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  (Source: FrontPage Mag)
High-pressure burning/liquification process is fast, efficient, and most importantly cheap

Professor Douglas C. Elliott is convinced that in the future our cars will burn algal biofuels.  His team at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash. believed they've worked out a fast, efficient method of converting algal "sludge" into oily algal "crude".

I. Algal Fuel -- Perhaps the Most Promising Biofuel, But Hard to Produce

The future of biofuels appears in flux.  The food for fuel debate looks on the verge of boiling over, with Congress preparing to cut artificially created demand for corn ethanol. Meanwhile cellulosic ethanol has failed to live up to years of bold promises, and appears commercially stalled, if not dead.

Algal biofuel is still much more in the research stage, but it does have some big backers, most notably the U.S. Navy, which is paying a premium to startups to test the future fuel.  And while it's hard not to hear some similarities between the big promises that cellulosic ethanol made a half decade ago and some in the algal fuel industry are today making, algal fuel does enjoy some distinct advantages in the future fuels race.

Algae Biofuels
Algal biofuel is arguably the most promising synthetic hydrocarbon fuel, but also the most frustrating in terms of production problems. [Image Source: Solix Biofuels]

First, you can grow algae anywhere it's sunny with a proper tank system.  Growing systems can be pricey, but they have the ability to be installed in locations that traditional seed oil or fermented sugar-crop-derived fuels can't exploit, such as rooftops or deserts.  Second, algae are an easy organism to genetically modify, to make them as oil-rich as possible.

The fundamental problem with cellulosic ethanol always seemed to be where to find the large quantity of waste feedstock (biomass) required.  After all, some startups had very clever bacterial or fungal conversion schemes, but struggled to establish a delivery network that could sustain a commercial scale plant.

An algae plant
A farmer at a pilot algae farm shows off growing equipment. [Image Source: Green Living]

Algal fuel avoids this issue, as the microorganisms handing the basic oil stock are the source of oil themselves.  The difficulty with algal biofuels is to take the oily sludge that comes from filtered, ground up algae and chemically transform it into fuels that resemble crude oil.  The result is that algal fuel is available but remains very expensive.

Due to the cost algae has been targeted by with serious criticism, despite its promise.  Even its advocates acknowledge this fundamental problem -- cost reduction is vitally needed.

II. (Almost) No Catalysts Needed

Professor Elliott's team has long approached this challenge from the industry standard approach -- using catalyst driven reactions to convert dried extracts of algal "sludge" to crude.  The team has tested a wide range of catalytic metals, including palladium, platinum, nickel, ruthenium, and rhodium, on carbon support.

One such catalyst method is so-called hydrotreating (HT).  While common, this method is slow, requiring as much as 4-6 hours to reach high yields.  It's also relatively expensive.  Professor Elliott is no stranger to HT production -- he's spent much of his career trying to perfect it.  But now he thinks he may have found a remarkably cheaper and simpler alterantive.

The latest work by Professor Elliot uses hydrothermal liquification (HTL), a combustion process that first turns the algal oil to a solid, then liquifies that solid to produce the final fuel.  The method is fast and affordable.

Algal slurry
Starting 35% by weight algal fuel-stock is poured into a test beaker.
[Image Source: Algal Biofuels/PNNL]

In layman's terms HT methods involve metallic catlyst structures "grabbing" fuel molecules, stripping them of their oxygen atoms and replacing them with hydrogen from a surrounding gas.  This approach intuitively has restrictions -- catalysts are 2D surfaces.  And if you pattern them to be closer to 3D, you raise the risk of "fouling" (the products getting "stuck" to the catalyst, blocking future reactions).  And then there's that gas that was mentioned in passing.


The HTL process, by contrast, essentially filters out unwanted organics like phosphorous, to get a pure hydrocarbon sludge, which is then burned.  At standard pressures this burn would destroy the carbon chains, producing CO2).  But under high pressures and moderately high temperatures it essentially does the same thing as the HT catalysts -- it strips off the oxygen replacing it with hydrogen.  Except, instead of feed gas hydrogen is grabbed from neighboring molecules.
 
The product is a solid that is then liquefied (broken down and blended) to produce oil comparable to HT.
 
The process does have its downsides.  As mentioned, it requires rather high pressures -- up to 50 percent higher in the reactor (operating at 3,000 psi (~206.8 bar), versus 1950 psi (135 bar) for an average HT process).  And as one might realize from the previous description, as it grabs hydrogen from neighboring molecules, as small amount of feedstock carbon is released as gas waste.  A small amount is also lost as a solid during the liquefaction process.


oil production
An HTL reactor system burns, then liquefies algal hydrocarbons. [Image Source: Algal Research/PNNL]

But compared to HT and other approaches, HTL does have one big advantage -- it doesn't use any catalysts during the initial oil production.  This dramatically lowers the cost of production, as catalysts are typically expensive due to their use of rare metals and complex construction.
 
III. After Forty Years, Nearly Forgotten Method Reaches Maturity
 
The HTL method also offers other benefits.  It operates at a somewhat lower reactor temperature (around 660 ºF (~350 ºC) versus 770 ºF (~410 ºC) for HT) and requires no feed gas (versus the H2 required for HT).  It also makes liquid fuel product faster than HT or other methods, producing liters of fuel in under an hour.
 
Yet another benefit is that the HTL method doesn't require drying of the algae and extraction of its lipid content, as a HT and similar methods do.  The HTL method "uses the whole buffalo" as the old saying goes, turning all of the algae biomass into carbon fuel.

Algal fuel
The liquified crude is pictured in the center, with the refined "oil" on the left.
[Image Source: Algal Biofuels/PNNL]


Professor Elliott summarizes in a press release:

Cost is the big roadblock for algae-based fuel.  We believe that the process we've created will help make algae biofuels much more economical.

Not having to dry the algae is a big win in this process; that cuts the cost a great dea/  Then there are bonuses, like being able to extract usable gas from the water and then recycle the remaining water and nutrients to help grow more algae, which further reduces costs.

It's a bit like using a pressure cooker, only the pressures and temperatures we use are much higher.  In a sense, we are duplicating the process in the Earth that converted algae into oil over the course of millions of years. We're just doing it much, much faster

PRNL Doug Elliott
Professor Elliott spent much of his career studying HT and CHG production of algal biofuel.  Now he thinks he's found a far better alternative. [Image Source: PNNL]

HTL sounds like a biofuel dream scenario -- faster, simpler, relatively efficient, and -- most importantly -- very cheap conversion.  So why did it take so long to devise?  Well, it turns out that it's been toyed with since the 1970s, but has been largely overlooked due to difficulties with impurities.  It was largely assumed you needed to remove water from the feedstock slurry before feeding it into the reactor.  But Professor Elliott's team threw out that restriction. 

As for why his HTL succeeded where early implementations in the 1970s stuttered, he tells CNBC:

[We have] some technology tricks that other people don't have.

Specifically, it appears these advances involve syringe injection of the slurry (which reduces water content by an inexpensive pressure-based approach, rather than a chemical approach) and jacketed plug-flow beds to assure efficient heat exchange during the preheating and final stages of the reaction.


An important note/clarification is that after the "crude" oil is produced, catalysts are required to convert the algal fuel to final products, resembling gasoline or diesel.  However, this is typically the case with alternative processes (HT, etc.) as well.

Algal fuel

The new method only requires catalysts in the post-processing process (yellow/orange), eliminating catalysts from crude production. [Image Source: PNNL/Algal Biofuels]

The key difference when it comes to HTL is that process of producing the "crude" oil stock does not require additional catalysts.
 
Another note is that the wastewater -- containing dissolved CO2 and other byproducts from the dehydrogenation pressure cooking process -- can be fed back to the algae, nurturing them, and cutting back on the carbon losses.
 
IV. Pilot Plant Will Move Patent-Pending Technology Towards the Market
 
The success has not gone unnoticed.  After a journal paper which was published in a September 2013 edition of the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal Algal Research, Professor Elliott took his patent pending technology to the private sector, licensing it to Genifuel Corp. -- an algae biofuel producer.
 
Genifuel is looking to supplement expensive, difficult to maintain Catalytic Hydrothermal Gasification (CHG) converters with the new process (CHG is a catalyst-based method similar to HT).  That brings up a final unmentioned beauty of the HTL method.  While its liquefied distillates can be blended directly with diesel and other fuels for automotive, industrial, or aerospace use, the "waste" hyrdocarbons -- aromatics and other undesirable byproducts -- can be treated by existing HT/CHG catalyst reactor systems to produce methane gas.

algal fuel
Genifuel is setting up a pilot plant to use the new reactor system. [Image Source: iStock via Genifuel]

So a company like Genifuel can switch to the more efficient HTL method for its primary production.  But rather than having to throw out its existing HTL system for its pilot plant, it can simply repurpose it as a byproducts recycler, producing methane fuel.
 
While there's still lots of work to be done in terms of algae farming and genetic engineering, this new HTL technology has the potential to revolutionize the algal fuel industry, cutting costs from hundreds of dollars per gallon to a few dollars per gallon thanks to its inexpensive, ridiculously intuitive design.
 
Again, given the cellulosic ethanol hype and flop, it's easy to be skeptical of big boil claims in the biofuels industry.  But this new PNNL refinement of a long overlooked alternative method certainly sounds like far more of a simple and less cumbersome approach that many so-called "breakthroughs".

Sources: PNNL, Algal Biofuels, CNBC



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What about Plastics?
By CaedenV on 12/23/2013 10:13:41 PM , Rating: 2
Not that we are about to end normal oil production any time soon, but I am curious about the ability to make plastics, rubbers, and other extremely important oil byproducts which we would hardly be able to have our modern world without. Can we make the same kinds of good quality plastics from this goop? Or are we going to create other long term problems in the process?




RE: What about Plastics?
By Solandri on 12/24/2013 7:05:18 AM , Rating: 2
Most of our synthetic materials are produced by going down the energy gradient. That is, you start with a substance high in energy. Because of its high energy content, it wants to react with other substances. So you don't have to work to combine them - you just put them together and they react by themselves.

Because petroleum is very high in energy content, it's a very easy substance to do this with. It wants to react with lots of other things. That's why so many synthetics are derived from petroleum. It's highly likely that new, different synthetics can be produced by other substances with a reasonably high energy content. We just haven't discovered them because it's been so much cheaper to just use petroleum for the last 100 years.

(Biological processes in contrast tend to go up the energy gradient. They take energy from sunlight or sugars, and use complex proteins which act like nano-scale factories assembling atoms and molecules by adding energy to them. It's a much more complicated mechanism that simply mixing two types of molecules together and having them react by themselves. This is also why biological stuff tends to degrade quickly in the environment - it's had energy added putting it at a more precariously unstable higher energy state. While petroleum-derived stuff tends to last hundreds of years - it's had energy removed putting it into a locally stable energy trough.)


cost cost cost
By DocScience on 12/24/2013 2:41:56 PM , Rating: 3
So what is the end-to-end cost per barrel of this miracle syncrude?

Did I just miss it?




To the NEIGH!!! sayers
By omgwtf8888 on 12/26/2013 3:36:43 PM , Rating: 1
In 1910 there were .5 million cars in the U.S. today 254 million. The critics of electric/biofuel on this forum are the ancestors of the people who said "get a horse" cause these car thingys will never work. Their ancestors spouted out the statistics on how getting gas stations all around the country would never work and you could never deliver gas to all them-thar stations. As the world population grows (10 billion in the year 3010) having individual smog producers will be banned. You will first see this in the most unlikely place... China. As they grow tired of the polution and smog they will outlaw the gas car and only import electric cars. This will drive the car manufacturers to compete and build better and better electrics. Solar technology will improve and maybe the biofuel from algae will run our power plants. In 100 years the gas cars will be no different then horse drawn buggies are today. BTW these same people also scoffed at computers, the internet and them thar movin pictures.




Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/23/13, Rating: -1
RE: Bye Bye EV's
By CaedenV on 12/23/13, Rating: 0
RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Shig on 12/23/13, Rating: 0
RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Dorkyman on 12/26/2013 1:38:34 PM , Rating: 2
It will be difficult, which is why the 2025 "mandates" will change. Government is well-known to create edicts that cannot or will not come to pass long after the makers have left office. It's a "feel-good" rationale--it feels good at the time to make such a law, and libs are all about feelings.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By FITCamaro on 12/23/2013 11:04:51 PM , Rating: 2
Algae based fuels are pretty much environmentally nuetral. Sure there is energy in the refining process. But there's far more used in getting the materials in batteries into those batteries. Just burning the fuel isn't putting any carbon back into the air that wasn't taken out in the first place. Not that I think carbon dioxide is a pollutant to begin with. Human's still produce only a fraction of all the carbon dioxide that enters the air. Sure we can cause smog. But the Western world has largely solved that problem.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Solandri on 12/24/2013 6:25:54 AM , Rating: 3
Biofuels are solar power. In this particular case, the algae captures sunlight and puts the energy into building chemical compounds which we can then refine into diesel. At that point it becomes:

Biodiesel: sunlight => algae => diesel => locomotion

EVs: sunlight => solar panel => battery => locomotion

Compare the two vertically. Algae is a lot cheaper than solar panels. And diesel has nearly two orders of magnitude higher energy density than batteries.

Unless those change, biodiesel is going to win in the end. Its only impediment is the algae => diesel step (or plant => diesel step). Right now that's prohibitively expensive, or scales poorly so you can't crank out massive quantities of diesel. That's what's given EVs some breathing room. But rest assured, if (and that's a highly probable 'if') we figure out a way to make that step cheap and scalable, it's game over for EVs.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/24/2013 11:32:04 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Unless those change, biodiesel is going to win in the end. Its only impediment is the algae => diesel step (or plant => diesel step). Right now that's prohibitively expensive, or scales poorly so you can't crank out massive quantities of diesel. That's what's given EVs some breathing room. But rest assured, if (and that's a highly probable 'if') we figure out a way to make that step cheap and scalable, it's game over for EVs.


Well said.

It took EV's how many decades to become commercially viable? Biofuels can get the job done cheaper, and these hurdles can be overcome in much less time imo.

Hell if biodiesel got as much Government backing and subsidies and handouts as the electric cronies, we would probably already be using it.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/24/2013 1:16:44 PM , Rating: 2
We still have yet to see whether it's economical. With EVs you can do a simple calculation from market prices of batteries and you already know its lifetime cost is lower, even before considering future advances.

With biofuels, Coskata was telling us we'd have $1/gal cellulosic ethanol. Biodiesel has a market price more than $1/gal higher than ultra-low sulfur diesel, and virtually none of it is produced from algae.

The use of algae is a messy process. All the biological leftovers need to be filtered out, and it gunks up everything (I'm speaking from experience). There's a reason we don't harvest any basic raw materials from dead organisms aside from tree pulp. This isn't like drilling for oil where you get a nearly pure enough commodity directly out of the ground, or a typical industrial process using pure raw materials to build a more complex product.

There's a long way to go. I too was hopeful for biofuels, but I lost faith in it a while ago after digging deeper into the details. Let's see if algae can replace soybeans first before declaring it the winner over shale/tar-sands.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Just Tom on 12/24/2013 5:29:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This isn't like drilling for oil where you get a nearly pure enough commodity directly out of the ground, or a typical industrial process using pure raw materials to build a more complex product.


Do you have any clue how complex a process petroleum refining is? Or how difficult refining any raw ore is?


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 1:20:44 AM , Rating: 3
I'm talking about all the processes algal biofuels have to go through before refining.

As for mining raw ores, you're only helping my argument. Crude, even at $90/bbl, costs only ~$0.30/lb. Virtually everything we mine costs way more than that. That's why it's hard to believe that algal crude can be produced for much less.

Batteries, OTOH, are used for thousands of cycles. A Panasonic 18650 cell weights about 45g and costs ~$3, i.e. $30/lb. Raw materials cost way less than that (even lithium: this cell only needs about 7 grams of Li2CO3, which costs ~$6/kg, to get the needed lithium).


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Just Tom on 12/25/2013 9:40:05 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, you are changing your argument from complexity to cost. Which if that was your initial intent I'd be glad to consent. Petroleum refinement is terribly complex, perhaps even more complex than the the creation of biofuel from algae, but it is much much cheaper.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By dgingerich on 12/24/2013 4:26:44 PM , Rating: 3
EV still aren't commercially viable. the only reason we're able to produce and sell them right now is because the producers are selling them at a loss to grow the market share and the government is promoting the sale of EVs through tax incentives. EVs are a net loss of $10,000 to $25,000 each, which is the price of another car!

EVs aren't economically viable and won't be until we can improve our battery technology to hold ten times as much power at one tenth the weight and cost. It will be at least another century to reach that level.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TSS on 12/25/2013 5:07:20 AM , Rating: 2
They would be if electricity was alot cheaper. Then you could just run induction based roads instead of having to put batteries in every vehicle. Would save alot of the cost.

On that note, don't ya think it's funny the US has only spent $30 billion in 60 years on fusion research yet the government has decided EV's are the way to go, while at the same time spending $17 billion in 4 years on ethanol subsidies?

EV's would be viable in a decade if we'd only stop to *think* about how that should actually be done.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 7:39:34 AM , Rating: 2
Do you have any idea how much it would cost to put enough induction based chargers everywhere to make batteries unneeded? There's 4 million miles of roads in the US. You'd be lucky if cost less than $10 million per mile to implement such a system.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 7:33:01 AM , Rating: 1
You information is all BS. Remember how it was $250k loss per car? Then $80k? Then $50k? That's due to shoddy journalism dividing total R&D over the current sales total.

EVs are NOT losing $10-25k per car. Nissan has stated that they're making a profit on each one. Tesla has 24% gross margins. Ford, Toyota, and Honda intentionally make PHEVs the most ludicrously priced to get more profit than normal.

You can get quotes for commodity cells today for less than $250/kWh. For $6k you can get enough batteries to displace $10k+ of gas consumption over the battery's warranted life, and they'll keep lasting longer.

So no, they do not have to go down 10x in price. The Model has so much space that it has two trunks, so no, they don't need 10x density, either. It's just a matter of getting economies of scale worked out before they get indisputably cheaper. Right now there's a lot of new R&D that manufacturers are paying for with their EV margins, as it's a whole new drivetrain supply chain.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/24/2013 2:32:23 PM , Rating: 1
The Model S proves energy density isn't an issue even with today's technology. Charging time is a bit of one (solvable) and cost is the other (but a bigger problem for algal biofuels).

You really think that's a "highly probable 'if'"?

Algal growth isn't just a matter of CO2, water, and sunlight. You need other nutrients, or else they'd have covered the earth already.

I'm not a solar fan either, but the theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis is 11%, with 3-6% being more realistic:
http://www.fao.org/docrep/w7241e/w7241e05.htm
Solar panels are far more efficient, thus needing much less area, and don't need a nutrient bath or chemical processing to get useful fuel out.

I seriously doubt algae will ever yield energy cheaper than solar panels. Even a woeful 10 year avg life on a Chinese $1/W solar panel will give you 80 MJ of electrical energy per dollar, and motors are >2x the efficiency of an ICE, so for $1 you can drive as far as 1.5 gal algal biodiesel.

Anyway, the real future competition for algal biofuels is not battery+solar, but rather battery+nuclear.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Solandri on 12/25/2013 12:47:47 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
You really think that's a "highly probable 'if'"?

Algal growth isn't just a matter of CO2, water, and sunlight. You need other nutrients, or else they'd have covered the earth already.

If you own a boat, you know you can't stop their growth. They do not cover the earth because all the energy they capture is yummy for animals to eat. Absent predation, they do try to cover the earth. Ever see what happens when you stop putting chlorine into a swimming pool?

quote:
I'm not a solar fan either, but the theoretical efficiency of photosynthesis is 11%, with 3-6% being more realistic:

Actually I think those figures are for a leaf exposed directly to sunlight. For sunlight falling on a bunch of leaves in haphazard orientations, I think it's 1%-3% efficient. I'm not arguing that plants are more efficient per square meter of sunlight.

The reason photosynthesis beats out solar panels despite the low efficiency is because the plants replicate and grow by themselves. There are no manufacturing costs. Sure you can farm them or use a nutrient bath if you want to increase yield per acre. But left to its own it will grow without human intervention.

So what you really need to be comparing is efficiency per dollar, not efficiency per square meter of sunlight.

quote:
I seriously doubt algae will ever yield energy cheaper than solar panels. Even a woeful 10 year avg life on a Chinese $1/W solar panel will give you 80 MJ of electrical energy per dollar, and motors are >2x the efficiency of an ICE, so for $1 you can drive as far as 1.5 gal algal biodiesel.

If you think about it, it already has. All the petroleum and coal we've been burning is ancient plant matter which captured and stored sunlight. While the eventual solution may not be algae-based, I'm convinced it will be based on biological photosynthesis. For the simple reason that if you're collecting solar power with plants, your base manufacturing costs are actually negative because the plants grow on their own. Heck, if you look beyond biodiesel, a properly managed forest can provide plenty of wood as fuel for stoves without reducing the volume of trees, and with net zero carbon emissions.

quote:
Anyway, the real future competition for algal biofuels is not battery+solar, but rather battery+nuclear.

Oh wow, in my dreams. Yes if we went fully nuclear, then obviously EVs will win out. The energy density of nuclear is a million times greater than biofuels (which as I mentioned is nearly 100x greater than batteries). A million is a lot more than 100, and easily swings things in favor of nuclear + EVs.

Currently though, the most EV advocates are strongly anti-nuclear. I hope that changes, but I'm not holding my breath.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 7:54:46 AM , Rating: 2
No, I really don't think most EV advocates are anti-nuclear.

Environmentalists are waking up to nuclear more and more. From Patrick Moore leaving the organization he co-founded (Greenpeace) over their nuclear irrationality to James Hansen (of AWG fame) saying we absolutely need nuclear to Bill Gates pointing out how nuclear is the only energy source with any chance of beating out coal in developing countries, the anti-nuclear movement is going to die.

That Japan is restarting its nuclear program and France aborted plans to cut nuclear is all the proof we need. I'd say that by 2025, when China, India, and/or Canada figure out molten salt reactors, the anti nuclear movement will be dead.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By melgross on 12/24/2013 10:49:27 AM , Rating: 2
That's not quite true. There is still pollution, which is best handled in a large power plant. It's much more difficult to control pollution in hundreds of millions of vehicles than in central power production.

Using biofuels in a power plant and then going to battery in a vehicle is the best compromise so far.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/24/2013 2:36:52 PM , Rating: 2
As long as we're talking about future energy sources and costs, the ideal solution to pollution is quite clearly a nuclear plant.

Biofuels can't even match gasoline's ~30c/kWh. Nuclear is an order of magnitude cheaper.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/23/2013 11:22:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
EVs are still going to eventually win out


Because you said so.

Anyway EV's have huge Achilles heel's which I don't see being solved. The more dense the battery capacity, the longer it takes to charge.

I know the 'climate change faithful' just says "plug your car in at night", but let's be honest, that's never going to catch on for most people. It's a massive inconvenience.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By mike66 on 12/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Solandri on 12/24/2013 6:54:36 AM , Rating: 5
That's just half the problem. If you want to know the other half, try calculating how big a transmission wire you'd need to pump in 85 kWh of electricity. If you want to recharge in 5 minutes, that's 1.02 MW. With a 480 Volt charger, that's 2125 Amps. Any sort of flexible wire approximating a power cord or even a gas hose would instantly melt if not vaporize under that load.

About the only way to make this work is to have a massive battery or capacitor underneath your garage or at the charging station, which adds another point of energy loss to the system. It's "trickle charged" by drawing massive amounts of electricity from the grid. If you assume 3 cars are being charged at any given time, that single recharging station is drawing enough electricity to power a town of 2500. Then to charge the car battery, two great big metal rods connect to the battery and charges it, all the while trying to avoid instantly spot-welding themselves to the battery terminals.

People vastly underestimate the amount of energy that's in gasoline. When you fill up your gas tank in 2.5 minutes, every half second there's as much energy transmitted through that hose as is released when two cars going 60 mph have a head-on collision. With a chemical fuel, all that energy is nicely locked away and stable until you react the chemical. With electrical fuel, that electricity is always trying to go somewhere with a lower electrical potential.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By cmart on 12/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Spuke on 12/24/2013 12:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Charging isn't a technological hurdle, it's a procedural one.
And where do you charge those batteries you just swapped out? The high current problem STILL exists! It's just not at your house now.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/24/2013 12:14:45 PM , Rating: 2
I have to laugh whenever someone suggests battery swaps are a solution for mass-scale EV adoption.

Just sit at a gas station for a few minutes or hours and count how many cars come in. Now imagine needing a fully charged battery available for every one of those vehicles on site and ready to go.

Ummm yeah. Can we say unsustainable as hell? It's not even feasible.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Spuke on 12/24/2013 1:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ummm yeah. Can we say unsustainable as hell? It's not even feasible.
Some people just don't think things through. You'd need a massive warehouse of batteries to feed all of the vehicles coming into each station. You'd need plenty of "parking" space for the waiting customers and some overage for peak demands like the xmas holidays and travel season. You wouldn't want to create more problems than you're trying to solve. The higher used stations would take a massive amount of expensive property and be expensive to run (which would jack up prices). And, again, where do you charge these batteries when ONE 85kWh pack @ 480V requires 2000 amps (!) DC in order to charge in 2.5 minutes. Holy crap!


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 8:20:59 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
Some people just don't think things through.


LOL that's rich. You guys are writing off battery swapping by coming up with the most moronic solutions possible. If a battery charges in 30 minutes, a 2-minute swap needs only 15 batteries per station to be running continuously at 100% capacity (30 cars per hour). Since the packs can be less than 6" thick, they'll fit in a space under the pump and car.

No, the real reason battery swapping won't get anywhere is that people will choose charging over paying for the overhead of swapping. Have you ever seen people line up at a station offering 20c/gal cheaper gas? EVs offer over 10x the saving.

Tesla is only finding 6% of Model S mileage is charged at superchargers. Charging at home or your parking garage overnight is the most convenient.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TheEinstein on 12/25/2013 11:16:43 AM , Rating: 2
ok, there is 121k fuel stations. They would need to replace more than 190 million batteries per a day if I am correct.

But today's lead-acid batteries have only about 30 watt-hours of energy per kilogram.

http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2002/RaymondTran.sh...

Most standard battery models are around 40-60 pounds.

http://www.carsdirect.com/car-maintenance/car-batt...

Let us use 40 pounds. This means we have 18ish kilograms, or about 540 watt hours per battery.

In 2012, the United States generated about 4,054 billion kilowatthours of electricity.

This means we are using 102,600,000,000 watt hours, or 102,600,000 kilowatt hours per day. This is roughly 1% of our power generated per day.

Now if we do this all in 1 hour we are using 24% of the power generated in a given hour. If we do 30 minute charges we use 48%.

Now your going to claim bad math, since obviously not all batteries will charge at once. Good call! We shall have a spread over the morning and the afternoon, where the vast majority of batteries are replaced in a 5 hour combined window. Now forget the traffic jam that would create, but focus on the usage.

In this 5 hour window we will use 5% of our total production. The local grid for commercial and residential handles 40% of our total power. This means we are unfortunately adding 12.5% to the local grid. The local grids are not ready for this, and this means more infrastructure.

Even if we did meet all of these issues we are still constrained, for the gas companies must plan for a 'peak traffic' exceeding the average of a given day. So if we have 2500 cars per a peak day per an average station, even if we had 30 minute recharges, this still means 250 base batteries plus spares, for about 280 batteries. Not many stations have room for 4 stacked high 70 battery stations, with walking space, with charging receptacle space for possibly a room of 28*10 feet of battery stations (assuming one aisle of 5 feet wide (the long one) and sub aisles of 3 feet wide (the short ones). Add a transformer and breaker room.

Simply put the costs are so monstrous as to be imagined.

5% more power stations for 5 hours of a day, 280 square feet of battery storage space, an employee (or 3) to swap batteries (or a hightech replacement which needs maintenance), more power lines (12.5% in the commercial and residential zones), and expensive substations, electrical rooms, and more.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 11:57:10 AM , Rating: 2
You would make a very poor engineer. Once I saw you write lead acid, it's pretty clear that everything here is gibberish.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TheEinstein on 12/25/2013 9:08:26 PM , Rating: 2
that was a copy paste.

I used a bunch of quick information.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:52:17 AM , Rating: 1
Battery swaps? Sorry, I am trying not to laugh. Sounds great until you get the battery that is nearing the end of its' life cycle during one of the swaps and you make it 15 miles down the road and notice you are almost out of juice again. Battery swaps work for forklifts in warehouses because they know how many forklifts will need batteries during a typical shift, and can plan accordingly. I can't believe that someone thinks the same thing is viable in a service station. Even discounting the logistics, how many service stations have the high voltage, high current lines nearby to tap into? Hell, California's power grid can not handle the current usage, much less what would be added by the strain of tens of thousands of quick charge stations.

The only viable use in the near future for EVs is as short-distance commuter cars that will be plugged in at home, and maybe at the place of employment. Now in that role, EVs excel. Some people could get away with never buying gas even with a 50 mile range EV. The future will have a mix of fuel and electric vehicles. Neither type of vehicle is better than the other in all situations.

CO2 emissions are not a problem. The sooner the AGW bullshit goes away the better, so we can return to focussing on actual problems. Emissions from vehicles are a problem in dense areas, especially when weather patterns prevent the emissions from being diluted quickly enough. CO2 is a fake problem, but toxic smog from exhausts is not.

Electrics may not eliminate the issue of emissions if the are run by coal generated electricity, but they do lessen the issue. For one thing, coal plants do a far better job of scrubbing emissions than older cars. Plus, coal plants tend not to be in downtown cores. Of course, if we'd get over the fear of nuclear, then that would be solved too. Spent fuel is not an issue. Newer reactor types can use the spent fuel rods from older reactors. That huge stockpile of spent fuel still has decades worth of use.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By cmart on 12/26/2013 9:49:00 AM , Rating: 2
Of course service stations estimate demand. That's how they don't run out of gas, or sit on old gas until it's bad. It's just too easy to poo-pooh new ideas, even on a tech site.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
It is easy to stockpile enough gas at a service station. Build a big underground tank and fill it once a month or so. Not so easy with batteries. They are rather large and heavy. Machinery has the be installed to lift them, whereas a simple pump handles gas. Pretty much anyone can operate a gas pump. Are service stations going to allow the drivers to operate the cranes to lift out the batteries? I doubt it.

A busy service station can fuel up hundreds of cars an hour. Good luck performing the same number of battery swaps in the same amount of space. What about pricing? When you top up a tank, you pay for the amount of gas bought. Are they going to measure the amount of charge left in the battery you drop off, and credit you that against the price of the replacement? I doubt it. So you'll end up paying for electricity you never used.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/26/2013 10:13:15 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
LOL that's rich. You guys are writing off battery swapping by coming up with the most moronic solutions possible. If a battery charges in 30 minutes, a 2-minute swap needs only 15 batteries per station to be running continuously at 100% capacity (30 cars per hour). Since the packs can be less than 6" thick, they'll fit in a space under the pump and car.


You sir, are a joke.

So in your mind we live in the times of the Jetsons. You'll pull into a station, centered perfectly over a door in the ground of course. The door will slide open and a mechanical robot arm comes up, quickly and perfectly removing your cars battery pack. Then another robot arm comes up from this completely automated pit, and slaps a new battery into your car and you're good to go.

Just..lmao!!! Our "solutions" are the only ones that will be possible. And they aren't solutions per-say, because the premise is impossible. Battery swapping on a mass scale won't work, it CAN'T work!

quote:
Tesla is only finding 6% of Model S mileage is charged at superchargers.


Because Tesla's current customer base is the rich and affluent. They don't NEED to drive the vehicle every day everywhere. They don't need to worry about range limits and charging times.

Parking garage? Most Americans don't even have access to garage spaces!

Wake up and see reality!


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/26/2013 1:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
Your reading skills are a joke.

I very clearly said "battery swapping won't get anywhere".

I just pointed out how pathetic you guys are with numbers. A warehouse of batteries? 190 million swaps per day? Need great big metal rods to transfer 1MW?

You, Reclaimer, couldn't spot bad math if it slapped you in the face, and support the most absurd calculations if it fits your preconceived biases:
http://www.dailytech.com/article.aspx?newsid=29884...


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/26/2013 5:55:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I just pointed out how pathetic you guys are with numbers.


I haven't used any numbers or math-based arguments this entire article. Nice try! I also don't recall posting any agreement to the points you're taking issue with.

You've just lumped me in with everyone you don't agree with. How convenient!

quote:
I very clearly said "battery swapping won't get anywhere".


Yes but not for the same reasons. You still think it's feasible, it just won't be preferred.

Battery swaps on a national scale are not feasible. You're eyes are full of pies in skies to think otherwise.

" While swappable battery packs could theoretically give an electric vehicle unlimited driving range, it would also require a massive swap station infrastructure, which even though the price tag is undisclosed, it's quite clear that it would be unfeasible to implement large scale at this time. "


http://www.examiner.com/article/first-battery-swap...

Oh look another idiot. I guess he didn't go to the Mint school of massaging numbers and using the theoretical while ignoring the practical realities.

And please, you are in no position to judge anyone. Yesterday you claimed crude oil was practically taken out of the ground ready to be turned into gasoline with "very little" work/refining.

Just go piss up an electric rope you little pissant Big Government socialist green party EV shill. I'm not buying your BS and never have.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By boeush on 12/26/2013 4:56:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
So in your mind we live in the times of the Jetsons. You'll pull into a station, centered perfectly over a door in the ground of course. The door will slide open and a mechanical robot arm comes up, quickly and perfectly removing your cars battery pack. Then another robot arm comes up from this completely automated pit, and slaps a new battery into your car and you're good to go.

Just..lmao!!!
I have just one question for you: have you ever driven your car through an automated car wash?

You're welcome...


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TheEinstein on 12/24/2013 2:36:36 PM , Rating: 2
Portland Oregon has 1.5 million residents in the region. Even if there is 1000 gas stations this would be 1500 batteries. Even 10,000 gas stations seems unfeasible as we would need vastly revamped power to them, spares, hazmat (for leaking batteries), the assembly... I think there would need to be roughly 450 batteries on site (to cover high traffic days) and that would mean greatly increasing the stations size.

Great point, I applaud you on it!


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TheEinstein on 12/25/2013 3:12:32 AM , Rating: 2
There are 121,446 gas Stations in the United States. There is 190,625,023 licensed drivers in the United States in 2000. This should be presumed to be up however. That is 1500 drivers per station. Most people get gas once a week, so the average for stations is 214 drivers a day.

Electric vehicles with battery swaps need to be done daily, after all if one battery is only good for 1 day and the swap routine is for battery number reduction, then this is the new necessity. So every gas station will need to have approximately 5000 batteries (to handle unusual peak loads) on hand, and the electrical wiring to manage that many batteries.

As one can see it becomes unfeasible quite quickly. However there are liberals out there that wish for this to be a law, without even thinking of the costs.

If an average battery is 1 foot squared (we will call it that for our purposes) then the average station will need approximately 1250 square feet just to hold the batteries, quadruple that in one direction for easy access and wiring (so 1250x(1250*4), and more for the electrical transformers and such. We shall call it a total of 1500 by 5000 feet in dimensions.

How is this better than Gasoline?


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By cmart on 12/26/2013 9:52:05 AM , Rating: 2
Shelves. Good grief, people. I don't think a lot of you have ever seen an industrial or warehouse environment.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By TheEinstein on 12/27/2013 2:07:08 AM , Rating: 2
I deliver to warehouses all year long.

So you propose forklift space? How will the batteries get their juice if lifted? You do know this would reduce storage capacity as well right? This is because the space required in aisles with no forklifts (3-4 feet) versus the space required with forklifts (12 is absolutely minimum in feet, probably more like 15-18). The Pallets it would need to be lifted upon also take up space, higher racks need more metal to make them stable.

I think you have never been in a warehouse!


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By cmart on 12/26/2013 9:44:34 AM , Rating: 2
Ummm yeah. It must be very bewildering to you how they handle all the cars now. Big storage tanks of gas. That would be replaced by a big warehouse of batteries. Mind-blowing, I'm sure, for you inside-the-box types.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By cmart on 12/26/2013 9:42:22 AM , Rating: 2
The high current problem doesn't exist because the batteries can sit on shelving and trickle charge. No need to speed-charge them in a swap-out scenario.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Mint on 12/25/2013 10:15:03 AM , Rating: 2
First of all, you're wrong about the wire. There's no need to use only 480V. 5mm spacing is all you need to prevent breakdown for 1500V with a large factor of safety. 1kA * 1kV is a piece of cake.

Secondly, you're wrong about flexibility. A bunch of thin wires conduct just as well as a single solid one. 1000 strands of AWG 20 - each strand can easily handle 2 amps - will need <1 sq inch cross-sectional area. Because you aren't pumping a fluid, the hose can be a ribbon, say 4"x1/4" plus insulation. It can be more flexible than a gas hose. Such a ribbon cable will get a little warm, but no more so than something sitting in sunlight.

You underestimate how easy it is to pass energy through a wire.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Dr of crap on 12/24/2013 12:36:26 PM , Rating: 2
You lost when you said "global warming".
You are in the minority on this site.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By exeedorbit on 12/24/2013 7:36:37 AM , Rating: 2
While I do agree with your statement that the denser the battery, the more it takes to charge. But technological advancements such as graphene open up a whole new slew of possibilities when it comes to charging technology in terms of speed and efficiency.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:12:48 AM , Rating: 2
Plugging in a car at night is less convenient than driving to a gas station? I wish electrics would reach a point where all I had to do was plug it in each night and be able to drive all day the next day. I doubt they ever will, but if they did, I would switch.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By esteinbr on 12/24/2013 2:58:22 PM , Rating: 2
We can debate if EV's will eventually win out for the personal vehicle market but even if they do we still won't be able to move away from liquid fuels entirely. Just think about all the other ways that liquid fuels are used.

Air planes - Batteries are no where near being able to handle this. Their energy density is just too low and we would need a massive break through to even approach batteries being a reasonable option.

Boats - Not your recreational fishing boats but the big shipping cargo containers. Same thing as air planes. We are no where near being able to store enough energy for a cargo ship. Any weight/space dedicated to batteries is lost capacity for moving goods.

Trucks - See cargo containers.

Trains - Save as above with the exception that it would be possible to provide electricity through some over head or third rail as they are fixed routes but it would also mean a huge amount of infrastructure would be needed.

Personally, I'm still sceptical of ev's for the personal vehicle market. Recharging the batteries is still an issue and every limitation you solve or work around you come up with just move the problem somewhere else. Invent a battery that can charge in minutes and you've got problems providing that much power that quickly. You are stuck dealing with high voltages and/or high currents either of which causes problems. Okay, swap batteries. You still have to charge them eventually and the slower you charge the swapped out batteries the more you've got to have available to swap which is a huge inventory cost, takes up space etc. Not to mention that swapping batteries pretty much requires that the vehicle owner doesn't own the battery. If I did I sure as heck don't want it swapped for one that has an unknown amount of wear and tear on it. Not to mention the problems getting every car MFG to agree on a standard for size, shape and mounting method to making swapping reasonable or dealing with eventual upgrades to battery tech. It works in a factory because they have a limited fleet and can manage the swapping and standardize to make it work.

Okay, so lets say that there is some new tech that comes out that substantially increases the range so that 99.99% of people don't have to worry about in normal situations and we can just eliminate gas stations. Lets say 10 times increase so instead of the 300 hundred mile range the tesla now has a 3000 mile range. That is plenty to cover almost all regular driving needs. No need to swap you can just charge at home. Sure if you own a house. What about all those people who live in apartments/town house/condos etc that don't even have assigned parking spot let alone a garage to park in with a charger? What about home owners who don't actually park in their garage? I know plenty of families that don't park any of their cars in the garage, and even more that don't park all of their cars in their garage. That really hurts your ability to charge overnight. This all adds up to home charging of EV's limited to a subset of the population.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By wordsworm on 12/24/2013 11:02:29 AM , Rating: 1
Jesus is not going to fill your tank when the oil's gone. I think that's the thing most of your kind don't quite get.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/24/2013 11:16:51 AM , Rating: 1
Wow good one!

Hey asshole: I'm an atheist!

Anyway back to the real discussion, soon we won't NEED oil to power our vehicles. Duh? This is a biofuel you dumb shit.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Spuke on 12/24/2013 12:07:49 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
This is a biofuel you dumb shit.
LMAO! These articles sure do bring out the idiots.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Dr of crap on 12/24/2013 12:38:01 PM , Rating: 2
WHAT ?????


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By inperfectdarkness on 12/24/2013 3:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
The thing is, if the algae can be bio-engineered to affect the end-product, then it should also be possible to engineer a BETTER hydro-carbon-like end-product than just "gasoline". Imagine if they can get this process to produce nitromethane. I'm all for compatibility with existing infrastructure/engines...but wouldn't it be great if we finally found a reliable and inexpensive way to deliver a fuel that had a net effective octane of >110 and with increased MPG to boot?


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By kickoff on 12/24/2013 7:53:03 PM , Rating: 1
LMMFAO!!! I swear to God, Reclaimer...I think you get sexually aroused when you can talk shit about EVs!

What is your malfunction? Did someone put a gun to your head and MAKE you buy one? Did an EV run over your dog? Your mother? Shit...SOMETHING had to happen to cause you to be so hard up about them.

Seriously, what the fuck do you care? Do you care about people who drive sports cars if you drive a pickup? Or do you hate pickups because you drive a sportscar? LOL Seriously, dude, if your favorite color is blue, do you attack people who wear red shirts? You seem to be an intelligent fellow on other subjects even if I don't always agree with you...but you have some type of SERIOUS angst regarding EVs and it's actually kind of funny. Sad...but funny.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:58:05 AM , Rating: 2
It goes the other way too. People who drive EVs are often smug asshats who hate SUV drivers. In fact, it is hyper-miling Prius weenies that gave EVs a bad name and cause the resistance to even legitimate uses for EVs.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By kickoff on 12/26/2013 2:07:33 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, that is definitely true. One of my favorite episodes of South Park is the one with the smug Prii owners smelling their own farts.
I think the whole "green crowd" is so obnoxious that they turn me the hell off and give the ultra-haters more ammo and reason to hate all things "green".

But to me, I think EVs are good because they get us away from more oil. As we build up our US oil production AND reduce overall oil use, we get to the point where we're not dependent on the jerk offs in the middle east. And even though we get a lot of oil from Canada and even Mexico, that's still money going out of the US economy that I'd rather keep at home.
EVs run on electricity provided totally by US sources even if it's coal or natural gas. I like to see US spending stay in the US economy.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By CalaverasGrande on 12/25/2013 10:11:22 AM , Rating: 3
EV's and hybrids will still win the day. Even with man made hydrocarbon fuels we still need to have less internal combustion engines imjecting less pollution in the air. Even if you are a climate change denier, you can't deny smog. Go to SF, LA or any major city in China.
This is admirable tech for sure, but I feel that it's kind of like a carbon fiber, titanium alloy ball and powder musket.
Very high tech but out dated.
Instead of trying to make a new "gasoline" why not focus on hydrogen for hydrogen fuel cells?


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:10:10 AM , Rating: 2
EVs have there place. They are not a road-trip car, or a good car for rural living people, but they make a great daily commuter for urban and sub-urban people. Cities with high population densities in Europe and Asia already drive what we would consider to be glorified go-carts. Those are prime markets for small electrics. Where I live would suck for electrics since we have brutal winters. Batteries are useless in cold weather, and running a heater would just add to that. We also have a large rural population for whom electrics are pointless, unless they are of the range-extender variety like the Volt.

But to say EVs will die because of alternative fuels is just wishful thinking on your part. I think Musk is a smarmy, self-righteous tool too, but EVs will not go away even if Tesla flops.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By Reclaimer77 on 12/26/2013 10:19:35 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
But to say EVs will die because of alternative fuels is just wishful thinking on your part. I think Musk is a smarmy, self-righteous tool too, but EVs will not go away even if Tesla flops.


Fair enough, why don't we let the market and the people decide? Of course it's a little late for that, EV's have been carried by public money so far. It's the only reason we even have them in the first place.

Oh and I hope you had a good Christmas troy.


RE: Bye Bye EV's
By troysavary on 12/26/2013 8:15:33 PM , Rating: 2
I had a pretty good Christmas. An icestorm knocked out our power for 15 hours Christmas Eve, but all was well by Christmas.


"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke














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