In a climate of economic austerity in which European car sales have declined over the past few years, the renewable and other emerging technologies on display during the recent 2012 Paris Motor Show offered a glimmer of hope.
The two-week event that ended on October 14 featured the latest in electric vehicle and hybrid technology. Automakers, like BMW, that have been slow to enter the hybrid and EV markets, showed off concept vehicles while others demonstrated the latest technologies for squeezing more miles and kilometers out of each gallon or liter of gas.
Click on the image below to see some of the cars on display at the show.
The BMW i8 Concept can run on electric power alone. The energy supplied by the application-designed battery (installed between the front and rear axles) to the electric motor at the front axle gives the BMW i8 Concept an all-electric driving range of about 20 miles. The battery can be fully recharged in two hours in a standard power socket.
Unfortunately, nuclear power is one of the dirtiest power generation methods we have. Yes it generates power on a big scale, but the waste storage and the contamination of rivers are real problems. The cost of proper disposal of contaminated cooling water is so high that the EPA regulations that limit how much high-level waste is "leaked" into rivers have become a goal instead of a safety limit. We don't want to build more nuclear power plants.
Solar and wind power (not to mention current EV's) require the use of storage batteries. In most cases those batteries are not produced domestically. Why? Because of pollution. Even China is starting to crack down on pollution from battery production. Hydrogen fuel cells with solar-powered refueling is the best solution we have. The technology is here, but where are the products? Consumer interest in hydrogen isn't high enough. Until consumers have a warm and fuzzy feeling for hydrogen we're stuck with pollution one way or another.
I disagree with the notion that nuclear power is "dirty". If one compares the statistics for nuclear and fosile fueled power, nuclear comes out way ahead. Thousands of people die each year due to air polution from fosil fuels, while in its entire history, nuclear has caused relatively few deaths. Sure, when a nuke fails, the failures are spectacular, but the big picture tells the true story.
What about birth defects, cancer and a myriad of other health problems that result from contaminated rivers. The federal government is involved in nuclear power generation, so the statistics you see don't show the real problems. I live near a nuclear power plant (TMI) and I've moved around quite a bit before settling down. I've seen approximately 20 times more instances of birth defects and cancer around and south of where I live now than in areas where power is produced by coal, oil and natural gas. Nuclear power is very dirty.
We've had incidents at TMI where core water was leaked or the core was exposed and we heard a quick blurb about it on the national news 2 days after it happened even though an emergency alert system is in place. Each time, they claim there was no danger to the public and only workers at the plant were affected. Right. These incidents happen more often than you think. Most don't make the news.
Check your facts. A pile of coal emits more radiation than does a nuclear power plant, and that doesn't include the stuff coming out of the stack. Taking it back one step further what has been the ongoing often tragic results of mining the coal. We on the left coast are now being threatened by coal as the coal industry is trying to establish coal transport stations on our pristine coast line. Washington states primary electrical energy production is by hydroelectric, arguably the cleanest method of production. Oh, yes the reason for the stations is to export coal to China.
New nuclear reactor designs reduce the amount of spent fuel and actually will use the spent fuel after reprocessing. The nuclear power industry is suffering from political cowardism.
Unfortunately we have bought the fear and hype of our media fear mongers.
Yes, hydrogen fuel cells are a clean and workable solution, except for one basic problem. Economics. It requires a great deal of electric energy to extract hydrogen from water, and the only method at present that can efficiently meet the demand is nuclear power. It is an irrefutable law of thermodynamics that the higher the temperature at which you produce power the more efficient is the process. I have paraphrased of course. Just compare the physical plant size of a typical 1200 megawatt nuclear plant against the size of any other 1200 megawatt facility as an illustration. Let's not even take it to the sublime, a 1200 megawatt wind farm.
And, it is an irrefutable law of economics that if it isn't cheaper to produce than current methods of production, especially those with an existing infrastructure then you will never be able to raise the capital required, unless you can convince a politician that it will put money in his pocket.
ChriSharek, it seems like the strong EVs and hybrids are effectively luxury vehicles. I think we'll really hit the tipping point when the medium-priced hybrids can earn their price differential by gas savings. And, when EVs can take long trips.
You're comparing the estimated radiation released by burning coal in an unshielded power plant compared to the radiation directly released by a nuclear plant's shielded core. I'm referring to the unmeasured high-level waste released and/or leaked into the rivers and in some cases the atmosphere. The total radiation footprint of a nuclear power plant when the high-level waste and regular "incidental" leaks are considered is far higher than a coal-burning plant. You are buying into pro-nuclear propaganda. If coal-burning plants posed a significant radiation hazard, shielding could be added. Also, most coal burning plants have scrubbers that significantly reduce harmful emissions.
Hydroelectric power reached it's pinnacle in the US a long time ago. You can't build hydroelectric plants without having a major impact on the environment, so they shouldn't be considered for future expansion.
Reprossessing nuclear waste into fuel generates high-level waste. Ultimately, most of the nuclear fuel will become high-level waste. Cooling water becomes high-level waste when it becomes too contaminated to use for cooling a reactor core. All of that must be stored/disposed of safely and for long term.
What do you propose we do with our growing stockpile of nuclear waste? Ship it to Mexico like we do with certain waste that we "recycle" that we don't actually recycle?
Yes, the majority of the power required to provide hydrogen as fuel will come from the dirty power grid and likely most of the power will come from dirty nuclear plants. However, other countries are using geothermal power to generate their hydrogen. It's a shame we don't really consider doing the same.
Geothermal power is a little cheaper and far cleaner than nuclear power. It's actually our cheapest large-scale method of generating power excluding large-scale hydroelectric. Something to think about.
Wind power only makes sense in certain locations where there is significant wind most of the time. Ground-based, large-scale solar power generation doesn't really make sense. No power at night and reduced power on cloudy/rainy days.
If we power the grid using mostly geothermal plants, plus existing hydroelectric and some natural gas/bio-fuel plants and use hydrogen fuel cells for our vehicles we can create a sustainable system.
I have engineered the design of equipment for geothermal, oil, coal and nuclear generating plants. We have geothermal plants in California and elsewhere in the U.S. but again they are nowhere as efficient on a cost per kW/hr basis as a nuclear power plant. Your constant use of dirty as an adjective when talking about nuclear power puts you into that group of individuals that are obstructionists and who ready to condemn without knowing the facts. Geothermal power has a whole host of problems most of which are maintenance and reliability related. Good luck with your Prius, or as I like to call them the silent killers.
Geothermal power can provide us with a whole new area of pollution, if any of the underground stuff escapes. hydrogen sulfide and sulphur dioxide are two that get immediate attention, since they are both toxic and stinky. Besides that, importing heat from deep in the earth's crust will likely alter the climate as much as a lot of other things.
And please don't blather about "dirty" atomic power plants. THat tone affirms a complete lack of understanding of the plants here in the USA, which were NOT designed by the cost-cutting engineers responsible for the failed plants in Japan.
Hydrogeen is apoor fuel choice because of the logistics required. It flows right through most available seal materials, and it must either be kept very cold, or under a whole lot of pressure, both options are quite expensive.
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