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The Whitlam SJ Model – the small electric car that saved Australia

Ford, General Motors, and Toyota have pulled the pin on us and tens of thousands of Australians are about to be dumped on the job scrap heap. Workers in our car factories are about to be booted out the door and workers in the car component add-on industries are about to have the same experience as well. Instead of moaning about it all over our mutton stew there actually is something that we, as a nation, can do to turn this situation around to our decided advantage.

When we look back in time the date of June 12 2014 may well prove to be one of those seminal moments in Australian history. One of those moments in time that led us to grasp the opportunity to mould our economic destiny for more than just the foreseeable future.

But what was it that happened on that date? Well … on the surface it was something pretty simple. Elon Musk, the CEO of the Tesla Motor Company in the US released a media statement. And this is what he had to say:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

So there you have it. The intricacies of Tesla’s electric vehicle technology is laid bare for all who, in good faith, want to use it.

And personally I don’t care if, as some motoring pundits have lately intimated, that Elon is simply a class A businessman who sees a great future in every manufacturer picking up on and buying Tesla’s lithium ion batteries. Good luck to the gent if that one plays out to his satisfaction because I for one would like to see an off-griddable version of that battery hanging off every suburban garage wall.

BUT HERE’S MY VISION. And I’m more than happy for our visionless politicians to pick it up and run with it and claim it as their own idea. I’d be more than happy if they did that.

We have soon to be defunct car factories that are full of machines that manufacture cars. We have vehicle design engineers who have not yet in force joined the brain drain and left our shores. We still have a vehicle component add-on industry. In other words we have all the necessary ducks in a row to produce an all-Australian electric vehicle.

We also have open source access to Tesla’s Model S all-electric vehicle technology. The Model S has a range of 500klm before a re-charge is needed and it is a luxury Commodore sized sedan. But I am not suggesting that we build a Commodore sized electric vehicle. I am suggesting that we build the smaller Whitlam SJ Model all-electric vehicle right here in Australia.

The Whitlam SJ Model would be a small sedan or hatchback, about the size of a Hyundai or Golf, and mainly designed to cater to the transport needs of city dwellers. And let’s face it, most of us here in Australia live in cities. And most of us are lucky enough not to have to rack up anything near 500klm of commuting time in a week. And how many large sedans and SUVs do we really need frustratingly blocking our line of sight at intersections?

Our design and electrical and mechanical engineers would have to down-scale Tesla’s technology to fit into the Whitlam’s smaller body space. That’s a given and it can be done. This is one of those wonderful cases where the ‘size does matter’ brigade will be left weeping in their soup.

So let’s imagine that we are producing the Whitlam SJ Model and that we are flogging it off as cheaply as we can. At the moment we can pick up a small internal combustion powered commuter buzz-box for $15,000 to get us from A to B in our cities. We use the term buzz-box because those small internal combustion engines whine along and produce that annoying high compression buzzing sound. Makes it hard to hear the best of Led Zep unless you crank up the sound system to the max.

The other annoying thing is that you have to pay the multi-nat energy companies money to fill the fuel tank of the buzz-box with petrol.

The Whitlam SJ Model gets us around all of those annoying facts. Electric motor technology is whisper quiet. You don’t hear the car coming engine or exhaust wise – all you hear are the tyres on the road. But much better yet – the Whitlam SJ Model will allow us to give the terminal wave-off to all of those multi-nat energy companies who always seem to jack-up their fuel costs just before we all hit the road on the first day of our Easter holidays.

The Whitlam SJ uses electricity as a locomotive fuel. We can continue to pay the multi-nat electricity providers over the top prices for their volts or we can go fully off-grid and give the electricity suppliers a solid wave-off too.

So here’s some positive facts. The Whitlam SJ Model is quiet; it produces no exhaust emissions; it will handle your week’s worth of city commuting; it frees you from a very expensive reliance on multi-nat fuel providers if you go fully off-grid; and you’ll probably end up waggling a very independent finger at energy companies and the government … mmm, think about that one!

Right at about this moment all the negative naysayers, and most of our politicians, will kick in with all of their reasons why none of this will ever work. Run a good idea past them and they will expend an inordinate amount of energy and hot air in tearing that good idea totally apart … that is kind of their lemming auto-default mode.

Firstly they will demean the off-grid concept. Both the government (who loves coal) and the energy companies (who want to keep you firmly within their financial grasp) will fully disparage any effort by any citizen to be totally energy self-sufficient. By going fully off-grid and charging up your Whitlam at home you will be cocking a snoot at all the vested interests who want to maintain their lucrative conduit to your wallet … and they will do everything within their power to stop you.

They’ll also throw in that while running the Whitlam around in the city is all well and good you’ll hit huge problems once you get out on to the national highways because Servos don’t have power charging outlets. So I say … we only need Motels to have those power-charging outlets don’t we?

After that they will say that Toyota is about to release their first fully hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle so why bother building the Whitlam SJ Model at all. The Toyota vehicle has great range and farts nothing but water out of the exhaust pipe. All of that is quite true. It will probably prove to be a great vehicle. But if we buy one of them we are simply guaranteeing that we will remain wedded to the fuel supply chain of the energy-providing multi-nats. You’ll still have to pull into the Servo and buy your hydrogen from them won’t you? They’ll still have you by the short and curlies won’t they?

Then they’ll say that because the Australian market for vehicles of any type is so small it simply wouldn’t be economic to produce the Whitlam SJ here and that we wouldn’t sell enough of them to Australians to make the whole enterprise economic. In that regard I would fully agree with them … but then … politely and in simple easy to understand language of course … I would gently point out that the major market for the Whitlam SJ Model was never, and could never be, the Australian market. The Australian market would be an add-on.

Even a rocket scientist could tell us that the Indian and Chinese middle classes, all those hundreds of millions of middle class type big city commuters, are probably looking around for a viable alternative to the hundreds of millions of air-fouling buzz-boxes that they are currently using to flit about from A to B in their grandly polluted cities. That, to put it bluntly, is where the market is.

And here’s where truth and common sense kick in because the Whitlam SJ Model will not save tens of thousands of Australian jobs in South Australia or anywhere else across the country.

To reach the economy of scale required to supply the vehicle demands of the Asian market our Whitlam SJ Model car manufacturing factory would need to be just about fully automated. It would need to crank out the Whitlam like widgets … huge in volume and cheap in price. It would need to do to the Asian market what the Asian market has happily done to us for decades … provide a good sound little vehicle at a cheap price. We would have to out-Hyundai Hyundai. But we could sell an awful lot of cheap sound little Whitlams in Asia by my reckoning.

We would also need to think on a national scale.

Automation is already pushing a lot of our jobs out the window. That process will continue and only accelerate. Google the term ‘a basic income guarantee for all’ and you will see what I am getting at here. As a nation we need to figure out a way to not only produce wealth … but we also need to figure out how we can distribute that wealth equitably amongst all our citizens.

The Whitlam SJ is not designed to produce wealth for the already wealthy … it is designed to produce wealth for We, The People. It is up to us to ensure that our politicians get that message.

So there you go. Elon Musk of Tesla has basically said “go for it if you are replete with bravery, guts, and good faith”. It begs the question … as a nation, are we replete with bravery, guts, and good faith?

As a rider to all of the above … you are probably wondering what the SJ in the Whitlam SJ Model stands for.

It stands for Social Justice of course. And there is a delicious irony in the thought that if we adopt SJ as a national mindset, not only in the car manufacturing sphere, but also across the tendrils of our political landscape … such a move could very well prove to be the making of a more modern and equitable Australia.

How good would that be?



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  1. mikestasse

    Cars are unsustainable, no matter how they are powered. Even if we switched to EVs, the construction of each one would generate the same amount as 60% of a conventional car’s emissions.

    Every time some new piece of hardware is built, more and more CO2 goes into the air. Just as we should have 100% reduction. NOW. Not 2020, NOW. Even James Hansen is now saying a 3 metre rise in sea levels by 2050 is on the cards. WHICH cities will we drive our Whitlam SJ Models in when they’re underwater?

    And please don’t tell me we can charge them up with renewable energy…….. because even if we switched to 100% renewables, it would only reduce emissions by 17%….

  2. Lawrence Roberts

    Thanks Roswell, A timely article which shows the paucity of our political class. The first prototype ST should be black, red and yellow.
    I will start work on it immediately.

  3. John

    A splendid vision. Pity our politicians are blind. Renewable energy in a sustainable economy is our future if we are to survive.

  4. Roswell

    Thanks Lawrence, but all credit should go to Keith Davis who wrote the article. I should have been logged in as one of the admin when I published the article, instead of myself.

  5. amarkone

    I will have to start wearing a faraday hat because you have stolen my idea re: turning car plants into electric vehicle plants, I say this as I chortle. I thought it was brilliant when I thought of it but it is even more brilliant that somebody else has half a brain as well. BUT…. not just for the city folk, lest we isolate 99% of our country land mass and 50% of our outer urban and country populace, we need a range of vehicle types including the REX/BB. This stands for the great Rex Conner/ Buy Back. Rex wanted to buy back the farm (Utah mines) that dug up our minerals and gave us nothing for them. The REX would be an all terrain vehicle for the outback with a Tesla 500km range with a non polluting backup genset onboard along with built in solar panels all over the bodywork. Can’t you see it now, sneaking up on a flock of galahs at a billabong and they don’t even know you are there because of the serenity of the electric vehicle………oh the serenity.

    We must cater for all peoples because this is what is wrong with many concepts these days, not everybody can see themselves fitting in so they don’t back the idea but instead become very anti. I note that some would say “cars are unsustainable” but these same people say we should walk or ride bikes. My comment to this is, wait until you are 50 or 60 and see what you think of riding a bike with a bad knee etc and besides that when you are living in a cave in the hills it will be difficult to ride or walk down to the river to get your water in your heavy sun dried clay pot.

    Let’s just take this one step at a time, firstly we have to get rid of the Luddites in government, then we need visionaries in government who can spell out forward thinking concepts that you have written about. We must not let those who would have us live in caves and eat grass to railroad good ideas because they are just as bad as those who want to continue down the destructive path we are presently on.

  6. mikestasse

    I am 63, and I ride a bike.

  7. mikestasse

    railroad good ideas

    Now THAT’s a visionary idea…………. I want more railroads and fewer cars. Quick, before we run out of bitumen……..

  8. Ricardo29

    I too have thought about ways to use existing infrastructure to make an Australian Vehicle. We have small manufacturers of cars — Bolwell– but they are expensive and exclusive. However we do have a vehicle building skill set. Perhaps some of our million/billionaires could be persuaded to support a home grown industry such as suggested above, after all there must be the expectation of a bit of profit from all those sales to India and China. Just one thing though, can we also have a small open-top sports car version for those of us who like the wind in our hair (and live where the said wind isn’t polluted)?

  9. Kaye Lee

    No one thing will provide a solution for the future but this is a very good idea both for employment and curbing pollution. I agree we should be also investing in rail – urban metros or light rail for our cities and high speed rail to revitalise regional areas and to help with housing affordability and decentralisation and freeing up our freight routes.

  10. passum2013

    Any Unemployment is bad as the flow on effects a wider field of business.
    The way ahead is in the creation of manufacturing for the future
    The point made about electric vehicles is a very worthy one we have the workers factories support industries that can be converted relatively easy.
    Electrical hybrids are the way of the future with dynamic feed back on going down hill as well as solar inbuilt paneling covering the vehicles bonded in during the manufacturing process.
    This with a home recharge Solar would bring running costs down to as a guess say 10% for fuel
    The ongoing effect would be an massive employment lifter in this countries .
    With the assistance of tariffs on imported vehicles that don’t fit into a new set of pollution reduction features to reduce their pollution down to the minimum of the hybrids cars emissions.
    We in Australia Under Liberal National Governments Need to learn From our Mistakes
    We spend Billions on overseas Manufacturing While Giving away our manufacturing Jobs by Governments Using Overseas Contracts to fulfill their Greed for The Cheapest Product with out looking at The Returns of Keeping Australians Employed.
    This New Industry would in away Start the Reversal process.of unemployment

    What ever Happened to Australia Being the Clever Country.
    The Liberals have given Australia Starting When We lost the manufacturing of solar To China by John Howard,s lack of Support for a new clean energy .
    The only obvious reason it ,is that you cannot tax the Sun.
    Clean energy is Now extremely cheep to set up . compared when I did it my self.
    my main wish is to hope This Liberal National government Wakes up and Stops Spending On War .
    Looks after its own instead.
    A fully employed Australia Will Prosper.

  11. mikestasse

    Unemployment is only bad for capitalism. Self employment, not working for the Matrix, is good for self esteem and mental health, and best of all, excellent for the environment, because once you no longer earn money, you can’t consume, and as the planet is dying of consumption, a drop in consumption is a great idea.

    We have to abandon capitalism. It’s already on its way out

    Once we’ve got rid of capitalism, we don’t need to worry about unemployment, and we won’t need cars…….

  12. mikestasse

    The only obvious reason is that you cannot tax the Sun.

    Sorry………. they already do. It’s called a grid connection fee. Plus they charge you GST on every aspect of installing solar.

  13. miriamenglish

    Wonderful idea! I especially love the idea of automating as much as possible to maximise the output per person and compete effectively with other countries. Automation is coming in a big way whether we want it or not. Resisting it is like trying to hold back the ocean. Much better is to ride that wave to our best advantage.

    The automotive production line would need a lot of changes to take proper advantage of the technology though. Using carbon-fibre reinforced plastic bodies would make them much stronger, safer, and lighter than the old, bad metal ones. That also means they become carbon sequesters instead of producing large amounts of carbon dioxide as metal furnaces generally do.

    Electric cars are much, much simpler to build and maintain than internal combustion vehicles. They don’t need a gearbox or clutch because they produce maximum torque at all speeds. They don’t need water cooling and the pump, radiator, and heavy water jacket that goes with it. They don’t need the heavy engine block to restrain the internal explosions. They don’t need all the complex pistons, crankshaft, valves with cams and pushrods or belts They don’t need all that filthy lubrication. They don’t need the air filter and temperamental carburettor. They don’t need fragile sparkplugs and the tricky timing mechanism to fire them properly. If they have an engine in the hub of either the front two wheels or all four, instead of a single, central engine, then the complex, heavy drive train can be eliminated too.

    The only heavy item remaining then is the battery. If that’s replaced by the supercapacitor being developed by Robert Murray Smith then we have a much lighter, cheaper, non-toxic electrical store that would probably last the lifetime of the vehicle itself, as supercapacitors can be charged and discharged an indefinite amount of times without deterioration. They can also be charged much more quickly than lithium batteries. Robert Murray Smith is deliberately using cheap, plentiful, non-toxic materials in his supercapacitors, which avoids the problems of lithium which is not plentiful and is toxic.

    This makes the whole vehicle extremely efficient, and potentially very cheap to build.

    Being electric vehicles they naturally work best being controlled by computers, which also allows the easy introduction of self-driving cars and other conveniences that require some intelligence built into our vehicles. Bring on the future!

    Here are some videos Robert Murray Smith has made about his work on supercapacitors (earlier videos are available on his YouTube channel which go into detail about construction):

    A Super Capacitor As Powerful As A Battery [27-06-2015]

    The Super Safe Megafarad capacitor [13-06-2015]

    Amory Lovins, chief scientist and founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute has, for some years now, been pushing the idea of a “Hypercar” with a super-strong, very light body made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic. Here are some links:

    Cut from a Different Cloth

    BMW i3: Cheap, mass-produced carbon fiber cars finally come of age

    BMW i3: Cheap, mass-produced carbon fiber cars finally come of age

    Hypercar: Carbon Fiber Car [2009]

    And here, for fun, is Running On Lithium – White Zombie vs. Corvette [2011]
    WORLDS FASTEST street legal ELECTRIC CAR [2009]

  14. passum2013

    No it is the continuous tax.on the Actual Energy provided by the Sun is un taxable .

    so sorry your wrong.

    The use of the Grid is Paid by every one and cannot be counted
    That is because The governments of both sides Sold it off.
    Supposedly for infrastructure like Sydney roads in N.S.W.
    Money needs to be generated for proffet by the now owned private grids.
    To offset maintenance and replacement of grids
    They need to recover their outlays as well to continue to employ their workers.
    A similar problem exists for miners displaced by going away from fossil fuels.
    They will need a new industry example the Running of massive Solar plants and wind , ground therminal and wave energy.

  15. mikestasse

    The grid connection fee was only introduced after the flood of grid tied solar dug deep into the grid owners’ profits. That’s why my next project is off grid, I refuse to pay it.

    There’s no way the grid connection fees are going to building roads, they are owned by different companies.

    And once we ‘go away from fossil fuels’, all your renewables and EV factories will shut down from lack of energy.

  16. mikestasse

    miriamenglish, whatever it is you’re smokin’ I want some……

  17. miriamenglish

    Mike, I don’t use any mind-altering substances — not even caffeine. What do you bend your mind with? Something is certainly making you more pessimistic than needs be.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Why must you always slap people down mike? Are we to have yet another thread full of your doom and gloom? I find it fascinating reading about people’s ideas, research and emerging technologies.

  19. Möbius Ecko

    Don’t rail engines, carriages, tracks, track ways and especially concrete sleepers require CO² to be emitted during their construction?

  20. Keitha Granville

    PLEASE send this to the Labor Party, the Greens – anyone who MIGHT listen.
    Send it to Dick Smith, to Graeme Wood, to any other Australian entrepreneurs who just might have an interest in saving this country from the mob we have in charge.
    Maybe we could crowd fund to get it going ? Maybe all those about to be unemployed car plant workers could all chuck in and have a co-op to get it going ?
    Anything has to be better than the usual apathy of “we can’t do that”, ” that won’t work ” or the perennial favourite “the government should do something”.

    I want one for myself.

  21. Roswell

    Spot on, Kaye, on both counts.

  22. mikestasse

    Costa Rica gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric plants and a recent period of unusually heavy rain allowed the country to reach the milestone. This clean power is bolstered by geothermal energy from the country’s volcanoes and a small amount of wind and solar power. Most years, these sources allow Costa Rica to generate approximately 90% of its electricity without burning fossil fuel……

    The downside to hydropower is that it requires consistent rainfall. Though the dams in Costa Rica are now full, just months ago the country was suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. This forced Costa Rican utility companies to burn fuel to generate power, releasing greenhouse gases and causing rate rises…

    This unpredictability in rain patterns isn’t unique to Costa Rica and is considered to be one of the primary effects of climate change. Ironically, this means that the bulging reservoirs that gave Costa Rica its green energy surge are likely to be attributable, at least partially, to climate change. And while there is plenty of clean power today, it could just as easily be gone tomorrow.

    AND….. it’s such an industrial monster too…..! A pessimist is a well informed optimist.

  23. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    If you have rooftop solar (as I hope to have very soon) and live in an appropriately sunny area (as I do) you can go off grid and have battery storage for night-time use AND for your electric car. I am nearly 80 and drive everywhere because walking any distance in the tropics is not an option. I live in a small city and only need a small car as I am usually alone or with only one passenger and this whole idea is so appealing I can’t wait for someone to set things in (auto)motion!)

  24. miriamenglish

    Keitha, good point. I wonder if the money could be raised by crowd-funding. I wonder what kind of target would be required.

    Crowd-funding can do amazing things. The Veronica Mars movie project raised $5.7 million dollars. If I remember right, $2.5 million of that was raised in the first 11 hours!! The great thing about crowd funding is that the project doesn’t get owned by banks or venture capitalists (who have a very bad reputation of then ruining the very project they’ve funded because they love control). Crowd-funded projects remain the property of the people who have the dream and the technology.

  25. mikestasse

    Don’t rail engines, carriages, tracks, track ways and especially concrete sleepers require CO² to be emitted during their construction?

    Yes they do Möbius Ecko, but trains are 100 times more efficient than cars. It might even 1000 times by the time you count passenger miles.

    Furthermore, nobody here is giving a nano second’s thought on what happens to the thousands upon thousands of spent battery banks that all contain toxic heavy metals that cannot be recycled every 8 to 10 years at an astronomical cost….

    When the first model Prius came out, their battery banks all died after 8 or so years, and the replacement cost was more than the value of the cars, so they were all dumped, adding to the waste stream and greenhouse emissions to manufacture new models.

  26. Kaye Lee


    Your selective quoting of the Guardian article left out a few things.

    ” The environment ministry reports that fuel burned by cars, buses and trains accounted for almost 70% of the country’s carbon emissions in 2014. According to customs there are only 200 or so hybrid cars in Costa Rica to take advantage of the energy produced by renewables on the grid.”

    That point is far more relevant to this article.

    “To seriously make a difference in global energy consumption would require significant investment in the research and design of new sources of non-polluting energy, a task most easily funded by richer nations.

    While the world may not be able to tailor its energy programmes to Costa Rica’s geography-specific model, the lesson here is not about science and infrastructure, but about volition and ideals.”

    Also, can’t batteries be recycled?

  27. miriamenglish

    So Mike, you’re saying renewable energy doesn’t work except when it does. Well, that’s world-shaking.

    To the optimist, the glass is half full.
    To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
    To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

  28. miriamenglish

    nobody here is giving a … thought on what happens to the … spent battery banks that all contain toxic heavy metals

    Mike, I didn’t think you read my post, but merely gave a knee-jerk reaction. Confirmed.

  29. dwejevans

    Love the name ‘Whitlam”! And of course the compact version would be the Shorten, and the ‘lemon’ would have to be the abbott?

  30. mikestasse

    Kaye Lee, that article on recycling makes no mention of the problematic Li ion batteries in cars.

    Need for recycling
    OEMs are looking at overcoming the dependency on lithium through reuse of lithium batteries in other applications (second-life) and through recycling the batteries once they have completed their lifecycle. However, it does not make any economic sense to recycle the batteries. Batteries contain only a small fraction of lithium carbonate as a percent of weight and are inexpensive compared to cobalt or nickel. The average lithium cost associated with Li-ion battery production is less than 3% of the production cost. Intrinsic value for the Li-ion recycling business currently comes from the valuable metals such as cobalt and nickel that are more highly priced than lithium. Due to less demand for lithium and low prices, almost none of the lithium used in consumer batteries is completely recycled.

    Furthermore, just like oil, Lithium is in short supply and under someone else’s sand…….

    Lithium supply and challenges
    There are a number of challenges that are likely to impact lithium supply in the future. Although there is sufficient amount of lithium resources available globally to meet the demand, almost 70% of the global lithium deposits are concentrated in South America’s ABC (Argentina, Bolivia and Chile) region. This poses an inherent risk due to the accessibility of the raw material that is available only in a specific geography. Unrest or instability of the governments in these regions can greatly affect the supply and have impact on the battery price and in turn, the vehicle cost.

    Lithium prices have fluctuated wildly over the years but there has been a sharp rise in the last decade…… they have in fact tripled in the last ten years, and as EVs start being manufactured in greater numbers and demand rises, prices will rise even more.

    BTW, I am amazed that anyone would consider our future sustainability as ‘doom and gloom’. The alternative is extinction. Your choice.

  31. Kaye Lee

    The article does mention lithium ion batteries under secondary batteries mike. Did you read Miriam’s comment yet about supercapacitors? I know little about such things but it sounds promising.

    And please stop misquoting me. I am just as interested in our future sustainability as you are. The difference between you and me is I am open to ideas. You have invested everything you have into self-sufficiency. That is your choice and one to be applauded. Beyond your own little bubble however, I find you have little to offer in the way of suggestions. You do not recognise how dependent you actually are on other people’s expertise – far less than most I concede, but the idea that all of us can adopt your lifestyle I find impractical. People contribute to society according to their skills.

  32. mikestasse

    ” The environment ministry reports that fuel burned by cars, buses and trains accounted for almost 70% of the country’s carbon emissions in 2014. According to customs there are only 200 or so hybrid cars in Costa Rica to take advantage of the energy produced by renewables on the grid.”

    That point is far more relevant to this article.

    REALLY? How so………. when 60% of a vehicle’s emissions are caused by its manufacture, NOT from driving it?

  33. mikestasse

    You do not recognise how dependent you actually are on other people’s expertise

    Funny……. I’m the one dishing out expertise here. Everybody else is dishing out hopium.

    Supercapacitors are just like fusion energy…….. always in the future. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I can’t see mention of ANY specific technology under ‘secondary batteries’ in that link…

  34. miriamenglish

    Mike I’m sure most of the people here are very concerned about sustainability. To equate sustainability with you “doom and gloom” outlook is a bit of a stretch. While I can understand the temptation to feel pessimistic about our chances of achieving sustainability, I can also see that succumbing to it achieves nothing. Giving up is the opposite to achieving a good solution.

    Certainly it is important to keep in mind the difficulties, such as the real problems with battery technology. This is why I have such high hopes for supercapacitor technology.

    Yes, there are genuine difficulties with production of materials for windmills and solar panels if we decide to drastically cut the use of fossil fuels. Will we use other, lower energy materials like the composite ceramic that the abalone is able to assemble at ambient temperatures which is tougher than our best furnace-fired ceramics? Or will we use solar furnaces which are capable of reaching higher temperatures than any fossil fuelled furnace? Or will we decide that limited use of fossil fuels in those special limited cases justifies the gains?

    Our greatest users of energy and thus our greatest greenhouse gas polluters are our buildings. Our second greatest, I believe, is transport. If we can fix those problems with better design then our emissions will fall drastically. If, on top of that, we can increase take-up of carbon from the atmosphere by ending deforestation, planting more vegetation, and using technologies to build polymers from carbon dioxide the way plants do, then we have a little more flexibility in whether to make targeted use of burning fossil (or algal) fuel for special purposes.

    What I’m trying to say is that there are solutions. All the ones I mentioned above are already in use with people trying to scale them up. There is nothing to be gained by merely decrying everything and jumping to the conclusion that all is lost, and there is everything to be gained by trying to fix the problems on the way toward a genuinely sustainable tomorrow.

  35. miriamenglish

    Supercapacitors … I’ll believe it when I see it.

    See it:
    Now do you believe it?

    The other video covers lack of toxicity and use of abundant materials as opposed to rare, toxic substances.

  36. mikestasse

    So Mike, you’re saying renewable energy doesn’t work except when it does.

    I don’t recall actually saying that, but it’s true! If the sun don’t shine or the wind don’t blow…… I did a diploma in Renewable Energy Technology in the 90’s thinking I’d be participating in ‘saving the world’. Instead, what I found was that the technology is highly restrictive, AND, that reducing consumption was easy as pie. I’ve proved it, our award winning house burns less than 10% of the electricity of the normal Aussie house, and we lack nothing. Our 3.5kW solar array produces FIVE times what we need.

    Once you drop consumption to those kinds of levels, then renewable energy, not to mention battery storage, becomes very viable, and affordable. Which is EXACTLY what Ozzie Zehner says in the video I linked to several posts above, which eight people from here actually looked at….

    All the toys in the world will not run business as usual unless it’s pared right down to 10% of current consumption, AND we put an end to growth, altogether. Otherwise it’s all over rover.

  37. Kaye Lee

    ” 60% of a vehicle’s emissions are caused by its manufacture, NOT from driving it”

    That is such a complex thing to measure with so many variables. Once again I would refer you to Miriam’s post regarding the construction of electric cars as opposed to internal combustion vehicles.

    The type of car matters too.

    The carbon footprint of a new car:
    6 tonnes CO2e: Citroen C1, basic spec
    17 tonnes CO2e: Ford Mondeo, medium spec
    35 tonnes CO2e: Land Rover Discovery, top of the range

    Granted with current technology and materials, manufacture contributes a large part of emissions, so while better methods are being developed we buy more appropriate cars and keep them longer. I read that if you make a car last to 200,000 miles rather than 100,000, then the emissions for each mile the car does in its lifetime may drop by as much as 50%, as a result of getting more distance out of the initial manufacturing emissions.

    There is always SOMETHING we can do to improve.

  38. mikestasse

    Well that was interesting, though I learned very little. it’s a HUGE step up between powering a LED and moving a one tonne car……

  39. mikestasse

    Because EVs require the mining of exotic materials from very far away, their manufacturing footprint is actually greater than that for an IC vehicle.

  40. miriamenglish

    Mike, you and I have complete agreement that reduction in consumption is central to achieving sustainability. I’m not sure what percentage of current consumption it needs to be reduced to, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re correct and it should be 10%. Of course nobody could expect that to be achieved overnight, but as a nation we are reducing our electricity consumption (that’s what caught the idiot electricity companies by surprise, when they had been planning for ever-increasing consumption and found it actually fell). People do want to do the right thing. But mostly I think they feel caught between a rock and a hard place.

    Like you, I consume almost no electricity and the solar panels on the roof feed the excess back into the grid. I eat very little, and am almost entirely vegetarian, eating a very small portion of fish once a week. I leave the house once every couple of months and don’t own a car. I consume so little that my garbage bin only needs picking up about once every 3 months or so, and even then it is mostly filled with weeds rather than packaging. Even so, I still consider myself dangerously dependent upon outside inputs and need to be more self-sufficient.

    Most people can’t achieve that kind of lifestyle immediately, quite apart from the fact that they’re heavily indoctrinated to over-consume. But with a careful approach, luring people with the rewards of a less wasteful, but more luxurious lifestyle things are changing. Is it changing fast enough? Nobody knows. It looks like it will be dangerously close, but considering our ability to make massive social changes when we really need to things could get better quite suddenly. (Note, for example, the way USA changed all its heavy industry in just months during the second world war.)

    Telling everybody they’re f*cked doesn’t promote change. All it does is alienate exactly the people who need to alter their ways. It is just as counterproductive as saying that there’s nothing to worry about, there’s plenty of oil, climate change is bullshit and god will always provide for us. 🙂

  41. miriamenglish

    it’s a HUGE step up between powering a LED and moving a one tonne car

    True, but a sensibly designed electric car powered by such supercapacitors would not weigh a tonne. Also the problem becomes merely one of scale. We can easily extrapolate the energy required with simple arithmetic. And this is merely a prototype. He has been refining this for a while and has further to go, but it works right now!

    Because EVs require the mining of exotic materials from very far away, their manufacturing footprint is actually greater than that for an IC vehicle.

    The exotic materials you are referring to are the magnets in the electric motors. Are you sure that this increases their manufacturing footprint beyond that of internal combustion vehicles? I seriously doubt it. Just on volume alone I doubt it. But even so, I concede that reliance upon rare metals like niobium for magnets is a problem. There are solutions though. Perhaps using electromagnets is less efficient than using permanent magnets, but if it made a great reduction in cost and environmental impact I expect people would be happy with that. Also, graphite conducts very well — not as well as copper, but it is much, much lighter, and there is no shortage of carbon (in fact its excess in the atmosphere is one of our big problems). There is also the tantalising opportunity of mining asteroids for such metals. Last week a spaceship was launched to do preliminary tests for Planetary Resources, a company intent on mining asteroids. And I’m sure I can imagine other potential solutions to the problem.

    See, you’re focussed on the “we can’t” side of every problem. That makes it very hard to see solutions. Sure, there will always be some small number of insoluble problems, but if you take a defeatist approach every problem becomes insoluble.

  42. DC

    lol ” I did a diploma in Renewable Energy Technology in the 90’s”

    says it all Mike.

  43. mikestasse

    which means what exactly DC?

  44. DC

    The bold conclusions you made about the potential for renewable energy were based on 90s technology, hence a little premature maybe? Some positive suggestions about how you have reduced your own consumption would be much more helpful than putting down anyone who is interested in technological innovations.

  45. Harquebus

    Another techno utopian dream that defies the laws of physics. I was surprised that Roswell would write such rubbish but then, he stated that Keith Davis was actually the author so, now I am not surprised. Keith Davis is another who hasn’t got a clue and is actually working very hard at making matters worse.
    Physical realities are killing off these dreams one by one and this one will be no different.

    Electric cars use electricity from the grid which, is still mainly coal generated.
    It takes more energy to produce hydrogen than is returned either through a fuel cell or combustion.

    You have a diploma in something that doesn’t exist. That’s just great mate.

  46. mikestasse

    DC, I hate to tell you, but little has changed since I went to college………. apart from the cost ‘collapsing’, all this stuff still works the same way. BTW, there are now some 300,000 grid tied solar homes in Qld. Ours was number 400.

  47. DC

    Oh no, its Mike’s alter ego Harquebus. In the Game Over article you claimed that renewable energy “doesn’t exist”. I’ve read enough of your know-it-all comments to know not to take you serioius. Please try to resist taking over this thread with all of that garbage again. Try to actually learn from people like Kaye Lee and Miriam English. They may know a thing or two that you didn’t.

  48. mikestasse

    I’ve watched that megafarad video again……..

    We don’t really care what the Capacitance is, we want to know how much Energy that is.

    Joules = Farads × Voltage²
    So his 1 Megafarad capacitor charged to 1.5 Volts:
    = 1,000,000 × 1.5 × 1.5
    = 2,250,000 Joules
    = 625 Watt.hours

    Except that storage capacity falls off rapidly as the voltage drops…..

    So the thing he hasn’t built yet, but which he says will be about the size of a car battery, has the same energy storage as … a 12V 53 Amp.hour car battery, IF you can use ALL the energy, some of it delivered at 1.5 V, some at 0.001 V, and everything in between.

    Very few things (no, actually make that NOTHING) work with ANY voltage, computer electronics commonly use 5.000 V ± 1%, so on its own a capacitor would be useless for that. And for normal household appliances, its just not very much energy for not very much time. For a car…? COMPLETELY USELESS!

    Now you could take that energy at whatever voltage, and slice it up and rebuild it as continuous 12 VDC or 5 VDC or even 240 VAC, like an inverter does, and then you might be getting somewhere, for small loads – definitely NOT in the league of storing household electricity overnight, let alone drive a car!!

    I’m guessing it uses a thin film of graphene as a separator, so then question is how much will it cost? Shitloads I reckon….

  49. Harquebus

    I read all comments and visit most links and am still not convinced. Attacking me isn’t going to make these “renewable energy” fallacies any more realistic.
    It is you that has much to learn.

  50. passum2013

    Its not the Grid usage fees that are going into Sydney,s roads But the actual sale Money from selling the grid that was built and paid for by the taxpayer and end user.
    Also the Selling of of our ports by the State of N.S.W. Liberal government.Has al;so dissapeared into the Sydney area.For future Road works being planned for Upgrades.

  51. mikestasse

    Half way through that supercapacitor video, the dude compares the discharge rate charts of batteries vs capacitors. The problem is obvious. Batteries stay sufficiently charged to operate whatever it is they operate long enough to do the job, and then they go flat. Capacitors go flat straight away.

    Like I said……. some time in the future, back to the drawing board. About all that guy’s achieved is slowing down the discharge rate – normal capacitors discharge very quickly – but the voltage delivered is useless.

  52. passum2013

    The use of capacitors to store energy is going to be pure fiction as the capacitance only holds for minute seconds then they spill over as in an Solar P.V. unit My original Fontius Blew these things on a regular basis they sound like a 22 gun going off once one fails they all pop and some times can cause fires but i was lucky the way my unit was installed.
    you can buy a capacitor operated screwdriver its great for one screw then you recharge for the next screw not worth using it but it has no batteries in it can be recharged from house power or 12 volts dc .so some ways good but pretty useless.

  53. miriamenglish

    Mike, you are altogether too eager to put things down. It deafens you to what is really being discussed. The amount of energy (work, actually, I think) that you can use is the area under the voltage-by-time discharge curve for the storage device.

    As you say, batteries have a roughly two part discharge curve. Their voltage drops slowly until they reach close to empty then their voltage drops rapidly. It makes them very easy to use with circuits because of the way they stay at nearly the same voltage over much of their discharge time. This is because of the way batteries store electricity — as a chemical reaction.

    Capacitors are more like containers. You just fill them up. They discharge exponentially — fast at first (depending on what current the discharging circuit draws), then more and more slowly. This means designing circuits to be powered by capacitors is a little more work, but still not terribly difficult. There are many devices (for example, the rather inefficient, but very simple, Joule Thief circuit) which can maintain a standard voltage from the constantly falling voltage of a capacitor.

    You are letting yourself be obsessed with the voltage, but it’s not terribly important. You are letting old battery-style thinking blinker your vision. It is the area under the curve that’s important, not the height of the curve at any particular point.

    I’m guessing it uses a thin film of graphene as a separator, so then question is how much will it cost? Shitloads I reckon

    There you go with the negative crap again. It really seems like you hope everything will go to hell. Anything that might be useful is immediately discarded by you with snide comments. You’re wrong about the cost — it’s very, very cheap. If you’re at all interested, why don’t you have a look at some of his other videos. He describes all his techniques in detail.

    Unless you actually have something useful to say, Mike, this is my last reply to you. I get the very strong impression that you actually want everything to fail; that if civilisation fell apart with people starving you would revel in it, grinning and laughing and shouting, “I told you so!”

    I prefer to be part of the solution.

  54. Harquebus

    No offense but, you are part of the problem. There is only one solution and that is population reduction and control. All these technological fixes require energy and a complex interdependent supply chain. To promote them is only putting of the inevitable and with a much greater cost.
    I haven’t seen your video yet but, I will.

    “there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.
    The problem is analysed in an important paper by Weißbach et al.1 in terms of energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI – the ratio of the energy produced over the life of a power plant to the energy that was required to build it. It takes energy to make a power plant – to manufacture its components, mine the fuel, and so on. The power plant needs to make at least this much energy to break even. A break-even powerplant has an EROEI of 1. But such a plant would pointless, as there is no energy surplus to do the useful things we use energy for.
    There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society. An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded.”
    The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

    “This sudden surge of human impact upon the naturally evolved biosphere – as human numbers went from one to seven billion in just over a century – can fairly be characterized as willful ecocide.
    Yet this relentless industrial growth continues to be falsely equated with progress. Many are unlikely to respond to warnings of imminent doom from specialists until they are much more uncomfortable and unhappy than they are now. By then it will be too late.”

  55. Roswell

    Oh dear. Not population reduction again.

  56. Harquebus

    The most important subject never to be or should I say, not allowed to be discussed. I will try to limit it in this article to just once.
    I can also say, not another techno utopian dream that offers no real solutions, again.


  57. Roswell

    Harquebus, whether you like the post or the idea or not, we here like to give writers the opportunity to put their thoughts forward.

  58. Harquebus

    I am grateful that you allow readers to do the same. It is appreciated.

  59. Roswell

    No worries. I’m sure you do.

  60. mikestasse

    Capacitors are more like containers.

    That little gem got me thinking about why petrol is SOOOOO GOOD………

    You put it in a container, and it holds EXACTLY the same amount of energy, right up to the last drop. Petrol does not go flat!

    So WHO’s putting things down……..???

    This means designing circuits to be powered by capacitors is a little more work, but still not terribly difficult.
    the rather inefficient
    You are letting yourself be obsessed with the voltage, but it’s not terribly important.
    It is the area under the curve that’s important

    The shape of the curve IS important. Look at the area under the curve of the discharge rate of a petrol tank……. and right there you will see why it has been so successful!

    you hope everything will go to hell

    Sorry, but I don’t see how not being able to drive is equivalent to going to hell. Because if it is, then I’m looking forward to going there.

  61. mikestasse

    You are letting yourself be obsessed with the voltage, but it’s not terribly important.

    When the stored energy is calculated with the formula Joules = Farads × Voltage², then voltage IS important, because it’s squared.

    When the voltage is 2V, the multiplier is 4
    When the voltage is 0.5V, the multiplier is 0.25

    If you don’t think the difference between 4 and 0.25 is not important, then I’m afraid you are blinded by hopium…… remember when I said ‘whatever you’re smokin’ I want some’? Well, I gave up on hopium when I realised how bad it was for my health!

  62. Chris Andersen

    This has to be considered for sure. To be really viable I think we would need an export option. How much does big oil contribute to our major political parties? The rooftop solar/battery/electric vehicle house hold combo has to be compelling. The big losers would eventually be the auto industry service and spares departments; hardly any moving/wearing parts in an EV, electric motors can last a lifetime. I just shelled out nearly grand to have my vehicle serviced – synthetic oil, a bunch of filters, and checking scores of components that don’t even exist on an EV.

  63. miriamenglish

    Harquebus, sorry, but you have that exactly backwards. Unless a way can be found to move from the current grow, grow, grow society to one based on a good standard of living using little materials or energy then we are not going to get the world you want. It is like being trapped in a room and needing to get out, beyond the unbreakable window, but when the door on a different wall is pointed to as a way out, you say in a panicked voice pointing at the window, “No! We need to go out there!”

    It is fine to say we need a lower population and to consume less materials and energy, but you can’t just impose those things. It won’t work. It worked to some extent in China, but the West isn’t China. You need to find a workable way from here to there. The only really reliable way to reduce population growth is by increasing standard of living and giving women increased education and autonomy. Increasing standard of living without increasing material and energy consumption can be done. The most important aspect is in designing efficient things that don’t need to be thrown away. People desperately want that. It pisses people off no end that they have to pay over and over again for shoddy crap. A car that uses very little energy because it is light and strong and has almost no moving parts can be an important part of that. There are many other, similar examples of ways to get from here to there.

    Simply saying we need to be there already doesn’t fix anything. In fact it makes it worse, because we need to be developing useful approaches, not wasting time and energy standing at the window, panicking and scaring everybody and making people think that only total pessimists and Chicken Littles need to get out of the room.

  64. miriamenglish

    Chris, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Most people would love to own a cheap, safe, energy-efficient electric vehicle that required almost no servicing during its lifetime. Tyres would last longer on a lighter vehicle, brakes would last longer because regenerative braking (using the electric motors as generators to turn motion into electricity to recharge the batteries or supercapacitors) would take a lot of the load off friction brakes.

    If it proved itself inside Australia export markets would naturally open up, but first it needs to be designed and built.

    There is a growing history of successes in workers buying businesses from owners and running those businesses well themselves.

    Does anybody here know any of the people who worked inside the recently closed car plants?

  65. Keith Davis

    Great to see the commentary on my article. It attracted some thoughtful comments … and … as the article predicted … it also drew some negative naysayers out of the compost heap. All of which is good from my point of view. Going fully off-grid (and giving the finger to coal-fired power stations) is but one of the strengths of the proposed Whitlam SJ Model. Some of the commentators suggested sending the ‘vision’ to Dick Smith et al … well that was done a few days ago … so we will see. And thanks to the AIM Network for the variety of material that they publish!

  66. Harquebus

    I am struggling with your analogy. It seems that we agree on the required outcome, it is the method of getting there that is in contention. I do not see any technological developments, real or imagined, that are going to supply us with the energy required for our basic needs. Supermarket food being one of them.

    As for imposing population reduction, “you can’t just impose those things”, well, nature will impose it on us and believe me, it will not be pretty.

    In my opinion, dreaming of some technological fix is “daydreaming out the window” and wasting precious time. The longer we take to implement this only viable option, the worse things will get.

    I agree with cheap and shoddy merchandise. It is deliberately designed to fail and to be unrepairable.

    At a recent rally, I spoke to some uni students about various things including population. A response I received stated that population reduction brings about humanitarian issues and is not a viable option.
    My response is, is it humane to increase our numbers to the unsustainable quantity that we have now and allow billions starve to death. That is what we are going witness and is why I keep harping on about it.

    Apologies to Roswell. I will try to keep the population thingy to a minimum.


  67. Harquebus

    Keith Davis.
    “negative naysayers out of the compost heap” as compared to “optimistic bullshit artists”?

  68. miriamenglish

    Mike, it amazes me that you can get all the numbers right and still be so wrong.

  69. miriamenglish

    Harquebus, I’m just saying that we all agree with where we need to be. The only way we’ll get there is by making a path to that destination. People who simply panic and say we already need to be there and that we’re all screwed are not only no help, but they’re actually counterproductive, because they

    1) discourage some people from even trying (“Well, we’re all f*cked whatever we do, so I might as well party on now while I can.”) and

    2) convince people that renewable energy, population reduction, and efficiency are the realm of panic-merchants and eternal pessimists.

    We need genuine solutions, not panic. We need paths to safety, not paralysing images of doom.

    If you give people the ability to power their home from the sun instead of paying forever to big coal then that’s a solution people want. If you give people the option of buying low-cost equipment that lasts a lifetime instead of having to throw it away and re-buy it constantly, then that’s a solution that people want. If you give people the option of buying a $10 computer that can do almost everything their current desktop machine does then that’s something people want. If you give women the opportunity to avoid being constantly pregnant, but instead devote more time to enabling their existing kids to be happy and comfortable then that’s a solution people (well, women anyway) want. You see what I mean? With careful thought we can attract people to the solutions. Most people are caught up in a rat race where they don’t know about solutions or have no way of implementing them. Given the chance they would be happy to fix everything.

    If you tell people that it’s unavoidable that they’re all going to die horrible deaths soon and all their kids will die screaming too, then I guarantee people will not want to listen to you. This is especially so if you appear to take grim pleasure in telling them this. (Note that I’m not saying you necessarily do take pleasure in it, I’m saying that if people think you’re taking pleasure in it they will never respond favorably.)

  70. OzFenric

    Mike and Harquebus are probably right, in that population reduction is inevitable. Whether or not it is required for a sustainable environment / economy, we’ve gone too far down the path of environment degradation to be able to pull up in time. People are going to starve. A lot of people. This is a tragedy as I don’t think it was unavoidable, if we had acted soon enough.

    Mike’s pessimism about renewables is something we’ve heard many times before on this site. I’m interested, though, in how it takes account of complete supply chain changes? Perhaps at present a solar vehicle costs a significant amount of energy (from fossil fuels) in its production. Will this still be the same, though, once the tractors and diggers are solar powered? Once the trucks that freight the materials are sustainable? It costs a lot of oil to make and run a truck. Make your first electric truck, and you reduce the cost of building the next one. Mike, do you factor this into your considerations?

    A path from here to there will require fossil fuel energy. But we can use the energy now to sharply decrease our reliance on oil as we go forwards. Seems to me that there is still hope for a sustainable, renewable industrial economy, rather than the hunter-gatherer lifestyle for all that Mike seems to envisage.

    It goes without saying that the throw-away, consume-to-grow capitalist economy we live in will have to come to an end. No great loss there, I think. So long as we don’t replace it with a Mad Max society of “each to their own”.

  71. Harquebus


    “renewable energy” is a load of rubbish. It does not exist. EROEI. Those that espouse the “renewable energy” myth are making matters worse.
    “population reduction” is not a genuine solution?

    You still don’t get it. We don’t have time, we don’t have the resources and we don’t have any other solutions.
    Forced migration, hunger, poverty, inequality, loss of liberties, resource depletion, scarcity, water shortages, the accumulation of massive amounts of debt and ecocide etc., are all symptoms of the overpopulation disease and are happening now. The one factor that is the cause of all these and other problems is something that, for some reason, is taboo. Most would rather hear and cling to false hopes and dreams like “renewable energy” and electric vehicles for example.

    Some including yourself criticize me for being negative. I see in others unrealistic expectations and ignorance. While we have “optimistic dreamers” saying we can, we will not do what is required. Bill Shortens latest “renewable energy target” has demonstrated once again political ignorance concerning energy and has only added to my pessimism.
    How many more years will it take before he and other fools like him realize their mistake? Too many and by then, too late.

    I do not want to see terrible things and yet, considering the lack of understanding by most of the relationships between energy, productivity and the economy, they are at present, unavoidable and as I stated, we are seeing them now.

    Should I halt my quest just because reality isn’t turning out the way most would want or expect and don’t want to hear about it? Sorry, there is too much at stake.
    I will never quit. If people refuse to listen then, they deserve what’s coming and that is, enforced population reduction by the natural world.

    “Mother Nature always bats last, hits hardest, and wins.” — Unknown.


  72. Harquebus

    Tractors, diggers and trucks will never be solar powered. Diesel fuel has the highest energy density of all fossil fuels and is why they use it where they do. Diffuse direct solar energy does not even come close to the concentrated and stored solar energy contained in diesel.
    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with you.

  73. miriamenglish

    Harquebus, fingers firmly planted in ears, I see.

    As for your reply to Ozfenric’s point about the impossibility of solar powered trucks and tractors, you are confusing energy density with usable energy. They already exist and are in use as a quick google search will show you.

  74. Harquebus

    You might have to help me out here miriam. A quick search failed to produce any results.

    Fingers in ears? I could say the same.

  75. OzFenric

    I haven’t found any extant examples of heavy transport being completely renewable. There’s discussion of solar powered goods trains – Elon Musk is concerned that there might be *too much* energy generated rather than too little. Solar trucks might be possible with some redesign effort, but nobody I’ve found seems to be doing it yet. Completely solar planes are already flying (small scale at this point, but no reason it couldn’t scale up). Ships could easily be powered by solar (& potentially tides?) particularly if they eschew screws and go for propulsion like Magnus pillars.

    The point is, all these things are feasible, and doing them would significantly decrease energy costs across the entire production chain that’s currently so prohibitive that renewable transport has to be regarded as a luxury item. All it takes is some will to act, and that’s where government regulation and subsidy come in. But obviously not from this government.

  76. OzFenric

    Solar tractors, on the other hand, have been around since at least 2013.

  77. miriamenglish

    Search for something like “solar electric tractor” without the quote marks of course, and omit “solar” for examples of just electric tractors. Here are a few of many I found:

    Solar Electric Tractor Model 12 – Steve Heckeroth

    Electric Tractor Corp.


    Electric Tractor – Valley Oak Tool Co

    Also Queensland University of Technology is using electric tractors, called AgBots I believe, as part of the swarmfarm project. My internet is too slow to view their ridiculously stylesheet, script, image intensive website at:


    Do a search for “electric truck” (again without the quotes) and you’ll find such things as:

    Smith Electric Vehicles (Australian company)

    But I won’t list more here as there are way too many because electric trucks have been in service for many years. Wikipedia even has a page devoted to them.

    One of the great advantages of electric motors is that they have full torque regardless of how slowly they are rotating. This is especially useful for tractors and trucks as they don’t need lots of gears and they can do heavy work right from stationary. This is extremely difficult for internal combustion engines. Also, heavy batteries are not the problem for a tractor that they are for a small runabout car. The weight lends a tractor stability and gives their tyres more grip. Distance isn’t a problem either because they are limited to the farm anyway. Many farms have large solar arrays these days, and while batteries can take hours to recharge, it takes minutes to swap over a battery bank.

    Many people seem to have the impression that electric motors are weak and lightweight. Nothing could be further from the truth. The only thing holding electric motors back from becoming ubiquitous is the state of battery technology. Hopefully that will change now with supercapacitors.

    As for fingers in ears, no. I actually listened to what you had to say, but you completely missed my point.

  78. Andreas Bimba

    The last three car manufacturers in Australia, Toyota, GM Holden and Ford are efficient, innovative and highly capable businesses. The easiest and cheapest option is to retain these manufacturers in Australia rather than establishing startup car manufacturers.

    Then why are these companies closing their Australian manufacturing operations in 2017 you may ask. The raft of Free Trade Agreements and the low tariff of 5% combined with the decision by the Productivity Commission and the Abbott Government to phase out all industry assistance by 2020 (which was the substitute for tariffs) combined with the historically high Australian dollar that resulted from the mining investment boom and the very fragmented local car market, tipped the economic balance to 100% imports being more profitable for the three manufacturers.

    It is, and always has been, within the power of the Federal Government to tip the economic balance back in favour of local manufacturing. The biggest power the Government has is control of access to the Australian consumer by means of tariffs or quotas on imports.

    Tariffs have the further benefit of being a revenue source for government which allows other taxes to be reduced so the net cost to the Australian people is barely noticed. In the case of the car manufacturing industry the tariffs enabled the existence of an industry that would otherwise not be present and this industry provided significant employment and taxation revenue as well as being a technology driver and the primary core of our manufacturing industry that is now in imminent danger of catastrophic collapse similar to the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

    A tariff of 15% plus some assistance with establishment costs for new model and alternative powertrain introductions such as hybrid, fully electric or fuel cell is sufficient to ensure profitability of the existing three manufacturers in the face of extremely tough competition from East Asia and Germany.

    It is a fallacy that the FTA’s are necessary to ensure good market access for our mineral, energy and bulk agriculture exports. We had good market access in most cases before these FTA’s for these exports and our moderate tariff walls ensured we had a more balanced economy with a substantial manufacturing and associated services industry and high levels of opportunity and employment.

    A medium term plan to meet 50% of the Australian one million unit p.a. local car market plus the same number of exports would ensure better economies of scale and competitiveness on world export markets. This can be done with the existing 100,000 unit p.a. vehicle assembly plants running up to 4 model variants that share a common chassis/powertrain down the same production line. All local manufacturers must share powertrains and a maximum number of components which is something they have not done well in the past.

    An industry development organisation similar to the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that coordinates trade protection, regulations, strategic planning, finance, research and a wide range of support functions for the development of new and existing industries would also greatly increase the chances of success of an automotive industry as well as with establishment of a renewable energy industry and a fully sustainable economy.

    The cost of development of new automotive power trains such as battery power, hybrids, fuel cells as well as conventional internal combustion engines is generally so large that even major manufacturers like Toyota struggle to recoup their costs in such a competitive world market place. For small manufacturers and new startup companies the chances of market success and profitability are even more challenging but not impossible.

    Australia does however have a very capable automotive components industry that is capable of low cost production at low volumes. It is conceivable that a successful car manufacturer could be created by the components industry and Ethan Automotive that plans to manufacture eventually up to 30,000 conventionally powered vehicles p.a. in South Australia starting at the end of 2018 is an example.

    Exporting to China and India is not an option as these countries restrict access to their markets and will insist on local production. It is our own market that should be the focus as the Federal Government can control market access as well as exporting to all those countries throughout the world that do not manufacture their own vehicles.

    The concept of totally automated factories to manufacture cars is also a fallacy as the cheapest way to install most components during the final assembly stage is still by using people but often with mechanical assistance. Other stages such as body manufacture and painting are however almost totally automated.

    We as a nation must plan our future, the development of our industries and the transition to a fully sustainable economy and the current Liberal and National Party Coalition Government has failed totally in this role and the Labor Party have proven to be much the same. Only the Australian Greens have the policies and correct mindset to make this work.

  79. Harquebus

    Electric tractors are not the same as solar powered tractors.
    The examples you show are small lightweight units, are not solar powered and are not the sort of thing required for large scale agriculture.
    No heavy trucks. Surprise surprise.
    Sometimes, your points are difficult to decipher and you often state things like “hopefully”, “if” and “maybe”.
    “Hopefully that will change now with supercapacitors” doesn’t cut it with me. Just more hopes and dreams in the face of a reality that you do not want to see.
    I thought you were a scientist. Is that so?

    I suspect that the solar tractor is not solar powered but, recharged using solar. I am not convinced that it can run directly on sunlight and would need to stand idle to recharge.
    Costs will not come down if heavy machinery is converted to electricity because, fossil fuels are still relatively cheap and fossil fuels is what builds them in the first place.

    Renewable energy collectors produce toxic byproducts, are destructive to the environment and use vast quantities of fossil fuels to produce, manufacture and maintain them.

  80. miriamenglish

    Andreas, wow! Thank you for your amazing comment. I had often wondered about a lot of the things that were in your post. I’ve saved it to my hard drive for future reference. There is much to digest there. I am very grateful.

  81. miriamenglish

    Harquebus, solar powered tractors don’t need to have panels on them to be solar powered, just as oil powered tractors don’t need to have drilling rigs and oil fractionating columns on them.

    Yes those example tractors are lightweight. They are early ones. Heavy ones are in development.

    No heavy trucks? You didn’t look far enough. There are plenty of enormous prime mover trucks that are electric.

    I apologise if some of what I write is hard to decipher. I actually do put a lot of effort into trying to make it readable.

    However my use of qualifiers such as “if”, hopefully”, “maybe”, is very important as I will absolutely not stoop to the propagandist’s trick of stating that something is certain when it is not. When I say that hopefully the storage problems we’ve had with batteries will be gone now with supercapacitors I’m telling the truth. Nobody can foresee whether the battery companies will buy out the patents and suppress them, or whether batteries will get some incremental, but still unsatisfactory improvement which delays still further the introduction of supercapacitors, or whether fuel cells will suddenly have the breakthrough they’ve been wanting for decades and take the trophy, or whether some other unforeseen event will occur to throw things off the rails. Those who say they can definitely see the future are categorically wrong, and they belong on crank late-night religious programs or spruiking at sideshows.

    Most mainstream solar panels use toxic materials to produce them, but many researchers are developing non-toxic ones that use common materials. Already there have been some successes, but their efficiencies are still lower than the ones that use dangerous materials and more energy in their manufacture.

    Currently most renewable energy equipment is made using fossil fuels, but that’s no surprise. It’s simply because historically most of our energy comes from fossil fuels. The production energy could just as easily come from renewable sources, as I expect we’ll see happening more and more as our energy supply gradually switches over to 100% renewables. Where the energy comes from is pretty-much irrelevant in terms of making stuff.

    It is obviously possible to use completely non-toxic solar power generators that are manufactured using very low energy, powered entirely by light. Plants have been doing exactly this for hundreds of millions of years.

  82. passum2013

    Photo Synthesis from Plants Has been studied for Many Reasons one of which Is to find a very cheap way to produce electricity from the way plants use it but no results .
    .On the other hand plant material through photosynthesis can produce bio fuel using a special algae .
    But you would need massive dams full of the stuff and suitable water as with nutrient food source such as sewerage for it.

  83. miriamenglish

    Passum, I wasn’t saying that we will copy plant chemistry to produce our electricity (although there is always the possibility someone will end up doing exactly that). I was merely pointing out that the often repeated assertion that “it is impossible to have a self-sustaining renewable energy cycle based entirely upon solar power” is obviously wrong. Plants prove it is entirely possible.

    As for biofuel from algae, you seem to be saying it is impractical because of a need for “massive dams full of the stuff and suitable water as with nutrient food source such as sewerage”. Even if that was necessary, and I don’t believe it is, where is the problem in that? In any case I don’t think biofuel from algae will ever be needed in gigantic amounts because I think we will most likely wean ourselves off oil to such a great extent that the small amounts of oil that are still needed will be able to be handled by modest algal biofuel facilities or what little we allow to be mined.

  84. Keith Davis

    Hi Harquebus (and any alter-egos that you run with) … we could share a good Shiraz and have great fun … I do not spend my time bagging anyone … life is far too short for that sort of nonsense. You make some good points … and much like me … you also get a bit ‘whiffy’ at times. If you have something positive to say … then improve on my article … put your brain power into working out how the Whitlam SJ Model could become a workable reality. Or stay sitting in the compost heap. Entirely up to you. PS: The Shiraz has to be a Yalumba Galway – a mate of mine came around the other day with a 2000 vintage … if you can beat that … despite our renewable differences … we’d probably get on rather well!

  85. passum2013

    Miriaiamenglish The main things that will be needed is Lubrication oils, Greases,, etc, no matter the power sources we use ,
    Bio fuels from Plankton or algae Green weed etc Is really a great way to go for fuel.
    The dams for this is to hold the Nutrient Rich Sewer water which is then fed into ponds that grow Algae, Green weed or Plankton.etc can also use waste water fro sugar cane refineries after it has been used in raising shrimp. .

  86. mikestasse

    Mike, it amazes me that you can get all the numbers right and still be so wrong

    Yeah……………… me too!!

  87. Harquebus

    The examples that I saw were not solar powered. They were electrically powered. None, as far as could see, could run directly from sunlight. Where the diesel comes from, fossil fuels or biodiesel and where the electrical energy comes from, the grid or panels, doesn’t change the power type.
    I can see that I am still not getting through to you.

    I am surprised that I have never heard of enormous electric prime movers. A bit of assistance from you on that one would be appreciated.

    Solar energy is diffuse. Either it is collected over a large area like hydro or it needs to be collected over a long period of time, like “plants”.

    A question and answer: How large an array can an array of solar panels say, 100km square produce. The answer is theoretical maximum of sixty something percent of the original. (From memory) The law of diminishing energy returns.

    As you say, “nobody can foresee” future developments and discoveries however, I am not willing to gamble my life on yet unproven or yet to be thought of technologies.

    Keith Davis
    Thanks for the offer. I’m not a shiraz man myself however, I am quite willing to have a few beers with you and would like to do so.

    I read all of your articles and they are mostly rubbish. I suggest that you use your brain power to study energy and the economy’s dependence on it. You might realize then, in the face of population increases and resource depletion, just how foolish this Whitlam SJ Model concept really is. It will never be a goer although, I give you credit for trying. Your talents would be better used on achievable goals instead of pipe dreams. Our time is short.

    In my opinion, you, like most, have no understanding of our current predicament nor how we got here. If you did, your articles would be completely different. Peddling your misinformation only delays doing what is required and ultimately, makes things much worse.

    The compost heap was not of my making and when you pull your head out of the sand, you will see that you also are in it.

    If you are ever in Adelaide, I am serious about the beer.

    Cheers to you both.

  88. Nasser

    I’ve seen the future, Abbot was re-elected and the Whitlam SJ model never made it out of the factory…

    So, I went back to the future and found a progressive government elected! The Whitlam SJ model was everywhere.

    First I want to say, I am for Automation, yes it costs jobs but with technology advancing so fast, Automation is full speed ahead and we just to have to accept it and deal with it. Most future jobs are going to be in the service areas, where human touch is needed. So, we deal with it and evolve or we will be left behind while the rest of the world moves on.

    Few years ago I thought about Automation in the Australian car industry. Since a major cost is labour and hence make it uncompetitive to manufacture in Australia. Why couldn’t car manufacturers automate as much of the process as possible? If we lose, lets say 90% of the work force, so be it, we still keep 10% working and still have a car industry in Australia.

    I believe it can succeed, here is how I see it. The company making the Whitlam would have to branch into a 4 important divisions.
    1. Whitlam SJ as everyday sedan and 7 seater family model.
    2. Commercial cars, electric utes and delivery vans!
    3. Sports coupe!
    4. Electric engine and Battery division! Even without building a car, this division can be HUGE. Its to cater for current cars to replace or complement current combustion engines. It wont be cheap to do, but fuel saving might justify the cost.
    Possibly a big exporter! Having so many cars in the world already, it wont be a case of getting rid of the old and replacing it with the all new Electric Vehicle. So, using the old cars and replacing the engine would save on manufacturing everything else. It would also give people the choice of the shape and style of the car they want.

    Electric Vehicles are the future, unless something else BIG comes on the horizon, which I can’t see anything else close at the moment. Solar power will also be a big factor why EV makes a stand.

    In Australia, we have the engineering, we have the talent, we have the facilities and we have the resources. All we need is the will of the people and the government.

    In regards to getting power from renewable energy and not coal, maybe it wont be 100% or anywhere close to it. But it can have a huge impact in reducing the need for coal. For everyone bagging renewable energy, yes, we still need coal and fossil fuel but in the future with technology advancement, we can work on reducing that need towards zero. As we still need coal, it doesn’t mean we should give up since RE doesn’t offer a complete solution at the moment. This is the feeling I am getting from reading many comments on different sites, it can’t replace fossil fuel, so we can’t depend on it, is a silly argument.

  89. mikestasse

    Ah yes, more silver bullets……. elect the right government, and we overcome the laws of physics!

    Harquebus and I are continually called nay sayers, but what we are doing is connecting all the dots. There are lots of people, cleverer than either of us, who have done this very well, and the numbers do not stack up. We get the numbers right, but we’re still wrong……. Some here don’t have the time to watch videos that disagree with their vision of the future, but I suggest anyone seriously interested in futurism start here with Chris Martenson’s crash course. Chris is a master communicator and dot joiner.

    Then if you’re still with us, watch the 3 1/2 hour expanded version………… after which you will agree that just because we CAN build electric cars right now, it makes no sense to replace the current fleet of cars.

  90. mikestasse

    Mike’s pessimism about renewables is something we’ve heard many times before on this site. I’m interested, though, in how it takes account of complete supply chain changes? Perhaps at present a solar vehicle costs a significant amount of energy (from fossil fuels) in its production. Will this still be the same, though, once the tractors and diggers are solar powered?

    It will be WORSE…….. it takes more resources (read mining using fossil fuels) to make renewables systems than fossil powered ones. The law of diminishing returns.. We have, for the past hundred years, been using high ERoEI energy to produce the next energy systems whose ERoEI is slowly but surely worsening.

    So we used 100:1 oil to get 80:1 oil and 60:1 coal, 80:1 oil and 60:1 coal to get 50:1 oil and 50:1 coal, 25:1 oil and 50:1 coal, 25:1 oil and 50:1 coal to get 10:1 oil and 40:1 coal, 10:1 oil and 40:1 coal to get 4:1 oil (tar sand and shale oil) and 30:1 coal (anthracite disappeared a long time ago, and peak energy CONTENT of coal in the US was in the 1970’s), and now we use this poor fossil fuels to make 2.45:1 solar and 10:1 wind……..

  91. miriamenglish

    Nasser, that’s a good point that electric car conversions of existing vehicles could be an important way into the future. It can be personally cheaper and socially less wasteful to keep your vehicle and simply sell the metal of your old internal combustion engine. Eventually, as those old metal cars wear out, they would be replaced by lighter, more sensibly designed electric cars that, if we have any brains, will be built to last a lifetime. We can’t afford built-in obsolescence.

  92. miriamenglish

    We also need to look more carefully at ownership. We might all want a car, but if we don’t really need one that’s not necessarily the most sensible thing to do. Look at how many cars on the road have a single person rocketting along inside a tonne or more of steel and glass, wasting more than 90% of the energy they’re burning. Public transport can be a far more sensible and efficient use of funds and energy (electric vehicles have great possibilities there too).

    This is where an intelligent government (not private companies) can do a great job on lowering the cost of the future for all of us. Private companies are naturally interested in making more profit by convincing people to spend more money on more energy and more physical stuff, whereas a sensible government should be working out ways to save energy by raising efficiency for maximum return on minimum cost to the people (customers) — the exact opposite motivation of a private corporation. Private companies have their place, for example in individual transport where public transport can’t reach or is unsuitable, but private organisations should never be allowed to intrude into public organisations where they inevitably pervert the proper goals.

  93. mikestasse

    Ironic, is it not, that converting my old ute to electric is one of the projects on my to do list in Tasmania……

    Vehicles should not be used mainly for carrying people around. Using a 1 to 2 tonne car to move an 80kg person (or even two) is ridiculously wasteful. But a car that can carry a ton of firewood or mushroom compost once there’s no petrol at the petrol station, now THAT’s useful. I won’t need more than 60km range either, so I will save bucketloads on batteries, which will NOT be Lithium either, I think that technology has only been developed for cars to make people feel like they can have their cake and eat it too…. ie, tons of range and room in the boot, just like a petrol car.

    I’ll be using NiFe batteries. Just like the electric cars that were built in the 1910’s…….. I bet you didn’t even know electric cars existed then!

    Oil was a better, cheaper, denser fuel, its ERoEI back then was 100:1, EVs never stood a chance.

    But oil will run out (not physically, but economically), and sooner than most of you think……. and NiFe batteries have been known to last 100 years, no contest. Planned obsolescence is not part of MY plan…… though I’m not so stupid as to think anything lasts forever. What’s more, my intention is for my electric ute to be communally owned. I also expect to be able to convert my car for ~$10,000, much less than buying a new one and for a fraction of the emissions.

    The idea that everyone should own their own private motor vehicle, whether electric or not, is simply unsustainable.

  94. mikestasse

    This is where an intelligent government (not private companies) can do a great job on lowering the cost of the future for all of us.

    Forget that……… WE the people have to reclaim the future. All governments will one day be at town level….

  95. Nasser

    Mike, what is your view / solution?
    We don’t have an EV industry in Australia and you don’t see it as a viable option for the future?

    Yes, many reasons why we haven’t switched over from oil as yet, even if its profit greed by the big companies, many other challenges rise up. But do you believe that if all the big companies really wanted an EV, would we still be where we are today?
    I am for all companies big or small making a profit and maximising their ROI but also to make a clear choice of having a social and environmental responsibility.

    The game is changing, Google is getting in the car market, Driveless Cars if not close yet but in reality its not that far either. Imagine having Electric delivery trucks on the road without drivers, it could be using Tram lines (could even recharge while on the line) or bus routes and the time factor is not a major issue as if you had a driver you pay. Big car companies are standing up and taking notice.

    Tesla is making quality, powerful and stylish EV. Not cheap yet and Tesla cars might not be cheap enough for everyone to buy. But this is opening up the EV market for everyone. Tesla Battery is also making waves, and with many other manufacturers looking to release storage batteries, home Solar is only going to get a bigger market. As more people open to the idea of renewable energy and start to actually use it, they will want the EV.

    EVs alone, is not the only solution for the environment. We need better public transport to give people a reason not needing a car.

    Progressive government elected doing what the people want and need might as well be as over-coming the laws of physics!

  96. Andreas Bimba

    @Nasser. I have worked as a Production Engineer for Toyota’s vehicle manufacturing operations in Melbourne. 100% automation is not cost effective for vehicle manufacturing. Most processes such as making the body shell, painting and some assembly work can be close to fully automated but most of the component installation is done manually, often with mechanical assistance, because humans can do this better and cheaper. The largest and most modern plants still have lots of workers for the final assembly stage. The GM Saturn project many years ago was an attempt by GM to outdo the Japanese with high levels of automation but it eventually failed due to increased costs of manufacture. Manufacturing plant labour typically only makes up 10% of the total build cost of a vehicle which is why Australian manufacturers can compete with the best from East Asia with a moderate tariff or an equivalent government grant system being in place. The Toyota Altona plant would be profitable now if a 15% import tariff was in place. Toyota was still planning to introduce a new model 6 months before GMH decided to leave which brought everything crashing down.

    Automated factories still employ a lot of people for designing, building and upgrading the manufacturing equipment and systems and for operation and maintenance. Component manufacture also employs many. It is estimated that a further 2.5 people gain employment indirectly for each manufacturing job.

    Australia would be crazy to discard the option of highly automated manufacturing given that in most cases only a moderate tariff is needed to ensure viability and that the cost of this tariff is returned many times over by the additional employment, technical advancements, business opportunities and taxation revenue.

  97. mikestasse

    Mike, what is your view / solution?

    Solution to what, Nasser?

    You’re not addressing the problem. You can’t find a solution, until you know what the problem is.

    My view is that growth and Climate Change will drive us to extinction. Some people say within as little as 35 years. I think more like 100 years. But the number’s irrelevant. Extinction is forever……..

    The planet as we know it is dying of consumption. It’s all happening at an accelerating pace. Just two years ago, the experts were saying the ice caps were melting at FIVE times the predicted rate. Now they’re saying it’s TEN times……. 5 to 13 metres of sea level rise is now baked in according to James Hansen. And for what? So we can continue driving cars? Are we seriously going to screw the planet so we can drive cars?

    There are already too many cars on Earth. We don’t need more. Cubans managed to keep theirs going for 50 years, even with an embargo on parts.

    Which part of “everything we do results in CO2 emissions” don’t you understand?

    There are no solutions to YOUR problem, only to MINE. But I can’t do it on my own.

  98. keith davis

    Hi Harquebus … you’ve kept the commentary going … so … mission achieved at my end! And yep … I reckon we’d have a great conversation. I receive your gentle barbs from the compost heap with a chortling humour. Being a celtic type I’d prefer a mead to a beer though …

  99. TechinBris

    My 14.6 kWh Solar Hybrid System is now almost fully installed and ready for the Power Companies to make the move to punish me for not wanting to buy their over inflated priced electricity and thus should be penalised for not consuming in ever greater quantities and generating an endless exponential growth of profit, so they can get their bonuses.
    As soon as I finish some minor yard works, the final piece of the set up, the batteries, will be connected and on line.
    It currently is not worth yet to disconnect from the Grid, but knowing the religiously mandated behavior of the Western Corporate Machine (they just cannot help themselves) it will come and at least now I am ready for the joy of telling them “Good Luck to you” when I am forced to disconnect, due to mendacious behavior and acts by them towards me.
    ROI of the system is 4.5 years. Well worth ever dollar that we saved up to do it all, without credit nor having to feed a Bankster interest. All we did was to stop purchasing crap we didn’t need and go to basics and grow what food we can ourselves.
    Doing that, made it all possible, just by simply resisting their excessively constant compulsive commands via advertising, to increase our debts to them and getting caught up in a never ending spiral of debt and destruction of our lives.
    Reclaim your lives and those of your loved ones. Just say no, and know that it works, for the Fiberals gained control of the Country doing it!

  100. miriamenglish

    That’s the crazy thing, isn’t it. I’ve written to people in the electricity industry trying to get them to realise that attacking solar homes is not in their best interests. When they drop their rebates to solar feed in below a certain level most homes will simply disconnect. And when they raise their prices above a certain level people will flee from the grid and opt for solar systems like rats deserting a sinking ship. As more people leave prices will have to go higher to maintain the same cushy profit, so ever more people will leave — vicious circle.

    I don’t know what those electricity executives use for brains. They are locked into denial. They will end up destroying their own industry. I have to say it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch of con-artists.

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