Nuclear Power's Role in Tomorrow's Clean, Green Transportation Future
There are technological approaches to move personal transportation to clean and green--that is NO carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbon or carbon dioxide emissions. Wind and solar are intermittent, and only work in daylight hours, needing storage or backup power also. Water power is maxed out. Electricity mostly comes from dirty coal plants in the USA and in most of the world but 80% is clean and green nuclear power in France. Cellulosic biofuels are on the way as is hydrogen fuel.
France reprocesses and recycles spent uranium fuel. So why not install 100% nuclear electricity in all nations with reprocessing and recycling of the nuclear fuel? That will make the electricity for Light EVs (LEV) and Four Wheel EVs (FWEV) clean and green. LEVs are two and three wheel electric bikes, scooters and motorcycles. FWEVs include Neighborhood EVs, Tesla and other models now planned by major auto makers. The FWEV may arrive at last. We are gratified this is now happening since we were on the GM EV1 team that appeared 20 years too soon. The LEV has arrived in China big time with over 100 million on the road and over 20 million a year sold (see www.ebwr.com).
Clean and green nuclear electricity will also be used to produce another clean and green fuel, hydrogen, by the electrolysis of water. An efficient low cost electrolyzer will make the generation of hydrogen clean and green. No need for natural gas conversion to hydrogen that is NOT clean and green. Applying the hydrogen fuel cell to the automobile has been demonstrated by General Motors, and other auto makers, in a program that has cost GM over a billion dollars since we initiated the program at GM Research in 1987. Hydrogen generation and distribution infrastructure are the remaining key issues that need solutions soon. A fuel cell/battery hybrid vehicle will be the ultimate hybrid of the future with zero emissions from the vehicle and the power plants producing the fuel.
Thus nuclear electricity, hydrogen and batteries are the key to the future of the automobile and clean and green personal personal transportation vehicles. The lithium ion battery appears to be on the way as the battery of choice to make the FWEV practical and affordable. It is already used in most LEVs outside the China market and starting to be used there also.
So what happens to gasoline/electric hybrids? You won't need them since LEVs will take care of most local transport, less than 20 miles, FWEVs will travel 100-200 miles and fuel cell/battery hybrids will travel 300 miles plus. Gasoline engines and diesels will still be used in commercial and industrial vehicles and those will run on E85 and biodiesel with engines optimized for E85 and biodiesel. Ethanol will come from new cellulosic sources. With E85 engines and plenty of E85 pumps in stations (this has yet to happen!), the need to go gasoline/electric hybrid vanishes since the fuel economy on the gasoline component of an E85 engine will be 100-125 mpg gasoline equivalent.
The mideast, and rogue nations, oil dominance will also vanish as gasoline usage drop possibly as high as 90 percent with worldwide vehicle fleets electrified and hydrogenified. This could happen by 2030 if our national and business leaders unite to make it happen. Transitioning to 100% nuclear electricity will take longer but using nuclear power for hydrogen production could happen sooner.
Lastly, who will buy these vehicles? History is a great teacher. In the carefree days of EV1, the public told GM at the 1990 Los Angeles car show where the Impact EV was shown, that ALL who saw it wanted one. So it was an easy decision by Roger Smith, GM CEO at the time, to put it into production, after all the public demanded it. So why were only 800 or so sold, really leased? One, gasoline was only $1.25 a gallon. Two, the public really did not give a damn. Especially when you had to fill out a long GM form to qualify for lease of an EV1. The broad public is indeed fickle. But those few who had the EV1 loved them.
So who will buy the FWEVs that are ramping up into production now? They will be pricey, example the $100,000 plus Tesla. The public will need to change their behavior and the only thing that affects that is the price of gasoline. The public switched to small, fuel efficient, car purchases when gasoline was at $4 a gallon in 2008. To sell these new FWEVs, gasoline will have to be taxed to a price level of $5 to $10 a gallon so that FWEVs will be much cheaper than gasoline to run. This would stimulate the use of E85 that would be much cheaper also. The public and auto makers need to have certainty on the price of fuel to maintain a stable market for clean and green products. By incorporating a variable tax on gasoline to maintain a constant price to the user, the $5 to $10 a gallon figure, success of the FWEV will be assured. And ultimately the hydrogen fuel cell/battery hybrid vehicle will also be operating cost effective compared to pricey gasoline.
Will this happen? Who knows--but it should--if mankind really wants to take the personal transportation and electricity generation sectors out of the gaseous emissions threat to the health of mankind and the planet earth.
Dr. Jamerson is also the author of the Electric Bikes Worldwide Report, an authoritative report on light electric vehicle technology and business activity globally.
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