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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Touch Screens in cars

Touch Screens in cars are a really, really bad idea.  Look at all the kerfuffle world wide about using a cell phone in a car.  At least with a cell phone, you're likely to be holding it up by the steering wheel as you dial or touch the green icon to answer the phone.  Or, shudder, you type in some destination into the navigator.  Some part of your vision still records what is going on on the road.  With a touch screen you have to take your eyes right off the road to operate them and it is not a one touch operation.  You have to do multiple touches to get to the application you want to use.
 Image result for image touch screen in car

Remember those old car radios.  There was a nob on one side to turn it on and off and to increase or decrease the volume.  There was another nob on the other side to tune in the stations.  Then between the two nobs were five or six pull-out, push-in buttons.  You pulled one out, tuned the radio and then pushed it back in again.  From then on if you wanted that station you just pushed that button.  Ditto with the rest of the pull-out buttons.  You had five or six different stations all at your finger tips, all without taking your eyes off the road.
 Image result for image old car radios

Or come forward a little to a more modern radio.  Up at one corner is a toggle switch which you can feel.  Once more no need to take your eyes off the road.  Push it quickly and the radio tunes up or down  depending on which side of the button you pushed.  Hold it down for 2 seconds until you hear a beep and it will run up or down the radio spectrum until it finds the next channel.  On the other side is a second tactile toggle button.  Push one side and the volume goes up, the other side and the volume goes down.  In all of this no need to take your eyes off the road.

A more luxurious system has all the tactile buttons on the steering wheel.

If we are all up tight about cell phones, how much more dangerous are touch screens.

And don't get me started on autonomous cars.  Besides the fact that I really like driving, they seem to me to be a bad idea.

Have you ever heard of a soft-ware program that couldn't be hacked.  Recently we have had the UK health system computers hacked and bank after bank.  If anyone should have state of the art protection surly it is these institutions.  Just imagine what happens when some warped 14 year old genius in his mom's basement manages to hack into the system and shut down one of the functions.  Whole cities come to a stand still.  And this could happen even if only a small percent of the cars are autonomous.

Worse still, have you being paying attention to the revelations of Snowdon and Manning.  The secret services have little or no inhibitions against causing collateral damage (killing innocent bystanders) and being human they also make mistakes.  Imagine they have decided that a certain car is carrying a terrorist they want to eliminate.  They send the car into a tree or over a cliff at high speed.  Or they targeted your car by mistake or perhaps they send the car into oncoming traffic and you just happen to be on the other side of the road.

In addition, with your car continually connected to the internet of things (G5), they always know where you are and what you are doing.  And don't give me that old saw that if you are not doing anything wrong you have no problems.  That is such a  discredited a argument that it doesn't deserve another paragraph. This really is a Big Brother scenario.

Have you ever heard of a computer program that didn't need patches and upgrades to fix glitches that the programmers didn't anticipate.  In the first death in a self driving car, the computer didn't recognize a truck coming from the side and thought it was a road sign.  We don't need programmers experimenting with our lives as we travel down the road at highway speeds.

What do I want in a car.  I want all the great engineering that is coming out in Electric cars but none of the bells and whistles.  And I want the lower price that comes with this.  I want any controls to be tactile, not touch screen.  And I want the pleasure of driving my own car.  This isn't for everyone but I bet there is a huge market out there for such a car. If I need navigation, I'll velcro my phone on to the dash board.

If you want to wow me, make all surfaces of the car generate electricity when they are in the sun.  No, I don't expect to be able to drive just on the power the skin of my car generates but it will be a nice little bonus and might get me home. when  I have forgotten to charge up when I should have.  Some years ago a home made electric car visited us here in New Zealand.  He pulled a trailer and the top of the trailer was covered with solar panels.  He said he could carry on driving at 20k/hr if it was a sunny day but his batteries were flat.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A new Battery technology

What would you say to a battery for static use that could be completely charged and discharged with no degradation of it's capacity over time.  A battery that today will hold ten kWh and in one year it will still have the same capacity. A battery that has no self discharge and so if you charge it up and come back in a year it will still have the same charge. Better still, a battery that uses very common cheap materials in it's chemistry so should be pretty cost-effective when production ramps up. And none of it's materials (like Cobalt) are produced in countries that use child labor.

This is the hype around a new battery chemistry and they are already in production.

Now just a disclaimer here.  I am basing this article on the literature around this battery and have no experience myself in owning such a battery.  In fact, they are in the stage of ramping up production and I haven't been able to find what they cost at present or what they project the price will be in the future.

This is a flow battery meaning that a fluid is pumped through the battery that does 'the  necessary'.  It is a plating battery that plates Zinc onto 'shelves' of plastic (dosed with carbon, I believe, for conductivity) during the charging phase.  The Zinc is stripped from the plates back into solution during discharge.  The other ion is Bromine so this is a Zinc bromide battery.

It has been developed in Australia and production at present is quite small, measured in hundreds per week  but, clearly, if it's promise is fulfilled, production is bound to climb as revenue flows in from initial sales.

The cycle efficiency of this battery is said to be 75-80%.  If you put in a kWh* you will get an effective 0.75kWh back out.

* A kilowatt hour - in other words, a kWh could provide one kW for one hour (or half a kW for two hours etc.)

A disadvantage (minor) is that the plates must be stripped every three days to stop the build up of spicules of Zinc that would damage adjacent plates. In other words it must be totally discharged.  Apparently this is automated so it happens without your intervention.  I'm not sure what happens to the electricity which will be produced during a full discharge cycle but I can imagine it will be fed into the grid with the amount you earn from this being determined by the policy of your power company.

If you have more than one of these 10kWh batteries, power resulting from the stripping cycle could be fed into the other half of your batteries.  While operating,,,, one battery (or bunch of batteries) would be in use (discharging) while the other half would be charging.

Incidentally, some recent information on the mega Lithium ion battery provided to Australia by Tesla has shown some interesting results.  This battery holds 100mWh* of power and cost $66m.  It's first anniversary will be in November and based on the present rate of return, it will have returned $20m by that time.  A 30% pa rate of return.  Wow!!!  It is installed in a large wind farm so presumably the earnings are due to not having to waste wind-generated power when the grid is producing all it needs.  The power is then sent to the grid when the demand and hence the price is high.

* megawatt hour - one mW equals 1000kW

They could also be earning by buying power to charge the battery when power from the grid is in excess and hence cheap, and selling it back when there is a demand.

Another interesting wrinkle is that the response time of the battery is so fast when demand increases or decreases, unlike other sources of electricity, that the quality of the power is increased.  In other words the voltage and frequency are stabilized, unlike when other generation sources  with slower response times are cut in and out of the grid.

Presumable this quality improvement would be the same with any battery system including the ZnBr battery.

Of course, Li ion batteries degrade over time and this is partially compensated for by battery management systems that don't ever charge up the battery to it's full capacity or discharge it to zero.  This slows but does not stop the decrease in it's capacity over time.  Of course it means that the effective capacity of a Li battery is less than it's rated capacity.  Note that Tesla, in an emergency, can send a signal to her cars, allowing the owners to use the full capacity of the battery (at the expense of the longevity of the battery).

This points up the great advantage of the ZnBr technology over the Li technology.  The cost over time is bound to be less, and even more so when the price of the Zn battery per kWh becomes less than the cost of the Li battery as it is bound to do because of it's less expensive materials.  Note that this technology is only for static applications.  The Li ion battery is still king for mobile applications.

ps.  There is a Zinc bromide gel battery in the works.  No idea what it's characteristics are.