6.06.2008

Occam Switchbacks [Edited thanks to MS - pinko!]

Origo announced that they'll recapture CO2 from your car's exhaust, store in on-board in a tank, and have you offload that to an algae-rich unit at home which will feed on the gas and convert it to Bio-fuel. Simple, isn't it?

This makes little sense.

Economically, they claim it produces a max of 2500 liters, or 660 gallons. That sounds a bit high - but we'll see. $660 gallons are worth $2640 at $4/gal. If the unit costs less than that great - trouble is, it won't. More likely, the unit will cost at least double that and will incur costs in upkeep. Moreover, the diesel produced has less energy than petrol, so you won't get as far on it.

For users, there is the added hassle of emptying the CO2 tank every day when you get out of the car. I just don't see people doing that.

Environmentally, how much of a car's emissions can you really trap? If it isn't a large portion, we aren't reducing the carbon signature that much. We'd just be reducing the amount of new oil needed to fuel cars, but they'd still be spewing the gasses.

Further to that point - syphoning the exhaust will likely require an air pass-through more strenuous than an exhaust. When you slow the air from the motor, you hurt performance and efficiency. We are ok with the trade-off now because the noise pollution would otherwise be atrocious. Add this device and the loss in efficiency from the motor may cause you to use even more gas per mile, which will have to offset your bio-diesel miles gained.

Finally, there are safety and engineering problems. If your exhaust goes to a tank, how do you prevent the system from backing up into the motor when you are idling? What energy do you use to compress the gas in the tank? How do you seal the tank? How big is the tank? How heavy is it? and so on and so on and so on.

Bottom line: the solutions for efficiency that will work will also be simple and elegant. Let's not forget that.

1 comment:

Maxim said...

I believe the spelling you intended was "Occam's Switchbacks".

Also, your criticisms are very well-placed. But we'll be seeing tons of press coverage for many many more of these barely-feasible "green" technologies, before this fad plays itself out. At some point (hopefully very soon) humanity will catch on to the ludicrousness and impracticality of focusing on drastic CO2 abatement/reduction/capture as THE way to "avoid climate catastrophe." What a truly silly idée fixe that's sucking energy and attention away from much more serious and effective ways to preserve the environment.

Brought to you by your friendly (not-in-the)-neighborhood spelling pedant and global warming skeptic.

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