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So - what happens when we run out of oil?

 
pollinator
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Not holding my breath but LTA airship design has advanced considerably. One major breakthrough is tech where in order to descend helium is drawn into tanks and compressed and released back into bladders to ascend, giving far greater control and eliminating or minimizing the need for ballast. These giant ships can in theory lift very heavy loads and can land almost anywhere flat or even on water. The design allows them to scoot around on the ground fairly easily. The obvious drawbacks are the rarity of helium and susceptibility to strong winds or storms. One advantage in storms is that by compressing all if the helium the craft will hug the ground, but the infrastructure that creates the large lightweight shell could be damaged by winds, so some form of hanger would need to be provided, but possibly they could land into an open stadium or natural valley that would protect from winds.

Imagine you want to move your family from California to Vermont. Preparing for the move you fill up the container with all your household goods and the FedEx airship arrives and hovers over your place while the container is efficiently winched up into the cargo bay. You could have had the container moved to the transport hub where the airships land to avoid the winching charges, but you decided to go for the convenience. A drone taxi transports your family up to the airship and you get escorted to a second class cabin you booked. The cabin, a modular designed pod type, reminiscent of a trimmed down airstream trailer, are fitted into the ship when needed is relatively luxurious, though tiny. No windows to the outside of the airship, but high definition cameras provide views in all directions outside the airship, the command deck or even your personal cargo trailer. Viewing platforms where you can dwell and observe the world or get a snack and of course the bar is popular. Many hours were passed using the telescopes available in the lounge and at night telescopes can view the starry sky from the comfort of your quarters. The airship takes a leisurely route as it is dropping off and picking up passengers along the way. Cargo drones fly in and out regularly to move all sort of cargo. A farmers crop loaded into a container is winched up right from his field and stored in a climate controlled bay while another properties horses are loaded using a special pod along with their caretaker for the trip. One of the crew members related a story about last years hurricane where they had to lift an emergency hospital pod into the affected area that was isolated by flooding and destroyed highways. They also helped airlift out survivors while delivering FEMA emergency housing pods for the people and emergency responders. The next day they were back to regular transport.
 
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not to be a downer but looking at reality, I think fracking has completely changed the timetable of when fossil fuel oil and gas will run out. and with current political positions on fracking at least here in United States oil production has created great surpluses for the time being. unfortunately I think before all this oil and gas is burned up humans will be severely negatively effected by the changes in atmospheric conditions created by burning all this stuff. the planet will survive, the living things upon it might not.
I asked a global  expert on transportation industry how long it will be before electric vehicles will take over as the main source of transportation and his opinion was that it will probably won't happen till a few billion people has perished from the effects of climate change
because of money power and political influences having control of what is made available to the masses.
 
pollinator
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EXACTLY FUCKING THAT!!!

I am actually in favour of a return to hydrogen as a lifting gas, with an envelope of helium as a lighter-than-air fire extinguisher. If the separate hydrogen bags, in their helium envelopes, vented directly up in the event of an emergency, the flammable gas would end up above the suddenly dropped airship. And as we know, hydrogen is far cheaper. And if we don't use bloody flammable balloons and omit the fire-extinguishing helium, we should do all right.

But I love the idea of compressing the lifting gas into tanks.

One other thing to consider is the surface area required for these ships, which is massive, paired with lightweight, even middle-of-the-road efficient solar panels, means that there is the potential for huge amounts of electricity to be generated. I don't even know what the potential for Li-air or aluminium batteries might be, but you could function stack with recoverable emergency solid ballast that normally was, say, half your battery reserve.

Imagine, instead of FedEx, you had the International Civilian Air Service, with Town and City class-ships, operated by town and city civil servants. So you'd have the ICAS Toronto (and in all likelihood one for every one of the original boroughs), ICAS Kingston, ICAS Halifax, et cetera, et cetera. You could have mom-and-pop flag-stop operations picking up travellers at rail depots, dropping canoeists off upriver, on their way to deliver mail and cargo on-contract to remote communities before running back to do search-and-rescue operations for some of those same canoeists or travellers.

Imagine how tourism might change. Imagine how much more science could be done if you could hover just over the tree canopy in sensitive environments, without the need to ever set foot on the ground until, perhaps, after complete uncontaminated documentation and observation.

Hell, imagine how even resource extraction could be changed. Imagine if all tree harvesting was selective, simply because it was cheap and effective to laser mark the best lumber, then have the airship fly over with a skidding bay that used drone-guided cable tethers and drone saws. No roads, no damage to hydrology, watersheds, or soil structure. Simply harvest and renewal.

That's more likely to kill automotive fancy than anything else. We'll have options that fly, and less incentive to maintain expensive roadways when we can have really fast trains and enormous air freight.

If I can't have a starship, maybe an airship will do...

-CK
 
pollinator
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Eric Hanson wrote:
The electric vehicle is another issue that has hidden problems.  Though it is true that modern electrical vehicles are pretty amazing and already have quite a few miles stored in their batteries, they too have issues.  

But the issue of lithium may not be the upper limit on advanced battery designs.  Right now there are some intriguing developments in Magnesium batteries which might actually hold a better charge than lithium due to their two electrons to give up to lithium's one electron.  Another possibility is an aluminum battery.  At this point the aluminum batteries that have been developed (though right now they are pretty much all one-off batteries, there is no mass production) have about the same energy density of a lithium battery, but it can be fully charged in just a matter of a few seconds (but I can only guess how hot that would get!).  This could really improve the effective range of the car as it takes quite some time (at a minimum something like 20 minutes) to fully charge a depleted lithium battery.  Getting charging times on the order of that of a gas fill up could really make an electrical vehicle practical for cross country travel.  The most exotic battery I know about is the graphene battery, but this is still in the hypothetical stage.  20 years ago I was certain that fuel cells would start replacing internal combustion engines, but that has not worked out easier, even though it has some very promising qualities.
Eric



I wonder why the focus for electric vehicles is solely on battery with ICE backup, and not catenary powering of vehicles. Quite a large amount of commuting is done in metropolitan areas, and a lot of that on highways, my commute is >50% highway.

Imagine a power rail on the median of a highway, and the left-hand side of the car/truck having an arm to connect to it. Grid power direct to vehicles. Battery charging could also be happening at the same time, your battery range could be topped-up during a highway leg of your journey.

Rather than being "a passing lane", these lanes could be for "express" traffic from afar to a city center, possibly a transit hub.
In many metropolitan areas there's a "commuter lane" for HOV (high-occupancy vehicles) further to the left, which could also have its own power rail.

If "self-driving technology" was combined, then these vehicles could act as a train, at a stable speed and close spacing.
 
gardener
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Kenneth,

Not a bad concept.  I guess my thinking for the more conventional battery setup is that I hardly ever drive on major highways.  The extra power line makes sense, particularly along busy roads, but my driving habits only seldom puts me in a place that was likely to have a line.

Still, not a bad idea at all.

Eric
 
bruce Fine
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I often ask why is  United States one of the only industrialized countries on earth that does not have modern state of the art high speed rail.
 
Eric Hanson
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Bruce,

You make a good point about why the United States lacks a nation-wide high speed rail (hsr).  The easiest comparison to make is Europe which does have a modern hsr system.  But comparing Western Europe to the United States starts to show some important differences between the two land masses.  For starters, the Continental United States is about 50% larger that Europe, and that right there actually starts to make air travel more attractive than rail travel.  Europe lacks great big deserts and does not have the gigantic Midwest--both areas that are sparsely populated and therefore not conducive to scheduled rail travel.  There are railroads connecting numerous small Midwestern villages but they are absolutely dominated by freight.  In these areas, it is simply easier to have a road system where one can choose where they will go and when and not be dictated by a rail schedule.  Also, no rail system can match the flexibility of a simple road system.

Another reason is a bit more subtle, but boils down to the fact that by and large, European cities are very old and American cities are very young.  European cities were built upon construction and zoning many centuries, even a thousand+ years old.  Cars simply were not even remotely a part of the equation then.  And some of that architecture is beautiful and would be a crime to tear down to widen a road.  American cities by contrast are much younger and a great many American cities were built around the idea of a road system.

Actually, the American Northeast, the Bos-wash corridor, actually somewhat resembles European cities in that they are old, built prior to the car, and often have some spectacular architecture that would be a crime to destroy to make room for a wider road.  And in that Northeast section of the country, passenger rail actually does rather well.  Amtrak actually works fairly well there.  I live almost 1000 miles from the Bos-Wash corridor and I used to take the local Amtrak home when I was in college.  I hated it.  It was late every single time, sometimes by hours.  Most of the reason for this chronic lateness is the fact that passenger merely "rented" rails space from freight companies which could boot the passenger rail whenever it wanted.  It would be very difficult to make a rail system that connected all cities and villages by direct connections.  as I am a rural dweller, I am fairly certain that my neck of the woods will never be on a rail stop.  Even if I wanted to take the train, I would have to drive to get there.

High speed rail does make sense in certain conditions, but most parts of the United States are just not conducive to the construction of such a system.  In many ways this is too bad as rail travel can really eliminate traffic congestion.

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Creighton,
...  

But the issue of lithium may not be the upper limit on advanced battery designs.  Right now there are some intriguing developments in Magnesium batteries which might actually hold a better charge than lithium due to their two electrons to give up to lithium's one electron.


Well, that'd help matters, but it would just shift the peak metals issue a bit further back, and doesn't solve the issue that a significant minorty of untouched nature would have to be mined in order to satify the demand. Sadly, I beleive that we're seeing the end of the personal vehicle in our age.


Another possibility is an aluminum battery.  At this point the aluminum batteries that have been developed (though right now they are pretty much all one-off batteries, there is no mass production) have about the same energy density of a lithium battery, but it can be fully charged in just a matter of a few seconds (but I can only guess how hot that would get!).


The aluminum battery is a strange beast; part chemical battery, part massive capacitor.  It's the capacitor part that makes charging it up fast even possible.  Fortunately, aluminum is rather abundant, but it's never the abundant component that's the limiting factor.



My ultimate guess is that we don't ever really run out of petroleum, but the cost of extracting and refining that petroleum becomes more expensive than some exotic battery (or fuel cell, please a fuel cell) and we gradually shift to the electrical format for vehicle production.


Yes, Hubbard's Peak is a bell curve, not a sudden stop. None of us will live to see the day that no petroleum can be extracted anymore, but we will live to see the day that it's too expensive to make cheap plastic toys out of.
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