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Neil Energy

Neil Energy
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  • Is Stop-Start Idle Elimination Crushing Vehicle Electrification? [View article]

    I'd love to hear your opinion on Azure Dynamics or Smith Electric Vehicles. They both make electric delivery vehicles (trucks and/or vans).

    On slide 15 of the following presentation, Azure claims paybacks of 2.7 years in Europe and 4.9 years in the U.S. for their electric version of the Ford Transit Connect compared to the ICE version. Those numbers include a $30,000 adder for the electric capability and an $8,000 subsidy.
    Nov 6 09:33 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Micro-Hybrids: The Fuel Efficiency Innovation Of The Decade [View article]
    JRP3: You keep insisting that people decide how much they are willing to spend on a car and then search within that price range.

    So by your logic, you take a small sedan A, add a $15,000 battery to it, and then compare it to vehicles that are $15,000 more expensive than the ICE version of sedan A. You can't have it both ways! I just priced the cheapest 2012 Ford Focus BEV on the Ford website and it comes in at $40,000. The ICE version starts at $16,500 and with a bunch of upgrades it can easily go over $20,000, but never close to $40,000.

    So if you want to "prove" your point, show us with real numbers (not your general claims) that between two _comparable_ vehicles (the ICE and the BEV versions of the _same_ vehicle), that the BEV's lower operating costs pay for the difference over some amount of miles and time. And do it with and without the $7,500 subsidy. Go ahead and factor in some maintenance benefits, and the fact that you'll put fewer miles on the BEV because you can't take it on a road trip (that's where we log a lot of miles). Show your assumptions about the costs of gas and the cost of electricity. But either prove your point or stop making it! You're not operating with facts yet - you're operating from your dreams of how you think things should be. Show us the numbers!
    Nov 6 09:16 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Micro-Hybrids: The Fuel Efficiency Innovation Of The Decade [View article]
    JRP3 wrote: "Planned obsolescence is not a sustainable business model. Home builders, boat builders, and airplane builders can have profitable businesses making long lasting products, automakers can do so as well. We need to rethink what an automobile should be."

    That's one of your most sane comments ever! Of course I do have an almost 17 year old Geo Prizm, so I obviously think differently about my vehicles than most.

    As cautious as I am regarding fuel savings claims for EVs (I don't think passenger EVs pay for themselves under any _reasonable_ scenario today), the best chance EVs have is when the life of the vehicle is significantly extended, and maintenance costs are also factored in over time. That's why I think EVs make sense for 50-75 mile per day fleet vehicles (like UPS or FedEx trucks or cable TV vans) because they often keep those vehicles for longer than 10 years, and their maintenance costs on ICE engines and brakes can be very high.
    Nov 5 01:48 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is Stop-Start Idle Elimination Crushing Vehicle Electrification? [View article]
    renim: your comments are highly misleading, since you are harping on characteristics of PbC batteries that are NOT relevant for start-stop applications. You're pointing out that PbC batteries do not have the same energy storage capacity as AGMs, which is already well understood. PbC batteries are not being considered by automakers for their energy storage capabilities - they are being considered because they can deliver and accept a lot of power in a short period of time (tens of seconds or a few minutes, _not_ hours).

    Your deliberately misleading posts would be forgiven if you learned from your mistakes, but you just keep posting the same misleading information over and over again. What is your motivation?
    Nov 5 12:27 PM | 5 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Micro-Hybrids: The Fuel Efficiency Innovation Of The Decade [View article]
    OK, so "just in case" Tesla is not the sure bet that many think it is, let's look at the manufacturer of the motor that doesn't use any rare earth metals. Do they have a unique or patented approach? Are they light years ahead of their competitors? Do they have a wide customer base in more industries than just automotive? How do we identify and invest in the "winner(s)" in the electric motors market. I don't know much about electric motors, but maybe we can teach each other a few things here.

    Let's talk about investable companies and ideas.
    Nov 2 10:13 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Micro-Hybrids: The Fuel Efficiency Innovation Of The Decade [View article]
    While it will take years for this to play out, here is some encouraging news related to rare earth metals:

    "Mud at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean contains surprising concentrations of rare earth elements, 17 chemicals with exotic names like neodymium and europium that are critical to technologies ranging from cell phones and televisions to fluorescent light bulbs and wind turbines."

    "Hot plumes from hydrothermal vents pulled these materials out of seawater and deposited them on the seafloor, bit by bit, over tens of millions of years. One square patch of metal-rich mud 2.3 kilometers wide might contain enough rare earths to meet most of the global demand for a year, Japanese geologists report July 3 in Nature Geoscience."

    John is doing a good job of providing a realty check for us investors, who often let our excitement for new technology and its long term potential get ahead of the actual realities of making money in a high tech businesses. I got another lesson today (of about 10 "lessons" I have had in the last 10 years) when Beacon Power's bankruptcy was announced. I didn't have a lot invested in Beacon, but I did have enough that it wasn't just pocket change.

    The optimist in me sees new sources of heavy metals for electric motors, superconducting wire for even higher efficiency motors and rotors (think wind turbines), and ceramic or carbon-based energy storage devices (like ultracaps). But getting excited about the potential of all of the above doesn't translate into investing profits!

    Let's keep returning to the dollars and sense of the alternatives we are discussing. At what point do these ICE, HEV, PHEV, EV vehicles make economic sense? Or not? Which companies stand to benefit as these trends play out? Which markets make sense (i.e. delivery vehicles or taxis vs. passenger vehicles)? We should be talking about who the leading manufacturer of electric power steering units is. Because they'll make money while the various manufacturers of electrified vehicles duke it out and learn as they go.

    Happy investing to all!
    Oct 31 11:54 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Another Reality Check For EV Investors [View article]
    Wow Glenn, you've obviously put a lot of thought into this. I really appreciate individuals/companies that run the numbers and have a model to base decisions off of. Most of the time, such a thorough exercise douses the "nice idea" with a bucket of cold water. But if your business plan survives a thorough financial analysis, more power to you!

    I like your "comprehensive" approach, which considers synergies amongst the inputs, outputs and byproducts, including the efficient use of waste heat.

    Go Glenn!
    Oct 31 11:11 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Another Reality Check For EV Investors [View article]
    Wow Glenn! I'm very excited about what you are attempting. I've seen too many business plans that were not as clear about their "feedstock" costs or how much their byproducts were really worth. One of my questions was "what are they going to do with the oxygen from the electrolysis reaction?" but that was answered in your presentation on your website. I read most of your web site and documents.

    The things that make me the most nervous about your business plan are: assumptions about very very low nighttime electricity rates from windpower. I follow most of the new transmission lines that are being built in the wind belt and it's staggering how much transmission that is being planned or built right now. Your electricity costs could prove to be higher than planned if that "stranded" nighttime electricity finds its way to market.

    Also, if the electricity is only needed for electrolysis to produce hydrogen for the rest of your process, then why not skip that whole part of the process and find a chemical plant with hydrogen as a byproduct that you can purchase at low rates. I've read that there is quite a (localized) supply of byproduct hydrogen, so why produce it yourself?

    Hopefully there is a large chemical industrial complex somewhere that could:
    1. supply you with byproduct hydrogen
    2. supply you with CO2
    3. supply you with waste heat
    4. take your byproduct oxygen if you do include the hydrolysis in your process

    Syntroleum, which has a Fischer Tropsch plant in Louisiana to converts waste fats, greases and oils from Tyson Foods to synthetic diesel, constructed their plant in the middle of a huge chemical industrial complex, and they mentioned on one of their conference calls that they got one of the feedstocks (hydrogen?) much cheaper than they expected because of the availability at the complex they were in.

    Best wishes on bringing your dream to reality!
    Oct 29 08:27 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Another Reality Check For EV Investors [View article]
    Fascinating. And very wise to take the electrolyzed hydrogen and turn it into a liquid fuel or high value chemical. Turning hydrogen back into electricity doesn't make much sense unless you're in an unusual situation (like a remote island or something). Hydrogen to electricity conversion rates just aren't that good. Might as well use the hydrogen for higher-value transportation fuel.

    If you're looking at electrolyzers, you must know all about Hydrogenics. Just in case you haven't seen some of their presentations for electrolyzer-based energy storage and delivery systems, you might want to check out the following presentations:

    They have done lots of demonstration projects with hydrogen generation from electrolyzers powered by wind turbines. They can then use the hydrogen for electricity generation, refueling of fuel cell vehicles, etc.

    I love your approach to using the CO2 one more time before it goes back in to the atmosphere. Is the CO2 from a neighboring power plant, or are there chemical processes that have CO2 as a byproduct?
    Oct 26 09:45 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Another Reality Check For EV Investors [View article]
    Glenn, I'm intrigued by your comment about a business model built on excess nighttime wind capacity. I've thought a lot about this over the years, and would love to hear more about what types of businesses or processes could benefit.

    Here are a few examples I can think of:
    1. Massive frozen storage warehouses: they cool down a few degrees extra at night and let the temp get up to their acceptable maximum during peak time of the day.
    2. Make ice at night for air conditioning units that blow air over the ice during peak load times.
    3. Desalination plants: run about 20 hours per day, turn off during peak load time.

    What seems like a showstopper to me is to pay capital for a plant or process and only run it at night instead of 24 hours a day. Are there chemical plants/processes where the operating cost of electricity far outweighs the amortized capital cost?

    Inquiring minds want to know...

    I live in Texas, and we've got some serious night-time wind production, and in the next few years it will become even more so as 6 billion dollars worth of new transmission lines get completed. It's a catch 22 though: we'll have more night-time capacity, but with the extra transmission lines, we'll have no problem getting it to load centers. It will displace gas-fired generation. It will be "relatively" cheap, but I'm not sure how much "free" (or very cheap) night-time electricity is available or for how long it would last.

    Oct 25 10:35 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Fuel Cells Replace Battery-Powered Cars? [View article]
    Here's a fascinating analysis of how hydrogen will be produced and used in a most efficient manner:

    The main point is this: produce hydrogen through electrolysis when electricity supply is abundant/excessive (i.e. wind blowing at night). Don't use the hydrogen to produce electricity again (too inefficient), but instead use the high-value hydrogen in fuel cell vehicles first or in distributed fuel cells in homes and businesses where you can also use the waste heat for heating or cooling. This requires the electrolysis units to be somewhat distributed so the hydrogen is where it is needed.

    Very interesting article - I highly recommend it.
    Oct 12 09:36 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Fuel Cells Replace Battery-Powered Cars? [View article]
    In my Prius, I get 4-5 mpg less when the heat is on high or the A/C is on high. I can get 50 mpg for a tank when everything is perfect but typically about 47 mpg. I get about 42 or 43 mpg when blasting the heat or blasting the A/C.

    When the heat or A/C is on low or medium, it's not as bad. I have to admit this "feature" changes my behavior (only in the winter), and I'm willing to be colder in my car to avoid the mpg hit. In the summer, I don't care - I don't want to sweat!

    "Free" heat from an ICE or a fuel cell is a nice benefit, especially in colder climates.
    Oct 10 03:15 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Fuel Cells Replace Battery-Powered Cars? [View article]
    wood --> coal --> oil --> natural gas --> hydrogen --> electrons

    It will be interesting to see how natural gas, hydrogen and electrons play out over the next few decades. My guess is that natural gas will replace oil (gasoline and diesel) in most transportation applications, with oil still being used in "legacy" applications. Electrons (stored in batteries and super-duper-ultracaps) will likely be used in lightweight city vehicles or fixed-route fleets. Hydrogen is a wild card to me - I would be delighted to see a true breakthrough in hydrogen production.
    Oct 9 03:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Fuel Cells Replace Battery-Powered Cars? [View article]
    That would be great if PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell efficiency is now at 60% or even better. All of the studies I have seen over the years indicate that PEM is 40 to 50% efficient, while MCFC (molten carbonate) and SOFC (solid oxide) had better efficiencies of 50 to 60%.

    I just found this comparison chart from the DOE that confirms your 60% number for PEM fuel cells in transportation applications (good news!):
    And here's a nice overview of the different fuel cell technologies:

    Here's a link from the DOE for the 2011 Honda FCX, showing fuel economy of 60 miles per kg of hydrogen with a note that says: "Note: One kg of hydrogen is roughly equivalent to one gallon of gasoline."

    It all comes down to the cost of the hydrogen. If we can produce hydrogen cheaply and cleanly (like some clever catalytic process that uses sunlight to convert water to hydrogen), then fuel cell vehicles could make sense. But we've got to produce, distribute and compress the hydrogen efficiently; otherwise fuel cell vehicles will be relegated to niche applications.

    There may be some interesting opportunities for getting "free" hydrogen, when it is a by-product of a chemical process for example. There have been pilot deployments of PEM fuel cells at chemical plants that make use of this "waste" hydrogen to produce electricity.

    Another opportunity is one promoted by Hydrogenics for remote islands (like in the Pacific or Caribbean). They typically generate electricity using diesel generators, and the cost of delivered diesel is very high. So they buy some wind turbines, which can offset some of the diesel fuel cost when the wind is blowing. Hydrogenics has done some pilot installations where they install an electrolysis unit to convert electricity to hydrogen when there is excess wind power. After you choose how much "power" you want to be able to work with (like 200 kW), the amount of "energy" that can be stored is only a function of how big a tank you want to buy. This is in contrast to batteries where the more energy you want to store, the more batteries you have to buy. When the wind is not blowing, you then use fuel cells to convert the hydrogen back to electricity. The round trip efficiency is pretty bad, but it allows you to store days worth of electricity. As a side effect, you could potentially use the hydrogen to fuel PEM fuel cell vehicles.

    Here's a fascinating presentation from Hydrogenics showing the concept (starting on page 23):
    Oct 9 09:55 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Will Fuel Cells Replace Battery-Powered Cars? [View article]
    OK boys and girls, hold on to your chair. The first time I saw this graphic, I nearly fell out of my chair.

    I had been investing fuel cell stocks (Ballard, Plug Power, Fuel Cell Energy, Hydrogenics, Millenium Cell, etc.) back in 2004 or so and fortunately came to the realization that hybrids would do much better than fuel cell vehicles for quite some time. I got out of most of my fuel cell positions in time for a profit.

    Back to the graphic referenced above. It's useful, but also a bit unfair because it compares electric vehicles against hydrogen produced from electricity. In reality, hydrogen will be produced from natural gas for quite some time. So a better comparison would be to start with natural gas, converted to electricity at a power plant and delivered as electricity to an electric vehicle and compare that to a fuel cell vehicle using hydrogen derived from natural gas. Still, the 40% efficiency of a fuel cell and the 90% efficiency of compressing hydrogen is a big hurdle to overcome. 0.4*0.9 = 0.36, so even assuming you can convert natural gas to hydrogen for free, your best case is 36% efficiency. Most likely, it will be between 20% and 30% when you factor in the conversion from natural gas to hydrogen.

    For an electric vehicle: with a combined cycle natural gas power plant at 60% efficiency, and assuming 7% transmission losses, you've got .6*.93*.93*.93 = .48 or 48% efficiency for an EV. Of course if you can really run your EV off of wind-generated electricity, then you're at .93*.93*.93 = 80% efficiency.

    For fuel cells to be successful in day-to-day applications, we really need a better way to produce hydrogen. Otherwise, fuel cells will be relegated to applications where you don't have access to electricity and need to carry your fuel with you. Think unmanned aerial vehicles, auxiliary power units on airplanes and trucks, etc.

    Oct 8 08:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment