May 05, 2008
Sunrgi To Solve Photovoltaics Cost Problem?

A start-up company, Sunrgi, with a photovoltaics design based around focusing lenses and heat radiators claims that within 12 to 15 months they can get radically cheaper photovoltaics into mass production.

A new patents pending solar energy system will soon make it possible to produce electricity at a wholesale cost of 5 cents per kWh (kilowatt hour). This price is competitive with the wholesale cost of producing electricity using fossil fuels and a fraction of the current cost of solar energy.

XCPV (Xtreme Concentrated Photovoltaics), a system that concentrates the equivalent of more than 1,600 times the sun’s energy onto the world’s most efficient solar cells, was announced today by Sunrgi, a solar energy system designer and developer, at the National Energy Marketers Association’s 11th Annual Global Energy Forum in Washington, DC. The technology will enable power companies, businesses, and residents to produce electricity from solar energy at a lower cost than ever before.

“Solar Power at 5 cents per kWh would be a world-changing breakthrough,” said Craig Goodman, president, National Energy Marketers Association. “It would make solar generation of electricity as affordable as generation from coal, natural gas or other non-renewable sources, without requiring a subsidy.”

“In a little more than a year we were able to develop and successfully test XCPV,” said Robert S. (Bob) Block, co-founder and Sunrgi principal. “We expect the Sunrgi system to become available for both on- and off-grid power applications, worldwide, in twelve to fifteen months.”

What differentiates Sunrgi’s XCPV system from any other solar energy system includes: a proprietary, integrated low profile technology for concentrating sunlight; a proprietary technology and methodology for cooling solar cells; a low cost, modular system optimized for mass-production; less land area or “roof top” requirements than typical solar energy systems; a technology roadmap for continuous improvement; low-cost field installation; and, a custom-designed system for easy operation and maintenance.

Their device concentrates the sunlight by a factor of 1600. This allows them to use far less photovoltaic material. But it also requires excellent heat removal from the spots where the light gets concentrated. Since they use such small amounts of photovoltaics they can use highly efficient photovoltaics. So they plan to use Spectrolab (part of Boeing) PV material that is 37.5% efficient. They also track the sun during the day and so get less drop-off in power output in morning and afternoon.

Can they pull this off? Your guess is as good as mine.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 May 05 10:04 PM  Energy Solar


Comments
Wolf-Dog said at May 5, 2008 10:19 PM:

Just like the dotcom era, there will be an irrational bubble in solar power also. The dotcom revolution was not fake, only the dotcom stocks were fake: the internet did revolutionize the world, and this is just the beginning. So be very careful with stocks that are solar power oriented. Already some solar stocks have made 1000 % gains within a year. The real miracle is that the five letter word (greed) does work as Mr Gekko said: Because of greed, the big money (obtained from the victims of dotcom and subprime bubbles) is financing many energy companies to foment a financial bubble, to be sold to a new generation of unsuspecting victim investors at the peak. But despite the financial shenanigans, some of the technologies will work within a decade.

Garson O'Toole said at May 6, 2008 12:39 AM:

There will be multiple competitors in the niche of solar power using concentrated PV (photovoltaic). The business incubator called Idealab with head Bill Gross made a fortune during the dot com boom. Several years ago Idealab started up a solar energy company called Energy Innovations. Originally they built prototypes using mirrors for concentration together with a Sterling Engine to generate energy from the sun. Then they were going to use mirrors and photovoltaic cells. Now they are using Fresnel lenses and high efficiency photovoltaic cells. They claim that the “PV cell is the most efficient cell in the world - over 35% efficient”

The system is called the Sunflower and the company says it will roll it out in 2008. Here is a marketing blurb: Sunflower - The World's First, High-Concentration PV System - By combining the world's most efficient solar cell with custom designed lenses and a unique self-powered two-axis tracking system, we are able to provide more energy per watt of system installed than traditional PV panels and do it at a substantial discount. The Sunflower is scheduled to be available to commercial customers in 2008.

The website has interesting pictures of the system. A companion Company called EI Solutions built a large solar installation at Google headquarters but the Google system does not use concentrated PV. Another Idealab Company called eSolar is using concentrated solar power. However, they are using a solar thermal power system. They use arrays of mirrors with a power tower and an overall modular structure for replication. Here is what Bill Gross says in an interview:

Q: What is eSolar's key technological differentiator?

A: It's a solar-thermal power plant that is completely pre-fabricated. We build the entire plant in a factory and then bring it to the field and roll it out. It removes all the civil construction and the extensive labor at the site and moves it to a robotic factory.

We use 100,000 flat mirrors to concentrate sunlight as opposed to approximately 500 huge curved mirrors. By using small flat mirrors we can avoid a huge part of the expense that comes from steel and concrete and cranes and instead replace it with very inexpensive microprocessors that do all the computation to move every mirror all day long and all year long to precisely concentrate the sunlight.

Bill Gross invested in yet another solar company called Infinia that uses Sterling Engines (the Sterling Engines have multiple applications).

Brett Bellmore said at May 6, 2008 3:44 AM:

The obvious problem is that they're going so suffer enormous drop off in efficiency when it's at all cloudy, and the sunlight is diffuse, impossible to focus sharply. So it's only going to have an advantage in places where the weather is predictably clear most of the time. Of course, that's where you want to site most any type of solar power plant, but it does mean some regions of the country which actually do get significant insolation won't be suitable for this sort of plant, as opposed to flat panels.

Wolf-Dog said at May 6, 2008 6:12 AM:

This was a very good comment: when the weather is cloudy or even just humid, the sunlight becomes very diffuse and it becomes impossible to focus it with mirrors or lenses. Hence this kind of investment is only for sunny southern parts of the country.

But on the other hand, the thin film methods are using only 1 % of the silicone, although they offer only about 10 % of efficiency. However, due to their simplicity and low prices, the thin film methods might win out, especially when we factor the anticipated improvements in efficiency in the future.

Jim said at May 6, 2008 12:41 PM:

Yes, lessons can be learned from the past. Who won marketshare and why: VCR or Betamax?
Writing's on the wall for all to see...

Ken said at May 6, 2008 4:15 PM:

Yet again we see innovation with the potential to reduce costs of solar energy and I don't think we're even close to the end of that process. It would be good to see something emerge that is clearly superior, that will attract the massive investment that will see solar become a major player, but I find it heartening that there is active competition and flow of new ideas to see who gets there first. Of course we need better storage, something that can be used on an equally massive scale at solar farms and within the grid as well as storage that is compact and high density for transport. Improvements to the grid are essential, in it's ability to respond quickly to the variability inherent in solar and across greater distances. Transmission between continents as well as across them would be very worthwhile and worthy of serious R&D.

Randall Parker said at May 6, 2008 6:40 PM:

Ken,

Out of the non-fossil fuel electricity generation methods I think photovoltaics has the greatest potential for cost reductions. Wind has real but less potential for cost reductions. Nuclear probably faces a harder cost cutting road.

I'm less worried about the future price of electricity than of the future price of gasoline. The latter looks set to keep going way up.

What is still not clear to me: how far and how fast will batteries improve? More than anything that will decide how easy it is to transition away from fossil fuels for transportation.

So far, batteries aren't coming along fast enough to avoid a wrenching adjustment as oil production plateaus and peaks.

Paul F. Dietz said at May 7, 2008 6:00 AM:

If gasoline reaches $7/gallon (as some are predicting for $200/barrel oil), chemical fuels produced by electrochemical techniques could be competitive on a cost/BTU basis, even if used in heat engines, not fuel cells. So there's an upper limit on the ultimate cost of non-fossil transportation fuel, even if batteries for some reason don't cut it.

I expect coal-derived liquid fuels to be widely adopted before that, however. The profit margin would be ridiculously high.

Brock said at May 7, 2008 7:34 AM:

I wonder what Sungri is doing with all that heat; their website doesn't say. I hope they're doing something useful with it and not just sinking it into the ground or something. If they could store the heat in a good container (like a molten salt) for night-time generation they could have a real 24/7 hour solution here (barring weather, as mentioned above).

Some web research shows that Sungri is working with the U. of Tel Aviv. Israel certainly has the sunlight and the motive to move off fossil fuels to utilize such a technology.

Garson O'Toole said at May 7, 2008 9:56 AM:

Technology Review now has an article about Sunrgi titled Focusing on Solar's Cost. The article discusses the cooling system that Brock wonders about in his comment:

Cells in such systems are usually cooled through a combination of heat conduction, air or liquid convection, and radiation; the goal is to remove as much of the heat as quickly as possible, says Sunrgi partner KRS Murthy, who has been labeled the "thermal wizard" by his colleagues. "At each stage of conduction, convection, and radiation, we've made an improvement over what others have done," he says. For example, connected to the bottom of each cell is a small fluid-filled chamber that acts as a heat sink. Murthy says that the fluid contains high-temperature composites and nanomaterials that rapidly remove the heat from the cells. This "super cooling" allows the cells to stay cool enough to work, about 10 to 20 °C above ambient temperatures. Murthy won't say what materials are in the fluid. "It's our secret."

Brett Bellmore and Wolf-Dog commented on the problem of diffuse sunlight and the article mentions this:
The need for direct sunlight also means that concentrated photovoltaic systems don't work on cloudy or hazy days when conventional solar systems can at least capture some of the sun's energy. "So it makes the most sense for places like Phoenix, Spain, Australia," says Fafard.
The large concentration factor means that the tracking system must be highly accurate. The article mentions that shaking from the wind could complicate tracking. The press release of Sunrgi given above claims that their system has a concentration factor of 1,600. The Technology Review article mentions “up to 2,000 times” concentration. The PV chip efficiency is stated as 37.5 percent. In contrast to these specs the Sunflower system mentioned above has a concentration factor of 800 and a PV chip efficiency of 35 percent. However the Sunflower appears to be closer to commercialization.

averros said at May 7, 2008 10:11 AM:

> Just like the dotcom era, there will be an irrational bubble in solar power also.

Mmm... there was nothing "irrational" about the internet bubble. It was simply a result of rapid credit expansion by Greenspan's FRB, which made a lot of otherwise too risky ventures attractive to investors. (For the complete explanation of business cycle, see Murray Rothbard's "Man, Economy, and State").

The smart investors (which spread their risks over many startups, like VCs) did earn handsomely; the stupid ones (i.e. pension funds and other latecomers at the after-IPO stage) lost.

The fact that most of these startup were in the Internet space is rather coincidental. Could be tulips.

The whole operation was merely a bankers-sponsored massive transfer of real wealth from pensioners and regular joes to, well, bankers. A side effect was a massive destruction of wealth - in the form of equipment, people, and funds put to the pursuit of silly ventures. Completely legal, totally immoral.

averros said at May 7, 2008 10:23 AM:

> If gasoline reaches $7/gallon (as some are predicting for $200/barrel oil), chemical fuels produced by electrochemical
> techniques could be competitive

That, of course, assumes that electricity prices won't get higher. Which is false assumption, of course, because there's a common factor in both gasoline and electicity prices: the value of the dollar, which is dropping at about the same rate as oil gets more expensive.

Now, the consumers do not really see much of the electricity price hikes because these are fixed by Public Utility Comissions - but price fixing has its, well, price. Capped prices lead to under-production and restricted availability (i.e. "brownouts" and blackouts). Watch the replay of California electricity blues all over the country - with the only result of price-fixing being a lot of grief to consumers and, well, significant hike in prices.

Wolf-Dog said at May 7, 2008 11:09 AM:

Apparently, there is a new version of the Manganese based Lithium batteries, with energy density over 330 Wh/kg. This is quite remarkable. Note that 330 Wh = 330x3600J = 1,188,000 Joules, and 1 Joule = (1 Kilogram)X(1 meter). Thus 1 kg of this battery can lift 1 ton to a height of 1 kilometer. So a car equipped with a 250 kg battery would have a range that exceeds 350 km. Of course, such a battery will not be very cheap initially, and it is guaranteed to cost a fortune, but this is a step in the right direction. Within five to ten years, once mass production starts, pure electric cars will be ready, just when solar and wind power are ready.

http://www.electrovaya.com/pdf/PR/2007/PR20070118.pdf
http://www.greencarcongress.com/2007/01/electrovaya_int.html
http://sci.tech-archive.net/Archive/sci.energy.hydrogen/2007-01/msg00180.html

Brock said at May 7, 2008 11:18 AM:

Garson, thanks for the link, but you missed the key paragraph which related to my question:

Electronics engineer Thomas Forrester, another founding partner at Sunrgi, says that the chamber isn't filled with much: "We're talking as little as drops of liquid." But it's enough, he says, to absorb the heat and move it to another part of the cell so that it can dissipate rapidly into the environment. Future versions will attempt to capture that waste heat as useful energy. "We have patents pending on other designs that do this," he says.

At 37.5% efficient there's A LOT of waste heat. Right now they're just "throwing out" 60% of the potential energy. A solar-thermal capture method could double the amount of power captured (though it would probably double the hours of operation by allowing night-time ops, rather than doubling the peak capacity).

James Bowery said at May 7, 2008 2:22 PM:

The most interesting thing about peak oil is the short term price elasticity of demand which -- by many measures -- is very inelastic. In some plausible scenarios gasoline could go to $20/gallon in the next 5 to 10 years. At what gasoline price, and/or rate of change in price, does society catastrophically collapse?

Greg said at May 7, 2008 4:32 PM:

James,

The society will not collapse at ANY price - besides, there are certain limits as to how high the price can go. Theoretically, gasoline consumption can be reduced by 90% - and we'd all still get to our workplaces in the morning. We'll just need to take a bus instead of driving. It will cost us some time, sure - maybe 1 extra hour per day; maybe 2. But these two extra hours will not cause a collapse of the society, right? In fact, it might even save some time for many people - some of them spend comparable time in traffic jams today.

Besides, there's natural gas which is worse than gasoline for transportation, but is still a very much feasible option.

Randall Parker said at May 7, 2008 6:13 PM:

James Bowery,

Americans are spending over 6% of their income on energy now. They aren't going to quadruple or quintuple that.

Given 5 years to adjust people can buy scooters and bicycles which both take very little metal to manufacture. They can also buy sub-subcompacts with small engines that get 70 mpg. Granted, travel won't be as luxurious. But it does not stop.

I expect the decline in world oil production to be very disruptive. But I do not expect societal collapse in the most industrialized societies. Those societies achieved their level of development with a lot of skills and social capital. The Japanese and Germans will remain very orderly and industrious. The French have lots of nukes to power their electric trains and coming electric cars.

averros,

Very little electricity gets generated from oil. The price of oil has gone up by more than a factor of 6 since 2001. Electricity has gone up very little in that time. The price of electricity is going to go up some because its marginal cost of production has risen as the prices of steel, concrete, and other construction materials have skyrocketed. But declining costs for solar and wind should put caps on the electricity price increases.

Brock,

What could be done with that heat from the solar concentrators? During cooler weather it could be used for heating - but only if the concentrators are near buildings. Could the heat be used to run Stirling engines?

Brock said at May 8, 2008 10:43 AM:

Randall,

The heat from these things will never be used for space heating. If they can only be used in environments like Spain, Arizona, Israel and the Australian Outback, the last thing those people need is more heat in the kitchen. I was thinking the heat could be stored for electrical generation at night or on the 1 day in a 100 southern California actually has clouds. Whether you use something old-fashioned like a boiler and dynamo, or something fancy like a sterling engine, would be a question of cost and engineering. My point was simply that heat is energy, and if you've gone to the trouble of collecting it, you might as well use it rather than radiate it back out into the environment.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_thermal_energy

James Bowery said at May 8, 2008 10:48 AM:

Greg & Randall,

So your position is that the short term elasticity is enough to absorb the shocks likely to come during the transition to declining oil production (in the short term) in the face of growing demand. In addition to the "black swan" kind of events likely during any disruptive transition, part of my concern is that there don't seem to be any equations for time varying elasticity -- even though everyone makes reference to elasticity as though it has an implicit time constant.

Doug Jones said at May 9, 2008 11:57 AM:

"Wolf-Dog said at May 7, 2008 11:09 AM: Apparently, there is a new version of the Manganese based Lithium batteries, with energy density over 330 Wh/kg. This is quite remarkable. Note that 330 Wh = 330x3600J = 1,188,000 Joules, and 1 Joule = (1 Kilogram)X(1 meter)."

An important correction- 1 joule = 1 newton.meter, a kilogram weighs about 9.8 N on earth. Thus your 1.188 MJ can lift a tonne (9800 N) only about 120 m, not 1000. I'm not sure where you hot your range calculation, but you hve to knock it down by 9.8, yielding only about 35 km range. I think you need to doublecheck your numbers.

Randall Parker said at May 9, 2008 5:29 PM:

James Bowery,

In spite of the bursting of the real estate bubble the US has managed to absorb the rising costs of oil pretty well so far. Now, granted, the adjustments become harder the higher the prices go. But 5 years ago most economists probably would have predicted a big recession just from $100/barrel oil. Um, no.

Gasoline prices have now been high enough for long enough that car buying patterns are undergoing a really big shift and the car companies are scrambling to bring out more fuel efficient models.

If we can stay on the production plateau for a few more years (I grant you a very big IF) then we will be able to restructure to meet the coming decline. If the world oil production decline starts happening this year and we start going down 4+% per year starting next year then we are in for lots of lay-offs and one long recession. But still I do not see a collapse.

It is weird for me to watch this unfold because 5 years ago when I posted about Peak Oil I could expect a lot of people telling me how crazy I was and even though I thought the peak on oil production too far away I could treat it as a theoretical debate. Now it is real. Oil touched $126.20 per barrel today in intra-day trading.

I'm not Panglossian or doomster about this. We do not have the needed battery tech yet. But at least electricity looks like it will stay affordable. We'll just become less mobile and move around in smaller transport devices and more shared transport devices.

RKV said at May 10, 2008 11:36 AM:

"The heat from these things will never be used for space heating."

You are of course, familiar with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, aren't you?

To put it more simply, build something like an old-style propane powered refrigerator and use the heat collected from the solar cells. You also get the most heat at the time of day when you need cooling. Siphon off the heat directly for space heating in winter. I'll leave it to the heating and cooling engineers out there to determine the specific materials to be used, but the temperature differential between ambient and these solar collectors is a resource to use.

Brock said at May 10, 2008 9:38 PM:

RKV, this is incredible! Somehow I got through AP Physics, AP Chemistry and all my classes at Stevens Institute of Technology and Rutgers (as well as read FuturePundit for several years now) without anyone EVER mentioning the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics! What are the fucking odds of that?! Thank you for bringing this concept to my attention!

Maybe if you could read my posts with basic, highschool level comprehension you'd see I advocated using the heat qua energy, which could be used to run an AC unit if you felt like it; the deserts these things are useful in have enough heat qua heat.

Wolf-Dog said at May 13, 2008 12:34 PM:

"Wolf-Dog said at May 7, 2008 11:09 AM: Apparently, there is a new version of the Manganese based Lithium batteries, with energy density over 330 Wh/kg. This is quite remarkable. Note that 330 Wh = 330x3600J = 1,188,000 Joules, and 1 Joule = (1 Kilogram)X(1 meter)."

An important correction- 1 joule = 1 newton.meter, a kilogram weighs about 9.8 N on earth. Thus your 1.188 MJ can lift a tonne (9800 N) only about 120 m, not 1000. I'm not sure where you hot your range calculation, but you hve to knock it down by 9.8, yielding only about 35 km range. I think you need to doublecheck your numbers.
=========================================================================================

Thanks for the correction! My apologies... Because of my desperate need to find a new alternative to oil, psychologically I made a mistake by replacing the definition of Newton with kg, exaggerating the height. However, it is worth noting that this new battery is nearly 2 times more powerful as the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, which have densities less than 200 Wh/kg.
http://www.batteryuniversity.com/partone-5A.htm
And since these new batteries are certainly far more than 1.5 times denser, the reasonable range of electric cars would be raised beyond 300 miles per charge. This is all. After all, in most pure electric cars, the weight of the battery will
be several hundred kilograms, since there will not be a heavy internal combustion engine, and there will not be a heavy
transmission, gear boxes, radiators, etc. So it is very likely that electric cars with energy density 330 kg would easily have a range of 350 miles.

By the way, even though 1 kg of this new battery would lift a tonne to 120 meters instead of 1000 meters, since most
hills have slopes that are at most 20 degree angles, the average range of a car with a 300 kg battery,
will still be more than 350 miles.

Rob said at May 14, 2008 9:00 AM:

The problem is that it's not the density of battery storage that matters at this point. The battery for a solar plant doesn't have a lot of size limitations (cars are, of course, a completely different matter). It's the EFFICIENCY of the battery that counts in a solar plant and that page doesn't mention efficiency.

My guess is that ultracapacitors will, eventually, be the winning technology when it comes to efficient electrical storage. The timeframe for that, however, is anyone's guess.

>Because of my desperate need to find a new alternative to oil, psychologically I made a mistake

Unfortunately, there is a lot of that going around in the alternative energy field.

Wolf-Dog said at May 14, 2008 1:00 PM:

Here is a Japanese pure electric car, with range only 100 miles, but I would like to do come calculations on the possibility of enlarged batteries to increase its range (this time I will try to avoid making mistakes as above, and please correct me if you catch a mistake in the calculations):

http://www.greencarcongress.com/2008/05/the-battery-pac.html#more

This article says that the car has the following properties:
Specifications of the i MiEV Li-Ion Cell

Dimensions 43.8W x 113.5H x 171D [mm]
Weight 1.7 kg
Rated capacity 50 Ah
Nominal voltage 3.7V
Specific energy 109 Wh/kg
Energy density 218 Wh/L
Specific power
(60-sec pulse at 25°C and 50% SOC) 550 W/kg
Max output current @ 25°C 300A
The entire pack has a specific energy of 80 Wh/kg.

The pack consists of 22 cell modules connected in series at the nominal voltage of 330 V

Thus this seems to imply that the 22 cells that comprise the battery would weigh 22 X (1.7 kg) = 37.4 kg without counting the packaging of the battery. Adding another 25 % weight for the packaging the total weight of the battery for this car would be 1.25 X 37.4 =46.75 kg (which seems reasonable since the entire pack has specific energy 80 Wh/kg while each cell has specific energy 109 Wh/kg).

But as we pointed out, there are better batteries with specific energy at least 330 Wh/kg, and we can surely increase the weight of the battery to at least 400 kg for a pure electric car, since the heavy internal combustion engine, the heavy transmission, gear box, radiator, etc, would not be needed.

The problem, of course, is the price of bigger batteries, but within less than a decade, the prices will decline a lot.

Wolf-Dog said at May 14, 2008 4:07 PM:

This time I did catch my own mistake before any other reader: There is a misunderstanding in the web site about the new Japanese car that I mentioned above. Although it is written that the " battery pack consists of 22 cell modules", this did not mean that each module is just one cell as I thought: If you click on the image of the car in the article, then you will see that inside the image it is written that each module itself contains 8 cells!!!

I was actually very surprised that the calculation showed that whole battery could be as light as 37.4 kg, but the latter figure must be multiplied by 8 to arrive at the total weight for the battery: 8 X 37.4kg = 299.2 kg, and yet this car's range is only 100 miles. But the point is that they used a cheap version of the Lithium ion battery with Specific Energy only 109 Wh/kg. The more common Lithium batteries used in laptop computers, have Specific Energy at least 200 Wh/kg, so that it is quite reasonable to believe that the range can be increased to 200 without difficulty. Also, the article I mentioned above, says that there is a new Canadian Lithium battery with Specific Energy 330 Wh/kg, so that in the future it will be reasonable to expect pure electric cars with range at least 350 miles.

The issue is mass production, price, etc.

Ewan said at September 1, 2009 8:13 AM:

I should draw some commentators attention to the fact that here in the UK gasoline was $8 a gallon last year and is currently at about $6. In six European countries the gasoline price is currently above $7 a gallon. Fortunately/unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint this has not caused collapse of transportation, at best it made more efficient cars more appealing and made people think a bit more about journeys.

People here are used to high fuel prices (the high price is mostly due to a tax designed to limit consumption - our crude oil is the same price as in the U.S.). Our cars are much much more efficient - I can get 60mpg out of my compact company car - but people still drive a lot.

Sensitivity to high oil prices is higher in the U.S. than here due to the structure of U.S. cities/suburbs, lack of public transport and bigger journeys between settlements. However, there is massive scope to move people to more efficient cars. Take a look at the kind of cars sold internationally (clue: U.S. gas-guzzling models don't feature on the radar). NEw U.S. fuel efficiency targets are still pathetic! There's nothing gained by having a big engine unless you are hauling goods. My small Peugeot 206 could beat a gas guzzler off the mark and in a country where the speed limit is so low, there's no advantage from bigger engines there either. Again, my small car is very happy at 80mph (sorry it's the only example i can use that i know well!). My car isn't exactly desirable, but even high-end cars here beat current standard U.S. family cars on consumption.

In the UK I reckon fuel prices would need to hit more like $10-15 a gallon to really get people out of their cars on a large scale.

Make no mistake, the UK is only better than the US on this by a matter of degree, but some comments here could do with being exposed to non-U.S. examples..

Ps. Paul Dietz - SASOL in South Africa has been producing vehicle fuel from coal for decades - it's expensive, but not un-doable.

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