Here's the thing the corporatocracy does not want people to realize: Energy from the sun is free once the infrastructure is in place to collect it. That energy is easily converted into storage mediums such as batteries or hydrogen, and the only thing preventing us from making the leap to such technology on a massive scale is low oil prices.
My conspiracy theory is this: If they could charge more for the oil, they would. The only reason it remains as cheap as it is depends on the balance against implementing renewable sources of energy. And so long as oil remains cheaper and easier to deal with, the car manufacturers will never truly take electric propulsion seriously, and we will be stuck with $100k cars like the Tesla, or the products of those daring enough to go the DIY route.
GM could produce something similar to the Volt this year, but they keep falling back onto the excuse about batteries not being tested to provide the longevity they want. Bob Lutz says they want 10 years worth or reliable performance, but golly, they don't seem to give a rat's butt about a gas powered car that craps out after just 3 years! They don't want to build the Volt because they know they can't sell it! The oil companies will punish them right about the time it is ready for production by suddenly lowering oil prices. it happened with the EV1, and they will do it again. Mark my words: When a Toyota manufactured Plug-in Prius hits the market, there will very likely be a sudden shift in the price at the pump if the plug-in can be delivered at a reasonable cost. And it will be enough to all but completely kill demand for it.
I don't think you're fully accounting for the costs involved in solar, or the feasibility of producing enough power that way to run everything. You didn't say "PV solar panels", but that's the only type of solar electricity that can be [however incorrectly] described as "free once the infrastructure is in place". I like many forms of solar power, including PV, but it's necessary to be realistic and pragmatic.
Well the other thing I did not make clear is the 'energy from the sun' could technically encompass everything that is energized or stores it's energy. More directly, hydro, wind, and wave/tidal, along with direct solar collection significantly broaden the scope of available sources. The bottom line is that it CAN be done. The tricky part is at what cost?
Well, beyond PV, what other solar sources can be used to produce fuel for internal combustion engine powered automobiles (or even electric cars)? The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are based on agriculture -- ethanol, SVO, and biodiesel. Those are certainly not "free once the infrastructure is in place". They're great and I'm happy to support them, though!
However, it may not be necessary to go to that much effort after all:
Originally Posted by http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/research/4260296.html?series=19
By Chris Ladd
Photograph by C.J. Burton
Published on: April 22, 2008
Hydrogen, ethanol and even compressed air all have the shrink-wrapped sheen of the bright, green future. But gasoline? At $1 per gallon?
Researchers at UMass Amherst recently published a new method of refining hydrocarbons from cellulose, paving the way to turn wood scraps into gasoline, diesel fuel, Tupperware—anything, essentially, that’s normally refined from petroleum. Many scientists have been working on ways to turn everything from corn stalks to tires into ethanol, sidestepping some of the problems inherent to making fuel from corn and other food products. But ethanol has a number of liabilities, regardless of the source. For instance, it requires automotive engines to be modified and contains less energy than gasoline, driving down fuel economy.
Turning cellulose into gasoline is tricky. Unlike raw crude, which is made up mostly of hydrocarbons to begin with, plant material contains a great deal of oxygen woven into its molecular structure. “Crude oil looks more similar to gasoline than biomass does,” says George Huber, lead author of the new study. “So the challenge is how do you efficiently remove the oxygen and make these compounds that look like gasoline or diesel fuel? And how do you do it in the fewest number of steps and in the most economical way?”
Using a catalyst commonly employed in the petroleum industry, Huber and his colleagues heated small amounts of cellulose very quickly for a matter of seconds before cooling it, producing a high-octane liquid similar to gasoline. “The temperature window is very critical,” Huber says. If you heat too slowly, you produce mainly coke—elemental carbon residue. If you heat too fast, you make mainly vapors. The sweet spot, about 1000 degrees per second, transfers roughly half the cellulose’s energy into hydrocarbons. “If we can get 100 percent yield, we estimate the cost to be about a dollar per gallon,” Huber says. “Right now we’re at 50 percent. Can we get 100 percent? I don’t know. Hopefully we’ll bump those numbers up.”
Huber and his colleagues aren’t the first to derive hydrocarbons from renewable sources. Virent Energy Systems, for example, just signed a deal with Shell to produce gasoline from plant sugars and expects to open a pilot facility in the next two years. UOP is working on a project to produce jet fuel for U.S. and NATO fighters from algal and vegetable oils. But Huber’s work stands out as likely the first direct conversion from cellulose, opening up as potential fuel sources virtually anything that grows. Commercialization of the technology may take another five to 10 years, the researchers predict.
Developments in so-called “green hydrocarbons” arrive as ethanol continues to come under attack as expensive, inefficient and a contributor to rising food prices around the world. (More than a billion bushels of corn are diverted to ethanol production each year.) “There’s certainly a lot of historical inertia for ethanol. It’s gotten us off to a great start, but I can’t see the country transitioning to flex-fuel,” says John Regalbuto, director of the Catalysis and Biocatalysis Program at the National Science Foundation. “I almost think, long term, that we will go to plug-in hybrids. But we’re still going to need diesel and jet fuel—you can’t run trains or fly planes with ethanol or hydrogen.”
“We already have the infrastructure in place to distribute liquid fuels," Huber says. "We’re using them to power transportation vehicles today, and I think that’s what we’ll be using in 10 years and in 50 years. And if you want a sustainable liquid transportation fuel, biomass is the only way to go.”
That's the first I've heard of making gasoline from renewable sources, and even better that it's trees instead of more common farm crops such as corn. Tree cellulose can be produced renewably, in an environmentally friendly way, and quickly (witness the paper industry which uses the same stuff, and these days mainly gets it from other wood industries' waste combined with spindly little trees in quick-growth forests they plant -- little old growth cutting for paper is tolerated or even cost-effective anymore).
Also, gasoline can be refined from coal, but it's probably just as much work to make it from coal (or other fossil fuels such as natural gas, if that's possible) as it is to make it from cellulose...and we would eventually end up with the same issues -- carbon imbalance that bothers environmentalists, and eventually running out of it which bothers me.
Disclaimer: I'm no environmentalist or expert, just a guy who really enjoys driving with an internal combustion engine and wants be able to do so, affordably, for the rest of his life.
MPG seems to be a matter of size/weight, but everyone is scared to drive a 1000 lb carbon fiber small car for 4 passengers because of teh risk of being hit by all of the 5000 lb SUV's on the roads. These smaller, aerodynamic 1000 lb cars could likely get 100+ mpg with an ICE (they could have a loaded weight limit of 1800 pounds)
Here's a crazy, out of the box idea: Special HOV lanes/highways for the new lightweight cars
If we could subdivide existing interstates into 2 narrow lanes for small cars and 2 regular lanes for semis and regular cars, maybe people would feel safer and be willing to drive the tiny lightweight cars, knowing that they would be on a separate road than a big car that could crush them (even though carbon fiber is supposedly stronger than steel, the weight difference would be like a train hitting a typical car).
The small car highways would be easier to construct/maintain (less weight travelling across them) than regular roads. People would be discouraged from driving the big SUV's because they would have to travel on the semi truck highways, which would likely be slower moving and congested. Parents with lots of children could still buy a van or SUV and take all of their children places, but they'd just have to use the large vehicle highways/lanes to do so.
As you implied in your next sentence, aerodynamic drag is important too. In fact, drag is more important on the highway, where steady high speed is normal. Weight is more important when there's lots of accelerating involved, as in city driving. Perhaps you were considering drag with the word "size", though, as I don't know how size alone could affect MPG.
Low-drag heavy cars can get great highway mileage...
There are ceramic coatings that can be put on heads, pistons and valves. I ran a 2-stroke Rotax for a short time with the head and piston coated. The engine made more power but I ended up seizing it before real testing could commence. I had fit the piston too tight. I thought the coating would keep it from expanding so much. I am not recommending the links below they are simply some of the first few that came up. One can actually over do this. You probably don't want to insulate every surface of the combustion chamber.
Many people are getting anywhere from 20% to 80% MPG gain using the "techniques" implied in the program I am in the process of setting up in my 4 banger VW. I will be happy to get 40 to 50% improvement. Splitting water is an age old science..not a scam...been around for many years. It DOES NOT take more energy to do so than you get out of it. Check out water4gas.com and test it for yourself...Thats what I am doing now.