The electric wheel - a breakthrough in car efficiency

Since the first automobile emerged in the 1880’s, the design of a car with an internal combustion chamber has been prevalent in human society. The car industry and the oil industry have become interdependent on this design, based on the combustion of crude oil. This interdependence can be observed in the struggle for survival of several car companies. Huge losses are made by General Motors, Ford and other car companies because they continue to think in the old ways, holding on to the production of big expensive and inefficient machines as long as possible. Soon this way of thinking will be extinct because the incentives in these industries are changing. The increasing fuel costs and pressure from lobby groups, civilians and politicians that care about the environment of the earth are changing the fundamental basis of the car. Super efficient new technologies have been developed which will soon arrive at a home near you.

The future of the car is based on direct power in the wheels. By transferring power without any gearing but by using an electromotor that spins itself inside the wheel, huge energy losses are averted, leading to a super efficient car. Link the four electric wheels to an embedded software and hardware system and optimum force control and traction is obtained without heavy mechanical solutions. Another beauty of the system is braking. By reversing the magnets in the wheel in the opposite direction, the forward motion of the car is converted back into electrical power. The advantage of this system is that it reduces the power necessary to propel the car by half compared by a geared traction motor thanks to the reduction of friction losses/mechanical efficiency.

The electric power of the car can be supplied in different ways. The best solution would be to mount a generator that can use a variety of fuels, powering the battery train that supplies electric power directly to the wheels on a constant basis. In this setting the radius of the car, the power, the loading time, the comfort and so on are not any different then in standard cars with an internal combustion system. Because the car becomes far more efficient, fuel and environmental costs can be reduced drastically, leading also to signficant reductions in economical costs when the lifetime of the car is taken into account. This technology has been developed independently in different forms by a variety of large and small companies. Some examples: The Tweel from Michelin, the VDO eCorner from Siemens, the Wheelmotor from PML flightlink, the Wheel from e-Traction and the colt prototype from Mitsubishi.

The technology has also been proven in a variety of prototypes. PML Flightlink has applied their technology to two mini’s which now have a quad electrical wheel system:

e-Traction has retrofitted two busses with a quad electrical wheel system:

The troubling question is why this technology, which can slash fuel usage in half, is not already applied in large quantities in the cars and busses of today. The main reason is that markets are not functioning as they should because the incentives for car companies and the oil industry to halt such progress is still bigger. Consider the companies that make gearboxes, which would no longer be needed with an electrical wheel system. Consider the decreasing dependence on crude oil, if such a technology would quickly be implemented worldwide. Such technologies mean a fundamental shift in industries, were some will win and others will lose big-time. If the incentives start to change financially because people don't want gas guzzling cars anymore, and the pressure grows hard enough to truly innovate, then innovation will come. Which company will be the first that starts to produce the electric wheel in ten thousand cars annually cannot be foretold, but that it will happen in the coming five years, is a certainty.

Rembrandt - this reads like a Michael Crichton novel. Can you please explain what autonomy is, how the mini can have zero emmisions if it contains a power generator and is that more than 640 brake horse power?!

It sounds like the power concept is an evolution of the Prius - but using electric wheels instead of a central electric power unit.

And where does this Mini come from? Made in Britain under guidance from BMW, Germany.

You super brains in the US are not even able to construct such a cart by yourself. Sometimes the parallels between the US and Iran are more than obvious. Both countries are too fanatic and are not able to produce the simplest items.

Jan from Switzerland.

Both countries are . . . not able to produce the simplest items.

I disagree.

Both countries excel at producing rhetoric and creating grave concerns among their neighbors. Those are both simple things.

America can also produce more complex things such as a global gulag, the DU poisoning of an entire region and the death of 100,000 civilians in the name of "democracy" and "freedom."

Ooops. Almost forgot. America also excels at the creation of kleptomaniac sociopathic tyrants. Saddam is a good example.

Actually a very elegant wheel powered electric car was developed in the USA in the 1960s. It was collapsible and weighed only 208 kg. They worked perfectly even in a challenging offroad environment but were never marketed to consumers.

A traction drive attached to each wheel had a motor harmonic drive gear unit, and a brake assembly. The harmonic drive reduced motor speed at an 80-to-1 rate for continuous operation at all speeds without gear shifting. The drive had an odometer pickup (measuring distance travelled) that sent data to the navigation system. Each motor developed 0.18 kilowatt (1/4-horsepower) and operated from a 36-volt input.

Technical data here:

My son has a DVD set called fire power which features an 8 wheel drive diesel hybrid with in wheel motors. A very impressive concept developed for the US military, the dating on the DVD suggest that it is current or fairly recent. This suggests that someone in the US is taking things seriously.

The above scurrilousness may well be true (or not), but it has nothing to do with production and use of energy.

I'm not the moderator of this group, but such comments do seem inappropriate, and should be discouraged

I thought swiss cheesers were neutral like there holy cheeses,[that is to say; they dont bite ] and seppo's, [as we affectionately refer to u.s.americans in oz] like the nationalist armies of Europe they helped us defeat in ww2 were always right [even when its blatantly obvious to the rest of us they dont have to win to be right].ANYHOW...Consider the BAKER ELECTRIC automobile of 1911 vintage .It looked very similar to granny's car in the sylvester tweetie pie cartoons re: that stereotypical seppo maroon; bugs bunny.It was a large heavy 5+seater of sound rubust pedigree and technology [relative to the era and if truth be known,right up till the 70's ]and returned remarkable mileage from its cheap bank of deep cycling lead/acid batteries under its floor boards .In fact it was so good that it embarrassed a shed load of prodigious auto heavyweight seppo's the likes of William Crappo Durant,the dodgey brothers,old henry . To make sure this innovative method of propulsion was embraced publicly,they relegated the technology to there [not the consumer's] benefit. The BAKER ELECTRIC CAR COMPANY was bought off and its innovative patents were licenced in the form of all those little shuttle carts we still see in the big factories/airports today.And amazingly the 1911 baker electric car [Ive driven one],100 odd years later still returns similar mileage stats to its progeny.Sure its not reverse polarity energy cycling or redox elecrolite powered or super conductive technology,but it worked and it had the potential to decentralise a fair whack of 'c'word.Just imagine where we would be if the seppo dollar had embaced BAKER instead of buying into watt ,otto,atkins miller and alike.NOT REAL SMART IN RETROSPECT UNCLE SAM.

No single individual, company or government ever decided that the internal combustion engine had to become the dominant technology in the auto industry. At a certain moment in time this technology just became dominant because of a number of different types of economies of scale in the auto industry and in related industries. This was just a historical accident; coincidence. Evolution plays a game of chance at all times. Therefore, in retrospect a lot of technological developments are suboptimal. In potential an electrical propulsion system is superior to the internal combustion engine. This was true 100 years ago, and it still is true right now. We're locked into the technology of the internal combustion engine. The problem we have to think about is how to get out of this lock-in.

Nothing truly new under the sun., link to Porsche's heavy mover.

Saw a picture and caption years ago where this design was tested for moving Austrian artilley in the alps. The tractor/cab unit incorporated the generator.

HERES ANOTHER SEPPO INIVATION THAT NEVER GOT OFF THE GROUND PLUS WATER POWERED ENGINES.In the 1960's I was keen on the magazine called'popular mechanics'[dont even know if it still exists].One very intriguing and innovating article of the time featured a picture of a housewife with one of those old school yet progressive 'reusable string bags' and in it was a miniature jet motor that weighed about 20kg. this little power plant could run a 60's yank tank for 140 miles on a pound of coal dust and in those days u could buy 2000pound [yankee short ton] for a buck [do the maths its magic].Now riddle me this.....If super heated steam passed over a catalyst[red hot carbon] produces hydrogen and o2 which instantly burns creating heat [power] and water vapour why havent we seen water powered engines anywhere?Anyone care to comment or make there mark?

'Autonomy' obviously means the range of the vehicle. It depends on whether you use batteries, or additionally an internal combustion engine to reload them.
As of carbon emissions: The car can be run on batteries only, but recharging them means using electricity that today mostly will not be produced carbon-free.

Autonomy is range, zero emmissions are possible when the car's fuel is derived from a zero emmissions source, such as methanol created from sustainable forestry or if it is a directly electric vehicle, electrictity generated by solar or wind power.

I am not a technician so I can't explain why more than 640 brake horse power is possible, if you want to know just call or send an email to PML Flightlink who states this on their website. I have been in contact with them, and see this information as reliable.

Rembrandt, if all their claims are true, then this little Mini is a truly amazing machine. Recently I've been thinking that PO is not going to have the drammatic effect on our lives that many who write here believe and incremental technology developements such as this reinforces those thoughts.

This vehicle more than doubles fuel performance, in want to buy packaging, if the claims made are true. The main obstacles seem to be Big Oil and Big Car manufacturers.

The other day, Chris was saying that the main focus should be on clean electricity generation and I'm beginning to lean in that direction - if we had loads of low C electricity - problem solved - for several decades at least.

So to my mind, two of the main issues are:

Safe nuclear and size of U reserves etc
Upgrading the quality of renewable electricty

Recently I've been thinking that PO is not going to have the drammatic effect on our lives that many who write here believe and incremental technology developements such as this reinforces those thoughts.

Euan, the main point that comes out of peak oil is that growth is unsustainable. If we can't transition to zero growth, we will get collapse. If we can transition to zero growth, we'll have a completely different society. If you want to believe in a magical world of continued growth, using alternative this, that and the other, that's fine but can you come up with a convincing argument for why that growth will not hit limits?

I don't want to dilute the EV discussion and maybe we can take this over to Drumbeat, but if growth is your worry, it is not well founded. By 2025 most g-20 nations will see flat GDP because of aging population. Working age segment of societies will be decreasing. This is not a japan problem. Europe is on the heels. By 2040, much of the world will have a reverse triangle demographic. Lotsa Old fogies at the top. Few kids at the bottom.

This includes China. Believe it or not their one kid program is twenty years old and there are huge ramifications. By 2035 china will have more over 65-yr olds as a % of society than the usa.

The middle east is one of the few areas of the globe that will maintain a conventional demographic mix after 2050.

Have a look at India

Freddy - if you like movies, I'd thoroughly recommend "Children of Men".

This isn't a drumbeat. Invoking a SciFi movie to make a point is very irresponsible.

Hothgor - if you are not being satirical then you need to get a life. Star Wars and Star Trek are science fiction. Children of Men, Brazil and Blade Runner are futuristic. Life of Brian is a historical documentary. And Freddy, stuck up there in the Yukon, needs advice from time to time.

Anyone who hasn't seen the excellent futuristic drama Children of Men should try to do so.

If it is just half as good as Blade Runner I'm sold, going to watch it.

I found the first half great, interesting story, imaginative glimpse of a dysfunctional near future. Set in the UK too which makes a nice change. I found the ending weak though and my female company wasn't so impressed, a bit too grim!


Don't worry, the american are doing their best to reduce the demographic mix in the middle east.

Hmmm... but at the moment we waste vast amounts of energy. This technology appears to offer 100% energy savings in one of our most energy consumptive activities.

I used to agree with what you just said about economic growth - but I'm changing my mind.

The main problems with growth may be more realted to demographics (see Freddy), debt and climate change

Most of the long term Demand Outlooks are based on GDP growth, not projected Supply flows. Unfortunately, most of them end in 2030. While we assume that post 2030 "apparent" Demand will continue to grow, my initial sentiment of global demographics tells me that we may reaching a Peak of working age (20-65) persons at around 2025.

Thus while we have fears at the moment that the post peak decline may be detrimental, the severence of that may be overstated when one considers that there will be several g-20 nations with negative GDP and absolute relevant populations will be coming down. There is no doubt in my mind that we will see global pop'n Peak around 2045. The scary part is that some countries will see their demographic mix move from 4 workers supporing one elder to one or two workers supporting one elder. Real financial burdens ahead.

There is no doubt in my mind that we will see global pop'n Peak around 2045.

No doubt? I've been keeping an eye on the CIA World Fact Book estimate of world population growth. That, combined with a 2000 estimate by the UN, it looks as though growth has remained fairly stable at 1.14%. So it hasn't come down for about 6 years, at least. What makes you think it will come down to zero(other than through collapse)?

On the question of economic growth. Whatever stops economic growth, whether it is peak oil or some other factors, it will have a profound effect on many. If that decline continues (and without increasing energy, how can it?) the effects will be multiplied.

And the growth in India and China will keep the demand curve going up for quite some time yet.

If you want to believe in a magical world of continued growth, using alternative this, that and the other, that's fine but can you come up with a convincing argument for why that growth will not hit limits?

Of course it will hit limits, any extrapolation of an exponential can show you that. The question is how and when.

Its far more plausible to me that we will expand into much of the solar system before we really start to feel limits.

Its far more plausible to me that we will expand into much of the solar system before we really start to feel limits.

What? Do you not feel that we are quite close to limits now? Even if those limits don't start to be felt for a few decades, do you really expect us to have started serious expansion into the solar system before then? What have we done in the last 37 years, since first stepping on the Moon?

It's certainly not far more plausible (unless you can offer some well argued reasons), but we are all entitled to our opinions.

Forgive the ramble and not always quite relavent response, I have been researching renewables/sustainability over the last few weeks and as near as I can judge the only bar to mass take up of renewables for distributed generation is economics, and this holds for mobile equipment as well. I am principally interested in power generation, and in the UK, at least, it is impossible to make an economic case for domestic installations whether they are PV, Ground Source Heat Pump, Fuel Cell, CHP etc. There is just about a business case for some commercial Fuel Cell installations but there is a lot of legislation in the way of some allied technology.
As for cars there appears to be no technology bar to the production of fuel cell based systems in the now (non hydrogen but still much more efficient than ICE), the barriers are again purely economic. (This is regardless of the chosen final drive system) This is where the lobby groups come in. Do you remember the introduction of catalytic converters?. These were introduced in the US because the car giants would not invest, had not invested, in modern (clean) engine technology and catalysts were a far cheaper option. That they result in higher fuel consumption and therefore higher CO2 emissions has never been raised as an issue. All this of course stemmed from the need to reduce atmospheric pollution. In Europe and Japan, there were some excellent developments in clean and lean engine technologies that got brushed under the carpet when Europe decided to follow the US. What they should have done was set emission limits and made how you achieved them optional. The same lobby will likely prevail when it comes to commercialisation of fuel cell vehicles.(we do not have to start with renewables, better use of what we have got would be a good beginning) Look under almost any US car and you will find, steel chassis, leaf springs and live rear axles, big heavy and cheap. Moving the US automotive industry into the 20th century let alone the 21st is a major hurdle and unfortunately this will probably determine the rate of change as this is one powerful world wide political lobby.


Please allow me to take the liberty to answer for Rembrandt.
'Autonomy' is the range the vehicle has without stopping for fueling or servicing.

With the Mini the first 400 km's (approx, since it depends of driving conditions ofcourse) are all electric. After that a small generator kicks in (which is now a gasoline version, but can be any fuel and any type of generator (including fuel cell [ideally methanol, since this can be produced efficiently and sustainably]).

'Zero emissions' apply for the first 400 km (on a charge of RES). For the remainder: when using short-cycle carbon fuels, or other sources (hydrogen, but that has 25% well to wheel efficiency, when used in a fuel cell)

The power concept doesn't stem from the Prius. This car is a based on a traditional concept of ICE under the bonnet, assisted with an electric motor, regenerative braking and a relatively small battery. The plug in version comes closer to the all electric vehicle, since it is able to go -almost- all electric all of the daily commute km's (and charge overnight with cheap grid electricity). When hooked to the grid during daytime, these vehicles can be used for balancing of the grid (and earn the owner some cash).

The Mini is of a different ilk.

I'm interested to know how these wheels will fare in the harsh winter conditions of the US North East and Canada. Have they been tested in these environments?

Currently they have not been tested in such environments, I will have to ask some technicians I know whether that would be a problem or not.

Let's put our efforts in finding out asap & start producing these cars by the millions. Which is rather easy, when one takes a closer look; don't let main stream spokesmen mystify this issue.

So China, India, Brazil, Russia and the rest are seriously tempted to take the all electric route as the standard for their booming car industries, rather than the ICE. For them it's relatively easy to do so, with relatively little vested interests with ICE.

If we can charge these cars with electricity from Concentrating Solar Power (which is a political issue and not a technical one) and [as soon as the DMFC becomes available] methanol from sustainable forestry, we're heading for a clean horizon.

I know that recently serious tests have been done with the Tesla Roadster at Arvidsjaur in the north of Sweden, located 110 kilometres from the Arctic Circle. The tests were very succesful. So, don't be worried, harsh winter conditions won't be a specific problem for electric vehicles.

That's what I'm talking about. The U.S. automotive and oil corporations will fight this technology all the way. People won't easily go for it either, because they love to pull their boats long distances with the AC running. There is a growing segment of the population that is clamoring for this type of vehicle though. Too bad the U.S. corporations won't be a part of the new economy. Oh well.

hi Petropest

I am clamouring!

I am not American but would not feel much sadness if the encumbent large American motor companies bit the dust as they just might. They are just holding us back. It's all the workers I worry about though e.g. in Michigan.

I have never bought a new car, the newest was 8 years old. Only a new generation in development would tempt me.

Carbon - UK

Nothing is permanent not even corporations. Eventually GM and even Dupont will die. Concern over the fate of autoworkers has never existed in Detroit boardrooms and certainly not on Wall Street. In spite of a tripling of US population over the last 50 years the number of auto workers is is only 1/4 of what it was then. Unless trade policies change significantly the US auto industry will go the way of all other consumer good manufacturing. They will build small numbers of very expensive products which only the top 1% can afford. Everybody else will buy small cars from China, India, and Eastern Europe. Hopefully these will be series hybrids.
Also the efficiency gain from eliminating reduction gears is vastly overstated. The slower a motor turns means its amperage for a given power output must be higher. Heat losses are proportional to the square of the amperage. IN-wheel motors may lower production costs but in no way will they be more efficient. It's simple physics.

Your simple physics does not comply with the test results in the busses with the in-wheel system which has been reviewed by the dutch association for applied scientific research (TNO, This is the same institute which has to conduct tests on various scientific fields including approval of medicine tests.

If you want to disprove this research which has been going of for decades, then be my guest, the efficiency details have been explained here:

I checked the references you highlighted and found nothing that contradicts my statements. As for the Dutch site I couldn't find any mention of in-wheel motors at all let alone any support for e-traction's outrageous claims. Their so called efficiency improvements could solely be the result of using a lighter vehicle. Misrepresentations of efficiency are common in the auto industry in that they claim a vehicle is more efficient simply because it has a smaller engine in a smaller car. True efficiency is measured in horsepower-hours per pound of fuel/kwh of electricity used. Overall vehicle efficiency is measured in btus per gross ton-mile.

The slower a motor turns means its amperage for a given power output must be higher.

Why would the power output have to be constant? In vehicle use, doesn't it make more sense to have a constant acceleration at low speeds, i.e. a constant torque? And constant torque means constant current for most motor types.

I agree that constant torque motor efficiency will drop off at low speeds as useful output goes to zero but power wasted goes to a constant (untill a full stop, at which point engage a mechanical brake and turn off the motor). However, the inefficient high torque/low speed combination occurs infrequently - even "stop and go" traffic is most of the time either coasting or stopped.


James Kunstler's head just exploded. The happy-motoring utopia lives on!

Petropest is correct, this won't see significant play in the US for many, many years and by then, it will be too late. The free market-US government complex does not provide the correct infrastructure for an idea of this type to flourish. The only hope here is that some super-rich individual makes it his or her personal priority to make these vehicle types common on US roadways.

Again, it seems, Europeans will make use of this technology far more appropriately than their fat American counterparts.

Hi TheDave

I think that Kunstler still has a point, even though EVs are much more efficient than ICE cars, there'll still be a point where suburbia and single occupancy commuting takes too much energy.

I think Mitsubishi has been investing in in-wheel motors. I also know the EV enthusiasts quite well, if an in-wheel motor of any practicality arrives, they'll be retrofitting it to ICE cars and proving the case.

It will happen, just might not be everywhere at once at first.

Carbon - UK

Single-occupancy personal transportation has been with humans since the dawn of civilization. It isn't going away.

It used to be called a "horse", or maybe "camel".

They can fight he tech as much as they wish but will fail. Mostly this is simple stuff. Not ready for DIY yet, but close.

Just gotta chime in here - however scurrilous the remarks about the US, they are true.

I work in high tech, and I see it happening, high tech is bypassing the US. High tech stuff in general is now being designed and made outside the US. Soon it won't even be sold in the US.

I don't know if I'll be in high tech in 10 years or even 5.

I'm trying to work up some street musician chops. Banjo, anyone? Ppl outside the US are fascinated with the banjo.

Hello Rembrandt

I am absolutely delighted that this technology is finally emerging. While others, Alan From-Big-Easy comes to mind, correctly point out that we need to have (electrified) inter and intra urban public transport systems, the reality is that we have a transition period which we need to cope with before suburbia is really ready for this.

I bought a 2nd hand electric car more than a year ago. It seems to be that this is the most energy efficient way of getting luggage and people short distances from A to B in the absence of good public transport.

My EV is old and clunky, it has a gearbox, driveshafts, a differential and a flywheel. None of these are really necessary and they rob me of efficiency, probably around 25% when the weight of all these components is taken into account in addition to their mechanical inefficiency.

Seems to me that EV could be improves a whole lot by simplifying them. If you have 2 or 4 motive power wheel units then really the rest of the car becomes much more like an empty shell which can be designed around the batteries and the passengers. You can even have a motive platform with the suspension and wheel mounts which is so simple that the body can simply be bolted on top and is maybe changeable.

vehicles could be lighter, more modular and updateable,
e.g. body dented - change it, leave the chassis because it works etc. New wheel motors available, just bolt them on and connect the wires. New battery - etc.

A real antidote to the present ossification of the motor car.

Carbon - UK

I can readily appreciate the benefits of an in-wheel electric motor, which appear to include higher efficiency, elimination of a transmission and drive axles, more efficient use of space, etc.

However, I think that one thing that must be considered is the fact that an automobile wheel with even a very efficient electric motor has to be considerably heavier than a conventional wheel of the same diameter and rim width. This is hardly trivial because the greater the 'unsprung weight' of suspension components (i.e. the weight of the wheels, struts, and other things that are not supported by the car's springs), the greater the deleterious effect on vehicle handling. This is why race cars wheels are made as light as possible for a specified strength and why the better cars have an independent rear suspension rather than the heavier solid rear axle.

The other thing is that with the motor in the wheel, if you damage the wheel, such as when hitting a deep pothole at too high a speed, you are liable to also damage a very expensive motor.

I'm not saying these things can't be worked around, but I do think they represent potential problem areas.

I myself would prefer to sacrifice a tiny bit of efficiency and space and have the electric motor(s) more safely located inside the body of the car. In both cases you can eliminate the conventional transmission, but the inboard version would still need to have drive axles, which I don't see as a great big drawback. Furthermore, an inboard electric motor would not be as exposed to the elements.

All real-world designs entail various trade-offs and compromises between competing factors.

Hi Joule,

I think Driveshafts count (at least partially) as unsprung weight. I don't think the effect on handling will be as bad as you think, manufacturers have managed against the odds to get some pretty nasty heavy vehicles to handle well. My EV handles really well as all the weight is low down in the lead acid batteries. Weight distribution can be improved from it's present state.

Also, how often have you damaged a brake drum or disc in a pothole? I think that these are non-problems. I think the problems are with the fact that manufacturers are not ready to change paradigm because it will necessarily be quite expensive. Better sooner than later I say. Toyota has shown that pretty well with the Prius.

Carbon - UK

I'm not saying these are insurrmountable problems, but rather that they represent certain disadvantages that need to be worked around by proper design.

At least here in the States, mashing a wheel rim by hitting a pothole is hardly a rare occurence (particularly with the increased use of low-profile performance tires), though damaging a brake drums or disc is far less common. Then of course you still have greater vulnerability of the motor should the car get into an accident and completely wipe out the wheel and its supports.

I'd still feel more comfortable with having the motor inboard, but is just my personal hang-up.

At any rate, I fully agree that development work on electric cars should be moved along at top speed. We don't have a lot of time to waste.

Hi Joule,

I think you can have the motors inboard if you really want to. then you can get one motor per wheel and connect it via driveshafts. It just isn't so efficient, more bearings, weight and CV joints.
My prejudice btw is modern low profile tyres. Too wide for rolling efficiency too hard for comfort, not progresive in skid situations. Not good ride. Fashion, that's what very large wheels and low profiles are!

I guess we all have prejudices!

Carbon - UK.

joule, I agree with what you say, and also want to point out that so much weight in the wheel adds considerably to gyroscopic inertia. If these motors are mounted in the front wheels, the car will handle like a pig. The front tires will also have a short life from their tread being scrubbed off. I think when the tire wear problem and the extra suspension/spring/shock absorber weight needed to handle the huge unsprung weight problem are considered, the advantage of outboard drive motors vs. inboard (with CV-joint axles) is nil.

My understanding of the in-wheel electric motor is that the motor itself does not turn with the wheel but is mounted in the wheel in the same manner that the brake calipers, which do not turn with the wheel, are mounted. Therefore, while contributing to the unsprung weight, they would not add to the gyroscopic inertia. Upon further thought (duh!) the electric motor obviously would have to be statically mounted in order to drive the wheel.

I suspect that such a car would have light enough components that the unsprung-weight issue would be a non-issue.

The rotor of the motor rotates about the axis of the axle and therefore adds to the rotational inertia of the wheel. On the steering wheels this rotating mass has to be made to rotate about the steering (king pin) axis. This creates a torque at right angles by gyroscopic action which will have some effect on the steering although perhaps small.

Both rotor and stator add to the unsprung mass.

There is no reason to why the driven wheels need to be the same as the steering wheels. The majority of vehicles are two wheel drive, there is no reason why these need to be 4WD. If I were designing the prototype, I would have the front wheels posess only a friction brake. The rear wheels would also have a friction brake and would not have the motors in the wheels. The Motor would be connected directly to the differential, that way the wheels can turn at whatever ratio they wish and the computer doesn't get confused and do something silly if you lose traction on one of the wheels. This would reduce the weight and gyroscopic effects, protect the motor, and require fewer complex control systems. The disadvantage is that there are only two driven wheels and the front wheels are not equipped with magnetic brakes.

I think ABS would work much better with an electric motor than with a mechanical friction brake. The mechanical version has limitations on speed that the electric motor lacks. With proper sensors, the electric motor could probably obtain an almost ideal 'impending slip' braking force. I would expect this to reduce stopping distances considerably.

As for the criticism of the low profile tires, I hear you, but the advantage I can think of is cornering ability. On a normal tire, when the vehicle is turning sharply, the tire will bend so that the tread is more to the inside of the curve than the rim. Theoretically, this would be reduced in a low profile tire. I'm not convinced that this makes up for the other deficiencies of the low profile tire, but for racing, it seems to be a good idea. On the other hand, the tires that Formula 1 uses are decidedly not low profile.

If I were designing the prototype, I would have the front wheels possess only a friction brake.

Under heavy braking the majority (roughly 70 - 80%) of your braking force is done by the front wheels. As you slow down the weight shifts forward and off the rears, so having the regenerative braking only on the back wheels would be a bad idea.

On the other hand, the tires that Formula 1 uses are decidedly not low profile.

It's a rule thing. They would use low profile tires if they could, but they're not allowed to. They're running tires with grooves now to slow them down as well as a few other rules concocted to try to get them to go slower. F1 used to be the showcase of the best of the racing technology, but the rule makers have stepped muddled things attempting to "level the field."

I suspect that such a car would have light enough components that the unsprung-weight issue would be a non-issue.

Just the opposite: An lightweight vehicle with motors in the wheels will have a very high unsprung:sprung weight ratio. That's a problem. As I understand it, making the main body of the car (sprung weight) more massive actually helps in this case. But it hurts efficiency.

If we could come up with an efficient polymer conductor, that would help on many fronts. Copper is super-expensive these days, mining it is terribly destructive, and it's heavy as hell. All problems that a good conductive polymer could avoid. Where's my material science miracle when I need it? :)

My EV handles really well as all the weight is low down in the lead acid batteries. Weight distribution can be improved from it's present state.

You're missing the point. The problem is not high total weight, it high unsprung weight. Your EV batteries are inboard of the suspension, and therefor counts as sprung weight.

Actually, the real issue, as I understand it, is the ratio between sprung and unsprung weight. So as you make the car lighter, for better efficiency, and move the motors (full of heavy copper) to the wheels, you've just hurt your sprung/unsprung ratio twice over.

This is not a problem that is readily dismissed.

Its not meant for race cars. "Unsprung weight" is a term i have only encountered in Hot-Rod magazines, and probably is of little importance to an urban commuter car. Wheel inertia is an issue in stop-and-go driving, but the regenerative braking takes care of that.

The potential I see in wheel-motors is that they leave more room inside the car for a "black box" area. The chassis maker can manufacture a common reference design, without power source, and ship it to various power-plant integrators who add their own particular product before selling it. Fuel cells, ICE gensets, various batteries, supercapacitors, Mr Fusion, whatever.

This potential for a "boutique" car industry, somewhat like the Harley-based chopper, is the greatest chance to apply American ingenuity to solving the problem, and of course scares the shit out of Detroit.

Yes It'll be a cold day in hell before those big manufacturers support modular and non-proprietary vehicles. They have too much to lose.

Ah yes, good ole Mr. Fusion.

Power your flying, time-traveling vehicle with banana peels, beer, and beer cans.

My first thought was also about the unsprung weight aspect, It has been my understanding that it is something the automanufacturers take very seriously. Driving vehicles on-road with no suspension apart from their pneumatic tires, like most tractors, gets really annoying (and really dangerous, not that I really care myself) really quickly as the speed increases up to about 20-25 kph. (I like extrapolating to the extremes to try to gain an understanding of physics.)

In Norway a tractor needs brakes on all wheels to go faster than 30 kph, and in addition frontwheel suspension to be allowed to go up to 40kph. Adding suspension effectively moves a huge mass from the unsprung to the sprung category. This suggests, if the road authorities know anything about road safety, that it is important to take the unsprung weight into consideration.

Adding enough batteries as ballast to the car would serve to get the ratio of sprung/unsprung weight back into proportion, and would give increased range as a side benefit. On the other hand, driving slower would remove the need for an EV that handles like a sports car.

Without ever having driven an electric car, let alone one with in wheel motors, it's hard to imagine what it would feel like. One thing is certain, if Mitsubishi is looking into it it can't be a total dead end, japanese manufacturers aren't afraid of trying new engines. (Wankler, hybrid, and now the in-wheel electric motor).

The effect of a larger rotating mass would be interesting to know more about aswell.

These vehicles are proto-types not test vehicles. Nobody knows what problems with the technlogy will emerge, and until they can be proven to be stable and reliable and versatile, they'll remain a novelty. These kinds of pie-in-the-sky posts belong on a science fiction board.

A second point to be made is that blaming the current stake-holders [ie., the oil companies and the auto companies] for wanting to hold their positions of preeminence is ridiculous. It's like blaming a perennial sports champion for being more successful. There are major financial risks in adopting proto-type technology, so it's usually left to struggling companies like Mitsubishi to take the chances. C'est la vie.

The wonders of Technical Writing and Salesmanship make it difficult to impossible to decipher the copy in Rembrandt's links. But it's just motors and switches. A few simple sensors. Obvious routes to technical progress have languished because fuel was cheap and lead-acid batteries heavy. Now the gearheads are playing catchup.

A better example is ow detroit has allowed japan the huge lead in hybrid tech, to the point that ford complained that japan auto companies were 'rationing' hybrid components to ford... well, it is pretty unfair.

The two busses that I have mentioned have been driving around for more then 2 years now. They are still in perfect shape, and within a few years more then 100 will drive around in the Netherlands. Your instigations are not based on facts.

Many of the current stake holders have little to gain from adopting this technology, so it is logical that they do not do so. Mitsubishi has a vision, others do not.

I really don't want to instigate, It's just that reading promotional copy one never knows if it's a non-working experiment, a working prototype, something ready for production if capital can be found, or what. A product with years of problems waiting for unknown fixes can be written up same as your buses that are ready to go.
100 buses on order is impressive. Some of the ideas are really interesting. I love the Tweel. But when knowledge gets filtered thru copywriters and tech writers, a lot of caution is required.

The main reason is that markets are not functioning as they should because the incentives for car companies and the oil industry to halt such progress is still bigger.

Rembrandt this is a bit of a stretch. You really believe that this concept has not caught on because of a market failure and because car and oil companies have squelched it? How exactly would they go about doing this?

Isn't it more likely that for reasons of cost and other performance and durability concerns that the technology is still in development? After all, normal wheels stand up fairly well to extreme cold, mud, deep standing water, etc. Normal wheels are fairly easy to change after a flat tire. Normal wheels are relatively inexpensive. A lot of work has go into demonstrating that this technology will function as well as current technology before it will be widely adopted.

Hi Ener Ji,

You might be being a little bit defeatist here. The in-wheel motors are not just the wheels but the engine as well. Generally speaking, electric motors require much less attention than internal combustion engines and stand up well to most punishment, including cold and damp.
I would rather have 4 electric in-wheel motors than one internal combustion engine, which probably only has a life of 150 - 200 000 miles. Electric motors used in vehicles generally don't wear out in the car's lifetime. Brushes may need to be replaced.
I have an electric vehicle and the motor is one of the most robust parts. It's the batteries that are the weakest part of an electric / hybrid vehicle.

You'd have 2 or 4 motors too, if one went down you'd still be able to get home. That's got to be worth something.

What I always say is: If all cars were now electric, just think how expensive and impractical an internal combustion Otto-cycle engine would seem by comparison, it's so much harder to achieve technically! There would be safety implications too, with as poisonous exhaust and flammable fuels.

Carbon - UK

My point is simply that this is relatively new technology, at least applied in this way, and it needs time to develop and prove itself. Implying that the only reason this technology is not commonplace is because of a vast conspiracy to squelch it and / or a market failure is a strong statement to make and it needs to be backed up with some evidence, of which Rembrandt has provided none.

Didn't GM begin an expensive program to develop the hydrogen fuel-cell car? I'm sure they have other R&D projects going on. IMO if they hit on a cost-effective prototype of an electric wheel car they will go that way big-time, especially if they see it as a viable way to get ahead of their main competitors.

Yes they did, and who is to gain? No one, because the hydrogen economy will never come off the ground in cars. Not because the car cannot be developed, but because the infrastructure is too costly and too inefficient. No the goal is here to provide a magic bullet to civilians and politicians that will never work.

If they would really think that the hydrogen economy would work, they would start developing hydrogen boats, not cars.

You miss the element of human psychology with respect to companies, try to approach the problem not from only a rational perspective.

I cannot provide direct evidence of this, but it is all too logical. A) There are numerous examples throughout history that have been killed by companies and/or governments. The public transport system in the U.S., the efficient light weight car, propulsion by biomatter/biofuels (example: Brazil), Solar Thermal power.

The reason is a set of incentives that do not promote to change the world vision of such companies, to explore and innovate. Instead they try to mitigate risks, and continue the old ways for as long as it is possible.

This is not a blame game, it is a way in which companies behave. The larger the company, the more difficult it is to change. In Japan this is different because the incentives are different due to limited resources.

I'm sorry but this is not at all logical. Companies will invest in areas which they think will bring them the highest rate of return. If an incumbent is too slow moving and doesn't move quickly enough then a competitor or upstart will make the investment and enter the market. The only reason this technology is not currently widespread is because it is not profitable for it to be so.

That's circular reasoning! Take that argument seriously and no idea will ever appear worthwhile to implement.

Companies are not monolithic entities, by the way. The R&D department probably knows damn well what avenues they could and would like to research. They also know that they cannot do that, because a marketing fatcat will step up and say: "No no no, we can't do that! The Consumer wants a vehicle that says 'BRRROOOM'!".

Companies will invest in areas that will give them the highest risk-return rate. Investing in existing technologies, of which they have far more knowledge than new technologies, is less risky and gives a higher return in the short run. Investment in new technologies goes hand in hand with a lot of uncertainty, what means that it is also far more risky. Company behaviour is just dictated by routines. These routines evolve in a very gradual way. That is why radical innovation most of the times comes from new, small companies which are prepared to take high risks in the hope of getting high returns in the future. Existing firms usually concentrate on the further development of existing technologies in which they have created a competitive advantage.
Another thing new technologies have to compete against is the economies of scale that are associated with the production and use of existing dominant technologies. Our world economy is locked into certain technologies, which are often also very interdependent. Unfortunetely it's very hard to escape from such a lock-in. But, in my opinion, there's absolutely no doubt whatsoever that in potential the EV is much more efficient (from the perspective of energy-use, performance, the environment and production costs if economies of scale are realised) than cars with an internal combustion engine. They only problem is that we have to get out of the lock-in. You can't exactly tell beforehand how to achieve this. This is an evolutionary process that will probably take a few decades.

Again, we have the immense, overwhelming drive to maintain the automobile. You'd think it were an endangered species, a cute cuddly ragamuffin of a quadraped complete with huge brown eyes and a heartwarming purr.

Save the automobile!!!

Has anyone here read the Updated Limits to Growth?

According to them, even if we should create perfect fusion, the population of the planet will collapse in one hundred years or less. Why? Because we are running out of all the other MORE necessary elements of life: land, water, air, and ocean. And we are running out of metals and minerals. Population MUST be reduced else we will still find a catastrophe at the end of the road, a road choked with useless chunks of metal, formerly known as automobiles.

Preserving the tech is EXACTLY the wrong way to proceed. Rather than throw away energy on a paradigm doomed to failure, we should use that relatively cheap energy to step back from our technological deadend and strive for natural integration. We need to build walkable communities that are self-sufficient. We need to lower population. We need to develop strategies that deal with global warming, and I do not mean carbon trading. I mean dealing with the profound changes in climate that will wreak havoc upon our food production and which will inundate our coastal regions. This cheap energy needs to spent on IMPORTANT stuff, not the latest, coolest, penis extension, better known as technology.

We need to turn all of our research capabilities toward this end. Drop any research that has anything to do with preserving the deadend life style we now pursue. NO more military research. NO more automobile research. NO more consumer research. NO more energy wasted on any infrastructure related to the automobile.

Anyone who games out the the technocentric vision of the world should be able to easily see the inherent problems of our current paradigm. Please take the time follow the process to its logical conclusion.

Hi Cherenkov

I am inclined to agree with you, but it's a case of baby steps. I see the EV as car - lite, potential for lots less CO2 and FF usage while we decide to get our butts into action in the way you describe. Don't forget how many people there are who will not be convinced by your (our) arguments and will not let go of their penis extension without being given some sort of path away from it.

I am an avid EV proponent and EV owner, I still believe that in the end I should let it go altogether and embrace powerdown, just no quite yet! It's a stepping stone in the right direction while we don't have the transport systems in place.

It's all a bitter pill to swallow for Mr and Mrs Normal, who have been investing in 'normality' you gotta give them some face-saving options!

Carbon - UK

but it's a case of baby steps.

Yes sir!

First you build this electric quadruped with electric drive in the wheels. The next evolutionary step is to loose the electric drive and two of the wheels, add a cowhide saddle and a chain drive et voila - un velo!!

That will surely get everyone's butts into action.

Or somewhere in between..

I have been looking up electric 'Mopeds' and mopeds in general, and wondered how they kept the name, but managed to shear off the pedals?

I was thinking about a lightweight EV for town-errands, etc. Just enough more than a bike that you could have the thing hold your stuff from store one while parked at another one, that sort of thing, or could take your kid or spouse to School/Work.. (And believe me, we are working towards having a 'walkable/bikable' community, but there are more than a few babysteps yet to happen, with us and with the town around us..) And I pictured the sort of Local EV Golf-cart sort of rig, and wondered about the heating question, since we're in Maine, and the cars do get frosty.. so I thought what about a 'CarPed'.. where you can be doing some real work to support the batteries, and you are also able to warm yourselves up as you make tracks, just as much as you wanted to? This way, you've also got the option to 'push' the thing (AND steer), if the batts die or the controller blows on you..

We've got year-round bikers here in Portland, incl my Brother, so my Hybrid Golfcart PED-EV seems reasonable, if the F450's don't smush it!

Air conditioning I didn't solve, sorry to say.

BTW, looking up HUB Motors, which are common for Bike Assist EV's, some scooters and Electric Wheelchair substitutes. Wiki said in a very short entry that motors are more efficient at higher RPMS, while adding geardowns cost you in xfer losses again. FWIW. They seem to be a growing niche, and I can believe they must have some great advantages simply in Mechanical Simplicity (cost!), Weight, and Controllability, Durability.

Guess we'll see..

Population MUST be reduced else we will still find a catastrophe at the end of the road, a road choked with useless chunks of metal, formerly known as automobiles.

Don't forget that simplistically population must be multiplied by "consumption per capita" to work out the actual impact. This is captured by ecological footprinting which illustrates the tremendous range:

Afghanistan (0.31 global acres/person)
Bangladesh (1.28)
Pakistan (1.49)
India (1.86)

United Kingdom (13.82)
New Zealand (14.67)
Canada (18.80)
United States of America (23.68)


The range of ecological footprints suggests that raw the population number isn't even the most important, let alone the only factor to consider.

Hi Chris

If I remember correctly, you spoke in some detail about UK electricity grid issues in Bedzed in London at PeakSpeak2. I was there. What do you think of the clains that the batteries in EVs could help spread temporal load in the grid and allow sources of electricity with high intermittency like wind power to have greater unbacked percentage of power production?

wouldn't people have to leave their EVs plugged in a lot? There would have to be a protocol for borrowing energy from the cars rather than from the grid.

Carbon - UK

Glad to hear you were at the PowerSwitch conference, did we talk to one another?

I think plug in hybrids (or just pure plug ins) could have very real potential to balance the variability of renewable supply. For example, an a car might be used for 2 hrs a day and be able to charge fully in 2 hours. That leaves 20 hours where it could be doing something else. This means it can choose to charge when energy is available and even discharge energy when there was a shortage on the grid. Some fancy software would be used to choose which cars were charging and discharging aiming to maximise the average usefulness of the fleet at any one time...

Another nice point is that the grid storage would be subsidised by motorist.

There was a speech at the ASPO-USA conference on this - it's a subject that could do with a whole article. But it is perhaps a little bit of techno-fantasy solution.

Hello Carbon,
As a fellow attendee at PeakSpeak2 along with Chris, I have been thinking about this. There are different uses to such storage. To allow a generator to compete in the bidding for supplying the grid under the present bidding system for even the shortest term contract, the generator must be able to guarantee to supply the power for 1 hour starting 1 hour from the closing of bidding. Currently wind power is not able to provide even this guarantee as even a 1m/s unforeseen change in wind speed can change the output by 15% up and down and wind prediction errors of ±1.5m/s over a 2 hour span are the best that can be obtained at present. Wind energy is thus treated as negative load and its variation compensated for by balancing power.

The term balancing power is used by the electricity supply industry strictly to refer to the power used to make up the difference, on a second by second basis between the contracted supply and the actual demand. This requires that there be generators able to have their output turned up and down rapidly by remote control by the grid controller. Because the grid controllers are good at predicting load the balancing power actually used averages less than 1% of the contracted power but substantially more must be kept in reserve to deal with the peaks of unexpected loads or dropouts in supply due to equipment failure. Generators capable of providing balancing power are paid a high price to stand by ready to supply this power and on occasions actually do so.

It is the strain on this tiny reserve of balancing power that at present limits the amount of wind power the system can accommodate. At the present level of wind power there is almost no requirement for extra balancing power as the variability gets lost in the noise of the variability of the load. Increasing the percentage of wind power up to 10% will only add a few percent to the balancing power required but after this things become more difficult. In Germany at present wind supplies 10% of electricity and is placing some strain on the balancing system although it has not yet caused a fault. To take wind energy up to 20% of UK supply will require some extra control. This could be positive power which could be in the form of electric vehicles on charge supplying balancing power or negative in the form of an extension of remotely shedable load, possibly down to individual consumers. For vehicle power, this could be treated as balancing power as at present or the combination of a wind farm and a number of vehicle owners could combine to form a generator capable of supplying predictable power over a few hours and thus able to bid for supply contracts.

To supply 20 % of load wind power would need to supply a mean of about 8GW which will have peaks of about 24GW. A 15% short term uncertainty in this will require up to about 3.6GW of balancing power. To supply all of this would require a million electric vehicles capable of supplying 3.6kW. This seems just about doable and a substantial contribution to balancing power well doable. Remember this is only the power that must be available should the worst uncertainty come about. In practice this will rarely come about and owners of electric vehicles will be paid just to stand by ready to supply power only rarely having to do. It may require that car parks at places of work be able to connect vehicles up to the network as well as home charging points.

To go much further in the proportion of wind power brings us into the territory where the peak of available wind generation exceeds for appreciable times the demand during its low points. Without large scale storage this available generation must be shed. As the proportion of wind power rises ever more power must be shed and progressively lower percentage of the newly installed capacity used. To store the excess power and return it at peak seems beyond the ability of a fleet of electric vehicles especially as the peak in UK demand is at about 17:50 when the highest percentage of vehicles will be on the road.

Hi Chris, Hi Nick

PeakSpeak 2
I didn't really speak to either of you other than asking questions. I mentioned electric cars and the Precautionary principle with respect to PO and I gave an example - the precautionary principle of the french philosopher who said it was safer to believe in God [PO,CC] and pay the investment of going to church [the sacrifice req'd to reduce FF usage] in order to avoid Damnation [The pain of resource depletion and CC]. Nick - I think you didn't lke this analogy and said so.
I came with Ervin who spoke about the importance of social networks and we were represeting a group of PO concerned people in Coventry, Midlands UK

I am of the opinion that the best way to deal with intermittency of power generation is to price it according to demand, minute by minute and make the grid more resistent to changes in voltage so that the voltage can be lowered a little to mitigate large demand.

There is tha mindset that all users need constant, constantly priced electricity and that nothing less will do. In reality I think most people would manage with near-constant electricity at varying prices. This would bring power cut resiliance and load balancing more into the sphere of the customer and they would be able to save money by avoiding peaks. Somewhat like the peak-load road pricing scheme wihch we see in planning in the UK.

There are some stationary household appliances which people have been experimenting with such as ac / fridges which can be made to draw power when the grid is showing excess and not (up to a point) when it is under stress. this represents a kind of distributed power storage.

I think if the grid here in the UK beings to show strain, some of these ideas will emerge natuarally.

What do you think?

Carbon - UK

Hello Carbon,
Yes that was me, I pointed out that Pascal's wager is also know by some in the logic business as Pascal's fallacy. I hope it didn't sound too rude and I certainly accept the application of the precautionary principle to peak oil and climate change. It was just the atheist in me kicking against invoking God in a very human made cock-up.

A large expansion in remotely shedable load is certainly one of the things we have to do but it is not up to overcoming intermittency at very high penetration of wind power. Have a look at the graph I posed in response to a question by my daughter (who was also at PeakSpeak 2) to the post on fusion. We are not talking about occasional cuts of about 10%. We will have to deal, possibly several times a week, with 90%, or more, of wind generated capacity going off line. When that capacity is a large part of total capacity we need more than load shedding to deal with it.

Adding pumped storage and HV DC lines to remote areas (wind is blowing somewhere, there is a global constant for any calendar week. Uneven and seasonally changing solar heating > wind. Since solar heating is stable so is gross global wind. Variance acrross a continent is more than global but much less than local). And add some other sources (hydro, low when wind is blowing locally, high during local calms), geothermal and solar.


From memory, UK has one large pumped storage project (1 GW ?). 3.6 GW of pumped storage should do the trick. However, statistical analysis will show that geographic diversity will require less backup power. Also a chain of wind turbines can use the leading WTs can to predict those downwind.

Minimal resources have been spent on improving short-term weather/wind speed forecasts. A worthy area for R&D. Electric EVs are hardly the only way to do this.

Best Hopes,


BTW, modern WTs have a constant output over a wide range of wind speeds. Models differ, but constant from 8 to 25 m/s is available.

Chris, Nick and Alan

Thank you all for answering my questions. It keep me thinking for a while.

Carbon - UK

1.8GW at Dinorwic (9 GWhr capacity)

360MW at Festiniog (1 GWhr capacity)

typical energy loss - 25%

UK swing (morning to daytime peak) is 30GW to 45GW

Nice data on the makeup of the UK market, and impact of carbon charging (note carbon prices down a *long* way since this came out).

The UK is headed for a bad power squeeze, from what they are putting in that presentation.

Thanks Valuethinker

Carbon - UK

It amazes me that we still have coal stations without Flue Gas Desulphurisation.

It also amazes me that we are headed for a UK power supply which is 70% gas fired-- and there has been so little discussion of that, in light of the supply interruptions last winter.

Having an energy system where your home heating bill *and* your home electricity bill are linked to the same commodity (that you import, entirely) doesn't strike me as a great system.

Of course, nuclear is no panacea: even if we build new nukes, I don't see them up and running before 2020.

Sorry Alan but there is a lot you have got wrong there.

Wind turbines do not have a flat response in the range of wind speeds for which they are designed to operate in for most of the time. They would be very inefficient if the response was flat in this range. The available wind energy is proportional to the cube of the wind speed. The turbine is designed for maximum efficiency over the range of speeds it is expected to encounter for most of the time and therefore has a wind speed/power out curve that is not too far from cubic over that range. At low speeds there is very little wind energy available so the compromises and complications needed to harvest the tiny amount of energy available is not worth it. The turbines therefore cut out at some speed, often about 4m/s. At the high end of the range of wind speeds, there is plenty of wind energy available but as the speed goes higher the frequency of occurrence of such speeds drops. To harvest more of this energy at maximum efficiency requires a bigger generator and with it a heavier mount and auxiliary equipment and meatier power electronics to handle the higher power. At some wind speed the frequency with which such winds occur is so low that it is not worth using a bigger generator to capture the full power available. The turbines are designed to progressively shed more wind above that speed to keep the power delivered to the generator constant and at the rated maximum power. This flat region of the characteristics often begins about 15m/s continues up to the wind speed at which the turbine cuts out to protect itself. In addition if you install too big a generator it will be running for a lot of its time at a small percentage of its rated power and generally generators peak in efficiency close to their rated power and drop off at much lower outputs. An oversized generator can lose more at low wind speeds than it gains from occasional very high wind speeds.

If there is a turbine that is flat from 8m/s then it is designed to work with average wind speeds of 3 or 4m/s

This is the response of the 1.8MW Vestas V80 and is typical of fairly large turbines.

Note that doubling the speed from 6m/s to 12m/s produces an 8 fold increase in power from about 200kW to 1600kW on the noisier class 1A setting

Graham Sindon has done a simulation using hour by hour wind data from 66 wind gauges across the UK over 34 years and simulated a large wind carpet using the wind speed/power curve from a Nordex N80 turbine to predict the output. The result of the smoothing is that on those days when the wind speed averaged across the whole of the UK was 6m/s, the output of the imaginary array would have been between 10% and 22% of rated output compared with 8% of rated output for a single turbine at 5m/s. At 12m/s national average the array would have given between 50% and 65% of rated output rather than 65% for a single turbine at 12m/s. Thus rather than an 8 fold increase with a doubling of national average wind speed we see a 3 to 5 fold increase.

He found that on average for 1 hour per year 90% of the turbines will have stopped and for 10 hours per year 80 % will have stopped and for 100 hours a year 50% will be stopped. During peak demand hours, for 5% of the time the output would be below 5% of rated output.

A fortune has been spent in places like Germany to improve short term wind speed predictions. There has been some slow improvement but 1.5% of wind speed two hours ahead is the best they can do. At wind speeds near the 50% power point, that change in wind speed corresponds to a ±12% change in output in a single turbine.

Value thinker has given you the figures for the Welsh pumped storage schemes. There are two small Scottish ones formed by back pumping old hydro schemes

When Dinorwic was built, it was at the time the largest civil engineering scheme that had ever been undertaken in the UK. It took a long time to get the scheme approved and was only approved because the upper and lower reservoirs existed naturally (the upper one was enlarged by a low rock dam) and the undertaking to bury everything in the rock with a fairly well concealed entrance. The power cables are also buried for about a mile from the scheme. There are very few, if any, other such sites and the Welsh have got more nationalistic since we got them to accept that scheme. I was in a conference in Wales over the weekend held by the Soil Association discussing agriculture post peak oil. I asked one of the Welsh delegates who had an interest in energy matters what the chances were of the Welsh letting one or more of their mountain tops be flooded to store energy for mainly English usage. He replied "Are you English really so keen on another war Boyo?"

And as for solar power being stable, haven't you heard about British weather? We do have lots of waves and the second highest tides in the world in the Bristol channel. We have no geothermal energy to speak of (a small patch of slightly warm granite in the west country) but your scheme of bringing it in from Iceland sounds excellent.

The same problem mirrors for onshore wind (and even offshore).

The wind is mostly in Scotland (onshore). The power demand is in England and in the south, to boot.

You can see this means:

- windfarms in Scotland (which is seriously thinking about independence)

- power transmission lines across Scotland and the North of England

It can literally get 10 years to get these things built, with the local planning appeals.

Each political party says they are in favour of renewables, then fights like cats at the local level to prevent the windfarms being in *their* constituency.

So we have a 1000MW scheme 50 miles from London (the London Array, in the Channel) stalled because Deal Borough Council (that well known centre of economic and political power) won't grant planning permission for the onshore power station.

The central government body to oversee large windfarm planning appeals has *3* civil servants. You can imagine how fast they are working!!!

If Hitler were trying to invade us now, we would be arguing about local planning on protected coastlines, rather than building radar stations and airfields. The Wehrmacht would have strolled in to Westminster.

Meanwhile we move rapidly towards 70% dependency on imported gas for power generation, and the government chases nuclear chimera.

I can hear Nero's fiddle in the background...

The same problem mirrors for onshore wind (and even offshore).

The wind is mostly in Scotland (onshore). The power demand is in England and in the south, to boot.

You can see this means:

- windfarms in Scotland (which is seriously thinking about independence)

- power transmission lines across Scotland and the North of England

It can literally get 10 years to get these things built, with the local planning appeals.

Each political party says they are in favour of renewables, then fights like cats at the local level to prevent the windfarms being in *their* constituency.

So we have a 1000MW scheme 50 miles from London (the London Array, in the Channel) stalled because Deal Borough Council (that well known centre of economic and political power) won't grant planning permission for the onshore power transformer. Spoils the view from the beach, apparently.

The central government body to oversee large windfarm planning appeals has *3* civil servants. You can imagine how fast they are working!!!

If Hitler were trying to invade us now, we would be arguing about local planning on protected coastlines, rather than building radar stations and airfields. The Wehrmacht would have strolled in to Westminster.

Meanwhile we move rapidly towards 70% dependency on imported gas for power generation, and the government chases nuclear chimera.

I can hear Nero's fiddle in the background...


Walkable communities might be nice but we will have our current communities for quite some time. We have already invested enormous sums and energy in building the infrastructure we have. To rebuild the whole country in this fashion would require enormous amounts of money and energy again. I think we need to figure out how to maintain our population given the infrastructure we now have.

Personally, I don't think we'll know what that is till we meet it. Once gas prices go through the roof and we start to see which things people will give up and which way the political winds blow then we'll get a better idea of how we'll manage this.

Ahh, Cherenkov, it's nice to see a true-blue, fire-breathing, fist-clenching leftie spout off now and then. Brings back old memories....

What you propose is impractical and will not work. Population cannot be reduced voluntarily, nature will have to take its course and which course that will be, cannot be foretold.

I agree that controlling growth, and not growing unless there is supportive capacity, is the goal (comparable to first looking, then crossing). However, that kind of conceptual thinking goes right over the heads of most people. So if we can get them interested in EV's instead of SUV's, that's better than nothing. The other options are apathy, and active encouragement to bring on the crash. Choosing the latter option would mean getting a job in a marketing department, but not everyone is suicidal and/or evil by nature.

There have been some promising results in bringing the message on population growth to the people. There has been an experiment in several South American and African places (with a control group) where soap series were broadcasted with as theme the misery resulting from fast and furious breeding. It brought out the message. This is a relatively cheap way to spread the word, the problem now is turning it into a campaign rather than a loose cannon.

I agree that controlling growth, and not growing unless there is supportive capacity, is the goal (comparable to first looking, then crossing). However, that kind of conceptual thinking goes right over the heads of most people. So if we can get them interested in EV's instead of SUV's, that's better than nothing. The other options are apathy, and active encouragement to bring on the crash. Choosing the latter option would mean getting a job in a marketing department, but not everyone is suicidal and/or evil by nature.

There have been some promising results in bringing the message on population growth to the people. There has been an experiment in several South American and African places (with a control group) where soap series were broadcasted with as theme the misery resulting from fast and furious breeding. It brought out the message. This is a relatively cheap way to spread the word, the problem now is turning it into a campaign rather than a loose cannon.

I get sceptical when losses of 50% are touted for drivetrains. What makes sense is a split electric motor in the rear and two halfshafts. These shafts are about 98% efficient or better and weigh nothing compared to the batteries. Drivetrains aren't a problem; electrical storage is. I'm excited about supercapacitors.

Even the loathsome slushbox automatic has efficiency % in the 90's and operates in lockup at efficiencies equivalent to 'standard' transmisiions, which is why nobody wants a 'standard' anymore. If you want to reduce drag, look to aerodynamics, rolling, and weight. The free lunches in the drivetrain went away decades ago. If the losses were all that great we would have a heat problem. Gotta go somewhere.

By the way, I have a carburetor that gets 200 mpg...

Supercapacitors have at present an energy density of about 10% of the best batteries and even those that are the twinkle in the eye of some manufactures are two or three times worse. They may have a role to supply high peak currents for brief surges that batteries cannot give but there is very little prospect of them forming the main storage.

Rembrandt, Nice post, nice pictures. The main barrier is the weight of the batteries. SLAs are super heavy and can only be discharged 50% before you start damaging them. Their power density is poor. Their weight in a car easily is more than all the components they replace. Also, the ICE cars can be easily made fuel efficient just by devolving from the current V8s to V4s, which would require the electric car to jump even higher hurdles to gain public acceptance. This is why all the electric cars are small and have no amenities.

The solution is a better battery. We have 2 options today: NIMH, Nickel Metal Hydride, and LI-ION, Lithium-Ion. Both are super expensive for a car. The NIMHs cost 4 times that of SLAs and only have twice the power density. The LI-IONs are 4 times the NIMHs cost and have only twice the NIMHs power density. If you can afford it today, these batteries can do the job, but you are talking $10,000 plus for a battery pack. And they are temperamental to an extreme. Sony just had to recall millions of their computer LI-ION batteries because they could start fires.

So, for electric cars to work, we need the price of the batteries to come way down and their reliability to improve. Not impossible if we work at it. Every other development that are being tossed around (fuel cells, ultra-capacitors, etc) have not even made it to market yet and many never will.

Electric bikes have already succeeded with this system as they have a better power to weight ratio due to their simplicity. See: for an overview of what I believe to be the best 2 wheel electric vehicle available for an affordable price. PS, I own one for running errands to the store. I can get there and back faster than in my car.

Sony had a systemic manufacturing flaw in their LiION batteries. There are several order of magnitudes more LiION batteries out there that have NOT exploded like Sony. But as typical, we look for the worst case scenario without addressing the best, or even the most likely cases!

Go get some help. I mean it.

Please, tell me exactly why I need to go and get some help? I only pointed out the flaw in your argument of using Sony batteries as justification for not moving our transportation back to electricity.

Do you deny that Sony batteries make up a very very very small % of total global LiION batteries?

Hi Solar One

I agree, it's all about The batteries. My personal favourite contender is the Firefly lead acid battery. It has between 2 and 3 times the charge density of a standard lead acid and uses less of the horrible lead. It can also be recycled in the normal way lead acid batteries are. It is simple and does not suffer from thermal runaway. It has lower internal resistance and a much better cycle life than standard lead acid, it can be charged and discharged faster. It doesn't suffer from sulphation. There's enough lead for everybody, they are probably a drop-in replacement for lead acid cars. They'll give EV's a reliability and range to compete with petrol vehicles.

But I can get them!

Carbon - UK

I mean -

But I can't get them!

Carbon - UK

Thank you so much for mentioning, this technology is very exciting. I have been hoping for a breakthrough like this. Very nice, possibly a good investment opportunity as well. Woo hoo!!!

Thanks, I realise that there are still some modifications necessary but these are not very large. They can be handled by modest research efforts. What is necessary is the will to increase the efforts that are already here today. Batteries have evolved a lot in the past 10 years.

One reason why the technology is not applied might be the cost.

This article says that the electric Mini Cooper cost $US350,000 to build but price would drop in mass production. Great performance though - 0-100 kph in 4.5 sec.

The turbo diesel Fiat Punto is about the same size of Mini and gets 52 mpg and costs $25,000 Australian dollars or only $US20,000. However, unlike the electric Mini, it takes over 12 sec to reach 100kph. I don't know if the Punto is availabe in US.

There are two ways to look at such a problem, you could say it is the cost, it has to be cost effective and so on.

But this is the chicken and the egg production, once we start investing in such technology, costs will come down. But if we wait to invest before costs come down, they will never come down.

The problem is therefore more on the point of having a vision and the will to invest a rather small sum compared to what is annualy spend on for instance research in new make-up, better packages to sell more consumer products and so on.

I assume your MPG is Imperial Gallons rather than US gallons?

I have copied out below a list of fuel efficient cars in the UK.

Note there are hybrids, but the majority are diesels.

By and large, diesel cars are not sold in the US due to stricter air pollution requirements. Also GM had some very bad diesels in the late 70s, and this has left a lasting image of slow, unreliable, noisy, smelly, in the mind of the American consumer.

list of US diesel cars.

Americans inevitably will want more horsepower from their cars than these engines offer, so the ones eventually sold in the USA will have bigger engines and lower mpg than their European counterparts.

For the same reason, microcars such as the Punto are rare or almost nonexistent in the US market.

New diesels which do meet the air pollution standards are being introduced in new model years (the Mercedes technology which burns urea aka urine in the exhaust). And US refineries are switching to low sulphur diesel fuel.

I think the California pollution control standards remain an obstacle.

outlines some of the obstacles.

I don't see diesel cars becoming big in America in a hurry. It is a (global) tragedy that their vast fleet of pickups and SUVs is not diesel powered.

allows a search for UK cars by fuel efficiency.

there's your Punto.
Fuel efficient cars

Honda Insight 2 seater (petrol) 80.0 mpg
Toyota Aygo 1.4 D-4D 3 & 5 door (diesel) 68.9 mpg
Toyota Prius 1.5 VVT-i Hybrid (petrol) 65.7 mpg
Toyota Yaris 1.4 D-4D 3 & 5 door (diesel) 62.8 mpg
Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-i 3 & 5 door (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Peugeot 107 1.0 (petrol) 61.3 mpg
Renault Modus 1.5 dCi 80 (JP0D05) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Mitsubishi Colt 1.5 AMT (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Skoda Fabia Hatch 1.4 TDI PD (75 bhp) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Skoda Fabia Estate 1.4 TDI PD (75 bhp) (diesel)61.4 mpg
Renault Clio MY 20061.5 dCi (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Ford Fusion 1.6 Duratorq TDCi (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Seat New Ibiza 1.4 TDI (80 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Renault Megane 1.5 dCi (diesel) 61.4 mpg
VW Polo 1.4 TDI PD (80 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Nissan Micra 1.5 3/5 door (65 PS) (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Smart forfour 1.5Td (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Honda Civic Hybrid 1.4 IMA ES (petrol) 61.4 mpg
Suzuki Swift 1.3 GLZ 3 door DDiS (diesel) 61.4 mpg
Vauxhall Corsa MY2005 1.3CDTi 16v5Door (diesel)61.4 mpg
Vauxhall Astra MY2005 1.7CDTi 16v 5Door(diesel)61.4 mpg

considering that diesels are more efficient than petrol engines (and where I live the fuel has a lower price per unit volume) makes me want to see a diesel hybrid. Wikipedia states that the energy density of diesel is 38.7 MJ/l compared to 34.6 for petrol. 38.7/34.6=1,12. applying this conversion factor to the Toyota Aygo gives a figure of 68.9/1,12=61,5 "petrol-mpg" corrected for the higher energy content of diesel. The 2seater hybrid in other words is 2/6 or 33% better than the 3-5 door diesel.

Peugeot Citroen has one, 80mpg (Imperial Gallon).

However they say the double whammy (more costly diesel engine, plus more costly hybrid power system) means they cannot produce it at a price that would sell in the market.

Such systems are becoming more widely spread for buses, though.

My own thought is we should revisit steam powered cars. The steam powered car was actually technically superior to the ICE car, but failed due to marketing and business strategy reasons (Alfred Sloan and Henry Ford were better business men).

I have toyed with the idea of using the exhaust heat of an ICE to heat a boiler to drive a turbine geared to the crankshaft of the ICE. This would in theory give a lower consumption, more power, and ofcourse lower emissions. I know that BMW is investigating this, and 6 months ago when I first got the idea I found several webpages. A steam engine's efficiency is tied to the pressure and temperature of the steam it produces, and the exhaust of an ICE is only so hot. Simplifying the matter slightly I looked at graphs depicting the efficiencies of small steam turbines at varying temperatures and tried to find out the typical temperature of the exhaust from a typical ICE.. That would have allowed me to calculate the energy content of the exhaust, as well as a rough number for the efficiency of the steam engine. I couldn't find the exhaust temperature while googling so I gave up and used 33% as the efficiency of the steam engine, and applied a SWAG to the question of what proportion of the waste heat leaves via the exhaust pipe. I assigned 2/3 of the heat to the exhaust.

Example 1: Diesel engine

40% ICE efficiency, leaving 60% of the heat to be carried away by the exhaust and the radiator, 2/3 of 60% is 40%, 1/3 of 40 is 13.33%. Theoretically my diesel would be 53.33% efficient, and have it's power increased by (13.33/40)*100%=33%.

example 2: Otto engine

25% ICE efficiency, leaving 75% of the heat, 2/3 of 75 is 50%, 1/3 of 50% is 16.66%, making the petrol engine 41.66% efficient. Power should be increased by a lot, up to (16.66/25)*100%=66%.

The biggest obstacle I see is water's tendency to freeze when the temperature drops below zero. In most parts of Norway that happens more or less regularly in winter, in many places it is below freezing for weeks and months. Keeping the car in a heated garage when not in use is fine, untill you actually have to go somewhere and park for a few hours. Adding antifreeze to the water of the steam engine would be one option, but it would accumulate in the boiler and a second pipe carrying liquid directly from boiler to condenser would be necessary, reducing efficiency, wasting heat, and greatly complicating the whole machine. A simpler option would be to change the working fluid to ethanol or methanol. This would require a completely closed loop, since water is one of only 2 costfree liquids that can be wasted while alcohols are expensive. On the other hand, it would produce "steam" earlier on account of the lower boiling points, and higher pressure "steam" once up to working temperature. I believe the BMW project used a second loop with alcohol as the working fluid to capture even more of the energy in the exhaust.

Excellent subject and worth some discussion. I believe the stored energy issue is already on the way to being solved. In the lithium ion arena, A123, Toshiba, and a number of others are doing away with the graphite ( combustable carbon) and eliminating the fire problem. They also bring the cycle numbers up to acceptable levels and recharge times down to the time it takes to fill your tank now. Ultra capacitors are not limited to EEStor I am aware of at least one RICH individual who claims they will bring a Hyper capacitor to market within one year, with densities double of EEStor's.
The motor is such a simple solution and whether they are outboard or not, is probably not very significant. Tesla put the motor in the middle for handling issues. The honda high speed eight wheeler ( so far has hit 235 MPH) uses in the wheel as does the mini conversion. What I think is important here is that the money for the development of the batteries, capacitors, and electric vehicles is not coming from big companies or IPO's that can be controlled by big companies. It is being done with venture capital, primarily from silicon valley entrepeneurs, but also, interestingly enough, from a number of military venture capital companies including On Point.
The electric car will be delivered to the masses. No engine, no brakes, no exhaust system, no transmission, no fuel tank, no oil changes, and equivalent mileage greater than 100 mpg, and no beuracratic GM or Ford committees to slow the development. Just moving parts in the single digits, minimal maintenance and endless ways of designing the vehicle due to the flexibility of placing the components. It wont happen fast enough to prevent the oncoming pain of depleted oil supplies, but it will happen, and sooner than most people think.

This principle is interesting right now as a retrofit for the existing fleet, thereby saving the legacy investment. The objective would be to double or even triple the mileage of each car converted.

Some entrepreneurial type no doubt is already trying to develop this. The best outcome would be to have the wheels, high power alternator, batteries and software added so that it integrates with the existing car as closely as possible.

Saildog, Very astute. I am aware of two people ,in Hawaii of all places, doing just that. One has already completed eight conversions.

Hi Treeman, Yes there are lots of people retrofitting internal combustion vehicles. Here is a site with hundreds of examples, mostly DIY:

Carbon - UK

So why can't all the car customizers start heading in the same direction? How about an open-source vehicle platform a la Linux? Modular complementary pieces could easily support production of a few "roller" designs from major manufacturers. Call it Kinux.

And, once we get all 6.8 billion people outfitted with electric cars, we will all be just fine. Of course, we will have to find and mine the minerals needed to build these billions of automobiles. We will need to move the minerals to processors. Then the processed materials to factories. Then the individual parts must be shipped in our "global" economy to assembly plants. We will need to build new dealerships. New roads. This will mean more minerals. More concrete. More. More. More.

Meanwhile, we will have less arable land, less potable water, dying seas, and repellant air. But, hey! Who cares as long as we have electric cars to lug our fat asses the ten blocks to the gym.

And, of course, once everyone has a nifty new electric car, they will all stop having babies. And, you know these cars will last forever. We will never need to build a new one. Ever. Right? No strain on the environment there.

Yup, once we get everyone's butt into a new Electric Gonculator, we can stop our growth at any cost economy at will. 'Cause everyone knows that we don't really need growth to pay for our fiat lending system. Indeed. Good times acoming.

Yes, I can see why we can't tell the people the truth. They are too stupid, too selfish, and too happy with their McLife's to see further than the end of their driveway.

I guess the right way to say it, in the immortal words of the Google skaterats, is: "But, dude! We got technology!"

So ignore the leak in the hull, turn away from that ticking package, who cares if smoke is filling your house. It's all good. Go back to sleeeeeep. Clooose your eyes. Your mind is getting muddled, heeeaaavy, very heeeaaaavy. That's it. Break out the Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy Kit. Wait, you already drank THAT KoolAid years ago. Nothing to see here folks.

Hey, look!! It's Britney Spears!!!

Cherenkov, one needs to approach a problem from several angles. Your approach is not practical and will not work because it looks at one angle one. Technology is needed, just like good regulation, and to some extent down scaling.

We have had plenty of innovation in the last 30 years with respect to increasing horsepower and efficiency of the ICE. All this impressive technological progress has resulted in more polluted cities, more automobiles, bigger automobiles, trivial increases in gas mileage, more sprawl, more resources destroyed, more pavement, more noise, less convenience, and a runaway global warming problem. If we were capable of making technological progress and then applying that technology to actually making our overall situation better, then I would welcome better technology as a partial solution to our problems. As it is, we will use any improvements as a way to have even bigger, faster vehicles which consume even more farmland and living space. In short, we are incapable of setting limits and, therefore, even new technological gain is swamped and even larger increases in consumption and resource depletion.

The society and the world addicted to more cannot solve its problems. Coming up with newer and better technology will do nothing to change that mindset.

As soon as we unlearn the paradigm that bigger is better, we will be on the pedestrian lane to progress.

Rembrandt, good piece, I am for anything that gets the clever technicians of the world the credit they deserve for hard work in opening up new options.

...after that, the string went downhill, and was the perfect example of why those concerned about resource efficiency, waste reduction and alternatives and the problems coming due to resource depletion are roundly laughed out of the public square. It was obvious that the majority of people posting had no clear idea of how a current automobile works, much less how an advanced would. But they did know one thing about the car, didn't they, even if not how it operates.....IT SHOULD BE KILLED!! NOW!! It is the CAR that is the GREAT EVIL that has......well, after a while it just gets sickening, doesn't it?
Regardless of your view of THE CAR!!, such complete lack of rational thought and discourse, and the GRAB THE TORCHES AND PITCHFORKS way of handling technical issues completely lays to rest the idea that many "peakers" base their logic on....well, logic, or any known version of science.

So be it. It is sad, and at least it was made up for by some of the tech types who very interesting links and information.

So let me contribute a bit of something you may not have seen, to keep things on the positive side....

Here is a link to a company that is developing electric motorcycles:

The bike is pretty nifty, but what is really cool is the drive arrangement:
The swing arm wheel motor and geabox, 20 Kw all in a motorcycle hub

It is easy to see how efficient this would be on say a Chevrolet Volt type hybrid. Four of these would deliver 80 Kw, four wheel drive, and a massive reduction in drive and braking complexity, as the car would be stopped by regenerative breaking, and not need hydraulic or mechanical brakes.

So the whole vehicle: A Volt type chasis/body, small light and aerodynamic, 4 of the 20KW swing arms, with motor planetary gear in each wheel, battery pack, and small piston or gas turbine engine to drive a small alternator, with one CPU (central processing unit) to distribute and manage the power.

The liquid fuel for the extremely efficient recharging engine could be LPG, CNG, Diesel, bio-Diesel, gasoline, butanol, ethanol, compressed methane or even hydrogen, depending on developments.

But, of course, since, according to the screaming hyenas of the Kunstler cult, we are runing out of METAL, AIR, OIL, GAS, WATER, SOIL, AND JUST PLAIN LUCK, it ain't gonna happen, we're doomed, it's over, we're running out (by the way, did anybody remember that the old days when sane peakers never said "we're running out, because it would only make the peak concerned look like buffoons....those days of restraint are gone of course.

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom.

Was it anyone besides Cherenkov? I didn't notice many other wild-eyed rants on this one, but his certainly is good for a handfull of Outragers. I'm sure that those who lurk through can pretty much see the range of posters for who they are, and aren't going to be all that surprised to find the regular clump of people being fanatical. In a way, letting people see the chaff lets them know it's not being pre-slanted for them.. get the full-spectrum right from the get-go.

Back on target.. Did you ever hear of a hybrid using this turbine/generator link? (Or is this the common way?) - I vaguely recall a Volvo Prototype/PR release in the early- 90's that was multifuel-turbine, with a single shaft from turb to gennie. Said to be very efficient.. Haven't seen word of it again. I wasn't sure if the motions of a car would be incompatible with the gyroscopic forces of a high-speed rotor like that, or the spinup/down was inconvenient, etc.

Bob Fiske


Very astute observation on your part, and causes me to issue an apology for the tone of my remarks. I had come from another string with a run of the "it's all over, shut up, burn the thing down and accept it" type remarks, but your correct, on this string, when I looked back, no, not that many, and it was my blurring two or three strings together that set me off, so I apologize for being unfair in my observation.

On the subject of the "hybrid using this turbine/generator link", my reading has led me to several fascinating projects, some actually built and running, by Capstone Microturbine in buses:

The best developed program seems to be by Capstone Micro Turbine, using a small gas turbine in bus designs:

Several mentions of Capstone gas turbine hybrid buses on their project page:

Very good report with photos of Turbine hybrids, some hydrogen, some propane powered:

Radical and untried is the hydraulic/turbine hybrid:

It is also known, but hard to find documentation on, that GM experimented with a small gas turbine addition to the EV-1 electric car for range extension, but that project died with the EV-1.

I have not heard of any complaints about gyroscopic effect with gas turbines, (it would be comparable for instance tot he gyro effect of a turbocharger, and we know of cars using those, sometimes even in pairs), but the issue seems to be price and efficiency. Unless the turbine can be run very hot, the fuel efficiency is not up full potential, and the turbines are not cheap. Better vane design ("internal aerodynamics" in the turbines) and high strenth ceramic material hold out the promise for big efficiency gains, but again, this work is not cheap. By the way, I missed the Volvo project you describe, that will give me something new to look for. :-)
Thanks for the feedback and some new avenues to follow!

Remember, we are only one cubic mile from freedom.
Roger Conner

Price wasn't on my radar on this one. I was thinking about the movement/bearings issue, and also had wondered about the Noise Issues of a small turbine.. but had no answers of my own in either case.

Thanks for the links.

Your kvetching wasn't all that bad, I thought. After the run of pure snarking and naysaying we've had lately, who could blame you? I know so many here are trying to leave the rioters alone, but it's like not scratching an itch on your nose. It's just occurred to me lately that much of that noise is really rooted in a much deeper fear and hopelessness than my own, and if I remember to see it that way, I don't feel it is my itch, but theirs, and don't feel required to scratch it, AND the best of any hope I'd have of helping it is by staying on the work of discovering where solutions may lie (or where 'solutions' are lying..), not playing tag or hide and seek with their dragons.

As Don would say in my old Summer Camp.. "I'm sure we can deal with this in a Mature and Sensitive Fashion.."

Bob Fiske

This is quite and interesting site. It details the design of an in-wheel motor for the solar races.

Gives a good idea of the challenges involved.

BTW unsprung weight is an issue with in-wheel motor. Most high performance electric cars use central motors as the wheels can then be made extremely light and thin to reduce rolling resistance. Central AC motors also do not need gearboxes as the AC controller can do all of that.

The idea of using electric car batteries for storage for renewable power is called V2G and this is probably the best page to find out more.

Finally the batteries are finally here. These 2 nano technology Lithium Ion batteries are at a stage now to make electric cars practical. Both have 10 minute charge times and the AltairNano has a cycle life of 15 000 cycles to 100%DOD. This would equate to 20 years of normal operation.

The troubling question is why this technology, which can slash fuel usage in half, is not already applied in large quantities in the cars and busses of today.

Did you bother to actually ask the reason why? I have corresponded with e-traction; their response was that their "smallest wheel-hub motor is estimated to cost Euro 35,000 each (FOB Netherlands), which is commercially speaking clearly unsellable to private users in the immediately foreseeable future." They also made the point that they have been unable to find a bus manufacturer willing to build a bus with their technology. "Therein lies an important lesson with regard to innovation by established market leaders. These companies would simply like to preserve their current profitability and market position. As long as no competitor is successful in offering our technology, they have no compelling reason for change."

Sometimes the direct route is the easiest. Ask the question of people who can tell you the answer.

I should point out, by the way, that there are light rail vehicles in service with hub motors. Unsprung weight is an issue. See the Variotram and Incentro from Adtranz (now part of Bombardier).

Ofcourse I asked why, I have had contact with e-Traction. The system is perfect for busses since the cost reductions over time are not very large. As I state before:

There are two ways to look at such a problem, you could say it is the cost, it has to be cost effective and so on.But this is the chicken and the egg problem, once we start investing in such technology, costs will come down. But if we wait to invest before costs come down, they will never come down.

The problem is therefore more on the point of having a vision and the will to invest a rather small sum compared. Why it is not done is what you state:

"These companies would simply like to preserve their current profitability and market position. As long as no competitor is successful in offering our technology, they have no compelling reason for change it is that"

It is not a question of money, it is a question of a paradigm shift.

The troubling question is why this technology, which can slash fuel usage in half, is not already applied in large quantities in the cars and busses of today.

Aren't you drawing conclusions too fast? What's the price of that Mini?

A simple car like this cost 35 000 $ :

As explained at two other sites in this post, there are not so many technical hurdles, it is more a problem of economy of scale which will bring down costs. I do not have information on the price of the mini, it will be too expensive for costumers in this setting, since only 2 have been built.

Rembrandt, how many kwh for a full charge of the "avg" vehicle? How many km can expected for the tires that look a tad oversize and what is the replacement cost of a single tire? Thanx for a great feature article.

1) That really depends on the battery size, 400 kilometers is attainable.

2) The limit is not the tire but the battery lifetime, which is around 10 years.

3) Do you refer to the wheel including the motor? I don't have direct data on costs, and such figure are not really interesting. Calculations with respect to the costs need to be made if 10.000 of such systems are produced on an annual basis.

Actually i was looking for a nightly charge figure. 50kwh for a full charge? Assuming that is in the ball park, then we're looking at five bucks a nite for a recharging maybe. But i have no idea of the draw.

And i was seeking whether they have adopted a conventional tire size; where u can just slap on a hundred dollar michelin (x's 4) or snow and be on your way...

Questions that should always be asked for:
Where does the energy come from (primary energy)?
Also, how much energy's needed to build such a car?
I really think that we'll have to cut back our energy consumption, thus our life level pretty soon, whatever brilliant politicians, economists, experts are saying.
But talking about a decrease in today's unique way of thinking is not a way to get re-elected.
Transport will have to be completely redrawn. Here in Europe, we have a quite good (not talking of England) infrastructure with trains and buses. All our efforts from now on should be to enhance that, the result would be far more economical in energy than building individual electric cars.

In a utopian world u would be correct, but the realities are that likely 20% of present car travel is outside busing/train hours in the burbs or involves rural destinations.

EV's serve an immediate purpose for commuters and the 20% factor above. Are they for everybody? No. Is there a market niche? Absolutely. And it will be mostly filled by the present day auto manufacturers that are the early adopters (because they have the infrastructure and brand recognition) and several intensely capitalized first-to-market entrepreneurs.

I'm skeptical.

1) The cost of fuel is irrelevant! The primary cost of my car is the
purchase cost, followed by both reparis and insurance. They're all tied to the cost of energy and as fuel costs go up I'm sure that fuel will continue to remain the smallest portion of buying and operating a car.

2) Efficiency can easily be increased by using a chain drive. They're in the mid 90's while gear drives are very roughly 5% less. Consider the VW 1L/100km car - we could easily build something like that that gets 2L/100km but it can't carry my whole family.

3) Efficient cars that cut emissions in half have been buildable for at least 3 decades. Just make a series electric with a 5 to 7hp engine to charge a small battery pack. The IC (or turbine or heat engine?) engine then simply provides the average power draw - highway cruising. But who wants something with the acceleration of a VW bug? Also I may have been a baby in a wooden box in a VW bug when I was young - but that's not considered safe any more.

I think that the solution is simply getting rid of the car as a personal appliance. We're looking at co-housing or shared car scheme; but at this point cars are pretty darn cheap.

Also we make due to a single car and I commute by bicycle and that is something that people will consider doing as the financial squeeze starts. Mind you I don't believe that I've got one engineer co-worker who takes peak oil seriously. They all expect a technical solution to fall from the sky.

Consider this - here are the yearly costs for my family:

home $6k/yr ($1k/year is energy, no mortgage, smaller home)
car $2500/yr + amortized purchase/repair cost (about $2500/yr)
food $4k/yr
misc $1k/yr

So - unless there is some DIRECT cost enacted for polluting - who cares? But then we're ardent followers of the philosophy called Voluntary Simplicity (aka Simple Living) as espoused in the book Your Money Or Your Life.

Neighbours of ours do without a car - but now a 2nd child is making them reconsider that. Sharing a car with them though isn't a possibility due to insurance issues.

We just upgraded our furnace from low to high efficiency. 25% of our natural gas use was the pilot light! The payback is likely 15 years and the kicker - is that the electricity use of the high-eff furnace is 2x that of our 15 year old low-eff one!!!! Yes - 50% of our winter electricity use will be the furnace!! Luckily the installers were not well versed in net system efficiency and so I was able to drop the fan speed to low, reducing electricity use by 12% and only direct the heat to the part of the house which we want to heat.

Given my experience with furnace installers (who all? still follow the mentality of blowing hot air against cold surfaces) it's possible for people to easily increase their home heating efficiency. The @#$#@$ sales droids also tried to get us to get a 60,000 btu furnace which would have made it impossible to enact the energy saving steps I did.

I disagree, the total lifecycle needs to be taken into account. Fuel costs are the largest portion of costs for the average driver, and also are relevant for production since this also costs fuel. Secondly your solution for getting rid of the car is impracticle and will never work in such a way given human psychology. Therefore it is necessary to redesign the car, to make it more efficient and less polluting. If efficient cars can be made that are far less polluting without a reduction in comfort then they will be bought.

"Fuel costs are the largest portion of costs for the average driver"

That cannot be in any way true. Depreciation, finance charges, insurance tax and license are certainly bigger expenses by far than fuel.

I know in my own case, and this is with a depreciated car, insurance and tax would exceed my fuel cost even if fuel prices almost doubled. On a newer car I have, the finance and depreciation completely dwarfed the fuel cost.

Okay thatsimitout the difference is probably due to European/American difference.

Our fuel costs are around four to five times as high then yours due to fuel taxes.

You are correct for the American system, but not for the European system of taxes

For an under five yr old car, one should be looking at:
$300/month - fuel (varies with km driven)
$100/month - insurance

if over five yrs old,
$300 - fuel
$ 75 - insurance
$300/month - repairs & maintenance

If one finances or leases a car, the later $300/month for repairs is usually offset by debt servicing of $300/month in that first five year time frame.

"Also we make due to a single car and I commute by bicycle and that is something that people will consider doing as the financial squeeze starts."

I love it....with the average age of the population heading toward triple digits, what America needs is a pack of grey hairs out there on bikes in driving rain storms...half of these ole gents are overdue for knee replacement surgery and bypass now, (myself included), and a couple of falls off of a bike at 15 plus miles per hour aught to jar their old constitution back into shape....geesh, do Americans live in a fantasy....

And yet, technical solutions are laughed off the block....
"Mind you I don't believe that I've got one engineer co-worker who takes peak oil seriously. They all expect a technical solution to fall from the sky."

Well, they might not fall from the sky, what if, just hear me out on this, what if.....THEY ACTUALLY CAME OUT OF SOMEBODY'S FREAKIN HEAD!

Gee, we wouldn't want American engineers to accept the possibility of some good engineering.....and your right, that would GO AGAINST THIS WHOLE ENGINEERING GENERATIONS TRADITIONAL HABIT, WOULDN'T IT??
The can't do nation....

Sorry, couldn't help myself...:-)

The Carrier MVP series of gas furnaces (94% to 96% efficiency from memory) use a very efficient variable speed fan. Fan senses back pressure and delivers the volume requested using as much or as little electricity as needed and no more. On average, it uses half the electricity of a standard fan. Other brands use the same GE motor.

Best Hopes for efficiency,



By transferring power without any gearing but by using an electromotor that spins itself inside the wheel, huge energy losses are averted, leading to a super efficient car

An electric motor driving a differential mounted on a rail axle loses a couple of % in frictional loses. But it allows a better match between electric motor RPMs and more freedom to design an efficient motor (weird things need to be done to fit an electric motor in a wheel). So a "PCC" style setup (4 electric motors drive 4 axles and 8 steel wheels) is more efficient (despite the differential losses) than HUGE ENERGY LOSSES come from rubber tires on concrete or asphalt. Steel wheels on steel rails are MUCH more efficient !

The electric power of the car can be supplied in different ways. The best solution would be to mount a generator that can use a variety of fuels, powering the battery train that supplies electric power directly to the wheels on a constant basis

The best way (by far) is to deliver power (and accept regenerated power from braking) via an electric wire (overhead or 3rd rail). No efficiency losses (battery out less than battery in), no weight for fuel/energy to carry around, accelerate or brake.

I need to insert a picture of a streetcar here, along perhaps with an electric trolley bus, but that is a skill I never learned.

Best Hopes for Electrified Rail,


You are correct but I was not referring to rail systems in my comparison. Rail systems will not be practical on many occasions and in addition you lose the possibility to have your own vehicle. In this sense the car will survive, because of human psychology (car preferred over rail). So in that sense, it is wise to developed more efficient car systems, because in the near term future at least (coming decades) the car will still be the main mode for transportation.

Maybe some day, solar charged EV's will be used

I use mine a lot

I find this an excellent post in that it discusses the possibility of a paradigm shift which helps solve resource depletion. This is an early and currently unadopted technology and there are plenty of reasons to suspect it might fail. However, there are also numerous similar advances related to transport efficiency such as Toyota's plans to bring out a 94 mpg Prius within two years. While I agree that Peak oil is a very serious issue, there are some, who between cell phoning friends and Googling the latest research, remain absolutely convinced there is no possibility of a paradigm change as regards Peak Oil.

Peak Oil is a big problem and has likely already occurred, however, even with current technology I see no problem with increasing average fuel efficiency to 45 MPG without massive problems to the economy or disruption to peoples lives.

As I have said before, the problem is not primarily with technological issues, the problem is whether people and governments can respond cogently and peacefully to the pressures brought about by Peak Oil. PO is also, in a sense, a response to Global Warming, which I see as potentially the larger problem. However, as a thought exercise, we had better hope that we are correct about the cause of GW. Certainly man-made increasing levels of CO2 has great scientific plausibility. If GW is real and accelerating we had better hope we understand it. If the 10% possibility that this has nothing to do with us is true, that is to say if we reduce CO2 to 1900 levels and the temperature keeps on increasing ... well that I would say is a real problem.

Sorry to get afield. Someone, sometime back, had posted about a concept vehicle from Ford or GM that had similar attributes to that listed, will try to find it if anyone is interested. Just hope all these increasingly frequent paradigm shifts don't kill us all.


If GW is real and accelerating we had better hope we understand it. If the 10% possibility that this has nothing to do with us is true, that is to say if we reduce CO2 to 1900 levels and the temperature keeps on increasing ... well that I would say is a real problem.

At least here, on the States side of the pond; a new government has taken over. They are holding public hearings on Global Warming.

They are bringing out the Talking Point guns.

One of them is a lady named Joy Hassol.

She has a slide (I haven't found it, but read this) showing the differential between straotosphere and toposphere temperature rise. That scientific "fingerprint" slide shows in one swell tide that: (a) the sun is not getting hotter, and (b) it is the CO2 trapped in the stratospher that is responsible for temperature climb.

U can see the current lower tropos and lower stratosphere temp's here:

Thanks Freddy.
They had another graph of comparative temps over time. The point is that the CO2 is blocking IR radiation from reaching the stratosphere and this results in stratosphere cooling at the same time that it results in toposphere warming, as Freddy's diagram also shows.

If a heating up sun were respnsible for the observed global warming as some skeptics maintain, then all the atmospheric layers should heat up. It does not make sense that some cool and others heat.

Realize the thread is getting dated, however, I have discovered the feature that groups all your comments together for review. All I am trying to point out is that the whole ecology of the Earth, and its relationship to the sun, is incredibly complex. We have trouble enough determining cause and effect in simple systems, why did a bridge fail, how did a microbe gain drug resistance. Very many smart researchers subscribe to increasing man made CO2 as the cause of global warming I don't dispute this. I merely point out that if something in this incredibly complex system that is fundamental has been missed we could have even worse problems. Just as a goofy sort of illustration, what if the primary problem is that agriculture run-off has altered the environment for deep sea thermophilic bacteria that they have now, undetected, increased 10,000 fold and and are releasing large amounts of methane. I do not believe this and there is no evidence for it, just pointing out that we are talking about a very complex system and must to some extent hope that our interventions even when guided by our best science, are not off base.