Electric Vehicles

Utilities Move Into EV Charging Game

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Building out an electric vehicle infrastructure is a bit like building an arch. You need both sides, the vehicles and the charging stations, to be there at the same time, to support each other, to keep the whole thing from falling down. It’s been a little slow taking off. Perhaps partly because it’s not clear who is taking the lead.

High Speed Chargers Bring EV’s One Step Closer to Mainstream

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - In the year 1906, Ray Stannard Baker wrote the following passage about automobiles in the book The Boy’s Book of Inventions: Stories of the Wonders of Modern Science.

“The electric vehicle which has had its most successful development in this country has its well-defined advantages and disadvantages. It is simpler in construction and more easily managed than any other vehicle: one manufacturer calls it ‘fool proof.’ It is wholly without odor or vibrations and practically noiseless. It will make any permissible rate of speed and climb any ordinary hill. On the other hand, it is immensely heavy, owing to the use of storage batteries; it can run only a limited distance without recharging…”

He goes on to say, “Indeed, all the manufacturers of electric vehicles speak with the confidence of the day when the whole of the United States will be as thoroughly sprinkled with electric charging stations as it is today with bicycle road-houses.”

A hundred years ago we were at a crossroads similar to the one we find ourselves at today, with electric vehicles vying against gasoline-powered cars. Back then, the choice was made, influenced by a good deal of lobbying and maneuvering by the oil industry. The fact that gasoline powered cars were also cheaper and didn’t have the range issues of electrics also helped to tip the scales.

So, the question is, how much have things changed? Electric cars are still more expensive and still confront the range limitation challenge that seems to be inherent in trying to store adequate energy in electrical rather than chemical form.

What has changed is the realization that widespread usage of fossil fuels has put our planet and everything living on it at risk of a destabilized climate that threatens every aspect of our life-support system.

With so much of our day to day life built around a gas powered car that can be quickly and (of late) inexpensively filled up at any of the thousands of gas stations that cover the landscape, the challenge of switching over to a completely different energy is huge.

Yes, EV prices are coming down (see Chevy Bolt) and charging stations are popping up everywhere. According to DOE, there are currently 8,983 charging stations and 22,387 charging outlets in the US. Whether that’s as many as there were bicycle roadhouses back 1906 is not clear, but unless people are convinced that it’s enough to assuage their “range anxiety,” they will hesitate to buy an EV. Roughly 120,000 electric vehicles were sold in the US last year, bringing the total up to around 280,000.

There are a couple of other dimensions to this question. One is that, unlike gasoline, people do have access to electricity at home, which is where much of the vehicle charging, at least for local trips will take place. That’s why there needn’t necessarily be as many charging stations as there are gas stations. The other dimension is the fact that not all charging stations are created equal.  What varies is the amount of time required for a charge, though what is true in all cases is the fact that it will take longer to charge your car with electrons than it did to fill it with gasoline.

Most people will come to recognize that it will be worth the wait in order to maintain a livable climate, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy adjustment.

Is there another way to do this? In a word, yes. Some areas, like Denmark, for example, are experimenting with the idea of a charged battery as a service. This is how that works. Instead of owning the battery as part of your car, the battery is a shared resource. When your charge is getting low, you pull into a station, where they lift out your battery and replace it with a fully charged one. This doesn’t take any longer than filling up a gas tanks, but it’s a different ownership model that is more in line with the sharing economy. Not all EVs are configured for this but several Nissan models are designed to work with a robotic battery switching station designed by Shai Agassi of Better Place. That same approach, by the way, was used by New York taxi companies in the early 20th century when electric cabs made a brief appearance. The other option would be to go to hydrogen fuel cell, which is being vigorously pursued by Toyota.

Denmark Announces 100% Renewable Goal

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Denmark has just one-upped its status as the most cutting edge sustainable country in the world. They have committed to a goal of 100% renewable energy by the year 2050. That goal is not just limited to electric generation as other countries have done. They are including transportation as well. No burning of fossil fuels by 2050.

If that seems like an unrealistically lofty goal, keep in mind that these are the Danes we are talking about, who already get over 40% of their electricity from over 5,000 wind turbines, with every intention of making that 50% by 2020. Fossil fuel consumption is expected to fall by 20% over that same period.

While wind has carried most of the weight going forward, the latest initiative is more comprehensive. For starters, energy efficiency will play a major role. An intermediate target is looking for a 7% overall decrease in consumption from 2010 levels by 2020. Energy companies will be given specific targets.

Industrial heating and cooling is also a major part of the plan. Biomass will be substituted for coal on a large scale, for both heating and electricity. Subsidies will be provided for geothermal energy.

Also included are subsidies for energy efficient production processes, combined heat and power (CHP) applications, biogas, and smart grid. You could say the Danes are leaving no stone unturned in their search for a totally clean energy future.

What makes Denmark so successful while so many other nations are falling short?

Bulk Electric Storage Not a Requirement For Widespread Use of Renewables

 

(3BLMedia/Justmeans) - Physicist Amory Lovins has been at the leading edge of energy alternatives since well before most people ever heard of climate change. Far from an idealist, he is a hard-nosed scientist who has done the math to show what is possible if we are willing to think outside the box. His two latest books, Winning the Oil Endgame, and Reinventing Fire, lay out in detail the ways that our society can wean itself off of oil, coal and nuclear through a smart deployment of renewables, efficiency, with a bit of natural gas thrown in as a bridge fuel, all while growing the economy by double digits.

Lovins, along with his crew at the Rocky Mountain Institute put together a prototype 100 mpg Hypercar back in 2007, introducing groundbreaking technologies that car companies have been racing to catch up with ever since.

Now as the world has begun heeding his advice, Lovins has rolled up his sleeves to identify the various conceptual, physical, economic, political, and technological roadblocks that threaten progress and is busy dispelling them wherever he can. The latest is the idea that due to the intermittent nature of various energy sources, we can’t reliably implement renewables on a large scale without massive investments in energy storage.

Here again, Lovins has done the math, with a series of simulations. While it’s true that many renewables are intermittent, new smart grid technologies are quite responsive. Lovins presents the solution in terms of choreography, his word for a dynamic matching of electricity supply with demand. The fact is that sunshine and wind do come and go, but they do so in a fairly predictable manner. About as predictable, says Lovins, as the demand is. He also points out that since no power generation source is completely reliable, that grid has already been designed to accommodate that.

Nissan’s Electric Vehicle Sales Are Really Taking Off

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - Making sales projections for brand new technology can be difficult, to say the least. Sometimes products catch on quickly and never look back. Other times they take awhile before becoming viral. Think about the iPhone and the iPad, for example.

So it’s no big surprise that the Renault/Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn was a bit over optimistic when he first proclaimed in 2012 that sales of their all-electric Leaf would hit 1.5 million in four years. Sales started out slower than expected, so he pushed back the deadline to 2020, a full four years later. Range anxiety and recharging time have generally been considered the car’s biggest hurdles. Now, as sales of the car are heating up, it looks as if he was being far too conservative.

Leaf sales continue to grow. In fact, as of February, they have set new records each month for the past twelve months. That’s not an industry-wide move, either. Chevy Volt sales have actually been falling off. Leaf is outselling Volt in the US so far this year. In fact, Leaf holds the #1 spot this year, follwed by the Tesla. Granted, the numbers are still small: 1425 Leafs vs. 1210 Volts in a month, but the trend is worth noting. Over 100,000 Nissan units have now been sold worldwide. Still, we are well short of President Obama’s prediction of one million electric vehicles on US roads by 2015.

Increasing pressure on carmakers to reduce fleet fuel consumption averages, thanks to new Federal emission standards, is helping. The clean car trend is beginning to spread around the world, too. Emerging markets in Asia and South America could become hot spots for electric vehicle sales.

This paper by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, describes standards alsready in place in the US, Canada, the EU, Japan, Korea, and Australia, and argues for the need for a unified international standard, which would make life far easier for manfacturers. Mexico, India, Indonesia, and Thailand are said to be in the process of developing standards that should soon be ready.

Incentives Drive Norway To Take Lead in Electric Vehicle Sales

You might find this surprising, but Norway’s best selling cars for several months late last year were electric vehicles. EV’s accounted for more than 12% of all vehicle sales in November. With 21,000 EVs already on the road in a country of five million, EV's will soon constitute 1% of all Norwegian cars. The Nissan Leaf, priced at the lower end of the scale was the best-seller for one month, while for two months, the high end Tesla Model S topped the list. So there’s obviously a broad market being stimulated. This is a dramatically higher per capita rate of adoption than anywhere else in the world, close to 20 times that of the US.

Why so many? Well, government incentives are certainly playing a role. This is probably a case study of how effective government action can be. Zach Shahan at CleanTechnica shared survey findings that analyzed the reasons why people said they bought EVs, and rank-ordered them in a series of bar graphs. The top-ranked reason was that EV drivers would be exempt from tolls. The second reason was no vehicle purchase tax. Then was the fuel cost, about one-fifth the cost of running a comparable gasoline-powered vehicle. The fourth reason was free access to the bus lanes. In Oslo, where there’s quite a bit of traffic, EVs are allowed to use the bus lanes, which can save time when roads are crowded. This feature could become self-limiting though, as the bus lanes are filling up with electric cars which make up as much as 75% of the traffic. This brings to mind Yogi Berra, who once said, apparently referring to a popular restaurant in his native St. Louis, “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.”

Free charging, available at any of the thousands of charging points, ranked as the number seven reason for buying an electric vehicle.

There’s also a low annual road fee, free parking, and free ferries, and they tend to cost less to insure, probably because there are fewer parts that would have to be repaired in case of an accident.

Electric Vehicles to Help Reduce Air Pollution in Hong Kong

The 10 electric vehicles have been deployed to FedEx stations across Hong Kong. They allow the FedEx couriers to make a full eight-hour shift of deliveries before needing to recharge the vehicle.

The 10 electric vehicles have been deployed to FedEx stations across Hong Kong. They allow the FedEx couriers to make a full eight-hour shift of deliveries before needing to recharge the vehicle.

Did N.Y. Times Reporter Deliberately Sabotage Tesla Model S Road Test?

tesla-model-sNew York Times reporter John Broder recently wrote of a harrowing experience test driving the Tesla Model S, but data logs taken during the test drive suggest he may have sabotaged the test drive for the sake of a more provocative story.

New Electric Vehicle Delivers Stunning 122 MPGe

fiat-500eFiat announced this week that its new 2013 500e electric vehicle can go the equivalent 122 miles on a single gallon of gas, a figure that is unsurpassed by any vehicle on the U.S. market. The Italian carmaker's high tech automobile can also travel 87 miles before needing to recharge.

GM Touts Virtues of 2014 Spark Electric Vehicle

chevroletsparkev101General Motors has announced that its 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (short for Electric Vehicle) will offer "industry-leading EV power, outstanding driving range, and exceptional fast-charge capability." The Spark EV is due to arrive in California car dealerships next summer.

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