Ideas Project from Jumpstart Ford launches with CalCars profile
- Jumpstart Ford -- a partnership between Global
Exchange, Rainforest Action Network, and Ruckus
Society -- has launched a new "Ideas Project,"
soliciting from the public: "ideas for an oil
independent future do you have a backyard
bio-diesel project, a new strategy for critiquing
car culture, or an oil issue that needs some attention?"
They say "It's time for Ford to lead the way to
oil independence. Ideas Project: Powered by You."
They plan each month to feature a new idea.
They've launched the project with a profile of CalCars:
Don't we all wish we could get at least 100 mpg from our cars?
Well, wish no longer. Cal Cars has made it
happen with the Plug-In hybrid (PHEV)
In their own words:
We've taken the well-designed and highly-popular
Toyota Prius and souped it up -- or more
accurately, "green-tuned" it! We've added
batteries and grid-charging, and you get PRIUS+,
a "plug-in" hybrid (PHEV). We've taken hybrids
the next step, adding a second fuel
source--electricity--that, compared to gasoline,
is cheaper, cleaner, and domestic. That means no
gas when you do your errands on local streets at
35mph. On the highway, it runs just like any
other Prius, with the gasoline engine doing most
of the work -- and the extra batteries kicking in
to improve performance at ALL speeds.
Unfortunately, the automakers don't believe
there's a market for these cars, so they won't
build them...YET! It's our job to convince Ford to build PHEVs.
For more info, check out the Cal Cars website.
(They've also created a page showing alternatives
and concluding that their ideal car is a plug-in
hybrid with cellulosic ethanol as the
range-extender fuel -- see original URL for many links)
* Walk, Ride Your Bike and Take the Bus
Bicycles are the best zero-emission vehicles, and
the easiest way to break your oil addiction is by
walking or riding your bike. Public
transportation, even diesel buses, are much much
more efficient than single-driver cars. Not
everyone has access to public transportation, and
many people work too far from home to walk or
ride their bikes. But those of us who can walk,
ride our bikes, and take the bus or train are
helping America declare independence from oil!
* More efficient internal combustion engines
The technology exists today that could
dramatically improve the fuel efficiency and
greenhouse gas emissions of Fords vehicles.
Essentially, a vehicle that is powered by an
internal combustion engine is not a very
efficient machine. Improvements in engines,
transmissions, and vehicle design exist, but they
are mostly sitting on shelves instead of making
Fords engines more efficient. According to the
Union of Concerned Scientists, if Ford used
todays technology to clean up its internal
combustion engine, its cars would get an average
of 40 miles per gallon, and if Ford used the most
efficient hybrid-electric technology in its
vehicles, they could average 55 mpg, a big
improvement over Fords current average of 19.1 mpg.
Learn more from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
And read about how clean vehicle technologies can
save jobs, according to a study by Natural
Resources Defense Council and the Office for the
Study of Automotive Transportation (OSAT) at the University of Michigan.
Hybrid electric vehicles are a good step towards
a more fuel-efficient fleet of vehicles. Hybrids
use an electric motor and large battery to
capture and store energy that is normally lost in
inefficient gasoline engine. In the most
efficient hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and the
Honda Civic, the energy is used to help run the
vehicle and can dramatically improve fuel
efficiency. However, not all hybrids are designed
to maximize efficiency; the Honda Accord and
Toyota Highlander use the battery electric motor
to boost the power of the engine and are hardly
more efficient than their non-hybrid counterparts.
Hybrids should play an essential role in reducing
our oil dependence, Fords two hybrid SUV models
are certainly improvements over standard SUVs.
However, for hybrids to make a dent in Fords oil
addiction, the company will have build a lot more
than 22,000 in each model year. Fords challenge
will be to move hybrids out of a niche market,
and into the mass market. If Ford can offer a few
of its customers this efficient technology, they
should be putting hybrid engines in all of their vehicles.
* Plug-in Hybrids
Although hybrids are efficient, they still use
oil; they are simply more efficient gasoline
cars. A better solution would be Plug-in Hybrid
Electric Vehicles (PHEVs). The idea is to
enlarge the battery pack in a normal hybrid so
that it can hold more energy, and add a plug, so
that the car can get the energy from the grid or
from rooftop solar power. With a plug-in hybrid,
which uses a battery-powered electric motor for
the first 30 to 50 miles, most American commuters
would rarely if ever need to fill up or even top
off with gasoline unless making a long
trip. Engineers estimate that with a plug-in
hybrid electric car, an American driver could
save a whopping 85% of their gas consumption!
* Electric Vehicles
Ford once mass-produced two full-sized vehicles
that were completely independent from oil: the
Th!nk City EV and the Ranger EV pickup truck.
Ignoring demand, Ford eliminated the program and
destroyed all but a few hundred of its only
zero-emission vehicles. Click here for more info.
EVs are occasionally available today through Ebay
and other, mostly online sources, and custom EVs are being made.
The greatest advantage to the EV is that it has
no gas tank, the only power for the car is its
electric motor and a very large battery pack,
which is plugged in to recharge. Fords EVs had a
range of 80-100 miles; advances in battery
development give the latest EVs up to a 300 mile
range. The drawbacks of EVs today is that they
have become extremely rare; with no major auto
manufacturer currently producing EVs in the U.S.,
Americans no longer have easy access to petroleum-free, pollution-free cars.
An ordinary diesel engine, like those in a
Volkswagen or a Jeep Liberty, is already equipped
to run on biodiesel, a renewable and
biodegradable version of diesel fuel, but made
from biomass such as vegetable oils, animal fats, or algae.
Biodiesel is plant-based, and plants sequester
greenhouse gases which offsets the emissions
produced by biodiesel. Also, biodiesel produces
less air pollution than regular diesel and would
reduce our dependence on petroleum.
There are also drawbacks to biodiesel, for
example, the energy it takes to grow plant crops
for any biofuels raises concerns about the
sustainability of biofuels. It is also uncertain
whether agricultural land currently devoted to
food crops should be diverted for transportation
production, a situation that may be resolved with
developments in cellulosic ethanol.
* Vegetable Oil
Run your car on French fry oil!?! Used or new
vegetable oil is for more than just cooking; its
also a biofuel that is gaining nationwide
grassroots support. Veggie oil is plant-based,
and plants sequester greenhouse gases which
offsets the emissions produced by the oil.
Diesel engines running on veggie oil produce less
air pollution than regular diesel and would
reduce our dependence on petroleum. Used fryer
oil is a waste product and operating your vehicle
on filtered fryer oil removes this product from
the waste stream. And its usually free of
charge, since restaurants are often happy to get
rid of it. The drawback is volumeused veggie oil
is free and plentiful right now, but it is in
fact a limited resource. As the current
grassroots demand grows and shifts toward
mainstream usage, we could soon experience Peak Veggie Oil.
Diesel engines can run on vegetable oil with a
modification kit, which retails for $600-$1000.
Ethanol is a biofuel that can be used in standard
(non-diesel) cars that are factory modified.
Since 1999 an increasing number of vehicles are
designed to be dual-fuel or flex-fuel vehicles,
so they can automatically run on either ethanol,
gasoline, or a high blend (85%) of ethanol called
E85. Gasoline also may have up to a 10% blend of
ethanol, known as E10 as an additive to reduce
pollution. Ethanol-blended gas is already for
sale in California and many regions of the
country at an ordinary gas station. A plug-in
hybrid car that uses E85 instead of gasoline
would effectively get 500+ MPG of gasoline, plus electricity, plus ethanol.
Ethanol produced from sugar cane is being used as
automotive fuel in Brazil. Most ethanol in the
U.S. is produced from corn, but ethanol also
could be derived from wheat, potato wastes,
cheese whey, rice straw, sawdust, urban wastes,
paper mill wastes, yard clippings, molasses,
castor beans, seaweed, surplus food crops, and
other plant wastes. Since ethanol is plant-based,
the plants sequester greenhouse gases, which in
turn offset the emissions produced by the
ethanol. Ethanol also produces less air pollution
than regular gasoline. Ethanol could reduce our
dependence on petroleum, so long as it doesn't
take more fuel to grow crops than is produced.
The drawback of ethanol is in the amount of land
use and energy inputs required for production.
Many experts have expressed concerns that
switching from food crops to transportation crops
may not make our transportation more sustainable.
Other critics point to the very high energy
required to grow crops like corn, including
gasoline in tractors and transportation of the
grain as well as the various chemicals sprayed on
the crops. To learn more, go to:
* Cellulosic Ethanol
Cellulosic ethanol is the same as normal ethanol
except it is not derived from crops. Instead it
is made from grasses and agricultural waste. In
other words, rather than using the kernel of
corn, cellulosic ethanol uses corn stalks, which
would otherwise be wasted. Cellulosic ethanol
offers a promising alternative because its as
clean and carbon-neutral as regular ethanol, but
it doesn't have the drawbacks of regular ethanol.
However, because cellulosic ethanol is in the
development phase, it is not currently available.
Learn more about cellulosic ethanol
* Hydrogen Fuel Cells
The fact is that hydrogen fuel cells are still
science fiction. Fuel cells won't be marketable
for 20 years, not to mention the fact that we do
not have an affordable, climate-neutral means of
producing hydrogen. In order to generate the
amount of electricity needed to get hydrogen from
water, we would produce an enormous
polluting. In other words, we would use enormous
amounts of dirty energy in order to create a
nonpolluting energy source. Without a dramatic
shift in electricity generation in the U.S.,
hydrogen fuel cells will be like lead us from the
frying pan into the fire. In fact, electric
vehicles, available and on the road today, are a
sustainable short-cut. They also require a clean
energy revolution, but they don't require us to
wait 20 years before we can get started.
Learn more about hydrogen fuel cells
* The Ideal Clean Green Car
We don't know which of these technologies will
enable us to completely end our oil addiction
likely it will be a combination. What we do know
is that we cant wait. Our planet is in a crisis,
people are being killed and we need to take a
dramatic step in ending our oil addiction. While
we continue to develop new, healthier
technologies we can and have the ability to act today.
1) A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle with at
least a 40 mile range in its battery
2) Recharged with electricity powered by residential rooftop solar
3) And for longer trips, with cellulosic ethanol
or waste biodiesel fuel in the tank.
What are we waiting for?
Join the movement!
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Felix Kramer fkramer@...
Founder California Cars Initiative
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