If you’re thinking about an EV, look into pluggable hybrids
Birth of Internal Combustion
In nineteenth-century England, the rising middle class spun the wheels of commerce. Merchants traded, producers made, and storekeepers sold. Transport of supplies, goods, and people boomed, relying on horsepower.
In 1894 London, 50,000 horses produced 1.25 million pounds of manure and 15,000 gallons of urine a day. The environment was sick. People were dying. Doomsday upon us, warned The Times: “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.”
Large cities worldwide despaired. New York, where 100,000 horses deposited 2.5 m pounds of manure daily, hosted an international conference in 1898. But fierce debates and studies by urban planners found no solutions.
Just as urban civilization appeared doomed, inspired minds created unexpected outcomes—Karl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford, to name a few. Within fifteen years, electric trams and motor vehicles roamed the streets, and the cities were clean.
Is this a law of the Universe that when humanity hits a dead end, sparks flash in multiple minds? Nikola Tesla, for one, said that his invention of the alternating electric current generator (today’s alternator) was a download from above.
Isn’t the world facing a dilemma akin to ‘The Great Manure Crisis of 1894’ today?
Isn’t it time for newly inspired solutions? What’s in the pipeline, and what is a pipe dream?
Option 1: Electric Vehicles
EVs answer the call with zero emissions. In 2021, 4 percent of automobiles sold in the US were electric, compared to 9 percent in China and 14 percent in Europe. What are the barriers to broader acceptance?
The prime issue is the availability of charging stations and the time it takes to ‘fill up.’ Consider a typical EV with a 60-kilowatt-hour battery. The maximum power from a standard house wiring is 240 volts times 30 amps, equal to 7.2 kilowatts. The charging time from such an outlet is 60 kWh over 7.2 kW = 8 hours 20 min.
Another issue is cold-climate driving. An EV draws from the batteries to heat their coolant in cold weather and heat the cabin when needed. In AAA testing at 20 deg F, the average driving range fell by 12 percent without cabin heating. With a resistive heater on, it dropped by 41 percent. The drop should be less severe with a heat pump.
2. Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles
Hybrids use internal combustion engines to mitigate the charging time, accessibility, and cold weather issues.
The drive train is the same as an EV, including regenerative braking. The engine charges the batteries through an alternator. When it runs, it’s at a constant speed, tuned for the most efficient and cleanest combustion. With the onboard backup, the vehicle needs less battery capacity. A typical electric driving range is 30+ miles.
A viable near-term solution involves pluggable hybrids. They combine electric vehicles’ cleanness with onboard engines’ convenience. Say someone commutes up to 30 miles daily. Their vehicle charges from a 120V/15A house outlet overnight. If there is a charge station at the workplace, they commute free of emissions! And on longer trips cruise with top fuel economy.
3. Hydrogen Engine Trucks
Hydrogen comes from electrolysis—the application of electrical energy to split water into H2 and oxygen. When recombined into H2O, the applied energy is freed to work, such as propelling a vehicle. It’s a non-fossil, non-carbon fuel.
In the US, converting medium and heavy-duty truck engines to hydrogen would eliminate about a quarter of all greenhouse emissions from the transportation sector.
The rest of the truck remains a standard technology for manufacturers, fleets, and drivers. The one item requiring development is the fuel tank. The vehicles need safe and economical hydrogen storage onboard.
Engine conversions may start with long-haul trucks that require only a few fueling stations along the main shipping routes. Then the hydrogen network gradually expands to cover a broader range of applications.
4. Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles
Fuel Cell EVs use a propulsion system similar to that of electric vehicles, except energy stored as hydrogen is converted to electricity by fuel cells. Regenerative braking systems recapture energy lost during braking for increased efficiency.
FCEVs can fuel in less than 4 minutes and have a driving range of over 300 miles. They produce no harmful tailpipe emissions—only water vapor and warm air. If the electricity used to make hydrogen comes from renewables, this is zero-carbon driving!
The technology is considered safe, but fuel handling requires caution. At the point of escape, the supercooled fuel may cause severe injury. Once released in the open, it rises, dissipates rapidly, and is non-toxic.
However, closed spaces are a hazard. Expect ‘H2 No Entry’ posted at the tunnel and parking garage entrances.
5. Zero-Point-Energy Transportation
A century ago, Nikola Tesla postulated free energy from ethereal vibrations. He wrote: “Through space, there is energy. Is this energy static or kinetic? If static, our hopes are in vain. If kinetic—and this we know is for certain—then it is a mere question of time when people will succeed in attaching their machinery to the very wheelwork of nature.”
Referred to as zero-point energy because it remains after all other forms of energy are removed from a point. Embedded within the fabric of the Universe.
A suitcase-size zero-point energy device supplies electricity for the lifetime of the vehicle. No recharging, no emissions. And perhaps no wheels as antigravity may very well emerge alongside free energy.
Of course, such futuristic technologies would impact ecology and lifestyle way beyond transportation. Eliminate poverty, rehabilitate the environment, liberate the planet.
But don’t expect a download of free energy technology any time soon. Why would the Universe give it to the hands of people hell-bent on killing each other? The energy of many suns that, misused, could destroy all life on the planet?
Today’s science lacks the tools to harvest zero-point energy. It may involve elements not found on Earth. Something like Superman’s kryptonite. And most likely, it will require technology imbued with consciousness.
To progress from today’s version of ‘The Great Manure Crisis’ to paradise, Earthlings need to raise consciousness. Not only to become better people but also to master mind over matter.
Where Go From Here?
Electric vehicles answer the call to clean up the environmental crisis of today. But they need different energy sources than the grid for broad acceptance. Much electricity supplied to the grid is still carbon-based, and it takes too long to charge from it. EVs need an onboard source of clean energy.
Hydrogen is a viable substitute for diesel fuel in trucks, machinery, boats, stationary engines, and similar heavy-duty applications. In passenger vehicles, however, H2 faces safety concerns.
A new energy breakthrough is inevitable, say within three years. Then it may take another couple of years to reach mass production. Until then, this author is looking to get into a plug-in hybrid.