Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EV Ownership Shortcut?

Here's an unexpected opportunity to purchase an EV, especially if you've had a hankering for a Th!nk City.

According to the Seattle Clean Cities Newsletter, you've got three days to order a Th!nk City for $6000 off from the base price of $41,695 if you live in a ZEV state. Th!nk is apparently looking to quickly sell 150 of the vehicles they are putting together in Elkhart, IN. Offer ends December 31.

Add in the federal tax credit, and the electric two-seater is down to around $28,000. If they can deliver quickly enough to California, a rebate of $4000 - 5000 should kick in as well.

That's obviously less car for about the price of a Nissan LEAF. But if you haven't ordered one yet, there could be quite a wait.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Proud Papa

Felix Kramer, indefatigable campaigner for plug-in cars, took possession today of his Chevrolet Volt at Novato Chevrolet. Here he is, with his son Josh in the driver's seat.

Andy Frank, father of the plug-in hybrid, drove down from Davis, California in the Volt he received yesterday to join in the celebration.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Trial LEAF & the trials of public charging

I've got a LEAF for a few days. Very exciting. I'll have a full report soon. But I've got to mention one frustration I've encountered. Restricted charge stations.

In San Francisco at this moment there are, I believe, six deployed new J1772 charge stations. One, a ParkPod unit in the Hilton parking lot, was installed with private funds. Two are at a private parking garage on the Embarcadero, paid for with federal and state money via Coulomb's ChargePointAmerica grants. And three streetside at City Hall, trumpeted in signage as a "Green Vehicle Showcase."

Usage at the City Hall location is restricted; only official city and ZipCar plug-in vehicles may use them. All others subject to ticketing and towing.

Ironically, in practice this means only the converted plug-in Priuses in government and ZipCar fleets, using the 120 Volt receptacle in these Coulomb ChargePoint stations, can park and charge. The LEAF I've got for a few days, which could plug in at Level 2 and be showcased, remains underground out of site while I sit on a jury a block away. And I could use the charge, as I'm charging at 120 volts at home. And, adding insult to injury, two of the three spaces with chargepoints were open when I went to court, during lunch, and when I departed. The third, occupied by a BAAQMD plug-in Prius, appears not to have gone anywhere, long ago charged to full.

The point isn't my convenience while doing jury duty. Ordinarily, I'd take the bus. It's about optimally utilizing the public investment in charging infrastructure. San Francisco spent tens of thousands of dollars installing these charge stations. Mayor Newsom trumpeted their arrival, and Coulomb uses them in its self-promotion. They are serving everyone's interest save the public.

The day has finally arrived when they could be used as intended, for opportunity charging and to showcase the arrival of electric vehicles. Bureaucratic obstacles must be overcome, at least during the first year or two, to maximize the public benefit of this investment. Empty spots and/or restricted access does not serve the interest of the drivers, nor in reality, of the infrastructure providers or government trying to educate the public about electric vehicles.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First LEAF delivered in Petaluma California

Olivier Chalouhi, owner of the first LEAF sold in the world with Carlos Tavares, Nissan Executive Vice President for the America.

Olivier at the wheel driving off to the Nissan event in San Francisco Civic Center.

Caravan of LEAFs headed to SF as seen from my RAV4 EV.

Olivier surrounded by the media outside SF City Hall.

Crowd gathered in SF Civic Center.

Check out Nick Chambers' report in plugincars.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Help Plug In America renew the EV infrastructure tax credit

From Plug In America:

Last year, Plug In America, along with electric vehicle and EV infrastructure manufacturers from coast to coast, worked with members of the House and Senate to get a critical plug-in vehicle infrastructure tax credit into the stimulus bill.

And then you helped us get it passed!

These EV tax credits of 50% up to $2,000 for individuals, and 50% up to $50,000 for businesses have led to the beginning of early deployment of EV charging infrastructure all across the United States.

But the infrastructure tax credit is set to expire on 12/31/2010 unless we act now!

Just as plug-in cars are about to get on the road is absolutely the wrong time to end these tax credits.

We were initially successful in advocating for an extension in the proposed 2010 tax extenders legislation. But now our efforts are threatened - we hear that the tax credit extension for EV infrastructure may be scaled back or eliminated from the tax extenders bill. This credit should be extended at the same level as in the stimulus for at least another three years.

We need your help - and we will do most of the work. Please take just a moment to click through the link below and send a strong message to your representatives in Congress and the President telling them that you want plug-in electric vehicles to be successful along with the truly green jobs they can create. Show Washington just how serious you are about wanting to make sure we can get affordable plug-in infrastructure at our homes and businesses and support plug-in vehicles getting on the road now.

It is time to ask Congress to advance the next generation of transportation options. Each and every voice they hear will make a difference.

Let us do the work for you - Just click the link below and in less than a minute you can get your message to Congress about this key issue:

Click here to tell Congress you want these tax credits extended

Thank you!

Jay Friedland
Legislative Director
Plug In America

P.S. If you are about to purchase a new plug-in vehicle, you may want to purchase your EV charging station before the end of the year just in case!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ethanol Gets Teabagged

Senators Coburn and DeMint have corn ethanol subsidies in their sights. The environmental case rests on a thin reed indeed. I'm hoping they succeed. Firedoglake has the story.

UPDATE: California Senator Dianne Feinstein is on board will letting the subsidies expire on December 31, 2010.

[Source: Washington Post]

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coulomb, MasterCard, and the future of public charging

Coulomb Technologies unveiled San Francisco's first ChargePoint America charge stations yesterday in a Priority Parking lot along the Embarcadero. The charge stations and installations were paid for with federal stimulus and California Energy Commission grants won by Coulomb.

Mayor Newsom and many city employees were there, along with large signs and representatives of MasterCard. MC will enable one-off charging in Coulomb charge stations with their new touchless "paypass" credit card. So if you find yourself by Pier 27 in a J1772 compliant or 120 volt-capable electric vehicle and are a Coulomb member or have one of MC's fancy new cards, two spaces with charge stations are available for the parking fee plus an as yet undetermined fee for the electricity. Richard Lowenthal, Coulomb CEO, threw out the figure of $2 for the charge, but noted the host can set the fee.

The big takeaway: If you want a free charge station and are located in a program area (Austin, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, Sacramento, San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Bellevue/Redmond, Washington DC, Southern Michigan), raise your hand now. ChargePoint America is looking for hosts for charge stations.

If you are a consumer, and you get a Volt, Smart, or Ford electric car, you probably qualify for a free home charge station. (Nissan LEAF buyers are excluded. Ecotality's EV Project got an exclusive.)

If you are a business in a program area, you can get the same deal - free charge stations paid for by stimulus money. And if you're located in California, the California Energy Commission portion of the grant to Coulomb will pay for installation.

As Richard Lowenthal said to me at the event: "Great deal!" Certainly. But for whom?

I want to see adequate public charging infrastructure installed in sensible locations. I think it makes sense for public resources to drive the early rollout. Time will tell what business model/s might work to provide an adequate supply and dispersal of public charge stations. But given the relatively low cost of electricity, and the large public environmental benefit, it seems premature to presume monetization or let the desire for monetization drive the placement of charge stations.

Where should publicly funded infrastructure be located, and who should decide? Is it good public policy to encourage businesses to acquire free charge stations at public expense without any commitment other than putting them in service? Should 100% of the cost be born by taxpayers if 100% of the benefit goes to private business? Should a model of host-supplied electricity (like host supplied parking or wi-fi) be given an equal chance to succeed?

In the past, in exchange for California's financial support for public charge station installation, the business hosting the charge station covered the cost of the electricity, the smallest part of the equation. EV drivers thus have simple access to electricity, allowing them to use their zero-emission vehicle to the max. The business hosting the charge stations get some "green" cred, along with hopes of attracting customers with EVs. That seems to me a fair deal between taxpayers and business, and a better way to promote the use of electric vehicles.

To be fair, Coulomb itself is officially agnostic regarding whether a station's host will charge for the electrons, but the deal with MasterCard suggests the direction they're heading.

And Coulomb is not alone. Ecototality, the other big beneficiary of public largesse (again in the tens of millions of dollars,) has made clear that its EV Project public charge stations will require payment by next May.

Some companies are pursuing a different model, selling charge stations that aren't part of a proprietary network and that don't presume to be monetized. As far as I know, Clipper Creek, Leviton, AeroVironment and GE, for example, will be selling equipment but will not attempt to collect ongoing revenue from the delivery of electrons. Free Juice Bar explicitly sells charge stations to offer free power.

The question isn't whether drivers of plug-in cars deserve free power. Obviously not.

The only important question is what will help drive rapid adoption of plug-in vehicles. Will a monetized public charging infrastructure from the get-go promote plug-ins? Or, in fact, could we soon find monetized charge stations remain underutilized given a cost at least twice that of home charging. Resulting in empty, restricted parking spaces sparking general resentment rather than the recognition and perhaps envy we hope to engender.

The new ChargePoint America installation seems designed to illustrate my point. Why, given what we know about charge station placement, are the two Priority Parking charge stations in the most prominent, desirable spots, right at the entrance. Virtually everyone who enters this parking lot for the foreseeable future will likely pass two empty spots, reserved for apparently non-existent electric vehicles.

Public charge stations are best located where hosts have motivations greater than some small financial benefit. Businesses are looking to attract customers and show their green side, and government is seeking the emissions reduction benefit of plug-ins.

Public dollars should be used in a manner that best promotes plug-in electric vehicles and maximizes the environmental benefit in the near term. Creating an new industry that converts cheap electricity into a monetized charge session is not necessarily the best way forward.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BP Israel awaits first 13 Fluences

Better Place has just received authorization from the Minister of Transport to import 13 Renault Fluence electric cars. The cars are expected to arrive in the next few weeks.

[Source: TheGreenCarWebsite.co.uk]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Czinger Zinger: CODA CEO resigns

Just three days after Michael Jackson, Coda Automotive's senior vice president of global sales, marketing and distribution, resigned to start his own company, the company's CEO, Kevin Czinger, is also stepping down from his position. Czinger, who has pretty much been the public face of the Miles Electric Vehicles spin-off since he joined in 2008 – and a substantial shareholder – will adopt the role of senior strategic advisor.
[Source: AutoBlogGreen]

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Energy/Climate bill prospects dim, but....

It will be next to impossible to pass comprehensive climate legislation in the next two years, but it appears Reid will focus on a series of low-hanging-fruit provisions that are popular on both sides of the aisle, including bills to incentivize electric vehicles, improve energy efficiency and weatherize homes.
[Source: Washington Independent]

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Honda: The toughest nut cracks

“It’s starting to look like there will be a market for electric vehicles,” said Takanobu Ito, the chief executive of Honda, according to Reuters. “We can’t keep shooting down their potential, and we can’t say there’s no business case for it,” Mr. Ito said at the recent event, referring to electric cars.
Honda has long been the most adamant of the automakers, refusing to consider plug-in cars, even after building the well-received EV Plus to meet the California ZEV mandate in the 90s. Of course Honda, in its heart, is an internal combustion company. It is not surprising it might find a transition to electricity even more troubling than other car companies.

[Source: NY Times Wheels blog]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Driving iMiev

I got to drive the Mitsubishi iMiev a couple of weeks ago for a mile or so at Green Drive Expo in Richmond. I was much impressed with the car. A four seater that defies space by seeming so small outside but so large inside. Like my beloved Th!nk City, only grown up.

Chuck Squatriglia of Wired Autopia has got an iMiev for a couple of weeks. I'm envious. His story of using the iMiev around Berkeley and San Francisco reminds me why most of the time I wish I still had my Th!nk rather than my RAV4 EV.

But then could I have done what I did yesterday? 88 miles straight up to Sacramento, recharging while attending the PEV Collaborative meeting at the CEC, and then straight back. (For RAV geeks: I arrived at each destination with 20-22% SOC. Drove between 55 and 65mph. This car remains awesome.)

Also worth noting for those contemplating a new EV, the trip literally cost me nothing. I happened to hit the bridge tolls during commute hours in each direction (EVs free), and parking and charging in Sacto was also free. In a Prius, the trip would have cost something over $40.

[Source & Photo: Wired Autopia]

Monday, October 18, 2010

Strikes cause fuel shortages in France

Airlines are being diverted from France as jet fuel supplies dwindle, and French motorists are panic-buying diesel and gasoline for their autos as strikes grip the country. France has already begun dipping into its 30-day strategic reserve of oil. Strikes at oil refineries have entered their second week, with a general strike called for Tuesday.

Strikers are protesting the proposed rise in the retirement age from 60 to 62. According to a poll cited in the New York Times, 71% of the public supports the strikes.

[Source: NY Times]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BP goes electric....a bit

Ecotality has a new, unexpected partner in the rollout of public charging infrastructure for plug-in electric cars. BP. Must have taken BP about three seconds to accept this partnership. They get to put free DC fast chargers at gas stations in the EV Project locations, agreeing to supply electricity to folks who probably would have stayed as far away as possible from a BP gas station.

[Source: NY Times]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Transmission Losses: More Oil Supply Trucks Bombed in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Dozens of tankers carrying fuel to Afghanistan for NATO troops were torched near Quetta in western Pakistan on Wednesday, the third major attack on supplies since Pakistan closed one border crossing to Afghanistan a week ago and the first at the only checkpoint that remained open.
Source: NY Times

Monday, September 27, 2010

Infiniti Electric in 2013

I'm getting used to hearing electric car announcements. I usually take them with a grain of salt, as in the case of the Saab 9-3 ePower concept. Or the Toyesla RAV4 EV redux, for that matter. Putting together an electric car is not rocket science, and there are many reasons other than actual plans to commercialize to go ahead and build a few.

But when Nissan's luxury brand Infiniti announces an EV for 2013, they get the benefit of any doubt. Autobloggreen reports on the sketch that appeared on Infiniti's FaceBook page.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Coda sets price on new EV

Coda has set the price for its new electric car: $44,900. After the federal tax credit, the cost drops to $37,400. In California, the only place the car will be offered this year, the cost should drop to $32,400, presuming the car receives CARB certification as a 100 mile range EV.

That's still a good $10,000 more than the Nissan LEAF. But Coda has an ace up its sleeve. Range. With a 33.8kWh lithium battery pack, nearly 10kWh larger than LEAF's, it could have significantly greater range.

But the proof is in the pudding. Until we get a chance to drive both cars the distance, it's all conjecture.

Source: AutoBlogGreen

GE WattStation get TV ad

GE has taken to the airwaves with an ad for its electric car charging station.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Stop tinkering: Sierra Club Chief touts vehicle electrification

After spending time in the Gulf, the Sierra Club's new executive director, Michael Brune, ponders getting off oil in "Create," his Sierra Magazine commentary. After extolling biking and transit, he concludes:
"The single most effective thing we can do as a country to get off oil, however, is to electrify transportation. The days of tinkering around with tiny increases in fuel economy should be long gone. As detailed in "The Latest From the Labs," page 38, even the dirtiest electricity is cleaner than internal combustion. Happily, the alternatives are already here—or arriving soon."
[Source: Sierra Magazine]

Monday, July 26, 2010

Raving about my RAV4 EV (again)

The recent Toyota-Tesla announcement regarding a new generation of RAV4 EVs has sparked interest in the originals, here, in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Subversive advertising

Coda's got the right idea. Spied atop a gas pump in Santa Ana, California.

Tip o' the hat to Al.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Shanghai: Amidst the clamor, many glide by silently on two wheels

Shanghai is a mind blower. Welcome

Exuberant, flashy skyscrapers dot the landscape soaring above the city's overhead freeways, many claiming their place in the skyline with decorative, synchronized light shows. Immense shopping malls with every major international brand represented are packed with locals out merely for a stroll, the newly rich dressed to the nines toting Cartier bags, and tourists alike.

Down at street level, boulevards and alleys are stuffed to the gills. Cars, most of recent vintage (including BMWs and Mercedes) compete with busses (some electric) and trucks, as well as Scooterboxesinnumerable scooters, and bikes in crazy disrespect for both the modern traffic control systems and pedestrians negotiating their way amidst the traffic.

It's the hubbub of noise and smog that comes with fast-paced, well-funded economic development.

Yet almost undetectable amidst the cacophony, most of those ubiquitous two-wheelers are electric. When you find yourself on a less trafficked street it becomes apparent as e-bikes loaded with boxes obscuring the vehicle itself, and young people on scooters, cruise by inaudibly. Old and young, male and female, manual worker and office worker, they slink,drift and dart about silently. Then a gas scooter destroys the relative tranquility leaving a stink in its wake. Scootershop

The e-bike and scooter store near my centrally located hotel is doing a brisk business every day

of the week selling the $300 electric two-wheelers. One sees them parked everywhere, but I've yet to see one charging, except at the store. There's no public charging, but that clearly hasn't hampered their adoption. Not only by local consumers, but also the local government. I've seen small electric police vehicles and trash collectors.

The Chinese government is putting serious money behind this electric transportation revolution, recently announcing an $8000 subsidy for electric cars and investments in public charging infrastructure. To complement the modern, clean and extensive electric Metro system, hopefully they will also expand the legacy electric bus network still at work in Shanghai, a system San Francisco maintained as most American cities pre-maturely abandoned this generations-old zero-emission transit technology.

With recycling bins and advertisements for wind power, the ubiquitous electric two-wheelers, andScooterchild
investments in electric cars, maglevs and bullet trains, there is awareness among the Chinese leadership of sustainability issues amidst the impenetrable, insufferable smog of Shanghai's economic development. They have a long way to go, but steps are being taken.

Posted by Marc Geller

Monday, June 7, 2010

Steve Jobs orders LEAF at WDC

Steve Jobs just showed off the Nissan LEAF on the new iPhone at Apple's Developer's Conference in San Francisco.

He displayed the ad Nissan will be running for LEAF on Apple's new iAd platform.

And then he ordered a car with via the ad.

Check out a couple of images from Engadget.com

Friday, May 21, 2010

One more T/Thing: new EV before Model S

"In an interview with The Chronicle, Musk said the new alliance would produce a joint Toyota-Tesla car that would be a Toyota vehicle powered by a Tesla drive-train, hitting the market before the Model S. The companies also plan to develop other electric vehicles together, he said."
[Source: San Francisco Chronicle]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Toyota and Tesla make a deal; NUMMI back in business

This is a big deal. Biggest EV news since Carlos Ghosn got religion.
I just watched the press conference where Musk and Toyoda announced an agreement.

Toyota's investing in Tesla.
Tesla's buying the NUMMI factory.
Model S and subsequent vehicles will be made at NUMMI.
Tesla won't oppose any union activity.

This is obviously great for Tesla and advocates of electric cars.
It's great for the San Francisco Bay Area.

It's also great for Toyota. They appear forward-looking. And give people something other than brake problems to think about when they hear "Toyota."

Toyota gets to continue their "everything hybrid" goal without damaging the brand's strategy.

And they take their great knowledge of electric vehicles off the shelf where it gathers dust.

As one whose 8 year old Toyota electric car with 78,000 miles on the original battery pack drove exactly 100 miles yesterday using 89% of the charge, I welcome Toyota back.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Electric VW due in 3 years

VW has released some more information on its electric plans. Look for an e-Golf to be launched in 2013. 93 mile range from a 26.5 kWh lithium battery pack. Similar to the LEAF or RAV4-EV, the car weighs about 3400 pounds, a few hundred pounds heavier than the gas/diesel versions.

Around the same time, VW intends to have two other EVs on offer, a smaller e-UP, and a Jetta.

One interesting side-note: Many of us RAV4-EV drivers have become used to and supportive of an option to "free-wheel" when letting off the accelerator. Although Tesla and LEAF don't incorporate such an option, it seems VW will. According to VW's press release:
"...the Golf blue-e-motion - with its top speed of 140 km/h - ... can even coast or "sail". "Sailing" occurs whenever the driver – adopting an anticipatory style of driving - releases the gas pedal, or more apropos: the electric pedal. As in the drive system of the Touareg Hybrid, which is being produced today, the motor is then is disengaged from the drivetrain so that the car can coast..."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oil Spill Containment Attempt Fails

“I wouldn’t say it has failed yet,” said Doug Suttles, the operating officer for exploration and production for BP, the company that was leasing the oil rig when it exploded April 20. “What I would say is what we attempted to do last night didn’t work.”

The slick, which has already come ashore on the Chandeleur Islands off southeast Louisiana, is projected to curl west in the next three days, threatening not only the Mississippi River Delta but also miles of Louisiana coastline to the west of the river.

[Source: New York Times]

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Transmission Losses:" Military joins oil spill effort

"The US military has joined efforts to stop an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico as fears rise about its scale."
The oil rig disaster off Louisiana is the top news item on the NY Times and BBC.com. The "transmission losses" from this one event now include not only the oil leaking and the environmental consequences, but also the costly involvement of the US military.

Same "transmission losses" when everything goes right, of course. There are always leaks, though not at this scale. There is always the US military, ensuring safe passage for tankers in another gulf. Now to protect our shores they are assisting industry to mitigate the mess, in this case BP. (Beyond Petroleum, really?).

[Source: BBC.com]

"Transmission Losses:" Oil leak worsens

Government officials said late Wednesday night that oil might be leaking from a well in the Gulf of Mexico at a rate five times as large as initial estimates have suggested.
[Source: New York Times]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

UCS proposes plug-in cars roadblock: What's wrong with Big Enviro?

With friends like these.....

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has proposed what could be a huge roadblock to the further implementation of our sensible pro-plug-in car policies. At the SAE World Congress,
Union of Concerned Scientists [Research Director of the Clean Vehicles Program] Dave Friedman stated that automakers should be responsible for the methods used to generate power for electric vehicles.
Autobloggreen.com's report continues:
Toyota's director of environmental technology, Tom Stricker, was shocked by what Friedman said. Stricker responded in disbelief with, "Are you saying auto companies should be held responsible for electricity generation?" Friedman replied stating that new policies need to account for the entire energy use of a vehicle.
And that reaction was from an auto company that is taking a "go slow" approach to using grid electricity as a "fuel" for cars.

Let's be clear. Scientific studies comparing the emissions from a gas car's tailpipe and the electric car's smokestack, so to speak, range from "a wash" (all coal) to "a big win" for the electric car (natural gas, hydro, nuclear, renewables or even a combination including some coal.) Begin to account for petroleum's up-stream emissions, and we find ourselves well past no-brainer territory.

Yet here we've got a reputable enviro organization, with "science" right in it's title, that appears ready to penalize plug-in cars just as they are approaching the showroom by asking the cleaner technology to pass a hurdle never demanded of petroleum.

Big Enviro - the national Sierra Club , the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC,) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) - have long been less than enthusiastic about plug-ins. Based on the science, they should have long ago made clear to their members and policy makers that a plug-in car driving on the grid today is cleaner than a gas car. Whether plug-in cars are available or not, this is something they know and should want people to understand. In addition, because an EV can drive as easily on renewable electricity as coal, electric points the way toward a true zero emission future that includes electricity generation and mobility.

Instead, Big Enviro has gone down the rat hole of diminishing returns. Putting their faith in perpetual tinkering with engine efficiencies and fuel mixtures along with an array of ways to perpetuate the gasoline paradigm, from biofuels to hydrogen, has left consumers and policymakers confused. Perhaps they bought into the automakers determination not to make plug-in cars, and didn't want to tilt at windmills, so to speak. Perhaps they saw their "SUV-into-the-wild"-driving membership base as a tough nut to crack for "limited range" electric cars. There are signs that bode well for Big Enviro becoming more actively supportive, including that Michael Brune, longtime supporter of plug-in cars at Rainforest Action Network, has come on as Executive Director at Sierra Club.

This will all change as plug-in electric cars hit the road. It won't be long, I suspect, before the leadership of our major environmental organizations gets with the program, as their own membership begins to drive plug-in cars. They'll begin using plug-in cars in their self-promotion, as if they've been pushing for this all along. May that day come soon.

[Source: Autobloggreen.com]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" Oil Rig Sinks in Gulf, 11 still missing

"The oil rig off the southeast coast of Louisiana where an explosion occurred Tuesday night has collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico, a Coast Guard official said....

On Wednesday, as firefighters battled the blazing rig, Rear Adm. Mary Landry, the commander of the Coast Guard’s Eighth District, estimated that 13,000 gallons of crude were pouring out per hour. But officials said then that the pollution was considered minimal because most of the oil and gas was being burned up in the fire. (emphasis added.)...

Workers who survived the explosion arrived at a hotel here early Thursday to reunite with their families as the search for 11 missing crew members continued in the Gulf of Mexico...

Robert MacKenzie, managing director of the energy and natural resources group of FBR Capital Markets, said that in 11 years as an analyst, he could not recall another incident like this.

There are rigs that burn down, but it’s usually during the drilling process and not when the rig is close to finishing the well,” he said. (emphasis added.)
[Source: New York Times]
[Photo Credit: Reuters/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout]

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" Oil Leaking Underwater From Well in Rig Blast

Robotic devices monitoring the deepwater well where a giant oil rig exploded and sank last week have discovered oil leaking from the well, a development that a senior Coast Guard official on Saturday called a “game changer.”...

Roughly 1,000 barrels of oil a day are estimated to be emanating from the riser, officials said....

The sheen of crude oil and water mix on the surface of the water was still more than 40 miles from shore at its closest point on Saturday. “That gives us a lot of time to try to mitigate in response to the spill,” Admiral Landry said.

The sheen had spread to a 20-by-20-mile area, Coast Guard officials said.....

High winds and 10-foot seas have prevented the oil spill response vessels from making it to the site to continue cleanup on Saturday....

On Friday, officials suspended the search-and-rescue operations for the 11 missing members of the rig’s crew...
[Source: NY Times]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" Oil Rig Blast in Gulf...of Mexico

Beyond Petroleum?
An explosion Tuesday night on an oil drilling rig off the coast of southeast Louisiana left at least seven people critically injured and 11 others missing....

The oil drilling rig, named Deepwater Horizon, is positioned about 50 miles southeast of Venice, La. It is owned by Transocean, a Houston-based company, and under contract to British Petroleum....

“The rig is leaning badly,” Mr. Nungesser said in an interview with WWL-TV, a New Orleans television station. He added that Coast Guard officials felt “like it may go over sometime today.”
[Source: New York Times]

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Transmission Losses" A 2Fer - Oil and Coal

Small patches of oil were seen Sunday from a coal-carrying ship that ran aground on Australia's Great Barrier Reef....

Authorities fear an oil spill would cause environmental damage to the world's largest coral reef...

The vessel was carrying about 72,000 U.S. tons (65,000 metric tons) of coal from the Queensland port of Gladstone to China. It has 1,000 U.S. tons (950 metric tons) of oil on board.

Conservationists have expressed outrage that bulk carriers can travel through the reef without a marine pilot with local expertise.
[Source: SFgate.com]

Friday, April 2, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" 5 die in Wash. refinery blast, fire

An explosion and fire at a Washington state oil refinery shook homes and shot flames into the night sky early Friday, killing five people and critically injuring two others....

The blast was the biggest fatal refinery accident since a 2005 explosion at a BP American refinery in Texas killed 15 people and injured another 170, authorities said....

The state of Washington fined Tesoro $85,700 a year ago after an inspection found 17 serious safety and health violations at the Anacortes refinery. The state Department of Labor and Industries reached an agreement with the company in November requiring the hazards to be corrected and an independent safety audit, the agency said on its Web site. The fine was reduced to $12,250, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Web site....

Greg Cummings, from Abbottsford, B.C., had just gone to bed at the RV park across the bay from the refinery when he heard a loud whoosh and saw the flames.

“I thought it was a terrorist attack,” he said.....

San Antonio-based Tesoro Corp. is an independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products. The Anacortes refinery can refine about 130,000 barrels of crude daily, according to the company. The U.S. Energy Information Administration Web site ranks it as the 59th largest refinery in the nation.

Tesoro has owned the Anacortes refinery since 1998. It mainly processes Alaska North Slope crude and makes gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, mostly for Washington and Oregon....

Of the 18 open major accident cases the chemical safety board is examining, at least seven are refineries, Horowitz said. Yet there are only 150 refineries in the country and tens of thousands of other chemical plants.

“Almost half our accidents, the serious ones, are at refineries,” Horowitz said. “We’re seeing a disproportionate number of serious accidents at refineries.”
[Source: MSNBC.com]

Transmission Losses: Motorist Dies in Flash Fire at Gas Station

A motorist today died today after his car caught fire on a petrol station forecourt, police said.

Firefighters said the "flash" fire had been contained inside the car and no-one else was hurt.

Police said fire was thought to have broken out shortly after the man had bought fuel and climbed into the car at a Shell garage in Guyhirn, Cambridgeshire.

"It obviously could have been much worse," said a police spokeswoman. "It seems that the fire didn't spread at all and the garage was able to reopen."
[Source: The Independent]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Big news: LEAF in the mid- 20s

The Nissan LEAF, the first all-electric car to be mass marketed by a major automaker, will come in around $25,000, with help from the federal tax credit of $7500. At 25% of the cost of a Tesla, we're no longer talking about a car for millionaires.

If you live in a state that recognizes the benefits of EVs with rebates and incentives of their own, the LEAF could come in as low as about $21,000. If you don't, get active with your state legislators.

Get ready to sign up, $99 refundable deposit, on April 20.

More info at NissanUSA

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gearless in Great Britain: Fast charger in action

Robert Llewellyn is a Brit with a keen interest in electric cars who is one of those leasing a Mitsubishi iMiev this year. He's got a great weekly video podcast, Gearless, chronicling his experiences. This week, Quick Charge. Using the same Japanese device I visited in Vacaville last week.

He uses quaint British time-measurement terms. "A cuppa and bacon bun" is how long it takes to fill up. I wish he'd been more specific, using standard quantitative terms (like minutes,) giving us the state of charge he arrived with and left with.

Anyway, Robert is wowed by how quickly the car charges. We can see that the charger delivered 345 volts at 70 amps, which is actually on the slow side for fast chargers. Check it out:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Fast charger comes to Voltageville: A Glimpse at the Future

In 2001 I began driving an electric car, obtaining the last of the ZEV mandate-required EVs. As I got turned on to the benefits and technological readiness of electric cars, the writing was on the wall and EVs began to disappear from California's roads. I got enthused just as the automakers, CARB, the feds, and major environmental organizations ended their various flirtations with EVs.

The notion of the plug-in hybrid revived the hope of plugging in. I made my peace with the notion of a transition vehicle, with a plug and an engine. GM announced the Volt.IMG_0561

Then a couple of years ago Carlos Ghosn had some sort of epiphany and announced Nissan's belief in the inevitable electrification of cars, and Nissan's intention to lead the transition. He defied conventional thinking by moving directly toward the commercialization of all-electric cars. Hundreds of thousands of Nissan all-electric cars would be manufactured in Asia, America and Europe within a very few years.

I was thrilled. Consumers would soon begin to have a choice of vehicle types that include real electric cars. The marketplace, rather than bureaucrats and academics, would decide whether EVs have a place.

Government and industry began to plan for the rollout of plug-in cars with a plan to roll out public charging infrastructure. Level II charging stations are great for opportunity charging while shopping or working and should be widely diffused. But there wasn't much discussion about faster charging options, as it entails additional obstacles of cost and lack of standards and a presumption that cars wouldn't be fast-charge enabled. Although I knew it was technically feasible, it seemed we would have to wait. Although fast charging stations could enable long distance EV driving and are one way to meet the needs of urban purchasers of EVs who don't have parking with access to electricity, it is logically not a matter of first priority.

But just as I was pleasantly surprised to find Nissan's LEAF in the offing, so too fast charging is going to appear more rapidly than expected. The DOE grant to the Etec EV Project will put 260 Level III chargers in the ground in the next two years. Nissan's LEAF will initially appear with a fast charge connector, something that will surely be a purchase option in the future. (And is some compensation for the slow 3.3kW Level II charger in the first cars.) The iMiev, should Mitsubishi do an American release, also has a fast charge connector. And Th!nk announced intentions to enable fast-charging in its cars in an agreement with Aerovironment.

Once again, I celebrate that consumers will have options as we work our way toward the best solutions for quick charging. Better Place has pushed its proposed solution to the range IMG_0559dilemna - battery swap stations. One car maker, Renault, is making cars to spec, and BP has demonstrated the battery swap device in Japan. Swapping out an empty pack for a full one is enticing. It's proven to be enticing to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. If swap stations can be commercialized and the batteries can be charged at Level II speeds and below, they too might offer benefits and be part of the clean transportation quilt. But essentially off the shelf Level III fast charge stations, capable of delivering near-to-full charges in under 30 minutes, can be put in service within months. A Level III fast charger can be installed for about $100,000, compared to millions for a hydrogen station and perhaps $1 million for a battery swap station.

Which finally brings me to the fast charger I saw the other day in Vacaville, CA. Installed by PG&E with funding from the State, it sits beneath a solar PV array amongst a handful of Level II chargers, including small paddles for RAV4 EVs, AVCONs for RangerEVs, and aTesla charge station. The fast charger uses a Japanese connector (an American standard remains under consideration) which was easy to handle. I wish I had gotten a photo of the complete line-up of chargers under the solar array, because it is evidence of real-world solutions, available now, to make plug-in cars and renewable electricity a reality quickly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Billion Dollars a Day

VoteVets.org has a campaign to highlight the true cost of our oil addiction. Yet another argument for plug-in cars.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guerrilla charging: theft or public service?

So you've finally got your electric car. You're going out of town for a few days and recall a few spots at the airport parking lot that have a regular 110-volt electric outlet on the wall. Do you plug in your Tesla (or Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt)? Are you "stealing" power?

Solar Dave thinks you are. And he is taunting the authorities in Denver to fine the owner of the Tesla he found plugged in at the airport. He raises a question that should be settled quickly. And he points out one place where public charging solutions will be easier and cheaper to install than I first thought.

First let's dispel the notion that there are any serious financial implications for the garage. Solar Dave writes: "My first thought was, “hey that is not fair” and that is why is (sic) costs so much to park at DIA." As if. John Voelker at GreenCarReports.com ran the numbers and found that if the Tesla arrived on empty and slowly, completely refilled the battery over the next few days, it would cost $4.50. Parking costs the driver $18 per day. And if I want to get nit-picky, I'd point out that the garage doesn't incur the expense for cleaning up after the electric car's leaking oil nor the electricity to power the fans to exhaust the exhaust.

When we consider the question of public access to electricity for plug-in cars, we have to consider the social benefit. If plugging in at the airport (or work or some parking garage or mall) allows you take your electric car rather than a gasoline car, we all benefit from reduced emissions and petroleum consumption. These shared benefits are great enough to establish "rules of the road" that encourage access to power for cars. This is not new, actually. In our far northern states, one often finds free power available in parking lots to plug in engine block warmers. Given the low cost of the electricity and the social benefits, we should encourage a positive attitude about granting access to power for plug-in cars. If solar advocates such as Solar Dave don't get it, we've got our work cut out for us.

Dave inadvertently does point us toward a good policy as public infrastructure is installed this year. Airport long-term parking is one place where fast charging, even conventional Level II 240-volt 30 amp service, is faster than necessary. The cost to install 110-volt 20-amp outlets would likely be 10% the cost of purchasing and installing chargers (J1772-compliant EVSEs, in the parlance of the industry). Installing parking spaces with 110-volt power for plug-ins at airport long-term parking should be considered by metropolitan areas as they roll out public charging infrastructure.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" Nigeria's oil pipeline sabotaged

Shell has shut three flow stations after its oil pipeline in the Niger Delta was sabotaged.

Recent attacks have resulted in $1bn a month in lost revenue.

[Source: bbc.com]

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tesla IPO: Taking the dream for a ride

For a couple of years now, the dream ride has been in a Tesla Roadster. You strap in, feel the instantaneous surge of power, maneuver the curves above Palo Alto on electrons.

The next ride won't be the Tesla S Sedan, it will be Tesla the stock.

Tesla Motors has filed an IPO plan with the SEC to raise $100,000,000 in a public offering.

Tesla will stop production of the Roadster in 2011. The electric sedan is meant to appear in 2012.

Friday, January 29, 2010

"Transmission Losses:" West African pirates

West Africa's burgeoning oil industry has a pirate problem.
On Jan. 5 Nigerian pirates stormed a Panamanian-flagged Ukrainian tanker, the Westaf, anchored off Lagos, Nigeria's commercial capital, according to the Sovfracht Maritime Bulletin published in Kiev.

They robbed the crew, shooting and wounding the captain and six of his men. The Westhaf, built in 1986, is used as a floating storage and processing terminal.
28 attacks were logged in 2009 compared with 40 a year earlier. But shipping sources suggested that there were another 30 attacks last year that went unreported. Most were related to the oil industry.

In the Niger Delta, the pirates in armed speedboats attack tankers and work with militants in the delta's swamplands who steal around 150,000 barrels a day from oil installations or pipelines, around 5 percent of Nigeria's daily production.

The poorly equipped government forces are now receiving support from the US Navy. The US Africa Command, inaugurated in 2008, will undoubtedly play a major role to enable safe passage of this increasingly vital oil. The cost of this protection will, of course, be borne by American taxpayers. By 2015 the region is expected to be supplying 25 percent of U.S. oil imports.

[Source: UPI.com]

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wired blogger takes on Nissan LEAF

Darryl Siry blogs over at Wired's Autopia. He's pretty plugged in, having worked at Tesla and consulted for CODA. He's a bit surprised, as are all of us, that Nissan has emerged as the first big automaker to manufacture a mass-produced electric car.

In his recent post, "In Race to Market, Nissan’s Electric Car Takes Shortcuts," Siry makes the point that CEO Carlos Ghosn's enthusiasm and charisma alone couldn't be enough to get such a job done so quickly. He writes that the urgency of the project "appears to have driven the company to take some shortcuts."

Sounds ominous. Ultimately, I'm not sure what he's actually getting at. Because Siry makes only two points. Neither of certain significance.

First, he suggests Nissan overstates the range of the LEAF. The 100 mile range cited by Nissan uses "a number tied to the most optimistic benchmark, the LA4 cycle." I don't doubt that this is true. The LEAF pack has fewer kWh than my RAV4 EV, but could be almost as heavy. Until we get final specs on weight, and drive the car around a bit, we won't know to what extent people will need to handicap official range numbers as they do EPA gasoline mileage ratings. Big surprise, your actual mileage may vary. Buyer beware!

Second, and the point on which the article devotes most attention, is whether Nissan is "cutting corners" by forgoing an active thermal management (HVAC) system for the batteries. Instead Nissan is relying on air circulation with a fan.

Now I don't know whether something about lithium, regardless of chemistry or packaging, will prove to require an active system. But I do know, interestingly and perhaps relevantly, that the electric car that has probably driven more miles than any other model, the Toyota RAV4 EV, does not have batteries with an active system. A fan circulates air. The Honda EV+ used the same Panasonic EV-95 NiMH battery modules with an active system, and those packs didn't last as long. Many EV+ packs were exchanged during their brief time on the road. At least with NiMH, Toyota's passive system worked out better in the real world. Of course the cooling system may have had nothing to do with the the difference in performance of the same batteries in two Japanese EVs, but we'll never know.

Siry notes the different approach being taken by GM for the Volt. They reverted to the T-shaped tunnel configuration for the battery used in the EV1. (How did that work out?)

I may be approaching this too simply, but the tunnel has never made sense to me. It eliminates the possibility of a fifth passenger seat. And I find it makes me feel confined. The batteries, too, enshrouded on three sides, require, apparently, an active thermal management system.

The RAV, on the other hand, suspends the batteries below the vehicle. There is minimal loss in cabin space and a large surface below helping dissipate heat, which is an issue with NiMH, too. And we find that the LEAF's battery pack, too, will be located under the floorboard. Maybe that's the key. Keep the batteries low and spread them wide.

I don't know, of course, but I'm willing to give Nissan the benefit of the doubt.

I'm giving Tesla and CODA and GM the benefit of the doubt, too.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Transmission Losses": Tanker truck explodes, closes LI Expressway

A tanker truck clipped a car.
The tanker flipped over and burst into flames "creating a fireball seen for miles."
The driver was killed.
The Long Island Expressway was closed for hours in both directions.
A typical tanker truck holds between 5000 and 9000 gallons of gasoline.

"Transmission Losses": 450,000 gallons of oil spill in Texas

Two vessels collided in Port Arthur, Texas.
As much as 450,000 gallons of crude oil spilled.
Some nearby residents have been evacuated from the area because of hydrogen sulfide that was emanating from the oil.

[Source: RawStory.com]

Monday, January 18, 2010

More EVs, Faster Charging

It's official, the Cadillac Converj is to be the second extended-range electric vehicle after the Volt. I may be most interested affordable electric cars, but this makes sense to me. I only wish GM had the smarts back in the day to have rebranded the EV1 as a Caddy and continued limited run production.

[Source: Detroit News]

Volvo might be getting serious about EVs. They showed a prototype Electric C30. The car was described by EV Goddess Chelsea Sexton as "├╝berpragmatic." An electric offering could be fit nicely into the historical perceptions of the benefits of the brand.

[Source: Wired Autopia]

Coulomb is getting ready to enter the Level III charging arena. Commonly dubbed a "fast charge," Level III is higher voltage and a considerable investment, around $60,000 (including installation) for their 480-volt, 125-amp offering. With the DOE investment in some fast chargers as part of infrastructure development in the five Nissan/Etec Leaf target regions, Level III is happening faster than might have been expected.

Fast charging will extend the range of pure EVs when deployed by freeways. More importantly, it is one of the ways to make EVs accessible to those without access to power where they park in urban centers. Whether there is a business model to make this successful remains an open question. The first Level III chargers deployed by Etec will offer free juice. I'd like to see a ten year commitment to free charging, underwritten by participating automakers and government.

[Source: Autobloggreen.com]

Mitsubishi is doubling down on the iMiev. Demand is outstripping the supply for the electric jellybean. Almost 2000 were delivered to corporate customers in Japan last year. Production targets have been upped to 8500 units for 2010. By 2013 they intend to make 30,000 units annually. The really good news is they have a target price of about $22,000 after the production hike. I suspect they'll find plenty of government and corporate buyers at the early higher price point as they strive to project greenness and meet emission targets.

[Source: Autobloggreen.com]

Monday, January 11, 2010

News from Detroit

BMW has recognized that they simply teed up GM and Nissan to benefit from the MINI E experience. Today they announced officially that MINI E "pioneers" will be able to extend their leases until 2011. At that point the ActiveE, an electric Series 1 Beemer, is projected to be available, however only as yet another "electric vehicle test program," as they put it in their wordy press release. Will MINI E drivers be so loyal to BMW they'll forgo the opportunity to actually purchase a plug-in car?

Over at GM, Bob Lutz says an all-electric Volt would be "technologically trivial." No word on when.

Toyota titillates with its plug-in Prius test program (600 vehicles worldwide over the next few years) as well as an all-electric 50-mile range "small, urban commuter BEV" and a plug-in hybrid concept small car. But they still want us to believe that their fuel cell vehicles will hit showrooms in 2015. This despite the fact that they project placing in service a mere 100 or so such cars over the next three years.

And Toyota's press release continues their "blame the consumer" rewrite of history regarding the RAV4 EV (about 800 of which, including mine, remain on the road.)
The RAV4 EV and e-com programs were short lived due to lack of commitment from the market; the consumer and the consumer's environmental mind set were not ready to commit to battery electric vehicles at that time.
Audi, too, continues to tantalize with its E-tron. They say the car will go on sale in 2012. At the moment the concept car has four wheel motors, always a red flag to me. If I remember correctly, Mitsubishi's iMiev had wheel motors when it was a concept, but reverted to a more mainstream drivetrain with commercialization. When and if Audi becomes serious, I suspect we'll see a more conventional approach to electric drive.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

It's official - Think to set up shop in Indiana

Th!nk CEO Richard Canny and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels slapped a "Made In Indiana" sticker on a Th!nk City this morning in Elkhart. According to Th!ink's press release, cars will begin to be sold stateside before the end of the year, although US assembly won't begin until 2011. Getting cars into the hands of consumers in a way that gets noticed sooner rather than later will be essential if the brand is establish itself here.

The company has announced its intention to invest $43 million in the Elkhart facility, and has been offered $3 million in tax credits and a small job training grant by Indiana. Th!nk has an active application before the US DOE under the $25-billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing loan program that has benefitted Tesla and Fisker. A lot may hinge on that application.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Elkhart IN to welcome Think

The Elkhart IN City Council took the first step tonight toward creating a tax abatement for Th!nk North America to open a plant to assemble the Th!nk City all-electric two-seater. A formal announcement will be made tomorrow at the site with Republican Governor Mitch Daniels and Th!nk representatives. No word yet on how quickly we'll see cars rolling off the line.

[Source: Fox28.com]

Plug-in Mercedes in 2012?

Mercedes-Benz's S-Class sedan will offer a plug-in hybrid version when it hits the showrooms, reportedly in 2012, according to Autocar.co.uk. The German automaker's R&D chief Thomas Weber says they are not presently considering an all electric version. However Mercedes' intention is to roll out plug-in hybrid versions of all its models eventually.