November 2013

Rik van Hemmen's picture
Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Solar Conestogas

Powering cars with solar cells installed on the car is an intriguing proposition, but unless we drive for very high efficiencies with resulting uncomfortable and impractical cars such as solar racers, it will probably not be possible to power cars with solar cells to the extent that we power cars with chemical fuels such as gasoline, diesel, LNG or hydrogen. We will probably stick with chemical fuels since hydrogen is an almost perfect fuel and can be generated with electricity generated by solar and then loaded aboard a car as a fuel with zero emissions and long vehicle range. As long as we develop a hydrogen infrastructure, from a technological point of view, we do not have to worry too much about outfitting cars with massive solar panels.


On the other hand, to be on the move completely under own power (slow but unlimited range) is a unique proposition. At sea to be under own power is easy by using sail. To be under own power on land is a little bit more difficult. Historically we sort of did it before, by using oxen to pull Conestoga wagons. The fuel for the oxen was the food that could be found along the way. In effect, a pioneer trip across the United States was driven by careful route management of forage and water opportunities.


This leads one to think if it would be possible to fit out a Maxi Taxi with solar panels and to be able to travel across the United States in relative comfort completely under own power. Hannah and I ran some numbers and, surprisingly, it is not at all that difficult.


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The SNAME annual meeting is a high speed knowledge exchange fest and the last annual meeting in Seattle may quite possibly have been the best one yet.


I always get the printed version of the proceedings and leaf through the papers on the flight home. My proceedings need to be the printed versions because I read them with a pen and add comments in the margins to warn the next person in the office who gets to look through them. Most papers are quite good, although occasionally there is a paper that must have slipped through our peer review process, and contains untruths, is overly commercial, or is just a “duh” paper (and generally if it contains one of these flaws, it contains all three). But the best part is finding a paper that gets one’s engineering juices flowing.


In this year’s proceedings one of my favorites was “Zonal Distribution Cuts Cabling Cost” by John Hensler of STX Marine.


During the conference the paper did not catch my eye and therefore I did not attend the presentation, but reading it in the airplane it sure made a lot of sense to me. While the execution of the concept in the paper can very be complex, the application is something everybody should take a closer look at.


This is a representation of a conventional power distribution in a vessel. This is the way large commercial ships including large passenger ships have been wired for over one 100 years. (I quickly copied the figures from the paper, contact SNAME for the full paper.)

This arrangement is thought to be the least expensive way to wire a ship even if there are bulkheads through which the cables have to be pulled and potted, but that may not be true.

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Rik van Hemmen's picture
Friday, November 1st, 2013

The Art of Octoberfest

I finally made it to my first Motor Services Hugo Stamp Octoberfest (one of our very favorite diesel shops). This spectacular party has been a long standing annual tradition by MSHS at their beautiful facility in Fort Lauderdale and has been attended by many a Martin & Ottaway surveyor over the years.


While it occurs in October and pays homage to the company’s German heritage, today it is no longer just brats, beer and oompah music, but rather an incredible mixture of maritime, international, and South Florida culture. Imagine a warehouse rave, but then in a real warehouse filled with prominently displayed engines and engine parts, via sushi, and Havana Social Club departments.You have to see it to understand it.

But this blog is about art.

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