Friday, April 1, 2011

Huge Combustion Efficiencies Are in the Works

The York Times article Start-Ups Work to Reinvent the Combustion Engine reports that
  • Pinnacle Engines is working on an engine that "will be up to 50% more efficient than today's power plants,"
  • EcoMotors, "a Detroit area start-up backed by Khosla Ventures(1) and Bill Gates," and
  • Achates Power of San Diego
are developing variations on an opposed piston engine...long considered too expensive and unworkable for automobiles. The goal is to reduce the amount of energy "wasted as heat," so as to "to tap more energy to propel a vehicle." Pinnacle says that its current engine is "30% more efficient than current scooter engines." EcoMotors "is also claiming up to a 50% improvement in efficiency for its two-stroke diesel opposed piston engine." Achates Power says that its engine is "15% more efficient than conventional diesel."

In addition I recently read that both the Engine Research Group of University of Wisconsin-Madison is working on dual fuel engines to achieve high efficiencies and low emissions. An example of dual fuel is engine uses 90% gasoline on high load (acceleration), 90% diesel on low load (cruise) and 100% diesel at idle. Fuel efficiency improved 20% to 25% or large engines for trucks and heavy equipment.

At the same time and the Oak Ridge National Lab is conducting similar experiments using 1.9 liter Euro spec GM diesel engines with good results.

These are all positive and telling signs that the "classic" engine and the automobile are nowhere near their "dawn" days.

(1) Vinod Koshla, of Khosla Ventures, a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm. His profile in The Economist is worth reading. I liked this quote of his: “ENVIRONMENTALISTS are fiddling while Rome burns. They get in the way with silly stuff like asking people to walk more, drive less. That is an increment of 1-2% change. We need 1,000% change if billions of people in China and India are to enjoy a Western, energy-rich lifestyle.” Forget today’s green technologies like electric cars, wind turbines, solar cells and smart grids. None meets what Mr Khosla calls the “Chindia price.”

Wind Energy for Hawaii: Great for Profits, Not So Great for Power

Electric power is all about baseload and predictable peaks of usage. Wind is all about unpredictability. Among all major resources for the production of energy, wind is among the least predictable and dependable. Full article published in Hawaii Reporter.

Wind Speed Variability Sample as Reported in a Presentation by Renewable Energy Laboratory: