The Volt & Alternative Fuel Cars

As the price of automobile fuel increases and attention to alternative method of powering our cars is on the “front burner” that brings up some interesting questions.

Chevrolet is heavily publicizing the new “Volt”, its all-electric vehicle. It appears simple enough – just plug it in to a special electrical outlet at your house and it recharges its trunk-load of heavy and costly “deep-cycle”, specially-made-in-Japan, batteries. However, there ARE a few drawbacks; the range is limited before you need a recharge of the batteries. They perform well; quietly and at good speeds, but normal highway speed consumes energy at a rather high rate. As with high speed driving in gas-powered cars, efficiency and economy drops rapidly.

The limited range coupled with the availability of “stations” to recharge quickly is another constraint. And, what will be the cost for a recharge?  Certainly it won’t be free; like “free” air of many years ago, there will be those who will charge a premium for this limited-availability service.  Sorry, a very long extension cord will just not work!

If one were planning to use one for local “shopping trips” the electric car would seem a logical choice. I remember not too long ago (and probably, still) when folks at retirement villages would buy golf carts to run to the stores within their community.

All-electric (battery-operated) and gas/electric (hybrid) vehicles do NOT make much of an effect on improving (greening) the environment. With the hybrids, you must have gasoline (or diesel) fuel to operate a stand-by engine that is used to charge the batteries on longer trips or in stop & go traffic and during acceleration. At night or in times of non-use they must be “plugged in” to keep the batteries “topped off”.

The all-electrics seem to be the way to go, especially on short trips. But, my physics book DID teach me the principle of “you can’t get something for nothin’ ”! If you plug in and charge that hungry battery pack overnight you CAN be sure that you will see that reflected in your electric (power) bill at the end of the month! In short, pay at the gas pump or pay the power company to “fill ‘er up”.

And, that doesn’t help “green” because they power company has to increase their output to accommodate everyone who has plugged it.


There ARE two methods of low-cost propulsion that could be used but right now the technology (probably because it is so new) keeps the price very high. One is solar cells, which is gaining some popularity. Initially, the “solar generator” will probably be kept at home and will charge batteries during the (solar) day and transfer that energy to the vehicle at night in lieu of plugging into an electric outlet. Yes, that’s free power but it will cost you something to be able to harvest it!

Eventually, as technology and efficiency improve (and size is reduced), this system will be incorporated into the design of the vehicle, probably in the roof. But, that will take some development time to occur. Even though solar cells are made of cheap silicon (sand), patents, copyrights and other legal constraints have prevented competition in this area. Currently the  major OIL companies have the corner on the solar market and they are in no big hurry to replace their own (oil-based) profit windfall product!


My choice is the hydrogen fuel cell. It will be the wave of the future. Like solar, hydrogen is cheap – FREE – if you collect your own! When God provided us water, He made it from hydrogen and oxygen, and you can extract both from water. In addition, it can be taken from the AIR like oxygen.

A hydrogen generator is similar to an air compressor that is used in service stations, and many people have those in their homes (garages & workshops). As I said, it could extract hydrogen from air OR water. In this process electricity is produced to charge the batteries. The fuel cell will be self-contained in the car. As with other electric cars, the hydrogen-powered engine is very quiet and the exhaust is pure water!

Hydrogen cell electric power has been used aboard our space vehicles for many decades; the “exhaust” water is put to good use aboard the spaceship.

There are a number of prototype hydrogen vehicles on the road today; surely, all automobile manufacturers are experimenting with them. But, like most things new, the prices remain elevated. Give it a few years of prodding from the demanding public and you will see the prices drop where you and I, Mr. and Mrs. Citizen, can afford them.



Believe it or not, we are very close to the George Jetson time frame! I’ve already been fitted for my jet back-pack (at least that’s what they said it was for)!







You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply