Amory Lovins: Carbon fiber cars would cut oil dependency
Posting in Energy
At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute talks about strategies to make oil-free automobiles. He beli...
At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute talks about strategies to make oil-free automobiles. He believes that cars would be simpler and cheaper to build if they were made out of ultralight materials like carbon fiber composites.
Mar 29, 2012
well if that is true then it should happen mmore faster because the oil dependency is killing with each day http://www.national.co.uk/branch-577-Lancaster.aspx
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As a UK resident, I find it strange that the American gas-guzzlers of the 60s & 70s were considered too uneconomical and gradually Americans started driving smaller cars and then the SUV craze started and everyone wanted a big gas-guzzling 4 wheel drive SUV. Why??? One answer is that in a big heavy SUV, a collision is likely to be less serious for the occupants of the SUV than for the occupants of the other vehicle - unless it's another SUV or worse, a heavier vehicle like a truck or bus. Howvever, if everyone drove lightweight vehicles, crashes would be less destructive - a half ton car moving at 60 mph has one half the kinetic energy of a one ton car travelling at the same speed. The only way to stop people buying and driving the heavy gas-guzzlers is to make them illegal. Come on Congress - show the heavy SUV drivers where to get off!
Less weight of a vehicle will yield better MPG's but does not guarantee less cost at the pump for consumers.
Mechanical properties of graphene appears to be one of the strongest materials ever tested. Measurements have shown that graphene has a breaking strength 200 times greater than steel, with a tensile modulus (stiffness) of 1 TPa (150,000,000 psi). A Lead researcher Ali Reza Ranjbartoreh said: 'Not only is it lighter, stronger, harder and more flexible than steel, it is also a recyclable and sustainably manufacturable product that is eco-friendly and cost effective in its use.' Ranjbartoreh said the results would allow the development of lighter and stronger cars and planes that use less fuel, generate less pollution, are cheaper to run and ecologically sustainable. He said large aerospace companies have already started to replace metals with carbon fibres and carbon-based materials, and graphene paper with its incomparable mechanical properties would be the next material for them to explore. (Extract from Wikipedia) Just a thought, as this is made from Graphite, no oil products required
The object is to move people or objects from place to place efficiently. Limiting thinking to a 1-2 ton steel (or carbon fibre) cage which requires a large and expensive infrastructure to maintain (roads) is rather nearsighted.
Mass transit or carpooling forces one to change their schedule to meet the schedule of the one providing the trnasportation, provides no flexibility to go to doctor's appointments, go out to lunch...At present there is no MT available to take me to work except for a work provided bus type vehicle, and with it you give up the ability to park on campus, you are totally dependent on it. the light rail under consideration won't even be built until after I retire and even then it is not being considerd for my place of work, all they want tis to tkae you downtown, not to other employment sites. In the meantime I drive my full sized pickup to work.
Good way to make cars lighter is neighborhood electric trolley reduce cars weight to 0! Cuts fuel consumption to 0! Reduces cost to user by orders of magnitude! As if anyone really cares you will pay and pay indeed. Buy a SUV instead. They burn gas in the style that Oil wants to become accustomed to. Carbon fiber is a better use of oil rather than burning it even though steel is recycled and carbon probably will not be recycled if it is much more persistent and has a much longer life it could have a use a life time car body however if it was used in a electric bus for neighborhood transit the possibility of better more public transit is necessary when car cost is not supportable as its to expensive now for many to afford.
Carbon fibre has been around for years, but it's only used sparingly by the automotive manufacturers, generally on higher end vehicles. I suspect it simply isn't cost competitive in terms of manufacturing. We all know carbon fibre can save weight that's been the case for years. There's no need to prove the merits of the technology yet again, this is an economics problem on the manufacturing side. Another issue is the recycling technology needed for carbon fiber.
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Why do we have to persist in maintaining Auto Addicted transit at any price? The fastest way to cut US oil consumption, greenhouse emissions, massive deaths, acres upon acres of asphalt paved farms and Green spaces is to run the Green Transit we already have! That means Rail, LightRail, electric trolleys, safe biking and walking. The US uses 3x the oil per capita of Europe and Japan because the Oil/Auto/Paving/Industrial lobby has made us almost totally dependent on Auto Addicted transit which consumes almost 70% of our oil and directly supplies 35% of US greenhouse emissions. Here are the costs of Auto Addiction: 1)30,000 auto deaths per year, the largest cause of deaths for young people 2)hundreds of thousands of casaulties 3)Obesity - just a month or so ago it was reported that now 27% of US male adults are now officially obese which has been directly linked to driving instead of walking 4)Waste of acres upon acres of green - Lester Brown of Earth Island Institute estimates that every 5 cars require an acre of asphalt The Oil/Auto/Tire/Sprawl lobby has sold the myth that the US is "too spread out" for Green public transit. Actually 80% of Americans live within urbanized areas. Brookings in May 2011 found out that an amazing 70% of working age Americans in 100 US Metro areas already live only 3/4ths mile from a transit stop! This is what we already have, no new capital required to just run it. The problem is that due to the horrible frequency, lack of connections, no local/express service and no safe way to do the last mile only 30% of those same Americans could reach a job in under 90 minutes. See http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2011/0512_jobs_and_transit.aspx for details. However since 2008 over 150 public transit systems have been cut and fares raised even as transit ridership increases with the inevitable rise in gasoline prices. Run the trains! Run the buses! Run the shuttles! Provide safe bikeways and walkways. It is dirt cheap compare to these other schemes to keep US Auto Addiction going.
As we look at the way vehicles are constructed in this day and age, and for almost all of automotive history, perhaps the most significant component affecting fuel economy is the weight of the vehicle itself, which is substantially impacted by the steel necessary to protect vehicle occupants from injury in a motor vehicle accident. The idea is simply this: To reduce the weight of motor vehicles, I would recommend considering the revamping of the entire design process using the following technology and supporting infrastructure. If we were to (don???t laugh) design cars to be constructed out of, essentially, "air bags", we can in one fell swoop, so to speak, drastically reduce vehicle weight while maintaining and perhaps even improving the safety of vehicle occupants. I am not an engineer and can???t speak to the details of what this idea might require, but I believe that the idea is worthy of consideration by those with such engineering skills. While it???s not likely that all steel (or other weighty components) could be eliminated entirely, I suspect that a ???from-the-ground-up??? redesign incorporating such an approach could generate significant benefits, and may even significantly reduce costs, both of vehicles themselves, and perhaps even of the roads and highways built to transport them. For example: 1) I expect that if every component of vehicles was re-evaluated to see which of them could be replaced by the equivalent of many air bags, working together to provide the appropriate rigidity and support necessary to the component???s function, substantial savings in weight would result, with no loss in function and perhaps even a savings in component costs and such savings would surely have a compound effect (i.e., by replacing all or most of the steel used in a vehicle???s exterior panels, the weight of the frame could be less, and the horsepower and weight of the engine needed to propel the vehicle would also similarly be reduced) ; 2) if new (restricted) roads were built to accommodate the lighter vehicle weights, the cost of same would have to be significantly less (while this approach might be most feasible for passenger vehicles, it may even be applicable to trucks and larger transport vehicles, but to the extent that this might prove unworkable for such intended uses and/or a transition period is necessary to economically move to this new paradigm, our existing and more expensive roadways could be reserved for such vehicles, perhaps even taxing (via tolls, maybe) the use of same; and 3) even vehicle repair costs might be significantly reduced by being able to basically repair (patch) a damaged component, ???re-inflate??? it, and paint it or replace same if necessary. Should this approach prove feasible, I would imagine that there would also be significant advantages accruing to those manufacturers that are ???first to market??? with such vehicles and that could be a real boost to the American auto industry at a time when they could surely use it.
If you think fabricating body panels from carbon fibers is such an easy thing to scale up, guess again. Although it has been used successfully to build bicycle components and hulls of incredibly expensive yatchs using the monochoche method (hope I spelled that right), you need only look to the delays to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Granted they had some problems with the engines (not manufactured by Boeing), which caused delays, but most of them were caused by fabrication problems. The future of the Airbus Jumbo Jet is problematic due to problems with their carbon fiber wings. In addition to cost and fabrication problems, their is the matter of disposing of the materials once a car has completed its useful life. You can recycle metal, but I think you would have to invent a whole new technology and industry to dispose of and/or recycle carbon fiber car body panels. In East Germany, they used to build cars with plastic bodies, which never rust and were hideously ugly. They were incredibly polluting cars (their engines). After reunification, people junked these cars in favor of the real thing. Suddenly, Germany found itself with junk yards (recycling centers) full of these indestructable plastic cars. They had to invent new machines to chop them up. I don't remember what they did with the remains.
it a wonderful material but it is right now too hard and expensive to manufacture and even worse to repair. These are the hurdlesblocking carbon fibre from being commond place. lastly it would notcompletely brake our dependance on Oil it a much more complicated. some of the carbon fibre require petrolum prducts and energy to manufacture. the energy to drive our electric cars would still be fossil base unless we change our power stations .
Agree with zachary2001 entirely. Weight has *always* been the enemy in every single form of transportation. And every engineer - and most people - already know this. The push for carbon fiber at this level is wholly unrealistic and shockingly uninformed. The practicalities of sourcing, manufacturing and managing this material would create another, most likely even more difficult, set of problems that would impact us on many levels. For example, cars crash every day. A larger crash will, indeed, compromise the integrity of a panel or structural element, and - with just a little research you will immediately see - it will cost much more to fix than it does with today's materials, even if this stuff is mainstreamed. That said, we do indeed need to reduce the weight of our vehicles. And as much as the general population squeals about this, the CAFE ratings in the U.S. have had the most effect on driving weight down, as well as efficiency up. Looking outside of the U.S. in particular, we have already seen the cost of fuel having an effect mostly on car *size*. And now, engine size and efficiency is going up, almost hockey-stick-like. Tiny one-liter three cylinder turbos with more than adequate power are returning over 60 mpg, and some plug-in gas hybrids and upcoming diesel hybrids - with a light foot - will regularly get over 200 effective mpgs. There will be a bigger portion of our cars made from carbon fiber, but the practicalities of the market will create more cost effective and sustainable alternatives on their own, regardless of an Academic's personal fascination.
I think the new Mazda CX-5 is a stronger and more realistic innovation than making all of our cars out of carbon fiber. For one thing, you can't recycle impregnated carbon fiber. Secondly, carbon fiber is made from rayon or oil pitch. Both oil products. And then you have heat the fiber to 2000 celsius to carbonize it. Thirdly, you can't visually inspect the damage done to carbon fiber. That's a huge safety issue and cost. Amory mentions the helmet he threw into the audience was hit with a sledgehammer an remained undamaged. Well, you would need to xray the helmet to inspect or broken fibers and delamination.
I follow Formula 1 racing religiously. These cars,the suspension and body, are primarily made of carbon fiber components with little regard for cost. While F1 racing has become a relatively safe form of auto racing, when there is a failure of a carbon fiber component, it is a catastrophic failure is a smuch as the part shears rather than bends. Carbon fiber will never make it on the cost versus benefit scale as the amount of fuel saved over the life of the car will not be offset by the cost of the use of carbon fiber.
You keep on telling us what all oil companies will tell. We are not interested. What we want is 0 dependence on oil. It makes sense : To pull a carbon fiber vehicle at a reduced weight of 1:8 is all there is to it. Strenght : Fighter jets , Civil aircrafts are using carbon fiber, so do the Stealth fighters. How much more stress that those go into a car ? Your argument does simply not make sense. Testing ? Xrays can show flaws. Recycling ? yes - dont forget a carbon fiber car does not rust - ever. What it means ? less car sales - less gas sales. This may be the death warrant for carbon fiber cars.
I like your idea. Just thought, how about using Helium or some other gas to make the car material lighter. may be fill tyres with Helium. I am a complete newbie.
Just as a 20,000 ton ship floating on water still weighs 20,000 tons, A balloon filled with helium actually weighs more than the balloon fabric itself if weighed in a vacuum. What is needed is a reduction in MASS to reduce the fuel needed to accelerate the vehicle or push it up hills. Helium wouldn't do that. Helium balloons rise not because they're reduced in weight but because they're less dense than air.
Helium is supplied almost exclusively by the US. It's a strategic resource, which is vanishing quickly into party balloons because it is rediculously underpriced. It's also very small (at the atomic level) like Hydrogen so it is very difficult to contain and leaks through materials, which you and I perceive as solid, which is why those party balloons deflate so quickly. Try filling one with your breath and a second with Helium then leave them side by side. Come back a day or two later and compare them. The one filled with your breath should still be inflated while the Helium filled balloon should be deflating/deflated.
Helium released into the atmosphere rises rapidly to the upper fringes and is lost to space as our gravity isn't enough to contain it (we lose hydrogen from the upper atmosphere the same way but there's a ready supply to replenish that) All helium reserves on the planet are collected from natural gas resources and all accessible helium on the planet is a product of radioactive decay. It doesn't even stay in underground reserves particularly long on geological scales. There isn't enough free helium in the atmosphere to be worthwhile or economic to recover. For all intents and purposes it is a finite resource as the rate of generation outstrips the rate of consumption by a factor of several million (vs fossil fuels where the creation/consumption ratio is a "mere" 100,000 or so) There may be a lot of helium in space but it's rarer than diamonds on earth and should be treated as such. When it's gone, it's gone and the current pricing is a direct result of the United States govt decision to destroy the Strategic Helium Reserve which had taken the best part of 75 years to build up.
Matter (elements) can neither be created nor destroyed by chemical means. Using helium does not mean it is destroyed, it is still there or in the atmosphere and can easily be recovered. For example, helium for balloons came from the atmosphere and when it leaks out, goes right back into the atmosphere, from which, it can be extracted again.