Do the Math(s) – I did!

There are 32MegaJoules of Energy per Litre of Petrol (~ same for diesel) 
Therefore: 100litres of fuel = 3.2GJ

How to turn Joules into Watts – calculation:

The power P in Watts (W) is equal to the energy E in Joules (J), divided by t – the time period the Energy is consumed, in seconds (s):
P(W) = E(J) / t(s)

100 litres of fuel would typically last 10 hours (36,000 seconds) in a motor vehicle (Internal Combustion Engine)  – cruising at say 110 kph

Hence the energy output of that 100 litres of fuel might be considered thus: 3.2GW/36000 seconds = 88.8 kW. However, the efficiency of ICE vehicles is, at best, 33% (so only approximately 29 of those kW are being used to propel the vehicle against the various mechanical/aerodynamic drags) the rest leaves mostly as heat through the radiator (and some noise!)

Note: Whilst fuel tanks can hold Gigajoules of energy, Electric Vehicle (EV) battery’s are generally expressed in KWh – don’t forget efficiency!

EV’s typically use 1/3rd of the Energy of Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) – no radiator not only means EV’s have lower drag it also means that energy is not being shed to cool an engine!

Electric vehicles not only have slightly less aerodynamic drag, they can recover energy from downhills and slowing (hence they can be considered as having effectively around 30% less drag) – with the result that a typical 85 KWh battery will propel an EV at the same speed (110kph) for just over 4 hours (i.e. 440 km). This comes from the fact that the EV, which is very efficient at turning battery energy into kinetic energy (~98%), would, following the above logic, need just 20.3 kW to cruise at 110 kph! 

Of course headwinds, terrain and towing can all effect these figures (as they also do for ICE vehicles, too).

As you can see, there are many factors at play that need to be considered when trying to make efficiency comparisons.

However it is perhaps easier to look to the economic story!

100 litres of fuel costs ~ $150 – giving 1100 km of travel. At 26.5 cents per kWh (typical price hereabouts in The Northern Territory – 1100 km of travel would cost (from the above energy needs of an EV) $56 – very much cheaper still if you use your own solar PV!

Is it perhaps worth looking at this yet another way?

100l of fuel = 3.2GJoules = $150.That exact same amount of energy can be had in electrical form for $848 from your local power utility (or for FREE from YOUR  OWN solar PV!). Of course, if you have an EV you’ll only actually need to use 212.5 KJ of energy to travel the same distance! Still. it’s informative to look at the cost of energy produced by burning fuel.
It is interesting to consider that the Power Utility puts about $698 of margin on the cost of that 100L of fuel (presumably to cover the costs associated with the inefficiencies of burning the fuel, servicing the IC engine and generator, distributing the electricity over the grid and paying for the management and staff that make this all possible (oh, and amortising the original investment in the publicly-owned Grid and Generation assets – if that’s not already done). Still, fossil-fuelled electricity looks pretty expensive – with fuel having 365% on-costs!

Of course – if the Power Utility used solar PV there’d be some solar panels, batteries and controllers that would have to be amortised (say over 10 years – ‘though panel warrantees are now 25 years – so they could be amortised over a longer period if so desired) and of course there’s the grid to amortise, maintain and operate (management and staff to pay, etc.) but the zero-input cost on fuel (which effectively negates any photon to electron conversion inefficiencies) would make a significant saving ($150 in our above worked example) – likely enough to fund the operation given that the PV, controller and batteries don’t need a lot of maintenance, or management (they’re intelligent devices) – and never need an oil change!

Interestingly – leaving all other PowerWater costs/margins in place and simply removing the cost of diesel (subsidised) the price per kWh could be $0.219. That would assume all staff remain in place (and it doesn’t factor-in oil changes, spare parts, etc. which are all costs avoided when going solar)

Power utility staff could perhaps be retrained to become solar-technicians and electrical engineers, tasked with installing extra capacity and upgrading the grid as appropriate to the likely increase in consumption that would inevitably result from the reduced price per kWh and the move to EV’s that will come sooner than most expect.

Killing my ego

As someone who chose to be ‘fun-employed’ I’ve only just realised that the frequent humiliations of my recent job, with its repeated reminders of the apparent ‘uselessness’ of the skills I’d acquired over the past 30-odd years, was not only painful but possibly beneficial. In short it was killing my ego.

Being a lowly trainee shop-assistant may well be the modern version of ‘the monk with the broom’.  A philosophical practice.

Whilst working in Alicetronics was no picnic, it was the steady stream of customers that I enjoyed, like a stream of water, as they rippled and bubbled over the technology that both underpinned and occasionally undermined the smooth flow of their lives. Maybe my job at Alicetronics was actually a picnic on a river bank?

To customers I was no longer the invisible ‘old guy’ that I had become (transparently?) in corporate Australia. I was now the visibly old guy who might just be able to find the ‘doobry’ that they needed.

However, in order to be effective at that, I needed two things. I needed to acquire an encyclopaedic knowledge of the thousands of items on the shelves (and beyond – I could ‘order in’ the thing that was needed, once I knew what that thing was) and I needed to learn how to drive the fiendishly complex POS system that had evolved to run this equally complex business. Oh, and I also had to be friendly, non-threatening and approachable whilst at it. The eradication of my ego would, perhaps, help with that?

Maybe it’ll even put me on the pathway to enlightenment?

Power of the people

Just had a few thoughts on how RePower Alice Springs (and the people of the NT in general) might benefit from the impending closure of the Uluru climb. 

The “Ayers Rock (Uluru) Virtual Climb” would use a bank of ‘stair-master’ exercise machines that may be battery connected, or direct to grid. The ‘climbers’ would climb aboard a stair-master, having donned VR headgear and would climb the 348 vertical metres of ‘the rock’. The power they put into the stair-master making a direct energy contribution to the local grid. At an average of 70Kg each climber might generate 238898 Joules, (a rate of approximately 100 Watts for a 40 minute ascent) some of which might be used to power the PC that serves up the VR experience (the vision – plus optional soundtrack of encouragement – choice of 10 voices).

The vision could include Augmented Reality (i.e. identifying the place about 4 steps up the climb where Pauline Hanson abandoned, or placing Pokemon Go characters at random on the route). It would also include the view from the top (as taken by a 4K equipped drone).

In more good news for Virtual Uluru climbers – they won’t have to climb back down!

All of this is, of course, for a fee. Climbers could pay a premium for an ‘air-conditioned climb’ – and perhaps an even bigger fee for an ‘assisted climb’? Fee’s for ‘natural’ (no aircon, stair-master in full sun) could be reduced – but could just as easily have a ‘greater realism’ premium applied on really hot days. Bonuses for rapid climbing (puts more power in the grid) might include getting your summit photo taken with the ‘Pollie of your choice’ (Pauline Hanson, Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton, etc…)

One compelling advantage of the “ARVC” is that it can be located anywhere – no need to drive out to Ulara! (handily reducing your CO2 emissions) and saving you, the tourist, considerable time (which might be profitably spent in Alice Springs). And, with minimal extra coding, it would be possible to add “Eiffel Tower Virtual Climb”, “Machu Pitchu Virtual Climb” and even “Everest Virtual Climb” (definitely need air-conditioning for that one).

This RePower initiative could be licensed to the NT Gov or the Power &Water Corporation – all profits to Arid Lands Environment Centre.