~ Stop the Stations.
It’s been snowing in Albuquerque. It snowed for about an hour then ended as most snows in Albuquerque end, short and white and then a spate of blue skies and warmer weather. Thought you should know.
Yesterday I was talking a bit about birds. They are constant fuelers. It is why they can fly. Bird bodies are designed with a very fast metabolism that needs a lot of fuel to keep aloft. The bigger birds, less swift and less efficient, carry a lot of this fuel with them. These are the heavy birds of prey, vultures and condors and eagles; the type of bird that eats carrion and needs fresh meat and can’t kill things all the time or can’t even find things dead to eat (all of the time).
The constant fuelers are the smaller lighter birds. They eat seeds and nuts and berries and like robins a worm or two or insect on the wing (eats the wings too). Eat a little, fly a little. Fuel and refuel constantly. These birds are sleek and swift and efficient. The nature model of course was inspired by a certain ruminating about electric buses; those in San Francisco. I rode the electric buses in San Francisco in the olden days, green things really painted green and cream as these were the Muni colors. Muni stood for Municipal Railway which was what the streetcars were and the cable cars pretended to be and the diesel buses were not as they had no rails either overhead or underground or even surface with which they were meant to follow.
The “rails” of course were there for fueling. The streetcars and the electric buses were electric. The cable cars were electric too, cables under the street always moving 24/7 or something close; kept moving by great electric motors located at the center of the system. You can see the motive barn and museum if you go to San Francisco today. Wear flowers in your hair. Electricity can be so very green when it’s falling water that keeps it flowing, like from Hetch Hetchy in the Sierras owned by the City of San Francisco – but, I forget myself. This post is about electric cars, not water.
The human body carries about three days of water and 21 days of fuel around in it. It’s a lot of weight. The weight slows the body down, impedes mobility, makes it hard to walk and lift and glide across the surface of the earth or planet or wherever you think you are. Weight is like that. The Wright Brothers first flight was short because of the dearth of fuel on board; like birds the craft was designed to fly and land and refuel and fly again – short soaring, short flights of fancy, a flyer that ate small meals of petroleum jelly or something like that – not aviation fuel.
I guess you get the drift of where this post is going. Planes and cars and trucks are heavy with fuel so tend to be very inefficient. They need all the fuel on board to get to their destination before they leave. Much of the energy consumed by these devices is used just to carry the fuel necessary to get to the destination. Electric trams and constant fueling devices don’t have this problem, don’t carry the wasted weight. They are like birds, light and free and swift of wing or at least of wheel.
Some may disagree with me, but this I think is the real lesson of 9/11. Too much fuel aboard and all you’re left with is a bomb. The inherent inefficiency of jet aircraft was clearly demonstrated by the trade towers demonstration. Nothing too bad would have happened if the transportation devices were designed with constant fueling in mind instead of carry the load theories of fuel. Now lets talk a bit more seriously about the advantages of electricity assuming a constant fueling apparatus.
EV (Electric Vehicle) fueling stations are not the answer. Big batteries in cars are not the answer. Fuel on board is not the answer. There are two kinds of electric cars; efficient ones without big batteries and the wasteful ones that are designed to sell real estate and offer a whole new venue for point of purchase advertising schemes. Electric cars don’t need stations. Electric cars do need wires or virtual wires to make them run. All this was proven in San Francisco. The big diesel buses filled to capacity could not make it up the hills. Electric buses with batteries could not make it up the hills. Electric buses with wires along the way charged up the hills and down them and made everybody happy (so little noise, so little effort, so inexpensive to operate).
So why spend billions of federal dollars creating a network of stations that only entrench an obsolete technology, that of fuel on board? Why spend billions subsidizing patents on super-batteries that are super heavy and super-wasteful in their very existence? The Volt (as a concept car) is revolting. It is wasteful and ridicules. Real electric cars will be wired, perhaps wired with virtual wires only, but the electric motor (motive) part is so very cheap and easy without the battery and battery weight problem.
It’s not too late to stop the madness of the transportation system of the future. Batteries are not really green; only their cost is green and in this case the green is just about the money.
Real wires (like the Muni buses and the streetcars had) are probably unnecessary with the technology of today. Two alternative approaches come to mind. The first is predicated upon the microwave (beam and dish) transfer of electricity. The distribution point puts the power out about eight inches above the road and each car has a receiving dish or two that automatically homes in on each frequently spaced transmitter. The second approach is based on Tesla theory of resonance. Electrical energy crosses open space by being charged with the appropriate amplitude and frequency. The bottom line is that wireless electricity is not a new concept nor is it fantasy. It would not take billions to make it work.
I don’t know how I feel about the future of cars. They cost too much and the fuel costs too much too. Trains are so much better and electric trains are the best and meg-lev electric trains are better still. Is this something that Cramer or Oprah or Paris Hilton has to tell you? Can no American think for themselves? Are the experts merely clueless or are they too sold out to make anything really matter?
I grew up with electric trains. Lionel promoted the third rail (subway) system. Gilbert kept the rails at two. I learned everything from this. Neither Tootsie Toys, nor Dinky Toys, nor Matchbox, nor Hot Wheels ever needed a tank of gas. These metal cars moved by an unseen hand that pushed them forward across the floor. Maybe there’s a lesson in that too. Fueling stations are so obsolete. If you don’t believe me just fill up on a tank of gas and contemplate what the word “tanked” really means.
This post was originally going to be about slot cars and slot car racing. Slot cars were electric too, fast things that moved on tracks and by remote control and Wow! were slot cars fun! That was back in 1965, a toy car I guess; but more, a model. And so this post ends like another Uncle Wiggly story, no ending at all really, just a teaser for another new beginning. You can run out of gas; your battery can go dead – but electricity can run you along almost forever.
[2009.10.29 / Thursday – Constant fueling]