Tuesday, 25 May 2010

More thinking re Electric Cars

An interesting article has come out referring to comments by Professor Roger Kemp of the Electric Vehicles Working Group of the Royal Academy of Engineering.

In summary, he says that there is little to be gained by the adoption of electric vehicles over those powered by the latest efficient internal combustion engines. I suspect this is down to mainly transmission losses and maybe some generation losses.

Yet again we see comments such as the need for vast improvements in battery technology (in terms of cost, weight and bulk), a distribution network to charge them.

What is being missed here yet again is the very commonsensical "next step" to series hybrid. Series hybrids are different to vehicles like the Toyota Prius.

A Prius is a parallel hybrid. It has a traditional engine connected to a sophisticated transmission that can juggle this and an electric motor/generator, so that the engine can power the car, the engine can power and charge (the electric motor operating as a generator), have the electric motor operating on its own in all electric mode, have the electric motor assist the engine and have the electric motor in regeneration mode during braking. And for what? The Prius has lousy efficiency, is very complex, not very fast and has a derisory all-electric performance and range. Lets face it, the Prius is a vanity purchase.

So what with the Series Hybrid?

The Series hybrid uses purely electric traction, has batteries and capacitors for storing electrical energy and a generator, typically a small petrol or diesel engine of around 40hp/kWh, so around 1litre in capacity. Due to the steady speeds ideal for a generator, two stroke designs might even make an appearance, being smaller and more mechanically simple. A sensible series hybrid will have a very powerful electric drive or even one motor on each wheel, enabling significant amounts of regeneration to occur in braking. A Prius cannot regenerate much because the motor is not that powerful. A Series hybrid with 600hp of in-wheel traction can also absorb that amount, potentially doing away with friction brakes altogether.

In contrast to the parallel hybrid efforts, a series hybrid can be very fast indeed, very efficient at around 100mpg equivalent when relying on the generator, operate without recharging for 500, 800 or even 1000 miles if need be. All that last number would need is a 10 gallon tank. It can also operate in all electric mode using batteries. As it regenerates so well, the penalty for heavy batteries is significantly minimised as the inertia is re-converted to electricity during braking. This means it is not so tempting to skimp the battery packs, so facilitating electric only range to grow. With a very powerful electric motor set-up, performance will not be too adversely affected by this.

Series hybrids are more efficient, faster, have a longer range and a far simpler than Parallel hybrids.

Series hybrids are more efficient, faster, have a longer range than electric only cars and do not rely on a charging network and can be refuelled for instant use just like a normal vehicle.

The beauty of Series hybrids is as the electric charging stations grow, one can use electricity more and more, relying on petroleum less and less and eventually only for long trips.

If the good professor is right, that electric cars are little better than the current efficient internal combustion engined vehicles, then, by that measure, series hybrids are more efficient still.

I suppose, though, series hybrids are pesky things to vested interests. They do not need complex and finely balanced engines, exhausts and carburation able to deliver smooth power over wide speed ranges. They do not require cleverly chosen gear ratios or forgiving clutches. Most of all, from a political perspective, they do not require vast infrastructure changes that only a State deems itself capable of doing. Therefore politicians might not be bothered with series hybrids, preferring to focus on electric vehicles, where their decision has more, how can I say it, value.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Labour and "me me me"

Various people "of the left" routinely criticise Libertarians as being selfish and "me me me", yet I have again heard a Labour MP on Radio 4 today talk about their future and the impact of the coalition in terms of frightening people about what would happen to "their" job - in one example being perplexed why Policemen and women were not voting Labour - and in terms of welfare/pension/services and such. It is all about direct benefits to that person, making that person think in terms of "me me me".

Libertarians are concerned about what property the State might TAKE from individuals, whereas we can see that Labour are preoccupied with scaring people or tempting them with what might no longer be handed over.

"those of the left" again engaging in psychological projection and logical inversion.

They relate to the electorate in terms of "me me me", corrupting them, encouraging dependence and a sense of entitlement that only a Welfarist setup would dare promise, knowing or not knowing the bankruptcy that is almost certain to follow.

They are still thinking in this way, even as defeat is handed to them.

Still, in pure tactical terms it is not a crazy approach, just outrageously cynical and manipulative. Many people will find the consequences of the last 60 years of Welfarism, and the last 13 in particular, come crashing into them like an Atlantic storm. Labour will be there, mark my words, whispering lies into their ears, blaming others, offering false hope, fake rewards and other mischiefs. It will be a second bite at the "Thatcher's fault" nonsense that had supposedly had Mrs T personally responsible for shutting down factories incapable of making things people wanted or were prepared to pay the price for, which, had it not been for Her, would have continued to perform their SOLE function, naturally, of providing employment for the Union masses.

If Labour is concerned about certain provisions and believes "everyone" wants to see it provided, what is stopping them organising it? I would welcome this, for Labour in opposition must operate by consent, not coercion. People will soon let Labour know what they feel is important enough to deserve funding it via the Labour Party or other organisations.

This is precisely what could happen under a Libertarian administration - if people feel something needs to be provided, then go out and organise it. Collect voluntary contributions. I see no reason why Labour could not create an umbrella charity to be a point for people to donate to and Labour in their wisdom then decides where the money goes. This means putting down the "gun" of State compulsion, of the threat of imprisonment that comes with funding via taxation. It could mean setting up Friendly Societies and other mutual organisations.

Anyone with sincere intent, anyone who truly believes that their stance and causes are just and proper should not be afraid of this arrangement. If you think people do not know or understand, TALK TO THEM. Are you so lazy as to rather take by force instead of having the common courtesy to explain yourself and ask, understanding and accepting the fact you may be refused? Or is it you think people so dumb, stupid or selfish that they will never agree with your "higher moral stance" and so should not be given a choice?

I am unsure if those in Labour are ready or able for such introspection, truth and accountability.

Huhne, Energy and daft electric vehicles

I read (also via Tim Worstall) that Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and "Climate Change"* wants to ensure there are no subsidies for Nuclear Power.

One could say this was noble, but considering we have not heard anything on ending the subsidies for wind, solar and water, that is worrying. Subsidy for one can mean a disincentive for another. For Huhne to say this is "not ideological" is being, I believe, a little disingenuous, as subsidies for other forms ARE.

Unless you end subsidies for all, you distort the decision-making process. What will a power generator build? Nuclear Power with no subsidies or wind with a subsidy? Of course, it depends on the levels of such subsidies. However, to have wind one needs a baseline capacity to support it when it does not produce enough power, which, even supporters now admit, is most of the time.

So if you to all intents and purposes demand wind and then subsidise it, it could be said you are indirectly subsidising the baseline capacity that is needed to make that wind viable.

Further, to expect Government subsidies to enable the most efficient and responsive allocation of resources is to be naive in the extreme. Subsidising wind has the capacity to divert research and resources away from other forms of generation that might be better or even away from focusing the minds of wind technologists from improving efficiency or embedding incumbents who make technology that is currently "good enough", so making it harder for new entrants to establish. All classic stuff.

So if Huhne is to be honest, he has to say his stance IS ideological and he aims to remove any subsidies for nuclear whist keeping subsidies for wind.

To me wind does have a use - synthesizing hydrocarbons. One can do this by drawing in CO2 from the air, adding water and energy and producing hydrocarbons and oxygen. This is an energy store, not an energy source, as all you are doing is pushing energy into a system (CO2+H2O) and then releasing it later when it reverts back to those constituents. Synthesizing hydrocarbons has advantages. The product is familiar, with a distribution network in place and can be burned in traditional engines with minor adjustments. It has most of the advantages of hydrogen, without the handling and storage downsides. If created using wind power it could be almost carbon neutral, as burning it will absorb the oxygen produced and expel the CO2 consumed in manufacture.

Why is this important? Well, there is still a frustrating need for car makers to either produce parallel hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, or all electric vehicles like the Honda Leaf (seen in various absurd videos that never just let you just hear the vehicle).

The Prius is inefficient. It cannot regenerate all the brake energy, has a complex drivetrain and mediocre performance and fuel efficiency. The Leaf is all electric and has an unusable range of 100 miles and a frustratingly long recharge cycle of 8 hours. Little better than a horse!

Neither of these two producers seem willing to come up with a series hybrid vehicle, which is basically an electric vehicle with a small on-board generator that can produce energy when the batteries are run down. These combine the range and flexibility of traditional vehicles, exceeding their fuel efficiency yet can provide electric only operation for most uses if desired. People generally only drive under 100 miles a day but they want their vehicle on hand in an emergency and capable of long journeys.

A well engineered series hybrid can get 100mpg+, so range is never an issue. Even if you just run it on fuel and cannot charge it on the mains - many live without off-street parking forcing them to park some distance from their home - it will be far more efficient and quiet.

* Is he a god?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Gordon Brown: Always A Marxist to Me

He will chill with a smile
He will wound with his eye
He will ruin your wealth with is casual lies
And he only reveals what he wants you to see
He hides like a child,
So he's always a Marxist to me

He will lead you to hell
He will take you or leave you
He will bug for the truth
But he'll never believe you
And he'll take what he wants, even if it's not free
Yeah, he steals like a thief
So he's always a Marxist to me

Oh--he takes care of himself
He will wait if he wants
He's a throwback in time
Oh--and he never gives out
And he never gives in
He just changes his mind

And he'll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then he'll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you're bleedin'
But he'll sell off our best
And leave the worst for you and me
Blame it all on yourself
Cause he's always a Marxist to me


Oh--he takes care of himself
He will wait if he wants
He's a throwback in time
Oh--and he never gives out
And he never gives in
He just changes his mind

He is almost half blind
And he's constantly cruel
He can do as he pleases
He's bloody great tool
And he can't be convicted
He's earned immunity
And the best he will do
Is throw shadows at you
So he's always a Marxist to me

Monday, 3 May 2010

On the De Facto Monopoly of State education

and the thought by some that the market has no place there because it creates winners and loses.

Markets create winners and losers, for sure, but it is almost always the customer that is the winner and the poorly performing provider that is the loser. If the poor performer learns their lesson, they can become a winner again.

Education is not there to provide employment for teachers.

I will say that again. Education is not there to provide employment for teachers.

If you have just enough places for pupils, you must rely on proactive intervention to fix a bad school and bad teachers. There is no hard, unavoidable incentive otherwise for bad schools to fix themselves, i.e. teachers standing in front of empty classrooms.

Just think of coming into a town where there are just enough restaurant settings for all the people who wish to eat. How good will those restaurants be? What value would you get? What service?

Some will be natural restauranteurs, dedicated and provide a great service. The queue will be round the block.

The others will still have no HARD need to change, for they will get customers through the door. No, not just customers, they will have a full house! Every night! A full house of customers with no choice remaining, no option but have their money taken in return for what? Slops. If a fight kicks off in the restaurant and you struggle to eat, if at all, then hard cheese.

As long as there is one substandard State school in this de facto monopoly, the State is failing children and guilty of all manner of injustices. One could almost include false imprisonment.

Now, back to a proper world:

A surplus of restaurants and tables will still result in the best places having a queue round the block, but the “unlucky” will still be infinitely more lucky in their second, third or even fourth choices than in the previous scenario, for a bad restaurant will be almost always empty and people will not come back the moment they learn of something better.

Anyone who tries to assert that “education is not like a restaurant” is, I am afraid, howling at the moon and trying to maintain their own delusions by trying to convince others of the same folly they believe in.

Education is not there to employ teachers. Bad teachers should be unemployed teachers. With surplus spaces, bad teachers will be confronted with the choice of “improve or die”. I am quite certain the overwhelming number will improve and most will rapidly become good teachers. Those who cannot improve? What are those who object to surplus places now saying? That you WANT to keep those unreformable teachers in front of my kids? To hell with you!

The conceit is of those who think they can reform a monopoly. No they cannot. They think they are or could be so in control, or know of someone else so in control and so talented, more talented than the combined energies of all the minds of all the parents? Show me these √úbermensch! Bring them forth!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Prepare for Fiscalnacht

Over at The Devil's Knife, DK has posted a very good series of posts recently about the scale of the problem, referring to others who are doing the same, and a solution that has long been available to us.

Many of us have been banging on about the need for 20-25% cuts in spending to balance the books, and this is Libertarian Party policy. The recent quibbling about the £6bln NI tax has taken the biscuit. The so-called "leadership debate" just showed me that they are not leaders. If they were true leaders, they would be able to deliver bad news and they failed us and the nation.

The big three have been fiddling while our money burns. And why? Probably because no government does well in an election promising austerity. Ah, yes, getting into power is more important than being straight with the population.

This, however, is not about austerity, it is about SURVIVAL.

To survive we need those 20-25% cuts on average. We need to eliminate £170bln of spending even to have a chance of treading water.

Our debt is reaching £900bln in comparison to £600bln (if we are LUCKY) in revenue and £750bln or so in spending.

Interest on those debts is or will be around 4.5% for sections of that debt.

Growth? 0.2% so far.

Can anyone else see the other problem here?

Our debt interest will be higher than the rate in which revenues will grow. Growth will fail to cover the costs of servicing our debt even if we achieve zero deficit.

So we need to more than balance the budget, we need to shrink the DEBT and to do that we need to cut spending well below revenues to both service the debt and reduce it. After we cut £170bln out of spending to end the deficit we need to cut still further to attack the debt.

It is wishful thinking to presume that growth will grow fast enough to enable even a balanced budget to keep pace with the debt servicing costs on £900bln for some considerable time. To trust to that kind of luck with the Eurozone ills, international situations and the potential for all manner of external factors is a gamble too far, or should I say yet another gamble too far, for Gordon has already gambled too far and lost - where we are now is the result.

Forget "the bankers". We were bust. Period. Regardless of the Banking crisis.

Unless Cameron comes clean before May 6th he cannot say he has the mandate to face down the vast vested interests that will line up to prevent their gilt edged rice bowls being taken away from them. People may say he betrayed them. He needs as many people behind him as possible, or at least not attacking him and siding with those in the public sector who will want to remain in never-never land.

And no, the excuse of "not being able to see the books" does not count. We know this already. he knows this already - or damn well should do. It is no surprise.

I doubt he will.

The Libertarian Party has always been clear about our need for drastic cuts in State spending from both a practical, philosophical and common sense perspective.

Living within our means.

We are about to find out that the Social Democratic, Welfarist, Statist experiment was not, is not, will not, cannot, could not and, dare I say it, should not be afforded.

Prepare for Fiscalnacht.