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Power your home, and one day, your flight, with your hybrid car battery

What began as a conversation with Sydney based science video maker John Davis about the aviation pursuit of non fossil carbon releasing fuels or energy this weekend quickly turned to strategies by which airlines, home owners and consumers in general could bust the pricing power of coal and oil companies.

Davis says the disruptive technology of solar energy capture and the improvements in battery storage performance can destroy the ability of power companies to collect peak pricing rates, such as those people now pay on hot days for home or work place air conditioning.

This is not a matter of selling domestically generated power back into the grid at the ‘ridiculously’ low rates offered today, but storing it in the largest and most efficient battery possessed by an increasing number of people, which is in their hybrid cars.

Even when power is purchased in the normal way to recharge a hybrid car, it is cheaper than peak demand power, and if your vehicle has a range of 200 kilometers for suburban driving, and you only use around 50 kilometres of it a day, the cheapest way to power your house or perhaps your workplace or small business is off the surplus in its battery, the price of which is falling over time in real terms while its carrying capacity rises.

With Airbus and Boeing both anticipating batteries that are sufficiently light but powerful enough to make a worthwhile contribution to the total fuel needs of shorter range inter-city flights within a few decades, it could be that companies could trade the bulk excess power in their hybrid fleets in exchange for full or part payment of flights for their executives, or individuals could elect to drain part of their vehicles reserves at an airport for a similar trade on the price of a fare.

When you need to air condition your house on a hot day when your hybrid vehicle is idle, the cheapest source of that power may be its battery, not power drawn from the grid.

Of course there are a lot of things that could go wrong with such a scenario. Big coal could have the political muscle to prevent the use of technological advances to by-pass peak charging, but in tomorrow’s world, such distortion of market forces to fit a national energy innovation suppression policy could also weaken the Australian economy compared to those of other states with an open approach to scientific advances.

Davis has set up an internet site that explains the various alternative technologies and their vital statistics and pros and cons,  for producing electrical and liquid fuel energy without using fossil-carbon liberating oil, gas and coal.

He cautions that Australia has a very narrow and flawed perspective on alternative energy, in that it is lacking any real will in promoting innovation and smarter uses of existing green energy processes.

He says that while America can be criticised for denialism and circumspection in its public discussions of clean energy, it has already made itself almost totally independent of external sources of oil and gas, and its private sector is already engaged in energy saving and recycling on a broader and deeper scale than seen in Australia.

America spends less time arguing about carbon, yet is doing far more about it.

“It’s not so much about green principles as seizing every opportunity or avenue to drive down the costs of energy to create business advantage,” he says. “It’s not as much about denialism as it was, but dollars.”

He says the result is that US consumers and business appears to be moving very strongly toward finding solutions to a problem that is not even popularly recognised.

This is manifestly true in its aerospace industry, lead of course in the US by Boeing, whose electric hybrid airliners ambitions have been discussed regularly on Plane Talking.

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  • 1
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted November 11, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there’s any way at all that Big Coal could have the political muscle to prevent it.

    One thing that’s not often mentioned is the experimental technology to synthesize hydrocarbons from CO2, water and energy. Currently prototyping in Britain, but it could be revolutionary if they can get it to work in Antarctica.

  • 2
    2353
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    It’s a interesting concept and one that is worth exploring.

    There are two reasons for the US being ahead of Australia in the physical introduction of “green” energy. The first is shale oil – which isn’t overly carbon friendly and secondly, one political party in the US hasn’t used the issue for a short term fear uncertainty and desperation campaign unlike Australia’s Coalition. To be fair, the ALP hasn’t explained the reason for “green” energy or a carbon price very well either.

  • 3
    Kevin Johson
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I generally agree with the sentiments of Mr Davis, however I do object to the continual denigration of people they call denialists. Upon reading the literature, there is a wide divergence of views and scientific evidence supporting different views. It is generally not denialism, but the legitimate right to question comments made by others, many of which are opinion.

    In addition the selective, quotations of people such as Wendy Bacon, Stephen Lewandowski and Matthew Wright, favour one point of view, in an extreme manner.
    Their views are too far to one side of the argument, and in particular recent works of Lewandowski have been roundly condemned by other academics.

    Apart from the obvious bias shown in the website, there is much useful information regarding the subject.

    However far from different views, the problem facing any these new technologies is the economics, that preclude widespread use at the moment. Electric and hybrid motor vehicles being one of them. It is not the lack of innovation or the will to implement these technologies.

    Other technologies, such as solar depend on government subsidies, which if society is prepared to wear that financial and social cost, that is fine.

    In addition, there is massive investment in existing infrastructure, with major parts of the economy including superannuation has invested in. A radical investment in alternative technologies if introduced quickly, would lead to massive disruption of the current infrastructure investment.

    I would really think that more serious problems facing this country, is the slowing economy and rapidly growing Federal and State debt.

  • 4
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Kevin,

    Your reasoned and lucid comment is much appreciated, even though I might not agree with it in its entirety, and keeping in mind that discussion is what is important not agreement.

    As someone in an industry that is being gutted by disruptive technology I’m also very aware of how investments can be not only sunk, but in the case of newspapers and print in general, torpedoed.

    Something else has also overtaken the media because of the disruption caused by information technology in the form of changing the tastes of our society for information in general.

    The old gold standard of well researched articles of 2-4 thousands words is being replaced by an upper reading limit of around 300 words, or a set of dot points with not necessarily relevant graphics, all displayed on an image not more than 600 pixels across and in some devices, much less.

    Instead of wanting a discussion, too often social media has persuaded or enticed people in creating walled gardens, built up by ‘likes’ or ‘links’ in which only the things people want to read and hear can be presented.

    It’s a danger I try, but sometimes fail, to deal with, which is why in disagreement with your comment, I’m also very encouraged by what you are saying.

  • 5
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted November 12, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Kevin, what do you think are the social costs of subsidized solar energy?

    BTW the Federal debt is not a problem at all, as it’s all in Australian dollars. It can always borrow as many of those as it needs directly from the RBA, even though it currently chooses not to.

  • 6
    StickShaker
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    There is a hidden and overlooked environmental cost in using a large number of batteries for stationary storage of energy. That cost is the landfill disposal of these batteries once they reach the end of their relatively short lives (something like 500 charges). The disposal issues of batteries from a nation wide fleet of electric cars will be significant enough without that process being accelerated by their use as a stationary storage device. Proponents would no doubt protest that battery technologies will improve but we have heard much the same argument for solar technology for the last 40 years. I think such a concept would require a step change in battery performance of several orders of magnitude.

    Peak pricing for electricity is driven and controlled by the power utilities themselves (publicly or privately owned). Coal and gas supplies to these utilities (no-one uses oil) are under long term contracts, often at predetermined prices. There is no direct link between coal/gas suppliers and peak power pricing. Most power utilities in Australia have their prices regulated in some way by governments as electricity prices are such a sensitive political issue.

  • 7
    Dan Dair
    Posted September 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    As John Davis suggests in this article, there is a B-side to consider if you’re a climate-change skeptic.
    Those advocating the reduction in fossil-fuel use for ‘planet-saving’ reasons may be mistaken.
    IMO the case, though overwhelming, is not yet conclusively proven.
    However, what is known is that there is a finite amount of fossil-fuel available on the planet. New discoveries continue to be made, but in many cases (such as with fracking) these reserves were known about, but the price of oil & gas had to rise considerably before it became commercially viable to exploit them.

    That being the case;
    Lets assume (for the sake of ease of explanation) that there is a 100 year supply of fossil-fuels, at the current rate of use.
    Once that’s gone, that’s it, there is no more;
    AND, if we use it faster, it’ll be gone sooner.
    BUT, if we can find alternatives & savings, it’ll last longer.
    So what do we do.?
    There are loads of technological prospects & possibilities to replace our dependence on fossil-fuels but none are yet at the stage of a ‘real-world’ game-changer, which would move us off our current reliance on them.
    (Electric-powered Railways & Tramways COULD be run off Solar / Wind power right now, (in suitable parts of the world) if the will & the finance was there, because the necessary technology to make it happen already exists)

    Consequently, these ‘tree-huggers’ advocating the 3R’s of reduction, recycling & re-use are actually pointing the way towards ‘eeking-out’ every last moment of time, before the fossil-fuel runs out.

    Every moment longer that we have, is a moment closer to a real-world technology shift.

    But here’s the kicker,
    As a consumer, every time you drive your car more sensibly, turn the unused light off, buy a A++ rated domestic appliance, etc, etc;
    You’re not just saving the planet,
    (Every bit as importantly)
    You’re reducing what you spend on your own energy bills.!!!

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