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Rufus

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Gard's post above indicates an optimism about technology that disregards some key laws of physics, most importantly energy density. Oil is truly an absolutely amazing resource. One barrel of oil holds over 400 years of solar energy condensed into a compact, easy to use and manage form.

From Wikipedia: The total solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. In 2002, this was more energy in one hour than the world used in one year.

Surely can't get all this into a barrel of oil. What did I miss?

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From Wikipedia: The total solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. In 2002, this was more energy in one hour than the world used in one year.

Surely can't get all this into a barrel of oil. What did I miss?

Good catch- I think I mangled that a bit. It should have read: "In 1997, the sum of all fossil fuels burned was estimated to be the equivalent of 400 years of plant material."

If these calculations are correct, then every day, human civilization burns the equivalent of an entire year's worth of plant material put out by all plants on earth and in the ocean. Suffice it to say that there's still a heck of a lot of plant material in a barrel of oil, and the energy embodied in that material originally came from the sun, and that mankind is not close to being able to reproduce that feat achieved over tens of thousands of years.

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BTW, the elephant in the room is climate change & a proposed cap & trade bill that would essentially place a new tax on carbon emissions. If this passes Congress, this will have an impact on air travel as well. Short term, it may be onerous for the industry (depending on the carbon levels imposed by year), but long term I see it as a benefit, forcing more private sector investment in improved aircraft design, renewable fuels and engine technology, just to name a few.

Just another piece of the overall puzzle to consider here.

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The Chevy Volt will probably be the longest-ranging electric vehicle in the world that is ready for mass consumption when it rolls out next year. It will be able to go about 40 miles on a full charge using a battery pack that costs several thousand dollars. I can presently buy that amount of mobility for my car in gasoline form for approximately $20-$22. If the price of gasoline quadruples, I will still be able to buy that same gas for $80-$88. The price to get 40 miles using electric power is extremely high.

I don't mean to nitpick but at $2/gallon that would mean your car gets 4 miles per gallon. (40miles/(20dollars/2dollars per gallon)). Did you account for the price of the gas engine too?

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http://www.businessgreen.com/business-gree...n-jet-designers

The technology to replace the oil in jet engines exists. Hydrogen is not seen as a viable solution for cars because of the inefficiency of electrolysis. Planes are not about efficiency though. They're about paying a premium to go fast. So it could work.

The main problem is the rest of the energy and transportation network. Unless those no longer consume fossil fuels as well, these could actually be worse if implemented into the current system.

So a lot needs to happen at the same time.

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I don't mean to nitpick but at $2/gallon that would mean your car gets 4 miles per gallon. (40miles/(20dollars/2dollars per gallon)). Did you account for the price of the gas engine too?

Ack- my math brain must have stayed in bed yesterday. Let me try again:

Battery back in Chevy Volt that will get you 40 miles of electricity-based mobility: $5000-plus

10 Gallons of fuel in my car that gets me 300 miles of mobility: $20-$22 today.

I imagine the batteries weigh as much or more than the liquid fuel.

Now, it is correct that you get to use the battery again and again in the Volt. However, the point of the post was about energy density, meaning that today it costs thousands of dollars in capital cost to put approximately 1/10 of the range of a conventional sedan's tank of gas into a car. The energy density of petroleum projects is truly amazing, and therefore incredibly hard to replicate.

As to the alleged hydrogen plane, the article linked to above casts doubt on its feasibility, and notes that the plane DOES NOT EXIST:

The A2, a proposed hypersonic airliner based on reusable spacecraft technology...

Using today's techniques, copious amounts of fossil fuels would be needed to create and transport the 200 tonnes of liquid hydrogen needed for each A2 flight.

Long term, electrolysis using electricity to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen might be a viable approach, but could create other hazards. "In this case almost certainly you would need nuclear power – and lots of it, " Varvill said. "You would need a nuclear power station placed near an airport, generating the power, and producing the liquid hydrogen and piping it to the airport."

Are we now going to put nuclear plants at all our airports? After we spent a good deal of time post 9-11 trying to make sure nuclear airports were safe from planes?

Better yet, a fully loaded 747 weighs 900,000 lbs (or 408 british tonnes) at takeoff. 200 tonnes of liquid hydrogen needs to be kept at incredibly low temperatures, and thus will need extraordinary cooling systems on the plane. Assuming they could actually get this thing off the ground, which is exceedingly doubtful, there might be space for 10-20 seats onboard.

Edited by transitman
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Note that we have batteries that charge in 10 minutes, run 250 miles, and last 40 years. They just cost $70,000. It still won't go as far as a conventional car, but it's a small enough sacrifice in comfort that it won't matter. All we're waiting for now is a drop in price. Once these things are manufactured on a wide scale, that will happen.

The electric car is an inevitability.

The plane's future is more uncertain. You can have electric turboprop planes, but in order to get the speed of a commercial jet with a propeller, it has to spin very fast and very uncomfortably loud. Chemical propulsion will always be more convenient in that regard, so the best thing to do is find a formula that does no environmental damage.

Hydrogen jets pretty much would require nuclear power plants near every airport. That may unfortunately be the price we have to pay to maintain a lifestyle with fast long-distance travel.

Maglev could theoretically travel 600 km/h, which would put it ahead of most passenger planes. I'm up for that, but we would have to build it in the first place, which is a long way off.

Edited by Spatula
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  • 2 weeks later...

Count me in!

The best part about Maglev is that while it costs more to build initially than high-speed rail, it costs less to operate. There's no wear and tear on the tracks, no moving parts on the train that wear out. So eventually it pays off.

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You really think that the number of people interested in traveling by train to Asheville or the coast far outweighs the Triangle's future demand to go to any place beyond 300 miles? How are these people going "to the coast" going to get around when they get there?

If you are so convinced that oil is going to be back up to that rate, why aren't you putting your money where your mouth is by buying stocks and futures?

"How are these people going "to the coast" going to get around when they get there?"

Rent cars the same way that people rent cars when they fly somewhere without mass transit?

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The best part about Maglev is that while it costs more to build initially than high-speed rail, it costs less to operate. There's no wear and tear on the tracks, no moving parts on the train that wear out. So eventually it pays off.

Could you then explain why the EU has abandoned all its maglev projects as being too costly?

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"How are these people going "to the coast" going to get around when they get there?"

Rent cars the same way that people rent cars when they fly somewhere without mass transit?

If it's only a 2.5 hour drive, then I'll just take my OWN car instead of messing with taking a train, renting, turning in the car, and returning. See my point?

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  • 1 month later...

Could you then explain why the EU has abandoned all its maglev projects as being too costly?

missed this post, sorry

I would guess it's a matter of marginal benefits. The EU already has major rail infrastructure, and with current technology high speed rail is nearly as fast as maglev. It might take additional advancements before maglev is strong enough to compete in areas with very well developed rail systems.

In China, which is currently expanding its rail infrastructure at a colossal rate, maglev is being incorporated into the plan in several areas.

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missed this post, sorry

I would guess it's a matter of marginal benefits. The EU already has major rail infrastructure, and with current technology high speed rail is nearly as fast as maglev. It might take additional advancements before maglev is strong enough to compete in areas with very well developed rail systems.

In China, which is currently expanding its rail infrastructure at a colossal rate, maglev is being incorporated into the plan in several areas.

This is not accurate. It's that maglev's costs are far too high compared to conventional high speed rail running at 186 to 220 mph to make the extra speed worth it. China is buying conventional HSR trains by the dozen from Siemens. They are not investing in maglev like this. Not even close.

If they are investing in maglev, it's a national pride thing, not a serious transportation strategy for the long term. If there's a place in the world that could have built plenty of maglev lines fast enough to drop the ridiculous unit costs and get the land by crushing property rights, China is that place. The major purchase order of 100 HSR trainsets from Germany shows that they do not believe in maglev as a scalable, cost-effective solution. The Europeans are abandoning their work on maglev.

Getting back to this being a RDU thread, the battle for the market of 100 - 500 mile trips in most of the developed world over the next 50 years will be a competition among cars, planes, and conventional high-speed rail like the TGV and Shinkansen. High-speed rail is not much of a threat to RDU as it will only compete with 2 destinations: Washington DC and Charlotte. Assuming the train begins to take passengers from RDU for those destinations within the next decade, we may even see integrated ticketing from train stations along the NCRR to Charlotte flights to places like Chicago, LA, Seattle, etc.

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Again straying from the RDU topic, but...

Getting back to this being a RDU thread, the battle for the market of 100 - 500 mile trips in most of the developed world over the next 50 years will be a competition among cars, planes, and conventional high-speed rail like the TGV and Shinkansen. High-speed rail is not much of a threat to RDU as it will only compete with 2 destinations: Washington DC and Charlotte. Assuming the train begins to take passengers from RDU for those destinations within the next decade, we may even see integrated ticketing from train stations along the NCRR to Charlotte flights to places like Chicago, LA, Seattle, etc.

With 150-220mph top speed HSR service, cities like Baltimore, Philadelpha, New York, Atlanta, and everywhere between could be served effectively by HSR from Raleigh as they are all within 500 miles and on a pretty clear-cut, already defined corridor.

But you are right that Washington and Charlotte (and the intermediate cities of Richmond and Greensboro) are the only destinations that will be served by HSR from Raleigh based on what's proposed right now. But several (IMO at least somewhat realistic) changes could address that.

1. FRA bends rules to allows lighter HSR trains on the NEC, after installation of better signal system. Off-the-shelf European tilting trains operating at 11 or 12 inches of unbalance could maintain well over 150mph for most of the NEC.

2. Constant tension catenary installed throughout NEC

3. New tunnels in Baltimore

4. SEHSR built with curves gradual enough to eventually allow 150+mph operation with the same trainsets as above. This would mean a maximum curvature of about 1 degree per 100 feet.

5. SEHSR eventually electrified and fitted with signal system that allows lightweight trains.

Those destinations probably represent a significant but not overwhelming chunk of RDU's traffic (25%? who knows). But if Europe is any indication, rail-air connections might be popular as well. This would benefit major airports directly on the HSR line (CLT, BWI, EWR) to the detriment of smaller airports further from the rails like RDU. But since this is all pie in the sky stuff, and since Raleigh will continue to grow at a breakneck pace for the forseeable future, I can't imagine that RDU will struggle. Certainly not in the short term, but it should be pretty secure in the long term too.

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Although I'm interested in all forms of transportation, when did this forum become centered on rail travel? I want to be a part of a forum about RDU, news and rumors, new flights, cut flights, terminal info, etc. I want to just stop visiting this forum unless these topics are addressed. Would do it now, but know there will be some smart ass writing about me behind my back.

Well, I hope I'm not the smart ass that you allude to. Although it is not directly the topic here, HSR is effectively competition for the air system as it is today, and as such could affect the development of airports as a whole. Some airports, when HSR comes to exist, may actually become extinct (although I don't think RDU, with its Euro-connections and transcon flights supported by the RTP would be one them). But RIC, with a quick train ride to Dulles or National -- maybe. If a certain level of traffic by air begins to dissipate, then it brings into play the value of the airport in the context of land usage. I was shocked to see the value recovered to the city of Denver by the closing of Stapleton Airport (the tax base and population gains enhanced by Stapleton development in fact are helping to pay off the new airport's bonds early). But instead of building a new airport farther out, as Denver did, some cities with HSR connections may decide they no longer need an airport at all, or at least of the size they have now.

So while it doesn't have much to do with airplanes, it does have a lot to with airports. Maybe that's not what you were wanting to hear, but with a booster like Obama in the White House, HSR becomes part of the air traffic equation.

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This is not accurate. It's that maglev's costs are far too high compared to conventional high speed rail running at 186 to 220 mph to make the extra speed worth it.

Is this not exactly what I said? Where does your problem stem from?

China is buying conventional HSR trains by the dozen from Siemens. They are not investing in maglev like this. Not even close.

Once it starts operating, a maglev line is cheaper than a HSR line. However, it is not backwards compatible with existing tracks, and it costs billions to build just 30 km of new tracks. Like any technology that's in its infancy, it's going to suck for a while. However, once the infrastructure exists to manufacture these types of tracks easily, you'll see a lot more of them. Is that a claim that you would dispute, or do you think it's a technological dead end?

If they are investing in maglev, it's a national pride thing, not a serious transportation strategy for the long term. If there's a place in the world that could have built plenty of maglev lines fast enough to drop the ridiculous unit costs and get the land by crushing property rights, China is that place. The major purchase order of 100 HSR trainsets from Germany shows that they do not believe in maglev as a scalable, cost-effective solution. The Europeans are abandoning their work on maglev.

'national pride' is completely speculative. I won't touch that.

'crushing property rights' is interesting... considering no rail or road projects could ever get built without purchasing right of ways. That's not a problem specific to maglev, nor do I really consider it a problem.

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Once it starts operating, a maglev line is cheaper than a HSR line. However, it is not backwards compatible with existing tracks, and it costs billions to build just 30 km of new tracks. Like any technology that's in its infancy, it's going to suck for a while. However, once the infrastructure exists to manufacture these types of tracks easily, you'll see a lot more of them. Is that a claim that you would dispute, or do you think it's a technological dead end?

I dispute your assertion that maglev costs less to operate than conventional HSR. I have never seen anything that suggests maglev is cheaper to operate than HSR based on revenue operations of a maglev service. If you've seen such a source, I'd love to see it.

I think maglev is a technological dead end. And not because it doesn't work, but because it costs millions to billions more than conventional HSR for marginally more speed, and no interoperability with existing stations and networks.

Europe has reached the same conclusion. Visit the EU's website for its "TEN-T" program for strategic cross-continent transport investments, and you will see that the word maglev never even appears. Many of the investment strategies are long high-speed rail axes across numerous major cities. The axis closest to being completed is the PBKAL (Paris-Brussels-Koln-Amsterdam-London).

Again, this is getting away from the RDU discussion. I freely admit being part of the problem.

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Well, to bring us back to RDU, I flew out of Terminal 2 for the first time recently, and I must say it is an impressive facility. The terminal design is already among my favorite architectural statements in the region quite a few years. The flowing arched roof has the potential to become an iconic image among US airports, perhaps similar to Denver.

My only complaints are that a number of stores that appear on the directory, including Starbucks, do not exist (casualties of the economy?), and that you can't get free wi-fi. It seems it would be a nice amenity to offer the traveling public.

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My only complaints are that a number of stores that appear on the directory, including Starbucks, do not exist (casualties of the economy?), and that you can't get free wi-fi. It seems it would be a nice amenity to offer the traveling public.

That's because Starbucks is one of the 16 new shops and restaurants coming to Phase II of Terminal 2 in 2011. ;)

http://www.rdu.com/terminal2/future/phase2.htm

Edited by DPK
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  • 2 months later...

It's a very fair question! If RDU Authority is represented by four governments (Wake County, Durham County, City of Raleigh, City of Durham), then technically isn't that land a split jurisdiction? All four have a say in the governance of that property (policies, law enforcement, land use, etc)...so then I would say all four deserve a portion of the tax collections.

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