Mazda Premacy, a Hydrogen Hyrbid

Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE HybridThe Mazda Premacy Hydrogen RE Hybrid. It is touted as the most
advanced minivan ever created. You can put either gasoline it, or hydrogen, doesn’t matter which. (Different tanks. Can’t mix gasoline and hydrogen in the same tank. Bad news.) It runs on both. If you fill it with hydrogen, it becomes a zero-emissions vehicle, with a range of 120 miles. The big problem with the hydrogen tank, though, is that hydrogen, as we all know, is a gas.

Gases take up a lot more volume than liquids, since the molecules are so far apart. You can do what you can to squish them together, but you can’t squish them that hard with just a metal tank, because you’re not going to suddenly squish it back into a liquid. That would require much more energy than the hydrogen itself provides, and the last thing you want is a car running on liquid hydrogen.

Start messing around with that, and if you get into an accident, big explosions and such. And liquid hydrogen is very, very cold. And very, very big explosions. Insurance companies won’t be happy and people will probably die.

But anyway. Along with the 150 liter hydrogen tank, it’s got a 25 liter gasoline tank, and an electric battery for hybrid purposes. Though, until hydrogen refueling stations become the norm, the car has limited appeal to those without easy access to some hydrogen. Make the battery a bit bigger, and this car is basically the same as the Chevy Volt, which runs 40 miles on an electric motor and then switches to gas.

Fisker Karma, Next in Naturalbuy Eco Cars

fiskerNever heard of a Fisker Karma before? That’s because it’s a new startup company, and their cars haven’t hit the road yet. It is a luxury sedan, with a price tag close to $90,000. Doable by the rich, and with only its very first model coming out next year, bound to decrease in price as the Earth revolves around the Sun a few more times, as it is prone to do.

These cars, which run on electricity for the first few miles (50 in the case of the Karma) including the Chevy Volt (which goes for 40 miles on battery), are not actually being called hybrids, since they run on electricity entirely at first, and then gasoline powered electricity when the battery runs out. So since they’re slightly different and the government loves confusing people, they’re getting the more government-sounding phraseology of “extended range electric vehicles.” Whatever you say, Uncle Sam.

The best thing about this extended range electric vehicular car is that it only emits 83 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer, which is even less than the newest Toyota Prius.

Theoretically, a driver of the Fisker Karma could get to work in back without using any gas at all, assuming his round trip is less than 50 miles. This would upgrade its rated 67mpg to…infinity.

I remember one time in high school when the transmission for my 1990 Ford Taurus station wagon broke when I accidentally slammed on the gas and breaks at the same time. Since it was an automatic, I wasn’t really conscious of the fact that there even was a transmission, so when it broke, I found out what it actually did, which is connect the engine to the wheels via a series of gears. (Now that I drive a stick shift, I am intimately aware of the existence and function of transmissions.) I told my friend at the time my transmission broke that someone should invent a car that “just goes” so that you wouldn’t need a transmission and gear shifting and whatnot. He told me that I should invent the “just goes” car. He was being sarcastic.

Well, I am happy to report that the Fisker Karma actually IS a “just goes” car, and has no transmission that connects the engine to the wheels. The more power you pump from the battery, the faster the wheels spin. That’s it. This obviously cuts down on energy use because you don’t need an engine to spin gears to spin a drive train to spin wheels. You just have the engine spin the wheels, and cut out the middlemen.

I wonder what happens to the RPM meter then…

Electric, Hybrid, AND Diesel? BMW Technological Orgy

bmw concept carWe know, we know, electric cars use too much rare earth metals. We just wrote about it below. But that’s not going to stop us from covering the next ultra cool electric triple hybrid diesel plugin etc. tour de force vehicle.

That’s just what we need. All these companies coming out with zero emission stuff that runs on one thing or another, that’s either a hybrid or it’s not, that’s hydrogen and nothing else, that’s plug in and that’s it, and now BMW comes with this technological orgy that combines EVERYTHING and then actually succeeds in sticking the entire mess under one hood. How the HECK does this thing even exist?

The car has a top speed of 155mph and can go from 0-60 in less than five seconds. All with only 3 cylinders, because the electric engines are what’s giving this thing its power. The final fuel economy is 63 mpg. Unless, of course, you can get to work using only the batteries, which will get you about 31 miles on a charge, which can be done in 2.5 hours in a standard 220 volt outlet (like the ones on your washing machine or AC. Changing that to a 380 volt line cuts the charge time to 44 minutes. Overall range including gasoline – 400 miles.

Sophisticated software surrounds every system, which takes readings and interprets the data to enable more efficient operation.

Cost? HA! It’s a concept car. Go build your own.

Electric Cars & Hybrids Put Crunch on Rare Metals

Every time we come up with a solution to some environmental problem, we end up causing another one. The batteries that run both hybrids and electric cars? They contain rare elements known as heavy earths, and these metals are extremely hard to come by. If you check out the periodic table here, three of the big ones are Neodynium, Terbium, and Dysprosium. All of these are at the bottom, in the lanthanide series or seriously rare metals that you’re not going to find hanging around in your cereal box any time soon.

ElementsThe biggest exporter of these rare metals is China, which will be limiting export as demand increases in the near future. Since production of electric and hybrid cars is expected to climb rapidly over the next few years, the question becomes Where do we get these metals from?

The Toyota Prius being the biggest selling hybrid around, Jack Lifton, an independent commodities consultant and strategic metals expert, calls the Prius “the biggest user of rare earths of any object in the world.”
Each electric Prius motor requires 2.2 lb of neodymium, and each battery uses 22-33 lb of lanthanum. Now that Toyota wants to increase the car’s fuel economy, they’re going to nearly double that number.

Look, economics is a study of scarcity of choice. Either it’s going to be gas, or it’s going to be something else. With sales of 1,000,000 Prius sold for 2010 and China running out of rare earths, companies are scrambling to find new sources. One of the promising ones is in Canada. But for the long term, it seems they’ll have to recycle this stuff perpetually. There’s no way you can keep up production of such heavy elements. There’s a very limited supply of these things and they are nowhere near renewable.

Nissan Turns a New Leaf

Nissan Leaf

Looks like the world is waking up from it’s gasoline gorging party. Slowly, but surely. The latest step happened just today, with Nissan’s unveiling of its 2010 Leaf. (Get the title now?) It’s a cute little hatchback, but it’s not a clown car, as it comfortably seats 4 to 5 people (depending on tush size, of course). While electric cars have been around for years as concept cars, this signals a serious change because they are just now approaching economical and mass produced, with Nissan hoping to get the Leaf up to 100,000 units produced a year.

It can go about 100 miles on one “tank,” and with 80% of US drivers traveling less than 100km a day, the Leaf fits most potential consumers in terms of distance. But let’s talk about the charge cycle for a second. The battery is 50 kW and can do a fast-charge in 30 minutes. The executives are working with local governments in the States and around the world to help build supporting infrastructure, though they’re not going to maintain them with their own wallet. That’ll be the cities’ job.

Now for costs. As for the cost of the car, Nissan’s keeping a gag rule on that. Let’s say the upscale gasoline cars are about 48 miles per gallon. At 1000km (620 miles), that’s about $63 a month. The cost of charging a Leaf to go the same distance is about $13 by those numbers.

Leaf Electricity Plug

For countries with no power infrastructure for these cars, people who still want one can always charge up at home, and even program it to charge in the middle of the night to take advantage of lower energy costs.

The batteries, however, are prohibitively expensive at $10,000 for a replacement. To take care of that little glitch, Nissan plans to lease the batteries to Leaf owners and exchange them for new ones as part of a maintenance fee.

Water Powered Cars Not Just H2O

As unbelievable as this may sound, cars running on water are just about to be become reality – that’s on condition that the major oil companies and car manufacturer don’t try to “kill” the idea first. And what makes this story even more intriguing is that people who try to develop such an idea are either bought out by major energy producers or die under mysterious circumstances.

The use of water as a fuel is not a new idea; and was originally thought up by a British chemist and physicist named Michael Faraday back in 1825. The whole concept revolves around the chemical make-up of water itself – which composes nearly 70% of the earth’s surface, as well as own bodies. From a pure chemical standpoint water, or H2O, is the combination of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen – hence the elemental term H2O. Separately, both pure hydrogen and oxygen are very volatile elements, and can explode and burn profusely if exposed to even a spark. According to the developers of these new engines, the secret is separating the molecules and using the hydrogen as fuel.

A Japanese company Genepax, claims that it is now on the verge of producing a small commuter car that works by an engine that is actually powered by water – all kinds of water: saltwater, freshwater, even tea! The engine is actually an electric one that is powered by fuel cells which themselves receive their power from the hydrogen and oxygen that has been separated from water. The company’s executives say that the car can operate up to an hour on one liter of water and is completely non-polluting. While this idea is great for us, it’s terrible to the major oil companies, as well as the oil producing countries that supply them. Perhaps this is why so much objection to this idea is currently being generated, as can be seen in the following story:

The man who is said to be responsible for developing this idea is an American named Stan Meyer, who developed a process to remove hydrogen from water and turn it into a power source. He even built a prototype vehicle, a dune buggy, that was able to “split” the hydrogen in the water and “burn” this new fuel in an ordinary engine that had been converted to run on hydrogen fuel. His idea was even picked up by several news stations, who sent reporters to see and test drive Meyer’s new invention. But the idea as “put on ice” in 1998 when Meyer died from supposed food poisoning a day after he reportedly signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to build engines that ran on this hydrogen-from-water concept.

Perhaps the Japanese Genpax company will have better luck than Stan Meyer did in marketing a car that runs on water. Since Japan is an energy starved nation that has to import virtually all its energy from abroad (most of it from the Middle East), the Japanese government will look more favorably on the idea and even offer assistance. After all, Japan is an island nation, completely surrounded by – you guessed it – H2O ( with a little sodium chloride and other minerals thrown in).

Bottled Gas A Cheaper & Cleaner Fuel Option

It’s much less expensive than regular refined gasoline, and they won’t let your car into a below ground shopping mall parking lot if you have this installation, but at least half a million cars and trucks in the USA have already been converted to run on liquefied propane gas, otherwise known as LPG. From an environmental standpoint, using bottled LPG gas in your car is also much cleaner, with virtually no emissions, as compared to even unleaded gasoline.

hyundaiSo what’s involved with doing this and, how much does it cost? It appears that If you are a backyard mechanic, you can have your car converted to run ion LP gas for a little as $150, including storage tank or bottle. Or, if not, you can take your wheels to any number of repair garages that specialize in this sort of thing, and get it done for a bit more One garage owner said that a person “can bring his car in early in the morning and pick it up afterwards in the late afternoon. For newer cars (1995 and upwards) a special kit is available that has high pressure hoses and gauges that send the liquefied bottled gas into the engine from a bottle or “balloon” located under the rear baggage compartment of the car (where most spare tires are today).

From a cost standpoint LP gas and LNG (liquefied natural gas) is about 40% cheaper than diesel fuel – and 20% cleaner.

Automobile manufacturers are beginning to jump on the LP gas “bandwagon” and Volkswagen already has a 1.6 liter “Bi-fuel” Golf model that will run either o f LP gas or gasoline. And Hyundai is coming out with a LP gas hybrid model this month that features both a 1.6L Liquefied Petroleum Injected (LPI) four cylinder engine assisted by a 15KW electric motor with a continuously variable transmission.

With auto manufacturers becoming more interested in offering LP gas options in their alternative fuel vehicle marketing “mix” it appears that more and more people are beginning to realize the benefits of the saying: “go cheaper (and cleaner) with gas”.

Zero X electric motorcycles: a clean air transportation solution

Zero x electric motorcycle
It looks like an ordinary street or dirt bike, and TV personality Jay Leno owns one. But compared to a gasoline driven one it’s a very different set of wheels. The Zero X totally electric motorbike may help solve our desire for clean, environmentally friendly transportation. Developed in California, where environmental transportation problems have been around for years, the Zero, a product of Zero Motorcycles Inc, Santa Cruz Ca., is also one of the lightest motorcycles around. The qualities of this motorbike which can get you around for up to two hours at 50 KPH, and with top speeds over 95, it’s no wonder this environmental friendly cycle is attracting so much attention.
This new entry into the transportation field can reach reach 50 Kph in only two seconds! What’s more, the total weight for the bike’s 300 parts is only 140 pounds (68 kgm), including the specially designed lithium cell battery, which its makers say is 100% recyclable.

The low weight of either the X dirt bike or S street bike frame is due to their being manufactured of specially designed aircraft aluminum. Each cycle has a unique suspension system that makes it an absolute pleasure to ride.
And being totally electric, the bike will run for pennies due to the very low electricity rates that can be generated by solar and wind bower. Those interested in simply a low cost transportation solution will like the S street bike as it can get them around for hours on one charge. The X dirt bike, will zip riders up and down sand dunes, river bottoms, and hills on an engine that delivers 50 ft pounds of torque – enough to satisfy any weekend dirt-biker. And it also comes with fully adjustable suspension and hydraulic disc brakes.

Price for the X model dirt bike is $7,450 and $9,900 for the S model street version. Both versions come with the special Z-Force™ Li-Ion Power Pack battery and Z-Force™ Li-Ion Fast Charger. They can be shipped anywhere in USA by UPS for only $300, or worldwide, as per prevailing shipping prices. For worldwide customers, all inclusive prices, including customs duties and other taxes are available on request.

The new motorbike may be an environmental godsend for large cities with high air pollution problems, such as Cairo Egypt, Mexico City, and Bangkok Thailand. And perhaps the same technology can also be incorporated into an electric car that is both light weight as well as non-polluting. After all, if there is already an X Bike, why not an X-Car?

New Honda Insight may give Toyota Prius serious competition

Honda CivicEver since Honda introduced its Civic model hybrid car, it never seemed to get the attention of Toyota’s Prius, which was always rated first in both design and economy, over the Hondas model which used the same Civic body style and had less fuel economy.

All this may be changing, however, as Honda’s engineering and design crews seem to have come up with something that appears to be not only more fuel efficient than the Prius, but lower in price as well. Enter the new 2010 model Honda Insight, a car that gets as much as 60 mpg in initial highway tests and cost about $2,000 less than Toyota’s model. Introduced specially to commemorate Earth Day 2009, the Insight has a new aerodynamic shape which seems to be the mode for both hybrid and fully electric cars, such as the Chevrolet Volt. The Insight has a much more appealing body style then Prius, which seems to be the kind of design a professor of geo-physics would drive.

As in the Civic Hybrid, this new model incorporates both an electic motor and gasoline engine, and when stuck in a traffic jam or slow-moving highway clog, the electric motor can take over, making the car more fuel efficient (it doesn’t burn any when the electric motor is working) as well as environmentally friendly.

Technology wise, the gasoline engine is 1.3 liter with 98 horsepower, which may seem a bit small, but this may also be the new trend in an increasingly more expensive and scarce oil market. The transmission is a variable CVC transmission, also a new trend in even larger cars. The ultra-thin electric engine puts out 10 kilowatts or 13 horsepower, which is like a motor in a glorified golf cart. But again, the electric motor is not meant for driving full throttle on the interstate. The battery pack is lighter and more efficient than the one in the Civic hybrid, and its storage range is more.

From a size specification standpoint, the Insight is a bit smaller than the Prius, with a 6 inch shorter wheelbase, and is 2.5 inches shorter. It’s back seat room is also a bit less, so a prospective buyer may want to check our that aspect before deciding on which car to buy.. But since saving money is an important issue in today’s new economy, a lower price for a car with similar or better fuel efficiency may be just what the doctor ordered.