Carbongeddon, Clean Energy and an Electric God
Tomorrow the World will end! Australia is putting a price on the carbon contained in hydrocarbon fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. $23 a tonne of emissions on 294 organisations that emit 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or the equivalent in greenhouse gases. And if you believe Tony Abbott that means Carbongeddon will destroy Australia and probably be the end of the world. Town’s like Whyalla are believe to be the first to sink beneath the earth with the rest of us to follow.
But I don’t believe Tony Abbott, I find him to be a man of limited ideas, fewer policies and a desire to wreck the place if he can’t run it. I think both you and I will wake up just fine tomorrow and go about our regular Sunday routine. With the added plus of knowing Australia has taken a bold step in reducing pollution and doing our part in protecting the planet. I will leave the economics to those far more qualified (I struggle to even get my taxes right) and leave the politics to the politicians.
The goals of the Government are these – Firstly, the establishment of a carbon price. Secondly, support for renewable energy. Thirdly, to support improvements in energy efficiency. And fourthly, to store carbon through changed land-use practices.
The second and the third of these are to me the most exciting, it fires in my belly something we can all relate to and promote the one thing that is guaranteed to create jobs and build a sustainable economy. Innovation!
Aussies are an innovative bunch by nature, from the Hills Hoist to the Victa Lawn Mower we have found ways to do things in a more efficient way. But we also do it in our every day lives, from the Ancient Indigenous Axe head recently found that was over 35000 years old shaped from a simple stone to the coat hanger aerial in the shape of our nation we find a way to solve our daily problems by thinking outside the square and having a little fun with it too.
Transport is obviously a key area that must be addressed in reducing pollution and finding more energy efficient ways of moving around. From Gas to the newer Hybrid vehicles like the Australian built Camry or the world renowned Hipster car the Prius technology for moving around has become greener and cleaner.
But for many these cars are boring, they still use petrol (at a lesser rate than a conventional vehicle) and thus don’t really solve the long term problem. Hydrogen is an exciting prospect but the technology is still in its relative infancy before it could be mass produced, although in the long term it is one of the best solutions. Electric vehicles are another excellent alternative as they offer the chance to reduce running emissions to virtually nil when charged by renewable power such as Solar, Wind, Wave etc.
But what if I told you about the potential for a vehicle that NEVER needed to be recharged or refueled, no gas, no petrol, no emissions and no pollution at all. And to further sweeten the deal this was no boring vehicle with all the sex appeal of a Dunlop Volley, this was a race machine, that looked amazing and left most vehicles in its… well sheer lack of smoke!
The Mugen Shinden (Electric God) is a vehicle with such a potential. Mugen a Japanese company founded by the son of Mr Honda of automotive fame is known for its innovation and now with the Shinden they have entered the clean energy future. This particular bike was raced at this years Isle of Man TT in the electric bike race and took a close second with TT legend John McGuiness on board. Lapping the famous mountain course at an average speed of 160km/h this is not for the faint hearted. But what makes this bike different to the winner of the race and other electric bikes is its ability to recharge its batteries on the go. So how does it do it, mobile fuelling station, Jerry can strapped to the back of the rider? No the Shinden captures the energy created when braking and then regenerates it into usable power to top up the batteries. While far more powerful and complicated, think of it as you would your car’s alternator charging up your battery. Imagine if you only filled up your tank as often as you replaced your battery!
Producing 120hp and a huge amount of torque as soon as the throttle is cracked this engine could power small and medium cars and as Mugen engineers told me during the week of the TT the engine is only working at 40% of its potential. All they have to do is turn the dial and this 200kg motorcycle could be pushing out the sort of power your average HSV V8 owner is more than proud of, with far more torque.
The power regeneration system is still being developed and as a race bike it was only designed to cover 60km. But when you reach speeds close to 300km/h economy was not the aim of the day. What makes this even more remarkable is that the regeneration system is less than 6 months old. Mugen Engineers hope by next year to double the distance the bike is capable of and halve the weight. In a commuter application the technology could carry a rider across Australia without the need for either a fueling stop or an exhaust pipe.
The potential is not just there, it is becoming a reality. Cars and Bikes that you and I could own that would have you waving to the Service Station attendant as you drive on past, only needing to replace the battery once or twice in the life of the vehicle and NEVER having to charge it. Imagine now if an Australian company making vast wealth from the mining boom & especially ones paying the Carbon Price decided to offset this by investing in such technology. So instead of waiting on the German’s or Japanese we were building such vehicles for everyone right here in Australia. Thousands of jobs, a strong/diverse economy, drastically reduced emissions even when accounting for the manufacturing process and a product to export to the rest of the world.
I don’t see the Carbon Price as the looming Carbongeddon that Abbott does, because unlike Tony I believe in Australia’s ability to innovate like we have done a million times before. Tomorrow we don’t wake up to a wiped out Whyalla, we wake up to a new dawn of both a cleaner environment and an exciting future. Bring it on!