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Nov 26

Computer Modeling the Effects of Alternative Fuels

Posted in Biofuels | Energy Industry | Environment and Sustainability

Computer Modeling Stephens-Romero is a UC Irvine doctoral candidate in the Advanced Power & Energy Program. His 2060 analysis was published online recently in Environmental Science & Technology. Stephens-Romero is painting the picture of future for our benefit, “For the first time, we can look at these future fuel scenarios and say how they’re going to impact things like ozone and particulate matter, which have severe effects on people’s lungs and quality of life.”

He prepared a computer model known as STREET (Spatially & Temporally Resolved Energy & Environment Tool). Here he was predicting a future environment scene, 2060 to be precise. According to Street’s estimates, 75 percent of automobiles in the Greater Los Angeles area would use hydrogen fuel cell that won’t increase green house gases but emit only clean and green water vapor. Environmental measures taken up at various levels would increase the quality of air. Due the various constructive steps by individuals, government bodies and organizations in this prediction greenhouse gas emissions are 60% less than what they are currently in 2009, and levels of microscopic soot and ozone are about 15% and 10% less, respectively.

Stephens-Romero computer model STREET has impressed the California policymakers and auto industry leaders alike. These policy makers and auto industry leaders are already doing a good job of making energy canvass clean and green for transnportation.

Stephens-Romero is raising some valid questions, “We’re transitioning to new technologies. How do we do this while maintaining our lifestyle and keeping our economy robust? We don’t know how these changes could affect the future.” According to him STREET can provide some convincing answers.

STREET is taking its work seriously and accessing most of the variables quite in detail. They are not only taking into consideration the clean and green quotient of fuel but also how the fuel is procured, what processes go on in preparing the fuel, source of fuel, its mode of transportation and what routes it undertakes and last but not the least is the details of fueling stations.

This computer model can provide some answers like what measures we can take to avoid some undesirable results or to get some desirable results. If we want the pollution level not to cross the federal limits, what percentage of the vehicles have to ply on clean and green fuels. Stephens-Romero said, “California policymakers could use the tool in this way to improve air quality in the region.”

Scott Samuelsen is the director of the Advanced Power & Energy Program. He is all praise for Stephens-Romero. According to him, Stephens-Romero’s project is receiving high praise from giants like Toyota, Honda, General Motors, Shell, Air Products, the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission.

Samuelsen elaborates on the project, “The research is well positioned, considering the development of a hydrogen infrastructure is at the crossroads of global climate change, the future of the automobile, the state economy, and California’s leadership in addressing the conflict between energy and the environment.”

Samuelsen is not new to alternative projects. He has already headed the development of UCI’s hydrogen fueling station. This is considered as the most technologically advanced, publicly accessible station in the world. Orange County enjoys the distinctions of having such a station and it is a key constituent of the California Hydrogen Highway Network.

  • science guru

    75% of cars in 2060 will not be hydrogen, they will be electric. It is obvious that electric cars are much simpler and cheaper to produce and run than hydrogen. Combine that with increased home owner solar and wind electric production and the cost of fuel will be zero. Also, don’t forget that hydrogen still has the problem of extreme explosively, electric does not.

    We the people will choose electric.

  • cjuq

    True. I support science guru’s comment. electric is more likely. or they have this car already based on using pressurized air.

  • Vilas Khadse

    Almost 80% cars in 2060 will be running on a combination of hydrogen fuel cell and hydrogen as fuel for IC engines. The cars when parked in the garage will be supplying electrical energy to the home and pumping excess energy to the grid. Stephens-Romero appears to be correct in the prediction. Even the aircraft industry will also be using hydrogen as a fuel to spin its Rolls Royce turbines by then. Hydrogen will be generated by efficient electrolyzers using solar photovoltaic or directly from microbes at home. The power industry will then be a highly decentralized rather than today’s highly centralized.

  • Alex

    I disagree. Unless you find a better way to store energy than what we have right now. Batteries in electric cars have a big negative impact on the environment after their use.

    With individual home energy production such as solar and wind, however, we can produce our own hydrogen from water and use it as fuel. You are right about the explosive danger though. We’ll have to find a way to minimize it.

  • Douglas Adams

    I don’t see how we can feasibly change to electric vehicles in the near future. There are too many people who rely on us relying on oil production. From the drillers to the refineries, the auto manufacturers, to the gas stations. We all helped create and raise this animal, we can’t just take it somewhere and drop it off. And I for one sure don’t want to piss it off. We can however change it’s diet and start treating it with respect. I feel that biodiesel is the most common sense. That way we can use what we already have set up instead of bankrupting yet other part of our history. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, let’s clean up what we have instead of moving to where we think the grass is greener.

  • Douglas Adams

    To clarify my thought, and to say this is just my opinion: I think all of these studies on global warming are mostly a waste of time. Who cares if it’s true or not, we need to change regardless because oil is not renewable. We need to do studies on how we can go about change in the most efficient way. I live in a household that goes paycheck to paycheck, would I rather pay the same amount in utilities and fuel (or even more) for a renewable nonpolluting energy, of course. But do I want my neighbor to lose their job and home because of it, no. I know this sounds funny but I think we need to stop all of the controversies and turn this into a fun time instead of depressing, turn it into a challenge or a race like we did going to the moon. “How to change our mistakes and not make too many new ones” is the study I would like to see. Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Gambler

    I would have to agree, that electric cars are more than likely the wave of the future. But in truth hydrogen and electric cars go hand in hand. Hydrogen can be used to produce electricity; which would eliminate the need for batteries. Batteries are not environmentally friendly, they have a life cycle and when they go bad they will have to disposed of. So in truth eventually hydrogen will more than likely be used to power your electric vehicle. You are right hydrogen is extremely flammable, but it is only explosive in the right conditions. In reality hydrogen is no more dangerous than today’s gasoline. But is it really the point? The point of the article is not to show what fuel source will be superior; but to show the effects of clean energy in the future.

  • Jos Conil

    That’s right. The future belongs to electric cars. Wheel dedicated electric motors also eliminate the transmission systems that weighs down the present day cars. Hydrogen and bio fuel will also be there as options, but people would definitely prefer electric cars.

    The greatest handicap for electric motors to replace the IC engine is the limitations of the storage devices-batteries and capacitors. I think that this handicap can be overcome by 2060 or even earlier than that.

  • science guru

    Please allow me to clarify my previous comment. Electric cars will definitely be the predominant mode of transportation by 2060 because of the following reasons:

    1- Battery technology is advancing very quickly, there are the present lithium batteries, these produce 2 to 3 times the charge density when compared to conventional lead acid batteries. The newest batteries with combinations of lithium and other elements are yet another 2 to 3 times again efficient.
    2- These batteries will extend the range to around 300 miles before needing recharge.
    3- The average person (95%) drives less than 35 miles a day. Most places of business will have charge capacity by 2060. (drive to work, charge your car)
    4- All energy needed to recharge a car can come from simple solar or wind sources.
    5- Solar and wind installation cost is dropping dramatically, it is now cheaper to install either source of power than it is to purchase energy from a utility, particularly in places where utility cost are extremely high (like Hawaii, where electric utility cost are tied to petroleum prices).
    6- The cost to install the infrastructure for hydrogen conversion fuel across the nation or for that matter around the world is in the multi-trillions of dollars. (There are already electric outlets everywhere)
    7- If we are going to use alternate energy to produce the Hydrogen to then put it into a car; why not skip the extra step of Hydrogen production and just put pure electric in its simplest form into batteries?
    8- Batteries are at present 99% recycled, This is a valuable mineral commodity that is not and will not go into a landfill. The infrastructure already exist to recycle batteries on a large scale.
    9- We the people are sick to death of some large corporation having control of fuel prices; to raise or lower (mostly raise) at any given whim. Hydrogen stations will be more of the same jerking around, just a different fuel. This is why the big oil companies are pushing so hard for Hydrogen.
    10- The pure electric car is the simplest design available. Just look at any remote control toy car, it’s a battery and a motor. Pure and simple. It will be child’s play when repairs (if any) are needed.
    11- The cost of repairs will be very inexpensive in the event of a collision. Can you imagine what it would cost to repair a Hydrogen powered auto? (if it doesn’t explode on impact) Gasoline burns but Hydrogen explodes.
    12- The cost to purchase and maintain a Hydrogen powered car will be so high that people will not buy them. Making something more complicated is not the answer.

    As I said before…We the people will be driving all electric cars in the year 2060 if not much sooner.

  • ferd

    Biobuthanol and biodiesel will take over, even more than electric. Those fuels can be produced from sustainable sources, but more importantly they can be used in current internal combustion engines (with fairly minor adjustments). Rather than make major equipment and lifestyle changes (as required by electric and hydrogen power), people will more easily adapt to bio fuels.

    Trouble with models like STREET is they cannot factor in new and quietly developing technologies. They can’t = those are not known so far in advance. So they just extrapolate current trends. Modelers mean well, but really don’t produce much to match their hype.

  • Alex

    Everything is linked. Potential problems with Biofuels are that farmers will grow crops and use their fields for Biofuels to make money, rather than for food for humans. This can be a problem especially in poorer countries than the United States, because it can raise food prices, if there is less supply but the same or larger demand for the food.

  • Vilas Khadse

    Most people agree that by 2060 electric vehicles will be predominant but motors will be powered by fuel cells rather than batteries. A transition phase of IC engines running on hydrogen gas as fuel will prevail.In fact with the discovery of large gas deposits throughout the world is slowly converting the vehicles from liquid to gaseous fuel. The experience gained will be useful for use of Hydrogen gas. USA should start using its own huge gas reserves instead of its dependence on imported liquid fuel.

  • gambler

    Hydrogen only explodes in the right conditions, other wise it just burns. Did the Hindenburg explode? No the Hindenburg caught fire and it was full of Hydrogen. Also there are more costs associated with electric car repair than what is realized. In reality the motors are expensive, not to mention the batteries, and the controllers. It doesn’t matter anyways because Hydrogen cars are essentially electric cars. You are using a fuel cell to produce the electricity for the motor; so the argument that electric is cheaper than hydrogen is a misconception.

  • Jason

    The Hindenburg did not explode because the hydrogen inside was not compressed, it was intended to be lighter than air. Storing hydrogen at its natural density for fuel cells or combustion would be useless, and compressing it enough to be useful could be deadly.

    I would say more but science guru pretty much covered everything.

  • The Trutherizer

    @science guru

    Do not confuse a hydrogen powered car with an internal combustion engine car. Hydrogen is a good way to generate electricity for an electric engine.

    So yes.. Electric cars are the wave of the future. We do not know for sure what will be the best source of transportable energy… yet.

  • Icy Stark

    For the hydrogen the right conditions to make it explode are exactly the right condition to store it (if you have an accident, compressed fuel is the worst thing you can have, and consider that hydrogen burn right by direct contact with oxygen, non of other current fuels do this).

    Moreover, consider that the working cycle of an electric machine is:
    produce electricity->store electricity->engine

    in the case of hydrogen working cycle you have:
    produce electricity->produce hydrogen->store hydrogen->burn (or whatever) hydrogen->engine

    Now the hydrogen working cycle have more steps and so a better chance to have lower efficiency (and so higher costs). The only cases where would be useful to have hydrogen are where is needed a high energy density (per mass unit), like airplanes, missiles and everywhere the weight is important.

    Hydrogen is good, electricity is better 😉

  • Alex

    Weight is important in cars too. The more your car weighs, the more energy you will need to accelerate it.

    Hydrogen equals energy storage. In your system of the electric machine you can simply replace energy storage with hydrogen, as it replaces the battery and you don’t end up having to recycle the battery. (I didn’t know, however, that some batteries are to 99% recycled as someone mentioned earlier. Does anyone know where I can find more information about the recyclability of batteries?)


  • Gambler

    If hydrogen explodes when compressed and mixed with oxygen, then explain one thing to me. Why is it that most Semiconductor fabs have used compressed hydrogen in their processes without any explosions? These processes are ran at high temperature, under atmospheric pressures and some at vacuum pressures. Not to mention there is usually a mixture of oxygen in the process. Also if the tank of a hydrogen vehicle had a leak, it would no longer be compressed, the hydrogen would leak out and the tank would go to atmospheric pressure. if the ignition happened internally to the tank I would agree that yes the tank would explode. But the same conclusion could be made with gasoline. Just something to think about. 🙂

  • Andy

    You people do know that hydrogen is primarily produced by electrolytic conversion using fossil fuels right? And for those of you who are worrying about explosions, hydrogen has about 1/10 the explosive power of gasoline so…

  • Gary Schwendiman, Ph. D

    Here are some additional things to think about.

    If one uses natural gas to produce hydrogen, the CO2 released during the process of making the hydrogen is the same amount as if the natural gas had been used directly to power a vehicle.

    Burning coal is the main source for electricity that would power electric cars.

    Electric cars of the same size as internal combustion engine driven cars are likely to be twice as expensive.

    It is idealistic to think that both gasoline and ethanol can be discontinued in favor of electric cars now. There are approximately 240 million internal combustion engine cars and small trucks in the U. S. Ethanol is much better than gasoline for the environment. To protect the environment, ethanol should be dramatically increased in use until there is a cheaper, more consumer-attractive and environmentally-better replacement for ethanol.

    It’s good to be idealistic about the future, but important to stay grounded in reality. The GM executive in charge of the GM hydrogen fuel cell car project estimates that the first such car is expected to be ready to sell to consumers on a mass basis in 2050. During that time, it is projected that the internal combustion engine will be improved to the point where it gets 80 miles per gallon in a mid-sized car.

    The Chevrolet Volt, a planned 2010 plug-in hybrid, for which electricity would come 40% from coal, has an estimated purchase price of $40,000. A small similarly sized internal combustion engine car costs about $20,000.

    Gary Schwendiman, Ph.D.

  • Peter

    Hydrogen is not a energy source it has to be produced. The cheapest way is extracting it from fuels like natural gas, or electricity like nuclear. It’s the lightest element so it leaks out of everything and since its difficult to liquefy unlike propane, (makes it difficult to store and takes more space.) also you need lots of it to get the same bang as propane or gasoline. Its some what reactive it eats certain plastics rubbers ect. Fuel cells convert hydrogen into electricity but it requires far more energy to create the this electricity then what you get out of it. Fuel cells are not limited to hydrogen they can use many things natural gas methanol etc. “It’s wishful thinking, hydrogen the future.”

  • Chris

    Although electricity may be a more efficient fuel for a vehicle, I believe some of these posts are neglecting the all to important factor of profitability. More money can be made off of a fuel that must be continuously purchased. Hydrogen will cost the customer much more money than recharging an electric car. This “promotes” our economy in the eyes of the corporations that weigh so heavily on the market. This is why hydrogen will more likely become the dominant fuel for automobiles. $$$$

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