Thursday, August 28, 2008

Blog Action Day Reminder


A reminder to any of the readers of this blog that Blog Action Day is coming up soon enough on the calendar.

Please consider
registering and writing a blog for the day.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Compressed Air Car


Part Three
of my post on the

AirCars Developer Guy Negre

Just by way of a bit of a wrap up on the postings about Guy Negre's AirCar, I have included some pictures and just a very few facts I have garnered from here and there.

Fill her up!

Filling an AirCar from with the on-board compressor using an electrical socket takes about 4 hours to complete the fill. This statement was heard from the designer Guy Negre in and interview on the “Science Channel”

The MDI AirCar project will not be limited to the U.S. and Indian markets. There are already plans to export the vehicle to 12 other countries including Germany, Israel and South Africa. There are also plans for a hybrid version that will feature a small petrol-powered compressor to fill the tanks when they’re running low.

Guy Negre in the driving seat

The bigger CityCat has an engine rated at a very respectable 56kW which is capable of moving the six-seater at up to 96mph. At speeds below 38 mph the car runs on 100% compressed air. Above 38 mph the CityCat cuts in its heater to improve power and range. The burner can use petrol, ethanol or bio-fuels as its heat source, and emits just 45g/km CO2. That is less than one half the emissions of the Toyota Prius hybrid.

I wish the developers all the best and really hope that this one is a runner.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Fuel Poverty


Fuel Poverty

As a first effort at writing a post in which I try to tie the core subject of this blog (sustainable energy) to poverty, I am looking at a fairly new manifestation of poverty recently being defined in the so-called developed nations. This poverty is - fuel poverty or energy poverty.


“A fuel poor household is one which cannot afford to keep adequately warm at reasonable cost. The term is mainly used in the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, although the concept also applies in much of Eastern Europe and the USA.”

In an article in the Observer by Tim Webb on 20 January last, it stated that 1 in 6 of British households is living in fuel poverty. The definition of fuel poverty is: “when a household spends more than a tenth of its income on utility bills”. The piece goes on to quote: “there are now about 4.4 million of these in the UK, with just over 3 million in England alone. “

Causes of Fuel Poverty.

The price of fuel is of course the first answer that springs to mind. But what has caused the crazy sky-rocketing of fuel prices so destabilising our very civilization?

Speculation – Speculation – Speculation. The price of crude oil rapidly reached $147 a barrel based on nothing else other than a poker game by the fat and rich, betting on the “market”. The real price of oil is estimated to be around 70 to 80 dollars a barrel. Of course when oil prices went up- so did coal, gas, electricity, transport costs and just about everything else.

The second major cause is - - - GREED. The super rich players start the "feeding frenzy" then the smaller sharks and piranha move in to devour. Ireland has two major famines in it's recent history. It is only too familiar with the class of individuals who were prepared to profit from the situation. The "Gombeen Men" as they were called. Wall Street and other world markets would appear to be a natural homeland for the species.

Playing with lives.

It may be a game to them, a way of doing business, or as the Mafia say when taking care of a rival. "nothing personal" But the stock market speculating of mega rich is playing with people’s lives.

In the better off countries like the UK, it may be just an inconvenience and a bit of hardship – but in the really poor countries, it is human life that these "players" are playing with. The price of life sustaining essentials like cooking oil and rice have risen dramatically as a result of this betting game – people are hungry and some will die - while the fat get fatter.

Time to Ban Speculation on Essentials?

Is it time for a worldwide ban on commodity speculation, at least on the essentials? Can we allow the toss of a dice in Wall Street cause people’s deaths? I think it is time for change – what do you think? Are you one of the four and a half million in the UK that will go cold this winter?

National security and indeed global security depends on stability. Are we going to allow the rich to play with our lives?

Sustainable Fuel Poverty?

As a foot note to this post I simply quote again from the excellent definition on Wikipedia: Wikipedia continues:

“The most effective way of combating fuel poverty, if one excludes forcible rehousing, is to target energy efficiency measures on homes typically occupied by those on low incomes. A home with a very low energy requirement to provide adequate warmth can generally be occupied by those on relatively low incomes without leading to fuel poverty. The sharp rise in fuel prices from 2006-8 has led to an estimated doubling of the numbers in fuel poverty in countries where it is a major problem.”

Hopefully the politician will awaken soon - do you think?


Blog Action Day


Happens on October 15th

Today, I would like to give a little promo to “Blog Action Day”. This year the action is on Poverty. If you write a blog, please consider participating in this worthwhile action by registering and publishing a blog on the subject. Here is the copy from “Blog Action Day” site:

Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day. Our aim is to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion.

One Issue, Thousands of Voices

Global issues like poverty are extremely complex. There is no simple, clear answer. By asking thousands of different people to give their viewpoints and opinions, Blog Action Day creates an extraordinary lens through which to view these issues. Each blogger brings their own perspective and ideas. Each blogger posts relating to their own blog topic. And each blogger engages their audience differently.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

What is the aim of Blog Action Day?

First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

“ …the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.”

By doing so on the same day, the blogging community effectively changes the conversation on the web and focuses audiences around the globe on that issue.

Out of this discussion naturally flow actions, advice, ideas, plans, and empowerment. In 2007 on the theme of the Environment, we saw bloggers running environmental experiments, detailing innovative ideas on creating sustainable practices and focusing audience’s attentions on organizations and companies promoting green agendas. In 2008 we aim to again focus the blogging community’s energies and passions, this time on the mammoth issue of global poverty.

Mass Participation

From the smallest online journals, to huge online magazines, to EU ministers, to professionals and amateurs, Blog Action Day is about mass participation. Anyone is free to join in on Blog Action Day and there is no limit on the number of posts, the type of posts or the direction of thoughts and opinions.

Here is the site link:


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Air Car - part two


Armoured Tanks


Steam Engines!

Armoured Tanks?

The safety of tanks being driven around at 80 miles an hour while filled to a pressure of 300 atmospheres – which is a whopping 4,410 PSI (pounds per square inch), must come into question. The tanks AFAIK hold about 90 cubic metres of air at 300 bars. A regular metal tank exploding at this pressure would be quite dangerous.

So are these tanks a danger?? It would seem that the answer is NO. Why is that so? That, they say, is because these tanks have been tested to explosion level and all that happens, apart from a VERY VERY LOUD BANG, is the tanks split length ways but do not shatter.

The reason for this is because the tanks are made from what amounts to a wound fabric of carbon fibre. What would happen in an accident is; “An elongated crack would appear in the tank, without exploding, and the air would simply escape, producing a loud but harmless noise”. In fact they have been officially approved to carry an explosive gas such as methane (so they say).

The tanks can be filled by using a small on board compressor plugged into any electrical socket or by using a special high-power compressed air filling station. The on-board compressor would take a good deal of time to fill the tanks, whereas the specially designed filling station would do the job in minutes or a bit more in the case of the bigger US car with an extended range.

A refill in a filling station is estimated to cost about $2 - $3 US. When out of range of a compressed air source, or at night in the driveway, the owner can plug it into any household power socket, reducing the filling cost to the amount of electricity used.

The Engine.

An air engine would essentially be somewhat similar to a steam engine in its basic concept. But instead of steam pushing the pistons, you would have compressed air.

With steam engines you carried your gas in highly compressed liquid form – i.e. water. The water was turned into gas by a fire and the resultant steam pushed the pistons. The fuel to make the gas was the bulkier and heavier part of the load.

One version of the Air Engine

The air car in its simplest form will use only air and nothing else to run the car. This simple car will have a limited range. The bigger car planned will be more like the steam engine analogy in that it will use a heater to expand the air and give greater efficiency and a greater range.

Schemaic of the Bigger Car's Engine with Heater

The bigger car called the CityCat has a heater to heat the air before it is delivered to the piston. This expands the air and increases the pressure and the range of the car. The burner can burn many types of liquid fuel. They say that the car will do the equivalent of 120 mpg on long journeys. For shorter town journeys where it will run on air only it will be cheaper to run and be zero carbon.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Solid-state Super Battery


Super Battery

Just as I had written a post asking “ Are Electric Cars Obsolete?” A Texas company EEstor have announced to the world that they have come close to commercial production of its much talked about and highly secretive ultra capacitor-type energy storage system.

The word is that the EEstor battery (or whatever you would like to call it) would way out-perform the very best Lithium-Ion batteries in the market today. The EEstor battery would be capable of holding three times the charge, and also have the ability to be charged in only a few minutes. The fast charge bit sounds like ultra-capacitor all right.

Like other players in the super battery market, EEstor have been playing their cards extremely close to their chest. It has come as a bit of a surprise then that their founder and CEO Dick Weir announced that the company has succeeded in manufacturing the very high grade materials necessary to achieve their goals.

Solid State Battery?

EEStor call their battery system an “electrical energy storage unit” (EESU). It is reported to be a solid-state device which will be safer and longer lasting than existing batteries, and will have the ability to recharge in just minutes.

250 Mile Range Car with this Power Unit?

Already the word is that Zenn Motors of Toronto are developing an electric car based on the EEstor battery. The EESU-powered car will have a top speed of 80 miles per hour and a very useful 250 mile range.

Power Balancing for the Grid?

These EEStor super-batteries can also be made very large, like the huge "flow batteries" that I have written about several times, Plurion being one of them in the news. The super fast charge ability, and high capacity, plus an ability to work at high voltages, make the EEStor battery ideal for balancing power on the electricity grid. If it works.

Speculation about this super-battery is rife. Lets just wait and see shall we. I wish EEStor the best in their efforts.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are Electric Cars Obsolete?


Driving on Fresh Air


There have been various media stories going around for several years regarding a car which is 100% pollution free, runs on a few cents worth of compressed air, and all that comes out the tail pipe is more fresh air!!!

You roll up to a special service station and hook up the very high pressure compressed air and in a few minutes the car is ready to go for up to another 125 miles before re-filling.

Three Times the Range of the Best Electric Cars!

The bigger long-range cars being planned will take up to an hour to re-fill but to balance that, the range is up to a whopping 1200 to 1600 Km or 745 to 994 Miles. WOW!!!! - That is THREE TIMES the range of the very best electric car prototypes currently available. WOW again!

What is this car? Who makes it? How does it work? How much will it cost? Is it practical or is it another “Pie in the Sky”?

I have been totally fascinated, and very excited doing my research for this post. These cars could make electric cars obsolete, at least, that is until they develop a much - much - much better battery.

These Cars are ready for Production.

The original manufacturers and developers of the “Air Car” are French company MDI. They have been developing and testing the concept for 15 years. The design is now pretty well perfected. There is a full range of compressed air powered vehicles in planning, including buses.

Production agreements have been signed with Tata, the Indian car manufacturer, which has been in the news lately with the world’s cheapest car. It is one of the companies making the air driven car. It will produce initially two models with a speeds of up to 108Km/h 67 miles per hour, and a range of 200Km or 125 miles.

US Manufacturer

Another production arrangement is with US manufacturer ZPM (Zero Pollution Motors)

ZPM intend manufacturing a six-seater, family-size compressed air car based on the CityCat along with other models . The CityCat will have an estimated 96mph top speed and a range of up to between 745 and 994 miles. It will have a dual fuel system, using a very small amount of bio-fuel or gas etc.

It will feature the Compressed Air Engine (CAE) and Compressed Air Multiplier (CAM). Initially there will be three models on offer.

It all started in France with MDI.

MDI (Motor Development International) is a 15 year old French company headed by Guy Negre. He is the inventor of this particular “Air Car”.

A former aeronautics and Formula One racecar engineer, Mr. Negre has been working diligently with his son, Cyril, an engineer with Bugatti, and about thirty other engineers to bring the Compressed Air technology to market (CAT). To date, the company holds many patents in over 120 countries for their innovative Air Car s vehicles.

How it works

The car has an engine which uses nothing but compressed air to drive the pistons. The power is stored in several very large specially manufactured safety tanks of air compressed to 300 atmospheres.

These tanks, which are mounted under the car, are made in a very special way. I will discuss this and other aspects of the cars soon.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Water into Fuel - MIT Announcement


Water into Fuel

(adapted from a News Release issued by MIT News Office on July 31, 2008)

High Efficiency Water Splitting Electrode

Every once in a while, usually during the "silly season", there comes a report of some “Major Discovery” - that will change the world. The last such announcement that got to me, was the Steorn magnetic generator – the one that didn’t work. I held my breath for a while on that one but my gut told me it was not going to work and change the world.

And then suddenly along comes this blockbuster announcement from MIT – do I feel the same as about the Steorn announcement? No I don’t – I really hope this is a runner.

So here is the story.

In the last few days MIT, an organisation not given to spin and exaggeration, has announced: “a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind”

In a press release dated 31st July 2008 the statement goes on to say; “MIT researchers Daniel Nocera and Matthew Kanan, have hit upon a simple, inexpensive, highly efficient process for storing solar (or any electrical) energy." “(They) have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy (or any other form of electrical power) to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity. (It might also be possible to used the gasses to drive specially adapted cars)

The Basis of the Discovery.

The basis of the discovery is a catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water in a highly efficient manner. A second catalyst produces hydrogen. The catalysts consist of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity is fed into the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Daniel Nocera with the Rig

With another catalyst like platinum hydrogen is released from water. A huge advantage is that the process works at room temperature and in pH neutral water. It is also a simple mechanism easy to set up and get working.

Here is what an eminent scientist says about the MIT discovery:

James Barber, Professor of Biochemistry at Imperial College London, called the discovery a "giant leap" – “a major discovery with enormous implications for the future prosperity of humankind,” and said; "The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated since it opens up the door for developing new technologies for energy production thus reducing our dependence for fossil fuels and addressing the global climate change problem."

The process is not new.

Splitting water into the two gasses it is composed of is not a new idea. There have been many efforts in recent years. The problem is that the process to date has been inefficient and difficult to achieve. If this discovery is what it says on the label, it will be a truly major leap forward for clean energy.

Good luck to the project.