12 title 

Living Better on Less Energy  

Western civilization is totally dependent upon cheap and abundant energy. Three quarters of the petroleum we burn in our engines is imported. Could it be cut off suddenly? Without cheap and abundant energy, our way of life would collapse. 

If we value our freedom and independence, we should not be relying on foreign petroleum. We should be making our own energy. 

First… how much power do we need?  

There seems to be something special about 16 horsepower. 

frank lee
12/30/2011 11:04:18 AM

T Brandt is completely right re: unrelenting demand. I fear that any efficiency breakthroughs will be taken as a sign by egomaniacal breeders that the newly "freed up" resources are a green light to go go gonads. Jack: everything I've seen indicates more heavily loaded engines are more efficient- loads on the order of 75-80% of rated continuous output is where peak brake specific fuel consumption occurs (as in, best fuel efficiency, not worst). Look at examples where engines really are run in a steady state (not automotive- too much transient loadings): ships, aircraft, tractors, etc. I think you will find none of them being operated at the low loads and rpms you describe.

craig vetter
12/25/2011 2:38:36 PM

I am sorry that my browser Firefox - does not see comments. Gotta use Safari. It has been a month since you posted this. You and I have met and discussed things person to person. All I hope to do in life is: "Get the Big pieces right" Whether it is actual horsepower, peak horsepower, KWh, torque or who knows what, we are homing in what we really need to live better. It is a lot less that most people have been told, isn't it?Merry Christmas

jack mccornack
11/29/2011 2:18:40 AM

Interesting observations, Craig. I'm with you re the adequacy of a 16 hp vehicle (I think you and I both cruise on about 8 horsepower) but when discussing an engine's horsepower we need to differentiate between peak horsepower available and horsepower actually used. ICEs typically run most efficiently at 1/4 to 1/3 of peak horsepower (at 1/3 to 1/2 of peak horsepower RPM) and if you want a full day's work out of a horse you need to run it at around 1/10 of peak horsepower...but fortunately a horse peaks out at 5 to 10 horsepower so Watt's calculations work pretty well. Point is, replacing a given hp engine with actual horses (or vice versa) depends on how much steady state hp you need and how long you need to use it. Horses burn fuel very efficiently (and burn biofuel at that) but you have to let horses idle 24 hours a day, even on days you don't need horsepower. If you stop an engine it stops consuming fuel. If you stop a horse, well, it stops consuming fuel too, but you can't get it started again.

t brandt
11/27/2011 4:29:45 PM

It really all boils down to too many people and the unsustainable demands that places on the available resources. Our economy depends on consummerism and the delivery of goods depends on cheap, portable energy. Electric batteries just won't fullfill that need-- we've been looking for an adequately efficient battery for 100 yrs and haven't found it yet. Maybe we won't. Natural gas can easily be substituted for liquid petroleum for automotive applications. That would give us an additional three centuries to either discover cold fusion or to change our paradigm of population growth requiring economic growth requiring popualtion growth etc etc.

jase alex
11/27/2011 2:08:11 AM

Tim - I checked the link about the stirling but it did not work. If there is any other way to get to the info you were attempting to link please provide as this is of intrest to me and possibly a few others. Craig - Nice to see that you are giving some of the previouse alternatives that have been suggested a fair look. I still think a Hydrogen Cell is a good battery that can be replenished. Jase a.k.a. CM

frank lee
11/26/2011 3:10:34 AM

That's nice Bill but really gasoline weighs just over 6 lbs/gallon.

tim sefton
11/17/2011 3:31:41 PM

Love the article - we're working on a 1KW engine for a target cost of $100 - runs on any type of heat - its a stirling engine, our goal is to use it for generating electricity off the grid - check out our project on kickstarter - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/672465444/low-cost-sterling-engine

bill griffin
11/16/2011 3:28:27 AM

Since a gallon of gas weighs 4 pounds (5 gallons weighs 20 lbs), the info on gallons of gas consumed is a bit off.

jared conner
11/12/2011 4:25:28 PM

No generator in the world can produce 12kw from 16hp. The best generators I have seen are around 600w per 1hp. With the average generator being around 500w per 1hp. So for 12kw you need something closer to 20-24hp.

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