Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Sputnik Story

I blogged last week that comparing the sputnik moment and the green imperative was thermodynamically dumb. I did a little checking and found that the Saturn V rocket that got man to the moon burned about a million gallons of liquid propellant. I would assume the boys at NASA used a propellant with at least as many BTUs per pound as gasoline so let’s assume the rocket needed one million gallons of gasoline equivalent to get to the moon. The average Yank uses about 600 gallons of gasoline a year tanking up their vehicles. Now we know the energy needed in the liquid propellant to get to the moon could have powered 1,660 cars for a year. There was also a lot of energy used to liquefy oxygen, produce the liquid propellant, and produce the hydrogen and solid propellant in the rocket. Also needed was fuel for the lunar decent, blasting off the moon and firing on the way back to earth. For argument sake let's say each mission required the energy to propel 2,500 vehicles for a year. One can find simulations of the launch of Apollo 11 on the web here is one link

No doubt even those among us who are not rocket scientists know that getting to the moon required brute force from rocket fuel. There were 13 launches between 1967 and 1973 of Saturn Vs for the Apollo program, thus we can say approximately 30,000 cars could have been propelled for a year by the energy expended in these launches. This is not that massive a number in comparison to the 243 million private vehicles now registered in the good old USA.

Perhaps President Obama was correct in making the comparison for a very different reason he never thought about. My hunch is only 30,000 plug in vehicles will sell in a year even with the massive tax credit given to these thermodynamically impaired vehicles. Fisker the plug in hybrid behemoth that is a Volt on steroids is again delayed in their launch and the expected price of their vehicle is now well over $80,000. Their oft delayed launch was supposed to be this month. If I remember correctly old Alaric la Deux was behind the wheel at Fisker. Fisker sound like a name of a cat food not an expensive car. How about they change their name to Doggie as the whole thing is a dog of an idea? Of course Fisker got $529 million of government loan guarantees thanks to Alfalfa being behind the wheel. Talk about Muburak having his hands in the till, old Al can tell his buddie Hosni who needs to be in the presidential palace to take the public for a ride.

Putting the bad news aside the Green Machine sees some light at the end of the tunnel. The next generation who are electronically connected will be a generation that uses far less fuel. Statistics from the Federal Highway Administration show that one in every three teens now has a license at 16. It used to be one of every two. Go teens you know the times are a changing! We need electronic connection not electrical connection. As a parting shot, Fisker named their model the Karma I think is should be renamed the Dogma.