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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.