Integrated Innovations- Off the Grid Living
Our cumulative decades of Zero Energy Design® (ZED) knowledge will continue to grow and be iteratively refined over time. We are far beyond the critical mass required for a chain reaction of ZED Holistic Systems Engineering across America.
“Off The Grid Living” has been demonstrated many times. Before the days of public utility companies a century ago, off the grid living was the ONLY available choice. Modern America has ignored most of the important lessons learned centuries ago (which we will discuss more fully in the History section).
If you want to build a new home today that is more than 1/4 mile away from existing power lines, it can COST LESS TO BUILD A ZERO ENERGY HOME than to pay the price to run a power line to your house.
Land prices will increase significantly, “Off The Grid Communities” (using NO non-renewable fossil fuels) have already become realistic economic investments for developers and homeowners. The Zero Energy DesignTM“Economy Of Scale” is much better for planned communities than for individual homes. A number of Zero Energy Housing Additions already exist (many in progressive California – where they have very high energy costs, frequent power outages, and severe utility company growing pains).
When you think about it, the evolution and maturation of Zero Energy DesignTM is INEVITABLE. Humans cannot survive on our overpopulated Earth much longer without ZED. We can NOT continue our unnecessary energy-wasting price spiral for another ten years without a major collapse of American society. Baby boomer retirement would be very uncomfortable. Our current gluttonous American lifestyle is simply unsustainable. Tomorrow cannot be like yesterday. We MUST adapt, and we surely will, EVENTUALLY. No other choice is feasible.
The only question that remains is “When are YOU personally going to take advantage of ZED, which so few Americans understand today?” I did it in 1979, and benefited greatly from the experience. Have you recently purchased a higher-gas-mileage car? When will you move out of your energy-wasting traditional house into a home that will nearly eliminates your energy bills for a lifetime? Is owning an energy inefficient traditional home a good investment over the next decade? Who will want to buy it, when new Zero Energy Homes in well-planned communities become commonplace very soon?
Online Off–The-Grid Zero Energy Homes
Space heating and cooling is not the only issue considered by Zero Energy Design® (ZED) Holistic Systems Engineering. Today’s crowded metropolitan areas have very-poorly-planned housing communities, packed with energy inefficient houses and commercial buildings. Consider the near-term future of pervasive Telecommunications.
In 2010, American analog television broadcasts will be terminated and all Americans will have to convert to digital HDTV equipment, (with broadband telecommunications capability). The old-fashioned dial-up telephone, with incremental usage long distance charges, will be replaced with continuously connected (advanced Internet) broadband two-way communication, at a reasonable flat monthly rate.
Our 2009 HDTV’s will soon have microphones and cameras on them. A 16 x 9 aspect ratio screen will be used for digital television, broadcast, video on demand (entertainment, education, e-commerce), Internet, computing, telephone, video conferencing, telecommuting, and remote learning education systems. A ten-foot-wide wall-size HDTV projection system will cost only about $500. 2009 two-way home electronics will be more different than today's are from only a few years ago.
For many American children, school buses can be replaced by 2009+ in-home learning, or walk-to nearby community classrooms, with remote top-quality distance learning instructors (located anywhere in the world), augmented by computer-aided, personalized, interactive education (that is FAR BETTER than the low quality education received by most American public school children today).
More than half of all American jobs can be (at least partially) performed at home, with 2009 HDTV Broadband Telecommuting. That means employees will no longer be required to live in crowded, expensive, poorly-planned, antiquated, overpopulated, high-crime urban communities, with uncomfortable energy-inefficient houses and office buildings. Most Americans (except hamburger flippers, etc.) will have the option of living anywhere they want, and telecommuting anywhere in the world.
Personalized e-commerce and direct-to-home delivery will continue to take an increasing market share. 3D body scanners will capture your precise measurements once, and then when you order clothes, they can be custom made in automated factories (anywhere in the world), and delivered to your door inexpensively in two days (without making a trip to WalMart).
You can already order non-perishable food from Amazon.com. More groceries will soon be available online from local Internet vendors. Holistic ZED Systems Engineering will include comprehensive Kitchen Automation, Meal Planning, Nutrition Monitoring With Suggestions, Healthy Customized Diets, Food Supplements, UPC Product Code Inventory, Shopping Lists, Internet Ordering and Delivery, along with Complete Energy Efficient Cooking Automation.
Zero Energy Design Homes will include Whole House Automation, Internet Connection, Remotely Controlled Web Camera Monitors, Indoor / Outdoor Security, Computerized Home Function Sensors and Controls, Environmentally Friendly Irrigation, etc. Of course a ZED home will be pre-wired for Advanced Fiber Optics Communication Integration, and the newest protocols for All Appliance Internet Addressability.
ZED Window Treatments will be inexpensively automated: Open / Close - Sensitive to Sunlight, Time, Motion Detection, Temperature, Remote Control. Options may include Liquid Crystal or Electrochromic Electronic Adjustable Window Tinting.
ZED Holistic Systems Engineering will naturally include Advanced Information / Entertainment Media Integration, Home Office, Telecommuter / Day Trader International Wall-Sized Data Display Options, Home Theater - All System Integration (2D and 3D) and Spectacular Virtual Reality Games (Move, Feel, Ride) – Whatever low-or-high-tech electronic options you can possibly imagine will be integrated with the Holistic Home Information Systems.
ZED will use very-low energy (direct current / solar powered) Advanced Technology Lighting Systems with: Full Spectrum Rainbow - Room Lighting Control, Any Color, Any Mood, Any Ambience, Anytime, Sensitive To Sounds, Music, Sunlight, Motion, Time, Turn The Dials or Select Preprogrammed Effects, Solid Colors to Pulsing Rainbows with Sparkles, Moving Clouds, Misty Moonlight, Flickering Firelight, Colorful Sunsets - Fade To Sleep – Sunrise Delight, Synchronized With Music / Sounds (Surf, Birds …), Paint Your Walls With Flexible Moving Landscapes, (Ski Slopes, Forests, Animals, Beaches, Volcanoes). Let our unique lighting add fire to your desire - Reveal the romantic potential of your Zero Energy Home. All you need is some space anywhere, and we can electronically make your interior look like anywhere in the world.
With Off-The-Grid Zero Energy Homes, many Americans will chose to live in beautiful, natural wilderness areas (with low land prices) that are not served by any power company. Water purification, conservation, and environmentally friendly recycling will all be integrated in the Holistic ZED Systems Engineering.
With today’s technology, intelligent ZED people can Broadband Telecommute anywhere in the world, and even multiple places at the same time, with any number of information-and-people display monitors, inexpensively teleconferencing like they were sitting across the table from each other, with no incremental usage charges.
Why not? It just requires some Imagination and Holistic Systems Engineering, which WE have a unique abundance of (in the midst of an otherwise Non-Learning Nation).
Americans who desire friendly local communities, may choose to live in Zero Energy Home Planned Communities, (like those now popping up in California and elsewhere), which cost only a small fraction of the price of crowded urban areas packed with inefficient, expensive, poorly-planned houses and office buildings.
ZED Advanced Technology Telecommuting can greatly reduce the demand on overcrowded highway infrastructure, transportation energy consumption, toxic air pollution associated with refining and burning fossil fuels, vehicle wear and tear, traffic accidents, road rage, traffic stress, and time lost forever while driving to and from work. ZED Telecommuters are happier, healthier and far more productive than almost all other modern Americans.
Why would anyone want to live in the traditional inefficient, angry, rat race ever again? Do you enjoy getting stuck behind an accident on a toll road, or waiting months for slow road repairs, while watching workers stand around apparently doing nothing?
Would YOU like to spend much more time enjoying the good life with your family and planned community friends? What will YOUR lifestyle be like in 2009 and beyond? If you do nothing now, don’t be surprised if your life gets worse than it is today.
In 2006, Florida electric power costs more than $0.12/kwh. About 40% is produced by people-killing coal, and another 40% from highly-polluting imported petroleum. A lesser amount is produced from natural gas. The American Cancer Society points out that coal and petroleum both generate terrible Florida air pollution for almost everyone in the state. Florida also has a growing number of nuclear power plants, with the associated high costs, risks, and radioactive waste disposal problems.
Modern photovoltaic solar cells now produce electricity for about $0.15/kwh. What’s going to predictably happen in less than five years? Most likely, photovoltaic solar cells will produce electricity for less than $0.10/kwh, while highly polluting electricity from the electric power companies will cost more than $0.15/kwh (conservatively).
Is this a good time to buy stock in an electric company? (It was when Monopoly was invented, but not any more.)
These are magic moments my ZED friend. We are about to see a spectacular revolution in Zero Energy DesignTM. Zero Energy property ownership is an outstanding investment, with much more potential than the introduction of the 1980 personal computer, which greatly changed almost all of our lives in very few years.
You may wish to note that the money you are wasting today on utility bills is NOT tax deductible, whereas there are tax credits for Zero Energy Home components, AND your home mortgage IS tax deductible. All of this adds up to even more powerful motivation to own a Zero Energy Home.
Also, in a few years, we will be able to plug our low-cost high-speed electric cars into our PV roofs, and drive around essentially for free. Such cars will eventually cost less than internal combustion petroleum cars and trucks, since the will NOT need heavy engine blocks, pistons, crankshafts, intake/exhaust manifolds, mufflers, catalytic converters, carburetors/fuel injection, transmissions, water cooling systems, etc. Lots of traditional energy wasting businesses will go bankrupt. Lots of new jobs will be created. Will YOU be one of the many winners, or big time losers?
Who will lead the way into the ZED near future? What about the non-learning skeptics who long for the “good old days” of low price gasoline. It just ain’t gonna happen Dilbert. Shortsighted political petroleum price controls cannot possibly solve the issues of declining non-renewable fossil fuel supply, and increasing global energy demand. Oil production is in decline in 33 of the 48 largest oil producing countries. U.S. oil production peaked in the early 1970’s and has been declining ever since. Energy demand is increasing around the world as third world economies grow, nations develop and American outsource our jobs to them.
Abundant energy drives economic development, which in turn creates demand for still more energy. But economic growth in developing nations also puts more pressure on energy supply, and impacts the global environment. America led the way to excessive energy consumption. Other nations are now following our gluttonous imprudent ways. America MUST now lead the way toward Zero Energy DesignTM, or collapse from the many major energy mistakes that we led the rest of the world into.
Our inevitable ZED future is as predictable as Moore’s Law has been for decades. Tomorrow MUST be very different from our wasteful American energy history. Today’s technology is sufficient to resolve all of our energy-related issues quickly and cost effectively. It will only get better tomorrow. We just need the will and the ability to overcome the unbelievable American resistance to changing the way we produce and use energy in many different forms.
Zero Energy DesignTM is MUCH MORE than mounting some photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of a poorly designed traditional home (as the most naive designers and contractors have suggested). Some energy benefit will be gained by adding PV’s, IF your old roof line or property allow it, but it will probably cost way too much for an “off the grid” photovoltaic solar cell system (with deep cycle batteries for when the sun is not shining) added to an energy inefficient traditional home with conventional appliances, lighting, and air conditioning systems.
The proper thing to do with ZED is to greatly reduce the energy requirements of the home for air conditioning, hot water, drinking water, irrigation, lighting and appliances (by about 90% overall) and THEN integrate a renewable energy gathering system that is appropriate for the location (which may be PV or many other cost effective alternatives). Retrofitting ZED in an existing home involves capital expenditures that are unnecessary in new Zero Energy Homes, with ZED integrated into original construction plans.
Building even one more traditional energy-wasting conventional house is a major lost opportunity that can never be recovered. For 25 years I (and many others) have been preaching that WE MUST STOP BUILDING INEFFICIENT NEW HOMES AND CARS, but my evangelical message has largely fallen on the deaf ears of our Non-Learning Nation. In light of today’s previously predicted energy crisis, many intelligent individuals are finally beginning to ask for details about how we make ZED happen quickly, on a very large nationwide scale.
ZED Systems Engineering considers EVERYTHING in the house that uses energy, including the cars in the garage. We greatly reduce or eliminate energy consumption, BEFORE we design the appropriate energy gathering, storage and distribution systems. Energy Conservation is a foundational element of Zero Energy DesignTM in Zero Energy Homes and Commercial Building Holistic Systems Engineering. Energy collection, storage and distribution begins AFTER energy conservation has been systematically optimized.
For thousands of years, history professors have preached that: Failure to study history causes a non-learning society to ignore previously available knowledge, and forever repeat the avoidable mistakes of the past.
Before we can correct the many energy problems of today, we need to understand how we got into the ridiculous, unnecessary energy crisis we are now in. Only then will the specific steps we need to take make good scientific sense to those who seek energy enlightenment. Too many people are worried about the technology (because they do not understand the many lessons learned in the past). The real issues remaining to be solved today are politics and education of the non-learning masses (not technology).
Psychology 101 - Boiling a Frog: If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump and kick and quickly find a way to more comfortable surroundings. If you were to put the same frog in room temperature water, and gradually heat the pot, the insensitive frog will allow itself to slowly be boiled to death. America is on the verge of incrementally boiling itself to death, with a century of unbelievably dumb energy mismanagement.
The United States started out with no coherent energy policy. We have been living without one for so very long that very few people have a clue how (or why) to get out of the boiling water around us. Most traditional Americans think that governmental energy intervention is still unnecessary, but they blame the current administration for the energy mistakes made by their ancestors for over a century.
What will Americans do when gasoline hits $10 / gallon, and their heating and air-conditioning bills exceed their salary? Psychology 101 says they will boil to death in their own stupidity and insensitivity to the many mistakes of their ancestors. We feel that after the recent wake up calls, America must finally realize that rapid change is absolutely necessary and completely unavoidable. The technology is readily a viable. All we need is motivated government agencies, manufacturers and individual buyers.
However, we felt this way after the 1973 OPEC energy embargoes. Surely a great nation like the United States would rise to the challenge and break the bad habit of our addiction to oil. We thought it would happen years ago, but logic and rational thought did NOT prevail then.
Remember also that 22% of our Non-Learning Nation still pays the ever-increasing prices for deadly cigarettes. Just because a habitual behavior is proven to be irrefutably bad, does NOT mean that the addicted will stop doing it. Logic and rational thought simply do not apply to long-term habitual antisocial smokers, OR to badly addicted gluttonous energy wasters.
After twenty-five years as a research scientist, trying to do what is right for our nation, I have learned that intelligent innovation is much like trying to push a pea up a very steep and slick hill, with a toothpick held between your lips. Innovation is:
- The ability to understand that change in an opportunity - not a threat
- The primary focus of every thriving business and good government
- The whim of elite intellects before it becomes a need of the public
- The central issue of all ongoing socioeconomic prosperity
- One of the rarest commodities on the face of the earth
Picking The Wrong Branch On The Technology Evolution Tree
The pace of society-changing technology evolution is accelerating every year. It now takes less than two years for humanity to DOUBLE the sum total of scientific knowledge accumulated throughout the entire history of all mankind. How can a Non-Learning Nation keep up, especially when so many are dropping out? (Only 62% of all American males graduate from high school.)
Sometimes, change brings useful innovations like television, cars, airplanes, space travel, cheap computers and the Internet. Sometimes, new technologies bring us devastating nuclear bombs, or popular products that have a negative impact on some individuals (like violent video games that have been linked to terrible crimes against humanity). The one tautological thing we can say about change is that Change clearly makes things different. (smile)
Coping with some of the recent huge geopolitical changes is far more complex than the new technology itself. Look at what happened just a few years after we started importing large volumes of petroleum from the unstable Middle East. The OPEC oil embargoes began in 1973.
We now continue to provide the funding for our most significant enemies, which are costing us over a TRILLION dollars to defend against. The total cost of burning petroleum is FAR MORE THAN THE PRICE AT THE PUMP.
Most of these terrorist’s faces are from the “friendly” dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, that America made into the largest exporter of petroleum in the world. Etch the memory of these faces very well into your thought processes. It is YOUR personal wasteful energy usage habits that gave them the money to do what they did on 9/11/2001.
"Maximizing Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is the domestic epicenter in the War on Terror and it is imperative that we maximize the partnerships between the public and private sectors in new and creative ways with a sense of seriousness, national purpose and the urgency the situation merits." - Alexander Karsner, U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
The average American car now gets 17 mpg; the average European car gets over 25 mpg. IF American cars got only 25 mpg on average, WE WOULD NOT NEED TO IMPORT ONE DROP OF PETROLEUM FROM ANY OF THE ARAB NATIONS!
In 1968, the Volkswagen Transporter microbus held 7 passengers, went over 80 mph, cost $1600, and got 35 mpg. We do NOT need new technology! Cost effective 40+ mpg conventional cars are waiting for you at the dealership today. We need intelligent consumers who understand the great value of energy conservation (or as Ben Franklin called it: FRUGALITY). This is ESPECIALLY TRUE with respect to home energy conservation and modern Zero Energy Home Design. A photovoltaic solar cell roof can even be used to recharge electric automobiles, solving many problems all at once, with ZERO non-renewable energy bills for both home and transportation.
Bad Decisions Often Have Unexpected Serious Consequences
When technology offers significant changes in how we view our world, or how we live our lives, then scientists, engineers, and the society they serve are often faced with divergent paths and mutually exclusive alternatives: left or right, high road or low. Sometimes, society makes serious mistakes and travels for a long-or-short while down paths that ultimately bring us to an impossible dead end. It is like the slow boiling of an insensitive frog. Bad decision examples include: unpopular wars, bad economics, global warming, the first Apollo spacecraft fire, and the loss of the Space Shuttles - due to myopic NASA mismanagers ignoring well documented signals and unmistakable red flag warnings. Even brilliant rocket scientists sometimes make spectacular errors in judgment.
Lack of vision is the plague of humanity. It is typical for great visionaries to be ignored until it is nearly too late to respond. Al Gore and many others (including myself) were right about Global Warming decades ago, but we were all summarily rebuked as fools by idiot politicians and profit-motivated corporate executives.
Petroleum is yet another irrefutable dead end technology path – We have been able to use it for a while (and do great environmental damage to the entire Earth), but ultimately, petroleum (both liquids and natural gas) is a non-renewable resource. Dwindling petroleum supply, plus ever increasing global demand, are now boiling America to death.
We outsourced many American jobs to previously-starving places like the low-quality nations of China and India – Now they can afford millions of cars, and they are competing with us in their growing demand for global petroleum, driving oil prices much higher than ever before. Their success will be our downfall. We taught them how to waste non-renewable highly-polluting energy, and they are following in our foolish footsteps.
How dumb is that! Americans did it to ourselves! Stupid decisions have serious consequences that are often overlooked by myopic mismanagers who cannot see that one decision often impacts many others in the long run.
So what kind of cars are the “nuevo riche” Chinese driving these days (now that America has outsourced our manufacturing jobs to them)? The most popular car in China is the 7 passenger, 80+ mph “Sunshine,” which sells for the equivalent of $5,000 USD. It gets 43 mpg – much better than the 1968 VW microbus at 35 mpg. Would you like to own a happy Sunshine, to help raise the U.S. average mpg above our miserable 17, and eliminate the need for imported oil from the nations that harbor suicidal terrorists who hate us? And “Who makes the innovative, efficient, and popular Chinese Sunshine?” you might ask... None other than lovable General Motors – The once-great-now-declining, Largest Corporation in the World (who literally crushed their own all-electric California EV1 car, to the great dismay of all environmentalists.
GM has now laid off over 200,000 workers since year 2000, reneged on its contractual legal union commitment to provide healthcare insurance for its retirees, and the low evaluations of GM “junk bonds” suggest that the bond market thinks that GM is about to go bankrupt in the U.S. - partially because GM executives refuse to sell the kind of high-quality electric and high-gas-mileage cars that we know for sure they know how to make inexpensively, and many Americans would LOVE to buy. Shame on the stupid, contract-breaking, unpatriotic, dishonest and greedy GM executives. May you all be found guilty of high crimes against humanity.
We can NOT trust capitalistic corporate executives to voluntarily do the right thing for our nation. They will not offer products that resolve the many problems that THEY brought down upon us. “The thinking that created today’s problems is insufficient to solve them.” – Albert Einstein.
We MUST mentally go back in time to the point that got America started down the current low-gas-mileage fossil-fuel dead end path. And, proactively reconsider the possible future alternatives in light of modern scientific, environmental, and socioeconomic knowledge, and proceed down a superior evolutionary path of ZED sustainable societal growth and enlightenment (of the elected-and-corporate leaders of our future).
Our goal MUST be to live in harmony with nature – not destroy it. No previous-or-current administration has been able to do that so far. We MUST change the leadership decision-making processes that produced today’s serious energy problems. We can no longer tolerate “business as usual.” The motives and methods that produced myopic bad decisions must be replaced with Far Sighted Visionary ZED Holistic Systems Engineering. The selfish shortsighted behaviors of our largest corporate giants are actually destroying both our nation, AND the corporations themselves. GM executives claim to be trying to maximize shareholder profits, but the value of GM stock is falling and the company is headed toward total collapse. How totally dumb and shameful is that?
Petroleum was a one-hundred-year failed dead end experiment. We must now reinvent our energy future WITHOUT relying on non-renewable, unhealthy, environment-destroying, terrorist-supporting energy sources. Massive ZED rethinking about how society uses energy will be absolutely essential. Government and corporate leaders have refused to confront the truth for far too long.
The implications and consequences of more bad decisions are almost impossible for most mediocre-minded Americans to even imagine. Many old energy-wasting jobs will soon disappear, but many new ZED jobs are on the near horizon, for those who recognize that big changes are big opportunities for prosperity.
Ben Franklin invented the popular, efficient New England radiant energy stove. He wrote “The Way To Wealth” (which is arguably the best money making book ever written). His face is on the United States 100-dollar bill – the largest one in circulation. Too many Americans have forgotten Franklin’s impressive contributions to our young nation. Ben made it clear that the accumulation of wealth begins with a solid understanding of FRUGALITY. Nowhere is this truer than with the energy policy of individuals, corporations, and of the entire nation.
Without ENERGY FRUGALITY, the wealth of our nation WILL decline. Zero Energy DesignTM will greatly improve our productivity in a highly competitive global marketplace for innovative goods, services and creative ideas. Comprehensive ZED Holistic Systems Engineering (in housing, transportation, systems integration, etc.) will provide wonderful new business and lifestyle opportunities that have the potential to go far beyond what mediocre American minds can begin to conceive today. The majority of Americans merely need to understand why the past was bad, and our ZED future will be outstanding.
Resistance IS futile. We have no viable choice but to stop wasting petroleum almost immediately. Petroleum will still have a role to play in plastics, etc. for a while, but burning it in cars, homes and electricity production is literally like burning money at a very high rate. Lack of ENERGY FRUGALITY destroys wealth, and is now lowering the standard of living of almost everyone, especially our innocent children.
At $3 or $4 per gallon, gasoline is still way under priced. The pump price only pays for getting it out of the ground and into our tanks. The same is true of our electricity supply – way under priced for the value received.
The low price that Americans pay for automotive gas and electricity does NOT include the true value of this dwindling, high demand non-renewable energy resource. It also does not include the price we pay for domestic healthcare, or internationally (over a TRILLION dollars) to defend our petroleum resources (which we buy from less-than-friendly nations, some of whom use this money to harbor terrorists who attack us). What is wrong with this ridiculous new millennium picture?The much higher price that other countries now pay for gasoline electricity is more realistic, but even $6 a gallon is still under priced, if all related costs are included. If Americans had to pay the true value of gasoline and public utility electricity, we would have all had cost-effective non-petroleum alternative vehicles
Who Killed the GM EV1
After the OPEC oil embargoes, General Motors announced the full production of there all electric car by 1980. The effort was delayed by GM internal politics, but the prototype GM Impact was unveiled in January 1990. The government of California decided that the era of the electric car had arrived. Concerned about air pollution, the state created a law that state demanded 2% of any car manufacturer’s market share must produce zero emissions by 1998, rising to 10% in 2003. GM produced the popular EV1 (Electrical Vehicle 1. Environmentalists and movie stars like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson loved it. Californians snapped up as many as GM would make. Owners just plugged their EV1 into an electric outlet to recharge charge it. They could optionally use lower-cost off-peak electricity to recharge the EV1 overnight.
See the June 2006 popular movie: "Who Killed the Electric Car?" which chronicles the life of the EV1 as a zero pollution vehicle for the state's smog-choked cities. The unlikely producer of “Who Killed the Electric Car?” is Dean Devlin, (who co-wrote and produced Independence Day, Stargate and Godzilla). Devlin was introduced to the EV1 by his father: “I thought at first that it was just him being an old hippie, I didn’t think it was a serious car. But I got in it and he said, ‘Hit the pedal!’ It went off like a rocket. The EV1 is the fastest car I ever drove.” The EV1 has been called by many “The best engineered small car GM ever made.”
Most people think of electric cars as little more than a golf cart, but modern versions like the www.Wrightspeed.com X1 can accelerate faster than a $484,000 V10 605 bhp Porsche Carrera GT. The two-passenger X1 goes like a rocket ship from zero to 60 mph in an unbelievable 3 seconds! The street-legal X1 is 3 times more efficient than today’s best gas / electric hybrid cars. The builder claims that the production car will soon be even better. The world’s fastest electric car (the “Bullet” built by OSU college students) goes over 314 mph.
Driving the popular all-electric EV1 was like buying gasoline for only a few cents a gallon. When GM took the speed governor off of the Impact (EV1 prototype) for an all-out speed test, it went 183 mph! Not bad for an aerodynamic American car, with perfect weight distribution that cornered like a fine-tuned European sports car, and could go 100 miles with a single battery charge.
You could optionally recharge an EV1 with photovoltaic solar cells and essentially drive it for free, with clean renewable energy directly from the sun – conceptually just plug it into the roof of your Zero Energy Home. Environmentally concerned California corporations put free electric outlets in special parking places for electric cars, to show their support for the very desirable zero pollution electric car future. (Does YOUR employer give you free gasoline?)
Notice the high-tech windshield on the EV1. From the driver’s view, the EV1 had excellent visibility day and night. But, from the sun’s perspective, much of the solar radiation is reflected back, which lowers the air conditioning requirement for the all-electric car. This technology would be useful in any car, where the manufacturer cared about comfort and efficiency.
Unlike conventional internal combustion engines, the EV1 motor did not waste energy producing heat. It did not need a water pump or radiator to cool a petroleum-burning hot engine. But, the EV1 did need a heat pump to warm the interior on cold winter nights. When the air conditioner / heat pump, or headlights were on, the EV1 would not go quite as far on a charge as it would if they were not consuming electric power. The maximum 100 mile range might be reduce to more like 80 miles maximum, which is still sufficient for most one day round trip driving, even if you do not get free electricity where you work.
After spending a BILLION dollars developing and promoting the outstanding EV1, GM reversed its electric car position, filed an outrageous lawsuit against the State of California and won (in the same California court system that freed O.J. and M.J.). The EV1 would have displaced hundreds of thousands of American jobs (since most of the junk found in petroleum vehicles is NOT required in an EV – just batteries and an electric motor). In mass production, the EV1 would have been very easy to produce and should have cost a small fraction of the price of a complex conventional Detroit gas hog.
GM created the marketplace interest in the EV1, BEFORE the State of California required them to do so. The EV1’s surprising success threatened GM’s inept inefficient SUV money-making plans. GM bought HUMMER at the same time they terminated the EV1. GM unforgivably planned to push the 11-mpg H2 gigantic gas-guzzler as a large source of future GM profitability!
Macho men like Arnold Schwarzenegger bought Hummers, not electric vehicles, in direct support of companies like mismanaged GM, the large oil companies, and Persian Gulf nations. The insensitive HUMMER attitude seems to be: “Who cares that the escalating price of gas hurts poor people anyway? If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Shameful and uncaring, but true!
GM never sold the EV1 – they only leased it. When GM won the unpopular California lawsuit (which was resisted by many who care about the health and well-being of Californians, rich and poor), GM took back all of the EV1’s and unforgivably crushed almost every one into small pieces – even the brand new ones! The GM electric technology cannot be easily replicated (without GM support, or when the company goes bankrupt, as it deserves to do very soon). Innovators like Wrightspeed are trying develop superior rechargeable production cars in the near future.
As the price of oil predictably rises ever higher, it seems that GM executives may now deeply regret shamefully killing their own popular child, in favor of the double dumb HUMMER. The finger-pointing movie: “Who killed the Electric Car?” is now a great embarrassment to GM. The GM chief executive, Rick Wagoner, was recently asked what his worst decision was. He replied: “Axing the EV1 electric-car program, and not putting the right resources into hybrids.”
GM paid a BILLION dollars to earn the respect of loyal customers who loved the EV1. When the stupid GM executive killed it (in favor of inefficient SUV’s that hurt all of America) the EV1 customers that GM spent so much time and effort to develop quickly went to Asian hybrids. How dumb was that? What a waste of a billion dollars! GM stockholders should have canned their uninsightful executives long ago.
Tom Hanks (a loyal EV1 driver and respected environmentalist) now drives a Toyota Rav4 battery electric vehicle, as he discussed on David Letterman, the Internet and elsewhere. Non-learning American corporate executives are among the most shortsighted, overpaid people in the world. They invited Tom Hanks to drive and support rechargeable, non-polluting, environmentally sound cars, and then took his EV1 away from him, and other EV1 celebrities like Mel Gibson, Ed Begley Jr., etc. What else could GM have expected would happen? Truly this was Rick Wagoner’s dumbest day ever. The ultimate repercussions may last until the predictable death of GM.
Environmentalists (like me and many others) are enraged at Rick Wagoner, and glad to see GM declining as a once-great, unpatriotic American smoke stack corporation. I’m glad I sold my GM stock when GM ended the EV1 program. It was a very sad signal to me, and to many others.
One thing does please me, CEO Rick Wagoner and other GM execs were forced to cut their outrageous salaries in half in February 2006. It was sadly probably a bargaining ploy for tough future union negotiations, as GM downsizes rapidly (into nothing at all?) and bankruptcy.
GM security bonds are now rated “junk bond” status. The market justifiably expects GM to go bankrupt. Oldsmobile died. Other GM dealers cannot sell the dumb cars they have on their lots. Next year’s models look much the same. Silly rebates and the “lie” of “zero percent interest” have become insufficient to force people to buy inefficient Detroit iron. We wonder if GM will be around to honor its warrantees after bankruptcy reorganization?
We hope other corporate executives, politicians, and consumers are learning critical historical lessons about the importance of paying close attention to the energy efficiency needs and desires of our nation. If not, American companies will continue to die. Hungry foreign companies will respond to the call (as Japan did after the 1973 OPEC oil embargoes, and became the world’s largest producer of automobiles by 1980). ). This will make our balance of trade drop even further, much faster. This is a non-sustainable trend for the U.S. The ownership of American businesses and real estate is progressively moving outside our Non-Learning Nation, largely because we have ignored energy efficiency for far too long. The escalating price of energy is at the heart of most of our largest national problems today.
Will the predictable bankruptcy of GM hurt America? Maybe, in the short term, but we HOPE that the more agile, responsive company that replaces GM in the future will care more about what its customers want and need – including rechargeable electric vehicles.
The sad thing is that future American alternative energy car production seems to be headed toward Asia – electric, hybrid AND hydrogen powered vehicles. American automotive innovation has a dismal track record in the last half century. Asians are both hungry and aggressive, and they can use the jobs we sent them to earn money for millions of their own new cars. Maybe we can convince them to sell a few to us (if we have any jobs or money left in energy-wasting inefficient America).
The future of American transportation MUST be non-petroleum based. The owners of future automotive production MUST be much more farsighted than the stupid over-paid executives running GM today. GM STILL advertises V8 power and “The most powerful in its class” and has published formal plans to increase their profitability by selling more large, expensive (low gas mileage) SUV’s. It is just as dumb as buying a HUMMER. This is certainly antiquated, non-learning, myopic, selfish behavior that GM executives are demonstrating to this day. They have fired their loyal workers, refused to pay legally contracted healthcare insurance (adding to the government’s burden), as they drive the former “World’s Largest Corporation” into bankruptcy (where they will probably beg the government for a bailout, like Chrysler Corporation did before being sold to Germans).
From the ZED Systems Engineering perspective, a Zero Energy Home should be integrated with the owner’s future TRANSPORTATION needs, including production of the electric energy required to power family commuter cars (all electric or rechargeable hybrids – maybe even home-produced hydrogen, 15 or more years for now).
Architects already design garages into houses; Why not design in roofing systems that also power the cars kept in the garages? The obvious solution is rechargeable battery electric vehicles (BEV’s) that are even better than the GM EV1, recharged by Zero Energy Home photovoltaic solar cell roofs, or by other home energy generating systems.
For a number of years, there have been 1,000-mile-long solar-powered car races. Clever engineering students have produced interesting vehicles, but one issue has been consistent. No one knows how to put enough photovoltaic cells on top of a car to produce a comfortable family car that runs on sunlight in the day time, much less at night. The energy density of sunlight is just not enough. But, a solar house rooftop CAN collect enough electricity to charge a car like the 183 mph GM EV1. At 15 cents per kWh for today’s photovoltaic electricity, recharging an electric car already costs MUCH less than buying gasoline. As PV costs continue to drop by one half every 5 years, PV-roof-powered American electric cars will
Future of A Hydrogen-Powered Economy
Beyond photovoltaic-powered rechargeable electric cars, there is an even more sophisticated space program technology on the (fifteen-year?) horizon – hydrogen powered vehicles. I worked on the components of the first prototype hydrogen fuel cell cars while I was an engineering student, under the direction of Dr. H. Jack Allison, (my favorite faculty advisor and early university role model). I wrote popular papers on the economics and transition to hydrogen powered vehicles, years BEFORE the 1973 OPEC oil embargoes.
Hydrogen fuel cells have been used since the Apollo “Man On The Moon” project in the 1960’s. They are also essential on all modern Space Shuttle flights, and will accompany future astronauts and colonists to the Moon and Mars.
NASA is funding significant hydrogen economy research nationwide, including $5 million per year to the Florida Solar Energy Center, directed by Dr. David L. Block since 1978 – the longest program of its kind anywhere, with an illustrious track record of many significant successes. Dr. Block now believes that the future of hydrogen production MUST be renewable (not based on fossil fuels like today’s natural gas).
Renewable hydrogen production will most likely be direct solar generation (which may conceivably be economically home based, more than a decade from now, IF challenging technical issues of direct solar generation and hydrogen storage can be cost effectively resolved). At the very least, we should have hydrogen refueling stations that do NOT need tank trucks – the energy they sell to consumers at low cost should come directly from the sun.
In the new millennium, hydrogen fuel cell cars are now very a well known reliable technology. Canada had hydrogen-powered public transportation buses in the 1990’s. Hydrogen passenger vehicles and SUV’s are now being demonstrated in smoggy California. GM even has a few. Soon, hydrogen powered vehicles are likely to appear in the rest of America, and the price should progressively become even more competitive over time (unless GM executives do something spectacularly stupid once again).
Of course, there is much room for significant alternative energy automobile technological improvements. That is always true of almost any rapidly emerging technology. But, the hydrogen power proofs of concept were demonstrated decades ago, and now most of the remaining points of resistance are political, educational, and mass production / marketing. Since the first OPEC oil embargoes, people have been saying that hydrogen cars were 15 years away. We obviously cannot accurately predict something that has yet to be discovered. In contrast, most of everything we need for Zero Energy
Homes was cost-effectively demonstrated 25 years ago.
So, how does a Zero Energy Home relate to hydrogen-powered vehicles? Direct Current (DC) electricity (from a photovoltaic solar cell roof, or other home generation system like wind, etc.) can be used to perform “electrolysis” and turn ordinary H2O tap water into pure hydrogen and oxygen. This is NOT the cheapest way to produce hydrogen. There are many less expensive commercial alternatives, but most of them rely on non-renewable fuels like natural gas. Natural gas prices have quadrupled since the 1990’s, and will continue to rise in the future. There is a significant efficiency loss in converting natural gas into hydrogen, so why not just power our cars on natural gas instead of hydrogen from natural gas? If hydrogen is going to be successful for American transportation, it MUST to be inexpensive to produce, and NOT from a non-renewable source.
Photovoltaics should continue to drop in price by roughly one half every five years or so. In ten to fifteen years, the trend suggests that PV’s will be much less expensive than they are today. If Zero Energy Home electricity becomes abundant and inexpensive in the future, then the hydrogen electrolysis concept is a baseline for comparison of future technologies for home hydrogen production methods. We do know that the electrolysis process is non-polluting and totally environmentally friendly.
ZED likes the potential near future of hydrogen very much, but there are many complex technology issues yet to be resolved. George Bush mentioned hydrogen in his 2003 State of the Union address. Expectations have been high since then.
Dr. David L. Block (Director Emeritus of the Florida Solar Energy Center, Hydrogen Research and Development Program) believes that direct solar generation of hydrogen (without PV’s) is the only viable future alternative, with many issues yet to be resolved, and we have no reason to disagree. He has suggested three possibilities (1) Photo electro chemical water splitting using non-photovoltaic means, (2) Photo biological processes, and (3) High temperature thermo chemical processes. They are all a long way from being available for home hydrogen generation (if ever). There is no clear winner, and there are valid political arguments about where R&D dollars should be invested.
We do not know what the ultimate future of home hydrogen production from renewable sources will be. Electrolysis works today, but it is inefficient. PV output should be used as valuable electricity, not inefficiently converted to hydrogen. It will be interesting to see what happens in a decade or so, and the price of hydrogen-powered vehicles in that time frame, compared to rechargeable electric vehicles.
ZED hopes that the possibility of a renewable hydrogen-based economy comes to pass, and that American corporate greed and politics do not screw up the positive possibilities of locally produced clean abundant energy (from the sun). These are future possibilities with many unanswered question in front of us. Our short-term energy crisis resolution goals cannot rely on a technology that does not yet exist.
Hydrogen / oxygen water electrolysis is a feasible starting point, from which to evaluate and compare future direct solar hydrogen generation technologies. Alternative home hydrogen production systems may evolve over time. One well-known issue that needs optimization is the storage of home-generated hydrogen. Hydrogen has low energy density. It can never be stored with as much energy content per cubic foot as gasoline, which is one reason that petroleum has been such a popular fuel. The necessary home hydrogen production and storage equipment is not yet available at your Home Depot today, but in a decade or so, hydrogen-powered vehicles and some type home hydrogen generation units could conceivably be brought into cost effective production (maybe).
Anything is possible with ZED, IF we are motivated to do it, just like the 1957 fear of Sputnik (dropping nuclear bombs from outer space onto the U.S.) sent men to the moon in the 1960’s, where we now have an electric car parking lot (and no petroleum). (smile)
The future of hydrogen in America is fuzzy at best, with many technical and political unresolved issues and concerns. Hydrogen will continue to be very valuable in our aerospace program, but it lacks a track record of cost-effective consumer product success.
We sincerely wish all of our readers an Abundant New Life In Harmony With Nature
Lifelong Learning In An Ever-Expanding Universe Of Endless Possibilities TM
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E-Mail To: ZEDmaster@ZeroEnergyDesign.com