What Fuel is Best? More on the 2011 Vetter Fuel Economy Challenges

| 2/23/2011 8:54:58 PM

Tags: Fuel economy contests, Vetter, Quail Gathering of motorcycles, AMA Vintage Days, Vetter fairings, Craig Vetter,

  8 title  

Whatever it is, it will be measured in dollars and cents. 

For the first time ever, all types of energy will be propelling licensed street bikes, side-by-side, on public roads, in a 100-mile ride.  Are the claims true?  Come see for yourselves.  Is it time to reconsider what we drive?

 8 boonay  

Gasoline has been the energy of choice for a hundred years. But when 3 out of 4 gallons we use is imported, is “our” supply really ours?  Bugni's web page     

 8 schlitter 

bolder sunseeker
1/20/2012 6:20:43 PM

I have to add, that I plan to fill these bottles with biologically produced methane and I don't really want to burn the bottles, but feed the catalytic heater with the gas from them.^^

bolder sunseeker
1/20/2012 6:17:57 PM

My intention is to combine two things. Electric motors are the most efficient motor available, but they suffer on heavy batteries. In germany, where I live there are standard 11 kg gas bottles for Campers available everywhere. These bottles burnt in a catalytic heater provide some thousand kW each in heat. Instead of using a normal combustion engine i would have a try in combining a catalytic heater with a Seebeck utility that converts temperature differences into electricity. The electricity will feed one or more electric motors that are formed as hubs of the two front wheels of my just imagined vehicle. Thus I combine a high ratio kg/kW with a completely light weight system. I would build this vehicle from bicycle parts as a two seater shopping pickup.

sean wenger
7/10/2011 9:27:01 PM

Hey Craig, When we look at the fossil fuel industry (from wells to fuel pumps) it can be overwhelming. With fossil fuels you have to refine for a huge range of what is produced from asphalt and plastics to jet fuel. You make a machine that can do more with less (your freedom machine) then the scale of production for fuel can fall into the scope of cottage industry. Instead of refining fossil crude you would be refining bio-crude. The benefit of such a system is that it can work with our current technology. The internal combustion engine(s) should run on the bio-fuels the same as it runs on fossil fuels (some tweaking may be required). The only thing that changed is where the fuel came from. In our case it was grown in an aquarium rather than discovered in a rock basin. That control gained by growing the fuel means we could narrow the scope of the refinement process. It would be about as difficult to operate as an aquarium. No impact to the food crop industry and by far safer than nuclear. So, what is really the obstacle? If it’s not the technology or the cost, then perhaps it’s just the shift in Paradigm. CM

craig vetter
7/6/2011 9:27:36 PM

Crimson: Your proposal sounds so high tech... so expensive. Every time we make a change in fuels, there is a cost. And a loss. Personally, I don't think I could afford the equipment and the losses. Lets keep it simple and low tech. Craig

sean wenger
7/3/2011 12:36:09 AM

Hi again, A hydrogen cell is the only re-buildable battery that I know of. I’m sure there are others but, it works on simple elements & electrolysis. Certain types of algae (via photosynthesis) are used to turn carbon dioxide into bio-fuels. What’s required are two stages: 1) A Bio-reactor that is basically a place to give Sun & Co2 to the algae so they grow & reproduce. 2) An extractor that presses the oil out of the algae. There are some items that have to do with getting the water out & other such things but that would be part of refinement. So, here we have a way of making waste water, Co2, & Sun into Bio-fuels. I think this may be the power source for the energy harvester. I could see an electric vehicle that drives out with a full tank of diesel to the harvest point. It fires up the diesel power, for the wood & biomass collecting. Then the entire unit drives back in a hybrid mode (Diesel & electric) to deliver the harvested bio-mass to the mill. The Mill would be a place where biomass is pelletized & wood is processed. It could also be where the bio-fuels are refined (mill/refinery). It would be a good place to park Harvester (Truck/tractor). The diesel engine could be used to process & refine as well as produce Co2 to be used in the bio-reactor. This re-capture and re-use of waste products will be key for a venture like this working. CM

craig vetter
6/27/2011 1:29:17 PM

Electric Utility Vehicle: Given all the options, I think reducing the energy media to electricity is the most prudent. The next weakness, of course, will be the sustainability of the energy harvester. Photovoltaic panels would be good for about 20 years. Then what? A wood fired, steam powered gen-set would be best. But who makes such a thing? Batteries will last even less. Can Li-ion batteries be rebuilt at home? Can lead acid batteries be rebuilt at home? If we relied upon lead - acid, the lowest tech, does anybody make a rebuildable battery? BTW... I am pretty sure that an electric utility vehicle will also need a couple of battery laden utility trailers to provide "Tree-felling" energy. Also, one trailer pack needs to be on the charger while the other one is working. So... who makes a wood fired gen-set of about 5-8 Kw? Who makes rebuildable batteries?

sean wenger
6/26/2011 12:01:34 AM

Hmm, so, it seems that the “engine” would be like a portable power system that allows multiple functions. Given, a certain task would have advantages and disadvantages with electric or mechanical input. We would need to see more clearly how often we do what tasks in a given week to optimize it. The giant battery pack is somewhat elusive to my mind. How would you replace it in the scenario described? If you had to do this right now, what would you wish you had on hand? I would wish I had a windmill to do the pumping from the well to a water tower. This way I have water and potential mechanical energy stored. A Stirling or Steam engine can be used to turn heat into mechanical energy. A mill/shop by a stream with a water wheel would also be ideal for mechanical power. All these things need maintenance and some need fuel collection, so a vehicle would be required to provide that. The engine to power a harvest/maintenance vehicle would have to run on a locally generated, energy dense fuel source. Usually energy dense also means refinement is required. Even if a horse and cart are used for this, there is still a high maintenance factor. Food storage is the next concern in my mind. The harvest might not have a good yield. Any vehicle beyond streamlining would have to be efficient to start, like a bicycle, motorcycle or horse. In a surplus of fuel is when people would meet. They would probably demonstrate to each other how to do more with less.

craig vetter
6/25/2011 10:05:05 PM

On Beyond Streamlining: It pleases me you are interested. You understand that we are leap-frogging here to a time we all hope never happens. Frank's Model T analogy is a good one. What I am envisioning here is a big battery pack on wheels... 2 or 4 (I like 2 wheels) It would be charged from solar panels. It would have electrical outlets like those of a - say - 5 - 8Kw generator. We could drive it to the well and pump water. We could drive it to the woods and cut trees with an electric chain saw. We could drive it to our shop and power our machine tool. We could drive it out back and weld. You get the idea. The same vehicle, streamlined, would also go farther, faster on less energy if there was a place to go. It may need to be more tractor-like. Pulling a plow may be attractive. Anyway, unless steam boiler operation can be absolutely safe, the future is probably electric, harvested from the sun. Whatcha think?

frank lee
6/19/2011 5:22:03 AM

No apology needed; Craig laid out the same scenario. My electric bike is Chinese and really the pedals aren't much more than a formality- it would be hateful to pedal it any distance. And the SLA batteries are not good for all that far, or that fast. But it's my first EV; I'm learning. I really like the direct drive hubmotor so I'd like to have a full-suspension hubmotored mountain bike next, something I can really help along by pedalling. Ha Ha- convert daily driver into tractor? Do you know the history of the Model T? You should research all the awesome conversions very resourceful people did with "Ts"! Also google "minneapolis moline comfortractor" and prepare to be amazed!

sean wenger
6/19/2011 3:22:24 AM

Cyclone-Williams Steam Engine Gets Closer to Breaking World Speed Record - - At first I thought I had miss-read this. Apparently Steam engines have been re-designed and are making a come back. Some old school tech that could go main stream?

sean wenger
6/18/2011 9:39:26 PM

Sorry Frank, I never mean for these to sound like Doomsday. However, when we remove a functional infrastructure from modern society, we see clearly how dependent they are on each other. How that translates to an individual depends on many factors. I guess the only thing missing was wandering zombie hordes. lol I have an electric mountain bike as well (3 year old design). I find it needs refinement or an upgrade because if the batteries are not charged the bike is not worth the extra weight (currently better models out there). Craig’s challenge has us hauling 4 bags of groceries way beyond my current battery range. So for short fast commute, this current bike is awesome, but still electrically dependent. So, a diesel power long range vehicle as well, impressive. I appear to be in good company. Anyone produce bio-diesel directly form oil producing plants? Or do we all eat french-fries in the future and just refine the waste cooking oil? Doctors would defiantly be in demand (light humor there). Just an observation but where are people going? Unless your job has an independent power generation based on local resources. Would we convert that daily commuter into a multi-purpose tractor? Perhaps some kind of hauling vehicle that can flex into a multiple roles on a homestead farm. Ultimately, I might be miss-interpreting what is meant by “Beyond Streamlining”. So, after having a good laugh at my expense, feel free to bring this topic back on track.

frank lee
6/18/2011 2:36:59 PM

"Beyond Streamlining" sounds an awful lot like "Doomsday". Well I already have such a vehicle: a mountain bike. And if I'd need to haul big stuff: a mountain bike with a sidecar or more likely, a trailer. If I still have electricity: an electric bicycle w/sidecar or trailer (I already have an electric bicycle too and I like it). And if I needed to go longer distances than are reasonable for biking: an ethanol or biodiesel or waste veggie oil subcompact car or mini-truck.

sean wenger
6/17/2011 11:00:50 PM

Oh sure, now you talk about Beyond Streamlining. Thank you Frank, for asking the key question. And I do agree about Reducing being first in the three R's. That's why I like the streamlining topic so much. A one cost installation subsidizes all future fuel purchases for that vehicle. Frees up cash for R&D. So, what are we into here? No fuel at the pumps, No centralized electric, so infrastructure is going to start degenerating unless it is maintained locally. Any system that has localized sustainability will be ahead. Maintaining supply lines for trade with neighbors will be key to staying ahead (surviving). Trade caravans might be the new vehicles on the road. The Mega farms will not be able to run (too dependant on the supplies of the infrastructure), so smaller operations will start up on their lands. Crop diversity will be able to produce food (and fuel). Getting it to market will be the big hurdle to overcome. Clean water and hygiene will be the key issues of the day with doctors in high demand. So a tractor able to run on what it harvests and produce a surplus and food is what we need to focus on. Sounding like “Factor E Farm” here.

craig vetter
6/17/2011 8:57:01 AM

Thank you. I thought you'd never ask. For most of my life, I have been working to get us down the road at the speeds we like to drive: 70 mph, into powerful winds, up hills, able to carry a useful load and get 100 miles per gallon. If and when fuel gets scarce or really expensive, this will be good. The next scenario is when there is no fuel at the pumps or power in the grid. ( the folks around Fukijima experienced a temporary time like this) If and when we reach this point, electric vehicles that are driven by home roof top collectors will get us around. But, think about it... where will we want to go? At this point, if nobody has power, the big trucks that bring our food won't be on the road. The refrigerators that keep it fresh at stores won't have electricity. There will not be food. We will be on our own. Travel would be short range, utility, forays for helping our neighbors and emergencies. What would we need streamlining for? Thus, the "Beyond Streamlining" scenario. Think about this for a bit. Then we can discuss what the "Beyond Streamlining Vehicle" would be. Craig

frank lee
6/17/2011 4:40:16 AM

I want to know about "beyond streamlining"!

craig vetter
6/16/2011 8:48:12 PM

The government cannot print energy. Now is the time - when power is in the grid and fuel is at the pumps - to take care of our needs. We need to begin with water. I was around in the fuel crises of the early 70s. Our government's solution was to restricted us. What do you think they will do the next time? If we are learning to live better on our own energy, won't it be better for us? Won't it be better for our country? Ask me sometime about "Beyond streamlining" Craig

frank lee
6/16/2011 4:52:59 AM

You are right; that is the bottom line. I haven't waited; I've been obsessing over energy conservation and use since... well, remember Ranger Rick from the '70s??? Though I'm still on the grid, my utility bills now are smaller than they were 20 years ago and my fuel use is but a fraction of what it used to be as well. The thing is, our society's excessive demands on resources and the govt's defective energy policies negatively impact me in spite of my successes at reducing/reusing/recycling.

craig vetter
6/15/2011 9:21:42 AM

Don't wait for the bureaucrats, Frank. All we can do is solve our own problems. Right?

frank lee
6/11/2011 3:12:33 AM

Craig, that does make sense and I agree!!! My only point was, it's a mistake to single out ethanol as THE subsidized fuel. Oil enjoys many substantial U.S. Govt. subsidies and IIRC I've read without them gas would cost over $10/gal! There are many other subsidies that are harmful in the big picture too; the biggest being the ones where we pay people to have extravagant quantities (3 or more) of children! >:( That one is definitely counter-productive seeing as how we don't have a global human shortage. That said, I believe there is a time and a place for some subsidies, to get things going for the public good that don't have profit-making potential from the get-go and thus won't be initiated privately. Now, I have a very strong Libertarian streak but as a realist I see a need for Govt to develop and implement a cohesive National Energy Policy. This is because of the utter and complete FAILURE of the citizenry to educate themselves about the energy situation and then DO SOMETHING about it! As it is, all the public does is pay lip service to conservation and place ALL the burden for an energy "solution" on science, utilities, and govt while continuing their gluttonous ways. But our myopic govt has FAILED just as badly and I believe humanity is in for a world of hurt in my lifetime due to stress on resources.

craig vetter
6/8/2011 10:53:33 PM

Frank: Do you have any idea where all the government subsidies might be hiding? I certainly do not. Probably nobody does. My goal is to learn how to live and live better with energy that is our own. Not energy that is subsidized. As far as I am concerned, that means living without accepting any government subsidies at all. Either our plans make sense on there own or they don't. The government needs to get out of the way. In the end, we need to learn how to live on the energy we can collect from our own property. Make sense?

frank lee
5/21/2011 12:09:29 AM

Come on now, be fair: figure in the govt subsidies that current fossil fuels and electricity get too; there's no reason to single out ethanol unless you have another agenda... Also I'm not seeing anyone besides Craig conform to the 4 bag capacity "requirement"...

sean wenger
4/1/2011 10:34:47 PM

This is how I see it... And I could very well be wrong, but here goes. The power range we are discussing is within personal generation but it would need to be stored somehow. Instead of me turning a dynamo, why not let untapped naturally occuring events like the flow of Wind, Sun, and Water turn the dynamo? or even amimals. My dog has so much energy that if I attached a tennis ball launcher to a giant hampster wheel he would probably crank it enough to power the thing up and provide a surplus. I would still have to walk him (quaility of life for both of us), but what I'm getting at is that there are so many ways to crank a dynamo. There are so many ways to store that electrical energy, and the air pollution count can be zero if the options are chosen propperly. There are 3 letter that lay to waste all electrical plan forms, EMP. This is why we need a back-up system that is not electrical, but mechanical. Or at least that is how I see it. CM

craig vetter
3/1/2011 8:21:22 PM

Vetter reply part two: You propose a situation I can only speculate about. I have no idea how long you would have to pedal to store up 15 horsepower for an hour on the road at 65 mph with four bags of groceries. Maybe 40 continuous hours? At the end of the Challenge, you are expected to fill up to the point where you began. I suppose you could pedal for another 40 hours. But by then, the rest of us will have gone home. We are here to learn the truth. Give it a try and I’ll be your biggest fan.

craig vetter
3/1/2011 8:04:02 PM

This is a great note to respond to. My reply will take two posts. Here goes part 1: It looks like the highest and best use of hybrids is city stop and go driving. A cab just might be it. We learned in the first Vetter Fuel Economy Contests of the 1980s that if you make yourself real small and streamlined, about 3 ½ hp would be needed to propel you down the road at 55. You represent one people power. You cannot put out 3 ½ horsepower. You may be able to put out 1/3 to ½ horsepower continuously, but probably not for a hundred miles. You will need more than 3 ½ horsepower today. As near as I can tell, we need around 15 horsepower if there are any serious headwinds. To go faster. To carry groceries. To assume a driving position that is comfortable, so you will actually use this machine. I think you should pedal if you want. What do you figure your energy source would be, if you did? Corn flakes? Eating corn flakes would certainly be better than turning it into ethanol with a government subsidy, wouldn’t it? Just be ready to justify a dollar amount for the power you consume. If you ate the groceries, you are hauling, it would be easy to figure that dollar amount.

sean wenger
2/26/2011 12:30:36 PM

Hello, It was a quiet morning and I was running behind. So, I called for a cab and rode into work. It was a Hybrid, and there was an active display. It showed the gas engine and electric powering the wheels, then the gas would cut out and the electric would drive the wheels. We would come to a stop and the wheels would power back into the batteries (probably a capacitor). The energy was being cycled and conserved between the different systems. It seemed to be running very efficiently, but I had no figures except the fare. Where that cab had a gas and electric engine, I realized that I was putting a human body and electric. The way the systems ran integrated to conserve energy was really what I’m aiming for. Is there a free engine in my design? We may want to consider what is in the 4 bags of groceries. Is there a penalty if some of the groceries are missing? It is a long ride. I realize there is no easy way to tell who used less with so many different drive systems. If the system I am attempting to build works as I imagine it, we may need less energy to get down the road in real world conditions. If I pedal a stationary generator to power up my batteries, then use the electric system and cycling to complete the course. Does that mean I used no fuel? I am not submitting this as a real argument, I'll use a wall outlet. We can add road tax to the electric bill, or subtract the road tax from all fuel bills. Whatever puts the contest on a level playing field. CM

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