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Les,

In your post, your 4th comment:
4. There is a real, though indirect, connection between 'alt-enery' vehicles and government coercion. One example is the 'safety standards' that keep otherwise very functional and inexpensive Third World cars out of the country. Another is the herd instinct of people in a generalized way. Joggers and bicyclists report abuse. A few deserve it.

I was reading a few years ago about a guy who was trying to start importing chinese made cars. The retail price would have been something in the $3500 range for a brand new car. That would have killed all other car sales for most of the auto market. On the other hand, it allows the the current auto makers to keep making their current margins. What was interesting to me when I was in China a few years back was the number of Buicks and VW's. I guess the Chinese auto makers have ramped up production to meet the growing demand.

I am confused, however, by your last two sentences. What abuse are joggers and bicyclists reporting? I am a runner (FYI, jogging is for slow people) and a bicyclist. I've not had many real problems with motorized and wheeled vehicles, but then again, after 23 +/- years of running on roads, I am very aware of my actions and watch very closely everyone else's movements. I try and be as deliberate and predictable when 'playing in traffic', and to date have been very successful. To be clear, I am not trying to start a fight, but I am interested in what other runners and bikers are complaining about. (May be I can shed some light from my side of the curb?!) Is it emissions? I saw a car this morning that looked like it was on fire it was burning so much oil!! Glad I wasn't the guy in the convertible with the top down behind him in the construction traffic jam!

I was at my in law's place over the weekend. They've moved in to a retirement community that reminds me of college. There are folks who live in outlying building that use golf carts to get around the campus. Seems like the easiest solution there, if walking has become too difficult and painful. I also saw an ad for the new Chevy Volt electric car. Ad claims 40 miles before it uses any gas. Then, with the on board 1 cylinder engine, it can recharge the batteries. One thing I haven't gotten a clear answer on is how long the batteries will last and how spent batteries will be disposed.

I tend to agree with you, Les, regarding the folks dreaming up these vehicles. Before we had Luke, I wouldn't have given it much thought, but with a kid, and all the stuff we carry to support him, there's no way a 2 seater will work for us. Even a Mini Cooper would be too small right now. However, when you are designing your vehicle to drive on sidewalks, remember that sidewalks are not meant for motorized vehicles. In most states, there are laws against driving on sidewalks, even bikes. Also, make sure that if you do continue to design for sidewalks, a vast majority of them are not well leveled and there are many vertical transitions between one segment and another. I never noticed it before too much, but pushing a stroller will show you how bad it can get.

We're working on a solution of our own, but it has its own price: time. Last week, I made my first trip to work on my bicycle. 28 miles in 1hr 40 minutes. Nice way to start the work day, but it was a good thing I didn't have much going on. I am doing it again tomorrow. 28 miles to work and a partial ride home in the evening. This is not something I'll be able to do every day, simply due to logistics and meeting the needs of the home life. However, on the days it is practical, it offers a change of pace (faster heart rate, slower average MPH!) and a different kind of stress (watching cars and predicting their moves before 7AM!!). However, when I thought about it, I would have gotten up at the same time, gone running for an hour (8 miles) and then drove to work (40 minutes). So, in the end, all I lost was the gas. But, that's not to say I saved money because I took that $4 I would have spent on one type of fuel and bought another type: a Western Omlette, hash browns, and toast! Granted, I did enjoy the breakfast more than I enjoy the agressive drivers.

Mark
 

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Stan,

Most of the coal fired power plants are being required to install stack scrubbers. The recent requirements I have seen and worked toward are 97% removal of SO2. Here's the wiki page on FGD.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flue_gas_desulfurization

The coal fired power plant of old is changing. I point this out for a couple of reasons.
One, it is my job. (we make the limestone grinding and lime slaking mills used for these projects. This is a world product, with components coming from various countries. Most of the fab work comes from the US.)
Two, coal is one of our most available fossil fuels domestically. It is nice to 'think green' but the reality is that it will take years before solar panels and wind turbines will be able to deliver the wattage we use daily. With the talk of having electric powered cars, or even these air powered cars, the demand for electricity will only increase.

Then there is the question of what is the by product of FGD? Gypsum and water. Most of that gypsum can be used for other things, and not just landfilled. Besides wallboard, there is apparently some uses for gypsum in agriculture:
http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/osw/conserve/c2p2/pubs/fgd-fs.pdf

Ok, that's my FGD/ coal fired argument for the day!

Mark
 

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Les,

Reading through your comments, I can understand where you are coming from. The guy running into the street from behind a parked car or bush is one example of a runner who is not doing a good job making you aware of his presence. He is right, but that doesn't mean he won't get hurt. I thought only people in my generation had that "you better watch out for me because I am not watching you" attitude. huh. Maybe we learned it.

I have had a couple of close calls in the past, and that has led me to be more proactive when I am on the road. Maybe some see it as aggressive, but I have not had anyone really get mad at me to the point of throwing stuff at me. I don't take it when kids yell at me, so I just yell back, loud as I can. I did have a confrontation once, but that was back in high school with other kids from high school. Someone beeped "beep beep" the other day, so I just assume they were saying "Nice Bike!".

Riding your lawmower reminds me of the movie "The Straight Story". Its about a guy who rode his lawn mower from Iowa to Wisconsin to see his dying brother. True story! Great movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0166896/

Back to the electric car... changing batteries every 3 years is scary, but as more people have them, it'd probably get more affordable.

As for 2 seaters, yes, on my daily commute, I see mostly single drivers. I have a coworker who I drive with once or twice a week. I'd need to take a better look at the commuter cars, and see how much haulage space they really have.

Mark
 

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Stan,

You are right, CO2 is a stack gas as well as nitrous oxide. Some sites I worked with were also monitoring the Mercury levels, but I don't have any data on that. We tend to focus on the SO2, since it comes back down as acid rain. I was reading on wiki that CO2 release is the biggest problem with burning coal, but I don't know how they plan reduce that. I wonder if the H20 released with the CO2 has any positive effect. Now I've got my interest peaked. I'll have to ask around and see if there's any info on that..

I don't think they put scrubbers on oil fired plants. At least, they don't use a grinding mill with it.

I've noticed there isn't much noise about Ethanol these days. Two to three years ago, there seemed to be a lot of talk about that as a fuel source.

Street legal golf carts. On my (bike) ride in this morning, I saw two of those larger Polaris offroad buggys. They were plugged in and ready to go. It got me thinking about how much power electric cars really suck up during a full charge cycle. A couple bucks seems to be a Pie in the Sky number. AC motors are more efficient, right? Then does that mean we're talking about converting 24VDC to AC to run the motors? I say "Motors" because I am guessing that each wheel will be driven. Did you guys see that GE is making a Hybrid locomotive? Trying to capture some of the braking energy and storing it in batteries. Be nice if it works.

Going back to the air car..
Somewhere back in the thread, there was another thought about the pressure vessel failing during a collision. I don't see how that wouldn't become a projectile. The whole tank won't be cracked in half at once. I think the failure mode will be a small, localized deformation resulting in delamination at that point, very small. High pressures around a very small failure area could result in a hole forming in that area. My thinking is that a small hole would form first, and with the rapid release of the air pressure, the whole tank would be ripped apart, but not before the thrust from the nozzle (hole) exceeded the bolts holding it in place. I am not saying it won't work, but just that I won't be the first one to buy one.

If you want 40 MPG right now, there are tens of millions early 90s Honda Civics out there. My co worker picked one up for $800, and claims to get 40-45 MPG on the high way. Granted, he did not lower it and put huge wheels on it and paint it primer gray, like so many of them, but left it stock. We nicknamed it the H-10. (this is in reference to the Hummer vehicles, who keep getting smaller. The H-1 was that military vehicle, the H2 was an overstuffed Suburban, the H3 is little more than a Trail Blazer. You see the trend. We figured we'd beat them to the punch and just named the civic hatchback the H-10).

Speculating is fun!! I saved you guys a couple gallons this morning, and I noticed that gas prices are dropping toward $3.50. The cynic in me wonders what they will be on November 5.

Mark
 

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Charles,

I know what you mean about the bus schedules. I looked in to public transportation here a few years ago, and this is what I found:
1. It is possible that the stars would align and I would make the three connections necessary to get to work.
2. It would cost me about the same as driving my car.
3. It would take almost 2 hours to get to work, whereas driving a car, it was 35 minutes.
4. I would have to walk or ride a bike to the bus stop almost a mile away.

Clearly, the bus is not for me. I can ride my bike in that same ammount of time or less.

Interestingly, I rode the bike yesterday, and I wasn't really tired at work at all. In fact, I was more tired today than yesterday, and I even rode 11 miles from my co workers house to mine. One part of my commuting solution seems to be the bike. (Obviously, it is not an every day kind of a thing, especially when we start getting ice. Make that IF we get ice or snow. Didn't see much of it last year.) I am just taking it slow, but eventually, I may find a way to make taking the bike daily a reality.

Mark
 
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