Technologies for cleaner cars

Chris Schneider reminded the audience at this year’s energy fair of the very high cost of our oil dependence. More than $2 billion a week leaves our country to pay for oil imports. Many of those energy dollars could stay here to establish a Midwest-based energy future of solar, wind and biofuels. In doing so, our goals should include zero oil consumption and zero emissions. With energy autonomy, we can refocus our military expenditures from protecting oil supplies to protecting ourselves.

Although Schneider, the hybrid guru from LaCrosse, Wis., is the world’s largest seller of used hybrids, he identified seven technologies as solutions that will help move us to what he referred to as the zone—zero oil, no emissions. His focus on these seven comes from a belief that attrition in the marketplace will sort out, which will best serve us in reaching the goal. Ignored in his embrace of the marketplace are numerous examples of the auto industry’s manipulations that ensure vehicles powered by internal combustion engines dominate our transportation system.

Schneider presented the solutions as opportunities for individuals to invest in cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles and demonstrate to manufacturers that there is a demand for clean cars. Although hybrid sales should represent 2 percent of all auto sales this year, other models capture a far larger share of the marketplace and are of greater interest to manufacturers.

His seven technological solutions include the hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid, variable cylinder controls on internal combustion engines, compressed natural gas, ultra-clean diesel engines, neighborhood electric vehicles and fuel cell-powered vehicles.

Schneider pointed out that in 1899, Dr. Porsche built the first hybrid electric car. Recent versions depend on nickel metal hydride batteries rather than lead acid. NiMHs perform admirably and come with a 10-year, 150,000-mile warranty. The few batteries that failed within the warranty period have been replaced at no cost to the customer. Battery components are recycled after use, reducing the need to mine and process additional nickel.

Schneider has replaced the in-town use of his hybrid with a neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV), which serves him well. He saves both money and life on the warranty of his hybrid. He calculates his NEV gets the equivalent of 120 mpg in town while his hybrid gets 70 mpg on the highway. With more in-town miles, his average is around 100 mpg. He suggested that potential purchasers reconsider whether they really need an inefficient pickup truck for everyday use since it’s cheaper to rent one for occasional hauling needs.

Wisconsin Public Service has two demonstration plug-in hybrid electric vehicles which cost $13,000 each to convert. WPS is offering incentives to customers to also convert to plug-ins.

Variable cylinder vehicle management systems by Toyota are now in the marketplace. For $500, they provide a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency.

Compressed natural gas vehicles are also in the marketplace. Processing the gas from cow manure using solar or wind energy, as is being done in Wisconsin provides a renewable energy system for transportation. Waste processing produces methane gas, fertilizer and bedding.

Ultra-clean diesel engines have been in use in Europe and will soon become available here. They are 36 percent more fuel efficient and release 17 percent fewer emissions.

Several companies already produce Neighborhood Electric Vehicles which are permitted to drive on streets with up to a 35-mile-per hour speed limit and can cross major highways but not drive along them.

Honda has produced fuel-celled vehicles known as FCVs, which are being test driven in California to demonstrate their potential to cut auto emissions and clean the air. While there are challenges to face before these vehicles enter the marketplace, they could play a key role in reaching the zone—zero oil, no emissions.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, cleaner cars will be exhibited at Cliffbreakers Restaurant from 4 to 7 p.m. Check the ad in this issue of The Rock River Times for details and join us there.

Based on a presentation by Chris Schneider at the Sixth Annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Aug. 12, Oregon, Ill.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.from the Sept. 12 – 18, 2007, issue

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