Category Archives: Engineering

Hybrid Cars ~ What’s the Point?

save the planet and buy a car with two engines

under the hood of an F-150 hybrid

It all starts with the acceptance of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change ~ or for the less scientifically minded; man-made global warming.  In fact it doesn’t, it really begins with car-hating Americans like Ralph Nader, and opportunistic fellow travelers like Al Gore.  Californians, in particular, like the idea of there being less cars, and less polluting cars on their freeways.  The snag is, in the USA you can’t go anywhere without driving there.  (Unless you fly ~ and nobody would be insane enough to suggest a hybrid Boeing 757.)

So, smarter minds than the green, anti-car activists tried to come up with a solution.  The first go-around were all-electric vehicles such as the Tesla, and apart from the hugely polluting batteries, that idea has some merit.  Bigger engines, like a nuclear power plant, are more efficient than the smaller gas engines in the average Ford.  The snag is, electric cars are useless; expensive, short ranged, and difficult to recharge, (time and place).

The solution to that one is to make the car recharge itself.  We add an electric motor and batteries to an ‘ordinary’ petrol powered vehicle ~ and we have the New Bright Hope, the HYBRID.  FFS!

Hybrid technologies are not new; they’ve been around for over a century.  Petrol-electric, diesel-electric, even nuclear steam-turbine electric…..  And they are good solutions for pressing engineering problems.  But hybrid technologies are in no way ‘green’.  In fact, hybrid technologies for mass-market road vehicles are far more polluting than just buying a small petrol-powered car.

Buy a hybrid and all you’ve done is buy a power-station on wheels.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

all electric Tesla

mostly powered by fossil fuels

Geordies and Angels

I could not have made it this far
if there had not been angels along the way

just off the route of the A1, just outside of Gateshead in the North East of England, is the largest sculpture in England

the Angel of the North

The statue was built at a steel fabrication works in my town

Installed in 1998, the thing is 66 feet tall with a wingspan of 177 feet

which is bigger than a Boeing 757

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalknet

probably the most viewed sculpture in the world

I Have a Problem

sometimes, even I can’t fix everything

somewhere in there is a busted part

Well, I failed at repairing my heating / hot water system.  The part I ordered and fitted yesterday rectified one fault, but obviously it wasn’t the main problem.  There’s now a lot of pretty lights working on the gas boiler’s control panel, but the important indicator light, the one that says the gas is lit, remains obstinately dark.

I could investigate further and try another fix, but I won’t do that for three very important reasons;

  1. I don’t have the special tools one needs to work on gas appliances.  Crucially these special tools include a gas leak detector.  Although gas is actually odorless, a stenching agent is added so one can smell a very bad gas leak.  But a leak small enough to be undetectable by human olfactory senses can still be extremely dangerous.
  2. I do not have easy access to the parts I might need to undertake a repair.
  3. Legally, all gas work should only ever be carried out by an appropriately qualified engineer.  In the UK that means you have to on the Gas Safe Register, and renew your qualification every year.  I haven’t been a qualified gas engineer for 15 years or so.

Today I’ll find a properly qualified engineer who is working during this current draconian lockdown, and make an appointment to have someone come and look at my lack of heating and hot water problem.

Actually, wanting to have fixed this gas boiler problem myself is not a money issue, it’s more that I don’t like strangers in the garret, and neither does Marmaduke.

Failing to repair something is a huge blow to my self-esteem.  But needs must when the Devil drives.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

good old Marmaduke

he’s all ready to help

 

Monochrome Monday ~ The End of Days

nobody listened until it was so very quiet in the ruins

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

miracles sometimes happen

Monochrome Monday ~ Abandoned Railways

sometimes the wrong train will take you to the right station

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jack collier

jack collier7@talktalk.net

 

and sometimes you just have to walk

Stupid DIY Mistakes

you’re only human, it’s all right to make mistakes

If you do most things for yourself, eschewing messy decorators, useless contractors, and rip-off garages, then every now and again you are bound to commit one of the classic howlers.  Mistakes you could kick yourself for.  Really stupid mess-ups that leave you thinking; ‘how the hell do I get out of this one…..?’

I might admit to being guilty of some or all of these;

  1. Painting yourself into a corner.  You can either walk on it or wait until it dries.
  2. Touching a spark-plug lead while the engine is running.  If you’re healthy you’ll just get a terrific jolt, if you have a heart pacemaker you might get dead.
  3. Opening the radiator cap on a hot engine.  Getting scalded hurts.
  4. Over-tightening a nut so the bolt / stud snaps.  That is likely to be expensive to repair, unless you know how.
  5. Sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.  The fall hurts.
  6. Sawing off the branch your ladder is leaning against.  The fall hurts.
  7. Taking off the bathroom door handle and closing the door while you’re inside, with no way to open the door to get out.
  8. Putting up a picture / shelf by hammering a nail / drilling into the wall, and going right through a water pipe.  Flooding is expensive to repair, so is the big hole you’re going to have in the wall.
  9. Ditto an electrical cable or gas pipe.
  10. Not learning how to use a spirit level and putting up a shelf.

Today I was guilty of #7.  Just as well I took lessons from a master locksmith.

Some say that we learn by our mistakes.  And that necessity is the mother of invention.  All I know is that I can now build, decorate, install, make, repair….. just about anything ~ and I have the scars to prove it.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

I didn’t build that,

but I could

 

Scenes on Sunday ~ Cool Homes

wherever I hang my hat is my home

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

outdoor living is an option in sunnier climes

The Electric Car Chimera

a thing which is hoped for but is illusory and impossible to achieve

Tesla Model S ~ from £81,200.00

Whenever the political establishment gets involved in anything to do with transport they fuck it up in a big way.  The latest monumental fuck-up by the British Government is to propose to ban sales of all new diesel, petrol, and hybrid cars from 2035.  This is in an attempt to meet a carbon-neutral target, which in itself is pointless as it’s designed to tackle the non-existent problem of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, (man-made global warming).

You heard right, in the UK from 2035 you will only be able to buy a plug-in electric car.  This is going to be the most monumental disaster to hit Great Britain since WWII.

There are 32.5 million cars on the road in Britain today, of which less than 40,000 all electric cars were sold in 2019.  Leaving aside the myriad of other problems to do with electric vehicles and consider instead the issue of charging these damn white elephants.

Currently there are only 15,500 public charging points for electric cars in the UK.  Assuming that lots of people will want to charge their electric car when they are at work, shopping, and doing what we are wont to call living a normal life, then maybe another 20 or 25 million charging points will be needed.  These charging points are damn expensive, to install one means digging up the road, laying cables, and connecting to the local electricity network.  If this is to work at all it means the next 15 years will see British roads dug up like never before ~ how much carbon will all those diesel trucks, backhoes, road rollers, compressors et al produce?  How much disruption is there going to be?  We don’t have enough of all that stuff anyway.

It’s actually much, much worse than that.  Everyone gets home at night, and the first thing they do is plug their electric car into their home charging point, and the local electrical grid collapses because it’s not designed or built to take that kind of load on top of everything else.  So we fix that at vast expense and more digging up of roads.

That just pushes the problem up the chain until it hits the National Grid, which will collapse because it’s not designed or built to take that huge additional load.  So we fix that.  And every power station in the country trips out, and there is no electricity at all, across all of the UK.

To fix that we would have to build another 20 gigawatts of generating capacity, and that’s doubling the amount of all the electricity generated in the UK, and it will have to be instantly available electricity, which rules out wind and solar power.  It will have to be 20 gigawatts of nuclear and fossil fuel power.  It’s back to coal and oil again.

It’s madness.

Some say this is our last chance to save the planet.  And we should all be green, clean, and carbon neutral.  All I know is that the sky isn’t falling.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

there is no viable substitute for coal

Shipping Container Homes

You don’t need more space, you need less stuff.

Back when I owned a trailer park, shipping containers often made instant buildings which could serve a myriad of purposes for me, from simple storage units, through a workshop, to a pretty nice office.

(not my office, a home made from shipping containers)

What I have never yet attempted is to use a shipping container to make a tiny home, or more likely, use several shipping containers linked together to make a decent-sized home.  The place to start is to learn something about shipping containers, and then buy the right units.

Shipping containers are usually strong steel boxes with doors at one end, but they actually come in lots of versions.  The standard width is 8′ (eight feet), the standard height is 8’6″ (eight foot six inches), and the two standard lengths are 20′ (twenty foot), and 40′ (forty foot).  There are a whole raft of non-standard lengths starting at 5′, but a 10′ container is the more common of the non-standard lengths.  The internal floor areas work out at 150 sq ft for a 20′ container and 305 sq ft for a 40′ container.

Given that most people regard 1000 sq ft as a decent size for a home, (plus a garage), then we are talking of at least a couple of containers to make anything that approximates a ‘normal-sized’ house.  Container architecture is a discipline all of its own.

You obviously need a plot, the appropriate permissions from whatever building authority is responsible for all the regulatory stuff, and you may / or may not need to lay a concrete slab on which to stand the container(s) you’re going to turn into a home.  (Whether or not you need to lay a concrete pad depends on the ground, and how long you expect the container home to stand there.)

It’s no good just buying a plot, plonking a used shipping container there and expecting to live in it.  Shipping containers are steel boxes, and that means they are damn hot inside in summer, and bloody freezing inside in winter.   To make a home you will have to line out the inside, and perhaps even clad the outside.  Even if you just buy one 40′ container and are going to be happy living in 305 sq ft, you will still need to do a hell of a lot of work to make your steel box habitable.

One of the first things you need to learn is how to cut steel plate.  Your box needs more than a big door at one end, you need windows, (at least), and maybe another door, and perhaps holes so you can link one container to another to make a bigger home.  Luckily, shipping containers are mostly made of steel that’s only between 1.5mm and 2mm thick, so it’s easy to cut.  Realistically there are 3 ways to cut steel on site, (using an ordinary hacksaw will take you aeons and you’ll hurt your wrist and hands).

  1. Oxy-acetylene cutting torch.  These things are dangerous, and unless you’ve done this kind of cutting before, you would be best getting instruction before attempting to use an oxygen / acetylene torch.  However, a cutting torch is fast and it’s easy to cut complex shapes.  If you want circular cut-outs for round windows / portholes in your tiny container home, then oxy-acetylene could be for you.
  2. Electric jigsaw.  The sides of steel shipping containers are pretty easy to cut, so an ordinary electric jigsaw will chop out your doors and windows.  And, you can cut curves in steel with an electric jigsaw.  This is possibly the best choice for the averagely skilled person.
  3. Stihl cut-off saw.  STIHL is a trademark, but what we are talking about here is a big power saw of some description.  Cutting lots of big holes in your containers, on site, you may well want something like a petrol powered Stihl saw, (and make certain you have the right disk for steel).

The benefits of using steel shipping containers to make a tiny home, (or something bigger), is that it’s pretty fast and inexpensive to get a weatherproof structure on site, they’re strong and durable, and you can put them down just about anywhere.  A shipping container is probably the start of the ultimate off-the-grid home.

I can and have lived off-the-grid in a log cabin I built myself, (from a kit), but I would strongly caution anyone thinking of doing this concerning water.  You will need a constant supply of potable water, either from the mains or from your own well / borehole.  The average American uses between 80 to 100 gallons of water every day of the year.  It’s possible to finesse around all the other services; sewage, electricity, gas, heating, telephone and internet, but shipping water in a small bowser on a regular basis is an absolute non-starter.

Once you have a weatherproof structure with the doors and windows installed, and you’ve made a start on connecting your services, then you can start on the really fun stuff, which is fitting out the interior to suit your tastes.  The only limit to your imagination is the dimensions of whatever containers you have bought.

Making a home out of steel shipping containers is within the scope of anyone who is fairly competent at all kinds of advanced DIY, and who can also manage a project.

And all this gives me a problem; is my next project a school bus camper, or a container-based tiny home?

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click on the book for more

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

10% discount on everything on this site if you quote code C7SYDV6B

School Bus Camper

I’d like to sit back and take in the grandeur of nature.

There’s this long-term plan for me to buy an old school bus and convert the thing into a camper / RV.  It’s a pretty vague plan right now because I have a lot of other things on my mind.  However, I’m thinking of doing the conversion in Southern California, which obviously means buying the used bus somewhere in SoCal.

I’ve looked into how much it would cost to buy a used bus in the 12 to 18 seat range from somewhere around LA, and you can trust me on this, they are practically giving the things away.  (I’ve seen one I like the look of for $2,500 plus taxes.)

There are a couple of caveats there, the look I want means an old bus, and that means lots and lots of miles, (100,000 or more), but as they are built to last with huge diesel engines, (7 litres or so), that shouldn’t matter so much.

The second caveat is that an old bus is going to need specialist rebuilding and servicing for the chassis and engine, before I start on the fun part of the conversion.  There are plenty of companies who are set up to rebuild and service the chassis / brakes / engine / gearbox / exhaust on this kind of vehicle, but I know that’s going to be hideously expensive ~ (maybe).

Still, I don’t think I need a vast budget for this kind of project.  I can work that out in detail over the next few months.

(There is also the option of buying something that actually started life as a camper van.)

The really fun part is thinking about the places I’d like to take my bus, (like Big Bear Lake) ~ and who I’d like to take along with me.  (Marmy and I need a girl riding shotgun.)

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

10% discount on everything if you quote code C7SYDV6B

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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