Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Done like a dinner

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  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    I wonder if someone will develop a model where the petrol engine is a module that can come in out of the car - leaving a cavity like the boot. Would be fairly heavy to get out I guess, but it really doesn't make sense to haul around the engine when you're not using it.

    Heh, just for added complexity on the world's most complicated road vehicle! Simpler would be to own two cars, one with ICE, one without. Then, instead of moving the motor, you simply move your body with your built-in feet from one vehicle to the other. Has the added advantage that both pieces will drive, so when you run out of charge miles away from home, the petrol vehicle can perform a rescue mission.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Except cars are much more expensive than the engine.

    I don't own a desktop and laptop computer, I own a laptop and occasionally connect it to screen and keyboard and mouse when I want. The same principle should be able to be applied with good design.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Kyle Matthews,

    Except cars are much more expensive than the engine.

    As with a laptop, you might find the car and the detachable engine costs more than two comparable cars without such convenience. Most of the parts in a laptop cost a lot more, and simply won't deliver you anywhere near the cutting edge in, for example, their graphics card.

    There are also much better reasons why you only want one computer than there are for your car. A computer contains a huge amount of configuration that you must spend your time on, whereas cars are much more limited devices in terms of configuring them/setting them up. Generally you adjust the seat and mirrors, and put in some of your own music, and that's it, it's set up for you.

    Depending what you actually mean by the engine, you can actually already do this with any plug-in. Just carry a petrol powered generator with you. People already do this with DIY plug-in utes (where the ventilation is not a problem). But a 100kg 7kW one isn't going to push a ute along very fast (I'm guessing it would be like towing the ute behind a small motorbike). A 100kW generator is a big beast of thing.

    But you're talking wish-list stuff anyway, right? 20 years from now kind of thing, rather than what we might easily have within a few more years? In that case, yes, sure, that's a configuration that might have appeal to people with very limited storage space, probably inner city dwellers with a single garage. I was talking more like 5 years, when it's feasible I could get a second hand plug-in electric car, and I'll already have a petrol one, which I would probably just keep. This is a household, after all, so more than one car is very useful.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    I'm talking deliberately about the second hand market here, too, because that is the market that matters when it comes to trends with vehicles. In that they are entirely different to computers. Most cars on the road are second hand. If electric vehicles are unable to penetrate the second hand market, they will never become pervasive. So far I haven't been convinced that they will. Essentially, they don't have very much longevity, because the expensive part dies quickly. One could easily buy a ten year old petrol driven vehicle and find it not much less of a machine than it was new. But every second hand electric vehicle I've looked at in the last 5 years is a considerably less practically valuable machine than the new article.

    In fact, I'm yet to even come across a second hand electric motorbike that even works at all, in the sense of being able to carry me up a hill commensurate with the vehicle's supposed wattage. In all cases, it has been the battery as the part that has failed, and the vehicle is worthless without it.

    Maybe this will change, as the price of batteries drops. If they become just a component, rather than most of the value of the vehicle, something you can readily replace without tossing up whether to write the vehicle off, then the EV market will reach a point that it can begin to take over.

    It doesn't matter at all what the latest cutting edge is in these vehicles. The 1% who buy new experimental cars are never going to change the world. Thomas Edison was driving around New York in an electric car over 100 years ago now. But he was an eccentric multi-millionaire.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    So you're planning on selling your power company. ..... today would be a bad time for a Lockheed skunkworks project to announce their cheap fusion project

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Paul Campbell,

    How real is this?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Surely just the steam turbine (or other heat/electricity conversion gear) for a 100MW (I am very unconvinced by a "tech" site that doesn't know the difference between milli and mega, but assume the latter) is going to be bigger than a "trailer".

    Also, something that is producing 100MW of energetic neutrons will need a lot of shielding, you would think.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Also, I have a better design for a 100MW fusion reactor.

    - First, drill a deep hole. 1km x 1m^2 should suffice.
    - Fill the hole with water (sea water will do).
    - Into the hole drop a small (1kT) thermonuclear bomb every 10 hours or so. Trigger it at the bottom.
    - This produces 4TJ every 40,000s or 100MW of energy, which will be dissipated in the water and surrounding rock without breaking the surface.
    - The energy can be extracted through a regular geothermal type system.

    Much easier than inertial confinement.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Lilith __, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    a better design for a 100MW fusion reactor

    This would be a fission reactor.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3895 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Lilith __,

    The amount of fission and fusion would depend on the design of the physics package, but a modern design would have quite a lot of fusion. I'm sure it could be optimized.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • James Butler, in reply to Lilith __,

    This would be a fission reactor.

    No, Rich has it right.

    ETA: oh ok, partially.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    One of the comments is priceless:

    Wow, a whole hundred milliwatts? I could power my cell phone!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Nora Leggs,


    Today's find... timely. Very cheap, or very expensive?

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 2700 posts Report

  • Brent Jackson,

    And still we (as a nation) pay through the nose for the corporate welfare that is the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 620 posts Report

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