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Saving the environment, 1 search at a time

Though part of a much larger project, Google's aim to help fund the development of a plug-in hybrid automobile engine has taken many by surprise. The New York Times is reporting that the recently founded a for-profit organization is focused on funding start-up companies that aim to improve the world in any way possible including attacking poverty, disease and global warming.

One of's focuses also lands in the improving the environment by developing an automobile engine that can achieve 100 miles to the gallon and the capability to be plugged in and removed. hopes to gather individuals such as hybrid-engine scientists as well as automobile manufacturers to help in the research and design of such an engine. has been established to help venture capitalists bring their world-saving ideas past the on paper stage but the "for-profit" status of the organization is raising eye-brows among some due to Google's young age.

Earlier this year a company called Loremo AG, a German-based automobile start-up, introduced a $13,000 hybrid-engine based automobile which was said to achieve 157 miles per gallon. The Loremo LS has a top speed of 99MPH and weighs in at only 992lbs with a 20HP 2-cylinder turbo diesel engine pulling it around. It will be interesting to see what and its partners can come up with.

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Google Gets All the Press
By leonowski on 9/19/2006 5:13:25 PM , Rating: 2
Wow - Google does anything and everyone covers the story. It's great to be the darling of all industries.

There are lots of people involved now in making vehicles that are ultra efficient. That's great! It's also great to see Google participating in the effort.

I'm just sick of hearing about the Google brand.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By SilthDraeth on 9/19/2006 5:21:38 PM , Rating: 1
Here is a list of other big companies that get a lot of press:

I am sick of hearing about all them as well. I think tech news sites should go out and find, and report stories about obscure small companies that have "great ideas" but very little "funding/advertising" and very little press.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By The Cheeba on 9/19/2006 5:27:52 PM , Rating: 5
I totally know what you mean. Just today, in fact, I opened dailytech to read stories about the following:

Northrop Grumman
Virgin Atlantic
Universal Studios

I mean, come on! </sarcasm>

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By SilthDraeth on 9/19/2006 5:51:52 PM , Rating: 1
I see, I see. The problem is more widespread than I initially thought. This is an epidemic of the widest proportions. A PANDEMIC even! Something must be done.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By leonowski on 9/19/2006 6:59:19 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, I was referring to main stream media like the NY Times (which is referenced in the Daily Tech article). Obviously, DailyTech/Anandtech readers are "in the know" and would probably know more about this subject than your average joe.

The article uses words like "attacking poverty, disease and global warming" making it sound like Google is the global savior for all of humanity. The article was probably written by a person with Google stock.

I apologize for all the Google hate that I'm spewing out. I just feel like they stifle innovation more and more as the company grows and grows. It's a strange and opposite expected effect.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By mindless1 on 9/20/2006 4:29:12 PM , Rating: 2
If you don't want to accept Google into your heart, they will still love you, that's how great they are. ;-)

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By xsilver on 9/20/2006 9:51:16 AM , Rating: 2
One possible reason that small companies dont get covered is that a lot of the time they are just spewing PR BS!? Something that has no substance.
While it also may be true for these larger companies It will then spin off another story of tall poppy syndrome which will be an even larger story than the first one. Thats why the media covers it. They cant help themselves... they're setting up bait/traps :/

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By SGTPan on 9/19/2006 11:06:31 PM , Rating: 2
Lol, not to get off the subject, because I agree with you... however, please stop refering to Google as "darling", because everytime you do I laugh so hard that I can't breath. Thanks.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By margon on 9/20/2006 9:13:24 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's nice to read a "tech news story" that doesn't involve improvements to tv watching, game playing or some other leisure activity.

RE: Google Gets All the Press
By hannons on 9/20/2006 10:56:39 AM , Rating: 2
It's also because the things they do are politically correct.

By slashbinslashbash on 9/19/2006 6:01:21 PM , Rating: 4
It seems to me that it'd be pretty darn easy to get a 100+ MPG vehicle if you castrated the engine like that. 2 cylinders, tiny displacement, less than 50 horsepower.... easy. I think of the go-carts that you can buy with 5 or 10 HP single-cylinder motors... I don't know what they get per gallon, but their tanks are always tiny. That Loremo car shows that it is easy to get 100MPG using today's technology. Just make the car super-lightweight; super aerodynamic; and give it a 20HP hybrid engine.

But there seems to be a fundamental "efficiency ratio" to gasoline combustion engines. We all know that 100% of the energy in gasoline is NOT used up by ANY known engine. Even high-efficiency turbines used for energy generation achieve something like 80% efficiency, IIRC. In most car engines, 100% of the gasoline is not burned up.... I think the figure is closer to 50%. Also, a ton of the energy that IS extracted goes to waste as heat and friction. This is the kind of problem that I am interested in tackling.

It seems to me that these factors are pretty similar across all manufacturer's engines right now, so the HP to MPG ratio is relatively stable across all cars. 40+ MPG cars have in the 100HP range, 30MPG cars have 150 or so, 20MPG cars have 200-250 and 15MPG cars have 300+ HP. Of course I realize that there are other (non-engine) things that are tweaked to improve MPG, such as the weight of the car, aerodynamics, etc. But such techniques reach a point of diminishing returns.

I am interested in fundamentally altering the energy equation of an internal combustion engine. First off would be making sure that ALL of the gasoline is burned up. I know that some manufacturers (Chrysler?) have an interesting cylinder shape that causes more turbulence in the air/gas mixture, filling more of the cylinder and burning more of the gas. I know that changing the valve configuration (2 valves, 4 valves, 5 valves, 3 valves per cylinder) alters this efficiency. I wonder what else we can do. I'm thinking of something that sits along the exhaust system that condenses the unburned gasoline back out of the exhaust gases.

The heat and friction losses would be harder to overcome, but it should be possible to improve from today's state-of-the-art by 50%. Engines just get too hot. If that heat can't be reduced, maybe it can be useful. Maybe the radiator can be embedded in some apparatus that uses the heat energy to charge the batteries in a hybrid car.

All of these things are speculative, of course. Anybody else got ideas, or links to places where they've actually attempted this kind of thing? Corrections to my efficiency figures? It's been years since I've actually read about this stuff, so maybe things have changed.

By PrinceGaz on 9/19/2006 7:08:30 PM , Rating: 2
I don't really know that much about the subject, but gas-turbine engines seem to provide the highest efficiency in terms of extracting useful power from fuel; so long as they are operating at full speed. At lower speeds they are much less efficient.

We have some hybrid-powered buses in town that have a diesel-powered gas turbine engine which is cycled between idling (very little fuel use) and full speed (very efficient fuel use) every few minutes as required to keep its batteries with sufficient power to drive the electric traction motors. Compared with normal buses, these have much lower emissions (thanks to lower overall fuel usage, and more thorough burning of it when it is used) as well as being more economical. The buses are also very quiet apart from a bit of a high-pitched whine when the gas-turbine is powered up. Okay, so they cost the bus company a small fortune to buy, but anyway.

Rather than hybrid-powered cars using a conventional diesel or petrol engine plus batteries and electic motors, the easiest solution would seem to be to replace the conventional engine with a diesel or petrol powered gas-turbine which can make much more efficient use of the fuel. It seems the logical thing to do as it uses readily available fuel rather than LPG which is only available at certain filling-stations, or hydrogen which is available at next to none currently.

I guess it really depends on whether the high-speed gas-turbine engine required is much more expensive than a conventional engine.

By slashbinslashbash on 9/20/2006 12:01:17 AM , Rating: 2
That does seem like a logical solution. I didn't know that they used that kind of technology in something as small as a bus. I know that diesel locomotives have used a similar hybrid system (big diesel generator engines that power electric motors at the wheels) for a long time.

According to Wikipedia, there was a surge of turbine generator locomotives in the 50's and 60's, but their efficiency was surpassed by standard cylinder diesel-electric locomotives. The article hints that the problem you mentioned, i.e. the turbine's inability to scale power in a linear fashion, was a big part of the problem.

I wonder if today's battery technology is up to the task of enabling a new wave of turbine-powered locomotives that use the technique you said that your city's buses use (cycling between idle and top speed). It's a logical technique, but obviously it is very demanding on the batteries, which are charged and discharged fully every few minutes.

By PrinceGaz on 9/20/2006 9:40:28 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, diesel-electric locomotives using the principle you describe are pretty much the de facto transmission method for diesel locomotives these days.

The reason the use of diesel (or any other fuel) gas-turbine engines went out of fashion was basically because while they are a lot more efficient at full pwer than a standard engine, at slower speeds they are much less efficient, and railway locomotives travelling over any distance more than about two or three miles (in other words once they have accelerated to full line speed) generally need to run at around 1/4-1/2 power to maintain the speed until the next stop, which is exactly the sort of power level that gas-turbines are very inefficient at.

Manually cycling between idling and full-power was not really a viable option as it considerably increases the risk of damage to freight trains, and causes seriousn discomfort on passenger trains. Therefore standard engines which operate more efficiently at intermediate powers are pretty much universal.

I also do wonder whether the combination of a battery and turbine is viable in other size vehicles. Certainly it should be possible in railway locomotives, but for cars, I'm not sure how small an efficient turbine can be made.

The batteries on these buses are never anywhere near fully discharged at all as far as I can tell, the turbine kicks in well before then. Another advanteage of these buses over conventional ones is they use regenerative-braking, so they use the motors as a generator to recharge the batteries when going downhill or slowing down.

They're damn nice buses. But like I said before, they cost the bus company a small fortune to buy from the New Zealand based company (pretty much as far from the UK as you could get). I'm not sure whether the high cost is because they're fairly unique, or if it is because the turbine engine and associated components are especially expensive because of the high speeds they run at. Probably a bit of both.

By theapparition on 9/20/2006 7:28:19 AM , Rating: 2
The modern internal combustion engine (ICE) runs of a thermal cycle known as the Carnot cycle. The highest efficiency possible using this cycle is about 40%. Unfortunately, modern cars don't even come close to this number, more like 15-20%. There are several reasons for this.
1) The Carnot cycle is ideal, and considers adiabatic heating (in non thermal speak, no heat is transferred from the combustion chamber to the cylinder wall) which we all know is false, so modern engine designers have been looking into using ceramic materials but no luck so far.
2) Engines do not run at one speed, they have to run through varying RPM's and that reduces efficiency further. This is why hybrids are so attractive. Hybrids, in theory, are less efficient. When you take energy (gas) and convert it into motion you loose some efficiency in the conversion. This is the average car. Now in a hybrid, you take that reduced motion energy, and drive an electric generator (loosing more energy-nothing is 100%) to store in a battery (non-Sony!), which looses more energy, to power an electric motor, which looses more energy. So the theoretical efficiency of a hybrid is very low, but since the engine can be tuned to run full throttle, and at one RPM, the engine can approach that 40% number.
3) Another reduction on overall efficiency is the fact that car makers must reduce performance to gain emissions control. So they don't run the ideal cycles. When you add all the pollution controls, that makes things even more difficult.

I've kept this simplified, but it is a guideline. I've also done most of this from memory so I may have some figure wrong. Keep in mind I'm also talking about thermal efficiency being in the 15-20% range. Most of the gains in the last 30years have been about improving engine performance for variable RPM ranges (e.g. VVT, more valves reduce pumping work, electronics to monitor fuel/spark/O2, fuel injection, improving swish/swirl in cylinder). Very few gains from item 1, and a lot of loss from item 3.

Gas turbines are more efficient since they don't use the same closed cycle, but I believe they have size/pollution/cost issues.

So you have a trade off of performance, fuel efficiency and emissions. You can't get them all.

Reminds me of a saying in a friends office,
For this job, pick any two of the following: Quick, Good, Cheap
If you want it Quick and Good, it will not be Cheap
If you want it Quick and Cheap, it will not be Good
If you want it Good and Cheap, it will not be Quick.

And by the way, my new 'Vette gets 27mpg with 400hp. I consider that a marvel for OHV engine tech.

By slashbinslashbash on 9/20/2006 1:15:26 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for that info! That's pretty interesting. It makes me wonder even more about that heat-hybrid thing I mentioned. Take excess heat from the engine block and use it to generate electricity for charging batteries.

By Alexvrb on 9/20/2006 1:16:50 PM , Rating: 2
The LT/LS series of engines is an example of why the new LS motors are still OHV. They're more powerful and efficient than most people realize. Your LS2 is both more powerful AND more efficient than a Northstar DOHC engine, for example. Not to mention that the 500HP LS7 is actually not far behind your LS2 in MPG.

Then you've got the surprisingly solid DOD design implemented in the 5.3L smallblock. In a pushrod engine, no less. Even in heavier vehicles with a 4-speed auto, it still gets respectable MPG on 87 octane. Their smaller engines are all pretty much OHC now - the VVT V6s are pretty good, but I have no idea how durable they are. Different strategies work better with different engine designs, I suppose.

By Murst on 9/19/2006 5:15:00 PM , Rating: 3
You mean google actually wants to make money? This is strange news indeed.

RE: omg
By leonowski on 9/19/2006 5:20:22 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, making money is fine.

However, I hate companies who get free press just because of their juggernaut status.

Plenty of efforts have been made towards the same goal yet we don't see any major coverage until Google steps in.

I realize it's the advantage of being one of the most successful companies ever. We just need to celebrate the entire effort and not just one company's entry into the fray.

RE: omg
By tophat on 9/19/2006 5:29:09 PM , Rating: 4
Why would you be upset? If its the cause that you're passionate about, wouldn't you be praising Google for doing so and using their 'juggernaut' status to give this issue some visability? Wouldn't it follow logic that those who are following Google's foray into the engine come across those smaller companies persuing the same goal?

I believe that this alone is celebrating the entire effort. If not for Google's entry, you probably would not be any less inclined to dig up some information on the 100mpg engine on this sunny afternoon.

RE: omg
By leonowski on 9/19/2006 6:47:38 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I guess my comments are motivated from a very personal and intimate connection with the subject. So, I am actually aware of many projects involving this subject.

Google continues to shine as darlings in seemingly all sectors (all deserving of course). I just feel like Google will get credit for something that it really shouldn't get credit for. There is worldwide interest for efficient transportation and plenty of venture capatilists are on board. Google isn't the only player in town.

RE: omg
By archermoo on 9/19/2006 5:51:21 PM , Rating: 3
Well, since is the philanthropy arm of Google, it is somewhat unusual for it to be for-profit. Generally those type of ventures register as non-profits for the tax benefits. But my understanding is that that would limit's ability to contribute monies to certain types of companies and startups, so they decided to forgo the non-profit status and the tax breaks it would give them.

Electric Vechile would be better investmant.
By firepower on 9/19/2006 9:11:47 PM , Rating: 2
They should forget about using expensive finite resourse oil and instead concentrate on a fully electric vechicle like the GM EV1 that GM killed of and replaced with GM Hummer.

By SilthDraeth on 9/19/2006 10:13:50 PM , Rating: 2
Now that is some interesting news. I had wondered what became of EV1. And wow at GM for destroying them, instead of selling them to private citizens willing to waive all rights of liability from GM.

Good post.

By sdsdv10 on 9/20/2006 1:59:06 PM , Rating: 2
Where exactly do you think the electricity comes from to power the EV1? I believe the majority (at least in the US) comes from burning coal, oil and natural gas. All you are doing is moving the location of the combustion, not the fact that it exists.

Use water as car fuel?
By vailr on 9/19/2006 6:57:19 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Use water as car fuel?
By PrinceGaz on 9/19/2006 7:11:13 PM , Rating: 2
I don't even need to watch the video to know it has no scientific basis. You will never be able to put water into a car and use it as a fuel to power it, unless the car has a fusion-reactor to extract the power from fusing hydrogen nuclei together.

As far as I am aware, no cars currrently have a suitable fusion-reactor.

Get rid of
By GhandiInstinct on 9/19/2006 10:20:24 PM , Rating: 2
Internal combustion and research new engine technologies.

The Loremo LS has a top speed of 99MPH and weighs in at only 992lbs with a 20HP 2-cylinder turbo diesel engine pulling it around.

Scenario: "W00t I'm saving so much money with this 20hp car"

*merges onto freeway* *Squash, clank, bang* *end of car*

RE: Get rid of
By aniche100 on 9/20/2006 1:58:07 AM , Rating: 2
100mpg - so what
By KingConker on 9/20/2006 6:11:47 AM , Rating: 2
Look even my Citroen C4 returns 65mpg, on a simple variable induction Turbo Diesel.

100mpg is easily achievable with a lighter chassis & shell.

Hybrid cars - have one slight issue - the electricity they need for one half of the fuel equation is generated largely from fossil burning power stations.

Glad to see you Yanks are getting the mpg message like us Limeys here in the UK. Mind you if you had petrol at $7.56/gallon (today's price, and cheap of late) - you'd have come round to our way of thinking years ago!

RE: 100mpg - so what
By Murst on 9/20/2006 9:03:03 AM , Rating: 2
If people really cared about getting rid of fossil fuels, they would be praising nuclear power. Unfortunatelly, there's problems with that too. We're also not advanced enough to get electricity from reusable resources yet, at least not on a scale that is needed.

Hybrid cars are definetally a step in the right direction. We only have so many years before oil runs out. Hybrids will let us know more about how to harness electricity for our transportation (and other) needs.

Umm, logic?
By The Boston Dangler on 9/19/2006 8:41:01 PM , Rating: 2
An engine by itself gets exactly 0 mpg. Fuel efficiency is dependant on the entire vehicle, how it's operated, and the enviroment it's in. On the surface, Google's 100 mpg engine sounds a lot like the storied 100 mpg carburetor from the 70's.

100 mpg is a very achievable target, making it cost effective is the real trick.

My vision of 1st gen 100 mpg: no larger than a honda civic, steel and plastic construction (aluminium is expensive), powered by an air bearing multi-fuel diesel turbine coupled to (built into?) a small generator at 1:1, each driven wheel has it's own electric motor (either inboard with shafts or outboard within the wheels), the floor is a 4 inch slab of batteries. The only non-existant tech needed is a PV paint job.

McMaster Motors
By Wolfee2006 on 9/20/2006 9:13:33 AM , Rating: 2
Take a look at this tech..

It seems to be a neat solution.

Attention because they deserve it?
By Ringold on 9/20/2006 10:08:37 AM , Rating: 2
Has anyone considered that?

If I'm not mistaken, Google is unloading one billion, 1,000,000,000, in to seed funds, on top of what it already has in the recent past (though everything with GOOG due to its age is recent, heh). Consider then that the average for a Fortune 500 company is, if I can remember, either 24 or 28 million, then Google providing about 40 times that IS news worthy.

But GOOG is big and pervasive, so I understand, it's easy to take pot shots at it, even if they dont hold water in this case. A billion dollars going anywhere except shareholders or being driven back in to investments that are sure to pay off is a big, big deal.

By Kraenar on 9/20/2006 11:26:15 AM , Rating: 2
Gun Engines, Google it (no joke intended)

Guy says his engine could get upto 200/mpg. Super Efficient. Not only that, the way the engine works, you don't need a transmission. And he says you can use any fuel source, alcohol, gas, hydrogen, ect.....

A lighter, cheaper, more fuel effiecent car, sign me up!

"This is from the It's a science website." -- Rush Limbaugh
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