Bad news for green technology

Rare Earths used in Hybrid cars - Image from thetruthaboutcars.com - click

From Slashdot:

The NY Times reports that the Chinese government has placed a trade embargo on all exports to Japan of a crucial category of minerals used in products like hybrid cars, wind turbines and guided missiles.

China mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, and more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of some of the most prized rare earths, which sell for several hundred dollars a pound.

The embargo comes after a dispute over Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing trawler captain whose ship collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels as he tried to fish in waters controlled by Japan but long claimed by China.

The Chinese embargo is likely to have immediate repercussions in Washington. The House Committee on Science and Technology is scheduled to review a detailed bill to subsidize the revival of the American rare earths industry and the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to review the American military dependence on Chinese rare earth elements.”

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188 thoughts on “Bad news for green technology

  1. Well, in fairness, this cuts much broader than just green technology. The silver lining will be if the situation restores some independence from China in this critical sector.

  2. The situation appears to be still moot. On 23 Sepember, a media officer of Chinese Ministry of Commerce reportedly denied the embargo, at a phone interview with the News Agency Bloomberg.

  3. Sorry,
    This is incomprehensible and largely inexcusable. OMG, as my teenager might say.
    We are supposed to be captives of mid eastern oil and must reduce dependence by moving to smart technologies, that rely on a 93-99% market control of essential rare earth materials by China???
    Was this exposed in the Algore Inconvenient Truth?
    It looks like these rare earths are really rare and we missed the boat. I noted there appears to be some prospects in the US, probably precluded from mining by environmental laws.
    What a mess!

  4. An embargo on rare earths? That’ll put a Prius at a premium price. Or any other Hybrid come to think of it.

  5. Super magnet production has also been shipped over to China http://www.chinamagnet.in/i-News-229212/The-development-and-applications-of-Rare-Earth-Permanent-Magnetic-Materials-244616.html
    Over the last 10 to 20 years companies have been quietly purchased and slowed moved off shore. It is great that the Republicans have started to promise to protect this great nation, sucks that they will have to buy parts from the Chinese to do it.
    We have the most creative engineers and scientists in the world, I just hope we don’t have enter miracle mode to recreate the manufacturing prowess we once had.
    There are many who think the world was a more dangerous place when the US was the clear military leader, we are no longer that leader, both China and Russia have caught us in many areas, and it is believed China has better, possibly much better anti ship missiles.
    China can’t keep lending the US money. China may require a unifying purpose, sadly that purpose could be Taiwan, Japan, or the US. Not sure on this one.
    But what is clean Russia, Iran, and China have had their foot on the gas working on military advantage or their neighbors and us.

  6. …review a detailed bill to subsidize the revival of the American rare earths industry…

    Let’s see, subsidize an industry whose product sells for several hundred dollars a pound. Oh wait, I forgot; there are those pesky environmental impact statements that have to be submitted. With all that red tape from all those underworked governmental worker bees (federal, state & local) out to save the planet, they do need some sort of incentive to take all those risks. And any project will be tied up by any third rate political hack for at least several years. But why bother? In a decade, assuming the industry starts to become viable, they’ll get screwed … again … by some crusading activist with a cell phone camera. So, the question is, why should anyone take any risks with capital (or anything else for that matter) in this new spread the wealth America?

  7. There might still be some thin semi-precious metal lining to current US policy on mining and energy extraction. We will become more dependent on foreign sources of metals and hydrocarbons, but when everybody else runs out, we will still have fairly significant reserves.
    The trick of course will be to get them without triggering a civil war with the greens – assuming they still are in control.

  8. Bill Sticker says:
    September 23, 2010 at 10:57 pm
    An embargo on rare earths? That’ll put a Prius at a premium price. Or any other Hybrid come to think of it.
    —–
    Or any other “green” product that relies upon rare earth materials to make it happen.
    This is, on the one hand, a brilliant shot by China to show that it controls world technological development in the non-oil based energy field, and that every other country should look into their own natural resources reserves of rare earths.
    I expect that we loose this encounter until some date in the future when we develop our own rare earth industry. If possible.

  9. Allow me to also suggest that the countries of the world and their major industrial entities have long known of this variability in the supply choke hold of China and rare earth materials.
    On the country, to country diplomatic, if not just de facto level, this has been known for a long time. I wonder how our country will respond? Even if it supports the fishing vessel there is still alot of collateral damage.

  10. LoneRider says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:01 pm
    …………and it is believed China has better, possibly much better anti ship missiles.

    You could ask the Australian Navy. Just saw video of those very missiles firing.

  11. I read the article. Interesting. Thanks for posting this. What amazed me was the claim that rare earth metals from scrapped hybrid autos were not being recycled!
    My guess is that will change. 🙂

  12. In my not-so-humble opinion, the Chinese Lanthanide embargo has precious little to do with the fishing trawler captain, and a lot to do with flexing their economic muscles in order to see what they can get away with. I wonder if the Chinese leaders have ever heard of OFEC? That’s the Organization of Food Exporting Countries. Yes, you are quite correct; OFEC does not exit–yet.

  13. RE: Main Article
    “China mines 93 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, and more than 99 percent of the world’s supply of some of the most prized rare earths, which sell for several hundred dollars a pound.”
    I wonder if this indicates that there are no other possible sources on Earth, or if it only means that no other sources have been identified yet. It would seem unusual for these minerals to be concentrated in just one spot in the planet, unless that was due to a special event like a giant meteor impact.

  14. China has shown interest in rare earths for some time and not only nationaly. Chinese companies are now well established in Africa for rare earths as well as Chile for copper (where they exchanged a mountain for the construction of a new town + jobs). It seams that they have a strategic plan for high technology industries and are playing the long game. Viz:
    “At the same time, it would aim to boost cooperation with African nations with a view to gain a foothold on the extraction of rare metals held in their territory, currently dominated by Chinese companies.” From;
    http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/news/321164,eu-to-pressure-china-africa-over-access-to-rare-earth-metals.html
    “Earlier this year, the increasingly tight rare earths supply situation prompted one environmental journalist in the US to exclaim that we should all kiss our wind turbines goodbye.
    To be fair, he did lean towards the more apocalyptic scenarios favoured by the more extreme proponents of the green agenda, but he did have a point.
    Last year, China produced 97% (120 000 t) of the world’s rare earth oxides, while it also controls half of the earth’s known reserves.” From;
    http://www.miningweekly.com/article/sa-mine-may-make-dent-in-chinas-rare-earths-market-dominance-2010-09-17

  15. GM says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm
    “There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?”
    Prior to ‘greening’ only low demand for rare earth minerals, so made sense to buy from cheapest source – China. However, these minerals can be found all over the place, and if China decides to politic by embargo or massive price hikes, other countries will explore and start to exploit their own deposits.
    China is heading for a fall as the expectations of its population grow and its overheated economy heads for meltdown.

  16. GM says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm
    There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?
    You’re killing me! 🙂

  17. The greenies make a lot of noise about all things being sustainable. How is the rare earth thing working for them then? There’s been nary a squeak from the likes of WWF or FoE. Haven’t heard about greenies protesting outside Chinese mines and factories. Maybe because the Chinese authorities aren’t as understanding as the suicidally bureaucratised West…

  18. Rare earth magnets are nice but there are still self induction motors too. Either version can power a car or any other machine for that matter. Induction motors tend to be cheaper and more durable while PM motors have a wider efficiency range.

  19. UK Sceptic says:
    September 24, 2010 at 12:08 am
    The greenies make a lot of noise about all things being sustainable. How is the rare earth thing working for them then?

    FYI, the use of rare earth elements has very little to do with “green tech”, it is a common requirement for everything that is usually called “high tech”. That includes most of the cool gadgets we so much like to use and which are so loved by economists for the way they “drive economic development”.
    And before anyone raises the tired canard about rare earth elements not being that rare in the crust, yes, that’s correct; the problem is that concentrated deposits of rare earth elements aren’t at all common.
    Just another one of the limits to growth most people here are blind to. What is especially ironic (outright hypocritic if we are to put it bluntly) is that this fact is touted by this blog as a failure of the “greens”, those pesky enemies of the progress of free-market capitalism when in fact it is a very nice illustration of the failure of the latter to recognize the physical limits of the environment it is situated in

  20. Spector said on Bad news for green technology
    September 23, 2010 at 11:47 pm
    I wonder if this indicates that there are no other possible sources on Earth, or if it only means that no other sources have been identified yet. It would seem unusual for these minerals to be concentrated in just one spot in the planet, unless that was due to a special event like a giant meteor impact.

    There are other places of course, but not that many of them and they have been either depleted or not developed. More will be certainly found in remote areas as demand increases, but it will not make much of a difference due to that same old problem of the mismatch between exponentially increasing demand and finite and very limited supplies

  21. We are constantly warned about a new economic power that will push the West to the margins. In the seventies, the Arabs would buy us all, straight out. Well, they got Harrods.
    In the eighties, clever people talked of how Japan planned to make Europe its shopping centre and Australia its mine. I can’t remember the bon mot to describe America’s marginalisation by the Japanese, but the chattering set found it delicious. Sadly…
    In the nineties, here in Oz, you couldn’t cast any doubt on the viability of the Tiger economies of S. E. Asia without being called a racist. By the end of the decade, those casting doubts on the Tiger economies were called newsreaders.
    It’s a bit like predicting an Arctic death spiral. By the time people notice it didn’t happen, the cranks and finger-waggers are on to another subject.
    Problems are solved unpredictably, though you can bet the agents of change will likely be a couple of college dropouts, tinkering day and night in a garage, maybe somewhere in middle America: horny, unhygienic, and the despair of their parents.
    The danger for Western societies is within: the eclipse of the individual, the trust in Big Levers. When we move from tolerating the corporate to becoming corporate, China and the others won’t have won. Everyone will have lost.

  22. We have known about this increasing monopoly for some years but are too fixated with AGW to deal with it and other more pressing problems.
    tonyb

  23. tonyb says:
    September 24, 2010 at 1:14 am
    We have known about this increasing monopoly for some years but are too fixated with AGW to deal with it and other more pressing problems.

    And how exactly are we going to solve this one if it is not a secret?

  24. This is what I refer to as ‘Schweinfurt business’. Just capture the market in the most crucial element or part.
    The American air force lost a lot of aircraft and brave men attacking a factory in Schweinfurt deep into Germany in the Second world war. It didn’t make tanks or aircraft – it made ball bearings.
    cheers David

  25. It’s not so much what we don’t know that causes problems, but what we know that isn’t so.
    Rare earth elements are common throughout the world; their applications are relatively new, so their sources are undeveloped. That will change.
    The US just provided $1 billion to Mexico for oil development in the Gulf of Mexico while imposing a moratorium on oil developement in the Gulf of Mexico. That, my friends is the ‘green’ effect. Of course, we also subsidize windmills and photo voltaic power sources which require conventional power plants to back them up. Check out Spain and Portugal if you’re interested in such things.
    BTW, if people were only constipated and dehydrated, the Earth would be a much cleaner place.

  26. No immediate halt for civilization:
    “Companies using the rare metals are believed to have stockpiles that could last several months.”
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gXfWLJxzB0v4RO3_FL1emLGHQZ7gD9IE48N00
    And IMHO – the DOD has a short fuse when it comes to dependencies. Expect a very quick ramp up of production in the USA; emergency-style.
    This might also give Obama the ammunition he needs to declare tariffs on imported Chinese goods (as retaliation for the undervalued Renminbi).

  27. Perhaps the wrong moves by the West now may prove to be the right moves later, when the US, Australia and other Western countries finally decide they have been hobbled by mad Green ideology for too long. This piece of international brinkmanship by the Chinese points up the real lack of econmies in hybrid vehicles and is an illustration of how vital it is for the West to secure its lines of supply .

  28. I have read (sorry no link, so do check) that whenever anyone tries to start production of “rare earths”, China artificially forces the price down and puts them out of business. This item in 2 parts …
    http://www.techmetalsresearch.com/2010/07/chinas-rare-earths-game-plan-part-1-the-effects-of-reduced-export-quotas/
    http://www.techmetalsresearch.com/2010/07/chinas-rare-earths-game-plan-part-2-the-issue-of-pricing/
    … does seem to indicate that China is exercising price controls, but also says (if I have read it correctly) that they don’t think the Chinese are doing that [putting non-chinese out of business].
    Sorry, not much help, but IMHO the links above are interesting.

  29. typo ‘graphene’ not ‘grahene’ and the funy part is this is just carbon 🙂 but if you google it you notice then they can make from it or improve almost everything, ultracapacitors, composite, electronics, solar planel…

  30. DirkH said on Bad news for green technology
    No immediate halt for civilization:
    “Companies using the rare metals are believed to have stockpiles that could last several months.”

    Because of course several months are completely sufficient for changing all of our technology to not use rare earth metals (which isn’t even possible to begin with)…
    The sanity of many posters here is under serious doubt

  31. 29.Mike McMillan says:
    September 24, 2010 at 1:26 am
    I’m cutting my use of dysprosium in half. It’s the least I can do to help solve this crisis.
    Excellent Mike. I’ll join you and I’m also cutting my use of Neodimuim.
    Actually rare earths are quite common in the earth’s crust – it’s just that they are in very trace amounts in most rocks. The Chinese deposits are unusually rich.
    Until the greens took over the biggest use of rare earth elements was in flints for cigarette lighters and in gas mantles.

  32. GM is busted, a full riposte to his claims on the Dung thread by E.M.Smith
    Plenty of rare earths in the USA, currently China supplies because their price is lower and they dont have to do Environmental Impact Assessments or other expensive or time consuming stuff..

  33. China started mining her rare earth minerals only since 1984, heavily subsidized. It dumped them cheaply on the world market and most other countries stopped their loss making mines. Now the Chinese polit buro goes in for the kill: selective export bans or high prices for their (home made) monopoly.
    Within a year this game will back fire as others open their mines again like the Nolans and Mt. Weld projects Australia, the Hoidas Lake project Canada, and the Mountain Pass and Nebraska projects in the US. The Indian government mines never stopped digging. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element

  34. GM says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm
    “There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?
    One thing it tells me is someone is going to figure out how to recycle cerium oxide. It’s used as a polishing compound. Right now it’s too cheap to mess with.

  35. but it will not make much of a difference due to that same old problem of the mismatch between exponentially increasing demand and finite and very limited supplies
    I’ve been reading your comments on this thread, GM, and you seem to be missing one key element of this whole problem – and why it is ultimately a failure of the greens. The massive increase in demand for rare earths is caused by the mandated production of various so-called green technologies, which are sucking up rare earths and other resources that would, in normal conditions, be put to much better use. This is just like the whole bio-fuel debacle.

  36. And before anyone raises the tired canard about rare earth elements not being that rare in the crust, yes, that’s correct; the problem is that concentrated deposits of rare earth elements aren’t at all common.
    This is what I posted above, yet just as the creationists who repeat “But why are there still apes if man evolved from apes” after you have spent two hours explaining evolutionary biology to them, I get this half an hour later:

    Actually rare earths are quite common in the earth’s crust – it’s just that they are in very trace amounts in most rocks. The Chinese deposits are unusually rich.

    Exactly, they are in trace amounts. Nobody sees any problem with that, of course…

  37. If any greenies want to complain about opening or reopening non-Chinese mines, they should sell their priuses and use the money to buy carbon credits for the mining companies. This solves three problems at once – less demand for the cars, greenies can feel like they are saving the planet, and the greenies can’t make it to their court hearings because they’re stuck on a bus somewhere!
    Can we start saying “it’s better than we thought” yet?

  38. Archonix says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:21 am
    I’ve been reading your comments on this thread, GM, and you seem to be missing one key element of this whole problem – and why it is ultimately a failure of the greens. The massive increase in demand for rare earths is caused by the mandated production of various so-called green technologies, which are sucking up rare earths and other resources that would, in normal conditions, be put to much better use. This is just like the whole bio-fuel debacle.

    Because nothing else other than windmills uses them, sure.
    BTW, I am not posting in this thread from the perspective of someone who thinks that civilization will collapse due to shortage of REE, it is just that they are a good illustration of first, the concept of the mineralogical barrier, and second, of how complex and how interrelated the multiple crises we face are. We have a problem with AGW, and we have a problem with Peak Oil, what are we going to do – no problem, we’ll move to renewables… wait a minute, we don’t have the raw materials to do that at the required scale. That sort of thing.
    Because nobody likes to discuss the really fundamental problem which is growth.
    Shortage of resources or longage of humans, pick your definition…

  39. mrtouchdown says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:32 am
    If any greenies want to complain about opening or reopening non-Chinese mines,

    Oh, one thing you can be definitely sure of is that the NIMBYs will show up as soon as such mines are reopened anywhere close to a populated place (most of them are in remote areas anyway though).

  40. GM says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:23 am
    “I get this half an hour later:”
    No, *you* didn’t and don’t get it at all. You are not the center of attention.

  41. We are supposed to be captives of mid eastern oil and must reduce dependence by moving to smart technologies, that rely on a 93-99% market control of essential rare earth materials by China???

    Yes, it rather skewers the “energy security” argument, doesn’t it?

  42. I think the key is “rare ” earth metals. Are there enough of these metals worldwide to sustain the green revolution or will we have a “peak” production like oil.

  43. There are a lot of rare earth metal deposits around, e.g. Canada, also US. The issue is that they occur in parts per million rather than percents in the ore. So to mine you have to mine whole mountains to get them. Some other richer but much smaller deposits, e.g. pegmatites, Ontario, Nova Scotia, etc.

  44. GM,
    Supply & demand & the commodities market is a target that centrally planning green orgs can’t achieve. They did not get the lesson history taught in the 20th century with the authoritative gov’t failure thing.
    Supply & demand & the market for ideas is the reasons not so many anymore are investing in your ideas. I recommend you invest in more intellectually productive ideas.
    John

  45. There was a rare earth mine in the California desert, about 75 miles east of Las Vegas. Cheap rare earth materials from China and environmental regulations shut it down. If the commodity price is right and the proper protection money is paid to the green lobby, it will re-open.

  46. Below is an extract from a statement on Lynas Corp announcements. (LYC). They have a big deposit in WA, hopefully the Premier will look after this better than the Thompson family at Narrogin…Rare earths are not actually that rare, sounds silly but it’s true. It’s the concentration that makes the difference. Is it worth digging them out and processing them. Obviously now the answer is yes:
    ‘Rare Earths’ is the term given to fifteen metallic elements known as the lanthanide series, plus yttrium. They play a key role in green environmental products, from energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to hybrid cars, automotive catalytic converters and wind turbine generators. They are also essential in the development and manufacturing of many modern technological products, from hard disc drives to flat panel displays, iPods and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

  47. Dont worry we might loose some useless and over hyped car models but it will drive technology somewhere usefull. Hybrid cars are dishonest, they are , like solar and wind power well subsidised to appear usefull but in the real world a rich persons plaything, none can compete with my 1994 Citroen turbo diesel I owned in the UK, 50 MPG at 100 mph, that is sustaunable economy, throw 10% of the PC budget hybrids have wasted at turbo diesels and the particulate emissions will go away and you have a commercial development of real use.

  48. GM,
    Some people are stuck on “we can’t”. Sad to say you are one of them. Your additude would have lost WWII. Study “rubber” as an example. And it is clear from the comments that POLITICS is the biggest reason for this problem. Really, you are annayllop in your negativity. I know you think you are the “educated” realist
    Anyway your post are fine, just to often, throttle back a little, you may even be more effective.

  49. The Mt Weld deposit in West Australia goes 4.5% rare earths and is close to start up with refining in Malaysia. Naturally I have a bunch of shares bought when this looked likely. Thank you Greens. Greenland may have the largest deposit which has a fair bit of uranium mixed in and has not been developed because of Danish feelings which I believe are about to bend to reality. The deposit belongs to an Australian company so we may be upside down but not always slow. Old North Queensland Doctor

  50. GM, also when you say this, “The sanity of many posters here is under serious doubt”
    you become somewhat of a troll, and certainly lose effectivness as well as demonstrating that your mind is closed to many educated comments made here.

  51. GM said in reply to me
    “September 24, 2010 at 1:24 am
    tonyb says:
    September 24, 2010 at 1:14 am
    We have known about this increasing monopoly for some years but are too fixated with AGW to deal with it and other more pressing problems.
    And how exactly are we going to solve this one if it is not a secret?”
    By realising there are other problems in this world that need attention and dealing with them. It is perfectly possible to find other sources but that will not happen overnight. Having one group with a stranglehold on our windpipe over oil and gas is bad enough but allowing another party to do the same is plain silly.
    tonyb

  52. How ironic, the world is worried about the ice in Greenland melting and so are turning to rare earths to make “green” cars and modern equipment in order to prevent pollution and limit the melting of glaciers….If the ice melts it may be easier to mine the minerals and therefore go “greener” to save the ice melting. But then the ice is not melting anyway so you can leave it in the ground and carry on driving a diesel engined car.
    One of the biggest sources of Rare Earths is in Greenland (GGG). Unfortunately (in my opinion) there is a lot of uncertainty of who owns what and who has paid what to get a permit etc so this is a buyer beware share. No recommendation here, move along nothing to see.
    I personally like LYC. (again, not a recommendation although I own a few shares)

  53. “Rare Earths” are not rare. Cerium, for example, is as common as zinc. They were called rare earths because they seldom form concentrated ores like more familiar metals. This in turn means that somewhat more sophisticated techniques have to be used to extract them, and it makes increasing sense to use co-production. In the limit, we should forget about ores and just separate out the whole gamut of elements from the same bulk material (which can be any rock or soil, though municipal and industrial waste is ideal, since it will have all the desired elements in the right proportions, close enough). The energy requirements are not prohibitive; to overcome the entropy of dilution we need just -RTlnC/mol. Even for the rarest of the rare earths, that’s less than 20kJ/kg, which is negligible, bearing in mind that the chemical enthalpies for reduction of the oxides are in the MJ/kg range. We’re talking fractions of a penny per kg. There is no long-term technological or economic problem here. Political, regulatory and capital investment problems, maybe.

  54. GM says at 11:15pm, 12:23am, 12:26am, 1:24am, 2:02am, 2:23am, 2:39am,
    2:41am, 2:50am
    Slack day in Academia, is it?

  55. One small thing – I see here misunderstanding. Term “rare earth metals” does not mean that these metals are rare (in small quantites). It means that they were initially found in rare earth minerals, which are called so because lanthanides occurs in them.
    Please use terms correctly,
    Regards

  56. Relax, Genus Malthusian, stop hyperventilating and releasing that excess CO2. Trust me, your combination of running around like a chicken with its head cut off while portraying Chicken Little isn’t near as endearing as you think.
    Nothing you can do matters. Your opinion does not matter. Really. Our new Chinese masters will have their own plans for dealing with these problems you have imagined. If they want your opinion, they will give it to you.
    Now, don’t you feel better?

  57. What really bugs me is as being environmental friendly is that everyone would do the same we’d be [snip . . messing?] up the environment truly bad.
    Anti nuclear freaks and anti coal freaks alike usually use the old mining argument, yet it is numerous times worse a bigger problem mining rare earth metals due to there scarcity meaning bigger areas/volume to mine. But that’s ok though they say because it’s for a good cause, right? Pfft.
    Personally I’d rather be more environmental friendly and drive a 5 year old 3.5 ton hummer rather then slashing down some African rain forest for ion battery materials.

  58. GM says “There are other places of course, but not that many of them and they have been either depleted or not developed. More will be certainly found in remote areas as demand increases, but it will not make much of a difference due to that same old problem of the mismatch between exponentially increasing demand and finite and very limited supplies.”
    GM I don’t agree. China became the dominant supplier of rare earth elements (as much as 95%) primarily through aggressive pricing (i.e. cheap prices). There are other deposits of rare earths around the world that could easily be developed, but in the free world there is no money in it. China raises prices, exploration and delineation of these deposits recommences. China drops the prices and forces these companies out of business. They are very clever.

  59. GM says “BTW, I am not posting in this thread from the perspective of someone who thinks that civilization will collapse due to shortage of REE, it is just that they are a good illustration of first, the concept of the mineralogical barrier, and second, of how complex and how interrelated the multiple crises we face are. We have a problem with AGW, and we have a problem with Peak Oil, what are we going to do – no problem, we’ll move to renewables… wait a minute, we don’t have the raw materials to do that at the required scale. That sort of thing.”
    GM, this doesn’t hold together. You refer to “multiple crises” and then invoke only a few false ones. If you think we have a shortage of oil go stand in the middle of a busy freeway.
    The rare earth problem is one of tight control by China and a lack of a back up plan by other countries who have been relying on China’s cheap prices to subsidize their own economies.

  60. GM
    “UK Sceptic says:
    September 24, 2010 at 12:08 am
    The greenies make a lot of noise about all things being sustainable. How is the rare earth thing working for them then?
    FYI, the use of rare earth elements has very little to do with “green tech”, it is a common requirement for everything that is usually called “high tech”. That includes most of the cool gadgets we so much like to use and which are so loved by economists for the way they “drive economic development”. ”
    But aren’t greenie approved electric cars all about “green tech”? It seems that some unsustainable commodities that are ripped from the screaming womb of Gaia are more vital than others when vested interest and political aspirations are at stake. Has mining become an environmentally friendly industry now? Or are some mines more equal than others when it comes to progressing the climate alarmist agenda?

  61. Tomasz Kornaszewski says:
    September 24, 2010 at 4:49 am
    “Sorry, didn’t see Paul Birch post.”
    That’s all right. Your explanation for why they are called “rare earths” (that they were initially found in rare earth deposits) is more accurate than mine (that they didn’t form concentrated ores like other metals), though they’re complementary, really; the reason why they were initially found in rare earth is that they didn’t form concentrated ores that would otherwise have been found sooner elsewhere.

  62. The EPA is the problem
    Under pressure the EPA cause out last mines to close. Don’t blame China.
    http://arizonageology.blogspot.com/2009/11/congressional-earmark-to-reopen-calif.html
    The shortage of rare earth minerals prompted Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Jerry Lewis (R-CA) to add an earmark to the House Defense appropriations bill (H.R. 3326) for $3 million to help reopen a California rare earth mine [NB – I have to believe this is Molycorp’s Mountain Pass Mine – LA]. According to Lewis the controversial funds were necessary for Molycorp Minerals, owned in part by Goldman Sachs, to quell national security concerns. This appropriations bill is still awaiting conference committee approval. [right, projected gap in RE supply and demand. Credit, Molycorp]
    See the example? California will interfere The EPA will interfere. If it is beneficial, the eco wackos will fight it.

  63. Looks good for RE dev outside of China but once we start digging holes in the ground the “exploiters” will be branded Big Dysprosium or some such tag.

  64. “DirkH said on Bad news for green technology
    No immediate halt for civilization:
    “Companies using the rare metals are believed to have stockpiles that could last several months.”
    GM says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:02 am
    Because of course several months are completely sufficient for changing all of our technology to not use rare earth metals (which isn’t even possible to begin with)…
    The sanity of many posters here is under serious doubt”
    GM, i don’t care much for your lack of understanding of market mechanisms. But you insult me personally, so i think i should answer you.
    So you had problems understanding what i said. Fine. What did i say? I cited an article that says that there are enough stockpiles for a few months. Now, did i want to imply that this solves all problems? Of course not. In that case, i would have spelled it out for comprehension-challenged people like you. It will help the industry limp along for a few months; which is good news. This will also give politicians a chance to resolve the conflict in time. See? Was that hard to understand? Fine.
    What we will see is a re-assessment of the stratecigal importance of rare earths and the reliability of China as a trade partner. If there are not already strategic reserves for these materials, various governments will start to build them up, or build up some reserve mining caparcity. We will also see projects and regulations to improve the recycling of old electronics, which is a good thing IMHO.
    BTW, does the GM stand for Girl Magnet? (Oh, i WANTED to say that…)

  65. Shortage of resources or longage of humans, pick your definition…
    there is neither a shortage of resources, nor a longage of humans.
    Rather a longage of regulations preventing the discovery/recovery of resources for the use of humans.

  66. This is an interesting but not very significant story. It is perhaps noteworthy that we will do nothing other than “study” on any rare earth problem. This is because we have to keep our China masters happy: Yes, Master – What is thy bidding, Master? Should I keep holding my ankles, Master? Far be it from us to offend the Chicoms!

  67. Enough already with these Malthusian arguments. Rare earths are not rare. The U.S. has significant deposits and the world’s largest mine used to operate in California. The U.S. mine was shut down because of the lack of demand, which caused the prices to be low, and increasingly stringent environmental regulations in the U.S., which caused costs to rise above the prevailing prices levels.
    More important, as demand has grown and the price has increased, investment is being made to re-open the California mine. Of course, we don’t know what barriers EPA or CARB will create to the re-opening. At the same time. companies are investing in Australia, Canada, and a number of African countries to extract these minerals. All of these investments will be accelerated if China proceeds with its plans to restrict exports. In the end, China will be the loser — because of increased competition and more reliable supply, even China if remains the low cost producer. For those that are dubious, think about the consequences of Nixon’s soya bean embargo. It opened the door to soya bean production in Argentina and Brazil.

  68. GM said:
    Problems are solved unpredictably, though you can bet the agents of change will likely be a couple of college dropouts, tinkering day and night in a garage, maybe somewhere in middle America: horny, unhygienic, and the despair of their parents.

    I look forward to great things from my son then:-)

  69. GM says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm:
    There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?
    That we’re all gonna die unless we bow to your Rule?

  70. Wikipedia (for a change) actually has a decent article about the rare earth elements:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rare_earth_element
    “A few sites are under development outside of China, the most significant of which are the Nolans Project in Central Australia, the remote Hoidas Lake project in northern Canada, Mountain Pass in California[19], and the Mt. Weld project in Australia.[20] The Hoidas Lake project has the potential to supply about 10% of the $1 billion of REE consumption that occurs in North America every year.[21]”
    They are very common in the earth’s crust, but very diffuse and difficult to mine. Mining tends to cause accumulation of toxic/radioactive materials like thorium. In the USA, the only rare earths mine seems to be Mountain Pass in California.
    Good luck to those who need these elements, as you cannot simply clap your hands and create a mining infrastructure! The West got suckered in on this by the Chinese. Those guys mean business.

  71. Grey Lensman says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:04 am
    GM is busted, a full riposte to his claims on the Dung thread by E.M.Smith
    Plenty of rare earths in the USA, currently China supplies because their price is lower and they dont have to do Environmental Impact Assessments or other expensive or time consuming stuff..

    Yep its called comparative advantage.

  72. Storm in a teacup. In 1994 I advised a Chinese Province to invest in rare earths. I had already seen how they had throttled world markets in tungsten and were doing so with tin.
    As others have noted, there’s no shortage of rare earth deposits worldwide. Some rare earths have already been mined but sit in tailings dams unused, because demand was low when they were mined decades ago.
    Non-China countries will not be held to ransom by Chinese production. It’s mostly a matter of the political will of a country to start up mines and plant. That’s where the lead in the saddle placed there by the greenies comes into play. They are, as a group, such an ignorant bunch that I can’t understand why they are given traction.

  73. On Climatreprogress half the posts are by a prokaroyates. He can’t touch the shear surge in volume by GM on this board. I suspect the limit on climateprogress for a skeptic would be about 1 or 2 posts max before they are banned.
    REPLY: If they are known by name, often zero. But always fun to try. – Anthony

  74. North America seems to have a good amount of rare earth elements. We have a surplus of interference from OSHA and the EPA. In China there are very minimal mining safety regs and restrictions.

  75. Oh, don’t subsidize new mining operations. Subsidies mean the taxpayers are paying for it. Do we then own it?
    Make it profitable by decreasing the bureaucracy and taxes. Offer free surveying maybe, but let free enterprise jump on it. The investment money will show up in piles so fast and we will be off and running.

  76. Seeing that Lanthanides occur at concentrations of around 2000ppm in Hickory trees in the Eastern USA I hope nobody gets busy chopping them down, unless things get really desperate.
    China seems to have 75% of the worlds reserves , while the USA has about 14%. In 2000 the USA produced about the same amount as China.

  77. How about cutting off the supply of technology and procedures to China. Their only edge in the market is our technology and cheap slave labor. I forgot, from what I hear because of our debt they practically own us. How did that happen? Certainly not because of rare earths and minerals.

  78. GM says:
    September 24, 2010 at 2:41 am:
    Oh, one thing you can be definitely sure of is that the NIMBYs will show up as soon as such mines are reopened anywhere close to a populated place (most of them are in remote areas anyway though).
    Agreed, GM, so what are you personally doing in regard to your own lifestyle so as to lessen your own contribution to “ecological overshoot” – and thus to promote “sustainability” and help avoid the apocalypse?

  79. “So, MISTER Watts, you want windmills, hybrids and magnets?? *BWAHH-HAA-HAA!*”
    Regards, President Hu Jintao
    http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/09/23/is_china_making_a_rare_earth_power_play
    ——–
    These types of resource/commodity power-play maneuvers usually backfire, as others have mentioned. Still, the timing is interesting…
    I suspect that China may also be posturing ahead of Cancun. This is a shot across the bow of the West, who want to reduce carbon emissions with wind power etc. Perhaps they are saying “Don’t pressure us on emissions reductions!” ?

  80. Let’s see: The EPA makes it difficult or more expensive to conduct rare-earth mining operations, so the mines close down. Now the Congress is considering subsidizing rare-earth mining operations, to get them going again.
    I suppose it is no surprise that our ever-helpful Federal government is working at cross-purposes. This is the kind of snafu-building we used to read about in third-world countries. How do we avoid becoming one ourselves?
    /Mr Lynn

  81. I sometimes wonder why you guys even indulge GM and others like him/her… however it’s been fun watching him/her demonstrate supreme ignorance. I’ll summarize:
    First we get:
    “And before anyone raises the tired canard about rare earth elements not being that rare in the crust”
    Followed by multiple posts explaining that, in fact, rare earth elements are not that rare in the crust. GM takes that as humorous (and takes it personally), however score one for everyone other than GM. This is an absolutely perfect example of someone who thinks they know something, but in fact they are very, very wrong.
    Oddly enough, this mirrors the petroleum industry, but I won’t go there.
    Then, perhaps realizing that something’s up with the “rare” part of “rare earths”, GM switches to informing us that our sanity is in question, and that high tech can not function without these “rare earths”. Well, it can. There is not a single “high tech” item that can ONLY be made with a particular material, it just happens to be more cost effective or efficient or some other desirable trait.
    In an attempt to deflect attention away from the fact that he/she has grossly failed in this thread, GM moves to the shotgun approach, wildly listing catastrophic problems our society faces… then, oddly, comes up with one accurate and problematic thing:
    “Oh, one thing you can be definitely sure of is that the NIMBYs will show up as soon as such mines are reopened anywhere close to a populated place”.
    I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a warning or a threat…

  82. China fail ????
    We’ll we will just have to see what their leadership is willing to do. Past leaders of China have been willing to do quite a bit to stay in power. How much is the dis-satisfaction in rural China where the people are looking to be included in the new found prosperity? How about the unemployed or the people working 80 hours a week, or the people seeing their children work along side them????
    The people of China have seen the emergence of the modern world in China, but the spread has greatly slowed. The Tiger has risen and many do not feel the effects.
    So, how does China keep control?? Do they need to?? If they do, I see two directions, one would be to beat the citizenry into submission, which they have shown they are willing to do.
    Or, generate another need for the Tiger to rise. And they have done that, and are they already doing that?? Is this news story just part of that??????
    They have ramped up the rhetoric over Japan and Taiwan. There is a lot of racial bias against Japan in China (duh), and they believe Taiwan is their rightful property.
    When China honestly believes they can hold off the willing Allied forces, I believe they will make a play for Taiwan. Unite the country behind the goal. IF Japan moves to defend Taiwan, the Chinese government will have a force to be able to unite the country behind the government, feed on the racial hatred of the Japanese and start conventional war.
    And of course the side benefit of a conventional war, many young male to middle age males will be lost. Something China has a surplus of!!
    Not saying this is going to happen, but I do believe there is a non-zero probability.

  83. Then it’s time for the Japanese to go to Peru in SA or Australia to get those rare earths and rare elements they need for supplying green-nuts with their green toys they need.
    BTW the best battery with low weight , which we use in our body(*), is the one and only of the Elements Table: Iron. It was invented by an Spaniard, at the beginning of the 20th. century, and, as far as I remember, that Spaniard guy died mysteriously after engaging in making an electrical powered car.
    (*)Hemoglobin, as you all know, owes its characteristic red color to Fe+3 (arterial blood) , when oxidized by oxygen, and then reduces to Fe+2 giving us the electrons we need to work.

  84. It all makes for an interesting problem. Where we’re trying to wean ourselves from dependence on $75/barrel mid-east oil only to be dependent on $200/lb chinese rare earths.
    Reminds me of my high school physics teacher pounding into us the core of science..”You don’t get something for nothing”

  85. Olen says:
    September 24, 2010 at 7:55 am
    …How did that happen? Certainly not because of rare earths and minerals.
    LOL!. Kind of…..because of rare guys with strange wishes. 🙂

  86. DJ Meredith says:
    September 24, 2010 at 8:34 am

    There is a VERY CHEAP solution: Start powering electric cars with IRON batteries. (see my post above)
    …and BTW another one CHEAPER: “Drill, baby, drill!”

  87. Why China is the dominant rare-earth producer.

    Today, however, rare-earth mining is almost nonexistent outside China, which came to dominate the market in the 1980s and ’90s by cutting world prices and now controls as much as 97 percent of the supply of some of the elements. The United States’ only major rare-earth mine, a complex in Mountain Pass, California, that was once the world’s leading producer of the minerals, shut down in 2002.
    But the limited supply of the minerals in the marketplace is the result of economics and environmental concerns, not scarcity. Even with iPads flying off the shelves and high-end electric cars on showroom floors, the world consumes only a tiny amount of rare earth — about 130,000 metric tons of it a year, or just over a tenth of the amount of copper produced last February alone. Market forecasters expect the global trade in rare earths to reach $2 billion to $3 billion by 2014, but even that amounts to barely 1 percent of today’s iron market. And rare earth elements aren’t actually worth very much at the mine — most of their market value is added in the refining process.
    There are also the environmental hazards. Rare-earth mining produces radioactive waste, and dealing with it in the United States and Canada requires a lot of permitting and expensive mitigation efforts — the sort of thing that puts North American producers at a disadvantage to less scrupulously monitored operations in China. As a result, though prices have jumped in recent years, mining rare earth is still orders of magnitude less lucrative than copper or iron; for the big mining companies, it simply isn’t worth the effort.

    By the way, the waste is radioactive because thorium often occurs in rare-earth ores. Currently there is no use at all for thorium, but potentially, it’s a nuclear fuel more abundant than uranium. ORNL ran a molten salt reactor experiment for years back in the 1960s, thorium was one of the fuels they tested, successfully.

  88. Sean says:
    September 24, 2010 at 4:04 am
    “There was a rare earth mine in the California desert, about 75 miles east of Las Vegas. Cheap rare earth materials from China and environmental regulations shut it down. If the commodity price is right and the proper protection money is paid to the green lobby, it will re-open.”
    They are already working on it! The site is known as the Mountain Pass mine and is currently owned by Molycorp Minerals. The site is in eastern California just north of I-15 on the way to Las Vegas. .
    From Molycorp’s website:
    “The world’s two largest reserves of Rare Earth materials outside of China are in Mountain Pass, California and Mount Weld, Australia. Neither of these deposits are currently in production. Lynas Corporation (the current owners of the Mount Weld deposit), has begun development of a mine and concentration plant in Australia and a processing facility in Malaysia. Lynas has no announced plans to produce NdFeB magnets or intermediate materials. On the other hand, Mountain Pass, California possesses a mine that produced for 50 years prior to the suspension of mining operations in 2002. MM LLC plans to restart mining operations and complete an extensive modernization and expansion of the related processing facility. MM LLC further plans to broaden its operations to encompass the production of metal, alloys and NdFeB magnets. The initial planned production upon full restart in 2012 is 40 million pounds REO per year (almost 7 million pounds of Nd and Pr oxides). This production can be achieved by using less than half the tons of ore that was required in the past to produce 40 millions pounds REO per year. ”
    Fortunatley for all of us, someone in our government had some foresight and excluded the property from the ‘Mojave National Preserve’ (ie. national park) which was created around the site in the mid-90’s by Senator Feinstein. While they have some reserves and stockpiled ore and can reprocess some old tailings in their new processing plant, it would probably be nice for them to have access to additional reserves of bastnaesite ore on the surrounding properties now locked up in the new national park.
    Ironically for our green friends, the ore comes from a type of rock called ‘carbonatite’ which is a relatively rare and unusual type of igneous rock composed primarily of carbonate minerals.

  89. Many of the commenters here still do not fully understand the game China is playing.
    They are working on moving up in the suppy chain, from supplying bulk material to semi-finished goods and so on. By the time other countries have invested large sums of money in opening new RE-mines, China will offer the semi finished goods at prices nobody can resist. And so on….
    Moving into the added value production is the only way for China to keep their growth sustainable. It is planned and executed carefully, patiently and consistently.
    They love it that especially the people in the US think that the Chinese are just a bunch of stupid copiers, since it buys them time and makes the execution of the plan only easier.
    You may also want to check the number of PhD’s that their universities crank out every year and wonder when innovation will flow to China. (it already is..)
    The next man on the moon will wave the Zhong Guo flag while NASA is still figuring out the successor of the obsolete space shuttle.

  90. mosomoso says: September 24, 2010 at 12:54 am
    We are constantly warned about a new economic power that will push the West to the margins. In the seventies, the Arabs would buy us all, straight out. Well, they got Harrods.
    In the eighties, clever people talked of how Japan planned to make Europe its shopping centre and Australia its mine. I can’t remember the bon mot to describe America’s marginalisation by the Japanese, but the chattering set found it delicious. Sadly…

    The Japanese economic threat in the 80s was that Nikon made the best lenses in the world. ICs, computer chips, demanded higher and higher resolution for a new generation every 1.5 years. The Japanese gov’t would not allow the top rated Nikon lenses out of their country, so they could take over the IC/computer industry. The U.S. gov’t countered by funding SemaTech, where U.S. companies donated engineers and/or equipment. We, the U.S., were able to move ahead of Japan using their second-rate lenses and beating process control into tiny 3σ deviations.
    Given the opportunity, we seem to be able to rise to the situation and meet our challenges as humans.

  91. The rare earth’s are discussed in a book (link below) in the context of who discovered them and how they were discovered and added to the periodic table. It is a very interesting part of history. The book’s title made me pause because I thought it might be too oriented toward comic or silly material. Not so. It is not terribly difficult to read but it is somewhat demanding – especially that you have some knowledge of physics and chemistry.
    http://www.amazon.com/Disappearing-Spoon-Madness-Periodic-Elements/dp/0316051640
    [Full disclosure: I am not connected in any way to this book or author except I do own a copy – obtained via a well known science book club that will go unnamed.]

  92. nealins says:
    September 24, 2010 at 8:52 am
    The next man on the moon will wave the Zhong Guo flag while NASA is still figuring out the successor of the obsolete space shuttle.
    I am sure it will be a GREEN FLYING CARPET !! 🙂

  93. fhsiv
    The Mountain Pass rare earth mine is a huge resource. Molycorp gave themselves a black eye when their pipelines leaked in the Caltrans right-of-way and other places on it’s way to a nearby dry lake. The material was lightly radioactive, and when most people think about radioactivity they think of nuclear weapons and fallout. Between that overblown reaction and the Chinese undercutting prices the mine was idled.
    I worked for Caltrans for many years and we have a highway maintenance station next door to the Molycorp mine in Mountain Pass.
    In the interest of the US that mine should be reopened and always be online. Most people have no idea of the important, even critical uses of rare earths, or the impact of a shutoff of supplies would be to this country.

  94. If the Chinese can ban rare earth exports, Anthony, can you at least ban comments from GM. I’m getting tired of having to thumbwheel over this moron’s bloviations.

  95. The US knows exactly what’s it’s doing by not mining “rare” earth minerals. Why not let another country rip apart it’s landscape (China) for rare earths and save the US resource for an emergency. (It’s DOES NOT take 15 years to start up the old mines. The CEO’s who say that are the ones heavily invested in Chinese “rare” earth mining.) It’s the same as the oil industery. It’s called “use up your neighbors resources and only use yours when they run out.” There are other rare earths in America and several other countries. But, China in it’s sweet naivete, is only trying to look out for it’s people – and is not worried at this time about the risk to it’s landscape. Instead of putting down China, have compassion for their pollution, food and water shortage and stop putting it down. Don’t harbor resentment against little Chinese person – their government hasn’t yet learned how to not kill them in order to feed them. As for their military. Of course, they have to make a big show of it. That’s to keep greedy, grasping nations from trying to “grab and run.”

  96. We do have these “rare earth” resources in the United States but lack the will to exploit them. Somehow, in this constant bickering between exploitation and environmentalism, we have become so polarized that the very idea of using our resources in a responsible manner escapes attention. These issues, which involve both our national security and econonmy, need to be addressed without extremism from either side.

  97. GM says:
    September 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm
    “There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?”
    It is telling me that you, GM, are caught in a Malthusian bubble.
    You should go out more, meet people, read some books.
    Thats what it’s telling me.
    The stone age did not end because of lack of stones, you know.
    Get over it.

  98. Much ado about nothing. The Chinese are trying to increase prices because their cost of extraction have gone up due to new environmental regs now being put into place. This is all for the good. Plus, it will allow western companies to re-open and profit from the higher prices. Why do people see nefarious things in good news?

  99. Chris,
    You are right, there are good things here. But this discussion has broadened its scope well beyond the availability of a single mineral. Geo-politics are an interesting animal.
    The tricks is trying to figure out what the leaders end goals are.
    And for that, I am really interested!

  100. Climate Change, The Sustainable Green Economy and the demonization of fossil fuels are all based on lies, lies and lies.
    Paul Driessen gave us all the arguments already why green is not really green with his recent publication at WUWT and so did Burt Rutan:
    http://rps3.com/Pages/Burt_Rutan_on_Climate_Change.htm
    Besides that, who needs a Nippon hybrid if you can drive a much bigger and safer BMW using the same amount of fuel for the same price?
    Why should we continue to build wind farms for electricity if they can’ t deliver 24/7 base loads at astronomic prices and maintenance costs?
    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/09/scam-spreads.html
    Why did humanity forget they fazed out wind power with expensive steam engines in around 1810, 200 years ago?
    Why should we buy expensive solar panels subsidized with tax payers money that raise the price of electricity for people who don’t have solar panels if even President Obama does not want them on the roof of the White House?
    Why should we grow bio fuels from food crops if 1.2 billion people go hungry and why should these bio fuels be sustainable in any way if people die?
    Why should we surrender to technology that doesn’t deliver what it promises at times we are drowning in oil and gas for generations to come?
    Why don’t we simply wait until real technology is developed to replace oil and gas for the good reasons instead of advocacy.
    Why don’t we trust our Governments, scientists and environmentalists anymore?
    Why do I no longer like the color green anymore?
    Why does the entire climate scam remind me of a scam artist by the name of Victor Lustig who managed to sell the Paris Eiffel Tower by inviting local scrap dealers to make a closed bid?
    http://www.3ammagazine.com/short_stories/non-fict/truetales/eiffeltower.html
    I think because the way Lustig managed to pull off his scam is similar to the UN IPCC process.

  101. Not a problem.
    Hybrids (and all electric vehicles) use more fuel than my large Citroen diesel (55 mpg out of town), so we will do the Earth a favour if we get rid of them.
    A diesel has direct “engine to wheels” drive, and does not have to go through any of that messy “conversion to electricity/battery storage/conversion to motive power” business.

  102. Ralph says:
    September 24, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Then our next choice for buying a car should be, being decent skeptics, a wild gas burning big and safe SUV.(With enough back space to carry a big carbon barbecue and half a methane emitter sacrificed cow).

  103. Keith Battye says:
    September 24, 2010 at 7:47 am
    “Seeing that Lanthanides occur at concentrations of around 2000ppm in Hickory trees in the Eastern USA I hope nobody gets busy chopping them down, unless things get really desperate.”
    Thanks, that’s an interesting fact. According to this link
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V66-487D984-5&_user=10&_coverDate=08%2F31%2F1958&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=e18854c4530531ef51de7fd6c0956a6b&searchtype=a
    the Lanthanides are bioconcentrated in the Hickory leaves. If we get really desperate for Lanthanides, we could rake up hickory leaf litter in the Autumn, and process the leaf ‘ore’. Chopping these trees down would be counterproductive.

  104. GM,
    Bwaaaaahahahahaa!!! Quick! STOP CREATING THINGS! Our only hope now is PANIC!
    That’s right, GM, Game over, man! Game over!

  105. OM[ALT 70]G you snipped my censored ALT 102 – word?
    Messing up the environment is not the same as ALT 70, or ALT 102, -ing up the environment. Messing up something usually mean you can correct it, like cleaning up the mess. ALT 70, or ALT 102, -ing up something usually tend to mean you can’t correct it, fix it, or clean it up, as in the damage is already done so now you have to live with it, you need to adapt.
    See what I did there? :-()

  106. As any decent geologist can tell you:
    1. ‘Rare Earth’ metals are not really all that rare.
    2. According to the USGS China has the largest known reserves of rare earths, but the USA has 13 million tonnes out of a total world reserve of 99 million tonnes.
    Global annual consumption of rare earths is circa 60,000t/year. So the USA’s known reserves could supply the world’s needs for 216 years.
    In reality, the metals we should all be worried about are tin and tungsten – the Chinese have a real stranglehold in both these metals.

  107. This is another example of the Chinese taking advantage of US government making it hard to operate inside the US. Another example is Kel-F (also known as CTFE or chloro-trifluoro-ethylene, a form of teflon). My company makes things that handle liquid oxygen, and there are very few materials that are appropriate for this application. Kel-F is a plastic that works well. It was invented and initially produced in the US, but is now not manufactured here at all. We buy from China.

  108. For a lot of “Tin hats”:
    Peru remains the world’s third largest tin producer, after China and Indonesia. Peru’s tin (in concentrate) production continues to increase, producing 40,202 t in 2003 a 4% increase from 2002. Peru’s largest (and only) tin producer is family run Minsur S.A.. The dramatic rise in production can be attributable to the expansion at Minsur’s San Rafael Mine facilities in the Mariátegui region. Minsur also operates the Funsur tin smelting and refining installation located in Pisco, south of Lima. The company increased tin production from its San Rafael mine to 42,145t in 2005.
    http://www.mbendi.com/indy/ming/tinm/sa/pe/p0005.htm

  109. I’m a little late for pre-empting the Malthusians among us and other commenters have advised that the rare earths are not so rare. Some comparisons with the crustal abundance of more familiar metals might help:
    http://bing.search.sympatico.ca/?q=crustal%20abundance%20of%20the%20elements&mkt=en-ca&setLang=en-CA
    For example: crustal abundance of Ce is 83 ppm, La 50 ppm; Nd 44ppm; lesser abundant RE minerals are the so-called “heavy rare earths”: Eu 2.2 ppm; Tb 1 ppm; Ho 1.6 ppm; Tm 0.52 ppm; Lu 0.8 ppm. “Abundant metals”: Cu 58 ppm, Ni 72 ppm, Zn 82 ppm and Pb 10 ppm and compared with gold Au 0.002 ppm, silver Ag 0.08 ppm
    The problem as usual boils down to governments affecting the prices of commodities that puts cost recovering industries out of business and artificially reduces availability.

  110. From: Ralph on September 24, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hybrids (and all electric vehicles) use more fuel than my large Citroen diesel (55 mpg out of town), so we will do the Earth a favour if we get rid of them.
    A diesel has direct “engine to wheels” drive, and does not have to go through any of that messy “conversion to electricity/battery storage/conversion to motive power” business.

    You have stated the right idea but the wrong concepts.
    Our current standard drivetrain design has many mechanical losses, it is inefficient. “Hybrids” are currently a transition form, using a single primary electric motor with the power transmitted through a main shaft and sub-shafts.
    The desired final form has electric motors at the wheels, a direct “engine to wheels” connection except the engine is basically part of the wheel. As has long been used in industry, namely on CNC equipment but elsewhere, it is easy to have the right motors achieve many speeds with high torque from even a dead stop, to perform regenerative braking, even to hold position. The Tesla Roadster currently uses a single-gear gearbox, and it took some doing to get highly-durable gears that would last more than a few thousand miles. Electric motors have been electrically switched between clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation for many decades without employing gears, many designs are happily bi-directional with three-phase AC especially so, a gearbox is not required for that. Thus the gearbox is for shifting the speed range from the motor to what is needed at the wheels. But with motors you can add more magnetic poles to the design for a lower speed range, thus there is no need for a gearbox. Design them flat as possible and as 3-phase AC.
    After moving to wheel/motor combination units, many things simplify, especially by using motors at all wheels and a steering wheel position sensor. Power-assist steering is achieved by reading the steering wheel position and having the proper wheel(s) on the outside of the curve rotate appropriately faster. This removes the need for hydraulics, however a manual steering unit is necessary in case of electronics failure and for the linkages that will stabilize the turning wheels (i.e. the front wheels as is standard).
    Traction control, which I heard will be a requirement on US vehicles, is likewise easy as feedback can be used to determine if one wheel is turning too fast thus spinning without sufficient traction, etc, and power to individual wheels can be easily varied for corrections, without resorting to additional cumbersome devices. You have four-wheel drive built-in, however it is best thought of as any-wheel drive, as needed. On a curve only the front outside tire may need power, for example. There would also be a neat “limp home” factor, with all four motors having to fail to render the vehicle inoperable, as opposed to just one central power plant currently.
    Braking will be three-stage. As you continue pressing downward on the pedal, through ranges of resistance so you can feel what’s happening, the vehicle can go from regenerative braking (fast) to energized braking (whiplash!) to a manual backup that will stop the vehicle if the electronics fail. There will be no need for a vacuum source, as is commonly used for power brakes.
    After that, use electric resistance heating and for air conditioning use a sealed electrically-powered unit similar to what’s found in a window-mounted air conditioner. Without transmission-based wheel restraint, careful thought must be given to the parking brake mechanism. It can be manually applied with stern auditory/visual warnings to do so, or automatically applied, when the “direction lever” is set to Park or at least when the “ignition” key is turned off. If automatic there needs to be a manual disconnect for towing and pushing the vehicle. That can be settled between the lawyers and the engineers.
    Voila, drivetrain eliminated, major mechanical inefficiencies gone. After that it’s just deciding what’s desired between loading it up on batteries as an all-plug-in vehicle, or having an engine/generator set under the hood with enough batteries to soak up a braking surge, perform quick acceleration with a load, and let the gen-set shut off periodically. Our current internal combustion engines are over-sized to provide high torque and acceptable acceleration. I had read the average vehicle only requires 20HP to maintain speed, presumably on a level road. Thus the gen-set’s engine can be considerably smaller. To remove another frequent mechanical problem, the engines could be air-cooled as were earlier Volkswagen engines, no coolant needed. For those lamenting the lost heat, it can be used to pre-warm the incoming air for combustion.
    Also the gen-set’s engine only needs to run at one speed thus it will be easily tuned for efficiency and emissions, and can use a wide range of fuels as the performance aspects of the fuel will be far less critical.
    That’s where we should be heading. That will be most efficient. Now we just have to get there.

  111. A Chinese tale to understand their psychology:
    “A Chinese landlord was complaining that he was not receiving his pay from his American tenant, one day, tired of asking him to pay the rent, he menaced to his tenant by telling him he was going to punish him by using the “Chinese way of vengeance”. The American guy laughed at him, telling him: “Do whatever you want, I won’t pay you”.
    The next morning, after waking up, the American guy found a brick on his night table with a written message on a paper attached to it. The man read it and said to himself: “Silly Chinese, I won’t pay it no mater what he does!”, and throw the brick with the message through his window…….the brick was tied with a string to a certain and very delicate of his body…, from then on, his friends call him the “eunuch”…..

  112. Yes, Peter Miller, but I would add that any geologist should look with a jaundice eye at any resource the USGS puts a number to–have they really done a thorough inventory of all the land out there, or are they modeling what they believe is there by using certain foregone conclusions that constrain their models? The answer is thye have not done a thorough check–there’s always more resources, especially surpise finds, when a really diligent effort is applied.

  113. @Enneagram:
    Don’t forget that the US pays China with money that they just print as needed. And as the Renminbi is tightly coupled to the US Dollar, it loses value synchronously with the US Dollar. As long as its coupled that way, one could see it as one currency for two nations. So it looks like the Chinese and the American in your tale have tied themselves together with the piece of string…

  114. Haven’t read through 131 responses but understand that rare earths is an oxy-moron. They aren’t rare. That is not to say it wouldn’t take a year or two to get significant mines going, even if they were fast-tracked through approval legislation. We have rare earths desposits in Western Australia too … I know, I know… there isn’t much we don’t have cos were a bunch of lucky bastards. Here’s a decent bit of background info for Australia:
    http://www.australianminesatlas.gov.au/aimr/commodity/rare_earths_10.jsp
    At the moment we bury most monazite at mineral sands operations, which can contain some rare earth elements. I am not sure if any or much of it is processed for rare earths in WA at this stage.

  115. *Sigh* Malthus must have left GM some money in his will. Let’s take a look at a REALLY rare element: Ru. Worldwide reserves are estimated in the low kiloton ranges. It also happens to be a staple of the disk drive industry for making media and when originally generous amounts of it were used per surface there was a scare that we’d “run out!” Panic sent prices up which then promptly crashed a year later when it was determined that maybe each disk didn’t really need quite that much after all.
    http://www.ebullionguide.com/price-chart-ruthenium-all-time.aspx
    Gee, I thought we were all gonna die.
    As said by others the Chinese are trying to use their supply monopoly as leverage in other ways. I suspect that not only will their monopoly be broken quickly (within 2-3 years), but this will also show the world that maybe China isn’t such a great alternative to the US after all.

  116. >>Kadaka
    >>Ralph – You have stated the right idea but the wrong concepts.
    Anyone can get rid of a drive train in an electric vehicle, but you cannot get rid of the creation/storage/motive power losses.
    A modern diesel is nearly as efficient as a power station, when run on a motorway, and so the electric vehicle is bound to be less efficient than a diesel on the open road (but not so in town). The electric vehicle will only make sense, in terms of a reduction in fossil fuel emissions, when we have nuclear energy. (Discounting any renewables – I want my car to run every day, including during anticyclones.)
    Electric vehicles are cheaper, even now? Yes, but only because (in Europe), they do not pay the wapping great tax that a diesel car pays on its fuel.
    .

  117. Ralph says:
    September 25, 2010 at 12:39 am
    “A modern diesel is nearly as efficient as a power station, when run on a motorway, ”
    Not by a long chalk. A new super-efficient diesel, operating at its optimum load, will be about as efficient as an old inefficient power station. If you compare like with like, state of the art with state of the art, fixed power stations are still a lot better (factor of two or more). Moreover, electric or compressed air vehicles can utilise regenerative braking and better aerodynamics, which gives another factor of two for both city cycle and motorways; ignoring capital costs, overall energy consumption per tonne mile will be much lower, irrespective of where your primary energy comes from. The advantage of internal combustion vehicles at the moment lies in their lower capital cost and higher performance, an advantage that will be gradually eroded as competing technologies mature. Internal combustion may be able to fight back for a time by moving to gas turbines, which are potentially about twice as efficient as a conventional diesel. Supercharged pre-heated diesels operating at very high pressures are another possibility, but technologically problematical and an unlikely general-purpose competitor.

  118. Tsk Tsk says:
    September 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm
    “As said by others the Chinese are trying to use their supply monopoly as leverage in other ways. I suspect that not only will their monopoly be broken quickly (within 2-3 years)”
    You may be correct, but I think people are mistakenly trying to blow this up into some grand plan of Chinese World Domination or something. China and Japan are in the middle of a border dispute; this was a short-term retaliatory response by China to the holding of its trawler captain by Japan. No big deal. It won’t hurt the West – China is still exporting freely to the Asian tigers from which we get most such consumer products now. It will hurt Japan a bit – they will find it a little harder to compete with those Asian tigers (including China). China may export less rare earth metals in future, but if so, it will be because it is using more of its production itself, and prices will then naturally rise. If they rise enough, other players will enter the market.

  119. From: Tsk Tsk on September 24, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    (…) Let’s take a look at a REALLY rare element: Ru. Worldwide reserves are estimated in the low kiloton ranges. It also happens to be a staple of the disk drive industry for making media…

    Thus is demonstrated the value of independent investigation over accepting the “research” of an “investment site” engaged in transactions involving the researched materials. And right on the home page they’re recommending COINS? They have no shame.
    Article on hard drive disk manufacture. It says annual production is only 27 tonnes. If we’re getting by on just that, and there are kilotons, we have plenty. Wikipedia ruthenium article states 12 tonnes mined, estimated reserves of 5,000 tonnes. In hard disk drives, layers of only a few atoms thickness are used. Wikipedia doesn’t even list it under “Applications.” In thin layers it provides wear resistance for electrical contacts. It’s used for thick film chip resistors. And that’s 50% of consumption right there. Other uses are in alloys, a little bit goes a long way. It’s a by-product of copper and nickel mining and processing and of processing platinum group ores. I don’t see any super-critical absolutely-must-have uses for it, it could be replaced, and there are North and South American sources.
    If you’re worrying about hard disk drives, don’t. That technology is now getting dated as we await Solid State Drives (SSD’s) to finish taking their place. Currently they cost more, and generally available sizes aren’t as large. But the physical durability is unmatched, energy use is lower, performance is better, the estimated Mean Time Between Failures is so great the drive will very likely be long obsoleted by standard changes before one occurs, and the prices are dropping while size is increasing. I hunted down a new PATA EIDE SSD for a used Thinkpad I acquired without a HDD, works great.
    However, ultimately size doesn’t matter. Really. What often hogs up drive space these days is large items like movies and games, sometimes large applications. With increasingly faster internet, especially wireless, local storage on your own machine will be declared old fashioned, web-based storage will become normal while online applications can handle the major stuff (also expect free/cheap access to content you buy like movies and music to replace downloads and physical media). In the end, a fast machine with fast communications using a lean mean operating system will be what regular consumers and most business users will need and use. The current SSD’s are already adequate for that.

  120. Not even Ruthenium is really rare; there are tens of billions of tonnes of the stuff dispersed through the continental crust, all of it extractable if we really want it. Its relative rarity suggests that we should be using ~100 tonnes a year (0.01ppm of 10GT/yr), and lo and behold, we are, more or less. If anything, at 27 tonne/yr, we’re slightly underusing it.
    I would go further and say that it is not possible for any element or isotope to be too rare; if it came to the pinch we could always synthesise it from more common nuclides at a cost ~1M$/kg or so (depending on the binding energy requirements and the demand). We already do this with various trans-uranics and other radionuclides.

  121. From: Ralph on September 25, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Anyone can get rid of a drive train in an electric vehicle, but you cannot get rid of the creation/storage/motive power losses.

    You could get rid of some of that for part of the time. Those things under the hood are called alternators because they make AC, often three-phase, which is then rectified to DC, which is more efficient than simply using a DC generator. (Calling the one part of the gen-set a generator is technically wrong but that’s common usage.) If the gen-set is running it could power the wheel motors somewhat directly with the AC, bypassing the batteries. This, however, is not the main point.
    With a conventional drivetrain, there are already creation/storage/motive power losses. All spinning iron is storing energy as angular momentum, which is lost on braking and must be replenished on acceleration. Plus there are joints, bearings, and other frictional losses, and viscous losses as with lubricants needed for gears. Reducing the amount of spinning iron increases efficiency. Electrical/electronic losses between the engine of the gen-set and the tires for the system I described are less than for a conventional drivetrain, even without taking the regenerative braking into consideration.

    A modern diesel is nearly as efficient as a power station, when run on a motorway, and so the electric vehicle is bound to be less efficient than a diesel on the open road (but not so in town). The electric vehicle will only make sense, in terms of a reduction in fossil fuel emissions, when we have nuclear energy. (Discounting any renewables – I want my car to run every day, including during anticyclones.)

    First off, I’m no great fan of plug-in-only electrics. It’s just an option with the base system I described, my clear preference is for the gen-set makes-its-own-electricity version. The vehicle will be its own highly-efficient power station, lacking the normal power line transmission losses. I’m not worried about the emissions, although they will be reduced, and emission-reducing options like propane or perhaps hydrogen can be implemented without major engine design changes, that headache is on the fuel storage end.
    Also, the gen-set version will need only about three somewhat ordinary car batteries, so no massively expensive battery pack changes as with a plug-in-only. If people really want some plug-in capability, perhaps because they have some spare photovoltaic panels at home, the manufactuer can add more batteries to the gen-set version along with an “almost home” switch to tell the vehicle to let the batteries run down to a low charge. With parallel battery connections, adding batteries is easy. You could for example build the basic gen-set version to take six batteries and sell them with three at no great price difference on the manufacturing end for the expansion capability. And plug-in capability of some form should be standard to at least possibly allow the vehicle to get itself to the repair shop if the gen-set stops working. With 12V batteries in parallel, you’d only need some easy-to-get-at studs you could clamp a standard car charger onto for overnight charging. Which also allows for that great scenario where you run out of gas in the middle of the desert however you do have a small folding solar panel…

  122. Fine dont blame China, unless they are behind the insane EPA agenda. We need a Macarthy style witch hunt and hang the Chicom supporters in the free world, that will help the overpopulation and the Darwin theory too!. Actually steam cars are looking good for city driving, it panders to the needs of traffic jams exactly, perhaps a steam/diesel hybrid would be perfect?? There was an antipodian inventer, Penham or something, who sold a steam kit car in the 1970s in the UK, to get near the performance of his steam plant he used an Alfa romeo top end cloverleaf motor and it was slower and less economical, the money has gone the wrong way, due to the socialist leanings of europe and the dems/rinos in the USA, we get to pick up the bill as usual, necktie party anyone??

  123. Well, the Japanese will do what they probably did with things like coal and soybean – fund development of additional sources.
    Typically minerals are not rare, and locations may be known, but the cost of verifying a good deposit and putting it into production is very high against the risk that someone else will flood the market from one of those low cost but questionnable-reliability countries.
    (Veering off a bit, the discovery of diamonds in northern Canada is a story of smarts and realization. An individual thought northern Canada should have the type of geology in which they are found in South Africa – large vertical pipes of softer material. But he couldn’t find any. One day the light bulb went on – being softer the material might be depressed by glaciers in an ice age and not fully rebound thus become a lake. I suppose he then searched among the many lakes up there and somehow got under the bottom of a likely candidate – “the rest is history” as they say in the entertainment business, today Canada is a prime source of diamonds. (An area of northern Canada is full of lakes – flying from Yellowknife to Fort Simpson I noted that the lakes had a general elongation north-south, as one would expect from glacial action.)

  124. >>Paul
    >>Ralph “A modern diesel is nearly as efficient as a power station, when run on a motorway, ”
    >>Not by a long chalk.
    A modern supercritical fossil-fuel power station will be about 45 % efficient, depending on the design (and the fuel it is using). Combined cycle generators may give up to 55%, but they are few and far between at present.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel_power_station
    Conversely, a modern diesel vehicle will give about 48% efficiency, and they expect greater efficiencies in the future. That is why I can get a reliable 55 mpg from a European 5-seater saloon car.
    http://www.epa.gov/otaq/models/ngm/may04/crc0304c.pdf
    Thus a diesel vehicle is as efficient as a modern power station, and does not need the conversion inefficiencies of an electric vehicle. Thus diesel vehicles will always be more efficient than an electric vehicle, that uses electrical power derived from fossil fuels.
    Stop-start town driving is, of course, a big disadvantage for the diesel. But then electric vehicles in the winter are pretty useless too. There is not enough waste heat from the electric motor to heat the vehicle, and an electric heater chews up your battery-energy faster than a Bugatti Veyron chews up petrol. An electric car in the winter, with windscreen and interior heating going, will be down on the equivalent of 20 mpg.
    .

  125. Paul Birch says:
    September 25, 2010 at 6:12 am
    Not even Ruthenium is really rare; there are tens of billions of tonnes of the stuff dispersed through the continental crust, all of it extractable if we really want it.
    ===
    REPLY: Makes me wonder if we would find rare earth elements on the moon…if any nation could monopolize THAT supply, it would be the US!
    Oh, wait, Obama killed the Constellation space project. Never mind.

  126. kadaka (KD Knoebel):
    Wheel motors are an efficient way of getting power where it’s needed. But they are impractical in the real world of road-going, consumer financed and operated passenger cars.
    In the first place, they increase the unsprung mass, reducing ride comfort and road-holding and therefore dynamic safety on less than smooth roads. The unsprung mass further increases the stresses on tyres on all practical surfaces, increasing the wear and, indirectly the rolling resistance as more hysteresis will occur.
    In the second place, they are in a vulnerable location. The only thing between impacts and motor components is the cushion of air in the tyre. This requires either exotic (expensive) materials or more material to make the motor durable for consumers, again increasing the unsprung mass which in turn increases the dynamic road forces on the motor.
    In the third place, the best place for proper brakes is at the wheel. But having a motor there significantly compromises the size and type of brake. Regenerative braking cannot absorb power quickly enough for safe braking in traffic. There are no batteries to absorb such a powerpulse, nor would it be feasible to incorporate e.g. supercapacitors in sufficient volume to capture the vehicle’s kinetic energy.
    But brakes, when used, generate heat … by converting kinetic energy. Temperatures exceed 500°C in motor vehicle brakes. Heat and electric machinery don’t travel well in the same compartment. Motor car brakes can haul 2 tonnes of motor car to a stop from 100 km/h in 4 seconds. That’s nearly 200 kW on average. For most cars, that’s the most-powerful component built into the vehicle.
    Those are 3 main aspects.
    The wheel is the wrong place for a traction motor in a passenger car. There are better places. Locations that don’t compromise ride comfort, road-holding and are cooler and more friendly to motors; which don’t cost a lot in drivetrain efficiency. That inefficiency is balanced in part by being able to have a lighter motor which doesn’t have to endure large shock loads and high temperatures.

  127. Ralph says:
    September 25, 2010 at 7:33 am “…”
    You are comparing what seem to be fuel-to-user efficiencies of power stations (from wiki!) with a theoretical cycle efficiency of a diesel engine, and even there understating the state of the art of the former and overclaiming the latter. The best power station thermodynamic efficiencies have been above 60% for a quarter of a century. Whereas diesel engined cars are lucky to get 30%, even in unrealistically optimal scenarios. Just do the sums. 55mpg is not much better than a petrol engined car (with ~20% cycle efficiency), which traditionally reached about 35mpg and are now up to about 45mpg. (And remember that diesel is a denser fuel than petrol). Heavy goods vehicles are different beasts entirely; they are more efficient at constant moderate speeds, but have poor performance and struggle to accelerate when heavy laden or going uphill.
    With suitable design, warming the interior of electric cars using the batteries’ or motors’ waste heat should not be a major power drain (electric trains manage it quite effectively, and their power consumption per passenger is lower than even an electric car, because they have much lower rolling resistance – metal wheels on steel rails – and lower aerodynamic drage – long carriages).

  128. Some rare earths are used in exhaust cleaning technology, this technology is driven in part by the view that exhaust emissions are causing global warming.
    The cynic in me says that if the Chinese gum up the works, climate scepticism will recieve a whole new fillip.

  129. >>Paul
    >>The best power station thermodynamic efficiencies have been
    >>above 60% for a quarter of a century.
    So you say, with no references bar your own assertions.
    This is the Drax coal power station in the UK, our largest power station:
    “We have committed to a £100 million to upgrade our high pressure and low pressure turbines. This will result in an improvement in our overall baseload efficiency of 5%, taking it towards 40%.”
    http://www.draxpower.com/corporate_responsibility/climatechange/efficiency/
    Yes, Drax is improving from 35% efficiency, to 40% efficiency. I think you forget that power stations remain in service for decades, unlike cars, and coal is not the most efficient of fuels. Any electric vehicle feeding off Drax electricity will have a terrible MPG equivalent efficiency.
    And here, you will find that Didcot, a more modern gas plant, is running at 55%.
    http://www.npower.com/rwenpowercr/6_power_stations/didcotb/6_5_1_didcotb.html
    Better, but – after you subtract the battery storage and conversion losses of an electric car – less efficient than a 48% efficient diesel vehicle.
    And you are completely wrong about heavy vehicles. They do not get less efficient when going uphill. Efficiency is based mostly on engine loading, and an engine running at about 90 maximum load will be at its most efficient. So going uphill is more efficient than running on the flat, in the greater scheme of things.
    And I doubt that diesel cars are less efficient than trucks – I just cannot find a decent web-reference as yet. Car diesel engines have come along a great deal more than truck engines.
    As I said, electric vehicles are a dead loss, in terms of emissions, until we can power our electrical grid with nuclear power.
    .

  130. >>Paul
    >>With suitable design, warming the interior of electric cars using
    >>the batteries’ or motors’ waste heat should not be a major power
    >>drain (electric trains manage it quite effectively
    For goodness sake.
    Have you touched a discharging battery? Does it feel hot to you? So how on earth can you heat a car in winter, from a cold battery?
    And modern electric motors are fantastically efficient, approaching 95% or more, which is great – except that there is therefore no waste heat to warm a car in the winter. (Especially if you put the motors on the wheels – how do you get the heat to the cabin?)
    The truth is, electric vehicle efficiency plummets in winter, because all the waste heat has gone up the cooling towers at the power station, and not into the car.
    .

  131. Fighting over a few percent seems wastefull, the transmision losses in power grids are huge, check the cost of electric heating to that of gas, that should give a real world comparison, usually about 3 to 1 so by the time it gets to your home the fossiul generation is poor compared to a modern TD motor, the europeans get way over 55mpg these days, the only advantage hybrids have, and it seems rather slim, is regerative braking, what is the duration of the Tesla? something like 60 miles I think so it is a shopping or commute car, perhaps a rich mans plaything but not a serious car unless you have a normal car as back up, now where have I heard that before?

  132. Chris Edwards says:
    September 25, 2010 at 3:25 pm
    “[…]generation is poor compared to a modern TD motor, the europeans get way over 55mpg these days, the only advantage hybrids have, and it seems rather slim, […]”
    VW was very reluctant to join the hybrid hype. They’re darn proud of their TDI engines and never saw good reason for the added complexity of hybrids.

  133. Another tidbit about keeping a car’s interior warm in winter – say, -10° and you’re doing 93.75 mph so you got a little bit of wind chill. A friend of mine used to drive a 3l Lupo, that was a tiny VW tuned to consume no more than 3 liter of Diesel per 100km; that’s 78.4048611 miles per gallon (and yes, the car did that on the Autobahn.).
    The TDI engine of that car was so efficient and so small that there was not enough waste heat to keep the cabin warm.
    Better add double-glazed windows to your Tesla. Or an extra heater.

  134. Ralph says:
    >>Paul
    >>The best power station thermodynamic efficiencies have been
    >>above 60% for a quarter of a century.
    So you say, with no references bar your own assertions.

    Will IGCC do? (Runs on coal, oil, gas, whatever) Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. From:
    http://www.energy.siemens.com/br/pool/hq/power-generation/power-plants/integrated-gasification-combined-cycle/Igcc-experience-and-further-developments.pdf
    For achieving high efficiencies with CCPP and IGCC power plants the gas turbine plays a major role. The Siemens heavy-duty gas turbine portfolio is designed to support high CCPP efficiencies. The most advanced engine, which is the new SGT5- 8000H, is designed to achieve more than 60 % efficiency in combined cycle mode
    (Fig. 7 and Fig. 8).

  135. Paul Birch says: Whereas diesel engined cars are lucky to get 30%, even in unrealistically optimal scenarios.
    Don’t know who’s trying to compare what to which, but not very long ago THE most efficient engine on the planet was a Marine Diesel at 54%. It’s just been surpassed by a combined cycle turbine at a bit over 60-something%. But folks are now looking to put the Rankine et.al. follower turbines on Diesels, so the tit-for-tat continues.
    The “bottom line” though does not change. It’s darned hard to beat a Diesel.
    For vehicle use, a Diesel is a much better match to the axle needs (don’t have to gear it down as much) and is much hardier to shock (it was not easy to get turbines to work in tanks…). Run either of them through a [ generator – transformer – lines – transformer – local lines – transformer – home – charger – battery – battery standing losses – inverter / power controller – electric motor ] THEN into the transmission, differential and wheels and you lose a pretty fair chunk. Somewhere around 1/2.
    Some of the losses depend on the battery type you use and how much it spends standing, but 10% is a ‘modest’ number (some of the most efficient to charge / discharge batteries have the highest self discharge, so it’s a devilish optimization problem). Even with SPECTACULAR 95% at each of those stations, you end up with a lot of loss.
    I love e-cars and hope to have one some day, but the reason you have one is NOT thermodynamic efficiency. It’s because a TON of coal costs about $20. Compare to gasoline…
    (And remember that diesel is a denser fuel than petrol).
    Gasoline is about 6 lbs / gallon Diesel about 8, you get about 26% more BTU / gallon.

    Heavy goods vehicles are different beasts entirely; they are more efficient at constant moderate speeds, but have poor performance and struggle to accelerate when heavy laden or going uphill.

    Nope. Not at all. Dodge pickups come with a Cummins Diesel just like the big boys. My Mercedes has the same engine as in the Mercedes trucks. Navistar diesels are in both ‘real trucks’ and Ford pickups. Etc. Yeah, VW has a different engine, but it’s one of the MOST efficient. The ‘struggle up hill’ is due to the power / weight ratio and has little to do with efficiency. (The lack of a restrictive throttle plate means that the efficiency changes little between modest and full throttle. I get the same milage at both speeds, only losing milage over about 60 MPH when air drag starts to dominate.) The older (mostly iron block) Diesels were more ‘long stroke’ than the newer ones, so worked better at low RPM, but newer “common rail” injectors with very fine mist and the quartz controlled ‘sputter’ of the fuel in bursts lets high speed low stroke Diesel be used (in cars OR trucks, as desired).
    OK, so take the 50%-60% Prime mover efficiency and put in some transmission / wheel losses or put in the same prime mover efficiency (maybe plus a percent or two) at the generation plant but add all the conversion losses. The Diesel in the vehicle will win. But it can’t run on coal (without conversion to Diesel that loses about 1/2…)
    Your 30% ‘efficiency number is way off and all I can figure is you picked up some ‘well to wheels’ number including refining. You’d have to put the same losses from (well or mine) to generator if you want to do that kind of compare.

  136. GM says: There is a shortage of rare earth elements. What is this telling you?
    That China is the low cost producer and everyone else was stupid enough to shut down production. The Mountain Pass Mine in California has 20 MILLION tons of reserves. In ONE mine in ONE kind of ore (and we have dozens more sites with a heck of a lot more ore). Global production is about 80 KILLO tons per year. Think about it.
    Now when that ONE mine plays out, realize there are BILLIONS of tons of Monazite on the planet (a different ore). The bad news about Monazite, and why we don’t use it today, is it yields a waste product. It’s about 5-10% Thorium. Enough to power the planet for about 30,000 years in EXISTING PRODUCTION power reactors via a normal refueling fuel bundle swap. But since the present Uranium is so cheap, and the ore for Rare Earths currently in use is lacking Th, it’s cheaper to use the first ore than the Monazite as with Monazite you must “dispose” of the (mildly) radioactive Thorium.
    So maybe, in 100 years or so, if we want to, we can start using the Monazite both to power the planet and to provide rare earths for the NEXT 10,000 years.
    Look, could you do just a tiny bit of google work before posting your delusions? I read the article, and did some research, and discovered the above. You spouted your bias. It would have taken you about 5 minutes to find out it was flat out wrong and saved yourself the public error.
    If you want to know what the resource case actually is, see:
    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/are-rare-earths-rare/
    (Please forgive double posting the same link in the same article, but GM will never look one posting up thread, so I’ve put it here in the vain hope he will look at it and learn what you ought to do when wondering about actual resource limits.)
    (“Spout” is one of those irregular words in English: I Elucidate, you spout, he/she/it/they spew 😉

  137. Looks like another long night of cleaning up mindless errors…
    GM says: And before anyone raises the tired canard about rare earth elements not being that rare in the crust, yes, that’s correct; the problem is that concentrated deposits of rare earth elements aren’t at all common.
    Actually no. There are deposits all over the world. What’s in short supply elsewhere in the world is Chinese wage scales of $2 / DAY. Oh, and absence of whacko-lawsuits.
    You can, should you wish, go lay on large beaches made of the stuff. Monazite. India has mountains of it (that they are using for Thorium for power). I’ll lay odds that right now the Thorium producers in India are taking a look at the rare earth ‘by products’ in a new light. If you don’t want to go that far, we have it in the Carolinas. (And a few dozen other states). Also Brazil has mega-tons of the stuff. Australia and Canada too.
    From the link up thread you will fail to read:

    So what is Monazite? (Ce, La, Th, Nd, Y)PO4, Cerium Lanthanum Thorium Neodymium Yttrium Phosphate.
    Notice that we get phosphate too. So lets think about this for a minute. Some folks are just all crazy over the pending demise of civilization from running out of energy, phosphate fertilizer, and the limited availability of Rare Earths. Yet in some of the most common rocks (and sands) on the planet we get a bunch of rare earths, Thorium for energy for the next 30,000 years, and , oh yes, phosphate.

    Notice the PHOSPHATE that you are so worried about is also in them… It’s a “3 fer” mineral. I suggest you learn something about it, as it’s lethal to your main three worries of energy, rare earths, and phosphate in one go. Oh, and it has helium in it too, in case you are worried about THAT “scarce” resource:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monazite

    Due to the alpha decay of thorium and uranium, monazite contains a significant amount of helium, which can be extracted by heating.

    India, Madagascar, and South Africa have large deposits of monazite sands.

    It would seem that our beaches of it are not considered “large”, which gives you an idea how large “large” is…
    http://www.angelfire.com/sc3/farooqs/notes/b8-3-4.htm

    In India monazite is found in the coastal tracts of Cuttak and Ganjam districts of Orissa where the thickness of the placer is about 30 cm with a monazite content of 2.5 percent. Minor occurrences have been noticed between Chilka Lake and Chicacole River also.
    In Andhra Pradesh thick ilmenite and monazite placers are found around Vishakhapatnam and Bhimunipatnam. The beach sands of the coastal tracts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu are also very rich in monazite. They also contain ilmenite and rutile. Monazite bearing sands are best developed along the beaches of the southwest coast of India between Quilon and Kanyakumari (Lipuram, Pudur, Kovalam, Varkala and Neendakarai) and between Chowghat and Ponnani. On the east coast of India, monazite concentrations are not as good as on the western and southwestern coasts, nevertheless small deposits are found along the Vishakhapatnam and Tanjore coasts. The monazite content of placers is rarely more than 3%. It appears that the maximum concentration of U and Th in placer type deposits are about 70 and 3000 ppm of sediment respectively, and the average concentrations are probably about 2 and 60 ppm respectively. Sands on the Florida coast are reported to contain 0.09% monazite, beach sands of India average 2-5% monazite.

    Now, just because economics does not seem to be your strong suit, let me explain what this means in economic terms. That 0.09% in all those Florida sands does not exist as a ‘reserve’ since there is cheaper stuff somewhere else (darned near every continent and some islands of the world) BUT if we ever needed it, that’s a plenty strong concentration to filter from the general beach sand (either flotation or settling or…) while putting the nice clean white and no longer containing radioactive monazite sand back in place. Care to guess how much sand there is in Florida? And sunk off shore? And all the way up the coast to the Carolinas (where the concentration rises enough to have been worth mining prior to China crashing prices.) And off those shores?
    Now, the hard part, get a globe and look up the distribution of those sands in India. Try to fit the word “massive” between your teeth…
    So yeah, China has a nice deposit of a different ore not “contaminated” by all that Thorium power source. So they become the low cost provider and all that other giga-tons of resource is not counted as a ‘reserve’. It is just disappeared from the economic view. And from yours. But it is still there just waiting for the day that we need it when the cheapest source runs out.
    The thing that will confuse you the most is that THE very best cheapest ores are often the ones in shortest supply. So paradoxically, when we have the MOST total resource, is when folks PANIC the most over ‘running out’ because that one little patch of “excellent” ore removes all the others from view. The more we use up the best ores, and develop techniques to handle the poorer ores, suddenly ever larger blocks of ore come into economic existence. They were always there, but hidden by the cheap stuff. Like all the coastal sands from the Gulf of Mexico, past the keys, up to the Carolinas and beyond. Full of rare earths and nuclear energy. But unseen due to some small patch of better ore in China. (Or the equally good ore in California as the mine was shut due to low cost China labor).
    So in a 100 years or so, we might need them, but for now it just doesn’t count. And that is part of why most reserves have a 35 to 50 year ‘lifetime’. Not because it’s all gone then, but because that is when the cost will rise by 1% and suddenly another 40 years of “resource” becomes “reserves”.
    Not understanding that is your major impediment to clarity.
    GM says: There are other places of course, but not that many of them and they have been either depleted or not developed.
    Nope, again. THE major prior supply, Mountain Pass Mine, was NOT depleted. It was shut as China was cheaper. Currently being sent through the re-open process. Learn something about mining, please, prior to spouting about it.
    And “not developed”. You say that like it’s a bad thing! 😉 Yes, it’s “not developed” because we don’t need it yet. It’s resource for 100 years from now, and for 1000, and for 10,000…

    More will be certainly found in remote areas as demand increases,

    Like just outside Los Angeles on the way to Phoenix, or the Carolinas, or darned near any beach in India, or…

    but it will not make much of a difference due to that same old problem of the mismatch between exponentially increasing demand and finite and very limited supplies

    And the Lust for the Exponential rises again… Tell you what, start with the Iron Age, and apply an exponential growth curve. OMG! We ran out of Iron before the Industrial Revolution!
    Worse, start with the Bronze Age and copper / tin / zinc. OMG! OMG!!! We have NO copper tin or zinc left either!!!!
    Now take the rate of tree cutting in 1700 and apply your exponential. IT’s The End Of ALL Life!!!! Not a TREE left standing!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The simple fact is that growth is S shaped, not exponential. Your ‘exponential’ assumption is just wrong, broken, kaput, and it leads you massively astray.
    Look up the composition of manganese nodules on the ocean floor. They are mineable today. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need several hundred tons of metals in my garage (my share…).
    And if we DID mine them all, more would precipitate. Geology has not come to a screeching halt. It’s still active today. The U and Th erode into the ocean at a rate faster than we need to run the whole planet (and we can recover it at costs that make use affordable, just not cheaper than the cheapest U on land now). Similarly other metals erode into the ocean and end up in nodules, sands, and other deposits.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manganese_nodule
    So please, take just a moment to ask: If growth is S shaped and NOT exponential, and if we’re up to our eyeballs in TONS per capita of metals in resource that don’t show up in reserves quotes; what does that imply to the “doom scenario”?
    It simply busts it into tiny little bits.

  138. >>Dirk
    >>Another tidbit about keeping a car’s interior warm in
    >>winter – say, -10° and you’re doing 93.75 mph so you got
    >>a little bit of wind chill.
    A common fallacy here. A car has no wind chill.
    Wind chill only applies to wet objects. In fact, the faster you go the hotter you get. In my aircraft the outside temperature may be -50oc, but the skin temperature is only -30oc. No wind chill there, it is 20oc warmer due to kinetic friction.
    There was a fad in Oz a while ago of having tinny-holders (beer holders) on the side of trucks – to cool them down in the wind-chill breeze. Only problem being that they did not work, and the beer was at 50oc.
    Wind chill cannot make an inanimate object cooler (unless it is wet).

  139. Ralph says:
    >>Paul
    >>The best power station thermodynamic efficiencies have been
    >>above 60% for a quarter of a century.
    So you say, with no references bar your own assertions.
    Will IGCC do? (Runs on coal, oil, gas, whatever) Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle. From:

    This is a sales brochure. All very nice if everyone buys these, but it will be 3 decades before Europe changes over. As I demonstrated earlier Drax power station in Britain, our largest power station, is running at 35% efficiency.
    And even then your super power station is NOT as efficient as a diesel car on the open road. Take your 60% efficiency, and then subtract:
    2% for line transmission
    15% for battery storage
    10% for electric motor
    …. and you end up with 45% efficiency for the electric car. Make that just 30% efficiency with the heater on.
    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, modern diesels are looking for 55% efficiency within ten years time – and that is direct drive to the wheels, and with lots of cabin heat.
    The only place that an electric vehicle makes a bit of sense, is in the center of a great metropolis. And then watch them scream, when they slap the same level of tax on car electricity, as they do on car fuel.
    .

  140. Ralph says:
    September 26, 2010 at 12:46 am

    Wind chill cannot make an inanimate object cooler (unless it is wet).

    While that is true, one cannot neglect the forced convective cooling of the surface if the car is moving through colder air; or if there’s simply wind.
    A large-glass modern motor car will easily dissipate several kW of heat at around 20°C temperature difference; in still air. When you start moving the cold air outside, the rate of heat transfer increases. Add to that that several cubic metres of air have to be moved through the vehicle every minute to keep the occupants alert and comfortable; and that that air needs to be heated to about 20°C. There isn’t enough room in a car to carry around a heat-recovery heat exchanger for the fresh-air requirement.
    Most smaller-engined, diesel-powered cars don’t supply sufficient waste heat to heat the car in very cold conditions; and take significant time to become useful heaters when the weather is even slightly chilly. High-tech ones have electric heaters in the coolant circuit to make the engine warm up more quickly! That’s a reflection of the engine’s thermodynamic efficiency.
    As for the tinny-coolers, the lack of natural wind chill is fixed by using wet socks. You do have to change them often. But that’s not a problem unless you’re a POM. 🙂

  141. Paul Birch says: Not even Ruthenium is really rare; there are tens of billions of tonnes of the stuff dispersed through the continental crust, all of it extractable if we really want it.
    Well, that’s a bit ‘thin’ compared to the alternative sources:
    http://www.sherdog.net/forums/f48/making-space-exploration-pay-asteroid-mining-1280643/

    At the TEDGlobal 2010 conference in Oxford, Professor Eric Anderson of Space Adventures talked a little about how space travel could eventually prove profitable — by mining asteroids.
    Asteroids happen to be particularly rich in platinum group metals — ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum. These elements are extremely rare on Earth, and most of the world’s known deposits come from sites of asteroid impact.
    They’re so rare that prices for a few grams can be in the thousands of pounds. However, they’re also crucial ingredients for electronics. They’re very stable, resistant to chemical attack, and cope with high temperatures, making them perfect for use in circuitry.
    Asteroids that have already been surveyed have been shown to contain vast amounts of these metals. One average 500-metre-wide asteroid contains hundreds of billions of pounds-worth of metal — more than has ever been mined in the course of human history. Near-Earth asteroids are likely first targets for mining, due to the ease of getting to them, and getting the materials back to earth.

    I’d guess that as long as you sold it slowly enough to not spook the market into a collapse of prices, the asteroid would make it worth while to do space mining…

    I would go further and say that it is not possible for any element or isotope to be too rare; if it came to the pinch we could always synthesise it from more common nuclides at a cost ~1M$/kg or so (depending on the binding energy requirements and the demand).

    Ruthenium is a daughter product of Uranium fission. Works great. Only problem is a bit of radioactive isotopes in the mix…
    :-}

  142. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    REPLY: Makes me wonder if we would find rare earth elements on the moon…if any nation could monopolize THAT supply, it would be the US!
    Oh, wait, Obama killed the Constellation space project. Never mind.

    AND the Chinese are planning a lunar lander (one hopes un-manned) for 2013…
    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/3747/moist-moon-hinders-chinas-lunar-telescope

    PARIS: The discovery of water on the Moon could affect a telescope that will be installed on China’s first lunar lander, scheduled in 2013, a Chinese astronomer said.
    In September 2009, scientists announced they had found a watery dew covering parts of the Moon. In sunlight, the water vaporises and is then broken down into molecules of hydroxyl, a compound comprising one atom of hydrogen and one oxygen.
    These hydroxyl levels could have a serious impact on lunar observatories, Chinese astronomers said in a paper to be presented at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome on Tuesday.
    China’s third lunar probe
    […]
    As recently as Friday, China’s state media said the country was well on track for carrying out its ambitious lunar program.
    Trial flight by end of year
    The first lunar probe, Chang’e-1, orbited the Moon in October 2007, taking high-resolution pictures.
    The next step is Chang’e-2, which will swing to within 15 kilometres (nine miles) of the Moon, testing soft-landing technologies in preparation for Chang’e-3.
    A “trial flight mission” of Chang’e-2 is planned by the end of the year, the People’s Daily reported last Friday.
    Manned mission still planned for 2020
    The Chang’e program, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the Moon, plays a pathfinder role in a strategy to bring a lunar rock back to Earth in 2017 and follow this with a manned mission in 2020.

    So “Within this de-cade” ” to land a man upon the mooon, and return him safely to this earth”…
    Wish we had that kind of visionary and ambition… /sarcoff> (whimper… sob..)
    Well, if they find REE or Ruthenium, I’m sure they will sell them to us at a fair price…
    There are folks thinking asteroid impacts would have left PGM in lunar soils:
    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/479/1

  143. Ah, there it is:

    The MAN S80ME-C7 low speed diesel engines use 155 gram fuel per kWh for an overall energy conversion efficiency of 54.4 percent, which is the highest conversion of fuel into power by any internal or external combustion engine

    But it’s a quote from the wiki, so even less reliable than a “sales brochure” 😉
    Ralph: I reach the same conclusion that you do, but to deny that what the other poster said (that THE BEST power plant motors were now over 60%) is true, in the face of evidence that it’s basically correct, is a waste of effort.
    It doesn’t matter if it’s a 60% turbine, a 54.4% Diesel, or a potentially even higher efficiency steam turbine at 70%-90%: It’s all the other bits around the generation and delivery that cause the overall efficiency to be poor (as you pointed out). (Like the steam boiler that sucks that steam turbine down to about the same as a Diesel).
    It gets into a pointless “But old plants are not good like new plants” defense and is just standing on the weakest ground.
    At the end of the day it’s the 95% x 95% x 95% x 95% x 90% x 80% x 90% x 90% x 95% for gen, transformer, transformer, transformer, charger, battery charge, self discharge, inverter / conroller, motor that does in the electric efficiency story. That product works out to 45.13% left at the end of the motor shaft… or about the same as a ‘typical’ automotive Diesel, even if the prime mover is 100% efficient at the power company. So give him a 60% gas turbine, or even an 80% steam turbine. The net-net ends up 27% to 36% ‘fuel to wheels’. Well less than a Diesel.
    (And that is why Diesels dominate trains, trucks, boats, tractors, earth movers, etc.)

  144. From E.M.Smith on September 26, 2010 at 3:15 am:

    (And that is why Diesels dominate trains, trucks, boats, tractors, earth movers, etc.)

    It should be mentioned however that those “diesel” locomotives are overwhelmingly diesel-electric, i.e. the gen-set concept. They are also now using the modern electronic controls with rectifiers and inverters and not complaining about any loss of efficiency. Note the use of dynamic braking. The lack of adequate electrical storage technology to use regenerative braking seems to have been overcome and hybrid trains are now increasingly on the market, notably the GE models (as we were well informed by their long-running seemingly-never-ending commercials).
    Plug-in-only electric does not make sense. Gen-set electric does make sense, even more so with energy storage. Gen-set using diesel for the fuel likely makes even more sense, except for that nagging engine difference where diesel relies on self-combustion under pressure instead of ignition by a spark plug thus a diesel engine is more limited on potential fuel choices than a regular internal combustion engine. Not important for trains, could be important for cars and light trucks.

  145. The competitor for the Man slow speed diesel mentioned above generates 84 megawatts and burns 330 tonnes per day. but not of diesel but heavy fuel oil at density approaching 1.0 and dirt cheap. That is economic.

  146. Ralph says:
    September 26, 2010 at 12:46 am
    “[…]Wind chill cannot make an inanimate object cooler (unless it is wet).[…]”
    Can it make an animate object cooler, assuming it is dry? 😉

  147. >>It should be mentioned however that those “diesel” locomotives
    >>are overwhelmingly diesel-electric, i.e. the gen-set concept.
    Yes, but that is not because diesel electric is intrinsically more efficient – is it? Diesel electric is used as a transmission system because:
    a. The transmission runs from big engines to many wheels becomes quite complex. (On a train bogey, for instance.)
    b. You can get rid of the clutch (hot, heavy and smelly).
    c. You can get rid of the gearbox (containing umpteen gears).
    d. Ships can use props that swing though 360 degrees.
    e. You can run the engine at a constant rpm, which is more efficient. This is certainly an advantage for those large dumper trucks, that are always changing speed.
    Diesel electric is more an engineering advantage, rather than a straight efficiency issue.
    .

  148. Ralph says:
    September 25, 2010 at 1:01 pm “…”
    You keep comparing apples and oranges; the peak thermodynamic cycle efficiency of a state of the art diesel with the overall fuel efficiency of an antiquated power station. Your diesel reference was to a new heavy goods vehicle, not a car. Your power station reference was to Drax, a forty year old coal-fired station. If your primary energy source is coal, then diesel cars will need the diesel fuel first to be produced from that coal, with corresponding overall efficiency loss. Modern CCGT plants have a much higher efficiency.
    Road vehicles do not use the most efficient diesel engines (those are heavy marine two-strokes), and lorries do not use the same type of diesel engine as cars. An HGV diesel operates over a narrower range of torque than a car engine is required to; it is for this reason that it is more efficient, but has poorer performance. Efficiency and performance are very different things. It is a simple fact, obvious to any motorist, that heavily laden lorries are able to accelerate only slowly, and labour going uphill; I have often been stuck behind one that has been forced down to as little as 20mph, when my car would have cruised on up the hill at 50 or 60mph. When a bus or lorry gets outside its designed optimum torque range, its fuel efficiency plummets (and often it belches black smoke too).
    I invited you to do the sums, but evidently you didn’t bother. Diesel has 163MJ/gallon, so 55mpg is equivalent to 1850J/metre. At motorway speeds, aerodynamic drag dominates, and amounts to ~2m^2 x (30m/s)^2 x (1kg/m3) x 0.3(Cd) /2 ~ 270N. Rolling resistance is ~0.01 x 10m/s^2 x 1000kg ~ 100N. Total drag ~370N. The ratio of the two, which is the efficiency, is then ~20%. Way short of 50%.

  149. Ralph says:
    September 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm
    “Have you touched a discharging battery? Does it feel hot to you?”
    Yes, I’m doing that right now, and its uncomfortably hot. So hot it’s making my touch pad misbehave. And that’s just my laptop. The amount of heat needed to keep a car warm is small compared to the amount it uses to move (of which much is dissipated in its structure no matter how efficient the prime mover). Sure, if you want to dump a lot of heat in to warm it up instantly, you’ll waste battery power. But that’s true for internal combustion cars too. On mine the heater fan died long ago, so it’s not an issue for me.

  150. E.M.Smith says:
    September 25, 2010 at 9:42 pm
    Paul Birch says: Whereas diesel engined cars are lucky to get 30%, even in unrealistically optimal scenarios.
    “Don’t know who’s trying to compare what to which, but not very long ago THE most efficient engine on the planet was a Marine Diesel at 54%.”
    That’s a marine engine. Not a car engine. And a peak efficiency, not an average efficiency. And it wasn’t the most efficient engine, just the most efficient diesel engine. The most efficient engines have probably always been rocket engines, which can quite easily exceed 90% efficiency in a vacuum.
    “Your 30% ‘efficiency number is way off and all I can figure is you picked up some ‘well to wheels’ number including refining. You’d have to put the same losses from (well or mine) to generator if you want to do that kind of compare.”
    That’s the fuel efficiency for a car on the road. It does not include refining or distribution. See previous comments.

  151. Ten years ago I suggested to an MP that if the Gov really wanted electric vehicles to be popular (this was in west London, home of electric delivery vehicles) then they should pass a law making the car park companies (like NCP and very unpopular so no political fallout) supply small spaces with powr connector to top up and limit the price to 25% of a fossil powered car, most better off families who commute have more than one car so a commuter and a family car is norm, however in France this is fine but the UK, no good as I bet the line losses far exceed 2%, on a damp day (like half the year in England) just listen to the insulators sizzle in the transmission towers, look at the long distances the national grid runs, and with Scotlans, Wales and the west country on that grad lots of liniar runs, given they went from copper to aluminium for lightness I suspect the overall loss from ground to outlet, in the UK is 2/3 when I left that was the ratio of gas heat in my workshop to electric.

  152. Paul:
    It is a simple fact, obvious to any motorist, that heavily laden lorries are able to accelerate only slowly, and labour going uphill; I have often been stuck behind one that has been forced down to as little as 20mph, when my car would have cruised on up the hill at 50 or 60mph. When a bus or lorry gets outside its designed optimum torque range, its fuel efficiency plummets (and often it belches black smoke too).

    You have never driven a truck, have you ! A car towing a 4 tonne caravan would also be down at 20mph on a hill – and that has nothing to do with fuel efficiency.
    And lorry never gets out of its optimum torque range, because it has sixteen gears – minimum. And if you do get it out of range, you should not be driving it in the first place. Here is a demonstration of how not to do it:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN1nPjMrf00&feature=related (murdering prostitutes is not obligatory.)
    And the engine may well be running at its most efficient setting, while thundering up a hill. Efficient, but just working very hard.
    And your efficiency figures for diesel cars are way off, and again you cite no sources.
    This is the US Department of Energy, and even they cite 45% efficiency for diesel cars, heading onto 55% in the near future.
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/pdfs/basics/jtb_diesel_engine.pdf
    .

  153. This is quite the discussion, very interesting, a few points. In one for or another, most of these have been mentioned, here is a summary.
    – IIRC when a generic diesel is running at stoichiometric mix, it will pump out some smoke, most diesels don’t because they are fed a lean mixture for emissions, which ironically causes them to be less efficient.
    – Plug ins, really in the end the discussion should be almost moot, as we don’t have the generating capacity to charge them. Spain/Italy have pinned their hopes on wind/solar. Germany is decommissioning nuclear plants. AFAIK UK is with the US and is simply not building enough generating capacity. IF we have a economic boom, we’re screwed for power.
    – For heat, turn the A/C systems to heat pumps
    – A few years back, rumor had it GM had a diesel Volt, 3 cylinder at that, small battery (less weight), that got stupidly high gas mileage without the BS of starting with a full battery and using that initial charge up like they are doing with the current mileage figures. I think BIG dump trucks, trains, and ships have had right all along; serial diesel electric is the right way to go!
    – stop putting hydrocarbons in the ground (ie. landfills) and use newer thermo depolymerization techniques to cost effectively get diesel and greatly reduce landfill usage.

  154. It seems to me that politic and crooked money have screwed the equation, the likelyhood is that truck slogging up the hill should not be there anyway, the load should be on rails without hills but the road transport lobby have seen to it that cannot happen so we get a bad transport system. Ships burn heavy oil and run at speeds car and truck engines will stall at the ones I worked on and saw were direct drive and ran at a few hundred rpm.
    Diesel is less refined than petrol so must be more efficient to produce ? so what about its energy potential, I was taught in college that the less refined fuels had less potential btu output? What if we spent the vast sums of money making petrol or diesel motors more efficient instead of the elegantly engineered heat-robinson lash ups combining 2 technologies that dont work so well small scale? how about using the waste heat from cooling systems and exhausts for something ? anyone know how much, as a percentage of fuel used is lost to heat the world? this is indeed a great topic and there is fascinating stuff coming out here.
    Steam city cars anyone?

  155. Forgot one point.
    There are a few states that are pushing into the realm of no gas-taxes. Nope, with hybrids and electrics screwing with the tax structure they want a GPS unit in every car, you will get billed for mileage.
    Thus the economic advantage for being efficient will be great decreased!

  156. Chris Edwards says:
    September 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm
    “It seems to me that politic and crooked money have screwed the equation, the likelyhood is that truck slogging up the hill should not be there anyway, the load should be on rails without hills but the road transport lobby have seen to it that cannot happen so we get a bad transport system. […]”
    Rail has 3 problems: Speed, Traffic density, Cost.
    Speed: Here in Germany, rail freight reaches an average speed of about 6 kph. Reason is that the tracks are occupied by passenger trains during the day, so freight trains can mostly only travel at night, and your typical cargo wagon will have to change trains a few times, so it will travel for several days.
    Traffic density: Railways work with blocks that may be 20 or 40 km or bigger in size, depending on density of signals. In each block only 1 train is allowed. The reason is the huge breaking distance. This results in a low traffic density, and so the available transport capacity is quickly exhausted by bulk goods like steel, coal etc. Your typical lorries freight – food, animals, deliveries, whatever – simply won’t find space anymore.
    Cost: The German rail has one employee per km of track. This is an average, of course, it doesn’t mean we have one guy every km standing there watching the tracks 😉 . Maintaining the tracks, the trains, the drivers, office workers, it simply adds up. So if you want to solve the capacity problem by building more tracks, you also need more people.
    The problems of slow average freight speed and low traffic density could surely be solved with suitable automation, but it would take a huge investment to introduce such a revamped system on a national basis. Railways are notoriously sluggish with respect to changing anything; very low progress speed. The most frustrating job you can do is being a researcher in advanced railway concepts. Usually after some years of development and testing of a new concept it lands in the bin. The German Transrapid is a great example.
    “Diesel is less refined than petrol so must be more efficient to produce ?”
    This used to be so, but refineries have optimized their processes so much that the market prizes for Diesel and Gasoline these days are practically identical with respect to the BTU’s you get. IOW, the customer gets the refining for free.
    ” so what about its energy potential, I was taught in college that the less refined fuels had less potential btu output? ”
    I don’t think one can say that in this general way.

  157. From Bernd Felsche on September 25, 2010 at 8:49 am:

    Wheel motors are an efficient way of getting power where it’s needed. But they are impractical in the real world of road-going, consumer financed and operated passenger cars.

    One thing I have become singularly impressed by, is the sacrifices that green-minded people will accept compared to what I consider needed for an adequate vehicle, and they will even pay more for the privilege.

    In the first place, they increase the unsprung mass, reducing ride comfort and road-holding and therefore dynamic safety on less than smooth roads. The unsprung mass further increases the stresses on tyres on all practical surfaces, increasing the wear and, indirectly the rolling resistance as more hysteresis will occur.

    I have driven enough different vehicles over the decades to know “ride comfort” primarily begins under your butt and behind your back. Good seats compensate for many issues. I have also taken curves too fast and felt that unsprung mass wanting to lift up against the suspension and fly outwards to initiate a rollover, reducing that effect couldn’t hurt.
    However, I fail to see where there would be a great increase. Examining a real wheel drive (the proper comparison since the rear wheels will be powered), I see at the back a differential and rear axles in their housing, and a drive shaft, mounted under the springs. Upon switching to wheel motors, it looks like there should be a net decrease in unsprung mass, certainly no increase. On the front end, under my four wheel drive truck I find similar components as at the rear, thus a similar mass comparison. Wheel motors will allow a transition from beam axle suspensions to all wheels having independent suspension, where applicable depending on vehicle and usage, which reduces unsprung mass.
    Also, at the wheels there will be increased spinning mass thus increased gyroscopic stability.

    In the second place, they are in a vulnerable location. The only thing between impacts and motor components is the cushion of air in the tyre. This requires either exotic (expensive) materials or more material to make the motor durable for consumers, again increasing the unsprung mass which in turn increases the dynamic road forces on the motor.

    I have seen the transition on cars from steel rims and “normal” tires to larger-diameter lightweight aluminum rims with low profile (aspect ratio) tires. In my real-world driving I encounter bumps, potholes, and road debris including the occasional tree branch or small rock. I don’t think I would trust these new combos to bump against a sidewalk curb without incurring damage, and at the repair shop where I get my vehicles inspected they confirmed they are seeing more rim damage. The market does not seem worried about having a sufficient cushion of air.
    Besides having already addressed the “unsprung mass” issue, I will note the “vulnerability” issue is minor. We already design motors that can withstand physical shocks. A weak point would be the shaft between the motor and the flange the wheel is bolted on, there would be flexing. Which is easily addressed by a shaftless design with a rotating hub, and the assembly can use impact-absorbing rubber mounts.

    In the third place, the best place for proper brakes is at the wheel. But having a motor there significantly compromises the size and type of brake. Regenerative braking cannot absorb power quickly enough for safe braking in traffic. There are no batteries to absorb such a powerpulse, nor would it be feasible to incorporate e.g. supercapacitors in sufficient volume to capture the vehicle’s kinetic energy.

    From my experience with large CNC machining equipment, I can assure you the deceleration of regenerative braking is very likely sufficient, there is also dynamic braking. For situations where you will need regenerative braking even after the batteries are fully charged, such as going down a large hill or mountain, there will be a resistor bank that will quickly convert excess energy to heat. Such has been common in industry since before modern inverter technology made converting that energy back into line voltage practical. If it is determined the batteries cannot absorb the full surge from heavy regenerative braking, and simply adding more batteries is decided against, excess can be shunted to the resistor bank.

    But brakes, when used, generate heat … by converting kinetic energy. Temperatures exceed 500°C in motor vehicle brakes.

    500°C? That’s well above the melting point range and into the ignition range of most polymers, and above the flash point of brake fluid (reference). High temperature silicone rubber is available that will withstand just over 500° temperatures, Fahrenheit. Given the use of rubber with brake cylinders and calipers as well as flexible brake lines, your number seems high.

    Heat and electric machinery don’t travel well in the same compartment.

    You are giving me temperatures purported to exist with conventional braking. Thus they are not applicable when regenerative braking is employed. Industry has employed motors in high ambient temperature conditions before, the technology exists, and the energy generated on braking will be stored or shed elsewhere thus I do not anticipate great temperatures at the wheel motors.

    The wheel is the wrong place for a traction motor in a passenger car. There are better places. Locations that don’t compromise ride comfort, road-holding and are cooler and more friendly to motors; which don’t cost a lot in drivetrain efficiency. That inefficiency is balanced in part by being able to have a lighter motor which doesn’t have to endure large shock loads and high temperatures.

    All of which I have now gone over, plus there are the advantages to wheel motors as I previously described which lead to greater efficiency, reduced maintenance costs, and easily-implemented items like traction control, wheel speed varying steering, and any-wheel drive which will increase handling and safety. They will work.

  158. DirkH that is because the m
    unions have killed them, before the 1960s most goods coming into London were trans shipped for local delivery. Sure goods need to travel at night but that is simple to sort out. As for speed, trains are so much simpler to organise than roads, a to b should be heaps faster, as for sorting destinations, they do that all the time with pasenger trains where the front goes all the way to one town and the rear is uncoupled for somewhere else. Just because today Germany has sent their system up an evolutionary dead end does not mean it cannot be rectified.


  159. Kadaka:
    Examining a real wheel drive (the proper comparison since the rear wheels will be powered), I see at the back a differential and rear axles in their housing, and a drive shaft, mounted under the springs. Upon switching to wheel motors, it looks like there should be a net decrease in unsprung mass, certainly no increase.

    Ho, ho.
    That is only because you are looking at an American car, which are generally built like a cross between a tractor and a tank.
    If you look at any real car, a European car, you will see that they switched to independent suspension five centuries ago – during the reign of Henry VIII, I think. Lotus used to have inboard brakes too, to reduce wheel weight even further.
    Add a motor to a European wheel, and you WILL be increasing weight and reducing ride quality. Also, perhaps more importantly, road damage is proportional to unsprung weight, not sprung weight, so you will get more road damage too.
    500 oc brakes? Can they get that hot?
    You bet.

    This is a Mondeo – a family saloon with ‘go-faster’ paintwork. Looks more like 800 oc to me…..
    .

  160. Ralph says:
    September 26, 2010 at 10:53 am
    Paul says: It is a simple fact, obvious to any motorist, that heavily laden lorries are able to accelerate only slowly, and labour going uphill; I have often been stuck behind one that has been forced down to as little as 20mph, when my car would have cruised on up the hill at 50 or 60mph. When a bus or lorry gets outside its designed optimum torque range, its fuel efficiency plummets (and often it belches black smoke too).
    “You have never driven a truck, have you ! A car towing a 4 tonne caravan would also be down at 20mph on a hill – and that has nothing to do with fuel efficiency. ”
    And you’ve never learned to read, have you? When you do, please read the two sentences immediately before the section you quoted: “An HGV diesel operates over a narrower range of torque than a car engine is required to; it is for this reason that it is more efficient, but has poorer performance. Efficiency and performance are very different things”. Heavy goods vehicles are badly underpowered compared to cars (weight for weight) and restricting the torque for efficiency only makes that problem worse.
    The reason people buy diesels in preference to electric vehicles has nothing to with efficiency; it’s all down to performance and capital cost. With technological advance and product development, those margins will gradually erode.
    Perhaps in theory lorries with sufficient gears need never go outside their optimum torque range. In practice they often do. You can see and hear it happening. Probably, the drivers don’t like changing gear every few seconds and hang on too long in the wrong gear hoping they won’t have to shift. Even if they did change sequentially and promptly through the gears, there’d still be a net loss of efficiency; when accelerating, you have to over-rev before changing up, to cover the inevitable power gap when you’re not in gear. Especially uphill.
    By the way, I’ve pulled a caravan at 50mph up that same hill where the lorries are often falling below 30mph and full brick lorries are sometimes down to 20mph.
    I have provided you with a direct physical calculation of the efficiency of your car, based on your own claimed mileage. You can get the drag coefficient and rolling resistance from wiki, or any other convenient source. For a variety of reasons, it does not get anywhere near the theoretical optimal thermodynamic efficiency of a diesel engine.

  161. Ralph says:
    September 27, 2010 at 1:05 am
    “Add a motor to a European wheel, and you WILL be increasing weight and reducing ride quality. ”
    A well-designed hub motor can provide its own suspension; essentially, it is fixed relative to the hub, not the tyre. It is not an unsprung mass.

  162. Actualy the yanks use all independent on some of their trucks now, most of their cars are european too, but you are correct electric motors in the wheels is a victorian idea no good today, another codge up to get it done. Put a profit margin on hybrids and see how many are sold outside hollywood then, another scam where we all pay and the few get something cheap, a common tale in the green world.

  163. Actually, the last time I looked up one of those supposedly scarce minerals, IIRC one needed for advanced batteries for electric cars, I found that claims of China supplying almost all of it were wrong – Australian mines were in significant production and could expand if needed.

  164. PaulB, the motor would multiply the unsprung weight however it is designed you are talking magnets and windings that have to be spun accurately very near eachother, then half the weight of the power cable is there too, this extra load on the suspension needs heavy duty components, a heavy spring and damper, half of both are unsprung, this all adds up to awfull chassis dynamics, an unsafe car in the hands of joe public. The whole electric car thing is a can of worms, there is not the generating capacity outside France and some scandinavian countries to charge the things and there is not the expertise in the motor trade to fix them (as an ex computer engineer who works in the motor trade I feel I can say that) and if the cars were not heavily subsidised by us normal drivers then no one would buy them. I also had connections with Lucas CAV in the 60s and 70s when they experimented with diesel and electric cars and vans, electric they gave up on.

  165. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says: It should be mentioned however that those “diesel” locomotives are overwhelmingly diesel-electric, i.e. the gen-set concept.
    Yeah, I’m waiting for the ‘gen-set concept’ to show up in long haul trucks. But the major advantage it has is high efficiency at low speed start of motion traction, and that’s not as important for cars and trucks.
    Gen-set electric does make sense, even more so with energy storage. Gen-set using diesel for the fuel likely makes even more sense, except for that nagging engine difference where diesel relies on self-combustion under pressure instead of ignition by a spark plug thus a diesel engine is more limited on potential fuel choices than a regular internal combustion engine.
    Saw a design goal paper from VW once where their multi year design convergence point was an engine with high enough compression to diesel, but with a spark plug too. Since it’s all fuel direct injection and computer controlled, it would run on any of alcohol, gasoline, and Diesel (or Kerosene). Would love to have one, but haven’t seen it make it out of the lab yet…
    USA has Diesel Electric trains because of infrastructure costs for electric rail. On short rails, external electric works; on long lines it’s cheaper to tank up Diesel…
    Another part of why the powers that be need to leave the fuel alone and concentrate on tuning energy sources into gasoline, kerosene, and Diesel…
    LoneRider says:
    – IIRC when a generic diesel is running at stoichiometric mix, it will pump out some smoke, most diesels don’t because they are fed a lean mixture for emissions, which ironically causes them to be less efficient.

    Um, Diesels don’t really have a “mix”. It’s a constant air volume compressed so hot that any ratio of fuel, on injection, burns. For low speed you inject very little fuel, for full power, you inject all you can get away with. They are highly efficient even with small demand and low fuel injected. “Smoke” is usually an error of some kind of a fuel injector set to inject more fuel than needed. That used to be done to keep it running cool and at even higher power (burning the H and tossing the C from the fuel) but not any more.
    And again, per the notion that truck Diesels are somehow magically different from auto Diesels: No, they are not. Sorry, but just “no”. As I said, you can get the Cummins in a Dodge passenger pickup and it’s the same engine used in larger commercial trucks. Just overpowered for the pickup and barely enough power in the commercial unit, so they put in a zillion gear transmission. And the Mercedes Diesel in my car is the same engine used in Mercedes commercial trucks (modulo some minor peripherals). There are some very new car Diesels with short stroke and high RPM and common rail injectors, but those features are headed for commercial trucks as well. In the 1980’s most passenger cars in the USA that got a Diesel were just the commercial engine stuck in a car. The exception was GM that took a gasoline engine and put Diesel heads on it. POC from day one, shock itself apart, and substantially killed the Diesel Car market in the USA for a generation.
    For the modern common rail direct injection automotive Diesels, their efficiency is BETTER than the older designs, not worse,so asserting car Diesels are less efficient than truck Diesels is just wrong. The 30% efficiency number is going to be an old number for gasoline cars, not a Diesel number. THE big difference between cars and trucks is the kW/kilo ratio (or Horsepower / pound). FWIW I also have an old Mercedes 240 D that is heavy (nearly 2 ton) and underpowered and, well, drives just about like a Diesel Truck… but very efficiently. Gets about 32 mpg. My 300TD with a turbo and another cylinder (but otherwise the same engine beefed up for the turbo) gets 22 mpg. NOT due to any loss of efficiency, but due to giving me lots of acceleration to play with and more air drag.
    All Diesels prior to the common rail designs were prone to narrow RPM bands as it physically took a long time for the fuel drops to burn. The electronic pulsed high pressure injection of common rail systems finally let them run at higher RPM, and that is true for both cars and trucks, with greater fuel misting to small drops. Cars were able to get by with 4 speeds instead of the 8 or 10 due to having excess power / weight ratios compared to the trucks. Big engine, not so much car. NOT due to any vastly different engine design (until the common rail designs came along).
    FWIW, there is now a “Diesel Electric” car being made:
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-27/peugeot-s-varin-pitches-diesel-electric-car-in-race-to-catch-toyota-prius.html

    Paris-based Peugeot’s design combines a diesel engine powering the front wheels with an electric rear transmission, offering a range of just 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) in electric- only mode and an average 99 grams of CO2 emissions per kilometer, compared with 89 grams for Toyota’s Prius. Peugeot has said rechargeable “plug-in” versions with bigger batteries and motors will follow in 2014.
    Hybridizing diesel creates additional costs that are unacceptable to many consumers, in return for relatively small efficiency gains, Toyota Europe Vice President Michel Gardel said in an interview.

    Notice that point about “small efficiency gains”. Basically the regenerative braking is about it. The Diesel is already so efficient in all power ranges that you just don’t get much by running it through a loss laden generator / batteries. Note that the Diesel is direct coupled to a drive axle. The electric is just for regenerative braking and perhaps some ‘limp’ low speed maneuvers. (Parking? Traffic jam creeping?)
    Bottom line is that it’s darned hard to beat a Diesel with a mechanical drive. Nearly impossible, IMHO. And that is why they dominate so much.
    Oh, and rockets are MOTORS, while Diesels are proper engines… 😉 so not comparable…

  166. Chris Edwards says:
    September 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm
    “PaulB, the motor would multiply the unsprung weight however it is designed you are talking magnets and windings that have to be spun accurately very near eachother, then half the weight of the power cable is there too, this extra load on the suspension needs heavy duty components, a heavy spring and damper, half of both are unsprung, this all adds up to awfull chassis dynamics, an unsafe car in the hands of joe public.”
    Not with a well-designed hub motor and appropriate suspension system. You don’t just take the wheel assembly of a conventional internal combustion car and stick an electric motor on it. The motor itself would be part of the sprung weight, the main suspension being between the mainly non-rotating hub and the tyre, and mainly magnetic repulsion between the motor and self-exciting aluminium outer windings (or some similar arrangement). You can get +/-10cm of suspension travel there alone; add another 5cm from the tyre and you’ve got plenty, so, steering apart, the motor can be semi-rigidly attached to the body. Alternatively, if you prefer a close-coupled motor, you can get the whole 15cm in the tyre with a clever compartmented design (which can also reduce rolling resistance at any given pressure). The important point to realise is that when you change the basic technology of a machine, the traditional design compromises will no longer be ideal. You need to rethink the whole thing (maybe not all at once, but eventually).

  167. E.M.Smith says:
    September 27, 2010 at 11:33 pm
    “And again, per the notion that truck Diesels are somehow magically different from auto Diesels: No, they are not. Sorry, but just “no”. As I said, you can get the Cummins in a Dodge passenger pickup and it’s the same engine used in larger commercial trucks. ”
    They are not “magically different”. Cars and heavy goods vehicles are physically different, and their engines are set up very differently, the former for a much wider torque range, the latter usually with many more gears.. A diesel engine suitable for a lorry would be ridiculously large and heavy for an ordinary car, where it would not operate efficiently. A Dodge pickup is not a car. I suspect that have failed to appreciate the difference between heavy goods vehicles and light goods vehicles; diesel engines from the latter have often been put in cars.
    “The 30% efficiency number is going to be an old number for gasoline cars, not a Diesel number.”
    No, the old number for petrol cars is 20% (at 56mph). Average considerably less. The diesel equivalent would be around 25%. Just do the sums (or see mine above), fuel consumption against drag.
    Why some people seem to want to believe in the “magical” efficiency of diesel cars is hard to fathom. Are they so insecure in their anti-Green fanaticism that they can only see the disadvantages of electric vehicles, and have to deny the real advantages? Electric vehicles are more efficient than diesel cars – both overall and in terms of the core thermodynamic cycle for the same primary fuel – though at present they have far higher cost and lower performance. If it were otherwise, we’d be using rows of diesel cars in power stations!
    “Oh, and rockets are MOTORS, while Diesels are proper engines… 😉 so not comparable…”
    Rocket motors are combustion heat engines, so yes they are comparable. You can even use them to drive a car – but not very efficiently unless you want to travel at 4km/s!

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