Tom and Ray on PBS' NOVA

I read an article about this technology in Scientific America a few years back. The problem they were having is making it safe AND spinning it fast enough to store enough energy. They were able to use materials to make it safe…but they couldn’t get the speeds up to the necessary speeds without it falling apart. The material they used that could reach these high speeds was NOT safe…In a accident and the case holding the flywheel broke it would send shrapnel in all directions. You wouldn’t have to involved in the accident to get hurt…just CLOSE to the accident. At these very very high speeds even a small .1oz of some material will go through a brick wall.

I enjoyed the programme, it was informational, educational & entertainonal (sic). I was curious & disappointed that major questions about electrics & hybrids weren’t addressed.

1)What is the battery’s life span?
2)How much is replacement? (27th April 08 - I just read an article in the Austin paper written by the owner of a 2003 Toyota Prius. He stated that a replacement battery costs $3,500)
3)What do we do with the dead batteries? What is the likely cost?

As difficult as it is to comprehend the US public (let alone the global community at large!) being weaned off petroleum, no one has addressed the demands of the military. I strongly believe that the government will refuse to provide resources to the public, hoarding for national defence demands. Only our submarines & carriers will be operable without significant changes; but what use are carriers without JP5? Whatever shortages are looming in our future from resource depletion, the crunch is going to come much sooner than anyone presently seems to anticipate & will be preceded with “The needs of the military require…”

…in YOUR world there won’t be any personal vehicles we all better be living there or we’re NOT going to survive or live our lives in complete isolation.

I never said that there would be no individual cars, did I? I just checked. I didn’t say anything even remotely like that. Take a deep breath and calm the hell down.

Have you ever been to New York City? If you live there, a car is a liability. Some New Yorkers own cars, but in most cases, mass transit is a better way to get around.

Look at history as an example. During the Industrial age, many people moved from farms to cities to find jobs. Do you deny that that ever happened? Now imagine an expansion of mass transit happening at the same time. You do have an imagination, don’t you? It would be kind of like when the automobile industry and fuel infrastructure grew at the same time. Look at the economy in the macroeconomic view. As fuel becomes more expensive, we will have to shorten our commutes or find better ways to commute. Those who now commute long distances, like 40 miles or more each way, will need to find cost effective alternatives. They will need to either move closer to work, use mass transit, or both. There will eventually be a point where gasoline is so expensive that most people will have to change their lifestyles. They might not need to give up their cars, they just won’t be able to afford to drive them as many miles as they do now. That is all I am trying to say. We are all circling around the true answer to the problem. We can’t spend our way out of this problem. We can’t find some magic wand that will cure the energy crisis. We can’t just close our eyes and hope it will get better. Eventually, we will have to make lifestyle changes, and I believe this will involve a realignment of the population from urban and suburban areas to those that are either closer to jobs or those that are serviced by mass transit. Don’t agree, fine. Your opinion doesn’t have to agree with mine. If you claim that a realignment of the population is impossible, I suggest you look at the historical data that confirms that it has happened in the past.

Question: Why did you not show alternative Engines in your Nova presentations?

I know you personally may not have chosen the agenda on the Nova show but I must emphatically tell you that there are better engines or significant modifications to engines than the 100 year old Kettering Design. Language in the show said things like ?100 years old? and so on. This is the Kettering Internal Combustion Engine. We know that adage, ?If it ain?t broke, don?t fix it.? Well this is not so when it comes to innovation, try and buy a brand new Typewriter or mechanical calculator or get on repaired.

My point! In 1990 I worked with Doug Brackett in South Portland, Main and some bright young Combustion Engineers from MIT to refine Doug?s Engine design. He had several patents then and many more since then but his design was truly remarkable. Like the PC is to the Typewriter, the Bracket Engine will be or should be compared to the Kettering Engine. Most of the work if not all the work to improve engine efficiency has been in the Manifold, outside the engine, and to the automobile chassis and frame to make it lighter and stronger. The basic deficiency with the Kettering design is it does not fire at top-dead-center (TDC). It must partially decompress to the firing angle to provide the push down combustion. Doug?s engine allows firing at TDC. This opens the door to using lower Octane fuels like methanol, grain or cellulosic alcohol, vegetable oil, and the often ignored Surfactant-Water-Alcohol-Gasoline mixtures. Firing at TDC allows the fuel to detonate instead of combust. Detonation is far more efficient than Combustion. This is what the Diesel Engine does; Detonate the fuel, but the Diesel also suffers from efficiency problems because the cylinder must be larger, and slower turning, resulting in unneeded mass and slower RPM, and an adverse Power/Torque Curve.

By causing detonation at TDC, the Brackett Engine converts much more of the heat and therefore the fuel to motion, reducing exhaust gas temperature (EGT) and increasing consumption reducing partially consumed hydrocarbon emissions. Lowering the EGT eliminates Nitrogen Dioxide generation, eliminating the need for a catalytic converter.

Another premium of the Bracket design is the lubrication system for the Crank is closed or sealed, no combustion products are introduced to the Lubricants. This significantly increases Engine life and reduces repair and replacement.

Lower EGT allows ceramics to be used for Engine construction because there are no lingering high temperatures.

The Engine and the cylinders can be made flat where the piston is a thin brick. The engine can be only inches thick like a box so it may be placed under the cab between the axles.

As you may know, a combustion Engine is like a Compressor but in reverse. Because the Brackett Engine does not contaminate the lubrication system, the engine can house a compressor in the same block/crank assembly. This compressor may in turn move compressed air into the manifold to further increase efficiency.

There are many more premiums of this design but these are the high points.

My Brackett Engine Design Page.

I never said that there would be no individual cars, did I? I just checked. I didn’t say anything even remotely like that. Take a deep breath and calm the hell down.

I suggest you go back and re-read the posts…This time SLOWLY so you can understand it.

First off YOU argued against my response to “amature” when he/she said there would be no personal vehicles. YOU’RE the one who argued against me saying I was WRONG saying that’s IMPOSSIBLE. So YES you weren’t the one who made the initial statement…but you ARGUED against me when I said we’d still have cars.

I called you a skeptic. I never said you were wrong. YOU made that leap of judgement. I believe one can be skeptical and right at the same time. Only time will tell who is right and I really don’t think that opinions come in “right” and “wrong” anyway. Thay are just opinions, you silly skeptic.

The way things are going, we may have $10 gas in about 5 years. Yesterday the economic chief of a very prestigious bank forecast $225 oil by 2012 latest, based on his bank’s analysis of growing demand, and supply not growing accordingly. And, no, starting wages at 7-11 will not be $40/hr, more like $15 at most.

Our politicians are still saying that the US economic slowdown will depress the oil price; wake up and smell the money from China and India lining up to buy all this oil. Even Britain will soon be a net oil importer as North Sea reserves dwindle.

The US demand was forecast to be virtually zero growth because of rising fuel prices, but 90% of new growth would come from developing coubtries; China, India, and others.

US oil imports, now at 60% of total consumption, will continue due to the lack of new domestic sources. Current imports (60%) are 18% from Canada, and the rest from Mexico, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and others. As Mexican production falls rapidly, Canada will supply 30% of all US oil within 5 years.

Anyone shopping for a 300hp SUV will need to use that $10/gallon figure to calculate the lifetime cost. If you buy one anyway, the resale value in 4 years will be very little. We experienced this during the first oil crisis in the 70s. Henry Ford II joked that “people will pay almost anything for an economy car”.

I missed any mention of clean, efficient diesels as definitely part of the future car scenario. Probably this was too dull and unglamorous for a television program. In fact a diesel hybrid is incredbly efficient, and all the infrastructure is already in place. I’m sure Craig58 wwould agree this to be a proven way to get more energy out of a barrel of oil.

Those numbers sound about right to me. Hopefully those prices will drive the U.S. consumption/production ratio low enough to decrease the percentage of imported oil. That may help the dollar, at least a little. Once prices get up to a reasonable level, the demand for lower end large/high performance vehicles will decrease. The niche market for alternative vehicles (electric, H2, etc.) will increase somewhat but will still be a minority. We will see smaller, cheaper, and more efficient asian vehicles (the hybrid thing may be over by then). I don’t think the high end market will be affected very much. Of course, the domestic manufacturers will be caught wondering what happened.

Agree that there will always be choice in vehicles. However, someone showing up in a Hummer at a classy restaurant 5 years from now will be treated with the same respect as one who chews tobacco or has BO.

In England, most large cars are available with small engines, Jaguar even has a diesel to gain social respectability.

Tom & Ray tried to do an informative Nova show for Earth Day, but they missed a really important Low-Carbon fuel vehicle of the future, clean burning, CNG or CH4.

But Tom & Ray obviously slept during Organic Chemistry 101.

On last week’s radio show they showed their woeful ignorance by not being very helpful to the caller from North Carolina, by confusing Propane (C3H8) with Methane (CH4), see thread: PROPANE TANK UNDER CAR.

Had they done their chemistry lesson, they would know and understand the LOW-CARBON benefits of CNG-powered vehicles:

Compressed Natural Gas has a proven track record as a Clean Fuel for vehicles in many countries around the world.

The World’s Greenest production (ICE) vehicle ever measured by the EPA is the Honda Civic GX (inherently low emissions, with near zero pollution (AT-PZEV) , now in it’s 10th year of production.

Heck, even Jay Leno’s done TV show’s on the benefits of methane-powered, natural gas vehicles.

Tom and Ray blew it by ignoring this proven CLEAN FUEL technology, and the important future transportation
role CNG will play.

CNG is the stepping-stone to the NO-CARBON, Hydrogen future.

CNG is a domestic fuel (no war required). Can you say, “Petroleum displacement?”

CNG is plentiful and less expensive (Known North American reserves are estimated in excess of 100 years), CNG could even be totally sustainable using bio-methane reclamation.
CNG-fueled vehicles have 25% less CO2 footprint compared to gasoline, due to the fuel’s low carbon content.

Come on Tom & Ray, do your homework. Start by taking a look at:

I just watched the Nova program on PBS about alternative/environmentally friendly car technology. It’s obvious that we as a society will have to retool, as its obvious we have polluted the environment for decades too long. We cannot continue on this way, without far reaching consequences to our environment, health, and other issues. As China and India become more prosperous, they too will join the fray. I have a few suggestions: what if you combined some of the great ideas presented on NOVA, for instance, a car with carbon fiber body panels for better strength and lighter weight…would not have to worry about door dings, and hail damage, fender benders, etc. any more, and doesn’t compromise on passenger roominess! Incorporate solar panels on the hood and roof of the car that would send solar energy to a storeage device. As backup, you could also use electric power. Solar would provide a continual charge, and when darkenss or clouds obscured solar, electrical techology could be utilized. Here is the problem, I feel. According to one of the experts, there are 170,000 gas stations here in the US. Big business would want to utilize some other source of fuel that must be purchased every day. Otherwise, what’s in it for them? Like Tucker, if you build a better mousetrap, there will be many interested parties, such as special interest groups, etc., that will try to squander the technology. It’s obvious to me, that we must harnass natural forms of energy that do not cause emissions problems, such as wind, solar and hydro-electric. Nuclear technology is rediculous, because what do you do with the radioactive waste? Bury it in salt domes? What if an earthquakes rupture the domes, or you have cave ins and these events cause leakage? What about seepage into the underground springs and water supply? Ethanol causes only 25% less emissions, but you still have emissions, and have to grow a WHOLE lot of corn! You can build a better gasoline engine, but you are still faced with the same problems, just not as much of it. If a gasoline engine is 20% efficient, and electrical is 85% efficient, and it causes no harmful side-effects, it is a no-brainer. I think it’s time we ditch our nostalgia. We can still produce some hip looking cars with new technology, and make them even better than before. The end result is that in 10 years, we could potentially change the world.

For many people, the vehicle of the future is already here. It is an electric motorcycle that you can buy for $8,000 at

A car with solar panel on the roof will be in limited production soon in Asia, design is Japanese with Chinese manufacture. Together with a plug in feature for charging during work and overnight, this could change a good part of the automotive fleet virtually off oil.

We don’t need one perfect car. What we need is reforms in insurance, licensing and taxes so that a second commuter and around town all weather electric mini-car is economical. 6 out of 7 days a week, I personally could get by with an electric golf cart.

Right now I have a choice between buying a small efficient car that is useless to go to the lumberyard or take on a family trip, or I buy a big car that wastes gas most of the time but serves all my needs.

Many technical advances have come either from the space program or from the military (such as the Internet, which we’re all using right now for this very forum). With regard to the future of energy and fuels, what is the military doing about this?

The military cannot possibly continue to be dependent on fuel sources that are increasingly antagonistic to our foreign policy and even to our way of life. Why isn’t the military solving this problem?

Why do we need auto insurance reform? My rates are reasonable and I am happy with my service.

What is wrong with taxes? Do we need to raise them to pay back all of the money we are borrowing from China to fund the so-called War on Terror?

Dear Click and Clack,
Really enjoyed you guys on that Future
Cars show on PBS. Here’s a question on that
subject. Instead of say, charging a battery
with house current, has anyone thought of
making a small hydrogen generator that could
either be seperate or included with the car?
If I remember my high school physics class
(and I have to admit, that was a long time
ago), all it requires is an “H” shaped glass
tube and alternating current. That, and some
kind of compressor should be all it would
take. That way, the hydrogen fuel cell
vehicles wouldn’t be dependant on hydrogen
fueling stations. Anyway, it’s an idea

No matter what you drive, the lumnber yard will always have something that is too big for your vehicle. Tom and Ray have given the readers and listerners GREAT NEWS; LUMBER YARDS DELIVER!! As does Sears and many other retailers.

For what it’s worth, a Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe have fold down backseats and passenger seats, so you can actually carrry 8ft lumber inside the car if you really wanted to.