Ideas Project from Jumpstart Ford launches with CalCars profile
Jan 17, 2006 (From the CalCars-News archive)
This posting originally appeared at CalCars-News, our newsletter of breaking CalCars
and plug-in hybrid news. View the original
Jumpstart Ford -- a partnership between Global Exchange, Rainforest Action Network, and Ruckus Society -- has launched a new "Ideas Project," soliciting from the public: "ideas for an oil independent future - do you have a backyard bio-diesel project, a new strategy for critiquing car culture, or an oil issue that needs some attention?" They say "It's time for Ford to lead the way to oil independence. Ideas Project: Powered by You."
They plan each month to feature a new idea. They've launched the project with a profile of CalCars: http://ga3.org/ct/qdAF-5Y1Pzfu/http://www.jumpstartford.com/our_vision/your_ideas_for_oil_independence/
Don't we all wish we could get at least 100 mpg from our cars? Well, wish no longer. Cal Cars has made it happen with the Plug-In hybrid (PHEV) In their own words:
We've taken the well-designed and highly-popular Toyota Prius and souped it up -- or more accurately, "green-tuned" it! We've added batteries and grid-charging, and you get PRIUS+, a "plug-in" hybrid (PHEV). We've taken hybrids the next step, adding a second fuel source--electricity--that, compared to gasoline, is cheaper, cleaner, and domestic. That means no gas when you do your errands on local streets at 35mph. On the highway, it runs just like any other Prius, with the gasoline engine doing most of the work -- and the extra batteries kicking in to improve performance at ALL speeds.
Unfortunately, the automakers don't believe there's a market for these cars, so they won't build them...YET! It's our job to convince Ford to build PHEVs. For more info, check out the Cal Cars website.
(They've also created a page showing alternatives and concluding that their ideal car is a plug-in hybrid with cellulosic ethanol as the range-extender fuel -- see original URL for many links)
Walk, Ride Your Bike and Take the Bus
Bicycles are the best zero-emission vehicles, and the easiest way to break your oil addiction is by walking or riding your bike. Public transportation, even diesel buses, are much much more efficient than single-driver cars. Not everyone has access to public transportation, and many people work too far from home to walk or ride their bikes. But those of us who can walk, ride our bikes, and take the bus or train are helping America declare independence from oil!
More efficient internal combustion engines The technology exists today that could dramatically improve the fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions of Ford's vehicles. Essentially, a vehicle that is powered by an internal combustion engine is not a very efficient machine. Improvements in engines, transmissions, and vehicle design exist, but they are mostly sitting on shelves instead of making Ford's engines more efficient. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, if Ford used today's technology to clean up its internal combustion engine, its cars would get an average of 40 miles per gallon, and if Ford used the most efficient hybrid-electric technology in its vehicles, they could average 55 mpg, a big improvement over Ford's current average of 19.1 mpg. Learn more from the Union of Concerned Scientists. And read about how clean vehicle technologies can save jobs, according to a study by Natural Resources Defense Council and the Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation (OSAT) at the University of Michigan.
Hybrids Hybrid electric vehicles are a good step towards a more fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles. Hybrids use an electric motor and large battery to capture and store energy that is normally lost in inefficient gasoline engine. In the most efficient hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and the Honda Civic, the energy is used to help run the vehicle and can dramatically improve fuel efficiency. However, not all hybrids are designed to maximize efficiency; the Honda Accord and Toyota Highlander use the battery electric motor to boost the power of the engine and are hardly more efficient than their non-hybrid counterparts. Hybrids should play an essential role in reducing our oil dependence, Ford's two hybrid SUV models are certainly improvements over standard SUVs. However, for hybrids to make a dent in Ford's oil addiction, the company will have build a lot more than 22,000 in each model year. Ford's challenge will be to move hybrids out of a niche market, and into the mass market. If Ford can offer a few of its customers this efficient technology, they should be putting hybrid engines in all of their vehicles.
Plug-in Hybrids Although hybrids are efficient, they still use oil; they are simply more efficient gasoline cars. A better solution would be Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). The idea is to enlarge the battery pack in a normal hybrid so that it can hold more energy, and add a plug, so that the car can get the energy from the grid or from rooftop solar power. With a plug-in hybrid, which uses a battery-powered electric motor for the first 30 to 50 miles, most American commuters would rarely if ever need to fill up or even top off with gasoline unless making a long trip. Engineers estimate that with a plug-in hybrid electric car, an American driver could save a whopping 85% of their gas consumption!
Electric Vehicles Ford once mass-produced two full-sized vehicles that were completely independent from oil: the Th!nk City EV and the Ranger EV pickup truck. Ignoring demand, Ford eliminated the program and destroyed all but a few hundred of its only zero-emission vehicles. Click here for more info. EVs are occasionally available today through Ebay and other, mostly online sources, and custom EVs are being made. The greatest advantage to the EV is that it has no gas tank, the only power for the car is its electric motor and a very large battery pack, which is plugged in to recharge. Ford's EVs had a range of 80-100 miles; advances in battery development give the latest EVs up to a 300 mile range. The drawbacks of EVs today is that they have become extremely rare; with no major auto manufacturer currently producing EVs in the U.S., Americans no longer have easy access to petroleum-free, pollution-free cars.
Biodiesel An ordinary diesel engine, like those in a Volkswagen or a Jeep Liberty, is already equipped to run on biodiesel, a renewable and biodegradable version of diesel fuel, but made from biomass such as vegetable oils, animal fats, or algae. Biodiesel is plant-based, and plants sequester greenhouse gases which offsets the emissions produced by biodiesel. Also, biodiesel produces less air pollution than regular diesel and would reduce our dependence on petroleum. There are also drawbacks to biodiesel, for example, the energy it takes to grow plant crops for any biofuels raises concerns about the sustainability of biofuels. It is also uncertain whether agricultural land currently devoted to food crops should be diverted for transportation production, a situation that may be resolved with developments in cellulosic ethanol.
Vegetable Oil Run your car on French fry oil!?! Used or new vegetable oil is for more than just cooking; it's also a biofuel that is gaining nationwide grassroots support. Veggie oil is plant-based, and plants sequester greenhouse gases which offsets the emissions produced by the oil. Diesel engines running on veggie oil produce less air pollution than regular diesel and would reduce our dependence on petroleum. Used fryer oil is a waste product and operating your vehicle on filtered fryer oil removes this product from the waste stream. And it's usually free of charge, since restaurants are often happy to get rid of it. The drawback is volume-used veggie oil is free and plentiful right now, but it is in fact a limited resource. As the current grassroots demand grows and shifts toward mainstream usage, we could soon experience Peak Veggie Oil. Diesel engines can run on vegetable oil with a modification kit, which retails for $600-$1000.
Ethanol Ethanol is a biofuel that can be used in standard (non-diesel) cars that are factory modified. Since 1999 an increasing number of vehicles are designed to be dual-fuel or flex-fuel vehicles, so they can automatically run on either ethanol, gasoline, or a high blend (85%) of ethanol called E85. Gasoline also may have up to a 10% blend of ethanol, known as E10 as an additive to reduce pollution. Ethanol-blended gas is already for sale in California and many regions of the country at an ordinary gas station. A plug-in hybrid car that uses E85 instead of gasoline would effectively get 500+ MPG of gasoline, plus electricity, plus ethanol. Ethanol produced from sugar cane is being used as automotive fuel in Brazil. Most ethanol in the U.S. is produced from corn, but ethanol also could be derived from wheat, potato wastes, cheese whey, rice straw, sawdust, urban wastes, paper mill wastes, yard clippings, molasses, castor beans, seaweed, surplus food crops, and other plant wastes. Since ethanol is plant-based, the plants sequester greenhouse gases, which in turn offset the emissions produced by the ethanol. Ethanol also produces less air pollution than regular gasoline. Ethanol could reduce our dependence on petroleum, so long as it doesn't take more fuel to grow crops than is produced. The drawback of ethanol is in the amount of land use and energy inputs required for production. Many experts have expressed concerns that switching from food crops to transportation crops may not make our transportation more sustainable. Other critics point to the very high energy required to grow crops like corn, including gasoline in tractors and transportation of the grain as well as the various chemicals sprayed on the crops. To learn more, go to:
- Cellulosic Ethanol Cellulosic ethanol is the same as normal ethanol except it is not derived from crops. Instead it is made from grasses and agricultural waste. In other words, rather than using the kernel of corn, cellulosic ethanol uses corn stalks, which would otherwise be wasted. Cellulosic ethanol offers a promising alternative because it's as clean and carbon-neutral as regular ethanol, but it doesn't have the drawbacks of regular ethanol. However, because cellulosic ethanol is in the development phase, it is not currently available. Learn more about cellulosic ethanol
- Hydrogen Fuel Cells The fact is that hydrogen fuel cells are still science fiction. Fuel cells won't be marketable for 20 years, not to mention the fact that we do not have an affordable, climate-neutral means of producing hydrogen. In order to generate the amount of electricity needed to get hydrogen from water, we would produce an enormous polluting. In other words, we would use enormous amounts of dirty energy in order to create a nonpolluting energy source. Without a dramatic shift in electricity generation in the U.S., hydrogen fuel cells will be like lead us from the frying pan into the fire. In fact, electric vehicles, available and on the road today, are a sustainable short-cut. They also require a clean energy revolution, but they don't require us to wait 20 years before we can get started. Learn more about hydrogen fuel cells
- The Ideal Clean Green Car We don't know which of these technologies will enable us to completely end our oil addiction - likely it will be a combination. What we do know is that we can't wait. Our planet is in a crisis, people are being killed and we need to take a dramatic step in ending our oil addiction. While we continue to develop new, healthier technologies we can and have the ability to act today.
1) A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle with at
least a 40 mile range in its battery
2) Recharged with electricity powered by residential rooftop solar
3) And for longer trips, with cellulosic ethanol
or waste biodiesel fuel in the tank.
What are we waiting for? Join the movement!