Skip

Gasification.
January 11, 2009 4:55 PM   Subscribe


 
Where we're going, we don't need roads.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:02 PM on January 11, 2009 [8 favorites]


But I have a Civic dammit!
posted by spicynuts at 5:10 PM on January 11, 2009


My friend's uncle tried to do this, and the Oil Companies had him killed. His secret technology was lost.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:15 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Global warming or not, there's no way I'm driving Jed Clampett's Honda Accord.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:19 PM on January 11, 2009


This is way cool, but I wonder how it smells. Burning garbage smell is the worst.
posted by sugarfish at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2009


In the comments they said they only got 1 to 2 miles a pound. So how much energy did they expend just to get the waste product they need to fuel the car for a short trip?

That seems to be the problem that needs to be overcome with gasifiers. My friend's husband built one for a company that is doing large-scale work tied to waste disposal, and it's hard to get output to exceed the energy used in the process.
posted by saffry at 5:23 PM on January 11, 2009


BoingBoingFilter...
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 5:24 PM on January 11, 2009


Plus, at BoingBoing we get to read gems like this:

"Not only that, but as a benefit it pimps your car out with a fantastic steampunky contraption to impress your fellow road users with!"
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:29 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]




If you have trash that produces methane, consider composting.

(Also, I want to convert my trash compactor to run on trash, assuming that's not forbidden by the Second Law.)
posted by DU at 5:49 PM on January 11, 2009


Convert your Honda Accord to run like trash: Put a Hemi in it.
posted by eriko at 5:50 PM on January 11, 2009


If only we could convert Honda Accords to run on the ostentatious enviro-hipsters who might otherwise be tempted to drive their Chilean fruit and South African wine home from Whole Foods in a trash-powered car...
posted by killdevil at 6:08 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


From gman's second link:

Honda claims the new Insight will be the most affordable hybrid car in the world, with a base price under $20,000, when it goes on sale in April.

That right there pretty much sums up what a joke the hybrid industry still is. No cars significantly under $20k, you can't test drive them unless you live in a huge market, you have to order them sight unseen, you can't get good financing deals on them, and you'll have to wait a minimum of 3 months to get it. Not to mention that a lot of dealers sell them over MSRP, because they can.

With the added cost and headaches, there's literally no incentive for people who are not environmentalists already to buy them. Why pay eight grand more for a Ford Escape hybrid, when I can get a regular one now, with a test drive, financed at half the interest rate, and over the life of the car, at worst tie the hybrid for total cost of ownership?
posted by middleclasstool at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is way cool, but I wonder how it smells.

Depends on what you put in it, my roommate built one and he uses coffee bean husks from a local shop, so it smells like roasted coffee.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 6:47 PM on January 11, 2009


If only we could convert Honda Accords to run on the ostentatious enviro-hipsters who might otherwise be tempted to drive their Chilean fruit and South African wine home from Whole Foods in a trash-powered car...

Conversely, you could simply drive your Honda on them, thereby avoiding smelly hipster combustion fumes.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:23 PM on January 11, 2009


not a single Back to the Future reference so far? tsk tsk.
posted by oonh at 7:25 PM on January 11, 2009


Hm, cool project! Now, where'd I put that damn plasma cutter?
posted by carsonb at 7:25 PM on January 11, 2009


not a single Back to the Future reference so far? tsk tsk.

Go re-read the very first comment in this thread.
posted by kbanas at 7:29 PM on January 11, 2009


Yep, you gotta get up pretty early to beat Astro Zombie. 'Cause he has a time machine, natch.
posted by JHarris at 8:01 PM on January 11, 2009


Astro Zombie is my density.
posted by cortex at 8:03 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


oh your gas ain't nothin' but trash
your gas ain't nothin' but trash ...
posted by pyramid termite at 8:21 PM on January 11, 2009


My body has been running on trash for years.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's heavy!
posted by autodidact at 8:37 PM on January 11, 2009


Let me know when it can fly and travel through time, and I'm there.
posted by sparkletone at 8:37 PM on January 11, 2009


Say, did anyone ever see that movie where Alex P. Keaton drove that car to get away from those a-rab terrorists and then the dude they shot up came back and his car did something reminiscent of the Honda in the post? Someone ought to make a joke about that because no one has yet and I totally read the thread.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was going to go do this when I saw the post, but then I realized that by taking the time to read the post and googling additional reference material I had already used up any potential savings in my overall carbon footprint for the next 10 years.
posted by Avelwood at 9:26 PM on January 11, 2009


That right there pretty much sums up what a joke the hybrid industry still is. No cars significantly under $20k, you can't test drive them unless you live in a huge market, you have to order them sight unseen, you can't get good financing deals on them, and you'll have to wait a minimum of 3 months to get it. Not to mention that a lot of dealers sell them over MSRP, because they can.

Early adopters are charitably funding the development process, by behaving in an economically irrational way. This is always the case with new technology.
posted by atrazine at 11:28 PM on January 11, 2009


With the added cost and headaches, there's literally no incentive for people who are not environmentalists already to buy them. Why pay eight grand more for a Ford Escape hybrid, when I can get a regular one now, with a test drive, financed at half the interest rate, and over the life of the car, at worst tie the hybrid for total cost of ownership?

Because of gas prices. Remember, back in the distant past, or summer '08, when gas hit $3.50-$4.00 or more a gallon? In ten years--or probably a lot sooner--we're going to look back on $4.00 a gallon gas with aching nostalgia, ("God, it was so damn cheap then!"). The hybrid or electric or biofuel car you buy now will still be running in ten years and, with luck, will still be somewhat stylish.

Americans have very short memories when it comes to expensive gas prices. This dip we're in now won't last.

Anyway, thanks for the post, this is damn impressive work.
posted by zardoz at 1:25 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


1 to 2 miles a pound

An unmodified Accord is good for about 9 km/litre. Density of petrol is 0.74 kg/litre, so that's 12 km/kg of petrol. 2 miles per pound is about 7 km/kg. Not as good as petrol to be sure, but not too shabby, especially considering the relative prices of petrol vs. cellulosic waste.
posted by flabdablet at 4:23 AM on January 12, 2009


Early adopters are charitably funding the development process, by behaving in an economically irrational way. This is always the case with new technology.

The Prius turns 12 this year. They've had over a decade to ramp up production and make these cars more ubiquitous. Your point's taken, and certainly things are better than they were, but we could be further along than we are. The big 3 have spent most of that time cranking out F150s and Escalades.

It's a boutique industry, because auto makers get to have it both ways -- they get to project the image that they're doing something that has an environmental impact, while maintaining a market where they get way more profit than they do off their regular cars.

Americans have very short memories when it comes to expensive gas prices. This dip we're in now won't last.

I went shopping for a hybrid when gas prices were nearing $4.00, and the math still didn't make much sense.
posted by middleclasstool at 4:42 AM on January 12, 2009


flabdablet writes "Not as good as petrol to be sure, but not too shabby"

...but what are the emissions in that thing? A waste burner usually isn't that efficient, I wouldn't expect these to be that much better. Doesn't help the environment much if you're replacing relatively clean-burning gas with dirty-burning garbage, and either way you're still dumping CO2.

However - if we all just start growing switchgrass and burning that - no net carbon change. That might work.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:16 AM on January 12, 2009


Actually, GM's been working on hybrids for at least 10, probably closer to 15 years. I can't remember the exact date, but I helped out some people at Research who were working on them in the 90's.
posted by rfs at 9:45 AM on January 12, 2009


Side note on gas prices: Remember how Southwest airlines was able to undercut the majors for quite some time due to their having locked in their fuel prices back before the price of oil went up? I wish there was a way that ordinary mortals could get in on that. Who's up for pitching in to buy a refinery and a heap of oil futures, huh?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:57 PM on January 12, 2009


but what are the emissions in that thing?

Well, considering that what's actually going into the motor is a relatively pure stream of carbon monoxide, hydrogen and water vapor. When I was a kid we called that "town gas" and it's what was supplied to houses and burned in kitchen stoves. It burned every bit as cleanly as the natural gas (methane) we're using today. I see no reason to expect the tailpipe emissions from a car running on town gas to be significantly different from those of one running on natural gas.

A waste burner usually isn't that efficient

What exactly do you mean by "efficient?" Are you talking fuel kilograms per kilometre, or dollars spent per kilometre, or CO2 emissions per kilometre, or other emissions per kilometre, and compared to what? Refined petrol? Crude oil input to refinery?

It seems to me that extracting useful transportation value from something that would otherwise be a waste disposal problem is a net efficiency gain in the big-picture sense.

Doesn't help the environment much if you're replacing relatively clean-burning gas with dirty-burning garbage

The point of a gasifier is that it makes the garbage burn clean. If the gasifier is supplying significant amounts of tar it will bugger the engine, so they're designed not to do that. A well designed gasifier produces town gas, small amounts of ash and not much else.

Exactly how clean they burn is going to depend on what you put into them. If you loaded your gasifier up with shredded car tyres you'd get a lot of sulphur emissions, but if it's doing a reasonably good job of gasifying wood or paper or coffee grounds, and the tar-recycling stuff is working properly, I don't see where you get the "dirty-burning" idea from. A gasifier is not the same thing as a backyard incinerator.

and either way you're still dumping CO2

But if you're feeding pelletized wood or shredded paper or rice hulls or coffee grounds or (yes!) chipped switchgrass, that's CO2 that was recently extracted from the atmosphere by the plants whose remains you're burning; the net effect of your fuel cycle on atmospheric CO2 levels is nil. About the only way you'd actually increase atmospheric CO2 with one of these toys is to burn plastic bags in it.
posted by flabdablet at 6:08 PM on January 12, 2009


Heh. On-board seems like it would be a little touchy... too many failure modes, little control over the feedstock quality.

I'm convinced that the long-term solution is going to be something like the gasification of biomass (algae? switchgrass?) followed by liquefaction via the Fischer-Tropsch process. Forget electric cars, forget the hydrogen economy; we'll go straight from petroleum to high-energy-density psuedopetroleums with net neutral carbon and no need to make any changes to the automotive or fuel distribution infrastructure. Couple this with carbon capture technology at the Fischer-Tropsch plants (you need to burn some of your biomass to produce the high temperatures required by the process) and you could even have a net-negative carbon process.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:17 PM on January 12, 2009


It can make a small contribution, IF you happen to have a large quantity of wood chips or something similarly dense that can burn cleanly.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 11:13 AM on January 13, 2009


« Older Two Google searches use as much energy as boiling...   |   You Light Up My Life (In More Ways Than One) Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post