I agree with you, tekochip, this is definitely a company to watch in the future. And, yes, I deliberately took a cautious tone in writing this story. I'll spare you the details, but I've been writing about EV batteries since 1988 and the results haven't always matched the claims. That said, the reports I heard about Envia were very good. I communicated with three battery experts, one automotive expert and one automaker, and learned that a lot of people in the battery community are watching Envia closely. I think it says a lot about the battery community, though, that none of the people I communicated with wanted to be quoted, even though they generally said good things.
Good story, Chuck. With the widespread--though generally unvoiced--belief that battery technology will never keep pace with Moore's Law, and may not even advance at a snail's pace, why aren't fuel-cell vehicles part of the discussion? I can't for the life of me figure this out. Fuel-cell cars have none of the problems of EVs. No $10k to $40k battery packs to fail, catch on fire, or have to be replaced in three years. The only impediment -- and it's a big one, I admit -- is the lack of a hydrogen refueling infrastructure.
Fly-wheels are a horrible idea. They are extremely heavy and if you move their axis of rotation even by a few degrees the amount of force exerted on the unit would tear it apart. Fly wheels were considered for trains that stop frequently. The idea was to store some of that energy on a flywheel and reuse it. Obviously even on its intended use it's still far-fetched. Water when in freezes it decreases in density causing it to burst most vessels it's stored in. Water is great energy storage for heating and cooling. Sun to water heat transfer can be 80%+ for heating and with water evaporative process an extremely high amount of heat can be moved with relatively cheap water pumps. HVAC power systems on the other hand are less than 10% efficient and the colder the process the less efficient. You are speaking about a system that is barely 2-5% efficiency. Batteries on the other hand can have efficiency of between 30-70%.
This is a great development and will speed the day we can have a 'commuter vehicle' that is all electric.
As far as hydrogen infrastructure, that's the big problem. Fuel cells will NEVER work because of this. The dollars needed to build a hydrogen infrastructure would never be recovered. Hydrogen is a boondoggle that is used by politicians to distract from real solutions.
Far better to use a fuel for which the infrastructure exists now: Biodiesel. With new algal production methods, we could replace all of the liquid fuel needed for transportation in this country with biodiesel. The infrastructure exists, the engines exist. What we need is the political will. The EROI on biodiesel is very high and this combined with technologies like we see from Envia would make us energy independent within 5 years. The solutions are there. We are held back only by corporate and political manipulation.
If somebody figured out how to make an on-board fuel reformer that would convert fuel, butanol or ethanol for instance, into hydrogen, or make a fuel cell that efficiently used molecular fuel directly, you could have the advantages of our fuel infrastructure plus the advantages of electric cars. You could "gas" up at a service station in a few minutes with fairly safe, liquid fuel in a few minutes, and drive hundreds of miles.
Around 1950 there was a flywheel powered bus, the Oerlikon Gyrobus. Also, the Joint European Torus at Culham Lab uses a huge flywheel, the peak pulse is not far off the whole UK National Grid power. Modern flywheel design is much faster, a light composite wheel with great tensile strength. If the axis is vertical with compliant mountings, gyroscopis moment is not problem. However I think the total energy storage is not that high.
My money would be on algae derived oil, produced in sunny places and easily stored and shipped using existing infrastructure. The CO2 from burning it has been absorbed from the atmosphere in growing it, so there is no net CO2 production.
The gyroscopic effect can be delt with by making the axis of rotation vertical. That allows you to drive in circles all day long. Gimbal mounting allows you to go up and down hills. San Fracisco would be an extreme case.
We have our own well. All the water that we use goes through a heat exchanger first. That is how I air condition our house. The slight increas in water temperature keeps the plumbing from sweating and it also takes some of the load off the water heater.
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