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Plug in Hybrids

The Most Efficient Solution to $100 Oil

By Field Palmer   

After the detestable Energy Bill was passed I got responses to my article that suggested I stop my whining and that the U.S. should exploit its oil reserves.

Well, as the price of crude went above $100 for the first time on Thursday, it leaves me wondering exactly what reserves are these people talking about?

Our stockpiles are at the lowest they’ve been since January 2005, falling 4 million barrels in a single week.

Not only are we the consumers suffering, so are whole economies around the world.

“Oil prices have been increasing significantly. Now if this high level of prices is maintained then it will have an impact on the economy,” European Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres told a news briefing.

So now more than ever it is important to find out exactly what alternative-fueled vehicle is the most efficient.

Plug in hybrids

To do this, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory decided to find out exactly what method of alternative fuel delivery would work the best.

In their study they analyzed different sources of fuel . . .


  • Oil

  • Natural gas

  • Coal

  • Farmed trees

  • Wind/solar

. . . and determined which method of using these resources would not only provide the most energy, but also which would have the least detrimental effect on the environment.

And in every case, it was determined that using these sources to create electricity for PHEVs was more efficient and created less total greenhouse gases (GHGs), volatile organic compounds (VOC), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), fine particulate (PM2.5) and sulfur oxides (SOx).

For instance, coal can be used to create synthetic diesel, but more miles of service are attained by using that coal to power the grid to charge PHEVs.

The same goes for the rest as well . . .

  • Trees turned into ethanol are less productive than if the biomass is used to supply power to PHEVs,

  • Wind/solar energy is more suited to PHEVs than using it to convert water to hydrogen

  • Biofuels are a much better option than coal to power the grid, creating fewer pollutants

The bottom line is that no matter what option you are looking at, the most efficient way to use the power from these alternatives is to apply them to PHEVs.

So what is keeping the auto manufacturers from making these cars a reality?

A major obstacle in the way of PHEVs ascending to mass production is battery technology .

Lithium ion batteries are the most promising power storage system out there right now, but they’re very expensive. In home conversions of the Prius, the owner can expect to drop up to $15,000 to make a full lithium-ion powered PHEV.

The reason for this cost? Well, lithium is in high demand for batteries found in your laptop and mobile phone, and it is quite scarce to boot.

That’s why a team of German researchers led by Hans-Jörg Deiseroth from the University of Siegen, in cooperation with scientists at the University of Münster, have taken a closer look at argyrodite.

Argyrodite, first discovered near Freiberg, Germany in 1885, is a very scarce mineral containing silver, germanium and sulfur, with incredibly mobile silver ions that make the transfer of energy in batteries much more efficient.

But, being that argyrodite is very scarce, these scientists have replaced the silver component with lithium, germanium with phosphorous and some of the sulfur atoms with halides (chloride, bromide or iodide.)

The result is an energy-dense packing arrangement with gaps filled with lithium ions. And because it mimics the silver ions in the argyrodite, the lithium can cross the gaps, carrying energy in a much more efficient manner and possibly reducing the amount of lithium needed or the number of batteries required to power PHEVs.

Quite promising . . .

Keep your hopes in the future but your sense in the present . . .

Field Palmer 

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