Thursday, July 19, 2012

Record Temperatures and No Radical Solutions in Sight

At least we aren't seeing images in the news any longer such as Senator Imhofe's kids building a snow igloo and asking Al Gore, "What Global Warming??"

But we are seeing an increase in sites such as "Carbon War Room", filled with earnest pronouncements ("There is no Planet B") and endorsements by high profile individuals (such as Richard Branson).

So what's a good litmus test to divide the committed from the conversationalists??

My idea, really.

Make 34 miles-per-hour (55KMph) the maximum speed attainable, physically, by any motor-driven land vehicle on the highway (excluding emergency police, fire, medical).

If you endorse this idea, you are for immediate action to stop Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). If you say, "It can't be done" or "I don't want to drive so slow" or "No one will accept it" then, really, you are not committed to saving the planet...our only planet.

So be realistic.  This idea of "maximum attainable speed" is the only large scale idea that can be implemented in three or four years, that can significantly affect AGW.  Maybe if China would reverse and destroy many coal-fired power stations, it might equal this idea.  And maybe they would, if a sacrificing idea such as "max attainable speed" was actually drawn up and implemented.

Reader, you should go back through my previous posts in this blog.  There are a lot of details and side-issues in the old posts that I will pass in this second post for 2012.  But let me say, all issues and "..But" comments have been thought out.

Here are the salient points:

Existing vehicles can be retrofitted so they can be restricted to 34 mph top speed.  The mechanism would be an escapement (that's the mechanism that makes old clocks go "tick tock") mounted on a vehicle's axle.  At even 1 million new electric cars a year, we're never going to replace 220 MILLION vehicles on the road today, in time to save the planet.    Cannot be done!

Vehicles could be fitted with escapements that would all be initiated on the same day, so you would not have a mix of high-speed and low-speed drivers.  Everyone goes from current conditions, to low speed, on the same day.  And, I would make it mechanical, so no one could have a 'cheater switch' and go back and forth from low-speed to high-speed as it suited them.

Cars that don't need to be safe at 60, 70, 90 mph, can be lighter and smaller, and use far less steel and energy to construct.  Highways would use less concrete, and so forth.  The savings in fuel are immediate, but the savings elsewhere are enormous.

A new industry of retrofitting existing autos will small, two-cylinder engines would create considerable employment benefits.  No more smog tests, no more Highway Patrol, less money for insurance.

Mass transit, such as rail, would receive an enormous boost, and that would be energy saving as well.

Most people are violently opposed to this "low speed" vision of the USA.  They think of themselves, and how BAD it would be, driving to a ski resort or grandma's house.  A hundred years ago, there were no ski resorts...!!  There is huge myopia in the current world, comparing what has been, what is, and what will be if the humans on planet Earth don't come together in a sharing way, letting go of privilege in a time of required sacrifice.  Too many people think "Doing Something For the Planet" is turning off lights, or recycling aluminum, or driving a Prius at 70 mph.  That kind of commitment is useless, considering the scale of the problem.  It will take worldwide sacrifice by all that can afford it.

The heatwaves in the spring and summer of 2012 are the delayed responses to our increased CO2 production in the 1980s...long before China began taking coal production from 700 million tons in 2000, to over THREE BILLION TONS in 2008!!  We have a huge problem to come, and simply reducing the maximum attainable speed of motor vehicles, by making them unable to exceed 34 mph, will seem head-slappingly obvious in hindsight, by 2040.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

2012 - And the Fast Car is Still King

Now in 2012, for the first time in a long time, I have a very long commute each workday, and it's done by automobile. I try to keep my speed down, in order to save real money (about $10 per day if I can go 55 mph instead of 65+ mph). Let's face all longtime drivers on the road, I trade time for money. And lowering your speed to a 'crawl' of 55 invites an atmosphere of extreme tension the entire (one hour) drive. At a slow speed, you incur the obvious wrath of drivers who feel you are in your way.
Then there are the NASCAR wannabes. Even if you are traveling well above the 65-mph limit, they get on your tail, pass in the tightest of circumstances, and weave down the road. It's entertainment!! Not transportation. And Detroit is still doing its darnedest to sell cars that easily accelerate from 65 to 85...that makes them fun!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why a Device to Restrict Speed Must be Mechanical

To retrofit current vehicles in the 220 Million Vehicle fleet in the USA, so that they could only travel at a maximum of 34 miles-per-hour, an escapement mechanism would need to be fitted, and everyone would activate it on the same day, by pulling out a strip that bring the mechanism into engagement. If it was simply electronic, it would be too easy to rig up a "on-off" device, undetectable, that would allow a person to disengage the restricting device whenever the felt like it.

Once 34 mph became reality, smog shops would go away, replaced by "new engine shops". Why carry around 500 pounds of engine, when a quiet two cylinder engine weighing one-tenth the amount, would do just fine?

Mentioned to me at the Commonwealth Club today was how politicians would regard such a proposal as an unspeakable act. Certainly, "Third Rail"-type-of-thing at this time. But consider, if you suggested to people, after Pearl Harbor in 1941, that enlisting in the Marines in 1942 meant dying by torture on a tiny atoll in the blistering Pacific....50/50 chance....who would do it? People did risk it, not because they wished to give up their life and lifestyle, but because more was at stake......
...since this is only about losing our planet as we know it, of course we all want the status quo!!!
I went to the Commonwealth's Club Event today, "Energy Innovation, Overhaul or Tweak?" and handed out the wrong URL for this blog. I handed out "", and, of course, it is only "". Shows what a little pressure from public speaking will do to the memory hardware!

Anyway, I was able to ask a question, the theme of this blog, about making all road vehicles (emergency vehicles, police, excepted) physically restricted to a top speed of 34 miles per hour.

That's physically restrained...not a "speed limit". A physical alteration to the 220 million vehicles that are in the US of A. What the good news about that is, if the USA were to show the fortitude to go through with the switch, the rest of the world would no doubt follow, in due time. In places like Venezuela, where gasoline currently sells for six cents (yes, SIX CENTS!!) a gallon, there would be a lot of headscratching....but they don't build many cars in Venezuela. All new cars, after a period, would be 34 mph (55kmph) max speed, so....

Dan Reicher, a presenter at this event, thought 34 mph was chosen because signs that said "55" as the speed limit would only need to be changed from "mph" to "KmPH". I gave him the quick rejoinder:

"You would not need any speed limit signs!!"

Nor would you need even ten percent of the current California Highway Patrol structure. See, that's the thing about lowering the physical maximum speed: the externalities, the savings, would be tremendous is ways that barely surface when one speculates about the possibilities.

Road construction is one huge finanacial area. Unknown to most economic historians, newspapers in the 1918-1920 era ran editorial outcries against paved highway construction: "Why should public money benefit a few wealthy car owners?? They don't need our tax dollars to make paved roads for high speed, when most of us don't own cars!!"

In 1917, there was one car per nine citizens in the United States. That was the same rate in mainland China in the 1990s!! Think that market is nearing saturation??? Not Even Close!!

The difference between the costs of roads carrying traffic at 60mph and over, and under 40 mph, is tremendous. In most counties, your permit fees for building a house???? Sixty percent is consumed by the road-building department.

We are not addicted to oil, but addicted to speed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Design Challenge: 1000-pound car competition

Each year for the past seven years, the Los Angeles Auto Show has generated a design competition. This year, the design challenge is to build a 1000-pound, four-passenger vehicle:

This coincides with a recent report on the desired use of carbon fiber in the manufacture of automobiles in order to save weight and improve mileage. This report stated that if each new vehicle manufactured in the USA used just six pounds of carbon fiber, that volume would consume the entire volume of carbon fiber manufactured currently in the USA. And most of that goes to the military. And, it is still a costly material compared to steel.

Remember how the US DOT resisted the use of headlights other than round headlights, for about twenty years after many shapes were in use in Europe? The same problem is going on with the carrying capacity of automobiles. Unless a car can carry four people, it simply doesn't sell very well, and generally (Porsche excepted) never makes a profit. Since most (85%) of vehicle trips are solo, driver-is-the-only-passenger, why not recognize this fact? Why not make a "core vehicle unit", with a solo driver/passenger in front (and room for an unplanned second rider behind) and then sell "extra passengers" bolt-on units? Heck, even a bolt-on "boat trailer" unit, for those once-every-two-year excursions to the lake (instead, people buy four-door trucks weighing 5000 lbs., and drive it solo 240 days a year, pay a ton for insurance, pay a ton of $$ in gasoline, pay a ton of $$ in the initial cost).

I write about a modular vehicle because the "1000-lb concept car" was already done years ago by GM. Their car, the "Ultralite" was created in the early 1990s. It achieved 100mpg at 50 mph and had a top speed of 135 mph, and 0-60 in 7.8 seconds. However, the materials alone to build the car cost $13,000, the frame being 100% carbon fiber over a foam core. Astoundingly the frame still weighed 450 pounds. Why? Because the car had to safely resist forces with four people in the car, downhill, going 135 mph. Once again, the marketing requirement that cars perform safely at nearly double the top legal speed limit adds unnecessary expense to the objective of traveling from A to B in a motor vehicle.

I say mechanically limit speed!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Diesel fueled car with small engine gets 119 mpg

Sometimes people don't believe me when I say that if vehicles on the US roadways could only travel at 34mph maximum speed, that it would be in a very short time that cars would be manufactured that got over 200 mpg, and I would guess, approaching 400 mpg. You see what the students get at the Shell and SAE Supermileage contests. The methodology is out there, if the top speed is reduced.

Recently it was reported that a car (shown above) built way back in 1984 achieved fuel mileage (diesel fuel) of 119.1 miles-per-gallon, while traveling North to South, border to border, Canada to Mexico. Here is the story link:
Besides the fact that this car was put together in the 1980s (the laws of Earth aerodynamics are the same now as then) notice in the article that very little horsepower is required to move this car at highway speeds. The reason we typically have 300 horsepower on tap in the typical American car, is a car without "passing power" or acceleration off the line, simply will not sell in this country.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ford Mustang Drives only 43.9 mph for 17 hours

Ford has recently touted the fuel efficiency of their new Mustang V6:

They achieved 48.5 miles per gallon. It reinforces my claim that slower speeds create better mileage, because energy is not needed to overcome aerodynamic drag. In addition, they only stopped to switch drivers very few times over seventeen hours. Acceleration of a heavy body uses up a considerable amount of energy. So, fewer changes in speed (that is, constant speed over a long period of time) will offset a heavier car, because constant speed means effect of the weight of the car is considerably reduced.

The energy efficiency of this particular v6 engine is particularly enhanced over typical engines in that the valve-timing is micro-adjusted many times per second. Instead of a V6 engine of several liters displacement, imagine that technology applied to the 125-cc engine that achieved this mileage:

...and this guy is not going around Bristol Motor Speedway. This is regular, real road mileage.

The weight of his vehicle is 231 pounds, 88 pounds heavier than the stock motorbike, so it again shows that weight is not as huge a factor as aerodynamics. And you cannot change the physics: as the Mustang test generously demonstrates, cutting your maximum speed increases any vehicle's efficiency. That is the "why" of 34 miles-per-hour. If the Mustang had traveled at a maximum of 34 miles per hour, I have no doubt that their mileage would have been in the 50-miles-per -gallon range (and the drivers bored tremendously going around an oval that slowly).