Jon for President!!

Zero Energy Loss Engineering

Of all the things I get snarfs about, ZELE gets the most. Zero Energy Loss Engineering is the sister of Perpetual Motion. Both share the same premises, neither is achievable, and either can provide hours of mental exercise. But ZELE is a friend of mine and I’d like to tell you a little more about her.

Consider: If there were no aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance, or vibration losses, AND, if there could be achieved 100% efficient regenerative braking, it would cost nothing to move a car from point A to point B. This is the starting point for ZELE.


News You Can Use:

Aerodynamic Drag is stated as a number between 1 and 0. A square sheet of plywood facing the wind at a right angle has a coefficient of drag of 1. An elongated teardrop has a coefficient of drag of .05. The drag of older automobiles used to be around .3 to .6; newer ones tend to be .2 to .4; 300 mpg experimental cars tend to be under .2

Rolling Resistance may be expressed as either the force necessary for an object to maintain a constant speed, or, the ability for an object to keep on moving after force has ceased to be applied. The technical champ is maglev (but it’s expensive), the practical champ is steel wheels on steel rails (but locomotive engine efficiencies are crummy), the working champ is high pressure truck tires (but vibration losses go up too). 

Note: When the sidewalls of radial tires flex, there is energy loss. When a shock absorber absorbs shock, there is energy loss. When anything vibrates, there is energy loss.

Regenerative Braking involves recovering the energy lost in heat and friction during braking. Electric trains and trams have used this for years. In theory, if you could recover all the energy you used to accelerate, you would never need to refuel. Of course, all the other above losses must be compensated for as well.

Having said all this, ZELE tries to bring all of the above (and more) to their greatest efficiencies. Every time you read about a “solar powered vehicle race”, ZELE was there. Every time you hear about an experimental car getting 300 mpg, ZELE was at work. Perpetual Motion will get you the guffaws of scientist and layman alike. ZELE is serious business.


Good News for the Home Team

> Allison Transmissions supposedly has developed a regenerative brake for commercial delivery vehicles that has an efficiency of 80% (altho when I asked the Allison representative about regenerative shock absorbers, he said none had been contemplated, but… )

> Bose (of Wave Radio fame) has developed a reactive suspension system that supposedly reclaims shock absorber loss and is 80% efficient. But at $20,000 a pop, no one is lining up for them.

> Computer Modeling has revolutionized the ability to predict drag and design for efficient aerodynamics.

Jon Says: 

• I would drive a banana on wheels if it got 200 mpg and was safe. Case in point, the Scion X-B; painfully designed but it gets 30 mpg in the city. Furthermore, if China continues its current growth, the commensurate rise in the standard of living will call for cars, lots of cars, and gas prices will triple (again) in 20 years; so I guess the time for ZELE is NOW.

• It seems to me that if government were to provide incentives, plan (and build) for infrastructure, and research new technologies (or, refine existing ones) via grants, that the up-coming energy crunch can be averted, not to mention the benefits to the environment. DOE used to do this . I even have some of their reports on regenerative braking back from the seventies, but I haven’t heard squat for the last 15 years.

• My vote goes for mechanical regenerative technologies, meaning, Don’t reclaim mechanical energy via electrical or chemical conversions. The loss during the conversion from one form of energy into another is always a “loser”. Springs, compressed gas or fluid, or fly-wheels seem to me where the research funds should go.

• Frankly, as I peer into the future, I see us slowing down as a society. I see us not racing down the highways nor hustling to work. This is likely the only trade-off we will need to make if mega-efficient transportation is in our future. Of course this presupposes that we will not perfect room temperature fusion or 40% efficient solar cells or harness dark matter.


Ah, but there is more…

I also think ZELE could contribute a thing of two to up and down motion, as well as back and forth. Consider:

What goes up, must come down. Let’s say that when you got on an elevator, a little man on the top floor attached a weight to the elevator counter balance (the weight that is fixed to the cable) that weighed the same as you. Then, when the elevator lifted you up, the only energy being used would be the friction losses of the pulley system (which are nominal). Hmmm…

?? Don’t we already possess the technology to assess the weight added to an elevator? e.g. a weight sensor in the floor of the elevator.
?? Does a computer controlled system for varying the weight of the counter-balance seem far fetched? Note: Construction cranes already use a movable counter-balance to compensate to different loads.
?? Couldn’t this also be used for parking garages? Note: In NYC and Japan this is already done on a small scale in parking lots that are pinched for size.

So, in Jon’s world, it costs nothing to go up or down, or go back and forth. Jon is odd, but ZELE is queen.

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