Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Why Gasoline is Still King"

Another interesting article from the American re fossil fuels, this one by Ralph Bennett: "Why Gasoline is Still King: Electric roadsters are the darlings of the press, but it is likely that gasoline will continue to dominate personal transportation." Bennett's short answer comes down to the energy density of gasoline. Below is a relevant excerpt:

We may expatiate on the latest developments in electric cars and the delicious prospects of hydrogen fuel cells and various biofuels made with everything from switch grass to garbage; we may earnestly speculate about flywheels and compressed air and various gases, natural and unnatural—but we go with gasoline.

A gallon of gas weighs about 6.3 pounds and produces roughly 35 kilowatt hours of energy. That’s enough to burn a 100-watt light bulb continuously for more than two weeks. A lead-acid battery could do the same thing without needing a recharge—if it were the size of a desk and weighed a ton. Energy density is the point. We just haven’t come up with a fuel or a device that will safely and economically offer the same calorific value in such a small space as an automobile’s gasoline tank. Compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) intrigue us, but the problems of storing them (or hydrogen) in a car in sufficient quantity to approach gasoline’s range and performance continues to be a sticking point. We always come back to density.

The photo above, from the article, is of the Tesla Roadster


JK said...

Maybe gasoline of the future will come from bacteria. Whatever the case, the bipartisan consensus of the powers-at-be is that a sea change is needed in the way the world consumes energy. So something's coming down the pipes soon enough that will affect all of us.

DaveinHackensack said...

Interesting article. Venter's right about the need for multiple approaches -- capitalism is sort of like biology itself, where you need variation plus competition to evolve the fittest products. If the powers that be pick winners, that won't lead to the best outcomes.