Saturday, December 08, 2007

Camry hybrid

Kind words from a friend of mine who ditched a 9 MPG SUV (an Explorer gets 9MPG???) for a 34 MPG Camry:

Not only going broke paying for the gas in my truck (9mpg) but I'm really getting behind the alternative fuel movement. Trying to do my part baby! :) Car is AWESOME!! It doesn't have the power that you usually get (4cyl) but I'm too old to care about that kind of crap anyway. I do miss being up high while driving though - thats a tough transition. We got it all tricked out with NAV/Leather etc.. The mpg is only stated at like 34mpg as compared to the 07' Camrys which were stated as 40city 38hwy for the hybrid but I guess the EPA changed their standards for mpg testing? In the past I guess they did those tests with some 100lb dude driving with no AC/Heat/stereo etc in perfect conditions and driving on a completely flat surfaces. But now they are making it more realistic or something??

Yes, EPA MPG standards have been changed which is a good thing and, yes, moving towards sustainability means losing things that you thought you couldn't live without. It seems blasphemous to say that you're willing to give up a few ponies and try something new for the sake of doing the right thing but that'll change.

BTW, the new Camries look pretty darn good in the right trim level:
2008 Toyota Camry

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Green Vocab WotD #001: Cogeneration

My, aren't I being optimistic by numbering this one 001 and though I expect 998 more of them! I'm hoping to bring a little more information into my blog here as well as keep myself "in the know." No use talking about stuff I know very little about, eh?


From Wiki:

Cogeneration (also combined heat and power, CHP) is the use of a heat engine or a power station to simultaneously generate both electricity and useful heat.

Hence, COgeneration. It goes on...
Conventional power plants emit the heat created as a byproduct of electricity generation into the environment through cooling towers, as flue gas, or by other means. CHP or a bottoming cycle captures the byproduct heat for domestic or industrial heating purposes, either very close to the plant, or —especially in Scandinavia and eastern Europe—for distribution through pipes to heat local housing.

This goes back to the LED lights I put on my X-mas tree. I told you that there is no hear coming off of them and that is where the energy savings is. In this case, the "byproduct of electricity generation" is heat and there is nothing to do about that (for now). So, there is waste energy. Remember, heat = light = electricity = radiation = energy. They are in different forms but it's all, thermodynamically, the same thing. We could theoretically power our own biological processes with electricity... in fact some of them are (nervous system, anyone?)

Cogeneration is another example of "Big Picture" thinking. Someone realized, decades after the discovery, that, hey, energy is energy. Waste heat (like your car engine) is wasted energy from gasoline. Get rid of the waste heat and you use less gasoline, plain and simple. In the case that you can't get rid of the heat (like your car engine), use it somehow.
In the United States, Con Edison produces 30 billion pounds of steam each year through its seven cogeneration plants (which boil water to 1,000°F/538°C) before pumping it to 100,000 buildings in Manhattan—the biggest commercial steam system in the world.

Cities are disgusting, pollution-soaked, dangerous clusters of wasteful humans... for now. They are also beautiful in their design and complexity and a great place to start using green technology. I find cities fascinating and will likely never live outside of one. Despite the destruction and waste that goes into maintaining them, it is better, in my opinion, than sprawl. Working to make NY, LA, Seattle, etc. cleaner will always trickle down to other locations.

Where was I going with that? Oh yeah... that kind of heating couldn't really happen in Spokane or Poway or any other small city. The electricity generation has to be massive and the populated areas have to be nearby. Look forward to systems like this pervading the nation.
Byproduct heat at moderate temperatures (212-356°F/100-180°C) can also be used in absorption chillers for cooling. A plant producing electricity, heat and cold is sometimes called trigeneration or more generally: polygeneration plant.

Heat used for cooling?! That's witchcraft!!! Not really... refrigerant like what is in your car/home AC is simply moved and vaporized using heat. Refrigerant cools things down by evaporating, like how your hand gets cold when you spill rubbing alcohol on it. It's all thermodynamics!
Cogeneration is a thermodynamically efficient use of fuel. In separate production of electricity some energy must be rejected as waste heat, but in cogeneration this thermal energy is put to good use.

Amen to that!

Hopefully we all learned something... I know I did :)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"My" Idea

I say that because this came to me a little while back. I certainly claim no sovereignty over it, just explaining why I thought this was so neat.

The article

On a beautiful, crisp late fall afternoon, rock icon Neil Young took his 1959 Lincoln Continental for one last spin before a team of mechanics ripped out its gas-guzzling engine to make way for an electric motor.

What a great idea! Reminds me of the high school I posted about a few months ago. I love the idea of switching such a great, old car into a symbol of sustainable transportation. It's also nice to see celebrities doing the right thing.

Car in question (not actually his):

The article goes on to quote Neil as saying it will get 100 MPG and runs off of biodiesel. Transformation apparently takes 45 days... I'm sure Neil has a replacement.

More interesting than this specific car is the idea itself. I was asked a while back what my dream job would be and I said "CEO/owner/prez of a company that either built sustainable cars or modified current cars to be sustainable." I feel like that would really stretch my business sense, let me work individually with people, keep me in the auto world, let me be an innovator in terms of technique, and really work my entrepreneurial spirit (which really has not had a chance to be seen at this point). It's the perfect job, IMHO. In fact, being the CEO may not be exactly what I want but having something to do with a company like that would be ideal.

Well, the company that is changing this Lincoln is doing just that:
Goodwin is making a name for himself -- and his company, H-Line Conversions -- by turning gas-guzzling behemoths like Hummers, Cadillac Escalades, Jeeps and other big American cars into clean-power machines. The first thing he does is remove the old inefficient engine -- even if it's a brand new vehicle -- and replace it with a diesel engine that can run on biodiesel. What's the drawback of his method? You guessed it. Cost. "It's not cost-effective for someone to run out and spend $40,000 to double the fuel economy, but I have no shortage of customers," Goodwin says. Including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's having his Wagoneer converted to biodiesel. Goodwin, 37, drives a 1987 gas burning Wagoneer, rents his home and will sheepishly tell you he didn't graduate from high school. Expect to hear a lot more about Goodwin in the future. Companies are knocking down the door to work on projects with him.

I'm torn between seeing this as a massive opportunity for the future or scared that someone is already doing it....

What do you do when you see someone else living your dream and it's suddenly very clear to you how real that dream could be??


Monday, December 03, 2007

Zero inspiration

Final exams are impending and, with that, comes comprehensive, suffocating exhaustion. No longer am I tired or happy,or good when asked, I just am. This sentiment is both very familiar and not at all unique to me. All around, the incontestable signs of impending, permanent, official critique are popping up. Attendance, which dropped last week, is quickly climbing back up. Faces I'm not quite familiar with are appearing in class. The black-circle-under-the-eye plague is spreading unchecked across previously fresh-faced young whatevers-to-be.

Finals bring out the soldier in some, the beggar in others, and nothing at all in a third segment on campus. Some beg, borrow, and plead for a passing grade, suddenly feeling regret for the last 3 months of letting things slide. The library and computer lab are now both full of inconsiderate asses, completely mindless to what could and should be a quiet environment. The population there doubles; the regulars still remain but now they are joined by a new contingent, a platoon of slackers, procrastinators, alcoholics, and others who treat school like it starts and ends in the same month.

Much like the roles we take, the dress code around campus also splits into thirds. Suits and ties and dresses and blouses appear as everyone gets ready for that final group presentation in This Won't Help You Later 110. At the same time, old T-shirts and track suits and pajamas and helter-skelter hair dos also propagate, the product of a complete lack of interest in anything but the task at hand. Appearance, hygiene, laundry, and other typically essential components of society easily take a back seat to your future which, invariably, rides on your receipt of a vowel or a consonant. Some, like myself, didn't care, still don't and won't next semester either. About appearance, of course. My future rests in the letter, just like everyone else.

Still, despite the morose turn the campus takes this time of year, there is a small glimmer of hope in the student body's heavy and bloodshot eyes. With the end of finals comes a respite from the regular regimen. Some of us leave, some of us work, some of us stay and do nothing, but the bells aren't ringing, the tests aren't being passed forward, and the heavy books are on the shelf. Combine all of these together and you have something, however small, to celebrate. I plan to double the amount of hours I'm working, learn how to use a publishing software, spend a while at home half-relaxing, and catch up with my schedule-estranged girlfriend (who's name, unfortunately, escapes me for the time being). I call this celebration.

So good luck to you in whatever you do and Happy December to all.