Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weak Anti-EV Arguments Collapse Under The Weight Of Reality

The anti-EV crowd has been working overtime trying to come up with different ways to discredit EV technology and slow it's inevitable adoption as an efficient choice for transportation.  It's somewhat amusing to watch them twist themselves into pretzels and various other uncomfortable shapes as they attempt to spin every possible scrap of information into a thread of support for their untenable position.  People who obviously don't care about CO2 emissions constantly squawk about coal power, people who previously claimed that hybrids such as the Prius were nothing but green washing now tout them as a better solution to our oil usage than EV's, people who pretend to be patriots ignore the benefits of using domestically produced electricity over foreign oil,  and people who think we should use natural gas fail to comprehend that it's better to use this limited fossil fuel resource in large generating plants to charge EV's instead of wastefully burning it in inefficient individual ICE vehicles.  They look at the state of current technology, including battery chemistry and power generation, and assume it will not and cannot improve, even though it has been and will continue to do so.  They talk about limited resources as if that only applies to EV's and not other forms of transportation as well.  They imagine EV's putting additional load on the grid while ignoring vehicle to grid technology that would allow a fleet of plugged in EV's to actually help support the grid when needed, including storage of excess solar and wind power.
It's a worthwhile exercise to question the effects of widespread EV adoption but it must be done with an open mind willing to consider all aspects, not simply limited to one's personal preconceptions and existing conditions.  Today's EV's can take advantage of tomorrow's cleaner and smarter grid as well as the growing volume of home generated wind and solar power.
EV's have the potential to deliver on an unrealized promise of personal transportation by allowing us not only to go where we wish but also to control the energy we use from power we create ourselves, free from the monolithic fueling infrastructure controlled by oil companies and OPEC.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Volt Battery Issue, Much Ado About Nothing

The media and the anti EV crowd have been getting quite worked up lately about the Chevy Volt battery pack and perceived yet unrealized dangers from fire.  Two Chevy Volts were parked in garages that happened to burn down, just as happens to many ICE vehicles every year, yet in the Volt cases blame was automatically placed on the hybrid vehicles, presumably because they are something new.  However in both cases the Volts and their batteries were found not to be the source of fires.
Then in May NHTSA ran a side impact test on a Chevy Volt.  This test consists of sliding a vehicle sideways into a solidly mounted pole which totals the vehicle.  The Volt passed the test for occupant safety.

Three weeks after the test, which damaged the battery pack, the pack caught fire.  (Interestingly when the same test is done on conventional ICE vehicles the tank is drained, probably because NHTSA doesn't want gasoline flying all over it's facilities.)  This seemed to be an isolated incident as other tests done by other organizations did not result in any fires.  To further investigate NHTSA ran more tests on Volt battery packs, bare packs not in a vehicle.  The packs were penetrated, further than in the original crash test, then rotated to simulate a rollover.  In the first test nothing happened.  In a second test there was a temporary temperature increase initially, then a week later this pack caught fire.  In a third test the pack smoked and sparked but did not catch fire.  At this point it seems that leaking coolant for the batteries can cause some short circuiting if the pack is not drained after a severe accident.  There have been no fires in actual use during a crash of the Volt, and NHTSA considers the Volt to be a safe car which has a 5 star crash rating.  GM is working on some upgrades which will further protect the pack and address this battery issue which would only happen in extremely rare circumstances.
There are over 200,000 vehicle fires a year in the US, all of them ICE vehicles, yet because the Volt is a new product people are trying to paint it as more dangerous than it really is.  Any vehicle has risks, any energy storage container, be it battery or fuel tank, has the potential for mayhem, and nothing can be made completely safe.  However, in the real world, the Volt has proven to be safer than most other vehicles on the road, and with the planned upgrades it should be safer still.  I'd be much more concerned with the Volt's gas tank in a crash than it's battery pack.  The LEAF, an EV with a larger, but air cooled battery pack, has had no issues in any crash test or real world accidents.  Nor have any of the crashed Tesla Roadsters, with even larger yet liquid cooled packs.  At this point EV's are proving to be statistically safer than ICE vehicles, as I would expect, and that trend is likely to continue.

Coolant cause of shorts
Battery Upgrades
Vehicle Fires

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Moore's Law For Batteries, Don't Count On It

Some people have expressed an opinion that we will see a Moore's law for batteries.  I think this is unlikely for two basic reasons:  We've seen no such thing to date and batteries are not computer chips.  Moore's law states that the density of transistors which can be put on an integrated circuit will double every 18 months, and so far it has held true.  This has led to faster computer power and lower costs for electronics.  What we've seen in lithium battery advances has mostly been steady advances of 5% a year with occasional jumps.  I do expect we'll see more dramatic advances in the future as the sheer volume of research on the topic is increasing and none of the current chemistries are near their limits, to say nothing of future chemistries.  Battery development is akin to squeezing a balloon, one end gets smaller while the other end bulges larger.  Batteries have four parameters that need to be optimized, energy density, power delivery, useable life, (cycle and calendar), and safety.  In batteries when you optimize for energy density you tend to decrease longevity, if you optimize for power you lessen energy density, and so on.  The key is of course getting all these into one package, and ultimately at an affordable price, which really adds a fifth parameter just as important as the other four.  It doesn't matter how good a battery is if it can't be produced at a reasonable cost.  Unlike computer chips most of the costs of batteries are the high purity materials that must go into them.  Advances come by using those materials in better ways, by finding better materials, and by improving the construction process.  This mostly comes from constant research, trial and error, and tweaking and optimizing assembly lines to improve production yields.
A lot of work is being done in the field and there are very promising developments being announced on a regular basis but none as of yet has made it to market in an affordable product.  I expect at some point some of them will and we will see a major jump in all battery parameters, but don't expect a steady doubling of all parameters every 18 months.  Of course I'd be quite happy to be proven wrong in this case.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is It Time To Restructure EV Subsidies?

Obviously I'm a strong proponent of electric vehicles and I think subsides for their development are necessary and money well spent.  However that doesn't mean we can't improve the way that money is distributed.  Specifically addressing the vehicle purchase rebate I don't think we need to subsidize vehicles such as the Fisker Karma, a $90,000 plug in hybrid vehicle with poor efficiency.  Frankly I'm not even convinced we should continue to offer purchase incentives for vehicles over the $50,000 dollar mark, which would include the Tesla Model S.  It's an awesome vehicle that needs no support other than what it is and it's target purchasers really don't need the financial incentives.  I think it can stand on it's own, and the money can be better spent on building out the charging infrastructure and driving the development of lower priced EV's.  We should reward efficiency by tying incentives to some relationship between vehicle watt hour per mile energy use as well as it's overall cost.  This would push manufacturers to get more mileage out of smaller battery packs by using better aerodynamics and lighter weight materials.  While the LEAF is a good EV it's drag coefficient is too high, as is it's weight, and consequently it's range suffers a bit.  We need to rethink and redesign the automobile to get the most out of our battery packs, the single most expensive component.  Jamming in a huge battery pack is fine for an upscale luxury vehicle such as the Tesla Model S that can absorb the cost but obviously mass market vehicles cannot do the same, nor is that a sustainable and efficient way forward.
With the current political and social climate pushing for reduced government spending and an increasing attack on "green" products it's hard to justify giving tax breaks to people who really don't need them.  If EV's are seen as toys for the rich it's going to be difficult if not impossible to continue to get funding for battery research and charging infrastructure development.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Battery Electrolyte Breakdown Voltage

I don't usually get into technical discussions on this blog but I thought it might be worth while to continue the topic started on Jack Rickard's EVTV blog.  Simply put Jack has stated that pushing the voltage of a LiFePO4 cell above 4.3 Volts, the breakdown voltage of the electrolyte, will not harm a cell if the cell is not full, and that in fact there is no such thing as electrolyte breakdown voltage.  This of course flies in the face of just about everything I've read on the topic, and even contradicts what battery researcher Jay Whitacre states in his LiFePO4 battery lecture video, a video that Jack actually provided a link to.
Go to the 50 minute mark in Jay's video and listen as he talks about electrolyte solvent breakdown above 4.3 volts, equivalent to water electrolysis at 1.3 volts.  If a cell voltage is held above the breakdown voltage of the electrolyte the components of the electrolyte begin to separate out.  This can happen even if the cell is not yet full.  In normal use this should not be an issue, but it is something to be aware of.
For further technical reading about electrolyte breakdown voltage there is this rather comprehensive review by Kang Xu:  Nonaqueous Liquid Electrolytes for Lithium-Based Rechargeable Batteries 
The pertinent information starts in section 5.2 page 4325

Saturday, October 15, 2011

EV Subsidies, Why We Need them

Some people complain about the current subsidies that EV's are getting, a $7500 Federal tax credit and some other incentives depending on where you live.  The argument is usually something similar to "Why should I help pay for someone's car, or to help promote a technology I don't agree with?"  On it's surface that seems to be a fair point, until you consider the fact that our tax money is often used for things that some individuals may not necessarily agree with.  The main reason EV's need subsidies is to compete on a level playing field with an established oil industry which still benefits from subsidies that artificially lower the cost of doing business and artificially lowers the cost we pay at the pump.  A recent article exposes the issue:

The IEA estimates that subsidies that artificially lower the cost of fossil fuels – and also impede development of renewables – hit $409 billion in 2010, an increase of nearly $110 billion over 2009 levels. The IEA says that the amount of total worldwide subsidies (assisting with production and consumption) on fossil fuels in 2010 will reach half a trillion dollars. What's even worse is that the IEA predicts that fossil fuel subsidies will soar to $660 billion in 2020.

Oil Subsidies Rise

I'm quite ready to end EV subsidies when the oil and gas industries do the same.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Truth About "Better Place"

More confirmation of what I've been saying about BP:

The contempt Better Place is demonstrating for the Israeli consumer will presumably greatly reduce the number of electric cars sold here, but it's not clear the company cares. Indeed, it's not inconceivable that the electric car is just a gimmick. The big money for Better Place lies in the monopoly it received from the state on building and operating charging stations.
This monopoly - which turns any car manufacturer that might ever bring an electric car to Israel, as well as its customers, into a captive audience - is worth pure gold.
BP-Bigger Profits

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ghosn on Project Better Place, Not for The US

Ghosn says exactly what I've been saying about BP:

"You could not imagine something like this in a country like Austrailia, Russia, or the US."

Why does the head of the one large automaker who's actually working with BP make this claim?  Because he says the swap stations are too expensive.  Couple expensive swap stations with a small country such as Israel which can be entirely covered with a single recharge and it's pretty obvious BP isn't even necessary in Israel.  I'd love to see some statistics as to how often the swap feature is even used in Israel when this actually goes into operation.  As I've been saying for a long time, BP and swapping is completely unnecessary and likely to fail.
BP Fail
More Fail

Sunday, June 19, 2011

One Billion Electric Vehicles

X 1,000,000,000

One of the arguments that the anti-EV crowd tries to use against EV's is that there simply is not enough material to build all the batteries needed for a significant number of EV's.  I've never seen any credible numbers to back up that assertion, all estimates show plenty of lithium in the world, and I've never seen any projected restrictions on the various other materials used in battery construction.  A new study has come out that shows we have enough raw material to build one billion 40kWh EV packs.  That means we could replace every car on the road in the world today with an EV, almost twice over.

On the order of 1 billion 40 kWh Li-based EV batteries could be built with the currently estimated reserve base of lithium, according to a recent study by researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. Lifetime system cost, and other factors, will likely limit scale up more than resource constraints, they found.
Worth noting that the LEAF pack is 24kWh so you could actually produce even more EV's like the LEAF, but I think one billion EV's should carry us for a while.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Volt Is Not An EV

 He's not driving an EV

It seems like such an obvious statement yet there remains a lot of confusion about this issue.  Let me first state that I have nothing against the Volt, I think a plug in hybrid is a reasonable option for some people.  I do have a problem with GM marketing trying to push a plug in hybrid as an electric vehicle, while at the same time taking shots at the perceived weakness of electric vehicles.  It sends mixed messages and confuses the issue, even backfiring and hurting GM itself.  I've seen a number of comments criticizing the Volt as an over priced EV that can only go 40 miles.  Obviously they missed the point that it's actually a plug in hybrid that can go further when the gas motor turns on.  GM has been trying to sell the Volt as a Range Extended Electric Vehicle, REEV, or an Extended Range Electric Vehicle, EREV, both terms that they made up.  The Volt is simply a Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle, PHEV.  This is to differentiate it from something like the Prius, a Hybrid Electric Vehicle, HEV, or simply hybrid.  Hybrid and plug in hybrid simply and directly denote the differences between the two types.  To dig further the Volt is a parallel/series hybrid, probably the most complex setup possible.  A parallel hybrid means that both the electric motor and ICE can power the wheels directly, think Prius.  A series hybrid has no connection between the ICE and the wheels, it's strictly an on board generator.  The Volt uses clutches to allow various connections between the electric motor, ICE, and wheels, depending on conditions, hence the parallel/series designation.
This complexity is one of the reasons it's so important not to call the Volt an EV, since an EV has none of these complexities.  An EV also does not have a gas tank, exhaust system, or an internal combustion engine.  An EV will never need an oil change, or spark plugs, drive belts, O2 sensor, fuel pump, fuel filter, air filter, catalytic converter, muffler, fuel lines, etc.
Some Volt owners argue that they never use the gas motor and only drive on electricity, which is great, but doesn't make it an EV, and also doesn't make much sense.  Why are you paying extra to haul around a gas tank and ICE that you don't need and that your goal is not to use?  That's like driving around in a pickup truck every day and never using the bed, or driving an off road capable vehicle and never driving where you actually need four wheel drive.
From all accounts the Volt seems like well designed, innovative vehicle, and for potential EV drivers who still need training wheels or actually need to use the gas motor part of the time, it's a good choice.  However, it is not and never will be an EV, it's a PHEV.

New data showing that the Volt is not an EV:
Electric vehicle means a vehicle that is powered by an electric motor drawing current from rechargeable storage batteries or other portable electrical energy storage devices, provided that:
      (1) Recharge energy must be drawn from a source off the vehicle, such as residential electric service; and
      (2) The vehicle must comply with all provisions of the Zero Emission Vehicle definition found in 40 CFR 88.104-94(g).

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Long Distance EV Trip

A Tesla Roadster drives the entire length of England in 36 hours, (without the benefit of DC fast charging).  894 miles total, with 6 charge stops along the way, about $30 in electricity.  More proof that battery swapping and Better Place are completely unnecessary.
Roadster trip

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Game Changing Battery?

I've avoided commenting on specific battery technology because there are a number of promising technologies in development but nothing that appeared ready for prime time, until now.  I've been watching DBM and their Kolibri battery for a few months and they seem to have something that may qualify as a breakthrough.  They have been working on a variant of lithium polymer batteries and seem to have come up with viable solutions to some of the problems inherent in Li po cells.  Li po cells have the ability to put out a lot of power from a small package, but they have typically had limited cycle life and a tendency to explode if not handled properly.  DBM claims to have solved both problems as well as increased their energy density and achieved unheard of economics in cell construction.  They did a well publicized test in Germany with the backing of the German government and Lekker Energie
If the cells are around 250 wh/kg or better and can be economically manufactured they would indeed be a game changer compared to what is currently in use.

Here is a video of independent abuse testing where the cells were vibrated, smashed, and heated with no catastrophic effects.  Click on the "CC" icon on the right to get subtitles.

Another video
Longer article

There is still not enough concrete information to know if this is a realistic breakthrough but as time goes on and evidence piles up it seems as if this may be an actual product with real world potential.  It's worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Better Place Fairy Tale Crumbles

In an earlier post I pointed out many of the shortcomings of the BP business plan Better Place Exposed .  Not surprisingly one of BP's largest early partners has just come to realize that the swap station concept makes no economic sense.
the battery swapping system couldn’t possibly make good business sense yet, adding “[B]ut at £1million ($1.6 million) a piece we’re not going to see widespread stations yet. That is, until we see more cars on the road.”
 Swapping Too Expensive
Of course by the time we see more cars on the road we'll already have many more charging stations available and improved battery technology will allow cars to go even further on a single charge.  Who would have guessed?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Future of Nuclear Power

A few days after my post on Thorium reactors the earthquake and tsunami disaster struck Japan, and then the ensuing nuclear problems.  It's worth noting that the meltdown and radiation concerns surrounding the boiling water reactors at Fukushima would not exist with LFTR's.  In the absence of power they shut down and passive cooling mechanisms keep things under control.  In the end a 40 year old nuclear design came through a category 9 earthquake and a 20+ foot tsunami with relatively little widespread effects, though it could have been much worse.  A modern LFTR would have done even better.  I'm not sure what the future of nuclear power will be after the Japan incident but I'm not sure we have any real option other than to pursue some sort of nuclear power.  More coal is certainly not viable, NG is a short term solution that still depends on fossil fuels, and without better storage I don't know if wind and solar can handle significant base load in the near future.  More generating capacity will have to be built to feed a growing population unless we are prepared to severely cut back our power usage.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Plugging In To Thorium

We need to take another look at nuclear power for our grid.  I'm not talking about the conventional nuclear plants that produce waste lasting thousands of years, I'm talking about another technology which has been around almost as long but never really utilized, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors, or LFTRS.  LFTRS use Thorium, a waste material left over from mining operations that has to be disposed of.  Since it's a waste product with no other use it would be an understatement to say the fuel costs would be low.  We also have stockpiles of it buried in the desert in containers.  After it's used in a LFTR there is minimal radioactive waste remaining and what there is decays in 100 years or so compared to the waste from a conventional reactor which must be contained for thousands of years.  There are also some interesting and useful byproducts from these reactions, including medically useful isotopes and some rare earth metals, including neodymium.  LFTRS can use the Brayton cycle turbine system which is smaller and more efficient than conventional steam turbines.  Additionally LFTRS can't suffer from a China Syndrome meltdown scenario, they are self regulating.  Since they are inherently safer they don't need large containment vessels and can be built much smaller.
So if they are cheaper, smaller, safer, and leave less waste, why aren't we using them?  It's all about the bombs.  LFTRS don't produce good material for nuclear bombs.  Since we now have plenty of material for enough bombs to pretty much destroy the world it might be time to look at a safer, cheaper, more efficient technology to power our grid, and our EV's.
A very good video over view of LFTRS can be found here:

4 minute overview:
More in depth 25 minute overview:

Great source of info here:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why Not Natural Gas?

Increasingly I see people suggesting natural gas, specifically compressed natural gas, CNG, as a better option than EV's for personal transportation needs.  Increasingly I'm convinced it's not as easy as some would make it seem or even a good idea.  Yes we have large reserves of CNG here in the US, and hydro fracturing techniques, (fracking), are freeing up untapped reserves.  Fracking is not without it's problems, I won't go into details here but there are consequences that need to be closely looked into before we forge blindly ahead.  CNG has less energy density than gasoline so tanks need to be larger and provide less range, about the same as a battery powered Tesla Roadster, but with far lower performance.  CNG cars also have lower performance than conventional gasoline versions, the CNG Honda Civic GX has 113 hp compared to the 140 hp gasoline version.  Since it's a highly explosive gas under high pressure the tanks need to be very strong and well protected.  Since it's a gas it needs to be compressed to flow into a tank, which takes energy and time.  The Phill home fueling station will use about 6 kWh's of electricity to provide 100 miles worth of fuel.  An EV could go about 25 miles on those 6 kWh's of electricity.  Refilling a CNG vehicle is not that quick, it will take overnight with an expensive home filling system if your house has a NG pipeline connection.  The Phill would take about 12 hours for a full tank.
Phill Specs
A little more than half of all homes have NG, while almost 100% of US homes have electricity.  There are few public high pressure fast filling stations available, basically a non existent infrastructure that would need to be developed at high cost, while existing pipelines are failing.
The safety issue is significant.  If a CNG vehicle catches fire the potential for damage is much higher than with a gasoline vehicle.  Example: CNG Honda Explosion  Notice the gasoline vehicles next to the CNG vehicle also caught fire but did not explode.  More troubling are the high number of pipeline explosions that seem to occur, possibly with increasing frequency as older pipes fail.  A Google search of "Natural Gas Explosion" brings up a long list, many with shocking video footage.  This site seems to track some of the latest incidents Recent NG explosions  I'm quite happy that I don't have a NG pipe going into my house or even in my neighborhood.
Using CNG in an inefficient ICE vehicle at maybe 20% efficiency makes little sense when it can be use in combined cycle generating plants at 60% efficiency to charge EV's.  Additionally a few pipelines going to a few generating plants are much more efficient and easier to monitor and maintain than millions of pipelines going to millions of homes and public fill stations.  If we are going to use CNG lets not waste it in ICE's, let's use it to displace coal fueled electricity.

Another more detailed look at CNG for transportation:
CNG analysis
*Update:  A recent study suggests that NG may have a larger carbon footprint than previously thought.
NG's higher emissions
Industry insiders question the realities of NG production
Problems with NG production
Smaller NG reserves than previously thought
Hinchey on Gas Reserves 
Additional data on energy required to compress and transport NG by Rick Kermentz on Seeking Alpha:
 The collection network (from a group of wells) is generally low pressure. The gas is scrubbed of sulfur compounds, odorant added, and compressed to 1,500 psi for long distance transport, with additional compressor stations every 40-60 miles. The pressure is dropped backed down to typically 100 psi for city distribution, and often down to 3 psi for residential distribution. A high volume NG filling station probably would access gas at 100-200 psi.

To get a reasonable range in a CNG vehicle, the gas will be pressurized to 5,000-10,000 psi. Not only is there significant energy consumed compressing the gas, the thermal heat of compression is totally lost.

CNG Bus Fire
Bus Fire
CNG Bus Explosion
Bus Explosion

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Why I Bought TSLA

I've been watching Tesla Motors for a few years, back when the Roadster was only a prototype. I've chatted online with Martin Eberhard and a few other early employees, and I watched with some dismay when many of them were forced out of the company. I've watched as they took less than ideal available components, improved them, and made them into the fastest production electric vehicle ever built. I've watched the company repeatedly do what detractors said couldn't be done. I've watched as major automakers stood up and took notice of what this little company had achieved. I stayed away from the IPO, stayed away when the price came back down after the euphoria, stayed away when it ran back up, and stayed away after it dropped back down after the 6 month lockup ended. I was hoping for a larger pullback but it never materialized. After all this time I can no longer ignore the potential of this company and what I think they are capable of, so I'm in. To me their biggest weakness has been their use of commodity cells to build a pack, yet by using them they've built the least expensive and most energy dense automotive pack on the market, and they will soon be using even better cells. Since the weakest part of their technology has proven successful and it's likely to get even better it's hard not to have a positive outlook on the company. The employees are skilled, passionate, and driven, as is Elon Musk. While I did not like his handling of the restructuring of the company and some of his design decisions I can't say that he was necessarily wrong. He obviously has what it takes to make innovative companies successful and I think betting against him is a mistake. The Model S sedan design is progressing well and looks to be as ground breaking in the performance sedan market as the Roadster was in the sports car market. Recent agreements with Panasonic should give them good pricing on improved cells. Partnering with Toxco and Umicore will provide a comprehensive recycling program for their battery packs when needed.
They continue to advance motor and controller design, battery technology, and vehicle design and construction. While some concern has been raised about rare earth magnets their motor doesn't use them. At 70lbs, 250hp, and 300 ft/lbs of torque they have the best power to weight ratio of any production EV motor. Their methods and results are actually influencing established automakers such as Toyota, who has partnered with Tesla for their RAV4EV program.
Tesla doesn't want to just build EV's, they want to build desirable vehicles that also happen to be EV's. Unlike most companies who try to keep costs as low as possible and target the general buying public Tesla has chosen to build vehicles without compromises that take full advantage of the benefits of their electric drive trains. A common complaint against Tesla is the average person can't afford their vehicles, which is true, for now. However, does BMW, Porsche, or Ferrari get hit with similar criticisms? Sure we all wish we could afford such vehicles but we don't argue that they should lower their quality or performance to achieve lower costs. Tesla creates products that compete directly with high end vehicles while also offering oil free transportation. They think, and I agree, that there is a strong and growing market for such products. The larger volume of the Model S production building on their experiences with the Roadster production will help them lower costs and move them towards profitability.
EV's are coming.  Tesla has led the way with the first real production EV in the 21st century, and I don't see them losing that lead any time soon. They won't lead in volume but they will lead in technology that other auto manufacturers want and in producing vehicles that people want. Going forward I don't see anything stopping them.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Grid

Update:  The EIA shows only 45% of the grid is coal powered as of 2009, so the numbers are even better for EV's, with 55% of the grid not coal powered.
Grid percentages

I thought it might be useful to take a deeper look into the grid since that's where most of us will get our "fuel" for our EV's.  Detractors commonly say the grid is mostly coal, which is misleading at best.  Current stats have the US grid around 48% 45% coal, so while coal is the single largest generating fuel most of the grid, about  55%, is not coal at all.  Additionally if you look at population distribution and areas more likely to be early adopters of EV's, the West coast, East Coast, and most southern border states, all have much lower percentages of coal power than the US average.  Here's a helpful interactive map of the US grid and fuel sources: Grid Map
If you click on "Sources of Power" and then use the drop down menu to the left that shows "Major Power Sources" and choose "Coal" you get a nice visual representation of what I'm talking about.  These numbers have been improving in recent years and should continue to do so in the future.  With or without EV's the grid needs to get cleaner, and with new wind, solar, NG, and possibly nuclear there is no reason for it not to.  The mistake detractors often make is they use the state of the grid in years past but project the power consumption of EV's in the future to paint an inaccurate emissions profile for electric vehicles.  The final nail in their hypocritical coffin is that these same people usually don't think emissions are even important to begin with.  If they truly believe that then power plant emissions have no place in the EV argument and they should welcome the fact that all energy for EV's is produced domestically, not imported from other countries.  The benefits of not sending billions of dollars over seas every year should be obvious.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Milestone, EV Bike Kicks Gas.

Chip Yates on his new electric superbike takes 2nd and 3rd in two races against a field of ICE powered bikes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Changing times

I thought these two images illustrated an important contrast.  The first is a fleet of perfectly functional EV1 electric vehicles being carted off under armed guard to be crushed, the second is a recent delivery of the new Nissan LEAF electric vehicle.

Hopefully the first image will not be repeated in the future.

Credit to VFX for the concept: