Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Israel, Jordan Moving Ahead With "Electric Peace Car", an Israeli news site, reports on continuing progress on the Middle East electric car front. Building on initial discussions in Davos at the World Economic Forum in January, a meeting has now been held in Jordan to move the idea forward. Renault and Toyota are reported to be involved along with Shai Agassi, ex-SAP executive.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

My ZEV Mandate Public Comment

Chairman Sawyer, Members, my name is Marc Geller, and I represent the San Francisco Electric Vehicle Association. Many of our members, including myself, drove ZEV Mandate battery electric cars - GM EV1, Honda EV+, Ford Th!nk City - until they were confiscated by the automakers. A few of us still drive Toyota RAV4 EVs - a truly great car. I hope Board Members understand that we continue to use these zero-emission, zero-petroleum cars in our daily lives. Many more of our members would like the choice to be available to buy electric and plug-in hybrids cars. And want CARB to succeed with ZEVs, in the near term.

Thousands of battery ZEVs were on the road in consumers hands a few short years ago. And they have not been replaced by another ZEV technology. To get more ZEVs on the road, we support the staff interest in battery electric/fuel cell technology neutrality. As the hydrogen storage expert testified here, H2 storage is still in the R&D phase. In fact both the expert panel and staff reports make clear the entire fuel cell project is essentially an R&D project with hope for commercialization decades out. The state ought to support technology R&D, but the Board should question whether it is appropriate to the ZEV mandate.

Battery electrics ought not be penalized - as they are now - because they are closer to commercialization and infrastructure-ready. There is no good reason to extend the deadline for compliance, and we oppose staff recommendation to extend the deadline for putting 2500 fuel cell vehicles on the road from 2011 to 2020.

Technology neutrality and firm deadlines have worked, and offer automakers enough flexibility to achieve the results we, and CARB, know are possible.

We believe the Board must keep all its options open to incentivize battery electrics and plug-in hybrids. Just as Governor Schwarzenegger is keeping his personal options open. Despite his much ballyhooed hydrogen highway, he has placed an order for a $100,000 all-electric Tesla Roadster. It is up to CARB to get back on the road to ZEV success for the rest of us.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Consumers Want Plug-in Hybrids, Industry Survey Finds

Synovate Motoresearch presented some very interesting survey results at the Advanced Automotive Battery Conference in Long Beach, CA last week, as reported in MIT's Technology Review. Simply put, as the first sentence of the article states,
[W]hen consumers understand what plug-in hybrids are, they want them.
All that's needed, the survey discovered, is a dollop of education.
Of the more than 3,000 consumers asked if they would consider buying a "grid-connected hybrid," the term used for plug-in hybrids in the survey, only 24 percent said that they would, according to the survey by Synovate Motoresearch. But when they were told what such a car could do, that figure nearly tripled, to 64 percent. That's well above the percentage of people who would consider buying an ordinary hybrid, like the Toyota Prius, which doesn't have extended battery-powered range.....The results suggest that consumers like the idea of the plug-in hybrid--but that so far, car companies are doing a lousy job of getting the word out.
Wonder why? The answer is contained in another part of the survey. Motoresearch also surveyed attitudes toward flex-fuel vehicles, heavily promoted by the automakers.
These cars, which can burn either gasoline or a mixture of 85 percent ethanol, scored high on the desirability charts--that is, until consumers were told more about them...consumers thought that flex-fuel improved fuel economy, Miller said. Actually, the opposite is true. Ethanol contains much less energy than gasoline does, so miles per gallon will be significantly lower, as will range on a tank of gas. When consumers were told this, the percentage of people who would consider buying the cars dropped from 52 to 33 percent.

GM's Lutz Talks Up Volt at NPR Game Show; Sierra Club's Dan Becker Welcomes "Epiphany"

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz took his promotion for the serial plug-in hybrid Volt to an NPR game show, "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." The NY Times reports:
With the same enthusiasm that he has long used to describe high torque ratings and engine displacements, Mr. Lutz touted the Volt’s mileage, which he estimated will reach 151 miles per gallon, fueled by a combination of electricity and gasoline.

His comments drew a huge round of applause from the NPR audience at the Michigan Theater here.
Dan Becker, head of the global warming program at the Sierra Club, was asked his reaction to the seeming about-face of "one of Detroit’s ultimate 'car guys,' for whom no vehicle could be big enough, powerful enough or fast enough... “We take all epiphanies,” Mr. Becker said."

So do I.

Becker himself has long opposed putting any effort behind plug-in cars. When I spoke with him about Ford's confiscation of my all-electric, zero-petroleum, zero-carbon Th!nk City a few years ago, he told me the Sierra Club didn't have the resources to help save the ZEV mandate electric cars. Sierra Club chapters, however, particularly in California, have been pressuring the national to promote plug-ins. I hope he has had an epiphany of his own and the Sierra Club will become a strong voice for plug-in hybrids and electric cars.

Bush Says Farewell to Blair with Empty Rhetoric on Climate Change

Tony Blair came to DC to say farewell. And make one final pitch for American cooperation on climate change. At a Rose Garden press conference within earshot of anti-war protesters beyond the White House gate, Bush's prepared remarks included this:
And we talked, of course, about climate change. We spent a lot of time on climate change. And I agree with the Prime Minister, as I have stated publicly, this is a serious issue, and the United States takes it seriously, just like we take energy security seriously.
As reported in the Independent of London,
As Tony Blair left Washington yesterday for his last visit as Prime Minister, the Bush administration was acting to scupper international efforts to combat climate change.

Less than 24 hours earlier, Mr Blair had basked in the apparent support of President George Bush for his stated aim of avoiding catastrophic global warming. But it seems his appeals have fallen on deaf ears. While Mr Bush was eulogising his friend in the White House rose garden, the President's delegation at a United Nations meeting in Bonn was working to stop any progress on setting up a carbon trading scheme and emissions caps.

Harlan Watson, President Bush's chief climate negotiator, rejected any caps on US emissions or participation in carbon trading. "That's not our agenda," he said.....

...away from the cameras, the US delegation to Bonn was scotching any prospect of the emissions caps and carbon trading that are needed to realise the rhetoric. "We don't believe targets and timetables are important, or a global cap and trade system," he said. "It's important not to jeopardise economic growth."
After his visit to Washington, Blair paid a farewell visit to Iraq. He was welcomed with mortar attacks that rocked the British HQ in Basra minutes after his remarks to British soldiers there.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Richardson Highlights Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars

Governor of New Mexico and candidate for the Democratic nomination Bill Richardson Richardson has released his "Energy and Climate Policy Plan." Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are part of Goal 1:
Get low and zero petroleum plug-in cars into the marketplace, while sharply reducing the carbon emissions from our electric sector. The pure-electric vehicle offers simplicity and performance for an average daily commute in our larger metro areas, while the plug-in electric car or truck provides more range and flexibility for people who drive longer distances, as it can extend gas mileage above 100 miles per gallon.

See the full press release here.
One can only presume Tesla's presentations that resulted in siting its White Star factory in New Mexico helped expose Richardson to the benefits of plug-in cars, even if the terminology used is a bit

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Automotive Class Lithium-Ion Cells from A123

The California Air Resources Board may still be living in an alternate universe where hydrogen and fuel cell vehicles are making meaningful (if glacial) progress toward commercialization, but back here on earth battery power is where it's at. A123 Systems has introduced Automotive Class Lithium-ion cells. Read the press release here.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

They Don't Just Steal at the Pump

PBS' Now profiles government auditor Bobby Maxwell's attempt to get oil companies drilling on government land to pay royalties due. The corruption in the oil business isn't only in Iraq. See the video here.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What's Oil Got to Do With It?

From Saturday's New York Times story "Cheney, on Carrier, Sends Warning to Iran"
Vice President Dick Cheney used the deck of an American aircraft carrier just 150 miles off Iran’s coast as the backdrop yesterday to warn that the United States was prepared to use its naval power to keep Tehran from disrupting oil routes...

Oil seemed to be on Mr. Cheney’s mind yesterday when he told 3,500 to 4,000 members of the Stennis’s crew that Iran would not be permitted to choke off oil shipments.
A 2nd Times piece, "Billions in Oil Missing in Iraq, U.S. Study Finds" reports that hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil "is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling." The report reinforces suspicion that corruption in the oil sector is likely financing some of the insurgency.

Of course, a resurgent oil industry, we were told, would finance the reconstruction of the energy sector and Iraq as a whole. It hasn't turned out that way.
Adding together both civilian and military financing, the report concludes that the United States has spent $5.1 billion of the $7.4 billion in American taxpayer money set aside to rebuild the Iraqi electricity and oil sectors. The United States has also spent $3.8 billion of Iraqi money on those sectors, the report says.
Despite that investment, less electricity is being produced that before the invasion, and neither oil "exports nor production have met American goals and have also declined since last year, the report says."

Dealing with Petroleum Addiction, British Style

The British Government is attempting to strangle the electric car baby in its London cradle.

The Times Online reports the British government's Department for Transport (DfT) has conducted a safety test on the all-electric Reva G-Whiz and found it wanting. The small, 45mph zero-emission vehicles have found a ready market in London - 850 sold so far - where electrics are exempt from the stiff daily congestion charge for driving in central London.

City government under Ken Livingston has been encouraging use of such cars. But now the central government, long hostile to alternative-fueled vehicles (it has cracked down on vegetable-oil fueled cars), "decided to buy a G-Wiz and carry out its own crash test after becoming concerned by the rapid growth in sales." Concerned with the results, the DfT took the unusual step of releasing its finding early and is "urgently seeking a review of the European regulations covering the sale of the cars." The car, classified as a "quadricycle," weighing under 400kg without the battery, is fully legal under existing rules.

The world's major auto manufacturers have steadfastly refused to build electric cars. The world's governments have refused to set sufficient incentives or mandates, with the exception of California which eventually backed down. Now the stars have aligned for a successful electric city car market in Britain, and New Labour is looking for ways to shut it down.

Conservative MP Boris Johnson blogs "Banning the G-Wiz sums up Labour" in a most amusingly perverse Tory manner about the issue.
They want to ban it, of course. No, wait. It's even wetter than that. They want Brussels to ban it for them!....It's as though we have got into some weird S & M relationship with the EU, in which ministers go around asking for correction. After years of ritual humiliation at the hands of Madame de Bruxelles, the fabled dominatrix, the man in Whitehall has become addicted to discipline.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dealing with petroleum addiction, Texas style

The Texas House of Representatives votes in favor of increased gasoline consumption.

I should add that Texas, in the form of Austin Energy's Plug-in Partners effort, shows us the right direction to head, promoting plug-in hybrids (and electric cars) to use the electrical grid to replace gasoline.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Thursday, May 3, 2007

$200,000 Grant to CalCars is stepping up to the plate for electricity in cars. has received a $200,000 grant to continue its advocacy of plug-in hybrid vehicles. Founder Felix Kramer has been dogged and successful in pushing plug-ins into the national and international media. Everyday Prius owners ask me where to get their car converted to a plug-in. It is largely thanks to Felix that hybrid owners now desire something more than a gasoline-dependent car. (Bumper sticker below available here.)
All I can say is it's about time somebody put some bucks behind the plug in the ongoing altfuel debate. Ethanol and hydrogen promoters have their deep pocketed supporters (grain combines and the oil & gas industries) and receive the lion's share of the alt fuel attention. Utilities and enviro organizations ought to join Google and provide serious resources to groups like and Plug In America to make the case for electricity. It is, after all, the cleanest, cheapest, most infrastructure-ready alternative fuel available.

(Full disclosure: I, as an electric car driver and advocate, am an informal advisor to CalCars, and co-founder of Plug In America.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Required Reading: Tesla Motors' Martin Eberhard Testifies

Martin Eberhard, Tesla Motors CEO, testified at the Senate Finance Committee yesterday. In a succinct presentation, he makes the case for electricity. And he suggests turning the perverse federal incentives that brought us the Hummer on their head. Read his complete testimony here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Whither CARB?

The California Air Resources Board, one of the culprits identified in Who Killed the Electric Car?, was originally charged with reducing pollution. Now it's actions are meant to help reduce carbon emissions and petroleum usage, as well. The electric cars produced to meet the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate uniquely contribute on all three counts.

Of the transportation fuel options before us, only electricity can provide both near term mitigation of the many problems wrought by petroleum and the internal combustion engine, and a path to a truly zero-carbon, zero-emission, zero-petroleum future.

Gov. Schwarzenegger and CARB have a unique opportunity.
Proclaim the success of the ZEV mandate. Highlight the synergy of California's Solar Initiative and plug-in cars. Showcase the Toyota RAV4 EVs and RangerEVs still providing many more zero emission miles than all the hydrogen fuel cell cars touted by the car makers. Build on the success of nearly 10,000 battery electric vehicles, not the failure of a diminished ZEV fleet, an automaker-inspired failure of less than 100 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, now pleading for an extension on the minimal target they presumed they could attain.
Tens of thousands of battery electric cars could be on the road for the same expense in shorter time and everyone knows the market exists already for plug-in cars. The carmakers never fulfilled the demand they themselves unwillingly and unwittingly inspired in Californians. They are waiting to be forced to do the right thing. Their own ZEV-mandated product proved they could do it. They can do it again.

La Poste Plans to Buy 10,000 Electric Vehicles

The French Post Office, La Poste, is seeking to place 10,000 electric vehicles in service in the next five years. This week La Poste will invite manufacturers to bid to build the first 500 for delivery in 2008.
"There has never been such a big order (for electric vehicles) in the world," said French Industry Minister Francois Loos in an interview with AFP, referring to the plans for 10,000 electric vehicles.
Full story.