Thursday's Open Thread

Rain and fog mark warmer days in the North East, but the subjects are for you to choose.

Update [2005-12-29 10:18:52 by Super G]: Also, you can now access the "classic" TOD posts (pre-8/20/05) on this site at In addition, forwarding is enabled from the old Blog*Spot domain to this site. Enjoy!

If US stocks are going up slower than the dollar is going down, isn't that still a net down?  Which brings me to a topic I've been trying to bring up.  I've read so many strong opinions here and elsewhere that we'll have inflation, or that we'll have deflation.  There was deflation in the Great Depression, but there was no resource limitation then.  Some say inflation means excess money supply, not simply higher prices.  But for an individual or a business, what's the difference?  And "excess" must mean relative to the resources that money can buy.  What if the money is constant but the resources (i.e. oil) diminish?  Finally, I am confused about the effect of the circular movement of money.  It's not just the sitting amount of money, it's how fast it's spent over and over again.  If we pay more for fuel, what happens to that money, is it spent again or is it somehow immobilized?  Where?  No matter how we cut it, it seems that we're destined to be resource-poorer.  I.e., the average person will have to make do with less.  Monetary policy may make it look like higher prices, or lower incomes, does it matter?  It matters to those who have cash on hand (inflation is bad for those who have savings), and it matters to those who are in debt (inflation is "good" for them, but only if incomes increase, to cover at least part of the rate of inflation).  And can we tell the real rate of inflation?  Some say the gov is under-reporting it.  But can they do that in the long run, as the errors (whether inadvertant or purposeful) compound?

I'm sure to hear from the "gold bugs", e.g., Francois posted on Sat Dec 03:
Before you can argue if we will have inflation or deflation you have to define how you are going to measure it. If you measure it in $$ then we are going to have inflation ... If you measure it in the price of gold - then we are going to have deflation - it is going to take less and less gold to buy the same stuff.
- so yes, "inflation" is relative to a chosen currency of reference - and a chosen "basket" of goods.  The issue is people's savings and debts, which are in a specific currency.  Moreover, will it cost more in the future to buy scarce resources (oil) in ANY currency that has not become even scarcer itself?  Comments?

The classic definition of inflation is "too much money chasing too few goods", which neatly avoids the issue of whether it's a lack of goods (as in demand exceeding supply) or a surplus of cash (as in the infamous German hyperinflation).

The issue of what happens to the money we spend on energy is a critical one that I think is very often overlooked.  

If you build an electricity generating plant in the US that runs on fossil fuels, in very general terms you have a capital cost up front that gets swamped out by ongoing fuel costs over a period of years.  If you're buying coal from within the US to run your plant, then the money very likely circulates within the US--the coal company pays its employees, buys equipment and supplies in the US, etc.  If you're fueling your plant with natural gas imported from Canada or Mexico, then the fuel expense leaves the US system and is literally a drain on the economy.  (In all cases the plant contruction and maintenance are (largely) US expenses.)

But if you build wind turbines, there's a higher initial cost/unit of electricity, but extremely low ongoing cost (basically just repair and maintenance, plus possibly land rent) since the fuel is free.  If you buy US-made turbines, a very high percentage of the money should stay in the US.

You can find a lot more about the movement of money and how it interacts with inflation by Googling "velocity of money".

US inventory repoprt is out. CNN has a flash up but no article yet.
Forgot the text of CNN's flash: "Crude oil inventories rise versus forecasts for a decline, Reuters reports. Distillate stocks drop. More soon."
Here's an intersting article about Russia flexing its muscles over gas supply to Europe:,6903,1669717,00.html

Welcome to energy realpolitik.

Some interesting minds and their writings: One is Thomas Homer Dixon's site. He wrote The Ingenuiti Gap:
The challenges we face converge, intertwine, and often remain largely beyond our understanding. Most of us suspect that the "experts" don't really know what's going on and that as a species we've released forces that are neither managed nor manageable. This is the ingenuity gap, the critical gap between our need for ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas.
Homer Dixon is well aware of our energy problems, quote from Bringing Ingenuity to Energy (PDF file, 28KB):
Capitalist societies are therefore constantly engaged in demand creation. They must socialize their citizens to be insatiable consumers (the "walking appetites" of the neoclassical economic model discussed above). Advanced capitalism can only survive if it generates constantly rising material expectations and, in turn, chronic material discontent within the economically active population, despite increasing material abundance.


"four major obstacles to the transition to green energy (2 economic and 2 political)


first, our energy prices don't reflect energy's true costs and, second, we need high consumption to sustain our economy. The first is a tough problem, but it's potentially solvable within the context of our current economic system. The second is far more intractable, because it goes to the very heart of the way modern capitalist economies function.

The four obstacles to green energy that I've identified here-two economic and two political-are formidable obstacles to change. Most fundamentally, they are formidable obstacles to the supply of the ingenuity we need to solve the energy problems we face.
And thanks to the comments made in Homer Dixon's forum by Frank Rotering, I discovered his site, Economics of needs and limits, where he puts forward his own set of economic principles:
  1. An economy as a whole must operate within its environmental budget.
  2. An output is permitted to "spend" this budget only to the degree that it contributes to well-being. When this expenditure has been fully made, the output has reached its ecological limit.
I think that we can't solve our collective problems without economics. We suspect/know that the neoclassical view is lacking in its ultimate disregard of the physic laws, and that cheap access to fossil energy has allowed this illusion to continue. So we need a new economics!

All that theoretical work is very valuable and useful, but I suspect that this kind of "cultural change" will face a stubborn resistance.

Why do I have the feeling that we are not going to solve this problem but merely react to it?

Two interesting articles in the Nov/Dec issue of National Historic Trust's Preservation Magazine:

Storm Warnings - James Conaway's experiences during Betsy and some thoughts on Katrina.

Up On the Farm - Some Nebraskans are bucking the grim corporate reaper - Gillian Klucas writes about Nebraska's law keeping out the agribusinesses and how some farmers using organic farming helps preserve small towns. had this little gem in its news section this morning:

A monetary system dependent on growth

It's a concise explanation of why capitalism is a pyramid scheme.  It has to keep growing, or it will collapse.  

There's another explanation here.

"A monetary system dependent on growth"  Mostly
a bunch of nonsense.

First, Capitalism itself is NOT dependent on
Growth.  Growth and Decline are a fundamental
aspect of Capitalism.  Growth or decline for that
matter is NOT a requirement.  Capitalism is
a dynamic process in which goods, labor and
ownership are constantly exchanged in a free
and open marketplace.  It has existed long
before 1776 and will exist long after 2005.

Second, From time to time governments get to be
too powerful and seek to control a society's
wealth to a great extent.  All capitalistic
societies need some government involvement.  However,
when the involvement is too onerous, problems

Third, Capitalism as currently practiced in
the United States is beginning to reach such a
level.  Society has decided that it cannot
tolerate the down aspect of the capitalistic
business cycle - it only wants the up cycle!!
This has been occuring for more than 20 years
now.  Thus, to the uninitiated, it appears that
Capitalism requires constant growth.

It doesn't!!,  and it cannot provide only an up
cycle.  The natural down cycles have been
suppressed by the machinations of the government.
When they can no longer maintain this control,
the system will 'Correct' and correct big!!

When  this happens, it will seem like the end of
the world to some.  But it won't be.  It will
probably take a generation to restore normal
prosperity again.  And because of Peak Oil, such
prosperity will pale in comparison to what
currently prevails.

"Capitalism itself is NOT dependent on Growth."

Care to share that kool-aid? or at least whatever it was spiked with?

It might have been in a doobie.
It is a myth that capitalism depends on growth.

The argument advanced in favor of this point (as in the linked article) is that bank loans must be repaid with interest, hence the money supply must constantly grow. It's a simplistic argument and hardly worth rebutting. If anyone knows of a better one, let me know.

The rebuttal goes like this. A bank makes a loan for, say, $100 and wants to receive $110 in return. Let's suppose the loan is successfully repaid (I'll explain how this works in a moment). Now the bank has $110.

It uses the $100 to make another such loan and retains the $10 as profit. The bank spends this $10 profit on its choice of items, such as beautiful decorations for the bank.

The point is that this $10 profit gets circulated back into the economy. And it is this addition of $10 to the total circulating money that ultimately allows the new $100 loan to be repaid with interest. Since there is $10 more circulating in the economy, the $110 can be repaid without anything having to change.

Then the cycle can repeat. The bank receives the $100 repayment plus the $10 profit, spends the $10 and loans out the $100 again. Meanwhile all other banks are doing the same things, making loans, receiving repayment and spending the profits to keep the money in circulation.

This, then, illustrates the fallacy in the myth that capitalism and banking requires constant growth to allow for the repayment of loans. In fact, loans can be repaid just fine with a stable money supply and economic base.

You never explained where the $10 came from....

Capitalism does not depend for it's life on growth, however, a fiat money system featuring interest bearing debt creation does. We should separate the two issues.

The nineteenth century had a very stable money supply (gold) with zero (zilch) inflation. Capitalism thrived. (Of course, there were many boom/bust cycles, a symptom of uncontrolled capitalism, but the money system was not inherently a pyramid scheme as we have today.

Where did the interest come from, Halfin? Historically, the "interest" came from savings. A person, company, or corporation did without in the present, saving money for the future, in order to do more in the future.

Savings is the bedrock of market economies. It began with the first caveman setting aside food and other supplies so he had enough bonus time to not be scavenging every day. This bonus time let the caveman produce other things or find better ways to do certain things. But he had to have the savings to start. His choice when he had a surplus of food or other material was to have a wild party (like modern man) or to save it in order to use it more wisely.

Further, fiat money lets us postpone the savings into the future but you can't continue that Ponzi scheme forever. At some point some players in the game will opt out because they no longer believe that subsequent generations will flagellate themselves so badly to pay for your profligate spending today. When we reach that point, the entire fiat system crashes on its head and we'll see a demand for savings (real collateral) before loans are made on a wish and a whim.

In the meanwhile, the current system is a Ponzi scheme, enabled solely by the "full faith and credit" of the US government. And the current system is dependent on endless growth (but pure capitalism itself is not). As others have noted, this is not pure capitalism, just one particular variant of capitalism and as such it is subject to replacement by other variants as conditions change.

In the face of declining global resources, rising population, and continued inflation of the fiat currency of the day, I'd say you'd be wise to expect change.

Where did the interest come from, Halfin?
The interest came from money already existing in the economy. When you pay interest as part of your car or house payment, you pay it with money which you saved or earned (i.e. money which already exists in the economy). Money doesn't need to be created specifically to pay a certain specific person's interest obligations. If you work for a bank, your salary gets paid from interest earned by the bank, and then you use that to pay the interest on your own mortgage, which the bank then pays to another employee, who uses it to pay interest on his mortgage etc. The selfsame money can pay off hundreds of people's interest debts. When you pay interest to a lender, the money doesn't disappear, it re-emerges into the economy and can then be used by somebody else. Which means that the selfsame $100 can pay off two people's interest debts -- $200 or more of interest can be paid off with the self-same $100 bill. That's the crux of the fallacy. It falsely assumes that a $100 bill can only be used once, to pay off one $100 debt, and then it can't be used anymore.
"Fiat money" must be created if banks are to pay interest on deposits. Sure, you could have a bank which keeps your money super safe, and doesn't lend it out to anybody. They have those facilities right now. They're called safety deposit boxes, and you can put your cash in one, but it will cost you money.

On the other hand, you could put your money into one of them newfangled banks which loans your money out at interest so they can pay you interest on your deposit. That's obviously a lot more attractive than a safety deposit bank where you have to pay the bank to keep your money. However, the minute they loan out your money, they create fiat money. You can see this clearly because: a) the person who borrowed your money has your money in his account, and b) nevertheless, you still have your money in your account.

So it's just a question of consumer choice. Do you want to eliminate fiat money and pay the bank to keep your savings? Or keep fiat money and get interest on your deposits? The choice is obvious, and that's why regular banks outcompete safety deposit boxes as a way to preserve savings. Fiat money is a better system for everybody. It eliminates the senseless waste of idle money in safety deposit boxes and people's mattresses.

Fiat money does not come from your local banks lending out your money to other people while "retaining" the same amount in your account. They have to keep a percent of TOTAL cash on hand, but if you, the depositer, and your friend, the borrower, were the only customers of the bank and you wanted your money while it was still on loan, the bank would be in a pickle because it (as a local bank) CANNOT create money. However, the Federal Reserve can, and fiat money is what happens when the government puts ink on paper and says it's worth something more than the ink and the paper.
The same problem arises in the gold system. If everybody keeps and spends their money in the form of gold, where do they all keep their savings? They can keep it at home, but that's risky. They could keep it in a safety deposit box, but the storage cost will just eat away the savings. Or they could keep it at a bank, where they issue receipts for the gold. The banker just keeps a percent of total gold on hand, and issues more receipts than his actual gold reserves -- i.e. he loans your gold out at interest, even though you're free to withdraw it at any time. Bingo. You've got a fiat money system again, where receipts made of worthless ink and paper are circulating as bona fide money with nothing to back them up. The only way to stop it is to stop the practice of lending out deposits. But if you do that, you're back to square one where everybody keeps their gold in a safe deposit box. People don't like that system because, in that system, savings shrink (due to safe deposit box fees) instead of grow (as in a real bank).
That caveman more likely "invested" his surplus by sharing it with his neighbors.  Until agriculture, it was more or less impossible to accumulate wealth.  So people invested in the goodwill of their neighbors.  Share your food when you have some, and when you have none, someone will share with you.  A much better system than hoarding in the days before refrigeration.  

We are so used to the capitalist system that we can't imagine life without it.  But there is a reason why the ancient world thought lending money at interest was a terrible sin.  And I think it boils down to the difference between a steady-state economy and a growing one.  If the economy is not growing, the chances that the borrower will be able to repay the loan are not good.    

Capitalism is a great way of quickly exploiting new resources, as when the Americas were "discovered."    It's not so great when resources are limited.    

And that, I suspect, is why charging interest was so frowned upon in Biblical times.  Interest is "unearned income."  It's money you get for not working - not producing anything.    It's a wealthy society that can afford to support people who don't work.  Back then, people did not borrow money for luxuries, or to expand their businesses.  In a steady-state economy, it makes no sense to do that.  People only borrowed money if they were in desperate straits.  Charging interest was not only exploitative, it was likely to drive the borrower into ruin.  If he had reached the point where he had to borrow, then he could not afford to pay interest.    

I think you hit the nail on the head. Hunting gathering tribes  are also said to have had more free time. Wealth was how many cattle or how good the reindeer herd was that year . Interesting ideas.
Halfin's refutation is correct. The myth that new money must be created to pay interest was a staple of the gold bug and right wing fringe community for years before the peak oilers picked up on it. It's called the "Debt Virus Hypothesis", and was originally popularized by a Texas plastic surgeon named Jacques Jaikaran.

However, it is true that the economy must grow in order to function. The reason is this: without growth, increasing productivity will cause massive unemployment.

For example, consider the changes which occurred in U.S. agriculture since the Revolutionary War. The percentage of people working in farming decreased from around 95% or so to today's 2.5%. Those idled hands need jobs, and the only way to provide them is growth in total output of the agricultural sector, or net growth in other sectors.

So "technology (i.e. increasing productivity) makes growth necessary" is a more accurate way to describe the situation than "capitalism depends on growth". Technology is the culprit, not the monetary system.

Growth would not be necessary, even in a capitalist system, if there was no growth in population, or improvement of productivity. In fact, that was basically the steady-state economy which our ancestors lived in before technology changed the equation and made growth necessary.

And now, for a different perspective.

Usury and Social Justice--Would a Bank Charge Jesus Usury? by Bishop Paul Peter
Would a bank charge Jesus Christ, who chased out the money changers in the temple, 18-to-35 percent interest on a credit card? Would Jesus, the greatest social justice advocate, be silent as others were victimized with such an oppressive financial burden?

Today, credit card companies are allowed to engage in legalized loan sharking. Shockingly, Christian leaders are silent, passive, and apathetic when it comes to working men and women in contemporary society who are crushed by usurious interest rates. Christians in general seem complacent about their own victimization.

Christian leaders have an enormous amount of moral ammunition to boldly, confidently, and aggressively take the credit card industry to task.

It is difficult not to see how charging 18 percent or more is anything other than greed. There are numerable Biblical references regarding the evils of greed (Proverbs 30:15, 1:19; Luke 11:39; 1 Timothy 6:10, 3:3, 6:10). This sin created excessive consumerism that gave birth to a false god in violation of the First Commandment.
But, please, read the whole thing. Just to get a traditional moral perspective on the question.... These are old questions.
Jesus wouldn't need a credit card. He was not interested in buying or accumulating things.

Would Jesus, the greatest social justice advocate, be silent as others were victimized with such an oppressive financial burden?

This is silly. If you don't like the interest rate, don't borrow. People who voluntarily assume such burdens and sign on the dotted line are hardly "victims". Maybe victims of themselves...

As usual, JD, you have missed the point entirely.

People borrow at these usurious interest rates in order to make financial ends meet. Of course, this finally results in complete financial ruin especially given the latest update to the Bankruptcy Laws passed by our Congress and signed by our President.

But blaming the victim is and has been popular for some time now....

I suppose you yourself are doing just fine....
Jesus would not have murdered anybody, but he still spoke out against murder and hate.



I think that I agree with you with the caveat that, if the real economy is not growing due to supply constraints, then the process you describe is an inflationary one (the money supply has increased by that $10, but if there are no more goods and services, then the value of money has to degrade correspondingly).  In the equation MV = PQ, if Q gets fixed not to grow and M is growing anyway, then it's likely P that will take up the slack, right?

... the real economy [is /] is not growing

The "framing" power of economics psycho-talk is amazing.

Once we fall into the "frame" of pretending we are economists and we actually know what nonsense phrases like "The Economy" mean, we can further fool ourselves into believing this abstract thing is a human creature and that it experiences "growth" and decline. We can argue that there is a "real" economy and then there is a phony imposter who only pretends to swing the true "invisible hand".

Have you people gone nuts?

Why don't we invent an Invisible Oil Cow and discuss whether her milk output is growing or shrinking and whether her udders are "robust" or undergoing a "recessionary trend" with expectations of recovery?

My prediction for 2006 is that it will be a good year for our Invisible Oil Cow with moderate undulations in her production numbers followed by above average increases in productivity. Fundamentals indicate that our sacred cow will experience sound growth for the foreseeable future.

I personally think economics has a lot of valuable insights and is worthy of study.  I also think it seems to have certain characteristic biasses and blind spots which also need to be studied and critiqued.  However, critiques of it by people who haven't made a decent effort to understand it don't add much to the conversation in my view.
Todays Capitalism IS dependant on growth.  Adam Smith's capitalism has never existed in practice.  Pure capitalism is based on growth and decline, it is also based on competition, and the premise of the invisible hand of the market. Once again, this has not been practiced at least in the last 100 years. In the late 1800's, the robber-barons realized they could consolidate there power and wealth and use it as an instrument to control both government and markets.  John D. Rockefeller was famous for saying "competition is a sin", then bought up, bought out, or threatened all of his competition, therefore eliminating the effectivness of the "invisible hand".  The reason government interferes with the markets is on behalf of the multinational corporations which control government. This is why the market is subsidized and manipulated to insure growth at all costs, because it is the will of the enormously wealthy and powerful immortal persons known as "corporations", which control all of our lives.  This is also why there will be no preparation to minimize the results of Peak Oil.  It would first require a major decline, which will not be tolerated.  TPTB will wait until after the crash.
Big "John D. Rockefeller" companies trying to do and control everything has the same basic problem as the failed communist states during the cold war. Doing and controlling everything is to complex for a single human being, a group, or a big bureaucracy of managers and simulation programmers.

Uncontrolled trade and production pops up everywhere and upsets the big organisations planning and is often more efficient and competetive.

Such big organisations thrive when the need for capital to start a competitior is enourmous, when laws hinder competition or at best when they are well run enough to be too hard to outcompete. But those that are well run enough do probably not have the spare time or cash for toying with world domination.

How good this competition is varies between countries. The invisible hand is more or less agile depending on the law system, education, trust between people, etc. States in wisely run countries tries to uphold a system that encourages this competition since the only real stability is in constant change.

If old "lazy" money fight for old priviliges instead of investing in new entrepreneurs and sometimes new ideas you get stagnation and decline.
A sudden crash is probably the worst thing that can happen for old money or TPTB.  A sudden crash is only good for the hungry, ruthless and lucky and this can be demonstrated in fairly recent european history. Any surviving asset is up for grabs if the crash is hard enough and any reasonable TPTB structure is not crash proof.

I think capitalism is dependent on growth.  Commerce is not, and we will always have commerce.  But capitalism and commerce are not the same thing.  
Re:  Crude oil inventories versus crude oil prices

Link to the EIA "This Week in Petroleum" Report:

Scroll down to the chart showing the crude oil inventories.  The  build in crude oil inventories would seem to be inconsistent with recent oil price increases, i.e, crude oil prices have been increasing as crude oil inventories increased.  

However, as best that I can tell, no one tracks crude oil inventories on the basis of quality (light, sweet versus heavy, sour).   I suspect that most of the build in inventories consists of heavy, sour crude, which would explain the huge gap between heavy, sour and light, sweet crude oil prices.

One problem that Katrina/Rita exposed is the storage of crude instead of refined products in the SPRs. The disruption of refinery operation put us at the disadvantage of importing more expensive refined products.  
I'd like to see regular reports on gasoline an diesel inventories along side their wholesale prices.
Many refined products have limited shelf lives, so you'd be exchanging one problem for another.  A further issue is that salt domes and other storage formations may not be suitable for holding refined products.
Crude inventory was essentially flat last week, with no SPR build. Refinery products were significantly down, suggesting refinery bottlenecks, possibly related to oil quality as you mention.

Looking at world oil/liquid supply, here's another take:

In the four years from 2001 to 2005, total world supply grew (EIA stats) by 6.45 MBD, from 77.73 to 84.14 (using the average of the first three quarters)

Of that, 3.08 came from OPEC, and 2.86 from former USSR, leaving only .51 added from the rest of the world over the full 4 years.

The OPEC supply came from prior excess (choked-back) capacity. OPEC was claiming about 4.5 MBD excess before, now claims 1.5. In essence, their capacity to produce remained completely unchanged over the 4 years.

Frmr USSR production slowed its growth the last 1 1/2 years although it is increasing again somewhat. Frmr USSR growth was the only positive "surprise" in the recent oil era.

If OPEC had started the period with the current smaller surplus, demand would signif exceed supply today. Likewise if Frmr USSR hadn't been a big surprise, which is now leveling off.

Just another perspective on recent history. I know it skips many nuances, but I think the basic picture holds. This is why Mexican production decline is so important.

BTW, MMS figures today show no improvement over the past week in GOM oil production.

Well, they've got a few months to get it fixed up before the next hurricane season - then it'll be back to watching the radar for the next one, checking the latest track prediction, etc.  Even if we dodge this coming season's surprises, there is always next year.  Even if the GOM only gets hit every other year, it will soon get real tiresome.  Just the evacuations and shutdowns for precautionary measures will have a big impact.
Battery electric hybrid is dead.  Long live the hybrids!

The battery electric hybrid, that sensational hip chic' idea fresh from our Japanese comrades and trading partners, ballyhoo'd by the Hollywood set, and the "end" of the American auto industry, is dead.  Sure, the ones built to date will be around for some time to come,  just as there are still a few Corvairs, but like the Corvairs air cooled engine, the hybrid battery electric will prove to be a technical dead end. There will be some more built, but like Tucker or Kaiser Frasier, they have taken the wrong fork in the road. THE HYBRID WILL SURVIVE, IT JUST WILL NOT BE A BATTERY ELECTRIC HYBRID.

An old idea comes back to life: of_Gasoline

The technology:

Do take the time to check out the animations of how it works, fascinating.

As a brief aside, check out the website in general, more fascination!

The tinkers join the game:

What does all this mean?  Simply this:  It is now evident that the advances made in control systems by our Japanese comrades in the auto trade have opened up even better possibilities. They have also proven beyond a doubt that the hybrid idea is valid.  But, they took the wrong fork with the electric hybrid, and married themselves to expensive, non-durable battteries.
The hydraulic hybrid will do with pressure, fluids, and a mature industry of trusted components everything the battery hybrid can do, and at a fraction of the cost:
>Regenerative braking-it's easy with hydraulics
>Stored power-cheaper by far, lighter in weight, and durable into the hundreds of thousands of miles with the hydraulics
>Acceleration-the hybrid push hits instantly, even better than straight gasoline or Diesel
>Deep discharge without damage to the storage system-The hydraulic can be discharged to 0% without shortening the life of any component, and do this over and over again, something even the best battery cannot hope for!

That last point is HUGE.  Because the calcars group have proven the validity of the "plug" or gridable hybrid as a great leap forward, held up by only this one big issue:  The damage to the battery by repeated deep discharge and the high cost of the batteries being destroyed have stopped the idea from being endorsed by the industry.

With the hydraulic hybrid, the plug or grid based hybrid becomes real, and a revolution.  With a small electric motor at the home (or even on the vehicle), the vehicle can be plugged in, and the hydraulic pump driven to charge the accumulators.  The car would leave the home fully charged, every time, with the first around town miles WITHOUT gasoline/Diesel  consumption.  Every braking action would put the power back into the accumulators (regen braking), at anything except long range or high speeds, the hydraulic hybrid storage would drive the car or truck.
THE BATTERY ELECTRIC HYBRID IS DEAD, BUT DO NOT SHOW DISRESPECT.  IT'S DEVELOPMENT GOT US TO WHERE WE ARE. And, it may give the American carmakers one last shot at getting back in the game.  Will they let this too slip away, after developing it in the United States?

Hydraulic energy storage sounds interesting, but ultimately I don't think it will be able to compete with batteries. Electricity is a highly efficient way to send power around a system, a technology which is well developed. Yes, more work is needed on the batteries but it is an area with very active research.

Pressurizing a hydraulic tank and then withdrawing energy from it will work but it will require old-fashioned mechanical linkages among all the parts of the system. And you'll always have to worry about what if it springs a leak? This technology sounds totally backward and 20th century.

The real car of the future will have drive by wire technology with in-wheel electric motors. The only power transmission systems onboard will be electric wires. The diesel engine (that charges the battery) will be fully electronically controlled to avoid the weight and space overhead of mechanical ignition and valve timing systems.

Hah!  Halfin is making a prediction :-)  Caught in the act!
Yes, I have to admit, I succumb occasionally. Perhaps the end-of-the-year madness is upon me.
Agreed. Battery technology is improving also, and Prius has not had a battery failure yet that I have heard, even in cars that have gone 200,000+ miles. Deep cycling is not necessarily a problem for quality metal hydride batteries, although Toyota has been very conservative about how much they let them discharge, given the newness of the technology. Toyota doesn't like the plug-in conversion because it alters significantly the power train in ways they can't control. The computer management system is also changed. This kind of alteration in any system would void the warranty. Myself, I would like a plug-in hybrid, but from an OEM with warranty, etc.
From the NextEnergy web site:
For road vehicles to be successful with this arrangement both mechanical and hydraulic efficiencies of the pump and motor units must be considerably higher than the current state of the art hydraulic pumps and motors used in industrial, off-highway and aerospace operations.
On top of this, the energy/mass of hydraulic systems is low compared to batteries.  You can do wonderful things for starting and acceleration, but you can't climb long hills with it and you can't get any significant engine-off range.

The future of the hybrid is the plug-in hybrid (which you can't even get close to with hydraulics), evolving to the pure EV.

I fully agree with you on this one. A hydraulic hybrid system based on storing energy as a compressed gas does not strike me as a very promising way to go, all the recent hype notwithstanding.

As you no doubt know, when you compress a gas, it heats up; and when you expand a gas, it cools down. Basic thermodynamics. No way around it.

So what this type of system will experience is major energy losses due to heat dissipation during expansion and major energy losses due to cooling of the gases during decompression. A gas is basically a spring with a great deal of losses during compression and decompression.

So, I have a very hard time getting terrribly enthused about hydraulic hybrids. Parenthetically, this is NOT a particularly new idea. Just check the US Patent literature, and you will see all sorts of similar schemes.

As has been said before, it's all a matter of energy density. High energy density, good - low energy density, bad.  Compressed gas in a car is a relatively low energy density system. I do believe that state-of-the-art electrical batteries can do much better.

 "Mis-underestimating" the hydraulic Hybrid?

Well, I see that I have at least done something that up to this point been difficult, that is, found an audience who seem to have at least heard of the "Hydraulic Hybrid"! But of course, I ran my post in a forum of  generally good thinkers.
So it is all votes against, and only mine for?  (well, with exception of the EPA, Ford, Eaton Corp., and, who seem to find a bit of promise in it...:-)

The easiest way is to work in descending order of replies...
Halfin says "Hydraulic energy storage sounds interesting, but ultimately I don't think it will be able to compete with batteries."  Does that mean Halfin thinks that it is now competitive, but just won't be "ultimately", or that it is not even now competitive?  Interesting difference.  Halfin again... "Electricity is a highly efficient way to send power around a system, a technology which is well developed. Yes, more work is needed on the batteries but it is an area with very active research." Very true, but then Hydraulics is also "well developed" and research is "active" to improve it
His concession that "more work is needed" on the batteries is at the very heart of the discussion.  How much more work?  How much longer can we wait? Can the advanced battery industry even survive?  I checked the website of Valence today, the maker of the advanced Lithium Ion batteries proposed for the Calcars plug hybrid.  Their stock price is at a 8 year low, they have never turned a profit, and are beginning to drown in a sea of research debt.  They are only one of many.  The breakthrough must come very soon, as the advanced battery industry (Japan excepted, because they have big auto customers for their batteries, thus precluding American auto makers from using many of theirs) struggle not to save the world, but simply to save themselves.  Another option is needed, and very soon, if the hybrid idea hopes to expand beyond the Japanese makers.

Halfin then goes on to the reliability issue, "And you'll always have to worry about what if it springs a leak?"  Now, every single day, if you drive a car, you put your very life at stake on the reliability of hydraulic systems, so great is their reliability.  Every time you step on the brakes, or steer a power steering car, your safety rests, and your faith resides COMPLETELY in the well known extreme reliability of hybrid systems. Your automatic transmission equipped car is completely at the mercy of hydraulic systems to even move.  Of all the arguments against the hydraulic idea, this is by far the weak one.
Well, there is one is almost as weak.... "This technology sounds totally backward and 20th century."  But, as strange as it may sound, this argument is actually the reason that MANY viable technologies are being bypassed in favor of even more complicated, expensive, and consumptive technologies than good ideas that are already well developed and known.  I myself was a fanatic for the electric hybrid idea (I still admire the audacity of the Prius hybrid, what nerve it took for Toyota to make such a brave stand, and many of the systems pioneered there will lead us into the future), and as became familiar with the group, I became fascinated with the coming breakthrough of "plug" or grid-able hybrids.  Then, after fascination with the new wore off, as I continued my studies, I became somewhat more doubtful.  The idea was BRILLIANT, but the technology needed showed to be flawed.  The problem, is, as it has always been, the life cycle cost and durability of the battery.  I am becoming convinced that this simply will not be solved in time to help us when we need it.  (as Halfin says, maybe "ultimately")  But the long and short of the story is, that just because the electric hybrid "sounds" more modern, does not mean it is the workable path.  I remember when Chrysler said we would all be driving gas turbines soon, and some predicted "atomic cars" and "hovercraft".  It all sounded (and looked in the artist renderings) SO MODERN.  But, financially, in the real world, the fanciest most chic idea has to face reality.  So it is with the electric hybrid.  
The "hydraulic hybrid" just is not glamourous enough, that's true, with it's 20th century pumps and motors.  But it needs no precious high tech metals, no special "small batch "super" chemistry, no repeated replacing of expensive battery packs sensitive to destruction (despite the arguments of some, I have checked, and what the battery industry calls "deep discharge", the most the battery can stand, is barely 20% to 25% discharge before the battery life is shortened!  That is like carrying the weight of 10 gallons of fuel, but only being allowed to use 2.5 gallons without destruction of the fuel system!  That is why as peakearl says, "Prius has not had a battery failure yet that I have heard, even in cars that have gone 200,000+ miles."  peakearl gives away how this is done only a few sentences later, "Toyota has been very conservative about how much they let them discharge, given the newness of the technology."  Then, peakearl says, "Toyota doesn't like the plug-in conversion because it alters significantly the power train in ways they can't control."  EXACTLY.  Toyota has said themselves they have shown no intent to market the plug hybrid because they know the batteries cannot stand the discharge at any more than nominal depth.  It is simply not sensible IF any other option exists.  Engineer Poet then says, "On top of this, the energy/mass of hydraulic systems is low compared to batteries."  This is true, but only if you can actually use all the potential of the batteries.  As we have just pointed out above, since we are allowed to use only about 1/4th the potential energy, that point becomes moot.  What matters to the performance of the vehicle and to the billfold is power you can use!

joule then makes the case of thermodynamics "As you no doubt know, when you compress a gas, it heats up; and when you expand a gas, it cools down. Basic thermodynamics. No way around it."  True, but some gas is worse in this regard than others, the very reason that experiments are already well underway with nitrogen charged gas, very stable thermodynamically.  With a stable gas, and good thermodynamic control, there will still be loses, but whether they will be what joule calls "major energy losses" is debatable, especially when you compare it to the electric hybrid, which as we said, has issues of being able to use the the bulk of the weight it is carrying.  Thus when joule states, "As has been said before, it's all a matter of energy density. High energy density, good - low energy density, bad.  Compressed gas in a car is a relatively low energy density system. I do believe that state-of-the-art electrical batteries can do much better.", honestly, the burden of proof is on the battery hybrids to prove this, especially when we wish to make the next leap, plug or grid based hybrids.
joule then says, "Parenthetically, this is NOT a particularly new idea. Just check the US Patent literature, and you will see all sorts of similar schemes.", this is of course correct, but it can also be said of the hybrid electric.  I am old enough to remember the "miracle " of plug hybrid in the famous Briggs and Stratton hybrid electric car of 1980.  Then, as now, the battery was the stopper.

I want to return, in closing to the remark of Engineer Poet because it is here that I have become a convert to the hydraulic hybrid (which is in itself only an intermediate step, to the possibility of the pneumatic hybrid):
 "The future of the hybrid is the plug-in hybrid (which you can't even get close to with hydraulics)"

On this, I could not disagree more.  Because the plug hybrid as yet is not doable with the fragile shallow discharge batteries, if we consider this the only option, we are without an option.  Consider if you would the possibility of a plug or grid based hydraulic hybrid:  It would have a large set of high pressure accumulators charged by an electric motor sitting in the garage.  When the driver gets in and starts the vehicle, and puts it in gear, the Diesel or gas engine would start (why?  not to drive the vehicle, but to provide heat or AC climate control, something that people forget will be needed on any electric plug hybrid!)  The engine, a MUCH smaller engine than would be needed without the hydraulic accumulators and drive, would settle in at one set speed, with only one job at the start:  maintain the pressure in the accumulators.  The initial start of the vehicle moving would be all hydraulic.  Only once the car began needing acceleration or hill climbing, would the engine be called on for drive to the wheels at all.  On ANY braking action, or downhill coast, the hydraulic pumps would feed the  energy of deceleration back to the accumulators.  With the head start on accumulator pressure of being plugged in and charged before the start, and the return of all braking forces, the efficiency easily rivals the battery electric (as the EPA stats show, a Navigator sized truck in the early stages of development is already a rival to the Ford Escape Hybrid, which is a much lighter SUV!), but we  are just now getting to the best part, the final cut so to speak....the hydraulic hybrid storage pressure can be taken down to near 0%, with absolutely no deterioration of the storage system!  Thus, the above discussed "heat loss" issues, the bogus reliability complaint, and the "old fashioned sound" of the hydraulic hybrid idea is easily overcome by the fact that not only does hydraulic energy work, the power can actually be used, not just carried as dead weight, unlike the battery hybrid, of which 75% plus of the energy, as good as it is, cannot be touched, but is there only to push the last 25% out.

I will place my bet:  This is something NO battery electric hybrid will be able to do in any time frame to be useful.  My beta:  In the long view, the battery electric hybrid is an expensive distraction.  There will be, in fact, must be, a better way to store and use energy, or not only is the battery hybrid dead, the whole hybrid concept is dead.

Will the "brown" now go green? :-)

I'm and electrical engineer with experience designing switch mode power supplies, and also years of experience with mechanical things.  Presently I manage a product development group.  If I had to pick one, right now, to develop into a viable product, I would go the hydraulic hybrid.  People do not seem to understand the fundamental differences between a gasoline powered hybrid, like the Prius, and a plug in hybrid.  In the Prius, the battery system is only there to average out the peaks, and to provide a means of recovery of braking energy.  It's a gasoline powered vehicle, albeit an efficient one.  A plug in hybrid is at heart an electric vehicle, or worse, it's both (two complete systems).  A Prius is NOT a plug in hybrid - there are no viable, cost effective vehicles of that type available yet.  And I agree, the battery technology is not there, and it's quite inefficient carrying around batteries that cannot be fully utilized.      

The hydraulic hybrid needs development work too, but the technology is simple, most of the bits are similar to things already in manufacture, and can be made fairly cheaply.  It's the difference between research and technology invention, and simple product development (properly designing and assembling existing technology into a product).  

And truthfully, I would need to see a serious analysis before I'd be willing to accept that the hydraulic system would be less efficient that the battery storage system.  They both have losses - which ones are greater?  The difference would have to be pretty large to overcome what I perceive as the greater technology development required for the battery system.

We need pragmatic solutions NOW, and the hydraulic approach, somewhat distasteful as it is, fits that bill.  Our industry could manufacture it in quantity in a very short time - it requires skills and knowledge that exists in many places.  

If someone brought out a hydraulic hybrid tomorrow, I would have no hesitation about whether it would be reliable, how long it would last, etc.  Take a look at the hydraulic systems in use everywhere now, from the braking, steering, and transmissions in your car, to hydrostatic drives in enormous tractors, to aircraft and industrial systems.  Keep working on the batteries, but implement what works now.  

Well, just because I'm a bit skeptical about the hydraulic hybrid concept doesn't automatically mean that I'm a fan of the electric hybrid. I will readily acknowledge that it has its own set of drawbacks, the main one being (as you quite correctly point out) the need to carry around an expensive,  heavy battery having a questionable number of charge/discharge cycles.

Furthermore, I fully agree that a hydraulic hybrid is simpler to manufacture and that the 'accumulator', i.e., the pressure vessel that stores the compressed gas) is relatively cheap and does not wear out.

However, what I DO question is whether one can store a sufficient amout of energy in a reasonable size accumulator operating at some practical pressure, say 1,000 psi max (?) to provide enough power on demand for decent acceleration and for high-load conditions (such as going up a long, steep hill with a car full of passengers).  

The thermodynamic problem I referred to earlier has to do with the fact that when a gas is compressed, it heats up, and when it is compressed to very high pressures it gets very hot. As such, if the compressed gas in the accumulator is allowed to cool down, a significant amount of the energy of compression will be lost as heat.  This could be partially overcome by insulating the accumulator, but in practical terms it cannot be allowed to become too too hot. Maybe this has already been worked out, but I see it as a potential drawback.

 Basically the accumulator would have to be able to store enough energy as compressed gas to make up for the difference in the power required for high-load conditions and the max power output of the small internal combustion engine that drives the system.  My gut feel is that the accumulator would have to be a fairly large pressure vessel relative to the available volume inside the vehicle to situate such a vessel.

How large does a reasonable size accumulator for say a 3,000-lb vehicle have to be?  What pressure does the accumulator operate at?  What does the compression/discharge cycle look like? Again, how is the heat of compression managed?  These are all questions I'd like to look into.

Maybe I've been too hasty in my skepticism, as I do try to keep an open mind about new technology.

By the way, I have an issue of Mechanix Illustrated from the early 1950s showing a homemade car (actually more of a go-cart type of thing) that some home inventor put together that was powered by hydraulic motors he obtained from WW II aircraft surplus. The whole thing was driven by a small gas engine. So, as I pointed out, such schemes have been around for a long time.

Your questions are valid, but this is part of the development process.  It should not take long to run through the calculations to determine what can be done.  But I must point out that a lot hinges on what is meant by "sufficient ".  Perhaps the goal is not to move a loaded vehicle up a hill on stored power alone.  The strategy of how the stored power is best used to maximize overall efficiency must also be worked out.  Because in the end, that is what we're looking for - much more efficient automobiles.  It's ok by me if they still use fuel, as long as they use a lot less of it.
Yes, these various considerations do need to be worked out.

But the basic rationale behind a hybrid is still the same: save energy by using a much smaller than usual gas engine that runs at more steady output and which uses part of that output to store energy that can then be called for to supplement the gas engine during high-load conditions such as acceleration or going up steep hills.  

Regardless of what kind of hybrid you use, the gas engine must have a minimum output, probably equivalent to the amount of power required for steady-state high-speed cruising (say at 80 mph max) plus some extra to keep the energy storage system topped off.

 Would it be reasonable to have maximum output (gas engine at full throttle plus the energy storage system discharge) equal to say twice that of just the gas engine alone?  If that were the case, and we have a 3,000-lb car with say a 140 HP total max output, then the gas engine alone would be 70 HP and the storage system discharge capability also the equivalent of 70 HP.

Now this 70 HP of storage system discharge would have to be capable of being sustained over a reasonably expected period of full-load condition. It would seem to me that at least several minutes would be desireable. For the sake of argument, lets say that the storage system would need to supply 70 HP for 2 minutes. As a horsepower is 33,000 ft-lbs per minute, we would need to store the equivalent of 4.6 million ft-lbs of energy.

That says to me that you would need quite a large pressure vessel pumped up to a very high pressure, even when neglecting the loss of some of the heat of compression. I'm getting rather curious about this and will try to work out some numbers when I have the chance.

I think one has to define the goal before any of these discussions can converge on something.  This idea of a plug-in hybrid seems to entail the concept of being able to drive to work and plug in on the other end, and if you cannot get a recharge, well you can always drive home on the gasoline engine.  What this translates to is a vehicle with two drivetrains - an extravagance, and an unnecessary divergence from the real goal (mine anyway), which is a step increase in fuel mileage.  If you want to go long distances on stored energy alone, you need massively greater storage capacity.  If all you are doing is smoothing out the peaks and providing somewhere to put the energy regenerated from braking, the concept becomes much more reasonable.

IIRC, the upcoming Hyundai Accent/Kia Rio Hybrid will have a 16hp electric motor.  I don't know how big the battery pack is.  It would weigh about 3000lbs fully loaded - so obviously they're not planning on running without the gas engine.  Now, the more you want to use the stored energy, the larger the storage must be.  But at some point, lugging around the larger energy storage device will start to decrease the mileage you get with the IC engine.  And I suspect that whether you use batteries or hydraulic storage, it's going to become prohibitive.

To me plug-in hybrid just sound like "EV with on board generator".  I don't think that's going to make it work any better, just be too expensive and too heavy, regardless of the energy storage format.  At least until we come up with a very compact and lightweight energy storage format that can be deep cycled repeatedly - kinda like gasoline/diesel.  That's want made the whole automobile concept workable in the first place.  

There are serious problems at the basic physics level with energy losses during compression and decompression, due to the heating/cooling.  The 95-99% efficiency claimed in the EPA brochure sounds wildly optimistic to me.

For a detailed theoretical paper by Ulf Bossel on this issue see:

You may suspect that Ulf Bossel is biased on this since he is a senior researcher at the European Fuel Cell Forum.  But his paper speaks for itself, plus you may be interested in his several papers detailing why the electricity->hydrogen->fuelcell method of energy use for general transportation is a very poor choice, 4 times less efficient than using the electricity directly (i.e. via good batteries).

Here is the abstract from the PDF linked above.  Keep in mind that he's talking about pure ("plug in") compressed-air vehicles, not hybrids.  But the analysis seems to indicate that the efficiency gains of a hybrid approach are limited.

The first compressed air vehicles were built by Andraud and Tessié du Motay in Paris between 1838 and 1840. Since then the idea has been tried again and again, but has never reached commercialization. In recent years the French developer MDI has demonstrated advanced compressed air vehicles. However, the claimed performance has been questioned by car manufacturers and automobile expert. Basically, when referred to ambient conditions, the relatively
low energy content of the compressed air in a tank of acceptable volume is
claimed to be insufficient to move even small cars over meaningful distances. On the other hand, another air car developer claims to have driven 184 km on one 300 Liter filled with air at initially 300 bar pressure. Obviously, there are issues to be resolved, not by heated debates, but by an analysis of the
thermodynamic processes involved. This is the aim of this study.
The results indicate that both sides are correct. At 20°C a 300 Liter tank filled with air at 300 bar carries 51 MJ of energy. Under ideal reversible isothermal conditions, this energy could be entirely converted to mechanical work.
However, even under isentropic conditions (no heat is exchanged with the environment or generated by internal friction) not more than 25 MJ become useful. By multi-stage expansion with inter-stage heating the expansion process is brought closer to the isothermal ideal.
The analysis is extended to the compression of air. Again, the ideal isothermal compression is approached by multi-stage processes with inter-cooling. By this approach compression energy requirements are reduced to acceptable levels and system pressure and temperature are kept within safe limits. The results of this analysis seem to indicate that the efficiency of the four-stage expansion process is acceptable, while even a four-stage air compression with
inter-cooling is associated with significant losses. However, the overall energy utilization could be increased if the waste heat generated during the air compression process would be used for domestic water and space heating.  ..."

And here is the last section of the paper:

For the operation of a compressed air car the overall "plug-to-road" efficiency is one of the key criteria. ... From the foregoing analysis it becomes clear that both
compression and expansion must proceed close to the isothermal limit. This can only be accomplished with multi-stage compression and expansion processes with heat exchangers for removal or addition of heat to the medium to establish close to ambient conditions.
The foregoing analysis may not be the first of its kind and certainly needs refinements. In particular, the thermodynamics of heat exchange, mechanical and aerodynamic losses, electrical efficiencies etc. need to be considered. All these effects may reduce the overall efficiency to 40% or less. The total process
efficiency may be improved by increasing the number of compression and expansion stages. ...
With respect to overall efficiency, battery-electric vehicles may be better than air cars, but hydrogen fuel cell systems may be worse.  However, with respect to system and operating costs, air cars may offer many advantages such as simplicity, cost, independence, zero pollution and environmental friendliness of all system components.  All in all, the compressed air car seems to be a viable option for clean and
efficient short range transportation. Further analyses, additional research and development are most welcome to fully identify the potentials of this
unconventional source of transportation energy."

That was some very interesting information on compressed air as a storage system of automobiles. Very helpful!

In the example you cited, a 300 liter tank of air pumped up to 300 bar (4,400 psi) has a useable energy content (@ 50% efficiency) of about 25 megajoules.

That sounds like a lot, but 25 megajoules is equivalent to 9.3 horsepower-hours.  So, if your small car needs about 27 HP minimum for normal operation, you could run it for only about 20 minutes.  

A 300-liter tank would be approximately equivalent to a pressure vessel 2 feet in diameter by 4 feet long.

Now, 4,400 psi is an extremely high operating pressure, far above what is usually encountered in either the power generating or chemical process industries. To withstand such a pressure, it would have to be a very thick-walled vessel. My rough back-of-the-evelopment calculation indicates that if it were made out of high-tensile steel, it would have to have walls at least 3 inches thick.  Steel plate 3 inches thick weighs about 120 lbs per square foot. The pressure vessel has a total surface area of about 31 square feet. Thus, it would weigh over 3,700 lbs.  That is more than the weight of the car itself!

I suppose you would make the pressure out of some exotic carbon fibre composite, which I would guess at best would reduce the weight to a third or say 1,200 lbs. That is still a very heavy  pressure to go a very short distance.

I realize that in a hybrid system, the pressure  vessel could be made much small and that the operating pressure could be made lower, But I think these numbers I've presented illustrate what you are up against when you try to store larges amounts of energy in the form of high-pressure compressed air for use in a motor vehicle.

Please check my numbers. I could be wrong, but I don't think so.

Point of reference - a standard SCUBA tank is pressurized to ~3000 PSI.  The standard sizes are 60, 80, and 120 cubic ft, with 80 being the most common.

I need to clarify something.  The capacities that I quoted are the equivalent volumes of air at 1ATM.  It wouldn't make sense any other way.

Standard tanks are usually either aluminum or steel.  I have carried steel 120s and they do get a little on the heavy side, but the walls aren't 3 inches thick.

By my calculation, a 120 cubic ft SCUBA tank would have about roughly a 16 liter internal volume.

Now that I think about it though, I wonder if you could store a lot more energy with something like really strong clock springs.  Braking energy could be trivially converted by using the mechanical motion to wind up the spring - acceleration could be the reverse.  I haven't worked any numbers, but it would seem that this would be a lot less lossy than compressing a fluid or gas.

Well a 16-liter scuba tank would have a volume of about 0.5 cubic feet. If it held 120 cubic feet of (ambient-condition) air,  that would be a compression ratio of about 240:1. So, it's pressure would be about 240 times atmospheric or roughly, 3,500 psi.  

However, if in the example it should be 300 liter BEFORE compression rather than compressed air in a vessel of 300 liter volume, then there is no way that such a small vessel could store 25 megajoules of energy, even if it were pressurized to 5,000 psi.  It's either one or the other, but it can't be both.

My example of a 2-ft diameter by 4-foot long pressure vessel with 3-inch walls was calculated using the rather conservative pressure vessel code. If you relaxed the factor of safety and used very high-tensile special steel, you MIGHT get it down to a 1.5 inch thickness. But even so, the vessel would still weigh about 1,800 lbs which would still be prohibitive. If you go with carbon fiber composites and use a vessel of perhaps only 75 liters, you might get the 'accumulator' down to several hundred pounds (don't forget that the wall-thickness of a pressure vessel increases almost directly with its diameter, so large-diameter high-pressure vessel get thick pretty fast). Of course, the amount of energy storage will decrease accordingly.

Regarding springs for storing energy in a hybrid system,  such as something akin to a giant clock spring, that looks even less promising in terms of the amount of energy you can store per unit weight.  If one insists on a purely mechanical means of storing energy, high-speed flywheels would probably be much better.  A lot of work has been done on flywheels for energy storage, but like everything else, they also have some serious drawbacks.

It is not widely appreciated that energy stored as chemical energy (e.g., as a fuel or in a battery) is usually far more weight-efficient than energy stored mechanically.  In a stationary system, such as a power plant, this is not a problem, but it is a major liability if you are trying use it in a vehicle.

Yes, but my point (not well expressed) is that while it doesn't make sense to have large diameter pressure vessels, one could use multiple smaller diameter vessels.  If you were just using off the shelf scuba tanks, about 20 of them would be needed to get to a 300 liter volume.  I looked online  - for a steel 120 the weight is approximately 40 lbs.  Total weight ~800 pounds.

If you order pressurized gas, they also come in taller but still relatively skinny tanks, and when filled, these tanks also come with about 3000 PSI of gas.

 Please give me a link or evidence to support your claim that state-of-the-art NiMH batteries are "shallow, fragile, low discharge batteries." The Cobasys site (holder of NiMH IP and maker of such batteries) claims many thousands of deep-discharge cycles without damage. Obviously they have a vested interest, but then they sell and warranty batteries for such use. I am asking for verification of your claim - I am truly interested, not just skeptical. I like any technology that will help us, including hydraulic. What I can say for certain right now, however, is that current hybrids are proven, effective reliable technology and improve significantly with each iteration and new vehicle. I don't understand the vehemence and emotional rejection of something that is currently working and improving although not perfect. Maybe it's not the long-term future but it certainly has a future in the medium term.

Again, some real, current technical support for your claim against the batteries, please.

 First, peakearl, you said
"I don't understand the vehemence and emotional rejection of something that is currently working and improving although not perfect."

 I did not think my posts to this point expressed "vehemence" or "emotional rejection", but I will admit that my title in the original post was a bit provocative, intentionally so, and a bit in jest, to get folks into this discussion!  It has been very interesting and you folks have been a great sounding board (by the way, if you want to prove that I will not "emotionally reject" an electric hybrid, Please have a Lexus dealer forward to me a 400H hybrid SUV, I will not "reject it" I assure you (I do like that truck!)
now, to "shallow, fragile, low discharge batteries." and sources, I simply rooted around in my favorites box for a few references I have used in education of myself in this area....

Depth of discharge:

First  reference, some stats on the old fashioned lead acid battery:

"The depth of discharge (DOD) is the recommended proportion of the total available energy storage for which that battery will achieve its rated cycles. Deep cycle lead-acid batteries generally should not be discharged below 50% capacity. More modern formulations can survive deeper cycles."
CYCLE DEPTH:  Fully discharging a battery often destroys the  battery or, at a minimum, dramatically shortens its life. Deep-cycle lead-acid batteries  can be routinely discharged down to 15-20% of its capacity - this represents a depth of  discharge (DOD) of 85 to 80%. These deep-cycle batteries are constructed with thick plates  for the cathodes and anodes in order to resist warping whereas in a conventional lead-acid  batteries the plates are paper-thin. Regardless of whether or not the battery is  deep-cycle or not, deep discharges shorten the life of a battery. A deep-cycle battery  that can last 300 discharge-recharge cycles of 80% DOD (depth of discharge) may last 600 cycles at 50% DOD.

On the Toyota Prius, folks who tinker them say, "On the stock Prius, the NiMH battery SOC is maintained between 60 & 80 % by the onboard computer controls."

All indications are that 50% discharge as the maximum before the battery life becomes shortened noticibly.

Below is a discussion of the limits of a Nickel-Metal Hydride battery, this discussion in relation to small format batteries (cell phone, laptop size, etc.) but the chemistry is exactly the same as the large format ones in a hybrid electric car.
 Isidor Buchmann is the founder and CEO of Cadex Electronics Inc., in Richmond (Vancouver) British Columbia, Canada. Mr. Buchmann has a background in radio communications and has studied the behavior of rechargeable batteries in practical, everyday applications for two decades. The author of many articles and books on battery maintenance technology.

The Nickel-Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery
Limited service life -- if repeatedly deep cycled, especially at high load currents, the performance starts to deteriorate after 200 to 300 cycles. Shallow rather than deep discharge cycles are preferred.

Limited discharge current -- although a NiMH battery is capable of delivering high discharge currents, repeated discharges with high load currents reduces the battery's cycle life. Best results are achieved with load currents of 0.2C to 0.5C (one-fifth to one-half of the rated capacity).

More complex charge algorithm needed -- the NiMH generates more heat during charge and requires a longer charge time than the NiCd. The trickle charge is critical and must be controlled carefully.

High self-discharge -- the NiMH has about 50 percent higher self-discharge compared to the NiCd. New chemical additives improve the self-discharge but at the expense of lower energy density.

Performance degrades if stored at elevated temperatures -- the NiMH should be stored in a cool place and at a state-of-charge of about 40 percent.

High maintenance.
The NiMH is less durable than the NiCd. Cycling under heavy load and storage at high temperature reduces the service life.
A very involved set of charts and stats, on several advanced battery types:
 Figure 3 examines Nickel-metal-hydride. We observe good performance at first, but past 300-cycles, the readings starts to deteriorate rapidly. One can observe the swift increase in internal resistance and self-discharge after cycle count 700. Nickel-metal hydride has a higher energy density than Nickel-cadmium and does not contain toxic metals. Some argue that Nickel-metal-hydride is an interim step to Lithium-ion.
In some other aspects, however, a lab test may be harder on the battery than actual field use. In our test, each cycle applied a full discharge. The nickel-based packs were drained to 1.0 Volt and Lithium-ion to 3.0 Volts per cell. In typical field use, the discharge before re-charge is normally shallower. A partial discharge puts less strain on the battery, which benefits Lithium-ion and to some extent also Nickel-metal-hydride. Nickel-cadmium is least affected by delivering full cycles. Manufacturers normally specify the cycle life of Lithium-ion at an 80% depth-of-discharge.

interesting stats concerning phone batteries (NiMH), again, chemically the same as the Prius battery:

Time on phone calls in an
8-hour shift
Resulting depth of
battery discharge
Battery service life
1 hour 40 minutes use
100% discharge=

50 minutes
50% discharge=
30 minutes use
30% discharge=
2700 cycles (note the huge drop in useful discharge cycles as the battery is discharged deeper, 50% discharge limit doubles the battery life, and holding at 30% limit raised the cycle life some 5 times (!!)
Shallow rather than deep discharges are preferable and the. battery's longevity
 is directly related to the depth of discharge.

The upside...Robust  NiMH batteries also tolerate over charge and over discharge conditions and this simplifies the battery management requirements.
Low internal impedance
Flat discharge characteristic (but falls off rapidly at the end of the cycle)

And to close it in a nutshell:
While the battery may have a high capacity it is not necessarily all available since it may only deliver full power down to 50% DOD depending on the application.

So, all the indications I am getting is that the battery will, as you quote, go "many thousands of deep-discharge cycles without damage."  But at what efficiency past an x number of cycles, and at what output in power once you cross the 50% discharge mark.  For the moment, I am still relatively convinced that Toyota, and most other manufactrurers keep the 50% plus rule for a reason, and that 30% discharge is the ideal to stretch the cycles to the maximum, which I would want to do given the expense of the battery pack.  This means, however, carrying a lot of weight, spending a lot of money,  and taking up a lot of space and getting not a lot in return.

Others in this discussion who have been discussing pressures in the accumulator, I have often wondered what the limit is (of course, if wall strenth is increased to stand more pressure, there would be a tradeoff...I know what the EPA/Eaton/Ford Navigator numbers were given as from my original source

The working pressure was given at 5000psi, with a goal of 7000psi in the next generation.  They were stating a weight of 240 pounds with a composite accumulator tank of 22 gallons, this being claimed to be an 80 to 90% improvement in weight over steel piston accumulators (!)
interestingly, they claim a vehicle weight increase of 125 pounds.  This is due to the reduced weight of removing the large engine (replaced, in the small engine package by a 1.9 liter engine (in a Navigator, mind you!) and replacement of the automatic transmission with the hydraulic drive.

It is an fascinating bit of engineering, but again, the central issue is still, when compared to the hybrid electric, avoiding the whole battery issue, which has plagued all electric cars, hybrid or otherwise, from the start.

As I said, I wouldn't turn down a free hybrid Lexus 400H, but if Ford can make this Navigator do what the potential leads us to believe possible, I would take a hydraulic hybrid Navigator instead!  But, Lexus has the advantage in the biggest possible way:  They are in the market.  This project for now, is not.

Thanks for the reply, I've reviewed the links. Still think it's too soon to write off the HEV, but again I glad for all new developments. Batteries have imroved dramatically over the last 2-3 years with more improvements down the pike, and I didn't get a date from all of your posts. However, I agree that they remain an expensive and heavy limitation to the technology.

Your point on dates is well taken, a few years can make a difference in the now faster moving battery business.

And like you, I am "not writing off" the Battery Electric Hybrid" (despite the somewhat jestful subect title of my first post! :-), but I hope the industry, the American industry in particular see it as not the end of the road, but as segway into even more interesting ideas!
The newer interesting developments batteries seem to be the Lithium Ion/Lithium Polymer batteries, so the game is still afoot! :-)

Heated debate on "nuanced human ingenuity" here:

I wonder if ignorance and arrogance are also "nuanced"?

Hello all - my first time adding a bit to this website, one I browse through fairly frequently.  I noticed this story in today's Globe and Mail (Canada):

It seemed to have some odd comments in an earlier version (the story changed from when I first viewed it a few hours ago, to when I just went back a few minutes ago).  Yushchenko spoke of only paying a fair and 'objectively' established price.  What would that be?? p;siteid=mktw&dist=

How's this for nonsense?  This guy makes a living advising people about commodities.  From the size of him I'd say he's not starving to death.  Not a number in sight.  The article is obviously a prelude to hawking some small cap stocks.  That comes later after one subscribes to his newsletter.

Oil shale is a mystery to most of the world even many geological experts and petro chemists have little practical working knowledge of it. Oil shale after all has really only been used with great effectiveness in one country; that's right, Estonia.

The bottom line in developing a large oil shale industry will be governed by the price of petroleum-based crude oil. When the price of shale oil is comparable to that of crude oil, because of diminishing resources of crude, then shale oil may find a place in the world fossil energy mix. That day of reckoning seems to be fast approaching and there are many small stocks that are trading at a discount that allow investors to get in on the ground floor of what may become the next big energy source in the U.S.

What's upsetting is that this obvious stock promotion scam is given headline status on  How much did he pay Marketwatch for placement I wonder?

A couple of weeks back I did some yearend financial predictions, reckoning time...

16th December 2005, 14:00 GMT notes.

Next couple of weeks to 31st December 2005

Stocks will peak today (Friday 16th December) with the DJIA failing to top 11,000. Gold should decline a little into yearend. Oil should climb a little, the US$ should climb a little. Yearend predictions: DJIA 10,720,  Oil $66, Gold $493, US$ 90.3%. Nothing significant.

In evaluating my prediction I give 50% for correct direction, then the proportion of 50% that I was accurate between price at time of forecast and actual price at yearend.

Stocks peaked on 16th Dec, ended year at 10,717.5  [99%]
Oil increased but fell well short of my $66, damn weather, LOL, ended year at $61.04  [72%]
Gold did drop to just below $493, but ended year at $518.90 [58%]
US$ did bounce, but higher than I expected, ending year at 91.16%  [73%]

Overall 75% correct. All directions correct (which is important since it means one should not lose money on the bets), DJIA spot on, flukey. US$ bounce insignificant in the scheme of things, oil has more upside to come. Gold deserves discussion: I did expect intervention in the quiet markets to get it back below $500, didn't happen. Those who would keep the price down are running out of bullets (though they will try something in the next few months, methinks) and must let the market run a bit. The inflation and uncertainty steam is building up, I expect a 20%+ increase in gold with 50%+ certainty by yearend 2006, the downside risk is very minimal. BTW I am not a goldbug, and currently have no bets or holding in anything directly gold related, but might change that soon. Strong gold bodes ill for stock markets and US$.

For the gamblers and day traders amongst you: I expect the DJIA to drop to about 10,500 next week, probably early on, then recover a bit.

I'll post my 2006 predictions when another open thread appears, want to muse on them further yet.

Can someone give me the 411 on reading a "variable area wiggle trace"? What exactly is the thing telling me?