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Efficient cars – possible now

Written By: - Date published: 12:58 pm, November 10th, 2010 - 70 comments
Categories: sustainability, transport - Tags:

I read this interesting BBC article yesterday, showing how incredibly efficient cars are able to be made now, if society would grasp the nettle.

We could be reducing our carbon footprints massively – particularly in a country with as high level of car ownership as ours.

It would require a lot of investment, both in car plants to build the vehicles (and to do it efficiently, or there’s no point…), but also in the infrastructure to run the cars.  But if one country did it, they would show the world what could be done, and it would no doubt be a huge money spinner for that nation.

It would need a forward-thinking government with cojones to do this.  Not one that removed the bio-fuel requirement on the forecourt as one of its first acts of government, and one that has gutted the ETS, but one with a genuine commitment to the sustainability of our future.

You’d want the private sector to pick up the car-building section of the scenario, but that’s pretty much impossible under this government.  We need a government that is committed to manufacturing before we could think of doing anything remotely on a car scale.  One that ensures we have capital markets with actual capital in them, a far less volatile (and lower) exchange rate, and one that’s not scared to intervene in the free-market to create the conditions where such things are possible.

Auckland University is already creating the technology to charge cars with electricity as they drive along certain (presumably major) roads, so it’s not as if we don’t have the brains and innovation here to create such concepts.  And building energy-efficient cars would fit well into the high-skilled green image we like to project to the world…  But it’s only ever going to be a pipe-dream without a government making radical changes to the neo-liberal economy, and creating conditions where high-tech manufacturing can flourish again.

70 comments on “Efficient cars – possible now”

  1. Pat 1

    Fuel efficient cars need……roads!

    We will be ever grateful to the forward-thinking Sir Stephen Joyce, founding father of the efficient motorway system.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      *Shrug* It’ll never happen that way. Petrol will be $4/L well before these hybrids and electric cars are 5% of our vehicle fleet.

      Basically Joyce put a billion dollar bet on private road transport just as that era is ending.

      • M 1.1.1

        Seconded.

        All part of the technology will save us mantra, ain’t gonna happen – we’re going to have to get used to using public transport, cycling and walking.

        • KJT 1.1.1.1

          Technology is going to have to be part of the answer. Unless you want to deprive Wellingtonians of bread for one.

    • Pat – however you look at it – “efficient motorways” is an oxymoron.

    • Bright Red 1.3

      we have plenty of roads Pat.

  2. Lanthanide 2

    It’s pretty easy to make prototype cars that are really fuel efficient, it has been happening for years. Actually getting one out to the market, uncompromised, at a price that people can afford is another matter.

    A big part of it is safety. Cars these days aren’t terrible fuel efficient because they are very safe. They have all sorts of safety features added in, as a result of strict testing that they must pass, and all of that adds weight. Reducing the weight of cars is the easiest way to increase efficiency, but it also decreases safety. If we could snap our fingers and magically move all cars on the road to the new more efficient, lighter cars we’d probably be ok. But because these light cars will be sharing the road with the old inefficient hulking beasts, they will always come off worse in any accident, which is enough for the design to be compromised and the efficiencies to be eaten away at.

    • KJT 2.1

      Thats where it needs the political will to say that “all cars within city limits must be light electric” Think 4 seater mobility scooters, not cars as we know them. Could be built by councils and rented for starters.
      The longer this is left the more expensive a transition to a lower energy culture will be.

      Buses and trains are not the answer for cities like Whangarei. An electric bus carrying 3 people is much less efficient than even a petrol car.

      Keep the hulking beasts for where they are most efficient. On the highway. Many towns are bypassed by the motorways already.

  3. insider 3

    Money quotes for me:

    “The cars of tomorrow might have very low running costs, but that will be irrelevant if people haven’t go the cash to buy them in the first place,”

    “It’s going to be conventional technology that’s going to give the greatest contribution in terms of curbing carbon emissions globally,”

    “We need to squeeze all the benefits out of the technologies we already have, rather than search for the silver bullet.”

    Too often on here we have people demanding we make a radical change to our infrastructure usually with no reference to the cost. But infrastructure is slow to respond, no matter how much you demand it. And the car market is the same with huge inertia on the supply and demand side.

    Look at hybrids for example. These have huge promise apparently and have been on the market for over a decade, yet only about 1% of new car sales in New Zealand are hybrids (about 700 out of 70k). Why? IMO because they are too expensive and the efficiency gains are lower than the additional capital cost, limited models, fashion. Electric cars will face the same take up issue unless they can radically address the up front cost issue.

    I’d expect that we will see many more hybrids when they successfully merge them with modern diesel technology. This would fit well into the manufacturing system, give cars that consumers understand, but could improve efficiency 30-40% on current petrol ICEs. But of course every year you increase hybrid sales you defer or make harder the entry of electrics because the efficiency gains are reduced.

    On the lightness and safety issue, I think that onboard sensors/controls such as you are seeing in trucks – radar, intelligent brakes etc – allied to the steering system, could counterbalance the potential risks of collision. Eg, if you have car based radar it could be programmed to avoid collision. Possible maybe through technology on roads and regulatory intent. Of course it won’t affect older cars…

  4. Peter 4

    While nice, this is a bit of a fallacy unfortunately. Have a read up on Jevons’ paradox. This basically states that if efficiency improvements are made in energy technologies (such as a car), it ultimately leads to *more* energy being used, not less, due to more people buying and using the more efficient technology. Cars have got much more efficient since the 1970s, yet, we use far more energy than we did back then, due to that efficiency. And that is just measuring the fuel that cars use, not the total energy cost of making the things in the first place. By that analysis, we are better off to be driving around in inefficient Series II Landrovers or something similarly ancient, as the cost of making a new car is often greater than the entire energy used by an existing car throughout its lifespan.

    The interesting question is whether Jevons’ is a feature of capitalism, or something more fundamental, and whether it holds on the downslope of energy production as much as it does on the upslope. The jury is still out on that question. It is easy to be fatalistic on energy economics.I certainly hope that in an environment of consistently constrained energy supplies that more efficient technology will win out without increasing the overall amount of energy used, but that depends entirely on how much it took to build the things.

    The hard reality of energy economics is that no number of new technologies and energy sources will match what we are losing as a result of peak oil (and soon, peak coal). You cannot sustain the unsustainable, no matter how hard you wish for it. Nature bats last 🙂

    The answer for us is to look at how we structured our transport system in the days before readily available oil. That means extending our rail network, coastal shipping, and much more localised economies. I’d also look hard into the overall economics of steam traction (yes, laugh if you will), but a steam loco lasts a heck of a long time, and can be powered off local resources without reliance on imported fuel. Modern steam is also close to diesel in terms of efficiency.

    Electricity will have a strong role to play as well, but only where the traffic density on a rail network can justify the investment, and there aren’t many places where that will be the case, even in an environment where rail is more highly utilised than present.

    • Lanthanide 4.1

      I think people just get a wiff of Jevon’s paradox and then apply it everywhere.

      What about replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents? Do you see people suddenly putting heaps more lamps and lights in their houses because they’ve got more efficient lighting? Maybe they end up spending that same electricity money on something else electric, but I doubt many would take the savings from energy efficient bulbs to install many more multiple bulbs than what they previously had, which is basically what you’re saying when you start talking about Jevon’s paradox.

      • M 4.1.1

        There’s no way I want to have a source of mercury over my head – I’ve hoarded incandescents.

        Life of course is a risk but this is one I’d prefer not to take.

        • Lanthanide 4.1.1.1

          The mercury in lightbulbs is of no practical health risk:
          http://dansdata.blogsome.com/2008/09/04/light-bulbs-of-doooooommmm/

          But hey, if you want to waste lots of money on lighting electricity so you can feel safe in your ignorance, go ahead.

          • M 4.1.1.1.1

            In addition to the mercury risk these bulbs also do not provide good enough light to read by and many others have also commented on this phenomenon. After trying CFLs for 6 months I found these lights did not seem to have enough grunt to read by.

            Given that I’m careful to switch off unneeded lights and pulling plugs out for appliances at the wall I should imagine this would negate some of the extra energy used.

            I’d far rather have my eyesight preserved with the minimum loss in acuity for as long as possible than strain them further so consider this money well spent.

            • felix 4.1.1.1.1.1

              “In addition to the mercury risk …”

              Err, what risk? Didn’t you bother reading the link that Lanth posted? Or are you just to cool to address it in response?

              As for the brightness, I agree they can be a bit dim. I have CFLs through most of the house but I have few incandescents in reading lamps and in the kitchen.

              However you can get much brighter CFLs now than you could a couple of years ago. I’ve got a new one over my electronics workbench and it’s awesomely bright. Just look for the higher wattages, I think it’s 20 or 25 watts whereas most of the ones I got the first time were all 8 and 11 watts.

            • lprent 4.1.1.1.1.2

              As a professional programmer I’m very sensitive about my eyes and light levels because crap lighting gives me pretty bad migraines. It is an occupational hazard. Drives Lyn batty because I’m forever getting her to turn lights away from my eyes. She likes them really bright – typical filmmaker..

              What you’re describing is what the CFL lights were like 4 or 5 years ago. But I have CFL’s lights at home that are brighter than incandescents with a very white light where I read, through to really dim yellow CFL’s where I work. I find them easier to work with and damn sight easier to replace (I don’t have to replace them).

              I wouldn’t go back and I’m replacing the few remaining incandescents through my current residence as they blow. Quite how I’m going to do the ones in the stairway and mezzanine roof is a bit of an issue. The stairway looks incredibly dangerous and the mezz will require a rather large ladder.

        • Cnr Joe 4.1.1.2

          M – you’ve hoarded incandescent light bulbs?
          In your survival shelter? Along with the 30 000 cans of baked beans and rolls of toilet paper?

          captcha – possibilities……

          ps, loved the Herzog Felix, along with the sleeping bumblebee – ‘ooh, it moved’

          • M 4.1.1.2.1

            Nah, believe in the power of community and what good would it do to hoard food as people will only steal it or kill you for it – some old lightbulbs will be of little interest to hungry hoards and I have good neighbours 🙂

            Hammer away if it makes you happy ….

      • Peter 4.1.2

        It is a relevant point – I certainly don’t like applying it everywhere – and DTB is right (see below), it’s a feature of unregulated free market capitalism, especially an economic system that does not plan for energy.

        But anyway, lightbulbs probably don’t obey Jevons, due to the system costs of installing extra wiring and socket in your ceiling to use more fluro energy-bulbs. So people don’t. Therefore, the savings here are real. So, it’s a good point.

        I’d say for cars though that the opposite is true – that’s certainly been the experience of the past 30 or so years. Motors have got much more efficient, but energy use has increased despite this (above despite population growth too).

        The basic point is this – without regulation, energy or transport system change, or a fundamental economic redesign, new technology alone will not reduce energy use. The household example is probably one place where it does apply, but only in the context of that household, and I’m not sure perhaps if people’s behaviour doesn’t change, to say, “well, hey, that lightbulb is more energy efficient, therefore it doesn’t matter if I leave it running”.

        • KJT 4.1.2.1

          With cheap fuel as we have. Car manufacturers have used the increased efficiency to offer more powerful cars. With expensive fuel drivers start looking for the same power using less.

          The answer for most land transport is reticulated sustainable electricity. Fortunately NZ is well supplied with possible sources compared with most other countries.

          It is a real opportunity we have here to be first in the large scale development of electric plug in commuter cars.
          NZ research into the technology in composites and other requirements is advanced.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Jevons’ Paradox seems to be a feature of free-market capitalism. Increased efficiency, like increased competition, will lower profits as less is used and so the capitalist system seeks ways to use more so that the needed growth to cover interest rates and profits is maintained.

      • Peter 4.2.1

        I suspect strongly that there is a link between interest and Jevon’s paradox, but haven’t seen any hard proof.

        • KJT 4.2.1.1

          Interest requires businesses to grow, or fail, to pay the time value of their cost of capital/money.
          Without interest steady state business is possible.

  5. Adrian 5

    In the recent economy run/test around the North Island the Mini Diesel won hands down on fuel efficiency ( this engine is also in small BMWs and Saabs), but it got killed by the diesel Road User Charges which cost a lot more than the fuel . RUCS on small diesels are incredibly counter productive to trying to save oil in NZ, its just not worth it. The latest generation diesels get up to 100km/litre and the stuff can be grown here. I’m doing it already, I hope to be able to run my tractor fully on bio diesel grown on farm within a few years. The problem is that RUCs are set for trucks doing 5 or 6km to the litre, there needs to be a more equitably structured system.

    • insider 5.1

      There are no RUCs on fuel for your tractor when it is used off road AFAIK.

      RUCs are done by weight and distance. The heavier your vehicle the higher the RUCs on a ‘fourth power’ curve which is supposed to match average road wear.

      If you think RUCs are unfair now it may get worse for small car operators. There is an RUCs review going on which may recommend a redistribution of RUC contribution. One concern is that the RUC tables are out of kilter and small diesels are not contributing as much road tax as equivalent petrol vehicles. The review could see a jump in small diesel RUCs and reduction in high weight truck RUCs. (I’m open to correction in my interpretation – RUCs are complex and not very well explained by MOT or NZTA).

      Personally it seems odd that people shifting fuels to improve fuel efficiency are being punished by higher taxes, even though the total RUCs pool is not supposed to increase. Seems a bit of a mixed message.

      • Adrian 5.1.1

        The point I was making is that we can grow diesel here and with very efficent engines can be a lot more self sufficent, but with truck type consumption it would require a lot of land. I’m well aware that I don’t pay RUCs for my tractor. I’m growing my own to be more sustainable for Sustainable Winegrowing NZ, I didn’t explain that point well enough. It would be ridiculous to penalise highly efficent vehicles by loading the tax, I presume that they appear not to pay their way because older larger petrol vehicles are gas guzzlers and hence pay more tax. There should be a larger differential to encourage conservation. Fat chance of letting Treasury let go of a cash cow though.

        • insider 5.1.1.1

          The amount of diesel that could be grown is so small as to be almost irrelevant.It’s not going to replace the 50k barrels of diesel we use every day.

          Although growing crops for fuel will push out other uses which will dampen economic activity in our key export sector and so reduce overall demand for fuel, so you may reach some equilibrium if we destroy the economy enough.

          I thought the wine industry were doing ethanol using waste clippings and fruit. I’d read it was expensive and cumbersome.

  6. Andrew 6

    ” and one that’s not scared to intervene in the free-market to create the conditions where such things are possible.”

    – Didn’t this Blog spend most of last week criticizing the government for intervening in the free market to create the conditions necessary to ensure the Hobbit stayed in New Zealand?

    • Lanthanide 6.1

      Yes, but you missed the point of the blog posts: no such intervention was actually necessary, the government just caved into PR grandstanding and hollow threats by WB.

      • Andrew 6.1.1

        So you agree it is ok for the government to intervene and alter laws to make it more attractive for businesses to come to New Zealand, they can just only when you think it is necessary to do so and not when the government thinks it is appropriate to do so?

        • Bunji 6.1.1.1

          Lowering our labour standards to do business is not good. There’s a big difference between working on currency / monetary conditions to help our export businesses and a race to the bottom in workers’ rights. One benefits all NZers, the other makes life worse for most people who live here.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.2

          So you agree it is ok for the government to intervene and alter laws to make it more attractive for businesses to come to New Zealand, they can just only when you think it is necessary to do so and not when the government thinks it is appropriate to do so?

          The Hobbit: National selling out the sovereignty of NZ under pressure from foreign corporate interests.

          Efficient cars: our Government meeting the demands of NZ’ers for a cleaner, greener NZ less dependent on foreign energy and less dependent on foreign money.

          Now do you get it, the top one is a sell out, the bottom enhances our national sovereignty.

          Or do you want me to write it for you in crayon.

          • insider 6.1.1.2.1

            Doesn’t it just transfer national sovereignty risk to car manufacturers instead of oil suppliers? These more expensive vehicles will be supplied by foreign companies.Even though I don’t agree with your sovereignty view, I can’t see how it sovereignty is enhanced.

    • KJT 6.2

      I did not. Government should be intervening to tilt the market in NZ’s interest, but where was the concern and money for clothing. shoemaking, whiteware, coastal shipping and all the other industries which we have lost. Billions in foreign exchange have been lost to an ideological fixation on the “free market” and globalisation.
      If no protection at all for local industries is so good why have all the economies who have done it failed.

  7. I’m betting on a next level genius developing a theory for harnessing ‘free’ energy and making oil obsolete within a generation.

    In the short term i’d like to see car racing banned, especially those V8 supercars. Seems kinda stupid and pointless in an age of peak oil.

    captcha : wishes

    • Armchair Critic 7.1

      I’m betting on a next level genius developing a theory for harnessing ‘free’ energy and making oil obsolete within a generation.
      John Galt, perhaps?
      I have shares in the Hamilton Harbour Bridge to sell.

    • Adrian 7.2

      If you are going to ban car racing you’re going to have to ban everything. Kid’s sport probably sucks up more fuel than you could imagine, slow bloody horse floats from race meetings to pony clubs with 20 cars stuck behind them, dog shows , rugby trips, dance competitions, rock cocerts ( how much fuel is the U2 show going to consume, 80,000 from all over NZ aren’t going to walk there). V8 Supercars use 85% ethanol, the other 15% is to see it if it burns, the FIA sees motorsport as the vanguard to alternative fuels and will probably be the first organisation to phase out petrol.

      • pollywog 7.2.1

        it’s more the symbolic message it will send to combustion engine carmakers to change the mindset of it’s petrolhead supporters that would alert the masses to peak oil and force a change to more sustainable vehicles faster.

        doesn’t matter what the top end cars run on. the brands they support and who sponsor them are still pimping hydrocarbon fuels like theres no tomorrow and no viable alternative.

        • Adrian 7.2.1.1

          Thats because there is no viable alternative.

          • felix 7.2.1.1.1

            If so, that’s all the more reason not to actively encourage excessive consumption of fuel, which is exactly what motorsport does regardless of what fuel they use themselves.

          • KJT 7.2.1.1.2

            Of course there is, but oil companies, who are a powerful lobby, want to squeeze as much profit as possible before it runs out.

        • insider 7.2.1.2

          Aren’t they running on ethanol blends now?

          And most of the oil sponsors I see are for lubricants – Fuchs, Mobil 1, Castrol, Havoline, Valvoline etc.

          • felix 7.2.1.2.1

            That doesn’t really make any difference to the influence such events have on the culture.

    • Colonial Viper 7.3

      I’m betting on a next level genius developing a theory for harnessing ‘free’ energy and making oil obsolete within a generation.

      Bad news mate, the theory has already been developed, and the oil companies have already bought the inventor off.

      • pollywog 7.3.1

        nah…thats bullshit.

        whatever theory that leads onto developing a next generation powerplant is gonna literally come straight out of ‘nowhere’ and probably following on from the current CERN experiments.

        …and once that idea is sown into the field of consciousness it will bear fruit that can’t be bought by oil companies.

  8. Roflcopter 8

    Could always build a side industry manufacturing really long extension cords.

  9. nadis 9

    Viper – seriously, that is just stupid. A game changing technology like that would be exploited by the oil companies not locked away. Unless you are joking your comment fails any kind of logic test. If one company controled that technology they would have a monopoly situation on the most disruptive technology the world has ever seen with a close to 100% price advantage over the nearest competing technology. They would be able to creat super profits, putting every other oil company and most industrial companies out of business. It would be the biggest shift in value ever seen in history.

    And think of the risks if they do sit on the technology. Some guy in india re-invents the technology, patents it globally and becomes the richest person in history. Because if the oil company has merely paid off the original inventor they have no patent protection anywhere in the world. No business would run the risk of owning such a disruptive technology without legal protection. Unless of course they have a 10,000 strong team of covert ops specialists who spend their time tracking down and killing any one getting close to discovering their technological secret.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Viper – seriously, that is just stupid. A game changing technology like that would be exploited by the oil companies not locked away.

      No, not if the cost benefit analysis doesn’t pan out and oil still looks more profitable. (And its very profitable).

      They would be able to creat super profits, putting every other oil company and most industrial companies out of business. It would be the biggest shift in value ever seen in history.

      No need to kill the golden goose quite yet. These are oil companies, not silicon valley startups. They’re a big group of old friends in the game together, yeah? Look at all the drilling, logistics, transportation they share. All the execs who move from one to the other.

      Because if the oil company has merely paid off the original inventor they have no patent protection anywhere in the world. No business would run the risk of owning such a disruptive technology without legal protection.

      Dude, trade secrets man. There are plenty of technologies out there which aren’t patented, they are simply kept secret. Everything from weapons systems to software.

      • insider 9.1.1

        History is littered with parallel development of technology. Invention doesn’t usually happen in isolation, it emerges from a pool of knowledge – the old 99% perspiration 1% inspiration thing – and the ones who get the fame are the ones who get there first, wiht others often racing them to the patent office. You can’t suppress invention.

        Most senior oil execs are serious lifers in their businesses. There is little movement because the cultures don’t encourage it. Go check the top 10 in each major oil company and most will be 20 year veterans.

        As for sharing suppliers, I’ll bet you see the same in all sectors, particularly hi tech or high specialised skills. And when you get to a certain size you only want to deal with similar sized orgs, so big corporates want to use SAS or SAP to run their financial systems and PwC or Deloittes to do their audits, they don’t tend to go for Xero or MYOB.

        • pollywog 9.1.1.1

          if someone has an idea, and it enters the collective unsconciousness of the ethereal hive mind, more than one person will have it and it then becomes a case of who acts on it first.

          if there was some next level technology based on blackholes/dark matter, no single person could patent a device or suppress it and like Rutherford to Einstein to Oppenheimer…shit evolves rapidly

          simple fact is, if we extrapolate trends based on present technology and energy useage we’re fucked, but throw in a hidden variable of inevitable change and progress, evolution, and suddenly the world looks a little brighter, though shit is gonna get a lot worse before it gets better.

          i believe somewhere out there is a kid who’s thinking about energy in a whole new way and will grow up to change how we channel it from one form to another.

          …and shes probably a girl

    • felix 9.2

      What CV said. But also this doesn’t make sense:
      “…putting every other oil company and most industrial companies out of business.”

      Umm, why would an energy company want to put all those customers out of business?

      • nadis 9.2.1

        Because it wouldn’t be an energy company more. They would put “old technology” companies out of business, customers or not. They would obviously be replaced by every consumer and company that wants to use the new and better technology. Much bigger market. Thinkl about it – if you owned a technology that was 99% more efficient than its closest competitor, would be used by every consumer or industry in the world – I think that is a slightly bigger market than oil which accounts for about 4% of global GDP, and that 4% is split up amongst millions of companies.

        Seriously the “oil company suppresses water car” conspiracy theory is one of the more stupid ones. Oil companies are about as capitalist as you can get, to the natural endpoint of oligopoly or preferably monopoly. And most conspiracy theories fail because the probability of actually suppressing that information is nil as soon as more than one person knows it. And as others have pointed out, discovery these days is a collaborative, cumulative effort. Take away the one person who discovers something now, there will be others who sooner or later make the same step. RSA is a great example of independent, parallel invention.

        Here’s what you’d see if the theory was true. The oil company with the secret technology selling off existing chunks of the the “old tech” business and setting up a new business line based on the disruptive technology where the executive have significant equity upside.

        Anything else is illogical.

        New technology is a disruptive event and by definition you can’t plan for it. But with hindsight it is very obvious. Nassim Nicholas Taleb is worth reading.

        • felix 9.2.1.1

          I don’t think you know what you’re talking about. You think that a new source of energy means all the manufacturers in the world close down and are replaced by a whole bunch of new ones? Different ones?

          Don’t be so naive.

          And when you say “Anything else is illogical.” you’re still ignoring the cost/benefit analysis. Think about solar panels for example. Whyt doesn’t everyone have them? It’s free energy. To not use it is totally illogical (accoding to your reasoning).

          The reason most people don’t run their household on solar energy is that most people do a cost/benefit analysis of the upfront cost of purchase and installation/retrofit, the likely savings over the useful life of the products, the life expectancy of the consumer, and the alternative option i.e. paying for energy from the grid month by month. At present it self-evidently makes no economic sense for a lot of people to invest in “free” solar energy as they’ll never recoup the cost in their lifetime.

          If solar panels become cheaper, and/or grid electricity becomes more expensive the cost/benefit analysis will change in favour of solar panels. It’s pretty basic stuff, nadis, and it applies to the large-scale manufacturing you’re talking about too.

          • nadis 9.2.1.1.1

            No. My point is if an oil company really had a game changing, disruptive technology they would be selling and marketing it, because the benefit to them would be far, far greater than the loss of their existing business.

            Otherwise, you’re making the exact point I am – but I was starting from someone else’s comment that the new secret technology was so disruptive it would essentially make the new energy source free.

            But kind of getting off point – what I was really talking about was the stupidity of the thesis that oil companies have “obviously” bought up this new disruptive technology and are sitting on it, unpatented.

            • Colonial Viper 9.2.1.1.1.1

              The infrastructure requirements of developing to implementation stage and then implementing a new energy tech in any kind of widespread basis are simply enormous. Cost of an oil refinery = $1B or a nuclear power station = $5B will be a walk in the park, compared.

              BY the way, you keep tech unpatented if
              1) You don’t want the world to know about it
              2) You don’t want a legal protection which is going to run out in a few years, when your view is that you want to control the tech for decades.

              • nadis

                and if someone else discovers it and patents it?

              • insider

                You would only not patent it if it had no application outside your operation or your operation and its consumers were so entwined that revealing it would damage both, eg bits off cruise missiles or a proprietary analytical software tool that is used in the p.

                Once someone sees something in action, people can quickly interpret it and reverse engineer.

                If the market for your product, returns and its consumer benefits massively outweighs the infrastructure costs, no one will care how much the investment needed is. Mobile phones anyone?

          • pollywog 9.2.1.1.2

            i reckon before the oil companies can monopolise the manufacture of next generation powerplants, the blueprints will be leaked as freeware.

            and people will be able to build their own using stuff one can buy from any decent electronic shop or as a kitset online then live off the grid beholding to no one, not the power companies, the oil companies or even the food industries.

            because the output of these new devices will far exceed the energy per unit of mass currently generated by hydrocarbons

            combined with something like a ‘thumper’ from Dune embedded in ones backyard and emitting localised wifi power that communities can then amplify by networking and capable of powering vehicles/electric motors within a certain range of any ‘thumper’.

            cost/benefit analysis in that scenario means current energy barons wont be able to compete and have no bargaining power or leverage to threaten consumers with.

            naturally these devices will have near zero pollution and open up possibilites such as interstellar travel and terraforming not to mention allowing us to communicate with teh godz of old 🙂

            • Bored 9.2.1.1.2.1

              I love all this talk of alternative electro cars. With non vulcanised rubber tyres etc made from petrochemical additives, all parts from industries powered by gas / coal power stations, and the huge energy cost of retooling the petrochemical infrastructure.

              You are right, its going to be a case of building locally…and using our hydro power which will be in big demand for lots more.

              For me its a horse (or bike if I cant saddle up)…give you a race on the beach.

              • pollywog

                for me its about self sufficiency, windpower and sailboats within reach of a port city and being able to block off a road with a landslide so the ‘zombies’ cant come waltzing down it 🙂

  10. Randall 10

    This is good news, It’s good that we are now able to build more efficient cars. However, I think this will not reduce the fact that we still need to avail of car insurance because this will necessarily not reduce the risk of accidents.

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