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The future of "mobile" energy... Answered

Right now our current standard is still to use LI-Ion batteries when it comes to rechargable and power demanding devices.
We all want more power for our phones, laptops or battery powered tools on the job.
And we also want to be able to charge our batteries faster and faster.

Back in the old days a D-Cell like lead acid battery in a flashlight was good for about 3 hours until it started to dim a bit.
With up to 4 batteries inside they were not just heavy but also quite hazardous.
Chargin was usually done over night and you just hoped they were not blowing up while charging.
I spare you the other types that came after and that we still use as they all have their good and their bad sides.

If we trust our marketing experts than quite soon we will only have electric cars on our roads and battery the size of a suitcase shall be able to run your car for hundreds of miles.
The ideas of graphite based batteries or those using crystals and their forming reactions are all great and promising.
Some will certainly make it to the consumer in a few years.
The one thing that we are never told though is where all the energy to charge those batteries is supposed to come from.

Replacing the combustion engine with electric motors is one thing but if no fossil fuel is used....
Energy does not come out of thin air!
Right now a lot of countries already struggle to provide a reliable power supply grid and distribution network.
If you ever enjoyed a scorching hot day during a blackout caused by everyone using too much electricity you know what I mean...
The population is growing as fast as the energy demand for our industries.
Solar and wind are well and good but without proper storage solutions of not real use because no one can really predict how much they can produce.
You know, weather and such things...
If we trust our so called experts than all will come together really nice.
By the time we have really powerful batteries we will have enough alternative energy supply chains up and running to keep them charged.

I have a few issues with this entire concept, so let's see what other people have to about this:
Imagine you have a nice and big cabin somewhere really remote and beautiful - but with no electricity for miles.
Obvious solution for the modern hunter or nature lover is to invest into free energy.
Free because that is how your solar, battery and inverter system would be advertised.
You buy the stuff and after that all the electricity comes for free - the things pays for itself!
Reality is a bit off though as you need to maintain and replace the costly batteries over time and such things.
All this however totally changes for a residential home.
Getting a huge solar system on your roof is no problem.
Getting off the grid next to impossible.
You see, once (or even before) you sign up for an electricity contract it is defined that your home is in a residential area.
This brings certain limitations like the requirement to connect ot gas (if available), water, sewage and electricity.
Only way to enjoy your "free" energy is by getting a good deal with your supplier.
Some countries do it differently but around here it goes like this:
Whatever you use still comes right off the grid.
That is because your solar system really struggles to cope with load changes and providing surplus back to the grid.
And since your meter is not capable ofworking properly with it either...
To make it "fair" it is metered how much you use and how much you supply.
Most companies here even do this on at least an hourly base - just to fair...
For your bill the amounts are then adjusted.
What you supplied is taken off.
Sadly in most cases going negativ is not an option - if you provide more than what you use only your supplier is laughing.
To make things worse what you supply is valued far lower than what you get from the grid.
Often the difference is above 20%.
Control....

Around here quite a few people basically covered house, shed, carport and all with solar panels.
This was while we had a great subsidy from the government to go solar...
After now over three years most of these people still struggle to get anywhere near even for their investment.
Without the grants the timeframe to break even was estimated to be around 12 years - which is about the time for when you need to replace the lot anyway and start over.
Some do get nice savings on their bills though but families with kids not so much...
If you have little to no chance to get your investment back before you have to replace it, then it is not really that much of a good deal after all.
Imagine in town with hundreds of small houses everyone would be able to get the same money back for the electricity they provide...
Pay 18 cents per kWh from the grid and get 18 cents perkWh for what you supply and once you provide more than you use you get money back.
The providers won't allow this to happen as it means they not just loose some money but also they would lose control.
How could they justify another price hike?
How could they explain the blackouts?
Why should tey pay you at all... ;)

If a city with enough open and unused space would decide to go solar on a huge scale and while add also add a lot wind turbines....
Someone would need the electricity provided and someone need to step in for those times where demand is above supply.
Here the old triangle of power goes into full swing....
You see a city or town would need also need a sub station to handle the electricity and to distribute it to the town houses, shops and so on.
Funny thing is that only a "provider" can do such things.
Doing it privat is usually only possible in really remote areas, like big mining outposts that just have no other option than using generators or solar/wind.
And in most areas a town or city is no longer allowed to be a provider of electricty - at least not in the drirect form.
Buying in bulk is no problem, having your own supply system however is not in the books.
Right now most, if not all the big wind and solar farms are owned and operated by energy providers.
There is billionaires everyhwere who could build a solar and wind farm the size of Texas if they really wanted but they won't do it either...
Starts with the land, goes over the usage rights and won't end with activists claiming how bad it all is.
Means it won't happen and if it does then the energy providers get together and claim they guy might have money but does not have the right to provide energy unless he actuall starts a corresponding company and plays by their unwritten rules.

Can we still dream about it though?
The dream is kept alive like the fire of hope that is only a tiny amber.
If you sign up for electricity you are asked if you would like to pay bit extra so your electricity comes from alternative sources.
Why is that bad, after all it is green?
The initial investment might be huge for a wind farm but after that it is more or less just providing mone out of thin air.
You can look the cost up for the new windfarm build near you.
Same for the electricity prices in that area.
And also the expected output of the entire farm.
Do the math and calculate how quickly they break even....
Once they do it only profit but you still pay the extra to go green.
A bit like the new road that came with a toll....
After 5 years the motorists paid it off but 10 years later they are still being charged while the road is disintegrating...
Now add electric cars and our constantly rising consumption to the mix...
We can't provide the electricity ourselfs as we don't get fully paid for it, we can go off grid either.
The atom as the source of electricity is being phased out slowly as well.
Finally as some might say, considering the thausands of years we have to deal with the produced waste and what aftereffects the storage might bring.
Our providers will keep their grip on us for as long as they can.
No government will stop them as in return they wouldn't have electricity.
A cold war if you like.
We never cared how much fuel our cars use until the OPEC decide to limit supplies and drive the prices up.
And you can see the riches especially in Saudi Arabia.
For most of the big OPEC players it really does not matter anymore whether or not they have oil or not.
They make the same or even more money by other means and more modern means now.
After this initial shellshock we woke up and decided that for the shopping trip of the wife a small car with just 4 cylinders will do.
Overcrowded cities and roads also pushed us more into thinking small.
Again it took force to go further, this time by governments slowy "going green".
Emmissions, greenhouse gasses, polution, particles and corbon monoxide...
Sounded all godd in the ads but it meant we could no longer afford our old car or even got banned from entering the town center with it.
But a lot people still can't afford a modern car that meets the standards.
Once they finally got the money and car the laws change again and they need yet again a newer car.
This created a huge export and recyling market and profits for other people though.
And what differenc did it all make in reality?
While we were forced to improve and lose money countries like the US refused for years to even consider reducing the pollution.
Countries like China and Russia even increased their pollution to impossible levels.
We all remember how Bejing was literally shut down for the Olympics so the athletes have a chance to survive the games...
We know how the pollution or global warming problem is misused to make money.
The governments get huge payouts in the form of taxes from those cars that can't meet the specs.
The dealer smiles with the increased sales of cars.
And again the government smiles too as they get taxes from this as well.

We know it happened before and is still happening with everything realted to fossil fuels, global warming and pollution, so why would electricity be any different?
Reactors and coal fired power plants are phased out with basically nothing to replace them.
Solar and wind will provide and till then we keep what we really need to keep....
There is no plan for what comes after coal and the atom.
There is no alternative.
Batteries need electricity.
And providers will always be the middleman controlling both the price and the availability.
So how does this actually work you might wonder...

No matter who invents or produces a new device to provide electricity - there is a very limited market for them.
A farmer can't buy a full size wind generator and place it on his land...
But an electricity provider can buy thausands of them....
And if you go bigger than ask yourself who would need a 10 or 100MW fusion generator?
Providing electricity is only a viable option if you go big and if you can sell the excess with a profit margin.
Leaves only our electricity providers as customers.
If you don't have to care about the buying price because it will be put down one way or the other onto your customers than it is like a credit.
Only difference is that once it is paid off you start to get money back!
Imagine that for your bank account ;)
And if you know what you sell can have a very generous profit margin because your buyer does not care then the solar or wind farm will be quite costly to build...
"We know we are not cheap, but who else can deliver you what you need?"
And like our big supermarkets there will be an agreement on what the wind generator can cost.

Ressources....
Be it wind, be it solar or just the modern electric motor in your car - they all require stuff that is very limited on our planet.
Take Neodyminum.
Without it we have no wind generator or fancy motors as we wouldn't have powerful enough magnets.
Vital elements and mineral required are only available in a few spots on our erth in quantities justifying mining them.
I won't make this much longer than it already is, so please look up what is really needed to keep our future solow and wind projects alive.
Then go and check where we can find thes things in good quantities.
Once you did you might realise why the world tolerates the abuse of human rights, freedom or just self expression in other countries ;)
If only China would stop today to export and sell their rare earths and prcious minerals basically our entire production worldwide would suffer quickly.
Entire industries break down quickly and prices for certain things would literally explode.
The US already started to re-open long abandoned mining projects as suddenly even the most costly operations become viable again.
Think about this next time you fancy a world free of cars and truck using combustion engines ;)

Discussions

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Downunder35mescobarrr

Reply 23 days ago

If you look back a few years then you will realise it might be a dream only ;)
Since the first mobile phones, or cel phones for the US users, came along we struggle with the power.
Every generation claims new features, better displays and so on.
The user also wants or needs more and more apps and services to work all times, like BT, wireless payment options, mobile data...
Only once we find a way to produce CPU's that have much more computing strenght while using far less power we will get somewhere.
Similar story for the batteries itself.
No matter how good they are, they always need to be smaller to cater for the needs of manufacturers.

Looking back to the times when E-Ink was still a theory the claims were that in 5 years time everyone would use E-Ink displays.
Not just for some Ebook reader but in full color for phones, tablets and TV's alike.
I had a reader of, I think the 2nd generation for some time.
Had just a 380mAh battery but even when mostly used at night it lasted for almost two full weks on a charge.
Yes, it had a crappy and low energy backlight option :)
And I used for about 1.5 to 2 hours every night.
Like in the old song 'Video killed the radio star' we could say video killed the low energy displays.
E-Ink stopped in the development once it was clear the demand for colored ones does not matter if the refresh rates won't match up with other technologies.

Sadly the same is true for basically everything we use on battery power.
With every gain in battery capacity or performance we get more powerful things to utilise it.
It is almost like the demand for energy will go up the same way as our demand for new battery technologies grows.
Recycling is the other downside of all this.
We do claim to recycle over 90% of our electronic waste because we care for our enviroment and our precious ressources.
In reality we only recycle about 10% while the rest is exported to what we still consider to be 3rd world nations.
Just check the documentaries or online videos showing how kids seperate our leftovers in conditions we wouldn't even leave our car parked.
In most modern countries the recycling of electronics ends with the parts and materials that are easy to extract and of enough value at the same time.
All the rest goes still to landfill or into export containers because the little money we get from exporting is still more than what we would have to invest to do it in our own country ;)

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rickharris

25 days ago

Battery or more correctly power sources have a LONG way to go to make the electric car viable (despite what the UK government thinks).

It's really hard to beat the energy density of petroleum. A lot of available power in a very small space, easily reloaded in a few moments and pretty commonplace. ie. what you can't get from underground you can make in the lab from plant based raw materials.

I think the future may be the hybrid, a small efficient engine - perhaps a stirling type, running on biofuel with efficient capture of the emissions, this drives a generator to charge onboard batteries.

Around the city you are almost stationary as much as you are moving so the amount of power used is low ad easily topped up. In the countryside, you get used to driving to suite your energy source ie. you don't use power unnecessary just to go faster. Some kind of automatic control is probably required to combat the "heavy foot" syndrome.

Many years ago (late 1960's) I proposed a town system where driverless cars followed a wire buried in the road surface, they picked up power from a slot in the road surface, i guess a contactless system could be devised these days. The guided nature and a central control system overviewing the onboard intelligence seems to me to be the way to go in town or city.

The guidance wire would be easy to lay just a cut in the road surface, the rest is well understood robotic technology.

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Downunder35mrickharris

Reply 25 days ago

I see you are one of the few who already saw the potential during times when no one cared about it.
Like so many good ideas from back then :(

I think the main problem in terms of vehicles is not so much the battery/fossil fuel problem.
A car is seen as a piece of independence.
Be it guided or in the modern driverless fashion it will take a long time to find enough acceptance.
Just check trains.
They would be far better off without the no longer required "driver".
But surveys showed that commuter trust only happen if a human is "control".
So we still use mainly trains that still someone operating the dead man switch.
Trusting a car would be even worse for anyone who is already an adult today.
Sure it is fun to sit back, have a drink and know you still get home safe but doing the same while sober...
You watch the news while your car gets you home from work and suddenly it goes nuts and your life is at risk without you being able to do anything about it.
Of course it will never happen but that does not mean this feeling is not haunting...

Keep in mind we still have overpopulated town that use trams and similar to cause additional road hazards and traffic problems.
That alone tells me that nostalgica won't be the fight we need to win before our streets are filled with automated cars of some sort.

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rickharrisDownunder35m

Reply 25 days ago

I used to have a job where we were standing around for long periods waiting for aircraft to arrive.
We started discussing the future - I was around 20/21 at the time so about 1969/1970.
We agreed that more or less everyone would be retiring at 50 because so many jobs would be done by Robots and the work field would need to be cleared so younger people had jobs of some kind.
Leisure would be a BIG industry so people would be occupied.
Plastic cards would be used to pay for transport and food. Most food would be produced underground with artificial lights in automated systems, seeds in one end and plants out of the other, Animals also would be kept indoors most of their lives.
Homes would be connected by an underground conveyor system to the shops you would dial up your shopping list and it would appear in your home automatically.
Transport would be totally automated with dedicated roads for trucks and cars.

Education would be mainly at home via a (TV I thought then as computers didn't exist as we know them today)

The parents would be held responsible for their child's learning, with severe punishments for letting their attendance fall off. Most punishment could be by limiting access to entertainment systems - easy if the government controls your access card.
The education system will monitor progress, if you fail a progress test your automatically directed back to the relevant section for review. if you continue to fail then a human tutor will be notified and step in to help you over the problem. No progress unless you can demonstrate you understand and can apply the knowledge you have learned.

Socialisation is taken care of by compulsory attendance at various activities not part of the learned curriculum. ie. clubs these are monitored by humans of course but periodically you undertake psychometric tests to make sure your adjusted. Maladjusted people, when identified, are given appropriate psychological support. The idea is to avoid criminals and malcontents by education early in their development.

Lots of other things, some of which are now true such as CAD CAM and 3D printers.