Here at the Folkecenter there are numerous vehicles running on alternative fuels.
Pure Plant Oil (PPO)
There is a rape seed refinery here where they have the ability to press and filter rape seed (purchased from nearby farmers) to produce rape seed oil. The only byproduct from this process (seed cake) is fed to cattle. There is a large tank and a filling station to fuel up the Folkecenter diesel Toyota pickup that has been converted to run on plant oil.
This truck is quite similar to our VW van back in Canada, also converted to run on plant oil with main two differences. (i) Our vehicle filtration system is much more complicated as we use waste oil from restaurants, which requires significantly more filtration. (ii) Instead of converting the diesel fuel tank to PPO, we installed a secondary tank for PPO and have therefore retained the ability to use diesel fuel if we so chose.
There is a wind-hydrogen production facility (i.e. hydrogen fuel produced using electricity produced by a wind turbine) and a demonstration vehicle that has been converted to run on hydrogen.
When hydrogen is burned in air the main product is water.Therefore the the key advantage of hydrogen is that carbon dioxide (CO2) is not produced (i.e. No greenhouse gases are produced). Note that hydrogen is an energy transfer medium rather than a primary source of energy. It is obtained by splitting water (H2O) into hydrogen and oxygen. If fossil fuels, e.g. coal, oil or natural gas, are used to generate the electricity, there is no advantage over using the fossil fuels directly. You still get all the CO2, and there is a considerable loss of energy. There are numerous disadvantages of hydrogen: 78% of the energy put into the production of hydrogen is never regained, the susbtantial size of a hydrogen tank, safety issues, and the fact that most of the hydrogen currently produced comes from non-renewable sources.
The Electric Car
I believe that the most interesting and promising of the demonstration vehicles here at the Folkecenter is the electric car. Why turn that electricity into hydrogen (and lose considerable efficiency) when you could simply power your vehicle with the electricity? Especially if that electricity comes from a renewable source such as solar or wind? Here, wind turbines convert wind energy into electricity which is then stored in the battery of their electric car. The car pictured here uses lead acid batteries and old electric motor technology. Once fully charged the car can travel over 30 kilometers. Of course, this is not ideal for long road trips but is more than sufficient for 90% of our commuting needs. We also came across a movie called: “Who Killed the Electric Car” . If you haven’t seen this documentary we highly recommend it.
After doing more research on the internet we discovered that there are now electrical storage options that can run a vehicle for over 300 km, and there are car manufacturer nearly ready to put their electric vehicles on the market (google ‘Tesla Roadster’). Rob is now convinced that when we return to Canada we’ll be looking into to purchasing a an old Chrysler Neon and converting it to an electric car. You can buy a conversion kit for various cars at http://www.canev.com/. Perhaps with a combination of wind turbines and solar panels we’ll be able to say that our car is powered by the wind and the sun. Imagine that!