The need to improve our miles per gallon.

Since the time of the Great Depression in the 1930’s fuel consumption has been in the range 10-12 km/liter, even till this day there has not been much improvement in terms of achieving a higher mileage per gallon of fuel. The technology is now becoming more and more available these days that can improve fuel efficiency of our fleets. Doubling the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks is the single biggest step our generation can take to reduce oil use. Other schools of thoughts are aimed at 2025, we can get there by 2025 with existing fuel-sipping technologies such as high-efficiency engines, smarter transmissions, hybrid power trains, and better aerodynamics.


The opportunity is so great because the cars and trucks we drive every day consume half the oil used in our countries. But the benefits extend well beyond oil savings: raising the bar on fuel efficiency will reduce trips to the gas pump while maintaining the performance and safety drivers expect. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote, “Improved vehicle designs would create more options for consumers and a more competitive and resilient auto industry offering more jobs—all the while slashing demand for oil by more than 4 million barrels per day by 2035.” In my country, Zimbabwe it is estimated that commercial vehicles consume more than 23% of national fuel consumption yet they only represent about 6.3% of the vehicle fleet. Therefore it is imperative that focus be placed on these cars because improving fuel efficiency will save the country more than a million liters every month.Image

We all knew transportation back then in terms of horsepower, then Ford introduced the liters/gallons and very soon we are looking at the automobile industry talking about Kilowatt-hours. Electric vehicles can spark a revolution that lets drivers bypass the gas pump completely, dramatically cutting the oil our cars consume and the smog forming and global warming pollution they produce. Today it’s a dream but by mid-century, electric vehicles could nearly eliminate oil use from cars and light trucks.


On the next piece next week I want to talk about net-zero energy consumption looking at maybe bio-fuels to transform the fuel sector. Thank you.

Transportation Series.

When we are talking about transportation, we talking of whatever gets us where want to go. Be it trains, automobiles, buses, walking or bicycle. Depending from where you are from the main fuel for transportation is gasoline (petrol/gas) and diesel and we then have the electric car in the developed world. Saw one developed by Tesla Motors, great work there Elon Musk, please put in a word for me to Elon that I would like to drive one like that. Diesel is more common common around the world, slightly providing above 50% in most instances 54% in the US, 60% in Morocco and 69% in my country Zimbabwe. This is maybe as a result of the fact that Diesel is more efficient and cheaper than Gasoline.


Did you know that diesel has 12.1% more energy compared to gasoline? Yes that is true, gasoline has 34.7MJ/L or 125 000BTU/Gallon compared to diesel’s 38.6MJ/L or 139 000BTU/Gallon. Not only that, the diesel engine itself is a more efficient engine. It’s power stroke is managed differently than a gasoline engine, and it makes a more efficient engine. So, the fuel is more efficient, has more energy in it per gallon and the engine itself is more efficient. The energy content listed here is related to what is known as HHV, or higher heating value. There is a lower heating value (LLV). Don’t confuse the two; they often are in Web publications.

So as we celebrate Easter Holiday this year lets us be conscious of the oil consumption of our cars, miles per gallon or km per liter. You know, when you buy it, it’s got that sticker on it that says your EPA gas mileage is 36 m/g or 15.31km/l. And then, you get 22miles or 9.4km and go, what’s going on? Well, it’s how you drive it. The EPA sticker is just a guideline, not an exact measurement of how you’re going to drive it. Here are some tips that I found out:

  • Wind resistance increases dramatically with speed. That’s why aerodynamics have become so important in the last 15 years, and why all of our cars now look like jelly beans.
  • Getting into the highest gear you can, at the lowest possible speed, will save you plenty of gas. Why? Because you use less gas when the engine is turning slowly. The slower the engine turns, the fewer the number of explosions in the cylinders. And fewer explosions means less gas consumed. So, if you drive a manual transmission car, shift sooner. As long as the engine doesn’t buck, shudder, or ping, you’re fine. You’ll sacrifice the ability to accelerate quickly – but you can always downshift if you need to accelerate.
  • Why is it that everyone feels they have to accelerate going up a hill? It turns out that accelerating uphill is a fabulous way to burn up enormous amounts of gas. So unless necessary, don’t!


Crude Oil and the Transport Sector

Going through the teachings of Robert Kiyosaki, he said a phenomenal thing of how he has made money with his investments in oil. He says the cost of oil has always been going especially with the rise in demand. That’s where one needs to invest, because your money is never depreciating. Then I took an interest in this field of Crude Oil and the future of oil reserves.


Well i’am sure a lot of people simply think that taking your car for a regular check-up is all it takes for you to be efficient. Same as households or companies, they assume having an energy audit solves their energy crises. Unfortunately it goes way beyond that. In the next 2months or so I will be taking you on a journey about Oil and the Transport sector. What are the most used Primary Fuels, Global consumption trends, energy contents, efficient use of the fuel and the future of oil? I will be using fuel on this blog and I know a lot of people use all kinds of names across the world, my American friends call it gas…not to be confused with natural gas, in Italy gasoline is called Benzina and in other countries, diesel fuel has a root word that sounds like you’re talking about gasoline

As we all know transport sector is quite very broad and encompasses road, rail, cargo and air to name a few. In the Aviation industry NASA has challenged the aviation industry to come up with a new concept for a next generation airplane, and preliminary results indicate the next generation of air travelers will get to ride in something that looks far more sleek and modern than the current crop of planes. More importantly, the ride will be more sustainable, too. The challenge calls for significant advances in not one but three key areas all at the same time: fuel consumption, air pollution, and noise. The new concepts were submitted by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman under a set of research grants totaling $11 million and more on that to follow on a fuel efficient 787 Dreamliner and 747-8, whilst American Airlines upped its sustainability profile with an order of 460 new fuel efficient jets.

What is the prospect of a better fuel economy, how as the general public can we participate to make it a reality? says if you live in a town or city unlike my own with decent public transportation, leave your car home and use the bus or train. Even if you use public transit just once or twice a week, you’ll save wear and tear on your car, you won’t be shelling out for all that gas, and you won’t have to dodge cell-phone addicted rush-hour commuters. Plus you get to people watch – an underappreciated activity. Still not enough reasons for you? Consider this fact: Actress Debra Winger met her husband on the subway. I rest my case.

But before I go today I will live you with one tip for the weekend to save on your fuel. Getting into the highest gear you can, at the lowest possible speed, will save you plenty of fuel. Why? Because you use less gas when the engine is turning slowly. The slower the engine turns, the fewer the number of explosions in the cylinders. And fewer explosions means less gas consumed. So, if you drive a manual transmission car, shift sooner. As long as the engine doesn’t buck, shudder, or ping, you’re fine. You’ll sacrifice the ability to accelerate quickly – but you can always downshift if you need to accelerate.


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The Zimbabwean Power Situation

With an peak energy demand of 2 200MW, the government of Zimbabwe is able to provide only 1 175MW through the National Utility ZESA to the population. This has resulted in intensive load shedding. Zimbabwe’s resource base is diverse but is largely dominated by the country’s vast coal reserves with proven reserves based on exploration work carried out standing at 12 billion metric tons. These are adequate to meet ten times Zimbabwe’s electricity and petroleum needs for the next 100years. This coal is of good quality and with calorific values ranging from 20-32 MJ/kg. The country also has hydro power potential which if fully developed could also provide sufficient power to meet Zimbabwe’s needs. Zimbabwe relies on hydroelectric power. In rural parts of the country, 80-90% of the people depend on wood fuel and kerosene for cooking lighting. Food processing tasks like milling grain are usually carried out with diesel-powered system. Total electricity generation in 2009 was 9 770 GWh. 73% of this was produced from renewable source which is hydro.

Coal Thermal Power Plants: 2.63 billion KWh (27%);

Hydro Power: 6.5 billion KWh (67%);

Renewable: 0.64 billion KWh (6%)

This shows that Zimbabwe has the potential to expand greatly in the field of renewable energy because sources like solar, mini hydro, wind are still in the scale of mini and micro hydro power generation. Coupling these renewable energy sources with energy efficiency, we are rest assured that we are able to reduce the country’s annual consumption but more than 30%. Energy efficiency is totally not an issue in Zimbabwe and a lot needs to be done.  Of we are able to save at least 30% that means we will be have a short fall of 3.2 billion KWh, and energy accessibility would be improved.


Energy Sources

The energy supply options from Zimbabwe have a mixture of hydroelectricity, coal and renewable sources. The grid is well developed with efforts after 1980 having extended supplies to rural business and government administrative areas. Much of Zimbabwe’s electricity is produced at the Kariba Dam Hydroelectric Power Station (about 750 MW), at Hwange Thermal Power Station which has an installed capacity of 920 MW, and at three minor coal fired stations. Apart from the Kariba Dam Hydroelectric Power Station, there is still quite a lot of hydropower potential especially along the Zambezi River. Solar Power has enormous potential both in small and large scale. Wind and biogas energy are other possibilities.

Renewable Energy Sources

Hydropower-Zimbabwe has one major hydro-electric power plant power plant in operation with an installed capacity of 750MW, producing 6.5 million MWh/year and this plant is very crucial because it bears 67% of Zimbabwe’s energy demand. Recent efforts by NGO’s have seen to date about 400KW mini hydro schemes being installed around the country for off-grid communities producing 3 504 MWh/year. In the near future with correct investments and business environment in place the potential 18 500GWh from Hydropower can be harnessed. Currently a 750KW hydro scheme is being built, the government is also planning to add a further 5 MW of small-hydro. About 8 small-hydro plants are currently being installed, ranging from 3 kW to over 700 kW. The total potential of small-hydro in Zimbabwe is estimated at 120 MW. Gairezi, which is located in the Nyanga district is particularly promising, with an estimate 30 MW of potential capacity.

This means Zimbabwe will be able to generate 37billion KWh from Hydro in the next 10-15 years.

Bagasse- This has necessarily not been for national benefit but individual companies utilizing biomass-based renewable energy technologies such as timber waste, urban waste and biogas.  Bagasse is currently used to generate 72.5 MW of electricity in the Lowveld. Biogas offers an option for supply of household and agro-industrial energy in Zimbabwe. More than 400 biogas digesters have been installed in Zimbabwe, which range in capacity from 3 cubic meters to 16 cubic meters.

Over 70,000 tons of biomass waste is produced annually from timber plantations, and more than 2.5 million tons of household and industrial wastes are produced per annum in urban areas. Some of this waste material has the potential to fuel power plants to create electricity or other forms of energy. An additional plant can be built with suitable feed-in tariffs for a power plant with an installed capacity of 100MW. This means it will be able to add 0.876 Billion KWh/year and eliminate waste in the country.

Solar-Solar radiation is available at an average of 2 000 kW per hour per square kilometer per annum, spread over roughly 3,000 hours per annum. Government efforts have resulted in 222 mini grid solar systems had been installed at remote rural schools and clinics. Solar has been regarded as an off grid technology and therefore not so popular within urban areas, another demerit of solar technology is security because vandalism and theft is at the highest level since. There is an enormous potential for use of solar PV and solar water heaters that has not yet been exploited. Technically, solar PV has a potential of 300 MW.

The other demerit of solar tech is pricing, the production price is averagely $0.24 compared to $0.15 from the utility it becomes a hard thing to sell. But given continued interventions and policies being implemented there is a possibility of the price going down.

A tender has been won recently for the construction of a 100MW solar power plant under the REFIT program where they will sell the power at $0.18 where it will be blended.  This means an additional 0.867 billion KWh/year will be generated in the next 3 years and maybe 2.6 Billion KWh/ year in the next 10 years.

Wind-Given the level of investment required for a MW the wind industry has failed to take off in the past years. The average wind speed in Zimbabwe is estimated to be 3.5 m/s. A non-governmental organization called ZERO conducted a number of feasibility studies and also financed the production of 1KW and 4 KW wind turbines for off-grid use and for providing power to municipal buildings. In the areas of Bulawayo and the Eastern Highlands, there is potential for power generation from wind turbines because these regions have the most prevalent wind speeds ranging from 4 to 6 m/s. Given these wind speeds one is persuaded to conclude that there is also considerable potential for wind energy, particularly for water pumping. Even as an energy engineer it is hard to predict the rise in energy production from wind.


Geothermal- In 1985 the geothermal potential was acknowledged as being 50 MW. Currently not much else is known about the potential of geothermal. Due to Zimbabwe’s proximity to the Rift Valley region, it is reasonable to assume that geothermal power generation can be applied.


Time frame for Completion of these proposed projects.

 Hydro: 12 billion KWh in the next 5 years and upto 37 billion KWh in the next 10 years.

 Bagasse/Biomass: 0.1 billion KWh in the next 5 years and as upto 0.876 billion KWh in 10 years.

Solar: 0.864 billion KWh in the next 5 years and 2.7 billion KWh in 10 years’ time.


Problems, Barriers and Policy Issues

Capacity is a major concern in Zimbabwe. No new developments have occurred in the country’s generation sector since the commissioning of the Hwange Coal Plant in 1988. Thus only about 60% of the country’s installed capacity is available. There is need for increased confidence that the energy sector is a viable sector in Zimbabwe. The electricity sub-sector suffers from unsustainable operations owing to financial constraints as a result of non-cost reflective tariffs, collection inefficiencies, and vandalism of distribution infrastructure. The loss of experienced staff in the last decade also contributed to the sub-standard performance of electricity supply industry. The unsustainable performance of the sub-sector is reflected in the low investment in infrastructure and substandard poor delivery of service.


One of the greatest barriers one cannot ignore are that there is need to restore the two power utilities, ZPC and ZETDC, to financial health. In the case of ZPC, the issue is to address the current financial problems and through financial and perhaps technical restructuring, and prepare the company for a possible partnership with a strategic investor /interested in investment.


In regards to policy electricity tariffs in Zimbabwe are well below the cost of service delivery. ZETDC’s current average tariff of US$ 0.0753/kWh is about 65 percent of the cost recovery tariff estimated at US$ 0.116/ kWh. A long history of tariffs in Zimbabwe (and elsewhere in the Southern Africa region) at sub-economic levels have not been able to provide the right signals for optimum use of electricity and attraction of new investments. Similarly, the sub-economic tariffs have led to adverse consumer behavior that involved inefficient use of electrical power. The introduction of cost reflective tariffs will be required to put ZPC and ZETDC on sound financial grounds to become acceptable partners in the PPP arrangements.

Renewable Energy Sources

Coal Thermal: 2 570MW capacity which means 22.5 Billion KWh/year.

Hydropower: 2 350MW in total which means 20.6 Billion KWh/year.

Renewable: 90MW from mainly biomass waste with annual 0.788KWh/year.

Solar: 102MW in total which means 0.893 billion KWh/year.

Geothermal: Potentially 50MW and an annual production of 0.438 billion KWh/year.


The power crisis in Zimbabwe is man-made; the potential far exceeds the demand. As long as the proper measures and policies are in place investment will come and we will be able to export our electricity to the region. Electricity production has great potential to improve the livelihoods of the Zimbabwean population and contribute to the country’s GDP.

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