 MV+- HVDC (not sure. is a 1 MV DC line running one side at +1MV and the other side at -1MV ?) transmission line can do the job for "about" 0.32% losses to resistance / 100 km. Relatively big penalties for AC-DC-AC conversion though, perhaps 2.5% at each end, and no storage even possible. So it could move the energy 3600 km for 2.5% + 11.52% + 2.5% = 16.52% losses.
I once filed a patent for an HVDC line for "coal-by-wire" where the HVDC condctors were carbon-fiber-reinforced aluminum pipes running pressurized natural gas in the tubes. Hung from the towers of extended-height wind generators, using the towers as storage space for the gas. Wind generators tied in every 100 km more-or-less with underhung AC gathering conductors. IGCC generation in Wyoming supplies electricity to California or Chicago - New York, in off-peak periods the gassifiers povide CO only to the generaors, H2 to the piplelines. The transmission lines provide guying stabil;ity to the wind gen. towers in two directions. Works very well, though the surmounting of the manufacturing and installation difficulties would be non-trivial. Actually though, with 1.5MW wind generators on 50% of the towers, the system could cover its capital and operations without charging anything for electrical transmission, and does a good job of justifying oversizing the conductors to reduce I^2R losses.
Len Gould 7.28.09
Another neat addition was to install the towers on steel bridges over railway lines. The wise base stance provides needed lateral stability to the towes, and electrical conductors for electric locomotives are hung under the bridges. Cheap acquisition of right-of-way...
bill payne 7.28.09
From: "Melvin Davidson" firstname.lastname@example.org To: "bill payne" email@example.com Sent: Thursday, July 23, 2009 11:02:41 AM GMT -07:00 US/Canada Mountain Subject: The Physics of Obama
Some interesting ideas from the administration...
Subject: Automotive Industry Challenge...Dr. David Cole From a senior level Chrysler person
Monday morning I attended a breakfast meeting where the speaker/guest was Dr. David E. Cole, Chairman, Center for Automotive Research, (CAR and Professor at the University of Michigan ). You have all likely heard CAR quoted, or referred to in the auto industry news lately.
Dr. Cole, who is an engineer by training, told many stories of the difficulty of working with the folks that the Obama administration has sent to save the auto industry. There have been many meetings where a 30+ year experience automotive expert has to listen to a newcomer to the industry, someone with zero manufacturing experience, zero auto industry experience, zero business experience, zero finance experience, and zero engineering experience, tell them how to run their business.
Dr. Cole's favorite story is as follows:
There was a team of Obama people speaking to Dr. Cole (Graduate Engineer, automotive experience 40+ years, Chairman of CAR). They were explaining to Dr. Cole that the auto companies needed to make a car that was electric and utilized liquid natural gas (LNG) with enough combined fuel to go 500 miles so we wouldn't "need" so many gas stations, (a whole other topic). They were quoting the BTU's of LNG and battery life that they had looked up on some website.
Dr. Cole explained that to do this you would need a trunk FULL of batteries and a LNG tank at big as the car to make it happen and that there were problems related to the basic laws of physics that prevented them from...
The Obama person interrupted and said (and I am quoting here): "These laws of physics? Who's rules are those? We need to change that. (Some of the others diligently wrote down the law name so they could look it up). We have both the congress and the administration. We can repeal that law, amend it, or use an executive order to get rid of that problem. That's why we are here, to fix these sort of issues".
This country is in big trouble... Clearly these folks didn't take any of my classes. It will be interesting to see what kind of cars English majors and sociologists will come up with. / Mel
Davidson has a Ph.D. in physics from RPI.
We both have liberal arts undergraduate degrees from Whitman College. http://home.comcast.net/~bpayne37/whitman59/whitman59after.htm
" Vehicles running on natural gas demand more fuel because their engines are less efficient."
This statement is true if efficiency were defined as miles per gallon. Even liquid methane is pretty thin gruel, about 2.5 pounds per gaqllon, vs about 6 for gasoline and about 7 for diesel fuels. The efficiency of an engine is normally (work out/energy in) expressed in the same units. Efficiency of our Otto Cycle engines is limited by compression ratio, and compression ratio is limited by pre-ignition (knock). Methane has an octane rating (a measure of anti-knock properties) of 107, much higher than gasoline since the banning of TEL. An engine designed or modified for methane can have a higher compression ratio and would inherently attain better fuel efficiency.
James Carson 7.28.09
JimB: Snopes reports that the story is false, but that Cole had a similar conversation with several unnamed Congressmen several years ago. I have myself had enough conversations about the economics of energy with political "leaders" that such a story would ring true, even if false in this instance. The ignorance in Congress is exceeded only by the arrogance.
James Carson 7.28.09
Len: Your own link says "Total system efficiency of delivery at system design deliverability ... = 3.5% The next comment calls that HIGH. Nevertheless.... you are pumping 3600km? OF COURSE you are going to have very high losses! There are very few markets anywhere in the US that are as much as half that distance from a major source of supply. Minnesota, for example, is 16-1700km from Texas!
Roger Arnold 7.28.09
Who run bartertown? Roger! (I'm just a little raggedy man....)
LOL! Not me, Jim. Nobody here but us raggedy men. If things do go that way, I don't expect to survive long enough to reach bartertown. I'm certainly not the one to found it or run it. Somebody younger and tougher will need to tend the digesters and dole out the precious gas to the Hells Angel troops on their CNG-modified hogs.
But there are those who believe we can somehow get back to a collection of decentralized, downsized, localized, low-tech communities without having to deal with Mad Max. Nice fantasy.
Herschel Specter 7.28.09
Dear all: There seems to be continuing confusion about the need for liquid fuels in plug-in hybrids. People often confuse percent of trips with percent of miles as a function of trip length. The following data were sent to me by a statistician who worked at the US Department of Transportation and hopefully it will clarify what I mean:
Distance (miles) % of trips % of milles 0-0.9 9.7 0.4 1-4.9 40.0 9.1 5-9.9 21.7 13.7 10-19.9 16.2 20.8 20-49.9 9.7 26.9 50-99.9 1.9 12.0 100+ 0.9 17.1 Total 100.0 100.0
This simple table has a great deal of information. First, (9.7+40.0 +21.7+16.2 = 87.6) or some 87.6 percent of the automobile trips we take are within 20 miles of the starting point. A battery with a 20 mile range would be sufficient for 87.6% of our trips. Now a 50 mile range battery, which would be 2.5 times bigger, heavier, and expensive would enable us to 97.3% of our trips, a gain only of 9.7 percent.
The next important observation is that the trips that are over 100 miles long only represent 0.9 % of our trips, but they amount to 17.1% of our miles and therefore 17.1% of the liquid fuel we presently consume in today's automobiles. Long trips may be infrequent, but they consume a disproportionate amount of liquid fuel.
If you assume that it would be difficult to exceed a 40 mile battery (as claimed for the Chevy Volt...if we ever see that) then we still need to come up with about 38% of the liquid fuels we presently use, assuming equal mpg on the liquid fuel portion of the plug-in as we get today in the all gasoline cars.
It becomes clear that this huge amount of liquid fuels cannot come from biofuels and we may have to go back to making liquid fuels from coal. If we have to use so much coal, will this meet current carbon dioxide limits in the Waxman-Markey bill [H.R. 2454] and how many years of coal reserves do we have at this rate of consumption? Do we need a different transportation mode for longer trips, like electric trains (with regenrative braking) with rental plug-ins at the train stations? How many 1500 MWe nuclear plants would it take to power such a system?
Which is more important, investing in such a transportation system or 100's of billions of dollars for a unified grid system to transmit wind generated electricity off the coast of Delaware to grocery stores in California, as recommended by Repower?
Herschel Specter firstname.lastname@example.org
Herschel Specter 7.28.09
Since my table above did not print out in a clear way, let me try another way. An auto trip between 0 and 0.9 miles represents 9.7% of the trips we take, but only 0.4% of the total miles we travel. Between 1-4.9 miles represents 40% of the trips we take, but only 9.1% of the total miles we travel. A trip between 5 to 9.9 miles is 21.7 % of the trips we take and 13.7% of the miles we travel. A trip between10 to 19.9 miles represents 16.2% of the trips we take and 20.8% of the miles. therefore a battery with a 20 mile range would be sufficient for 87.6% of our trips. Trips between 20 -49.9 miles represent 9.7% of our trips and 26.9% of the miles we drive. Trips between 50 -99.9 miles represent 1.9% of the trips we take, but 12..0 percent of the miles we travel. Lastly, trips longer than 100 miles only represent 0.9% of the trips we take, but they have 17.1% of the miles.
Len Gould 7.28.09
James: I assure you that ALL the natural gas which the USA imports fits into those transportation statistics or worse, and any which in future arrives from Alaska. Perhaps the reserves on the contiguous 48 are sufficient for a while but TransCanada Pipelines is betting big money its not.
Len Gould 7.28.09
Don't forget, for future new uses of natural gas, you need to used the "marginal worst case" figures. eg. CNG autos.
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.29.09
The comments of Bill Payne are interesting, but not as interesting as his bottom line: THIS COUNTRY IS IN BIG TROUBLE.
I think that should be: ENERGY WISE, THIS COUNTRY IS IN BIG TROUBLE. I have no problem at all with the new president, quite the contrary, but I can't see any reason at all for accepting the wisdom of some of the persons he has appointed to do his energy thinking. There is going to be a huge farce in Copenhagen this December which someone has called Kyoto 2, and so as far as I am concerned, it is bette to repeal, attempt to repeal, or remain convinced that it is possible to repeal the laws of physics than to attempt to incorporate the nonsense that will be circulated in Copenhagen into the US enegy policy (such as it is).
Len Gould 7.29.09
James Carson 7.29.09
Len, in January 2009, the US imported 360 bcf from all sources. Consumption was 2700. Do the math.
Fred Linn 7.29.09
--------" Coal to liquids is a good option, although the environmental lobby will never let it happen, because gasoline engines do not need to be replaced (that is a main problem with NGVs). "--------------
Coal to liquids is the worst possible choice we could possibly make. Coal to liquids uses Fischer-Tropsch process. We can produce alcohol fuels,(ethanol) or even diesel fuels using F-T process from biomass. Biomass does not contain sulphur and other pollutants that coal does. Biomass is renewable and sustainable, coal is not. The pollutants in the coal destroy the effectiveness of the catalysts used in the F-T process necessitating the frequent replacement of the catalyst beds, creating even more toxic wastes. Coal comes from strip mines, the MOST destructive things we can be doing to the land, water sheds and atmosphere.
Fischer-Tropsch process has been used before on widespread scale successfully in Germany during WW2 and in South Africa.
Fischer-Tropsch is a very good option, but it needs to be used with biomass instead of coal or natural gas. The only requirement is a source of carbon. It would be much better environmentally and economically to make our source of carbon biomass. The system is much more efficient with a carbon source that is already hydrocarbon. Natural gas also contains the pollutants that destroy the catalysts necessitating extra steps to remove them---better than coal, but not as good as biomass. We'd be much better off using a rake to provide our feedstock for Fischer-Tropsch feedstock than a shovel.
Fred Linn 7.29.09
BTW----Range Fuels is finishing up construction of a plant that will produce 100 million gallons per year of ethanol from wood logging and millwork waste in Soperton GA, using the Fischer-Tropsch process.
Peter Boisen 7.29.09
Have just read all of the above correspondence over the last five days. For some odd reason I only received the original newsletter today. I am extremely grateful to Jim Beyer who, contrary to most other bloggers, has demonstrated a very good knowledge concerning the use of natural gas, or renewable biomethane, in vehicles.
When discussing fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and emissions of pollutants in a methane powered vehicle the proper reference should, of course, be state-of-the-art technology, not antiquated conversion technology from the early 90s. In Europe the Volkswagen Passat TSI EcoFuel introduced early this year has set completely new standards for NGVs. This fairly large car with a weight of some 1700 kgs (3800 lbs) uses a very small 4-cylinder 1.4 litre engine fitted with a compressor for low end torque, and also a turbo for medium/high end torque. The top speed is 133 mph and the car reaches 62 mph in 9.8 seconds. It is available both with a 6-speed manual gearbox and a 7-speed automatic transmission. One extremely interesting aspect is that the automatic verision is slightly more fuel efficient than the manual version - a first within the automotive industry. The tailpipe CO2 emissions for the automatic version are only 119 g/km, or about 22 % less than for a turbodiesel powered car with similar performance,, and about 24 % less than for a similar gasoline powered car. The price is more or less the same as the price for a diesel powered car, or about USD 3000 higher than for a gasoline powered car,( aprice difference which will very quickly be compensated by lower fuelling costs). The range when driving on NG is officially stated to be between 280 and 310 miles (depending upon the actual gas composition), but the actual distance achieved iunder highway driving conditions is 350 miles.
In addition the car is fitted with a gasoline tank providing a similar range driving on gasoline when transiting areas without easy access to refuelling of methane . And, the complete normal luggage space is intact, whether looking at the sedan or wagon version.
Whereas the USA has only 100,000 NGVs the worldwide NGV total has over the last five years grown from 4 to 10 million vehicles. Pakistan has 2 million NGVs, Argentina and Brazil both around 1.7-1.8 million. Iran has over the last five years goine from zero to 1.2 million vehicles, and the majority of the growth is now coming from OEM produced vehicles also including turbo engines and easily matching present Euro 4 emission standards. In Italy sales of new NGVs now account for more than 3 % of all new car sales and are likely to exceed 130,000 units this year. In Sweden NGV sales in June 2009 were ten times higher than in June 2008 (mainly thanks to the new VW Passat, but also to a large extent via the MB B-class 170 NGT ).
In the passenger car segment USA is far behind most other markets. On the other hand USA is doing very well considering the use of NG powered trucks and buses. Many new trucks now use dual fuel engines supplied by CWI (Cummins Westport Innovations). These engines have diesel engine efficiency, but mainly burn natural gas with ignition supported via pilot injection of diesel. This concept provides four advantages - some 20 % reduction of CO2 emissions, considerably reduced fuelling costs, about 50 % lower noise and vibrations, and considerably reduced emissions of NOx and particulates. These HD vehicles often use methane in the form of LNG instead of CNG to enable up to a 600 mile range without refuelling.
To round off this info on the status of the NGV market Sweden, with around 9 million people and 20,000 NGVs, has already reached a 60 % share fir biomethane when looking at the total use of NG/biomethane in vehicles. In Germany the Governmnet has the target that 6 % of all natural gas by 2020 should be replaced by biomethane (not talking about use in vehicles only, but totally), By 2030 the target value is to replace 10 % of all natural gas with biomethane injected into the NG grid.
The Swedes estimate that some 15 % of the total transportation fuel needs can be met via the use of biomethane derived from anaerobic digestion of various organic waste streams. Another 65 % of the Swedish transportation fuel needs can be met via gasification of forest industry residues, and reforming the synthesis gas into biomethane. When aiming for methane as the end product (rather than BTL fuels produced using the Fischer-Trops process, the total fuel output measured in energy units will be substantially increased. There are two reasons - the gasification is made at a temoerature of 800 instead of 1300 degrees C (meaning less energy consumption), and also a direct yield of some 15-20 % methane (thus less need for energy to reform H2 and CO into fuel.
Fred Linn 7.30.09
Peter---very nice car! I had not seen this yet---thanks for the post.
Make the engine Flex Fuel capable for E85, and 4X4 or AWD and I'd say it is about perfect. With a comparative octane rating of 120---methane should be compatible with high compression second generation biofuel engines. This could more than double the thermal efficiency of internal combustion engines compared to the typical gasoline engine in use today.
I like this option.
Peter Boisen 7.30.09
Fred, although no advocate of using available biomass resources for production of ethanol (less efficient than most other biofuel options including biomethane) there is no technical problem in adapting a bi-fuel NGV to be able to use E85 instead of gasoline as the back up fuel. The metal alloys used in valves and valve seat in flex fuel cars and in bi-fuel NGVs are the same, and the catalytic converters fitted in an NGV will easily cope both with E85 and gasoline. The job to be done is in principle limited to the programming of the engine management system.
Concerning 4x4 or AWD drive systems nobody has so far managed to introduce such systems without fuel economy penalties. Most car drivers have little practical use for these systems. A tow truck operator was in a radio interview asked if four wheel drive vehicles were not less likely to spin off the roads in slippery conditions. He replied "Well, I do not know, but I have noticed that they usually end up further away from the road". The conclusion is that some drivers will take their cars to the limit, and that AWD vehicles can travel a little faster on slippery roads. But, is this really a top priority?
Regarding improvements of spark ignition otto engine efficiency it is true that engine downsiziing, compressor and turbo tecnology, electric launch and assist systems, regenerative braking, and clever transmission systems can very significantly improve the fuel economy - regardless of the actual fuel used. Methane, however, has two inbuilt advantages, a lower C/H ratio meaning less tailpipe CO2 emissions, and a higher octane rating which eventually could lead to various advantages. Concerning the emissions of various pollutants a methane powered vehicle is completely outstanding. .
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.30.09
Very interesting Peter Boisen - I mean the part about Sweden and their revolutionary progress where vehicle propulsion is concerned.
Unfortunately though you are not correct. The people doing the estimating in your comment are ignoramuses in the worthless Swedish energy research establishments. WE DON'T NEED ANY NATURAL GAS IN THIS COUNTRY, nor do we need neurotics and mediocrities pretending that they have something useful to say where energy economics is concerned. We were doing fine before the ignoramuses were pronounced researchers, and the two nuclear plants in Malmö were closed. That was when they began talking about importing natural gas.
I happen to be in favor of using forest products to manufacture motor fuel, although I am vague about how much can be obtained from that source. I also suspect that an optimal solution for transportation sector in this country is PHEVs. Natural gas doesn't belong in the picture at all, and not just in this country. Here I can mention that Swedish engineers (and probably scientists who are not on the take) understand the lack of utility of NG (in this country)..
Don Hirschberg 7.30.09
Len nd Peter I am a skeptic about doubling the efficiency of an engine. The ideal (Carnot) engine e at 10:1 compression ration is 60%. At a compression at 20:1 it goes up to 70%, even at a 100:1 it’s only 84%. This is using a k of 1.4, specific heat ratio (cp/cv) the “cold air standard.” Using k=1.3, the “hot air standard”, arguably fairer, the respective e values would be 50%, 59%and 75%. Real engines attain roughly half of their Carnot values, or for the hot air std ratios; 25, 29.6, 37 Thermal efficiencies respectively.
As long I am in nit picking mode I find it hard to believe a large and heavy sedan with a 1.4 liter engine going 133 mph.
And isn’t the reduction in CO2 merely a reflection of there being 4 hydrogen atoms per carbon atom in methane compared to about 2/1 in gasoline and diesel oils?
Don Hirschberg 7.30.09
Len and Peter. Just for the hell-of-it I roughed out the horsepower of engines needed to get my three cars up to 133 mph. My 1973 VW bug would need a 311 HP engine, my Venture van would need a 327 HP engine and my Tracker would need about a 299 HP engine. No guarantees but I think my numbers are in the ball park. Anyway, too much to ask from 1.4 liter engine.
A car going 133mph using 300 HP would be using about 25 gallons an hour, or 5.3 miles per gallon. Hardly a small carbon footprint.
In my last post I said real engines get about half of their corresponding Carnot e. I’m sure many engines get more than half but not enough more as to invalidate my point. Some might ask why can’t we better approach Carnot efficiencies. Carnot’s engine did not have to generate electricity, run a rather elaborate cooling system, pump air in and exhaust out, had no friction, no oil pump, and didn’t operate valve trains or turn distributors, etc.
Don Hirschberg 7.30.09
Len and Peter. Lest I find myself out alone in left field because of some boner I worked backwards from some approximate data points. I have heard those NASDAC cars have engines that develop 800 HP and I’ve observed they can run about 185 MPH. They are something like a sedan and the rules I think they weigh at least 3400 pounds, not much different than Peter’s 3800 pound VW.
At these speeds delta HP requirements would be proportional to speed to the third power. These race cars go 185 mph. So (133/185)^3 X 800 = 297 HP. This is almost embarrassingly close to my suggestion that a large heavy sedan would need about 300 HP to go 133 mph.
Fred Linn 7.31.09
Peter B.----"Concerning 4x4 or AWD drive systems nobody has so far managed to introduce such systems without fuel economy penalties. "--------
I lived in Riga, Latvia until recently. My father in law had a Jeep Cherokee that had been converted to run on CNG. It was a bifuel vehicle, and had a switch on the dash to switch to CNG or gasoline. You could not tell any difference in the performance. The tank however used up the available space behind the back seat. Otherwise, it was a pretty much conventional Jeep Cherokee. We made several long trips in it to St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, and Minsk, Byelorussia. If you've ever driven Russian or Byelorussian roads(or even a lot of Latvian roads) in winter----4x4 is not a luxury, especially around Skov. The places I go---you NEED 4x4, take my word for it.
You are absolutely right about most US drivers never needing AWD or 4x4. They think just because they can get going---they need to go very fast. Most of them never stop to think that when it comes to stopping, they are in exactly the same boat as everyone else. I have carbide studs on all four in winter.
Don H.------"A car going 133mph using 300 HP would be using about 25 gallons an hour, or 5.3 miles per gallon. Hardly a small carbon footprint."---------
You are correct in your figures---doubling speed means that you use 4 times as much fuel(your estimated fuel consumption is about correct---NASCAR racers do get in vicinity of 5 miles per gallon). This has always been a problem for naval strategists---do you go fast and consume fuel, at the risk of encountering a battle with too little fuel, or go slower and conserve fuel? Here is the thing about ethanol as a fuel. Ethanol has a comparative octane rating of 115~120(depending on testing method). This means that you can make much higher compression ratio engines without preignition than you can with gasoline. About 18~24:1 with ethanol vs. 9~10 with gasoline. NASCAR engines use special gasolnes with higher octanes than you can buy in service stations---and it costs about 3X as much. Indy League Racing Cicuit cars use 100% ethanol---and they have used alcohol based fuels for over 40 years. Indy racers run 3L Honda engines that develop 1200-1600 bhp. About the same output as 3-4 big rig diesel trucks. This is because compression ratio is what determines thermal efficiency with internal combustion engines. The typical gasoline engine has a thermal efficiency of about 20%----you get about 1/5 of the BTUs put into the tank back out at the wheels as actual work. A high compresion engine using ethanol can get into the thermal efficiency range of 45%. In other words, getting 300 bhp from a 1.4 L engine is not only possible using ethanol, we've been doing it or exceeding it for the last 40 years with Indy race cars. Indy race cars routinely hit 240-260 mph on the straights.
Powering a 3800 lb. vehicle with a 1.4 L ethanol fueled engine built entirely with off the shelf parts, at highway speeds, with no loss in mileage adjusted for fuel BTU content is not only possible, we've been doing it for years. With power and efficiency to spare. With a comparative octane of 120, CNG could also be used with ethanol----but not with gasoline, the limiting factor is the low(85-92) octane rating of gasoline.
Don Hirschberg 7.31.09
wrong. Seems to me this has been a gavotte around everything I wrote and asked. Not one of my questions has been addressed. We were never talking about what can be done for a few hours once a year for 500 miles with million dollar vehicles with small frontal areas and one passenger which sometimes manage to go 500 miles.
My Chevy Venture from day 1 has given me 26.5 mpg. My Chevy Tracker from mile one has given me 27.5 overall mpg. (I rarely use 4 wheel drive and pull a trailer a small percentage of the time.) This is close to what nature allows us to achieve. I am mileage intelligent. My wife is not and has driven the Venture 110 mph.
I say octane rating for methane is 107. Am I wrong after all these years?
Don Hirschberg 7.31.09
Fred Linn. Funny about the Riga connection. We were on a Baltic cruise wih 23 cousins when a sister-in law needed medical attiention at Riga, My wife, my sister-in-law abandonded ship, flew to Stockholm , thence to Londom and then onto Chicago. It worked out but at considerable trauma and expense.
Xuguang Leng 7.31.09
Fred Linn - would higher compression ratio of ethanol engine also: 1. require more steel in the engine to handle the pressure, thus adds weight to the car, increase the car cost? 2. vibrate more, thus making the car more noisy and less comfortable?
Unless you drive a lot or gasoline price is sky high, the improvement of fuel efficiency by increasing compression ratio may not pay off.
Len Gould 7.31.09
Just a bit regarding the concern with the "1.4 litre engine", given superchargers and turbochargers, raw diaplacement is almost meaningless. What matters is "what is the mass of air-fuel mixture, and what is the fuel-to-oxygen ratio, in the combustion chamber at ignition, and what is the crank angle then?"
Jim Beyer 7.31.09
I thought engine displacement affected acceleration more than maximum speed. If it's fairly aerodynamic, then maybe it can get there. Remember the old VW ads? "0 to 60? Absolutely!"
Don Hirschberg 7.31.09
How much power an engine can produce is directly proportional to how much air it can breathe. Every pound of fuel (gasoline) requires 15 pounds of air for stoichiometric combustion. So to get lots of power make the engine big (displacement), lots of valves and big manifolds, high lift cams, lots of rpm’s – all to get more air, and all the compression ratio the fuel will allow. Sure you can get more air in with a super charger and get more max power but you also lose efficiency. Superchargers were used on race cars and combat aircraft in WWII but for an edge in power not efficiency.
A Model “A” had a 200 cubic inch engine and was rated at 40 HP @ about 2000 rpm. The engine in my van is about the same size (3400) and is rated at 185 HP @5200 rpm’s. While the modern engine is better in many ways the big difference is in how much more the modern engine can breathe by turning much faster.
At high speed nearly all the energy used by a car is as work against air, making a tunnel. If a car will go 100mph with a 100 HP engine you would need about a 800 HP engine to go 200 mph. (200/100)^3 = 8
Ferdinand E. Banks 7.31.09
Fred Linn, can you give us any idea of the cost of converting a vehicle to run on CNG. As far as I can tell, regardless of engine characteristics, natural gas is not the right fuel for the great 'mass' of vehicle owners in countries or regions without large reserves of that resource. As Jude Clemente indicates, vehicles designed to run on NG are more expensive, conversion of a conventional vehicle to gas is expensive, and making the fuel available to large numbers of motorists is also expensive. T. Boone Pickens has made heavy weather of this option for the U.S., and although that country still has considerable reserves of gas, it makes even less sense than his proposal for a wind corridor from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border.
James Carson 7.31.09
Banks, there are many aftermarket kits. The technology was introduced in the US in the 1970s.
Ferdinand-----the conversion costs about $1800 to $2000. It is not particulary difficult from a technical stand point. Basically it involves adding a second fuel intake system that can handle gas rather than liquid. A throtle body injector is added to the air intake system, with a metered gas injector. The fuel injectors(liquid fuel system) is cut off when the natural gas is activated. The natural gas fuel is simply aspirated into the cylinder with the air in the intake stroke.
Natural gas is a good fuel also, although right now it makes much more economic sense for people living in Europe where gasoline prices are much higher, especially for vehicles that do a lot of long distance driving.
It is hard to justify the expense of conversion when train travel is cheap and readily available. We used the trains a lot for travel, and I have to say that I am a big fan of railroads and rail travel----I wish we had more of it over here.
My objection to NG is that we are importing about 16-17% right now----if we increase usage dramatically we will end up in the same boat with NG as we are with petroleum right now. I still favor biofuels as a long term solution.
One thing about natural gas(methane). Methane has about 17X the heat capturing capacity that CO2 does. If we capture methane that would ordinarily escape into the atomsphere, and mix it with petroleum methane, we can begin to reduce the greenhouse effects by exchanging high GHG methane, to much lower GHG effect CO2 with as little as 6% mixture.
I would like to see natural gas replace coal to produce electricity. NG is still a fossil fuel, but it is much cleaner to use, and does not cause nearly the environmental damage to land, water and air. NG does not come from strip mines.
Fred Linn 7.31.09
F. Banks-------".... T. Boone Pickens has made heavy weather of this option for the U.S., and although that country still has considerable reserves of gas, it makes even less sense than his proposal for a wind corridor from the Rio Grande to the Canadian border. "------------
LMAO!!!! It makes perfect sense, T. Boone Pickens has a LOT of natural gas to sell.
I'd much rather see him sell it to utilites to replace coal.
The only thing that would need to be done is to take the grates out of the furnaces, and replace them with burners----sort of like making a charcoal grill into a gas grill. Everything else remains exactly the same---boilers, turbines, generators, buildings, controls, grid etc. etc..
The only difference would be that our electricity would not have that gritty, smokey, sulpury down home flavor that we get using coal.
James Carson 8.1.09
Fred Linn: You don't want to replace gasoline with natgas because increased consumption would make us more dependent on imports. Nevertheless, you favor replacing coal with natgas because it is cleaner. Don't you see the contradiction???
For my part, I believe the opposite. Natgas is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline, and we have a lot more of it here in the US. I prefer coal to natgas because it is cheaper than natgas. Coal is not perfect, but it is a lot cleaner than it was 30-100 years ago. We have dramatically reduced NOX and SO2 emissions in the US on an absolute basis.
Jim Beyer 8.2.09
The climate change issue is really all about coal. Coal is basically pure carbon, and the easiest way to effect carbon sequestration is to leave unburned coal in the ground. (Note that 'easiest' may not actually be 'easy'.)
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.2.09
Jude, to get back to the original discussion, NATURAL GAS WILL NEVER...NEVER BE IMPORTANT AS A VEHICLE FUEL IN NORTH AMERICA, NOR IN MANY OTHER INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES. The reason for this is economics - and not just economics having to do with unacceptable conversion costs.
On this issue start with the bottom line - the economic absurdity of trying to introduce large amounts of NG as motor fuel - and work backwards. I think that I mentioned something about this in my energy economics textbook, but of course nobody reads books any more. And take some advice from my good self: DON'T LISTEN TO ANYONE WHO - LIKE BOONE PICKENS - IS TRYING TO GET MOTORISTS TO IGNORE ECONOMICS, AND ACCEPT NG AS A USEFUL COMPONENT IN AN ENERGY INDEPENDENCE PACKAGE..
Don Hirschberg 8.3.09
Jim, Great idea to leave the coal in the ground but first you have to get rid of, well. maybe, 4 or 5 billion folks. Fact: China, already the biggest user of coal, has announced they are going to increase coal production by 30% during the next 6 years. India, where 0.6 billion have no electric service and where the other 0.5 billion who do, are rationed service and experience routine outages because they currently can't get enough coal. And in both countries population is still increasing. Other high population countries face similar dilemmas. How quickly can this be turned around, EVEN if they tried? It doesn't matter an iota what Denmark or Iceland do.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.3.09
Why not face the facts of real life. That coal is definitely going to come out of the ground, and if anything bad can happen as a result, it is going to happen.
This is why Mr Stipp said that the Pentagon is looking very carefully at this climate thing.
Jim Beyer 8.3.09
For what it's worth, I've tried to give a future fuel prices a great deal of thought.
The problem is upward pressure on oil prices. And peak oil. Oil production probably peaked in July, 2008. (74,821,000 barrels per day). With peak oil, there will be constant pressure on gasoline prices (upward) whenever the economy heats up enough for demand to exceed the fixed (actually, slowly declining) oil production peak.
I don't know if any economists have modeled how such a system would behave. I picture an airplane that begins stalling whenever it begins to attain some altitude.
Fred Linn 8.3.09
James C.------"We have dramatically reduced NOX and SO2 emissions in the US on an absolute basis. "----------
We have done some cleaning up with smokestacks---true. However, the amounts removed from smokestacks is still there, in the form of flue ash----and it is still toxic. And it is everywhere. Go to You Tube and search Tennessee coal disaster to see films of just the latest pollution last December.
Stack scrubbers are one solution----however, you still have the toxic wastes, and as you can see from the videos and news footage----we are just trading air pollution for water pollution.
The other solution is dilution----spreading the smoke over larger areas so that it can't be seen so readily. This does not reduce any toxic products---all it does is spreads them over a larger area. The natural food chain and water sheds then reconcentrates the toxic products back into the food you eat and the water you drink. Toxins like mercury, arsenic, lead, bismuth etc. etc.
No matter how you try to clean up smokestacks-----you are still digging up toxins from deep underground and putting them into the bioshere we have to live in. And we are doing it at an accelerating rate---an incredibly accelerating rate.
As for coal being cheaper---only to install. I have seen windmills in Europe, built of wood----still running and doing exactly the same job that they were designed to do 300 years ago. The fuel they run on costs exactly the same today as it did 300 years ago--- $0. Total fuel bill for 300 years of operation, $0.
Don Hirschberg 8.4.09
Fred Linn wrote: "Powering a 3800 lb. vehicle with a 1.4 L ethanol fueled engine built entirely with off the shelf parts, at highway speeds, with no loss in mileage adjusted for fuel BTU content is not only possible, we've been doing it for years. With power and efficiency to spare. With a comparative octane of 120, CNG could also be used with ethanol----but not with gasoline, the limiting factor is the low(85-92) octane rating of gasoline."
Baloney. But this was not not the issue. i said a 1.4 liter engine could not drive a large sedan to 133 mph. Linn says "highway speeds", quite a different matter. The octane of a fuel is unrelated to its caloriific value. higher octane allows an engine to be designed with a higher compression ratio, hence incrementallly more thermally efficienct.
A 1400 ml engine, 85 cubic inches, normally aspirated and at screeming rpms might put out about 100 HP. (For perspective, my old VW with a 1500 ml engine can put out 50 HP at about 3600rpm.) But what HP would be need to drive a large sedan 133 mph? More than (133/70)^3 * 50 = 343 HP, clearly far, far beyond what a 1.4 liter engine can do, no matter what the fuel., no matter what the turbocharging, no matteer how many realistic rpm..
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.4.09
Jim, I hear about models all the time now. Everybody seems to have one, but personally I'm not interested.
Conventional oil has peaked, is peaking, or will soon peak. I hardly know which any more, and of course natural gas liquids and unconventional stuff - like the oil sands product - has to be taken into consideration, because somehow we have to get an equality with the consumption figure for 'oil', which is in the low eighties now according to what I last heard..
Woe is me, because I seem to be falling behind. But I only seem because I have a feeling that these other people are not going anywhere. However we will get the story we need when the macroeconomic mess is cleared up, and unfortunately that story may not be a nice one. For instance, put yourself at the head of the table in OPEC's next big meeting. If you give that situation a great deal of thought you will have to come to the conclusion that the oil outlook might not be what those of us on the buy side of the market really and truly desire.
What I hope is that our friends at OPEC - and perhaps also Big Oil - try to get the long-run 'profit' optimization exercise right, and do not come to the conclusion that they would like to see oil at $147/b again as soon as possible, just because it appears that the international macro-economy is on its way into the fast lane again. That's what I hope and would like to have some information about, but I doubt whether there is any model that can give me an answer.
Len Gould 8.4.09
Don: "343 HP, clearly far, far beyond what a 1.4 liter engine can do, no matter what the fuel., no matter what the turbocharging, no matteer how many realistic rpm.." -- You might have missed watching any F1 racing, eg this article in Wiki claims 780 bhp from 2400 cc with NO turbo/supercharging equivalent to 455 hp from 1400 cc. A typical turbocharger + intercooler could easily bring that rpm down into Honda Civic range. And ANY engine's life under any conditions is almost entirely dependent on a) the size of its cooling systems and b) the cleanliness of its lubricants and intake air.
"Engines must be 2.4 litre normally aspirated V8s, with many other constraints on their design and the materials that may be used. Engines run on unleaded fuel closely resembling publicly available petrol. The oil which lubricates and protects the engine from overheating is very similar in viscosity to water. The 2006 generation of engines spun up to 20,000 RPM and produced up to 780 bhp (580 kW). For 2007 engines were restricted to 19,000 RPM with limited development areas allowed, following the engine specification freeze from the end of 2006. For the 2009 Formula One season the engines have been further restricted to 18,000 RPM.
A wide variety of technologies – including active suspension, ground effect, and turbochargers – are banned under the current regulations. Despite this the current generation of cars can reach speeds up to 350 km/h (220 mph) at some circuits. A Honda Formula One car, running with minimum downforce on a runway in the Mojave desert achieved a top speed of 415 km/h (258 mph) in 2006."
Don Hirschberg 8.4.09
Len. Thanks for the interesting numbers and education. But this subject all started with a large 3800 pound sedan with a 1.4 engine burning ethanol.
And I did stipulate realistic rpm. Frequently race car engines (even those doing less than 10,000 rpm) do not last an afternoon and are supported by a large team. You mention the rules have been decreased F 1 allowable rpm in recent years. Maybe if you don't stress your engine just short of breaking then the other guy will likely win. You say these engines are built with off the shelf parts. Where are these shelves?
David Bruderly 8.4.09
Bruderly replies: The problems cited by Jude Clemente are all problems caused by failed governmental economic or environmental policies and the marketing response of automakers to those policies; The "failures” he assigns to NGVs are NOT based on economics or technical deficiencies of natural gas vehicles themselves or the fuel. The failures are failures of policy created by economists and marketing executives who place higher value on arbitrary trivialities rather than substantive performance attributes.
At the same time that he points out irrelevant issues, Clemente fails to note that NGVs create market pull for transition to zero-carbon hydrogen motor fuels and electro-chemical drives while simultaneously significantly reducing emissions of all forms of pollution, greenhouse gas and otherwise.
Economists and marketing executives have never been very good at anticipating opportunities created by technology and product substitution, let alone placing value on environmental externalities. The arguments presented in this essay simply continue this deficiency inherent in the dismal science.
No liquid hydrocarbon fuel can match the actual performance of natural gas motor fuels in an optimized engine. Nor do liquid motor fuels have the potential to seamlessly empower transition to zero-carbon motor fuels, such as blended hydrogen-methane and eventually hydrogen-electric motor fuels and engines.
From a greenhouse gas perspective, conversion to natural gas motor fuels is not only logical, but essential. Our stated national policy goal is to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions; our president has set a goal of reductions from mobile and all other sources of 80% by 2050. If we hope to achieve this goal we have no choice but to start finding ways to convert our economy to operate on low-carbon and zero-carbon energy carriers, such as electricity, hydrogen, methane and low-carbon bio-fuels.
Debate the perceived deficiencies of gasoline-to-NGV aftermarket conversions is as relevant to the policy issue as debating the number of angels that dance on the head of a pin.
Lack of fueling infrastructure is an obsolete straw man argument; how many leaking underground gasoline storage tanks have been dug up and replaced over the past 30 years at a cost of billions of dollars? If a fleet is willing to operate 50 or more vehicles on compressed natural gas, somebody will build a public access fuel station for that fleet and make a profit. There is plenty of investment capital available to build stations IF those investors know that NGVs are available in the numbers needed to use the fuel they produce and create a return on that investment. The technology is proven and simple; the commercial barriers are real, but artificial.
The commercial challenge to building fuel stations is finding customers who can find NGVs that are competitively priced. NGVs are expensive because they are NOT mass produced; if multi-fuel NGVs are produced in the same quantities as liquid fuel vehicles they will be affordable, reliable and efficient. Economies of scale matter. Policy that block competition from cleaner, safer, more efficient gaseous motor fuels and that subsidize liquid fuels while blocking deployment of gaseous fuels do NOT serve the public interest.
Affordable fuels stations vs affordable vehicles is a classic chicken and egg business problem; it can easily be solved with appropriate policy incentives that reward low emissions and domestic supplies.
Arguments that gas supplies are insufficient are straw man logic; the USA has sufficient gas supply for many, many years of NGV operation. This gas should be used in the most carbon efficient way possible, not just to make electricity as cheaply as possible.
Regarding efficiency, range, performance, fuel storage, etc.; these are design issues, not technology issues. When multi-fuel engines (E85 and NGVs) are designed and produced in the factory for optimum performance, rather than aftermarket conversions, performance will be outstanding. And with octane rating at 130 multi-fuel alcohol-natural gas engines should become the standard for high performance, low-emission vehicles that are affordable and reliable.
David Bruderly 8.4.09
Bruderly continued: Regarding the storage problem; economists and policy makers need a reality check. Fuel storage is a design issue, not a technology barrier. There is no storage "problem" . I repeat: THERE IS NO STORAGE PROBLEM. If the auto designer is simple told / allowed to design a vehicle with a fuel space is 3 times larger than a gasoline tank, vehicle range will be the same. There is NO weight penalty when composite pressure vessels are used; there is no loss of storage capacity. Weight is the enemy of vehicle efficiency, not fuel tank volume.
The bottom line is that consumers deserve real motor fuel choices. Many want to choose the greenest, non-petroleum motor fuel possible to fuel their next vehicle; today that fuel is natural gas in a bi-fuel OEM factory produced vehicle. Tomorrow it will be a blend of natural gas and hydrogen; perhaps in vehicle with a plug-in hybrid drive train. In ten to 20 years I believe my vehicle of choice will be powered either with 100% renewable low-carbon bio-fuel or zero-carbon hydrogen in a ultra-clean ICE-hybrid or a electric fuel cell. Or both.
The technology exists to make these pathways possible; but the longest journey begins with the first step. And that first step is to create policy that eliminates barriers to widespread mass production by OEMs of multi-fuel liquid-gaseous fueled engines in vehicles designed to use both liquid bio-fuels and natural gas motor fuels.
Society cannot take this first step today until US policy is changed, either voluntarily by the OEMs or mandated by the US Government; I cannot buy an affordable OEM factory produced and warranted bi-fuel NGV, let alone an affordable OEM factory produced and warranted multi-fuel NGV.
Government policy and automaker marketing decisions that continue to block widespread deployment of multi-fuel NGVs are failed policies. If we do not focus on the real issues -- eliminating pollution and creating secure sources of domestic and renewable energy supplies that are delivered to customers in liquid and gaseous forms -- we will not change failed policies. If we fail to change policy because we continue to debate irrelevant issues, we will only have our collective ignorance to blame for the chaos that will follow.
Len Gould 8.4.09
Mr Bruderly has a lot correct. My only re-direct would be the question of barriers to NGV's today. The greatest barrier to NGV's today in the USA is the $10,000 / make / model / state for any mechanic shop to get certified by the EPA to install conversion kits. It's clearly totally unwarranted, and evidence of "regulatory capture" by vested interests.
Len Gould 8.4.09
Addition: That;s actually "$10,000 / make / model / model year / state" -- obviously no innovator can possibly contemplate bringing to market any new system of NGV conversion under that regulation which can easily sink several millions just to make one model year available in serveral states. Eg direct fuel injection is completely obvious given the pressure at which the fuel is stored. It would enable "lean-burn", "compression ignition", "increased power / displacement" etc. etc. etc.
Fred Linn 8.4.09
David Bruderly-------"No liquid hydrocarbon fuel can match the actual performance of natural gas motor fuels in an optimized engine. "-----------
Biodiesel can. And diesel engines can use bio with no modification. Rudolf Diesel designed his engines to run on plant oils---his first engine ran on peanut oil in 1893. It is already a high compression engine with significantly higher thermal efficiency than gasoline engines.
Ethanol can. The octane rating of ethanol and CNG are roughly the same. Indy League race cars use 100% ethanol in optimized engines. Honda 3L V8s---they typically develop 1200 to 1600 bhp.
And biofuels, being liquid do not need an entirely new storage and distribuion infrastructure. At most, cleaning tanks of sludges and varnishes left by petroleum and maybe the replacement of some types of gaskets that are subject to deteriation from the higher solvency of biofuels compared to petroleum. Storage facilities need to be cleaned and gaskets replaced periodically anyway.
Peter Boisen 8.4.09
David, Thanks for your balanced and sensible responses to the discussion which I kicked off by describing the performance of the state-of-the-art NGV - the Volkswagen Passat TSI EcoFuel.
I am less impressed by the opinions expressed by Ferdinand Banks. Shouting "ignoramuses, neurotics and mediocrities" when facts goes against his personal beliefs does not change my belief in facts. I also fail to understand his opposition to natural gas. In his adopted country, Sweden, 65 % of all the fuel used in NGVs is in fact biomethane produced from renewable resources, not methane in the form of natural gas. Numerous studies have also shown that Sweden has the potential to replace almost all fossil fuels presently used in the road transport sector with biomethane produced from domesticc organic waste resources.
To reach a top speed of 133 mph in a mid sized car with a 150 hp engine is nothing special. My own car, an eight year old Volvo S80 Bi-Fuel car has a naturally aspirated 140 hp NG engine, and will reach this top speed when travelling on the German Autobahn. There are many examples. The interesting part is, of course, that this power is available from a VW engine with only 1.4 litre cubic capacity, and the trick is, of course the use of a turbo charger.
Concerning fuel economy, whether tested in line with European or American regulations, the tests are supposed to reflect a reasonable mix of urban and highway driving at normal speeds - not top speed. There is little difference between diesel engines and otto engines when operating at a high load, but otto engines are generally inferior at low engine loads due to throttling losses, On the other hand, the otto engins have no problems with particulate or NOx emissions. The use of downsized turbo charged engines goes a long way to eliminate the fuel economy disadvantages of the otto engine. The 1.4 litre TSI engine used by Volkswagen was recently by a jury of motor journalists from 32 differnt countries selected as the 'International Engine of the Year 2009'.
Notwithstanding Ferdinand's violent opposition to the use of methane powered vehicles, his adopted countrymen just love the new Passat. In July 2009 3.9 % of all new passenger cars sold in Sweden were Volkswagen Passat TSI EcoFuel. That makes this model the second best selling car model in Sweden right now (www.bilsweden.se), only beaten by Volvo V70 FlexiFuel.
Concerning factory produced NG/biomethane powered passenger cars USA has one single car available - the Honda Civic. Unfortunately sales are limited due to a ridiculous legislation only providing incentives for 'dedicated' NGVs, i.e. vehicles not allowed to carry a gasoline tank to enable the possibility to drive on, even if methane refuelling is not available.
As a comparison OEM produced NG/biomethane powered passenger cars sold in Italy during the month of June accounted for 6.8 % of the total new car registrations. Maybe Chrysler, following the Fiat take over, will be the first American car company to seriously consider the NGV option? The US legislators have finally woken up, and are now offering some incentives also for bi-fuelled NGVs (a must as long as we lack a fully developed refuelling infrastructure).
To return to our friend, Banks, I am surprised that he does not realize the background for the US resistance against methane powered vehicles. Big Oil has not at all suffered as consequence of fluctuating crude oil prices. Exxon during the third quarter of 2008, when oil prices reached some 140 dollars per barrel, recorded record profits. As long as there is no real competition they will just pass on the costs to the consumer and, in fact, earn even more money when crude oil is expensive. Methane, contrary to biofuels admixed into gasoline or diesel, represents a threat. Methane is truly an alternative fuel with immediate large supply potential. LPG/propane as a comparison could never become a major alternative as the total potential is only some 5 % of both the crude oil and the natural gas resources. Natural gas, and in the longer term biomethane, is different. The gas is immediately available in huge volumes, and could potentially seriously threaten the profitability of the major oil companies. No lobbying efforts have been spared when it comes to blocking the American use of methane as a vehicle fuel.
Finally, we have two types of 'problem solvers' which I despise - those defending continued use of coal, notwithstanding all alarming reports concerning global warming effects, and those blindly putting their money on nuclear power, notwithstanding yet unresolved issues concerning the nuclear waste, and not the least concerned about the fact that also uranium and other potential nuclear energy sources also represent finite resources. I may be naive, but I will continue to be totally opposed to both of therse alternatives.
Don Hirschberg 8.4.09
I have spent some time, not very fruitful time, on the internet trying to find some numbers re the “VW Passat TDI EcoFuel.” I find a lot of favorable comments and hype and pretty pictures but very few and some quite conflicting facts. (I didn’t go to the sites auf Deutch because my German is not good.) I learned it is both supercharged and turbocharged which would well increase its HP to 150 but would hurt its thermal efficiency. Yet quite extraordinary but anecdotal claims of mileage are made – as in 45 to 56 equivalent mpg.
I did find data on the current VW Passat. Can someone help me? Is this the same or very close to the same chassis and body? (What does TDI mean – my acronym finder made about a hundred suggestions without a fit?) It has a 2 L engine, 200 HP @ 5100 to 6000 rpm, 106.7” wheelbase, curb weight 3344 pounds gets 19 mpg city 29 mpg highway.
I remain a skeptic that a “large 3800 pound sedan” can go 133 mph with 150 HP.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.5.09
So you fail to understand my opposition to natural gas, do you Peter (Boisen). Well if you read the short articles by _____ and ______, then it should be quite clear that attempting to make NG a prime motor fuel is dumber than stupid. Something that even the mediocrities that you might be in touch with in Sweden might have a difficult time understanding.
Where the _____'s are concerned, if my very short paper THE AMERICAN (ENERGY) PATIENT is published somewhere you will be given these references, Otherwise I will save this information for my new energy book. It seems that you are not the only one reacting to my use of the expressions "ignoramuses and neurotics", but in case you are interested I have some other terminology which I reserve for non-mixed company.
And how did I become a part of the resistance against methane powered vehicles? I might have mentioned in one of my books that some environmentalists consider methane a more dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2, but that's about it (I think). I state explicity in my textbook that I do not know a great deal about environmental problems, and now I realize that it is best that I say as little about that subject as possible, given the sad state of my knowledge. I can add and subtract however, and given that NGVs in Sweden amount only a fraction of 1% of the motor vehicle inventory I see no reason why I should ruin my summer by trying to discuss the composition of the fuel of these vehicles.
By the way, I hadn't read the contribution of David Bruderly, but now that I have done so I regard most of it as crank. What the US needs is a comprehensive energy policy, which unfortunately means the replacement of those ladies who have been appointed to assist the Energy Secretary with his important duties. Of course, it's better that they stay than to replace them with the likes of Messrs Waxman and Markey. I can also suggest that Mr Bruderly should take a look at the last chapter in my (2007) textbook, because as I indicate some very serious capitalists in the US have started to understand that government and private enterprise must cooperate if this energy thing is to be handled in an optimal manner.
Len Gould 8.5.09
As near as I can gather, the world doesn't have an energy problem, just a liquid transport fuels (10% or 15% of energy) problem and a greenhouse gas problem. There will be no future energy problem, despite the opinion of the doomers on theOilDrum.com , because solar electicity and thermal are fully capable of substituting for other depleting or disbarred energy sources. So the question then becomes, what is the optimal substitute for depleting petroleum transport fuels? All transportation energy consumption in the US amounts to about 26 quads (1 quad = 1.055 x1018 j = 293 x109 kWh = 33.45 GWy) . Giving electricity a 3:1 advantage over oil (trucks > electric rail, PHEV autos) means total replacement with electricity would require generating an additional 26 x 33.45 x 1/3 = 289.6 (290) GWy. Nuclear at 90% capy, another 322 reactors. Solar thermal at 30% capy, 1000 GW. Capital cst about the same.
Natural Gas substitution is very short-term as a solution. We an never grow enough biomass to do more than a few % of the job no matter how it is processed. Relatively shortly it would mean coal gas. Ugly.
Nuclear or solar thermal, both are ready RIGHT NOW, the costs are about the same and afordable IF WE START NOW.
Jim Beyer 8.5.09
Hmm, where to start....
I guess I applaud David Bruderly's enthusiasm but he doesn't seem to appreciate the nuances of automobile manufacturing. A large tank is a BIG DEAL. Not that NG tanks can't be conformal (they have to be cylindrical) due to their pressure containment, so their volume is that much larger. All NG vehicles on the road today are a delicate balance between drivable range and trunk capacity. Yes, with better design, this can be improved, but then you are talking about a billion dollar proposition. He also hints at hydrogen. For reasons I've outlined in an earlier post on this article, hydrogen is hopeless and most likely always will be.
But I agree with Bruderly that the infrastructure critique is pretty weak. We've already got huge NG pipelines criss-crossing the nation. The consumer pumps are incidental. NG right now is a value proposition in that the reduced price of the fuel compensates for the higher tank cost (in a vehicle) after a year or two of use.
If Fred's main concern about NG is that it is a bad greenhouse gas, then using NG in vehicles will only IMPROVE that situation, not worsen it. It could provide markets for stranded or otherwise problematic sources. There are many reasonable reasons to be critical of NG for vehicles, but this is not one of them. (The vehicles' themselves emit very little CH4 when operating or parked.)
I think Len is basically hitting the mark; we have a liquid fuels problem, but I don't agree with his solution. As expensive as NG seems to be (at least in the eyes of its critics) PHEV technology will most likely be even MORE expensive. Some kind of fuel is needed to provide range for vehicles. All-electric vehicles in any practical sense are a pipedream unless some fantastic battery solution (like EEStor) becomes a reality. I'm not holding my breath, and in any case, such a development would change the entire world energy system, not just transportation.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I advocate a tri-fuel strategy. Reasonable people could argue the NG is unnecessary, as a PHEV might be good enough to essentially eliminate fuel use except for the rare trip. That's possible. On the other hand, it might end up that batteries are too expensive, so a dual-fuel approach (NG and liquid fuel) is optimal (though I hope this is not the case). The winning strategy remains to be seen.
Ideally we could displace our gasoline/diesel for transportation with 80% electricity and 20% NG/synthetic methane. This is probably doable without undue strain on the system, excessive cost, or inconvenience to the consumer. Some liquid fuel would also be used, but hopefully so little would be used it could essentially be anything, including purely synthetic.
Len Gould 8.5.09
I really like Jim's "ideally" final para above. We need to make a long-term plan to get through this approaching dramatic drop in AVAILABLE-FOR-IMPORT petroleum. We should husband all available resources to fuel older vehicles dring the transition. NO new vehicles should be using petroleum as the primary fuel. Period. That should be electric batteries providing perhaps 50 km range. Then the range-extending generator onboard should be fueled by a dual-fuel CNG / biodiesel IC engine with max. efficiency. Transition heavy trucks in local service should be using CNG, LNG or LPG as available. ALL long-range shipping should be containerized or bulk rail, with the railways electrified.
If we had the brains to initiate this now, we'd likely have a shot at making it through petroleum depletion and the expansion of demand from developing producer nations fairly unscathed. IF.
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.5.09
No no, Jim. I mentioned that some people dont like methane because of the greenhouse thing, but that was just en-passant. I don't deal with the greenhouse business. It's over my head.
I don't support trying to make gas an important vehicle fuel because of the overall expense. Where this issue is concerned the evidence is clear. Economically, it's a loony idea, although as someone said there might be a niche for it somewhere. Furthermore, while there is apparently a lot of gas in this old world of ours, there is not enough if our thinking about the future goes past the next few decades.
By the way, Jim,, I've agreed to do another book, and your final paragraph above will probably show up somewhere in the first chapter - if I remember.
Jim Beyer 8.5.09
I'm not sure what you mean by overall expense. The UofM and the city of Ann Arbor own and operate over 500 natural gas vehicles; mostly small trucks. Admittedly, these vehicles mostly just drive about the city, so this would be one of your niche applications. But I think there are an economically wise choice for this niche. (The city also has a public NG station. No big deal.)
For NG to achieve broader use, gasoline prices have to go up. I don't think this is an unlikely proposition in the long run.
The problem with NG is mostly the tanks. They cost a few thousand dollars. So you need to figure out how much cheaper NG is than gasoline to justify the tanks. It's not that bad; about 2 years. Maybe if it got to a pay-back of 1 year (due to more expensive gas) then the use would broaden.
I'm delighted that you like the chapter. Remind me to send you an address for you to send the stream of royalty checks.... :)
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.6.09
Jim, by overall expense I am thinking not just of e.g. conversion and investment costs, but getting this lovely NG to motorists.
But as for those two expenses, Mary Hutzler of the Institute for Energy Reseearch says that Honda's price for a new natural gas fueld Civic is 62% higher that its price for a standard gasoline-fueled model, while conversion costs from an existing auto to a NG car range between $6000 and $20,000. Then there are a few other things that must be considered.
Costs of that nature are too heavy for me, thank you. Of course the lady could be mistaken, but personally I don't think so.
Don Hirschberg 8.6.09
I don’t want to let it stand that a large 3800 pound sedan can go 133 mph with a 150 HP engine. Posters don’t seem to understand that It doesn’t make any difference how it is produced – by turbo charging, super charging, methane fuel, ethanol fuel or gasoline, super high rpm, that’s simply not enough HP. Perhaps for a needle nosed freak one- passenger car but not a sedan with a large frontal area.
I have asked many questions and gotten no answers. I have asked for help from those presuming knowledge regarding spec numbers of that VW Passant with the remarkable 1.4 L both turbocharged and supercharged engine that does incredible things with methane fuel, and one poster said ethanol fuel. I have pointed out that the information I get on the internet does not jibe with what I see posted here. Let’s have a little candor, a little collegiality.
Len Gould 8.6.09
Don: I do know that my '95 oldsmobile with the 3.1 litre V6 is/was only limited to 180 kmh (112 mph) tops because of an electronic speed limiter. In its 4th gear, it reaches 180 at 4,200 rpm, whereas in third it will happily rev to 6,200, where it reaches an rpm limiter. Wikipedia claims "3.1-liter V6 with 155 horsepower (116 kW) ... course according to CarsDirect it has a curb weight of only 2,921 lbs. plus 80 lb fuel and 150 lb driver makes it 3150 lb.
Jim Beyer 8.6.09
Some specs on the Passat TSI EcoFuel:
Engine capacity [cm3] 1390
Output [kW] 110
Gearbox 7-speed DSG®
Fuel Natural gas (CNG)
[1/100 km or m3/100 km for CNG] (8.8/5.6/6.8)
Emission class Euro 5
Carbon dioxide emissions; combined [g/km] 121
Maximum speed [km/h] 208
Acceleration 0-100 km/h [s] 9.9
DIN unladen weight [kg] 1577
I also saw the Cd*A is 0.624 which seemed TOO low, until I figured they mean m*m not ft*ft. So the equivalent ft*ft would be: 6.71. For reference, the Prius is about 6.24.
The link is: www.volkswagenag.com/.../Evironmental%20commendation%20Passat%5BMY09%5D.pdf
I saw given the 7-speed, the high power output, the low Cd, the low accelleration, the top speed of 128 mph seems possible.
Len Gould 8.6.09
Interesting that just a few minutes ago a general circulation flyer was dropped on my desk at the Nat. Gas transmission / storage company where I contract, signed by th president. It asks all employees to do whatever they can to promote use f Nat. Gas in our communities, and provides on two pages 10 "talking points" to help. The 8th point, headed "Abundant", includes the statement "Discoveries of new recerves in unconventional rock formations like shale, tight sands and coal seams have expanded our supply to well beyond 100 years.
Jim Beyer 8.6.09
Just checking the prices today, wholesale gasoline is about $2 per gallon (125,000 BTUs) and NG is about $4 per MMBTU. That makes NG about 16X less expensive on a per BTU basis.
Peter Boisen 8.6.09
The figures collected by Jim from the Volkswagen web site confirm the information already provided by myself. There are four Vokswagen Passat TSI EcoFuel versions - sedan or wagon, manual or automatic transmission. Acceleration, top speed, fuel economy, and CO2 emissions differ very marginally between the four different versions., but they all have a top speed of around 210 kmh (or around 131 mph). Regarding weight the rounded number of 1700 kgs earlier stated by myself was a little exaggerated (the VW info cited by JIm is 1577 kg). THere is no need to continue to question the top speed data.
Ferdinand's argument against methane powered passenger cars - that they do not today account for even 1 % of the total passneger car fleet - does not hold up to scrutiny. With that kind of logic we can also forget all about electric cars, plug-in hybrids, or cars using hydrogen. The first OEM produced methane powered cars in Europe appeared ten years ago and proper European certification legislation was only introduced in early 2001. Now, when we finally have very competetive third generation factory produced cars, sales are really taking off.
Some fresh statistical data: In June 2009 methane powered cars accounted for a record 6.8 % of all new car sales in Italy, in July 2009 4.3 % of all new cars sold in Sweden were methane powered. Volkswagen Passat TSI EcoFuel with a 3.9 % market share in July reached the position as the second best selling car in Sweden (only beaten by Volvo V70 Flex Fuel). Times are changing, Ferdinand!
Don Hirschberg 8.6.09
Len and Jim. Thanks for the info and insight. Len, the speed you could attain with your Olds makes sense to me. (I have heard of electronic speed limiters - but to limit low speed to avoid stalling and damaging lugging.) With automatic transmissions this protection is inherent. As to whether it would go faster in third or fourth. I don’t know but I’d suspect that it would redline in third before reaching top speed. I do remember Fords with optional 2 speed rear ends, “Columbias” they were very nice for cruising, slowed down the engine considerably, but those flat head 85 HP V8’s would go just as fast in third, about 90 mph. Just for the hell of it let’s see how much HP it would have taken to raise that to 112 mph. Ans. About164 HP. Jim, when this all started I was presented a “large sedan of 3800 Pounds going 133 mph with a 1.4 L 150 HP engine.” I said it couldn’t be done. Well, a large sedan in my mind was like one of those large Fords or Chevs so often used by police. (Galaxies and Impalas??) But your data tells us the VW in question is not even in that ball park having a cp x Area close to the Prius, about as slippery as one can get with a practical car. And although weight is a weak variable in determining top speed the VW’s unladen weight is 3469 vs 3800 pounds. Wait, there is more. I was told a top speed of 133 mph; Jim says it’s more like 128. If it can go 128 with 150HP it would need 168 HP to go 133 mph.
Peter, sorry we crossed in the mail. Len, a hundred years - I guess that's job security?
Ferdinand E. Banks 8.6.09
No, no Mr Boisen and colleagues. I am NOT arguing against methane powered passenger cars. I am just pointing out that, commercially, they have not gone anywhere. For all I know they might have a great future.
Speaking of greatness, as a great teacher one of my specialties is sending my students to the best sources of information. ONCE AGAIN, for natural gas vehicles I recommend the very short article on the Pickens plan by Mary J Hutzler of the Institute for Energy Research, who also takes up the wind aspects of the 'Pickens Plan'. Of course her article is not fault free, but it is helpful.
I checked out the IER a little bit. One page 2 of their 2008 annual report, they have a quote from Rush Limbaugh. That's bothers me a teeny bit. Not that he's conservative, but that he's an entertainer. I'd have the same concerns if they had a quote from Al Franken on page 2 of their annual report (probably more so).
Though not a big fan of the Pickens Plan at this point, I take a swing at answering her 'hard' questions.
Question 1: How does the Pickens Plan expect to use wind to replace natural gas given the difference in technology, and what form of power will be used as back-up when the wind isn’t blowing? That would be by building lots of wind turbines and using the existing NG plants as backup.
Question 2: How does the Pickens Plan cover the needed investment in transmission costs, and is this surcharge in the best interests of consumers?Is importing 70% of our oil (mostly used for transportation) also in the long-term best interest in the consumers? I don't think so.
Question 3: Where is this level of wind investment expected to come from? Will the technology and expertise be available? Will the “not-in-my-back-yard” syndrome affect the public’s acceptance? Off-shore wind in the North East is economically viable NOW and has no NIMBY problems. Turbine builders are building wind turbines as fast as they can. A better question would be: "How can they ramp up production fast enough?"
Question 4: Are Government mandates that require manufacturers to produce mostly natural gas-fueled vehicles expected to force consumers into buying them? Since less than 1 percent of the current retail service stations have natural gas facilities, who will pay the costs of converting the retail service stations to natural gas? How will consumers react to the fact that half of a natural gas-vehicle’s truck space is needed for the natural gas tank? Building bi-fueled vehicles addresses both of these concerns.
Question 5: Does Pickens see another “OPEC” forming that would transition the U.S. from importing from an oil cartel to a natural gas cartel? No. In any case, better to have two cartels instead of one; you can play them off each other
Question 6: Are these subsidies and mandates needed for Pickens to invest in a 4,000-megawatt wind facility, anticipating a 25-percent return?I don't see the oil companies paying for the Iraq War, yet our presence in that country ostensibly helps stabilize the oil market.
Like I said, I'm not a huge fan of the Pickens Plan, because I think it is overly hyping on wind. And leaves out the effects of PHEVs, which would reduce overall energy usage in transportation by a significant amount (because batteries are more efficient). If for no other reason, the Pickens Plan is fatally flawed because of that. That being said, I didn't find her questions particularly insightful.
Thanks Jim. The article that I was thinking about is in THE IAEE ENERGY FORUM, and probably is a spin-off of the other article. But although I found a 'slip' in her article I agree with it - because it agrees with me. NG vehicles are a fraction of a fraction in the US and Sweden (for example), and despite what I have heard in the above comments, they are not going anywhere in this country because natural gas has no place in the Swedish energy economy. In addition, as explained to me about a year ago, the Pickens plan is about money, and I don't mean for sweet guys like me.
Where the IER is concerned, I thought that it was in Washington, and was hot stuff. I know who Bradley is however, and I have no argument with him. Of course, if he finds it quite to quote Rush Limbaugh, that is enough for me to say that I would never - under any set of circumstances - have anything to do with his organization.. This assumes that his organization would have something to do with me, which is not likely
James Carson 8.8.09
Jim, I don't know where you learned "math", but you are off by a factor of four. A gallon of gasoline holds 115400 btu, so 1mm Btus is 1000000/115400 = 8.67 gallons. Price of gasoline is $2, so 1mm Btu of gasoline is $17.33. Natgas is $4/MBtu. So, gasoline is 17.33/4=4.33x times the price of gasoline on a per MBtu basis. Not 16x.
Moreoever, looking out one year into the futures market, the price of gasoline drops to 3.0x that of natgas. That is still near historic highs, btw. Still, you have a point about gasoline being a lot more expensive than natgas.
As for Pickens Plan.... there are so many flaws and fallacies that it is hard to know where to begin.
Let's start with, wind displaces, coal and nuke, not natgas. Why? The wind blows at night when the marginal unit on most systems in North America is coal. Therefore, wind will displace coal. What's more, because coal units cannot be operated like this, they will be completely displaced, as in, not available during the day either. We already have problems overnight with excess generation, what are we going to do when wind approaches the penetrations planned?
Wind INCREASES the use of natural gas. Dramatically? Why? Because wind is a variable resource from minute to minute, that increases the use of regulation resources to balance that. Also, wind is widely variable across the entire day (high at night, low during the day) we will need resources that can operate on a less than 24x7 basis. That means natgas.
Of course, storage would change this, but is very expensive.
Don Hirschberg 8.8.09
Jim and James
Just maybe the difference by a "factor of 4" is the differnce of a kcal versus a Btu: 1.8 x 2.2 = 3.96. Since the calorific values of gasolines can vary several thousand BTU's +/- per gallon around 120,000 or so, we can see where this discrepancies can be made to jibe with a factor of 3.96. Coincidence? Perhaps, but not likely.
As an aside, this demonstrates a point I have often made about sliderules. As slide rule engineers we had to be quite careful about knowing what our answers should be before accepting the results of our calculations. We used to call it "engineering judgement" a term I don't hear. One example: If the original Hubble mirror had been calculated by a sliderule engineer likely it would not have been built wrong. Far larger mirrors had been calculatioed and built decades before compuiters and electronic calculators.
Fred Linn 8.9.09
Natural gas is a fossil fuel, but it is far preferable to coal from an environmental standpoint. It is much easier to extract(no strip mining), cleaner(sulphur can be effectively and easily removed) and easier to transport and handle. It is much cleaner to use, and there is no problem of ash and soot to dispose of. I think natural gas would be a very good way to replace coal usage.
Another advantage is, the methane in biomethane is exactly the same chemically as the methane in natural gas. Methane is a greenhouse effect gas that has 17X the heat capture potential of CO2. If we capture naturally produced methane that would ordinarily escape into the atmosphere---it can be mixed in any proportion with fossil methane with no loss of performance or equipment modification needed. This would have the effect of reducing the greenhouse gas effect of the fossil methane(NG) by exchanging high GHG effect methane with much lower GHG effect CO2. This means we could balance the effect of the natural gas burned with as little as the addition of 6% biomethane. Anything over a 6% biomethane mix means we would have lower GHG effect from the resulting CO2 produced than if we did not add biomethane. (in other words---less atmospheric warming than if we had simply let the methane escape and not made use of it)
Fred Linn 8.9.09
-----------"Xuguang Leng 7.31.09 Fred Linn - would higher compression ratio of ethanol engine also: 1. require more steel in the engine to handle the pressure, thus adds weight to the car, increase the car cost? 2. vibrate more, thus making the car more noisy and less comfortable? Unless you drive a lot or gasoline price is sky high, the improvement of fuel efficiency by increasing compression ratio may not pay off."----------
We have been building high compression engines for over a century. Diesel engines are high compression engines, commonly running 16~18:1 compression ratio. The very first engine Rudolf Diesel made in 1893 was demonstrated to the public running on peanut oil at the Paris World's Fair. The Model T Ford introduced by Henry Ford in 1908 was designed to run on ethanol. What finally killed the Model T after 15 years of prodction was the loss of horsepower by lowering the compression ratios low enough to use gasoline. This made the Model T notoriously underpowered, and poor running with big problems starting, running roughly and backfiring. It did however, make for a wealth of silent movie comedy scenes involving car problems for Max Sennet, the Keystone Kops, Buster Keaton etc. etc. LOL.
So far as you the driver are concerned---using modern materials and manufacturing techniques, you would see almost no difference at all in high compression vs. conventional gas engined vehicles. Diesels can run just fine on ethanol with only minimal modification. Adjust air/fuel injection metering and hotter glow plugs is all that is needed. The Swedish company, Scania, is operating over 600 busses with diesel engines on ethanol right now.
Don H------your questions about the top speed of 133 mph vs. 150 rated hp seems warranted to me----you may very well be correct, It wouldn't be the first time a press release copywriter got a little carried away.
Personally though, a top speed of 133 mph, or even 125 mph would be perfectly fine with me----I'd be operating at speeds far less than that----the absolute top speed wouldn't make a whole lot of difference to me. What it means to me is that at the highway speeds I'd be running(60-80 mph), I'd have plenty of power reserve for passing or hills and mountains if I need it.
It sounds like a great car to me. I'll be keeping an eye out for it---I'll be needing a replacement for my 4X4 van before too long. I would give it a good test drive and see how it handles before I'd buy one though----but then, I'd do that with any car I'd buy.
Don Hirschberg 8.9.09
The Model T ran on gasoline, not alcohol. From 1908, until the 1928 Model A, Ford produced the model T with an engine always rated at 20 HP at 1400, 4 cyl 3 ¾" x 4” 176.7 ci. It was produced for 20 years. For nearly all of that time it was by far the largest selling car.
The compression ratio was never reduced. It was very reliable, simple to work on and cheap. And it put America on wheels. It had been able to go practically anywhere with or without a road with its high center and light weight and skinny tires.
By the 20’s many roads had been built and even some paved. The T had become obsolete. You say hard to start, nonsense. Compared to the competion it was easy to start. One benefit from a small low compression engine is its ease of hand cranking. At some point they came with auto-exciters (electric starters). But they could always be hand cranked. On the steering column were two quadrants for spark timing and throttle that could be set before hand cranking. You mention running roughly and backfireing. Again, nonsense. They could be deliberately backfired by retarding the spark timing while opening the throttle. They ran very smoothly, ticking evenly like a big clock with the sound of snapping sticks.
I you want to ridicule at least first get some facts straight. The T was the most significant car in history. (Henry Ford knew about speed and how to build fast cars. In 1902 he drove his “999” (later the car that made Barney Oldfield famous) to 94 MPH.
I will not comment on your snide references to my explanation about the top speed of that VW with the 1.4 L engine. Either you have not read or you have not understood my previous posts. I am not going to go through it all again for you.
Fred Linn 8.10.09
----------".The car's 10 gallon (38 litre) fuel tank was mounted to the frame beneath the front seat; one variant had the carburetor (a Holley Model G) modified to run on ethyl alcohol, to be made at home by the self-reliant farmer."---------
----------"Because gasoline was so cheap and abundant, US automobiles were adapted to its use from the beginning. Racing cars, on the other hand, usually used ethanol (and other alcohols) because more power could be developed in a smaller, lighter engine. In 1906, Henry Ford told newspapers he was working on an alcohol fueled car and tractor. He stuck with the idea throughout his life because he believed that America’s morals were declining with the loss of rural lifestyles. He hoped to stimulate the farm economy by finding new markets for farm products and in the process contribute to the agrarian culture he cherished."-------------
----------"Meanwhile, automobiles were improving quickly in the era around WWI, but the fuel was not. By 1909, the model T had a 4.5 to 1 compression ratio and about 20 horsepower and was capable of speeds of about 40 miles per hour. Although it was possible to increase the size of the engine to get more horsepower, it was not possible to increase the compression ratio of the engine, since it would knock (pre-detonate) and damage the engine. At the time, gasoline had what we now call an “octane” rating in the 50s, but it was well known that blends of ethanol in gasoline could stop knocking in higher compression engines.
However, ethanol had only two thirds of the energy of gasoline. In a battery of government tests at the 1907 Jamestown Exhibition, the USDA and the Bureau of Mines demonstrated that ethanol engines consumed as much fuel, at higher compression ratios, than lower compression gasoline engines under equivalent loads. This BTU efficiency question still crops up in debates about ethanol today, even though it was settled a century ago."------------
Don H---------"(Henry Ford knew about speed and how to build fast cars. In 1902 he drove his “999” (later the car that made Barney Oldfield famous) to 94 MPH."-------
-------"Because gasoline was so cheap and abundant, US automobiles were adapted to its use from the beginning. Racing cars, on the other hand, usually used ethanol (and other alcohols) because more power could be developed in a smaller, lighter engine. "--------------
What snide comments? I simply said that the top speed is not really relevant to me---it is a lot faster than I'd ever be driving if it is 133 mph--128 mph--or even 125 mph. If simply saying you might be correct in your calculations, or a press release copywriter is a little too ambitious in their claims----either way, it is not a big factor to me--------then sheesh-----I'm sorry.
Read on down through the article. The problem has never been engines. The problem is fuels. Henry Ford never gave his vision of ethanol fuels. He championed ethanol and even built an ethanol plant in Atchison KS in the 1930's to replace tetra ethyl lead as a clean safe anti-knock fuel additive. His plant was put out of business eventually by a corporate combination of GM--DuPont--Standard Oil, all cooperating together to keep leaded gasoline at the pumps, which even then was known to be extremely poisonous and polluting. The history is all there. It wasn't until 40 years later that tetra ethyl lead was banned from gasoline.
The point of all this is that the VW uses a 1.4L diesel engine. The diesel engine is a high compression engine and always has been. The key to power and performance for internal combustion engines is thermal efficiency. And the determining factor of thermal efficiency for internal combustion engines is compression ratio. With a comparative octane rating of about 120, natural gas is a good pair up with a diesel engine---well able to handle the high compression that the diesel is designed for----making it far more powerful and efficient than an equal sized gasoline engine.
Bottom line----150 hp from a 1.4 L diesel engine is a piece of cake----it can do that with room to spare. Gasoline engines are limited to about 20% efficiency---high compression diesels routinely run up to 45% efficiency.
Jim Beyer 8.10.09
I made a mistake with my calculation. Nat Gas is more like 4X cheaper than gasoline, not 16X. I multiplied by a 2 instead of dividing.
So, how many miles, at 30 mpg, would pay for a $2000 tank? At $2.40 per gallon (gasoline) that would be 1111 gallons (eqiv.) or about 33,000 miles. Not great, but reasonable. I also don't think NG at the pump is actually 4 times less than gasoline,
Don Hirschberg 8.10.09
Fred Linn. Your comments about he Model T and fuels and engines is such a mishmash of misleading and partial truths mixed with just plain factual error that it would be foolish for me to try to correct them. I am sorry readers have been exposed to so much misinformation. And you insist on misconstruing my comments about the 1.4 L VW.
Fred Linn 8.10.09
Jim---a more relevant comparison might be comparing the diesel/natural gas bifuel arrangement with hybrid gasoline vehicles. Both offer about the same fuel economy. Both are low pollution. Both have a problem with cold weather. Hybrids because batteries lose efficiency at lower temperatures. Diesels because liquid diesel fuel can gel and be hard to use in cold conditions---however, using NG to get started and warm up the engine in cold conditions would avoid this problem. Simply start up and get the engine warm with NG when it is very cold. The diesel bifuel has the advantage of significantly lower cost----and avoids the problem of eventually needing to replace expensive batteries.
It seems to me that the diesel bifuel answers all the problems and at significant cost savings to the consumer over the hybrid arrangement. It is also well tried and well proven. It also offers the advantage of being able to utilize biofuels mixed in any proportion with no modification at all. Starting Oct. 1, the only fuel you can buy in the US is B2(2% bio) biodiesel. ULSD(the oil industry is calling it S15--to hide the fact that it is in fact, 2% biodiesel) . Natural gas can also be mixed with biomethane in any proportion with no loss of performance(methane is chemically the same, regardless of the source).
It looks like excellent technology to me.
Fred Linn 8.10.09
Don Hirschberg-----have it you way. The readers have my comments, and my personal experience with using biofuels. And they have my references. They are free to decide for themselves.
Don Hirschberg 8.10.09
I must admit that the increase in oil prices coupled with the dramatic decrease in natural gas prices over only a matter of months has put us in a very strange situation. (I had to do the numbers myself so I got out my slide rule and using today’s numbers: (10^6 BTU/$3.64)/(120,000 BTU/ $2.03) = 4.65 approx more BTU per dollar from natural gas than from gasoline.)
I used commodity prices, ignoring all kinds of other costs – federal, state and local taxes, transportation and distribution costs, storage, compression costs and losses. I wouldn’t be surprised to have missed some. So what I don’t know is the cost of natural gas delivered to a pressure vessel in a vehicle versus gasoline pumped into a vehicle tank. Which way will the next swing of the pendulum take us?
Fred Linn 8.11.09
On Oct. 1, the only diesel fuel you will be able to buy in the US is ULSD(ultra low sulphur diesel). Petroleum requires much more refining to remove the sulphur----uses a lot more water and produces a lot more waste pollutants from the refining products------what does not go into the air has to go somewhere. The oil industry is calling this S15(15 ppm sulphur or less). When you remove sulphur from petroleum diesel fuel, it loses its lubrication qualitites. Using straight S15 in diesel engines would rapidly destroy the engines. Biodiesel does not contain any sulphur, and never has. Biodiesel does not produce the particulate emissions that petroleum does. In order to be able to produce a usable low sulphur fuel that will not destroy the engines it is being used in requires the addition of 2% biodiesel. This is B2 biofuel. So why is the oil industry calling it S15? Because they want to sell petroleum, not biofuel. They want to hide the fact that biofuel is a better fuel be cause they control the market by controling the sources of petroleum. Biofuels do not need to be refined. If we switch to biofuels, petroleum is a dead horse. If we do not need petroleum, we do not need petroleum refineries. If we do not need refineries, we do not need petroleum companies. The petroleum companies do not want people to know that they can get along without them and still do what they want to do, drive their cars. So the petroleum companies are calling low sulphur diesel S15 instead of B2---if they call it B2, people will begin to wake up and go, well, if B2 is good, B20 must be better, and B100 is best.
Jim Beyer 8.11.09
If you crunch the numbers, you will see that it would be very hard for biodiesel to provide more than 2-5% of our diesel needs. About 500 million gallons of biodiesel was produced in the U.S. in 2008. In the same year, about 44 Billion gallons was consumed. Hopefully, much of our gasoline and diesel fuel will be displaced by other sources, but it won't (to any extent) be biodiesel or ethanol.
Peter Boisen 8.11.09
My latest posting in this discussion has for some reason disappeared. It referred to estimates of costs for NGVs and estimates provided in the Hutzler article, and those provided by Ferdinand Banks.
The add on cost for an OEM produced NGV can in principle be split into two parts - unique development (design, tooling, testing and certification) for this model, and variable costs related to added parts. Variable extra costs for an NG passenger car might be in the order of 1000-1500 dollars. The development costs entirely depend upon serial volumes. A basic car model usually has a life time of seven years. With annual sales of 30000 units the total serial volume would be 210000 units, with 2000 units annually only 14000 units totally. If we now assume total development cost of say 42 million dollars, development costs per unit are 3000 dollars in the low volume scenario, but only 200 dollars in the higher volume scenario. Total add on cost per unit would thus range from 1200 to 4500 dollars., approximately corresponding with a sticker price surcharge of 2000-7500 dollars (assuming unchanged percentual profit margins).
To be able to offer an NG car at attractiive pricing it is thus essential to achieve a resonable serial volume. OEM car producers have now acheved this feat not only in Europe, but also in countries like Iran, India, and Thailand. Of course, this would also be possible in the USA, but the market growth must initially be supported via suitable governemnt incentives to provide adequate advantages for early adopters putting up with various inconveniences (e.g. an initially less then perfect refuelling infrastructure). It would also be essential to avoid unrealistic support schemes limited to, or greatly favouring dedicated natural gas vehicles without the possibility to run on gasoline (using a bi-fuel concept) when travelling in areas without NG refuelling opportunities. In contrast to flex fuel vehicles which could run on E85, but which are very often driven on gasoline (no significant price advantage when using E85), NGV owners will always try to use NG as this choice significantly lowers their fuelling costs.
Fred Linn 8.12.09
Well Jim----I guess we'll just have to make more biofuel.
United States (states where mandatory only(4))  Florida E10 Minnesota E10 Hawaii E10 Missouri E10 Iowa E10 Montana E10 Kansas E10 Oregon E10 Louisiana E10 Washington E10
Though mandated only in 10 states, ethanol blends in the US are available in other states as optional or added without any labeling, making E blends present in two- thirds of the US gas supply. Florida effective in 2010.
As of Oct. 1, all diesel in the US will be B2 biodiesel.
Anything we do from here on out is exceeding your estimate.
Notice in the article, that diesels can also run on ethanol with minor modifications. ED95 (contains an ignition enhancer to cause the ethanol to ignite at a lower temperature) There are several hundred in use in Sweden and UK right now.
Kenneth Kok 8.12.09
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission considers bio-diesel to be a problem. The following quote is taken from NRC Staff considerations:
"From January 14 to 15, 2009, the staff participated in the Winter 2009 Engine Systems Inc. – Electro Motive Diesel Owners Group Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The staff participated in discussions of mechanical, electrical, and regulatory issues concerning emergency diesel generators. The main topic discussed with the staff was the use of biodiesel fuel in emergency diesel generators. The licensees concluded that it would be best to establish controls that would prevent the delivery of biodiesel fuel to their sites. The NRC is developing an Information Notice to share information with the licensees regarding the use of biodiesel fuel in emergency diesel generators."
This led to NRC Information Notice 2009-2 "BIODIESEL IN FUEL OIL COULD ADVERSELY IMPACT DIESEL ENGINE PERFORMANCE" which is available at nrc.gov.
Fred Linn 8.12.09
A search of the NRC web site produced no such document for me.
OK. Biodiesel is handled a little differently that petro. Nothing new about that. This is just a review of maintaince and handling procedures to insure that there are no fuel problems. Nothing really new there.
Biodiesel dissolves sludges and varnishes and removes them from tanks and lines. OK, conversely---petroleum leaves sludges and varnishes that can clog lines. Running bio on a regular basis keeps lines clear. Yes, filters can become clogged---that is what filters are for. Once the system is purged, bio keeps it cleaner than petroleum alone. You have fuel line and filter failures with petroleum too---but you will have far fewer with bio once you have it up nd running.
Add a moisture dispersant and biocide. That would be methyl alcohol. You have to do that anyway with petroleum systems when there are cold and damp conditions leading to condensation in the tank. A water trap should be on the line whether it is bio or petroleum.
The parts listed as potentially degrading with bio, will also degrade with time. They should be inspected regularly anyway.
If safety is so dependent on diesel generators, and the diesel generators may not start----perhaps we shouldn't be using nuclear power.
tony knight 7.16.12
if i must say something to this, it would be the fact that NG is not as clean as other fuels, but still it is the cleanest fuel a practical person can get. this kind of fuel burns more cool that enables NG vehicles achieve greater ratings on emissions. I have researched using a honda list of questions about this and I became aware of the effects of this fuel to a honda car's performance.