The Air Car & Other Green Stuff???

Well, it’s been a busy week for new green solutions for the price of gas. Though I hate that term green solutions – how about non-tyranical, got you by the balls, solutions? Yeah, I like that better. Anyway, I give you the Air Car! Tada!

(here’s the scoop) The Compressed Air Car developed by Motor Development International (MDI) Founder Guy Negre might be the best thing to have happened to the motor engine in years.

The $12,700 CityCAT, one of the planned Air Car models, can hit 68 mph and has a range of 125 miles. It will take only a few minutes for the CityCAT to refuel at gas stations equipped with custom air compressor units. MDI says it should cost only around $2 to fill the car up with 340 liters of air!

The Air Car will be starting production relatively soon, thanks t o India’s TATA Motors. Forget corn! There’s fuel, there’s renewable fuel, and then there’s user-renewable fuel! What can be better than air?

For more info, check out the website here. (HT to Marli)

And Zelda sent me this:


From The Times
June 14, 2008
Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol
Silicon Valley is experimenting with bacteria that have been genetically altered to provide ‘renewable petroleum’
Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs

Some diesel fuel produced by genetically modified bugs
Chris Ayres

“Ten years ago I could never have imagined I’d be doing this,” says Greg Pal, 33, a former software executive, as he squints into the late afternoon Californian sun. “I mean, this is essentially agriculture, right? But the people I talk to – especially the ones coming out of business school – this is the one hot area everyone wants to get into.”

He means bugs. To be more precise: the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Unbelievably, this is not science fiction. Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us. Not that Mr Pal is willing to risk it just yet. He gives it a month before the first vehicle is filled up on what he calls “renewable petroleum”. After that, he grins, “it’s a brave new world”.

Mr Pal is a senior director of LS9, one of several companies in or near Silicon Valley that have spurned traditional high-tech activities such as software and networking and embarked instead on an extraordinary race to make $140-a-barrel oil (£70) from Saudi Arabia obsolete. “All of us here – everyone in this company and in this industry, are aware of the urgency,” Mr Pal says.
Related Links

* Biofuel: a tankful of weed juice

* The arithmetic of crude oil

What is most remarkable about what they are doing is that instead of trying to reengineer the global economy – as is required, for example, for the use of hydrogen fuel – they are trying to make a product that is interchangeable with oil. The company claims that this “Oil 2.0” will not only be renewable but also carbon negative – meaning that the carbon it emits will be less than that sucked from the atmosphere by the raw materials from which it is made.

LS9 has already convinced one oil industry veteran of its plan: Bob Walsh, 50, who now serves as the firm’s president after a 26-year career at Shell, most recently running European supply operations in London. “How many times in your life do you get the opportunity to grow a multi-billion-dollar company?” he asks. It is a bold statement from a man who works in a glorified cubicle in a San Francisco industrial estate for a company that describes itself as being “prerevenue”.

Inside LS9’s cluttered laboratory – funded by $20 million of start-up capital from investors including Vinod Khosla, the Indian-American entrepreneur who co-founded Sun Micro-systems – Mr Pal explains that LS9’s bugs are single-cell organisms, each a fraction of a billionth the size of an ant. They start out as industrial yeast or nonpathogenic strains of E. coli, but LS9 modifies them by custom-de-signing their DNA. “Five to seven years ago, that process would have taken months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he says. “Now it can take weeks and cost maybe $20,000.”

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

For fermentation to take place you need raw material, or feedstock, as it is known in the biofuels industry. Anything will do as long as it can be broken down into sugars, with the byproduct ideally burnt to produce electricity to run the plant.

The company is not interested in using corn as feedstock, given the much-publicised problems created by using food crops for fuel, such as the tortilla inflation that recently caused food riots in Mexico City. Instead, different types of agricultural waste will be used according to whatever makes sense for the local climate and economy: wheat straw in California, for example, or woodchips in the South.

Using genetically modified bugs for fermentation is essentially the same as using natural bacteria to produce ethanol, although the energy-intensive final process of distillation is virtually eliminated because the bugs excrete a substance that is almost pump-ready.

The closest that LS9 has come to mass production is a 1,000-litre fermenting machine, which looks like a large stainless-steel jar, next to a wardrobe-sized computer connected by a tangle of cables and tubes. It has not yet been plugged in. The machine produces the equivalent of one barrel a week and takes up 40 sq ft of floor space.

However, to substitute America’s weekly oil consumption of 143 million barrels, you would need a facility that covered about 205 square miles, an area roughly the size of Chicago.

That is the main problem: although LS9 can produce its bug fuel in laboratory beakers, it has no idea whether it will be able produce the same results on a nationwide or even global scale.

“Our plan is to have a demonstration-scale plant operational by 2010 and, in parallel, we’ll be working on the design and construction of a commercial-scale facility to open in 2011,” says Mr Pal, adding that if LS9 used Brazilian sugar cane as its feedstock, its fuel would probably cost about $50 a barrel.

Are Americans ready to be putting genetically modified bug excretion in their cars? “It’s not the same as with food,” Mr Pal says. “We’re putting these bacteria in a very isolated container: their entire universe is in that tank. When we’re done with them, they’re destroyed.”

Besides, he says, there is greater good being served. “I have two children, and climate change is something that they are going to face. The energy crisis is something that they are going to face. We have a collective responsibility to do this.”

Power points

– Google has set up an initiative to develop electricity from cheap renewable energy sources

– Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome, has created a company to create hydrogen and ethanol from genetically engineered bugs

– The US Energy and Agriculture Departments said in 2005 that there was land available to produce enough biomass (nonedible plant parts) to replace 30 per cent of current liquid transport fuels

***

Now, I don’t know if any of this spells solutions but I do think it’s nice to know that there are those out there looking for solutions and trying to get us there.

UPDATE: Ger sent me a link to a vid for another company called Tessler Motors they offer this car:

Which is fully electric, power efficient and fast – plus there is a solar option which means it is energy positive – and according to their website they have already worked out the recylcling issues for both the tires and battery which is built into the purchase price. Though, I’d be curious to know if they have included the safe disposal of the battery acid as well, since that is my particular concern with electric vehicles. If they have managed to find a way to reuse the batteries, as is the case with current standard car batteries that would make me happy. There isn’t enough data on their website to answer this question, however.

Imagination and Inspiration. What’s Next? – Guest Post by Nuke Gingrich

Hey everybody, here’s a treat – an article by the famous power-blogger, Nuke Gingrich. It’s a goodie. WC

Tolerance,” explained Mrs. Hartsfield, “Means you don’t kill someone just because they believe differently than you.” She was speaking specifically about the news of the day to her 9th Grade Social Studies class, of which I was but one of thirty youngsters who had the privilege of receiving an excellent public education from an excellent public school teacher.

The daily discussions of current events were lively enough to hold at bay the distractions of Spring, which usually seemed to explode around the third week of March, and although expected, always seemed to catch us by surprise. The discussion of “tolerance” came on the heels of renewed animus id Yardin Ulster, the usual suspects wearing a religious facade. I could not comprehend how the two could have deep hatred for each other, my own life experience with Catholics limited to the family living across the street, Jimmy, the youngest, my best friend. That relationship went much deeper than mere tolerance, and was so natural that the thought of seeming enmity between us was limited to those competitive occasions involving sports, and later, cars, and girlfriends. Jimmy, as I recall, was the first to recognize the immutable correlation between the serving of turnip greens at the school cafeteria immediately following grass-cutting day.

A year or so later, my big brother would give me a book called Future Shock which I enjoyed much less than the hours spent examining his secret stash of rock albums, reading the sleeves, the production notes, learning the musicians’ names, and spending hours memorizing the words to the songs. I think, if pressed, I could still do the whole album-side version of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacre, with full orchestration, and four-part harmony …” I don’t think even Toffler realized how right he was in Future Shock. Change, and the accelerating rate of change has exploded on the scene, and caught us unprepared to manage our expectations.

If shock and alarm imply fear, and that’s where Toffler might have it wrong, I think. People are just people. Technology changes, knowledge increases, but people are still people, all knowing the basic differences between right and wrong. And, although Ms. Hollman would tell me some years later in Sociology class that making this conclusion was “imposing a value judgment on others,” I can’t help but think that wondering about the future, and believing in the fundamental decency of people go hand in hand. That is less a limitation, and more a jumping off point, so to speak. A natural yearning to live and let live is the essence of tolerance.

The pace and the scope of expansionist technology increases with each new discovery, and one’s ability to adapt and utilize are limited only by imagination. I saw a commercial recently and blogged about it, “Web 3.0 is closer than you think.” In fact, I think web 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 will flow seamlessly into each other until the day when they are no longer differentiated by generational markers. As they become accepted and intertwined in the way we communicate and conduct our daily lives, the importance of having bold and imaginative people in leadership positions is defined, not by the lowest common denominator, but by the inspirational power to achieve. Imagination, optimism, and tolerance are the reasons that I am politically conservative. They are the reasons that I blog. I believe they are also, the reasons that this unique American experiment will thrive.

Related links:

Web 3.0 is closer than you think

Web 3.0 is closer than you think, part 2

Aparthebird and the Saints

* E-mail inventor: I didn’t foresee spam

* Web 3.0 and beyond: the internet’s next 20 years

* Technology giants spark innovation free-for-all