Ernest Hemingway once wrote "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed." This is the place where I pour the blood out of my Libran heart. The best use of blood in my view.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Seiko Watches, Eco Cars and Crazy Emails

I did a weird thing the other day. I sent an email to Seiko watches that talked about something totally unrelated to watches at all. The email was so crazy I thought it just might make for an interesting entry for my little-read blog. Ha..ha...

So what's the significance of Seiko watches to my story? Well, to tell a short story long, it's about my favourite watch in the world - the Seiko Kinetic. See, more than thirty years ago, my mum bought my dad a very expensive watch for his birthday. It was a rugged, square-faced Seiko watch with a hefty metal strap. And it was a Seiko Kinetic. Now, for all you non-watch fans out there, a Seiko Kinetic is a watch that has a tiny dynamo within it which can utilise the movement of your hand to recharge the battery inside your watch whilst you're wearing it. The watch can run forever without ever needing a change of battery. I once saw a documentary on TV about the Seiko Kinetic watch. Apparently, there are gyroscopes which capture the movement of your wrist and through gears and spindles, these gyroscopes amplify your wrist movements at a geometric rate to a tiny spindle which spins at incredible speeds, generating current to store and charge the battery inside your watch. A watch which doesn't need a battery replacement! What a cool watch, right?

Do any of you still remember we used to ride bicycles which had these lamps which were powered by dynamos attached to the bicycle's wheels? A metal dynamo with a gear was attached to the rim of your bicycle wheel with a wire connecting it to the lamp. Whenever you pedalled on your bike, the revolution of the wheel would turn the gear and the dynamo would convert the motion into an electric current and your lamp would light up. Simple idea, right?

Well, I've always wondered why the concept of the dynamo could not be used for the motorcar. Turns out it is being used. But in a very small way. See, every motorcar on the road today has a dynamo called an alternator. The alternator is connected to the fan-belt of your car's engine. Whenever your engine is running, the fan-belt will also spin. The alternator would then convert the fan belt's kinetic energy into electrical current to recharge your car's battery. In this way, your car battery lasts longer. That's why you should never leave your car light on after you finish parking. It will exhaust the battery cos the car's not moving and thus the battery won't be recharged.

Notice that I mentioned that the battery is connected only to the fan belt. Now, when you drive a car, what are the parts of the car which picks up the most kinetic energy? The wheels, right? So why isn't the battery connected to the wheel axels then? Well, for a conventional internal combustion engine, the battery actually doesn't need all that much juice.

However, things are different for an electric car run on batteries. But there are hybrids like the Toyota Prius, right? Don't those cars recharge their batteries whilst they are running? Well, they do and they don't. See, the weird thing is that the batteries on all hybrid cars today are recharged by Regenerative Braking. That is, whenever, you apply the brakes on your car, the force exerted by the brakes is transformed to recharge the car battery in the hybrid car. So what your hybrid car is actually doing is recharging your car whenever you stop moving. Not when you are moving. The largest and most constant source of kinetic energy that your car generates is totally laid to waste in your car today.

But what about other hybrid cars that are coming out like the GM Volt? Those claim to use your engine to recharge your battery, right? Well, yes. New plug-in hybrids on the horizon do utilise the car engine as a generator to recharge the batteries in the car when the batteries run low. But they do not utilise the kinetic energy of your car wheels in any efficient way. What they propose to do is to use fuel to power the internal combustion engine, which then runs as a generator to power the car and recharge the car batteries running your car. This is essence means they are merely using oil in a less direct way to power your car.

Now imagine you could actually harness the motion of your car wheels to recharge your car battery. Won't that be wonderous? Simple, right? Well, not quite. See, in those good ol days of your chopper bicycle, the light of the lamp on your bicycle would actually flicker when your pedalling speed decreased, and would go out whenever you stop. Now, how can that recharge all those car batteries in your hybrid, right?

Well, that's where the Seiko Kinetic watch comes in. See, the Seiko Kinetic watch doesn't simply convert the movement of your wrist to electrical current on a one-to-one ration. If that was the case, you would have to flap your arms like a windmill to get even an hour of juice. No, the Seiko Kinetic uses gyroscope and gears the size of the watch face. These gyroscopes and gears turn ever smaller gears exponentially until the energy is transferred to a wire thin spindle which spins at an astronomical rate. The result? The Seiko Kinetic is able to exponentially increase the energy of your arm movement to a considerable amount of electrical charge. This electrical charge is then stored and can be utilised whenever the watch needs battery power.

Of course, a watch is not a car. How much battery does your watch need right? Well, that's true but how fast do you move your wrist, right? Now imagine how fast and often your car wheel turns when you drive. Now imagine how much your wheel axel has to turn in order to make your car wheel turn. The movement of your wheel axel is exponentially higher than the movement of your car wheel. Now imagine how much motion is generated by your car wheel to your wheel axel. Now imagine how much electrical energy you can generate off of all 4 car wheels on your motor vehicle? If you can somehow harness the technology of the Seiko Kinetic watch, you would be able to capture the kinetic energy of your car and relay back to the battery cells in your electric car and recharge your car. The electrical system of the car could be set up such that half of the battery cells would be in use for discharging and running the car whilst the other half of the cells would be recharged by the Seiko Kinetic alternator attached to all four wheels.

Sounds like a simple idea, right? Well, it is. Of course, if the idea is so good, somebody should have thought of it by now, right? Well, somebody definitely have. But with the oil industry and motorcar industry as powerful as they are, who would dare introduce a device which would potentially wreck the money making ability of the oil barons around the world? That's part of the reason why the car industry has resisted using such technology in their hybrids. Thankfully, there are companies out there which are slowly coming around. There is a which has come up with inventions like sensitive floors which can convert the energy of people walking on the floor to electric power and similar alternators for cars.

Wait a minute... so what was that crazy email about anyway? Well, ridiculous oaf that I am - I actually wrote an email to Seiko watches Japan on their website, asking them whether they were thinking of utilising their Seiko Kinetic technology to recharge electric cars. Crazy, right? The email will probably be junked, right? Well, that's definitely true. But I'm hoping that there is a Seiko employee on the other side of the world reading my stupid email. I'm hoping that the stupidity of my email makes him laugh so much that he'll mention it in passing to one of his colleagues. I'm hoping that his colleague will repeat that joke to his friends in other departments. And hopefully, just hopefully, someone crazy in some small department in Seiko's R&D department will hear about my stupid joke of an email and decide that my idea just might be crazy enough to work. I mean, crazier things have happened, right? :)

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Blogger Back2Nature said...

Indeed, there might be many obstacles, both technology and political. However, most technological obstacles can be overcome and political obstacles some how will disappeared when the political climate change.

For me, I have the idea of converting a portion (e.g. 1/3) of energy from peddling a bicycle into a light battery to be used for the last portion (e.g. 1/4) of a journey. This should allow cyclists to cool down by the time they reach their destination.

2:28 PM


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