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A Desire Named Streetcar

by ChrisCook Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 10:46:26 AM EST

I couldn't resist playing this clip again....

...having been stimulated by this comment.

A swedish kind of death:

I think JakeS point is that trams, trains and buses are always more efficient than cars for mass transport, because they actually utilize that it is mass transport.

...to point out that with the same power source, trams and trains tend to be more efficient than buses due to lower rolling resistance of the wheels.

I think that more work needs urgently to be done on a new generation of Ultra Light Rail very light tram/trains.


Perhaps this could lead to much conventional urban public road transport being superseded by a new generation of biomethane or dimethyl ether powered street cars, which would be ironic bearing in mind it was allegedly the US motor vehicle manufacturers who had a lot to do with seeing off the first generation of street cars.

Great American streetcar scandal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Great American streetcar scandal (also known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy and the National City Lines conspiracy) refers to a largely unpublicized program led by General Motors to systematically replace streetcars and electric trains in many cities across the United States with bus services. Some believe that this program was directly responsible for the virtual elimination of effective public transport in American cities by the 1970s.

Whatever the truth of that, it is clearly the case that a great deal of energy is lost in generating and distributing electric power to trams and trains, while the infrastructure costs of often heavy vehicles can be massive, not to mention the cost in time of implementation - Edinburgh Tram anyone? - plus the cost of cabling, substations etc etc.

If we are truly seeking rapid progress in the transition to a low carbon economy, perhaps renewable carbon fuelled ULR could be a simple and effective - if not necessarily the most profitable (which is probably why there is little interest beyond British mavericks) - way to assist in achieving it.

Display:
Excellent.
Just need a price breakthrough eh? Then a miracle happens.

Perhaps it's already underway... Volvo have been developing reformer/fuel cell stacks for niches, such as generators for boats, where the advantage of silent operation presumably justifies greater expense. And I suppose they use the same in the new hybrid car they are developing (petrol to hydrogen to electricity). So there's hope...

The great thing about the reformer/fuel cell combination is that it can be run with just about any liquid or gas fuel. This makes it a fantastic transition technology, if cost effective, because the early ones can run on diesel or CNG, until they get pushed aside on cost basis for renewables.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 12:38:05 PM EST
That is an interesting subject.

The Hyrban car, powered by fuel cells, was launched last year amid much fanfare.

The intellectual property in this vehicle and technology will all be held by the Forty Fires Foundation and the intention is that it will then be made available on an 'open source' basis.

The idea is - and the cost of components such as fuel cells was a major issue in this - that the Hyrban will not be sold, but leased, leading to the provision of transport as a service, rather than the usual transaction-based model of car sales, planned obsolescence yada yada.

Such a model potentially aligns stakeholder interests in a new way. That is probably why I was able to convince Hugo Spowers and his co-founders when they were setting up the venture - with financial backing from members of the Piech family (of Porsche fame) - that they should set up Riversimple as one of the UK Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) I bang on about, rather than as a conventional Company, whether or not 'for profit'.

The last I heard they are were working on a few partnerships with municipalities to lease vehicles,of which Leicester is the first to be announced.

Riversimple - Leicester to host 2012 Riversimple pilot

June 10th - Today Leicester City Council and Riversimple announce the joint signing of a memorandum of understanding. This is a ground breaking agreement that will see 30 Riversimple two seat cars on the roads of Leicester in spring 2012. The pilot will last for 12 months and will involve a range of customers from businesses, car fleets, car share schemes, local government and private customers.  The council and Riversimple will cooperate to find the customers to test drive the vehicles and locate and staff a suitable refuelling point. The announcement was reported in national and local press.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 02:18:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The only problem (I mean, the only actual show-stopper) is the whole hydrogen infrastructure.

One of two things needs to happen.

  • Reformer technology that can make hydrogen on-the-fly, onboard (perhaps this is a long shot)
  • Reformer technology that can fill hydrogen cylinders locally. (They might be called "gas stations".) They could run on whatever fuel stock made sense locally (reformers can apparently run on a wide variety of stuff)


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 06:05:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I see it, much local transport could run on hydrogen or denser fuels eg biomethane generated from depot-based local biomass.

Re hydrogen, this presentation re a
Biomass Based Hydrogen Economy
is excellent.

The degree of decentralisation and 'granularity' is for debate, I think.


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 09:08:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an original idea...
<insert cute cartoon of horse eating hay>

It will have to be extremely efficient; because there certainly isn't enough biomass around to give us all horse-drawn buggies.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 01:58:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<insert cute cartoon of horse eating hay>

Or a picture of a Hoover wagon.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 02:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, the future...

Of all the ways of organizing banking, the worst is the one we have today — Mervyn King, 25 October 2010
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 02:12:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Horse-drawn light rail is better:



"Ce qui vient au monde pour ne rien troubler ne mérite ni égards ni patience." René Char

by Melanchthon on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 02:37:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well if we're into new technology, there's this new wind powered boat I came across....



"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 07:00:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Direct carbon fuel cells could use a biocoal slurry ... direct ammonia fuel cells could use ammonia gas, which is much easier to store and transport than hydrogen.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 13th, 2010 at 03:37:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I visited the Iceland Shell hydrogen refill station which served the 3 buses equipped with the technology. With free electricity it worked well.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 06:51:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps it's already underway... Volvo have been developing reformer/fuel cell stacks for niches, such as generators for boats, where the advantage of silent operation presumably justifies greater expense.

This is key.  I'm afraid that idealism has infected much of the push to develop a renewable energy sector.  There is a genuine ignorance both about what is technologically viable, and what is economically viable.

Marginal cost is what drives this show.  The fact is that there are niches right now where many types of renewables are economically viable because the marginal cost is quite high.

For example, one of the strangest realities of our present situation is that the Afghanistan War may just be the impetus for developing technologies with broader applicability once economies of scale kick in.  The problem is that you need niche markets that can cover R&D costs for first generation models.  That's where the US military comes in.

By the time that a gallon of gasoline finds its way into a Humvee in Afghanistan, it costs around $400/gallon. (€77.33/liter) At that price, most any type of equipment that can use renewable power to shorten the supply chain is worth the cost.  So the US military is heavily investing in PV solar equipment for field operations.  

Once these companies that supply the US military get past that first generation, they will be able to tap into the economies of scale that emerge when the price starts to fall.

And it's not just the military.  Think about streetlights.  Solar PV can easily be integrated into the physical casing of the street light, and together with LED bulbs can take it off the grid.

Adopted globally, how much electricity could that save?

If we want to get serious about cutting carbon footprints, and reducing reliance on fossil fuels there needs to be an active effort to identify and target these niches for development. That is what industrial policy in the 21st century has to be about.  And the nation that figures that out first has much to gain.  

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 02:56:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps that's why I largely gave up green politics : lots of idealism, very little practical sense...

I have been hugely sceptical about the "hydrogen economy" -- looks like magic pony land to me -- but now I'm thinking that the fuel cell / onboard reformer combo might be the magic bullet to save the car...

But when I look around for who's doing what, I can only find Volvo, and this outfit, which are actually selling "portable" reformers for niche markets. No indications of cost.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Nov 12th, 2010 at 06:01:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... "save" the car as a one size fits all solution? The one size fits all inefficiencies will still remain no matter how the traction power is derived ... and battery electric already works for local personal vehicle transport.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 13th, 2010 at 03:40:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is talk on the street of a personal uranium reactor, roughly 200kg, which provides 30kW continuous.  Once we have these batteries will be overnight worthless and all transport will be via personal cars.  People will be placed in a car at birth, and it will take care of their every need (food, waste, sexual stimulation, VR).  Then cities as we know it will be leveled to form giant asphalt surfaces where the cars will mill around performing the mechanical equivalent of morris dancing.  Our brains will be downloaded into the glove compartment computer and we can play virtual farm for the rest of time.  Water will be entirely recycled in the vehicle.
by njh on Sat Nov 13th, 2010 at 10:08:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What in the hell are you talking about? Battery electric cars that run 30mph and have as much range as is required for local transport are not even near future science fiction, let alone pie in the sky.

Of course, they are not "highway capable", but highway capable is a socially constructed requirement, not an intrinsic one.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 13th, 2010 at 10:32:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think (hope) that njh was trying to be sarcastic.
by Gag Halfrunt on Sun Nov 14th, 2010 at 05:20:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But I don't see how saying that we already have battery electric transport that works for the actual local private vehicle transport needs that exist invites sarcasm regarding pie in the sky science fiction fantasies.

Its a complete airport city situation ~ even assuming its sarcasm, I don't get the sarcasm. Portable nuclear generators do not seem to be the right sarcasm universe for accomplishing 5% to 10% of our transport task with neighborhood electric vehicles.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Nov 14th, 2010 at 10:48:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It was a vision of the future.
by njh on Fri Nov 26th, 2010 at 11:45:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm prepared to renounce my individual one-size-fits-all solution -- I have nearly fifty years' worth of amazing memories to console me -- but I regret the regression of civilization that this represents. This is the unrepentant individualist in me speaking. I have never been formatted for coach tours or holiday camps, bus and train routes and timetables never correspond to my requirements, and the almost infinite degree of independence, flexibility and spontaneity afforded by the private car has been been part of my mental landscape since the age of 16.

If this can be preserved in a sustainable manner, that would be a Good Thing. Efficiency is not my primary consideration. Drinking a decent Burgundy is not an efficient way to get a buzz on, but I prefer it to cheap vodka.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 12:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, nobody is saying that there should be no rental cars available for spontaneous trips outside the rail grid.

But how much value does it really add to your day to do your morning and evening commutes by car rather than by train or bike?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 12:46:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
except on weekends.

After twenty years of commuting by car, I live in an apartment and cycle to work... too much of an individualist for public transport.

I do not regret those "lost decades". The added value, for me, was living in the country (in a house I could afford) and bringing up my children there.

Oh, and listening to France Culture during my commute. I really miss that.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 06:02:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Podcasts and a cheap MP3-player, my friend.

But of course only if you go by public transport - don't want bicycles waltzing around with their hearing impaired.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 06:43:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And it's a nice bike too.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Nov 16th, 2010 at 06:48:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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