Archive for the alternative fuel Category

Orion’s Xtracycle and Peapod Commercial

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, sustainability, transportation on February 13, 2010 by theseep

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my Xtracycle over the last 3 years and it was time to figure out a mode of eco-friendly transport for Orion, so we opted to upgrade Laura’s commuter to an Xtracycle Radish model with the Peapod child carrier kit. They had a promotion that required us to make a video, submit a testimonial and some photos for almost $400 off the package!

At 7 months Orion is almost ready to take his first trip to Farmer’s Market on his new bike limousine! Of course, we’re still using biodiesel and vegetable oil for our vehicle transport, but cycling is still preferred when we can (you really pay attention to how much fuel you use when you make it yourself!).

New Renewable Oil Source: Bio-crude Could Be Big

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on February 18, 2008 by theseep

Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), along with Monash University have taken cellulosic ethanol to another level. Using agricultural waste, forest thinnings, waste paper, and anything else with lignocellulose, they are able to make bio-crude, similar to a renewable “light and sweet” crude petroleum which can then be further refined into ethanol, bioplastics, and other uses. They smartly propose local processing plants to use regional waste, thereby closing the loop on a good deal of what would otherwise go to landfill.

OK U.S.A., while we’re still half-ignoring the issue being the ONLY industrialized nation not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (Australia and Iraq recently caved), other nations are using public funds to research and develop innovative, clean technologies to take them into the fossil fuel free, sustainable future. This is what we could be doing with the billions of dollars of subsidies going to the oil companies that are making record profits by exploiting us both as taxpayers and consumers. Write your congresspeople to kill oil subsidies and support renewable energy research!

via Treehugger

Could Perepiteia Perpetual Motion Machine Be The Real Deal?

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, global warming, green energy, sustainability on February 10, 2008 by theseep

The legendary perpetual motion machine. The Holy Grail of energy inventions. It violates the very laws of physics and contradicts the conservation of energy theory of the universe. If it could be made to work and harness that power, the world’s energy crisis would be over within a few decades.
Well, a gentleman by the name of Thane Heins, working with engineers at the University of Ottawa, demonstrated what seems to be one such machine, generating 5 amps or so off of  a small generator setup.  If this actually works as described, Mr. Heins may have revolutionized the production of energy as we know it.

Imagine every home having their own perpetual motion generator, power bills, no CO2 emissions, and clean energy for everyone!  This is where our research dollars should be going, no more multi-billion dollar subsidies to oil companies to continue destroying our environment, lets push our representatives to put money where it will do us all good, not just a few corporations that are already making ridiculous profits.

Major Auto Makers Ignore Automotive X-Prize

Posted in alternative fuel, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, transportation on February 4, 2008 by theseep

The X-Prize foundation, the same folks who organized the competition for consumer spaceflight technology, is ponying up another multi-million dollar prize for the team that can produce the best consumer car that gets more than 100mpg. Although this isn’t new news, it is interesting to see that every single major U.S. automaker, those with the most R & D money, the most to gain, and the most to lose, are conspicuously absent from the competition. Exciting startups like Aptera, with their 300+mpg plug-in hybrid, and both Tesla and Zap! Automotive, with their 250 miles per charge electric cars, have thrown their hats in the ring along with 30 or so other competitors. Not only do consumers want more efficient cars, but with peak oil just around the corner and the current state of climate change, we NEED more efficient modes of transportation that use minimal or no fossil fuels.

The U.S. carmakers have shown their loyalty to the oil companies time and time again by fighting improved efficiency standards and continuing to make cars bigger and less efficient. It is indeed sad that the once great American auto industry has fallen so far, but they have and continue to dig their own graves. We can only hope that our government and our people will have the foresight to support these burgeoning clean energy and clean vehicle industries. We can rebuild some of the lost American manufacturing empire, stimulate the economy, and keep jobs in our country.

via Engadget

Shell Oil CEO Informs Employees That Peak Oil is an Estimated 7 Years Out!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on January 28, 2008 by theseep

In a move that defies the stance of other petrochemical giants, the Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, sent a letter to employees stating in no uncertain terms that peak oil is about 7 years out. (bold type for emphasis by treehugger)”Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

Van der Veer goes on to briefly and reasonably discuss the shortfalls of current public energy policy and renewables. Do you think they meant for this to become general knowledge? It’s time to ramp up our battery/hydrogen/cellulosic ethanol/wind/solar research, according to Shell, we’ll see a sharp increase in oil prices ($500/barrel?) by 2015!

via treehugger

The Ethanol Scam: One of America’s Political Boondoggles, via Rolling Stone

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on January 23, 2008 by theseep
 Although this article came out last June in Rolling Stone magazine, it is an excellent discussion of the scam that is corn ethanol. As you know, I’m all for eco-friendliness, but through political manipulation, lobbying (ie: bribery), and as Rolling Stone puts it, boondoggling, corn ethanol has become the country’s fastest growing biofuel, while at the same time being the least efficient and most fossil-fuel intensive to produce. For every 1 gallon of fossil fuel you put in, you only get 1.3 gallons of ethanol out. Add in the chemical pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, and the fact that ethanol provides up to 20% less energy than petrol, ethanol efficiency drops into negative numbers. (previous seep post)

If the numbers for corn-based ethanol are so bad, why are we subsidizing this horrific waste of food when there are starving people around the world?  It’s an environmental and social catastrophe.  It seems that for many Americans, filling your SUV is more important than feeding a hungry family.  I know that may sound harsh and unreasonable, but when you lay it all out, that is really the choice that we’re making. 
Who has the political guts to stop allowing corporate interests to dictate national energy policy and start making rational, well-thought out decisions that will provide us with energy security into the next century?  Obama?  Hillary?
Nobody yet. 

Chevy’s Greenwashed “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” Marketing Campaign

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on December 9, 2007 by theseep

OK, we all know that all of the U.S. car manufacturers have made decision after decision that is leading to their own demise. First, the engineered obselescence of the 80’s and 90’s – you need to keep buying new cars if the one you bought was designed to fail, right?  Brilliant strategy.  Once they knocked that off and lost the faith of the U.S. consumer, they launched ad campaigns convincing a frightening number of us that big, powerful cars are what you need to be a rugged, manly American.  They even managed to get ridiculously unnecessary tax incentives passed for ginormous SUVs to sucker in more people.  Unfortunately for the American worker, they have continued to lag behind the rest of the world’s auto manufacturers and have yet to give us a reasonably sized hybrid or alternative fuel car with the exception of the Chrysler Sebring and Malibu (I don’t consider the Impala “reasonably sized”) 

Now Chevy has answered all of our environmental prayers by launching their new “Gas Friendly to Gas Free” marketing campaign.  This ridiculous attempt at greenwashing lists the following subjects:  Fuel Efficiency, E85 Ethanol, Hybrid, Electric, and Fuel Cell.  Let’s go through the list:   

#1:  Fuel Efficiency – although some chevy cars get decent gas mileage, they still don’t match up to most foreign offerings, with Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Minis, and VWs taking all of the top MPG spots.  Some improved technology has come out, limiting the use of cylinders when not needed, but this is mostly in huge vehicles.  Thanks for polishing our brass – love, the Titanic’s crew. 

#2:  E85 Ethanol – Once again, almost all of these Flex-fuel vehicles are massive SUVs.  Also, when was the last time you saw E85 at the pump in most of America?  This in addition to the fact that corn ethanol is THE WORST BIOFUEL available!  For every 1 gallon of fuel you put into the process you only get about 1.3 gallons of fuel out.  Corn requires large volumes of irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides.  And don’t forget that you’re taking a needed food source to pour into your SUV – it just doesn’t make any sense at all.  Please feel guilty and picture a starving child while you pour what should be their corn into your fuel tank.    

#3:  Hybrid – What is their first hybrid?  A freakin’ Chevy Tahoe.  You have got to be kidding me.  This wasteful monstrosity gets a whopping 20-22 mpg, and although that’s good for an SUV, it’s downright horrendous for your most eco-friendly offering to date. Why not take your Aveo or Cobalt, which get 24/34 and 24/33 (city/hwy mpg) respectively, and make one of those into a hybrid to compete with the Prius or Civic hybrids? 

#4: Electric – Ahh. . . The much discussed Chevy Volt.  For one thing, didn’t you already make one of these that worked marvelously?  Oh right, the EV1.  They were repossessed and shredded (not even recycled or disassembled!).  Whoops!  The Volt is still vaporware to date (but to be fair, so is the much anticipated Tesla Roadster).  If/when it actually does come out, it might be a pretty sweet ride.    

#5:  Fuel Cell – Yet another concept that will probably never reach any one of us.  Can we please get some people with money and brains (Sir Branson, would you consider this as the next X-prize?) together to design a functional, reliable, long-lasting, non-toxic super battery/fuel cell/whatever?  All we need is a power source people – that’s all the hydrogen and fuel cell concepts are – glorified batteries.  I think that ultracapacitors might do it (still vaporware as well, though) – imagine driving your electric car for 250 miles or more and when you run low, plug in to a power station, swipe your card, and charge up in minutes!  Maybe if the oil companies would release some of those battery patents they’ve gobbled up, there would be one worth developing.   

Basically, I’m asking that nobody fall for this greenwashing campaign of Chevy’s.  Don’t buy an SUV just because it’s a hybrid or it’s Flex-fuel – don’t buy one, period!  If they really cared, they’d stop making Hummers, Tahoes, Escalades, and all of the other gas-guzzling compensation tools and make super-efficient, hybrid, alternative fuel (the forthcoming algae biodiesel or cellulosic ethanol), or electric work vehicles, people-movers, and small personal transportation vehicles.  Admittedly it would take a lot of chutspa for a major auto manufacturer to trim the fat and only concentrate on these types of vehicles.  Toyota is coming close with it’s goal to go all-hybrid, but that’s not enough.  If one of the American companies would step forward to this goal, it could be done, and it could be accomplished with American ingenuity and style and we could lead the world once again in transportation innovation.

Any takers?   

VolksVegan – Another Vegetable Oil Powered Westy!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability, transportation on November 30, 2007 by theseep

Sweet Camping Spot

Originally uploaded by meganpru
In planning our upcoming fossil-fuel-free roadtrip to Ft. Collins, CO and Salt Lake City, I’ve been scouring the web for help with finding vegetable oil while on the road and have come across not only another “Vegfalia” blog at, but their site pointed me to, a growing database of VO coops, restaurants with WVO available, people and businesses with filtered WVO available, and others just using VO in their vehicles. It’s a fantastic resources for people trying to travel on vegetable oil.
Megan and Seneca, the VolksVegan folks have some incredible photos and some fantastic posts about their travels on vegetable oil. It’s great to see others dedicating themselves towards sustainability.
Nice work guys!

Vegfalia Hits 300,000 Miles, Last 4,000 Without Petrol

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, recycling, sustainability, transportation on November 12, 2007 by theseep

We’ve just passed a fantastic milestone in any vehicle – the 300,000 mile mark.  Although the Vegfalia has only run 1% of these miles on biodiesel and veggie oil thus far, we’re hoping for many more miles out of her. In today’s disposable society, conservation is still the easiest and best way to protect our resources, and taking care of and preserving an older vehicle can still be more eco-friendly than getting a new one when you factor in the energy and materials required to build it. Granted, driving around a poorly-tuned 1975 smoke belcher isn’t what we’re talking about and at that point you could probably upgrade to something more efficient. Don’t forget, if you have a favorite vintage frame that you’re still in love with keeping alive, you can always consider converting it to electric.

Inventor makes “Wind Belt” Generator, 10-30X More Efficient Than Microturbines

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, global warming, green energy, sustainability on October 15, 2007 by theseep

Shawn Frayne, a 28 year old Californian inventor, has discovered a way to generate efficient power from the wind-generated vibrations. It seems that he was inspired by the collapse of the famous Tacoma Narrows bridge, or “galloping Gertie”, in 1940. Wind flowing over a stretched mylar band produces similar vibrations, and by attaching a small magnet on either end that interact with copper coils, power is generated that is supposedly 10-30 times more efficient than the best microturbines! Here is the Popular Mechanics page with a video.

This represents a truly innovative solution to sustainable power generation. If we can encourage research and development and then encourage adoption and use of these types of efficient, small-scale power sources, our coal-fired and nuclear power plants will be things of the past.

How about a clean energy X-Prize? Any uber-rich supporter? Sir Branson?

via Gizmodo via Gadget Lab via Make via Popular Mechanics

Electroauto Electric Car Seminar in San Luis Obispo Review

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, solar, sustainability, transportation with tags , , on October 7, 2007 by theseep

I was able to attend most of an electric vehicle seminar at Cal Poly today sponsored by the Central Coast Clean Cities Coalition and presented by Bob of Electroauto. Now I’ve lusted after the electric car conversion kits from Electroauto for years, so it was interesting to see the husband and wife founding team presenting information on electric vehicle practicality and efficiency, cost of conversion and maintenance, conversion techniques, chassis selection, battery issues, and basically answered any question someone would have if you’re considering building an electric car.The electroauto kits range from $6000 for a “universal” DC kit (+ ~$2000 for batteries every 4 years or so) that requires some fabrication and fitting by the installer, to $13,415 (+batteries and shipping) for a custom AC “Voltsporsche” kit that bolts directly into a Porsche 914 chassis. The Voltsporsche kit is the highest performace, with a top speed of 100mph and a range from 100-150 miles although most kits promise highway speeds up to 70mph with a range of 50-100 miles. The speed and range of these kits is multifactorial and depends primarily on the weight and aerodynamics of your chassis, choice of AC or DC kits, and your choice of batteries, but is also affected by driving techniques, and use of accessories like A/C, heat, and other electronics. AC kits, although more expensive, are slightly more efficient and allow regenerative braking (which reclaims up to 1/3 of the energy used to accelerate to that speed) and a broad array of battery choices in comparison to DC kits. These kits can be installed by a technician for around $5000, or a tinkerer with moderate skill can install the kit in a weekend or two, depending on the shape of your chassis and the kit you choose.
Conclusions? If you drive 50 miles or less (85%+ of commuters) and are in the market for a vehicle, one of these are the way to go. For $20-$30k, you can have a fully functional highway-capable electric vehicle with 1/3 of the operating cost of a regular car, and significantly less or even no emissions, depending on your power source. One of the common myths you’ll hear from detractors (like auto manufacturers and naysayers that don’t check their sources) is the argument that you make just as much pollution from the power source from your charging as you do from a combustion engine. The so-called “long tailpipe” phenomenon, is decidedly false – even with power from the dirtiest coal-fired power plant, emissions from charging an electric car are 2/3 less than that of a combustion engine. Calculations demonstrating this are detailed on the Tesla Roadster website (pdf file link).  Although vehicles like the Zap-X and Tesla roadster are slotted to be available over the next few years, they cost $60K and $100K respectively, and are thus far vaporware. We will be waiting a few years before consumer electrics come down to the price of an installed Electroauto kit, and although they will probably have somewhat longer ranges, they will be more complicated, not be user maintainable, and you won’t have the fun and pride of selecting, building and maintaining your own custom vehicle! With battery technology improving rapidly, you can start with cheap and reliable flooded lead batteries, and as you recycle and replace your batteries every 3-5 years, more efficient and lighter options will become more and more reasonably priced.
Essentially, if you are prepared to spend the money on a new or newer used car and you are prepared for a little legwork or some tinkering, this is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to have a mid-range commuter car.  If you slap some solar panels on your home as well, you’ll be the envy of every treehugger on the block!

Fossil Fuel Free Roadtrip #’s 2 and 3

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on September 28, 2007 by theseep

Originally uploaded by neuphoto57

Over 8 days we managed to take 2 separate veggie oil trips to the southern part of Big Sur, California. Since we live in San Luis Obispo, we can make it to Kirk Creek, Limekiln, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns campgrounds within 2 hours straight up the incredibly scenic and legendary Route 1. It’s approximately a 190 mile round trip, and as we drive through Cayucos where we got married, the minimally existent Harmony, quaint Cambria, and up along the cliffs and hills overlooking the edge of the Pacific. The first overnighter was just Laura and myself, reminiscing on the early days of our relationship. We watched the sunset, played guitar, and talked until we drifted off to sleep on the relatively comfortable upper bunk. The next day we hiked a bit and headed home.
This past weekend, we headed back up Rt 1 with our cousins Cindy and Thomas. We decided to go “Westy only” for camping, with Laura and I in the top bunk and Cindy and Thomas in the lower. We brought sandwiches from Gus’s and shared a local bottle of wine to a nearly full moon and topiaries. The front seats held the laptop for an evening showing of Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny to top it off (luckily the viewing angle was decent from both bunks). In the morning, we hiked part of the trail to Vincente flats across from our campground, used the shower I installed in the back of the Vegfalia to wash the poison oak and dirt off from the knees down, made a quick stop for a few photos of Elephant seals and made it to a few wineries in Paso Robles before heading home. This may sound a little strange, but it was fantastic to spend good time with family and not feel guilty about using fossil fuels – Thomas even refilled the same water bottle the entire trip! We’re still working out the bugs in the Vegfalia. I had to take out the heat exchanger water heater because the coolant hose blew again that is teed off to the Greasecar kit. Hopefully that issue is settle for now. This week I’m trying to tackle fixing some of the electrical issues with the power locks and repair the broken heater flap cables under the dash.

First Fossil Fuel Free Roadtrip a Success! The Vegfalia Makes its Debut.

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, green energy, sustainability, transportation on August 31, 2007 by theseep

Vegfalia and Mount Hood

After 6 months in the Autostadt West shop rebuilding the transmission and installing a 1.9L Turbo Diesel engine, our 1987 Vanagon Syncro Westfalia has finally returned to the S.E.E.P. It had biodiesel running through it’s veins within hours, and the next day I started installing the Greasecar SVO conversion kit. Because of our limited time off work, I only had one day to complete the conversion and test it before we took off for our first experimental road trip. Aside from a few minor glitches, we traveled almost 2000 miles on only biodiesel and vegetable oil from San Luis Obispo, CA to Hood River, OR via Bend and then returning through Portland and Santa Cruz. Since there was a paucity of biodiesel and/or filtered waste veggie oil, we had to carry fuel with us and fill up when we could, including a Costco in Sacramento for around 19 gallons of bulk vegetable oil and a big fill-up of biodiesel in Portland including both of our tanks and 4 plastic cubes that got us home. Overall, the trip was fantastic, Laura and I enjoyed the much-needed disconnect from work and home projects, and although our dog Marley was a “nervous nellie” while driving in the Vegfalia, she definitely enjoyed the hikes. The official Vegfalia page has been started and will be regularly updated with our experiences and modifications – fossil fuel independence is not difficult and is doable for anyone who wants to put forth the effort!

Letter to The Secretary of Transportation – She thinks that bikes are not transportation!

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, solar, sustainability, transportation on August 21, 2007 by theseep

This letter is in response to Mary Peters’s, the Secretary of Transportation who described in her interview how DOT funds go to earmarked projects that aren’t actually transportation like bike paths! These are the kinds of comments that show how short-sighted our administration and how much more work we all have to do.

I would like this forwarded to Mary Peters. I am writing regarding Ms. Peters comments during her public television interview aired on August 15th. In this interview, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation stated that she does not actually consider the most fuel efficient mode of transportation currently available to not fit under the realm of the DOT and should not be funded. To quote, “Well, there’s about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails.” Although bicycling for some is sport, exercise, and recreation, for many others, it is a major method of commuting and an important part of our transportation infrastructure now and moreso in the future. My wife and I both ride 3/4 mile to work and we frequently ride 3-5 miles on errands and around town and it is an important part of how we travel locally.
Fuel prices are rising and will continue to rise. Many experts admit that “Peak Oil”, that is, the point where oil production can no longer be increased and will soon begin to fall, will happen within the next 10 years. With the enormous increase in demand for fossil fuels from developing countries like India and China and continuing increasing demand in other countries, including our own, we need to expect a collapse of the oil economy within the next 20-30 years, easily within our lifetimes. Spending billions of dollars supporting this corroded and corrupt infrastructure does nothing to prepare us for the crisis that we will face. Roads and bridges need to be repaired, it is true. However, we must also have a vision of how transportation will happen in 20 years. Will electric or hydrogen cars fill the streets? Will public transportation be the norm as people are forced to move from the suburbs back into cities because travel and commuting becomes so expensive? Will human-powered vehicles be the standard for short-distance commuting?
Of all these possibilites and more, biking is the only mode of transportation that requires nothing but the calories of the user, uses currently available technology, and actually improves the health of the user rather than belching toxic emissions into the air we breathe. Biking should be encouraged by the agency responsible for our Nation’s transportation. It should be made safer and more accessible.
As far as the fuel tax Ms. Peters was discussing, there should be a large fuel tax. Gas should be $6/gallon or more like it is in Europe and we need to start paying for the true cost of our consumption. Some of the 453 billion dollars spent on the Iraq war should come from fuel taxes, as this war has been partially fueled by our obsession with cheap oil. Infrastructure and incentives for alternative fueled vehicles like electrics, biodiesel, cellulosic (not corn) ethanol can come from these taxes along with repealing the billions of dollars in tax breaks for oil companies. And of course, repair and maintenance of our existing infrastructure can come from this money as we slowly phase out the era of the fossil-powered vehicle.
Please realize that bicycles are an extraordinarily important part of a CO2 neutral world, they allow us exercise and reasonably rapid transport for short and medium distances with no emissions and no fuel consumption (aside from dinner). Bicycles need to be included in a responsible, forward-thinking plan for our nation’s Department of Transportation.
Thank You,

Clint Slaughter, M.D.Emergency Medicine
San Luis Obispo, CA


Personal Micro-Generator Feeds on Your Body Vibrations

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, green energy, sustainability on July 15, 2007 by theseep

Steve Beeby, an engineer at the University of Southampton in the UK led a team that has developed a micro generator that converts 30% of environmental kinetic energy into power. The design is based on accelerometers and uses a few magnets that wobble against each other with vibration and motion that generates electricity. The prototype design is a mere 7mm x 7mm x 8.5mm and could be strategically placed in clothing or even implanted to generate power for a variety of low power devices including LED lighting, pacemakers, and eventually phones, music players, and pdas. The potential of this is fantastic – have a few micro-generators, a few batteries, and a few solar cells embedded in your favorite jacket or shirt, and you’ll have power for your personal electronics and lighting systems, plus keep your ticker going if you need it!

via engadget, new scientist tech