Monthly Archives: January 2007

Ok, answer me this…

Edit: This post will be 3 years old in a few weeks. But, since I’m too busy to do a new one, I decided to repost it. I made it private not long after it was published.

What do hybrid cars, dogs, and California have in common? Ok, let’s take it a few steps at a time.

  • Hybrid cars use a combination of electricity and something else (diesel- or gasoline-powered engines) to make cars move.
  • Dogs LOVE to ride in cars. (I mean, they always want to stick their noses out the window as if they’re absorbing a riot of delicious smells from everywhere.)
  • California uses a combination of ways to make electricity. (huh, you ask?)

Ok, I’ll explain. Hybrid technology relies on the car’s engine to not only make it go but also to charge all those batteries. Sure, Toyota has added in regenerative breaking to help with the charging aspects. Plus it uses an electrical motor to help it go, but that’s primarily at lower speeds. The electric motors are powered by the batteries. Makes sense, right?

Ok, now here’s where California comes into it. If you’ve ever headed East of San Francisco you’ve seen them – huge windmills dedicated to generating electricity through wind energy. (Did someone flick on a lightbulb over in that corner? Things seem a tad brighter…or maybe not.)

So, how does Fido help? Well, he (or she, to be equitable about this) loves sticking his/her nose into the wind. That’s right, as cars go faster, they, simply by virtue of going, generate a wind. And it’s a pretty good wind. Even in town it can be 30-35 miles an hour and double that on the interstates. In Nashville traffic it probably averages 55 mph.

Suppose there was an opening in the hood of a car, with a fine mesh grill over it to stop birds and bugs, that led directly to a wind turbine generator or two attached to the car, merrily generating electricity as the car moved. Well, except for the turbines, we have that now. It’s called a grill.

The faster you went, like on an interstate, the more wind (and electricity, by the way) you’d generate. Why, two of those little turbines might be able to power electric motors themselves, giving a wind-powered (ok, wind-supplimented) hybrid vehicle much beter fuel efficiency on the interstates (where the current battery-gas engine versions don’t do as well). And even if it didn’t generate enough electricity to run the electric motor, it would be recharging the batteries while it’s turning. It wouldn’t completely recharge the batteries, that would be perpetual motion, which is impossible. But it would extend the range of the vehicle, significantly.

Generating equipment might also need to be moved into the 21st century, like Dyson did with the small motors in his vacuums. After all, not much has been done to the motor or the generator since they were first invented. Minor changes, but no reliance on modern tolerances, methods, super magnets, etc. Combine better generation efficiencies and wind turbine charging systems with the sorts of airflow and turbine design details that people like General Dynamics know about jet engine blade design and you might well have a car that’s feasable for a week’s worth of daily commuting.

Looking at advances in disparate fields and applying them to entirely different areas to do more than you thought you could is called synergy. This seems to make sense to me. How about you?

$35 Million Dollars

Thirty-five million dollars is a lot of money. Whether you get it by selling a company to Google or it’s your share of the latest Powerball jackpot after taxes, there’s a whole lot of things you can do with that much money. Unfortunately, that’s not my share of the latest Powerball jackpot (though I haven’t checked my ticket yet). But just imagine having that much money to spend on yourself! Amazing. You couldn’t match jay Leno’s car collection with that little bit, but you could have a Ferrari or three or an old Auburn or whatever you wanted.

Now, imagine actually spending that much money. Imagine spending that much each and every day of the year. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it? Seems impossible, doesn’t it? It would take a company or a corporation to spend that much.

Now imagine you’re a corporation and you are losing that much. That’s pretty bad, losing $35 million dollars. If I was a CEO I’d expect to either have really good reasons or need to know where the unemployment office was located, right? But wait, it’s worse. Imagine you lose that much each and every day, yes, each and every day. Shazam! You’re Ford. It’s their worst loss ever. But, don’t worry. It’s mostly from buying out all those experienced employees and giving them a decent retirement package involving most of their salary for the rest of their lives, plus insurance and stuff like that. (As if you or I will ever see that kind of offer from our employers.)

My gosh, what could be worse? Oh, they covered that too. The financial report said that losses excluding special items (like the buyouts) would be worse this year than in 2006. Worse. Really gives a new slant on that Ford has a better idea slogan, doesn’t it?

Nice one, Henry. Dad would be proud. So would Grandpa.