Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Whole Enchilada

http://electrojeep.blogspot.com/2008/12/whole-enchilada.html

PeakOilDebunked: 389. GROWTH = JOBS

Through many changes, one thing stays constant in the peak oil community: opposition to growth. Colin Campbell, Kunstler, Heinberg, virtually the entire staff and readership of the The Oil Drum... They all believe that growth is insane, and have vehemently and incessantly attacked it for years.I think it's high time that we followed this anti-growth agenda to its logical conclusion.On the surface, an anti-growth site like The Oil Drum seems to be comprised of very smart, rational people who have the best interests of the public at heart. But is that really true?Well, there's no doubt that the title of this post is true: Growth = Jobs. So a strong case can be made that anti-growth advocates are very much not in the public's corner. The logic is straightforward:

  • Anti-growth advocates (The Oil Drum, Heinberg etc.) are in favor of a halt in growth.
  • A halt in growth will cause massive unemployment.
  • Therefore, anti-growth advocates are in favor of massive unemployment.

To illustrate, here's a piece of standard anti-growth boilerplate from a peak oiler, corrected to reveal the subtext:Infinite growth Employment has been so hard wired in the brains of so many, that it will be hard for most to imagine themselves out of having never-ending growth a job as an eternal goal.Not quite so convincing, is it? Anti-growth rhetoric tends to be very smug, particularly since it ignores the central brute fact: there is nothing crazy or stupid or deluded or denialist about trying to keep people employed.If anti-growth advocates were honest, they would admit that a massive depression (i.e. reversal of growth and shrinkage of the economy) is precisely what they are advocating. Some have already made that connection on the climate front:Will the Downturn Save the Planet?Many climate change skeptics and eco-fundamentalists will welcome the economic crisis, although some more openly then others.[...]On the other hand, eco-fundamentalists, many of whom define themselves as anti-capitalist, realized that the contradictions inherent in the market system made a major crisis, possibly a slump, inevitable at some point. Unlike Marxists, though, many welcomed this prospect, since they despaired of any other way to tackle climate change apart from economic collapse, which they think could result in a big reduction in greenhouse gasses. Whether they are correct in that assumption is another matter.Professor Paul Crutzen, who won the Nobel prize for his work on the depletion of the ozone layer, was quoted by the Reuters news agency on October 7: "It’s a cruel thing to say… but if we are looking at a slowdown in the economy, there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage… we will have a much slower increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere… people will start saving [on energy use]."Cheer up: You're not unemployed -- you're stopping the growth insanity and saving the planetThis line of thought occurred to me when I was reading about Obama's projected stimulus package, so I asked the folks at the Oil Drum about it:My point is this: if you genuinely believe that we must stop growth because it is killing us (a view which I believe I can fairly ascribe to the vast majority of people on the Oil Drum), then how can you, in good conscience, support measures which are aimed at reigniting growth, such as Obama's upcoming stimulus package and similar packages in other countries?The responses fell into a few basic types:1) Don't get pinned down. Change the subject.2) The dead-end doomer:"We are GOING to be living in a contracting world, whether we like it or not. My preferences are irrelevant, this is reality and we had best face up to and adjust to it, the sooner the better.Yes, a great many people will suffer terribly. That is going to happen and can't be helped. Futile attempts to hang on to the past and sustain the unsustainable will not help them, only hurt them even more." WNC Observer3) Fessing up"I, for one, am completely in favour of shrinking. Growth would condemn billions of people around the world especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia to a continuous life of strife, misery, and violence that is today much worse than the worse Long Emergency scenarios.The only smart growth is shrinking. That increases the share of the commonwealth available to eash person and decreases the footprint each of us puts on Gaia's neck. We are a heavy burden and we are killing her. And nether can we live without her." Dryki4) Waffling"(1) Are there sectors that need to grow--yes.(2) Are there obese sectors or ancient sectors that need to decline or die--yes.(3) Is the human economy in its totality too large relative to the planet--yes.Therefore, any stimulus plan needs to increase 1 and allow 2 to decrease so that total economic scale is reduced." Jason Bradford[JD: Jason pays lip service to the Obama stimulus -- perhaps because he realizes how far outside the mainstream he'll go if he opposes it. Nevertheless, he adds the condition that economic scale must be reduced -- i.e. that the economy must continue to recess and shed jobs.]*****"I could support a stimulus package aimed at reinstating a growth economy if it's primary side effect was to invest in renewable energy and to restructure society to be less energy intensive and more socially cohesive.What better way to kick-start the economy than spending a trillion dollars on wind power, upgrading the electric grid, developing adaptive (electricity) demand infrastructure, building and electrifying light rail systems, (small) electric or hybrid cars, etc. etc.Of course the stimulus would fail, as we descend the energy slope, but it would be less painful. The US (and UK, and many other economies) are inevitably going to collapse. Better to use whatever credit the government can still control whilst it still has any, to build for the future." RalphW5) Little pleasures:"I happen to have my own boring list of what those are, things like reading, music, art, science, sailing, being with my loved ones, teaching, learning, watching sunsets, drinking good wine etc.. etc..Not one of the things on my list requires growth." FMagyar*****Ludi (responding to my statement "If you're in favor of a halt to growth; you're in favor of unemployment."): "Yep, sure am! I don't work much and I do pretty well (lower middle-class/working class).Reduce the need to earn, I say. Leisure is wonderful. I spent two hours of my leisure today cutting brush with a handsaw. I'm exhausted but happy."The Oil Drum pretends to be a community of rational, serious people who will guide us to a better future. I think the evidence points to exactly the opposite, at least if you regard employment as an important feature of that future. As you can see, anti-growth advocates believe that: a) increasing unemployment can't be reversed or even halted, or b) unemployment should be actively boosted by reducing the size of the economy. Meanwhile, their perspective on being unemployed is "art, music, sailing" and learning to enjoy your "leisure".These views are totally at odds with the need of vast numbers of people to survive and better their lives by obtaining and keeping jobs.If anti-growth advocates mean to make a serious contribution, they need to cut the self-righteous rhetoric, and address the reality of growth=jobs head on.by JD

PeakOilDebunked: 389. GROWTH = JOBS

Through many changes, one thing stays constant in the peak oil community: opposition to growth. Colin Campbell, Kunstler, Heinberg, virtually the entire staff and readership of the The Oil Drum... They all believe that growth is insane, and have vehemently and incessantly attacked it for years.I think it's high time that we followed this anti-growth agenda to its logical conclusion.On the surface, an anti-growth site like The Oil Drum seems to be comprised of very smart, rational people who have the best interests of the public at heart. But is that really true?Well, there's no doubt that the title of this post is true: Growth = Jobs. So a strong case can be made that anti-growth advocates are very much not in the public's corner. The logic is straightforward:

  • Anti-growth advocates (The Oil Drum, Heinberg etc.) are in favor of a halt in growth.
  • A halt in growth will cause massive unemployment.
  • Therefore, anti-growth advocates are in favor of massive unemployment.

To illustrate, here's a piece of standard anti-growth boilerplate from a peak oiler, corrected to reveal the subtext:Infinite growth Employment has been so hard wired in the brains of so many, that it will be hard for most to imagine themselves out of having never-ending growth a job as an eternal goal.Not quite so convincing, is it? Anti-growth rhetoric tends to be very smug, particularly since it ignores the central brute fact: there is nothing crazy or stupid or deluded or denialist about trying to keep people employed.If anti-growth advocates were honest, they would admit that a massive depression (i.e. reversal of growth and shrinkage of the economy) is precisely what they are advocating. Some have already made that connection on the climate front:Will the Downturn Save the Planet?Many climate change skeptics and eco-fundamentalists will welcome the economic crisis, although some more openly then others.[...]On the other hand, eco-fundamentalists, many of whom define themselves as anti-capitalist, realized that the contradictions inherent in the market system made a major crisis, possibly a slump, inevitable at some point. Unlike Marxists, though, many welcomed this prospect, since they despaired of any other way to tackle climate change apart from economic collapse, which they think could result in a big reduction in greenhouse gasses. Whether they are correct in that assumption is another matter.Professor Paul Crutzen, who won the Nobel prize for his work on the depletion of the ozone layer, was quoted by the Reuters news agency on October 7: "It’s a cruel thing to say… but if we are looking at a slowdown in the economy, there will be less fossil fuels burning, so for the climate it could be an advantage… we will have a much slower increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere… people will start saving [on energy use]."Cheer up: You're not unemployed -- you're stopping the growth insanity and saving the planetThis line of thought occurred to me when I was reading about Obama's projected stimulus package, so I asked the folks at the Oil Drum about it:My point is this: if you genuinely believe that we must stop growth because it is killing us (a view which I believe I can fairly ascribe to the vast majority of people on the Oil Drum), then how can you, in good conscience, support measures which are aimed at reigniting growth, such as Obama's upcoming stimulus package and similar packages in other countries?The responses fell into a few basic types:1) Don't get pinned down. Change the subject.2) The dead-end doomer:"We are GOING to be living in a contracting world, whether we like it or not. My preferences are irrelevant, this is reality and we had best face up to and adjust to it, the sooner the better.Yes, a great many people will suffer terribly. That is going to happen and can't be helped. Futile attempts to hang on to the past and sustain the unsustainable will not help them, only hurt them even more." WNC Observer3) Fessing up"I, for one, am completely in favour of shrinking. Growth would condemn billions of people around the world especially in the poorer parts of Africa and Asia to a continuous life of strife, misery, and violence that is today much worse than the worse Long Emergency scenarios.The only smart growth is shrinking. That increases the share of the commonwealth available to eash person and decreases the footprint each of us puts on Gaia's neck. We are a heavy burden and we are killing her. And nether can we live without her." Dryki4) Waffling"(1) Are there sectors that need to grow--yes.(2) Are there obese sectors or ancient sectors that need to decline or die--yes.(3) Is the human economy in its totality too large relative to the planet--yes.Therefore, any stimulus plan needs to increase 1 and allow 2 to decrease so that total economic scale is reduced." Jason Bradford[JD: Jason pays lip service to the Obama stimulus -- perhaps because he realizes how far outside the mainstream he'll go if he opposes it. Nevertheless, he adds the condition that economic scale must be reduced -- i.e. that the economy must continue to recess and shed jobs.]*****"I could support a stimulus package aimed at reinstating a growth economy if it's primary side effect was to invest in renewable energy and to restructure society to be less energy intensive and more socially cohesive.What better way to kick-start the economy than spending a trillion dollars on wind power, upgrading the electric grid, developing adaptive (electricity) demand infrastructure, building and electrifying light rail systems, (small) electric or hybrid cars, etc. etc.Of course the stimulus would fail, as we descend the energy slope, but it would be less painful. The US (and UK, and many other economies) are inevitably going to collapse. Better to use whatever credit the government can still control whilst it still has any, to build for the future." RalphW5) Little pleasures:"I happen to have my own boring list of what those are, things like reading, music, art, science, sailing, being with my loved ones, teaching, learning, watching sunsets, drinking good wine etc.. etc..Not one of the things on my list requires growth." FMagyar*****Ludi (responding to my statement "If you're in favor of a halt to growth; you're in favor of unemployment."): "Yep, sure am! I don't work much and I do pretty well (lower middle-class/working class).Reduce the need to earn, I say. Leisure is wonderful. I spent two hours of my leisure today cutting brush with a handsaw. I'm exhausted but happy."The Oil Drum pretends to be a community of rational, serious people who will guide us to a better future. I think the evidence points to exactly the opposite, at least if you regard employment as an important feature of that future. As you can see, anti-growth advocates believe that: a) increasing unemployment can't be reversed or even halted, or b) unemployment should be actively boosted by reducing the size of the economy. Meanwhile, their perspective on being unemployed is "art, music, sailing" and learning to enjoy your "leisure".These views are totally at odds with the need of vast numbers of people to survive and better their lives by obtaining and keeping jobs.If anti-growth advocates mean to make a serious contribution, they need to cut the self-righteous rhetoric, and address the reality of growth=jobs head on.by JD

Cycle9: 2008 wrap up

We want to thank all our customers and friends for support over the last year of our venture here to spread bicycle love, and in the process, rethink transportation.  We wouldn't be here without everyone's support, we truly appreciate it.It has been an amazing, and challenging year. On the broader scale, 2008 will go down in the history books as a year of substantial change, most of it for the negative.  The financial world has been in turmoil, dragging the economy with it.  But some changes have not been bad.  The crazy ups and downs of gas prices have a lot of people thinking more deeply about America's dependence on foreign oil.   While various sides of the political spectrum are not necessarily in agreement about how to solve the problem, the important thing is that there is increasing consensus that something needs to be done.  Cycle 9 was founded in 2007 after we decided that we didn't just want to complain about oil dependency, but to do something about it.  It always feels better trying to fix a problem than just to complain about it (even if that involves mortgaging ones house to the hilt to get a business going).  Bikes won't solve every problem.  Cars are useful conveyances for many purposes.  But the more we use bikes and watch our energy usage in getting around, the more it becomes clear that moving a 3,000 pound hunk of steel around to transport a single human is a huge waste of energy.  Many kilowatt hours of energy, for even a short trip.  And bikes can be one piece of the puzzle, along with more walking, more public transit, high speed trains, and etc.  At some point in our future, when oil is more scarce, I bet most of us will prefer to have that oil go towards producing our food and other necessities.So, if we can have one wish for 2009, it is that the incoming administration realizes the importance of developing better infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists in our towns and cities.  By far, the biggest complaint we hear about cycling is about its "danger."  While statistics show that it is probably not nearly as dangerous as many people think, statistics don't change most people's minds.  Regardless of the highly controversial subject of whether bike lanes are good or bad safety-wise, it is a simple fact that bike lanes/paths promote more people biking.  I was recently in Madison, Wisconsin, which has developed a network of rail-trails around the city.  In warmer months, those are very well used, I saw other riders out at all times of the day.  But, here in the Southeastern USA, we have the double whammy of fast drivers and narrow roads.  For many people, even if they want to bike, they just don't feel comfortable doing it on these kinds of roads.  And so they get in the car.  Sadly, our state's department of transportation has often been actively anti-cyclist in their road planning.  Talk about lack of foresight.When Obama announced plans for new infrastructure, he mentioned roads and bridges.  I really hope he does some more thinking about this before implementing it.  Certainly, some roads and some bridges do need work - those that represent the central transportation corridors should be brought to modernity.  But beyond that, it is a matter of priorities.  I hope we place more priority on making our cities easier to navigate by non-car means, rather than just spending willy-nilly on automobile infrastructure.  Two thousand and nine will be a challenging year.  But often it is the challenges that cause people to become engaged, rise up, and work towards solutions.  We sincerely hope that in trying to meet the challenges, the solutions that get implemented aren't just "more of the same."  We've tried that for the past 30 years.  Let's try something new - livable, walkable, bikeable cities and towns.  Places where children can play in their neighborhoods again, walk to school safely, breath clean air, and not become obese by being driven everywhere.  If we as a country put our minds to something, we can usually do it.  I hope we will put our minds to this as our new year's resolution.

Charger Inlet

http://electrojeep.blogspot.com/2008/12/charger-inlet.html

Cycle9: BMC motor face-off

Recently, we went to one of the steepest hills around to test the new BMC 600 watt, internally geared brushless hub motors. There are two versions, a "torque" (the V2-T) and a "speed" (the V2-S). We wanted to see how they did for steep hill climbing on an Xtracycle equipped bike, and did some head-to-head rides with them. Note that Morgan is the heavier rider by about 40 lbs, so we did multiple tests by swapping bikes back and forth to get to the heart of the question, "which motor is best for climbing?"

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cycle9: SALE and Holiday Closure

Please join us for a SALE at our retail store, Friday Dec 26 and Saturday Dec 27.  All accessories on sale 15% off. Bikes also on sale $30 - $100 off. Selected other items on sale as well. We will be open regular business hours - Friday 11-6 and Saturday 10-5We will then be closed for winter break and inventory activities Sunday Dec 28 - Thursday Jan 1. We will reopen Friday Jan 2.Thanks to all our customers for a great year! From the Cycle 9 team (Elise, Morgan, Kristen and Chris)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

PeakOilDebunked: 388. OIL PRICES DROP, CONSERVATION CONTINUES

[Note from JD: This is a guest post from Ari, a new contributor here at POD.]One of the big fears of falling gas prices was that people would hop back into their cars and start driving again. It makes sense, one supposes, that as the cost of a good goes down, then people start consuming it more, right?Well, life isn't that simple.The one thing that people often ignore is that consumer decision making is not based only on simple "single variable equations." We don't walk into a store, pick up one item, and decide to buy it solely because its price goes up or down in a specific span of time. We comparison shop. Transportation, despite its being a relatively inelastic good, is not immune to this economic behavior.And lo and behold, people appear to be comparison shopping, even as gas prices fall.The Road Less TraveledLike never before, Americans' travel habits have a special place in our national conversation. The combination of gas price fluctuations, economic stress, energy concerns, and public financing woes have transformed transportation issues from inside baseball to front page news and water cooler conversation.A primary cause for this attention has been the major shifts in travel patterns. Americans have simply been driving less, when considering both historic growth rates and the most recent annualized measures of vehicle miles traveled (VMT).1 At the same time driving has declined, transit use is at its highest level since the 1950s, and Amtrak ridership just set an annual ridership record in 2008.Not convinced? Here's more anecdotal evidence of this trend:Cheap Gas Pulls Few off Bus, MetroEven before it was costing us $75 a week to fill our gas tanks, as it did this spring and summer, we had already started to change our driving habits in ways unexpected years ago," said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic's Manager of Public and Government Affairs. "Despite the fact that gasoline prices have been in a freefall since mid-July, consumption is still declining. Last week, U.S. gasoline consumption was lower than it was the same week a year ago.""People who began to take public transit in 2007 with the rise of higher gas prices are sticking with it now that prices have dropped back down to their lowest level since early 2005, Townsend said.Delawareans Stick with Public TransitDART bus usage has backed off a bit since gas prices fell to near $1.50 in recent months, but remains strong. DART buses logged 850,260 fares in October, well up from the 746,731 rides during the same month a year earlier. But it's down from a high of 912,789 rides in July, when gas prices were sky-high.SEPTA train use on the R2 line, which runs through Delaware, increased from 96,671 rides in October 2007 to 110,020 rides this October. Ridership in October was higher than it was during the summer: in July, riders took 105,768 trips on the line."What we believe is when people find out it does work for them, they continue to use it," said Darrel Cole, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. "There's nothing better than sitting on a bus, sitting on a train, being able to get work done while someone else drives for you."Gas Prices Fall, but Ridership Still Rises / During Summer Many Found Public Transit was the Way to go, Groups SayThe nation's public transportation systems saw the largest quarterly ridership increase in 25 years as more Americans shunned their automobiles even as gas prices began to ease, according to industry figures to be released today. Subways, buses, commuter rail and light-rail systems saw a 6.5 percent jump in ridership from July to September, according to the Washington-based American Public Transportation Association. During the same quarter, Americans drove 4.6 percent less on highways. The average price for a gallon of gas peaked at more than $4 in mid-July, then began falling. They may have tried public transportation to get away from high gas prices, but many have since found it works for them," association president William W. Millar said. "I think this year has been a real turning point for the public's attitude toward public transportation." Riders made 2.85 billion trips on public transportation during the third quarter, up from 2.67 billion trips a year ago. There have been gains in every quarter this year from 2007. Last year's 10.3 billion trips were the most on public transportation in 50 years.As Gas Prices Fall, Transit Still PopularGas prices have plummeted during the past several weeks, but commuters do not appear to be returning to their cars, according to transit officials in the region and elsewhere, who say ridership is still increasing. Transit officials attributed much of the ridership increase earlier this year to skyrocketing gasoline prices. But despite falling pump prices -- from a national average of $4.11 a gallon in July to $1.82 yesterday -- transit ridership is setting records in some parts of the country, officials said. For the four months ending in October, Metrorail ridership in the Washington region was up 5 percent over the same period last year, senior planner Jim Hughes said. Preliminary data indicate that November rail ridership is up about 3 percent. Gas Prices Drop, Bus Ridership Stays Steady (requires log-in)"Gas prices may have dropped dramatically in the past few weeks, but Windham County residents who discovered the benefits of riding the bus when the cost of gas was high are sticking to their new routines. Local public transportation like the Brattleboro Beeline and Connecticut River Transit has not seen a decline in ridership. "We haven't so far, but prices did just drop," said Gary Fox, executive director of Connecticut River Transit. "If people are going to look at making that kind of switch, maybe it just hasn't happened yet, but I don't think it will," he said. Fox said there was an increase in people trying public transit when fuel prices were sky-rocketing. With prices dropping, he thinks it's likely that spike will stop, but not likely that he will lose current riders."Public Transit Use Up Over Last YearThis is an interesting article because it shows how a poor economy can affect transit in ways we don't often hear:Commuters who jumped onto buses and trains when gas prices soared stayed on board when prices started falling this summer, but transit operators fear the poor economy will erase the gains. Ridership on public transit increased 7% to 2.85 billion rides in July, August and September compared with that quarter last year, a report to be released today by the American Public Transportation Association shows. Gas prices began to fall in July after reaching a high of $4.16 a gallon. "As gas prices rose, more and more Americans made the choice to ride public transit," says William Millar, the association's president. "Now, even though gas prices are falling, Americans tried public transit and many find it convenient."And yes, some (maybe even most) of this has to do with the economy-- that is clear-- but if the Brookings study is any indication, then we may be seeing a shift in transportation habits in the long run. It's hard to say with any certainty (after all, prediction is a thorny business!), but it is interesting that a good with supposedly highly inelastic demand remains significantly down despite a price decrease of nearly 50%. Like most other "models" that the peak oil community has presented us, oil demand models are overly simplistic and do not account for enough variables. In other words, they have low predictive skill.More than anything, however, this demonstrates that people are ADAPTIVE. Unlike those silly cartoons on YouTube that show people driving SUVs up and over a cliff to PEAK OIL DOOM, people react to signals and will change behavior fairly quickly. In just a few years, people have started using transit again in numbers that haven't been seen for almost a half-century! Unlike peak oil doomsters, who say that NOTHING WILL STOP DEMAND FROM INEXORABLY RISING, reality demonstrates that people consciously, and rather quickly, change behavior.Surprise surpise.by Ari

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

RevengeOfTheEV: Toyota To Show EV Concept Car At Detroit Auto Show

“Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. said today that it will show a small electric concept vehicle at the Detroit auto show next month.” – Toyota Division Communications
Considering the implication of those two short lines, they were barely whispered to the press.
Toyota is going to show a Battery EV at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month, 12 full years after they began leasing the RAV4 EV to fleets in California, and 7 years after 328 private citizens got their hands on one. This is a remarkable turnaround, given their almost fanatical desire to destroy every existing example of the RAV program.
Of course, it’s only a “concept” car, and we know that means they could be a good two years from actually releasing something, but the fact that they’re showing it at all speaks volumes.
This leaves Honda alone among the top 10 with no “announced” EV program. With all the car makers in the world running as fast as they can toward plugging batteries in to the grid, Honda continues this farce of a program with fuel cells. It’s pretty clear they’ve got plug-in vehicles in development. They’re not stupid, they’re just not talking about them yet. But effort devoted to an inherently inefficient technology like fuel cells will only delay the inevitable roll out of the Honda EVs. How much market share do they want to concede to Toyota, Tesla and Mitsubishi?
I have to mention that this announcement coincides neatly with news today of Toyota’s first ever loss ($1.66 billion). Coincidences can be fun.
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Post Carbon Cities on a snowy time-out

Like many places, Portland, Ore. is seeing a lot of snow -- snow it's largely unprepared for. But despite the county's declared state of emergency, those in walkable neighborhoods are actually doing pretty well. Unusual conditions lend a special, festive air to everything, encouraging acts of play and goodwill. Post Carbon Cities will be on break through January 4. We wish you and your community resilience and joy in the New Year.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

RevengeOfTheEV: U.S. Battery Makers Power Up

I wrote a few months ago about the Japanese and European carmakers teaming up with Asian and Euro battery manufacturers with $200-$400 million deals to build large production facilities that will soon be cranking out high volumes of LiIon batteries for plug-in cars.  Since achieving cost parity with internal combustion requires batteries to cost less than $500 per kWh, this is a welcome sign that we’ll be seeing those prices in short order.
In recent months however, many experts have spoken of the need for battery production within the U.S.  It’s one thing to switch from mostly foreign oil to 100% domestic electricity, but it’s also important to have a domestic source of batteries. The big Euro and Asian car makers are going to soak up most of the world’s production, a feat easier done when they own the factories making the batteries.
As this article explains, we now have movement toward a domestic supply. One can only guess where we’d be had this started a decade earlier.
As they say, “It’s all about the batteries.”
See the LA Times article:
U.S. Battery Makers Work to Power Up

A coalition of 14 companies this week announced the creation of a new business alliance aimed at promoting domestic production of lithium ion batteries. Automakers hope to use the batteries in next- generation hybrids as well as plug-in electric cars.
Industry consultants say U.S. companies are losing a race to commercialize the technology to rivals in Asia and Europe. General Motors has said it might use foreign-produced batteries in the Chevrolet Volt, the plug-in scheduled for production in 2010.
The coalition – known as the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture – is based in Chicago. The Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory, located in suburban Chicago, has also signed on to the project.
The alliance includes battery giant Johnson Controls and smaller players in the field such as ActaCell, Altair Nanotechnologies and Dontech Global.

Here is the complete text of the article – in case the link goes bad:
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/12/20/business/fi-battery20
U.S. Battery Makers Work to Power Up
LA Times, December 20, 2008
Fourteen companies join to promote domestic production of lithium ion batteries for autos. They will seek federal funding to build at least one prototype development center.
December 20, 2008 U.S. battery manufacturers are taking steps to raise the industry’s profile, a move that backers hope will speed commercialization of high-tech, American-made car batteries.
A coalition of 14 companies this week announced the creation of a new business alliance aimed at promoting domestic production of lithium ion batteries. Automakers hope to use the batteries in next- generation hybrids as well as plug-in electric cars.
Industry consultants say U.S. companies are losing a race to commercialize the technology to rivals in Asia and Europe. General Motors has said it might use foreign-produced batteries in the Chevrolet Volt, the plug-in scheduled for production in 2010.
The coalition – known as the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture – is based in Chicago. The Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory, located in suburban Chicago, has also signed on to the project.
The alliance includes battery giant Johnson Controls and smaller players in the field such as ActaCell, Altair Nanotechnologies and Dontech Global.
James Greenberger, a Chicago attorney who is leading the alliance effort, said the group would seek to develop one or more manufacturing and prototype development centers in the United States. The centers could carry a total price tag of between $1 billion and $2 billion over the next five years. The group hopes to get much of the money from the federal government.
“We think this is the most effective way that government can leverage public money to both establish lithium ion battery manufacture in the United States and revitalize the automotive industry in the long term,” Greenberger said.
Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls’ power solutions division, said the alliance could help promote the industry as a source of new high-tech American jobs.
“I don’t think it’s good enough that the American consumer is going to have a vehicle that’s electrified or have hybrid capabilities,” he said. “It doesn’t help us if we have no capability in the U.S.”
The alliance took its message to Congress this week, as staffers from at least four House members from Illinois took part in a conference call with the group. A staff member from the office of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) also participated in the call. Greenberger said he had been working to inform aides to President- elect Barack Obama as well.
Battery executives and industry consultants say governments in Japan, China, South Korea and Germany are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into production of lithium ion batteries, which have chiefly been used in cellphones, laptops and other electronics.
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Growing interest in growing food

An ever-increasing number of people are interested in growing food close to home or buying food that is produced nearby. New business models are springing up, land use priorities are changing. This interest in local food can be tonic to local food security, and its encouragement can be an important part of any locality's preparation for peak oil.
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Monday, December 22, 2008

Roadster Efficiency and Range

With more than 100 Roadsters delivered to customers so far and more on the road each week, it’s natural for some customers to run “experiments” on them. Because we have such an entrepreneurial and highly technical customer base, many of these experiments are quite detailed and attempt to answer questions that we have in some [...]

The Right Course: Preserving the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program

The White House granted General Motors and Chrysler a reprieve Friday when it authorized $17.4 billion in emergency loans. President Bush said the alternative – the collapse of two American icons – was “not a responsible course of action.”
It’s impossible to say whether loans from the Treasury Department’s $700 billion financial stabilization fund will revive [...]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Predicting Future Supply from Undiscovered Oil

The amount of danger presented by the peak oil scenario depends on the future decline in oil production. That is, the peak oil scenario says (based on observations from around the world) that after some point of oil extraction and production the worlds oil production will inevitably enter a decline and that once world oil production begins to decline no way will it ever increase.

Article Reference: 
extvideo: 

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Ultra Motor A2B electric Bicycle is coming

Hello again, Today I want to announce that Green Wheelin' Scooters will be bringing in the new Ultra Motor A2B electric bicycle.  This is a very unique bicycle that can travel up to 40 miles on battery power alone!  (Of course if you pedal too, it will go even further!)  I have ridden one of these technological wonders and let me tell you, this is not your fathers bicycle.  It comes standard with a 500 watt motor, 36v lithium ion battery, 7-speed drivetrain, front and rear disc-brakes and a full motorcycle style suspension!  Optionally, you can add a second battery pack for up to a 40 mile range. (no peddling!)  Other options include saddle bags and front and rear baskets.  These are great bikes and will tempt many to get out of their cars for good.  Keep watching the blog for more news on the arrival of the A2B, by Ultra Motor.

Until next time,
Eric

Beyond Walter Mitty: Living a Dream as the 100th Delivery

Sam Perry is president of Silicon Valley startup consultancy Ascendance Ventures and a member of E2 – Environmental Entrepreneurs, the national independent business voice for the environment.
Sam gained fame last month after an intimate encounter with Oprah Winfrey was broadcast around the globe. Sam was caught in cameras standing next to the talk show icon [...]

Feel the Heat: Tesla Roadshow hits Miami during Art Basel

After departing the frozen tundra of New York City, the Tesla Roadshow migrated south to Miami, Fla. We have more than 60 customers in Florida, including many people who had purchased a Roadster sight unseen, and it was high time they became intimately familiar with the car and Powertrain 1.5.

We timed our Dec. 4-7 trip [...]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

From Glider to Roadster: Watching My Car Get Built

Bill Arnett is a software engineer who envies Renaissance and Enlightenment thinkers – people who tried to understand a large fraction of all human knowledge. During an attempt to retire and spend more time on hobbies such as photography and astronomy, Bill decided to learn HTML by creating an astronomy site. It became so popular [...]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The year of Transition

Though it's been around for longer, the Transition Towns initiative really blossomed as an international movement this year with the release of the Transition Handbook. In its home country, the United Kingdom, Transition activities led to several peak oil related resolutions (as well as a host of non-governmental community developments, like the creation of local currency). This year, the idea leapt the pond, taking root in the United States with the formation of Transition United States.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Cycle9: Change

(I wrote this a few months ago, and am finally posting it. It still seems relevant today).Change is scary. No doubt.The world is headed towards major change, or so many people think. I regularly read several websites that talk about these changes, such as The Oil Drum, and iTulip. The mood on those sites has grown dark. The sites come from very different perspectives - iTulip from the macro-economic-political view, and The Oil Drum from a resource (mainly oil) point of view. Yet they seem to converge on the same conclusion: we are now past the peak of our wealth/opulence/lifestyles, for some time to come (or, according to the pessimists, forever). The recent major failures in monetary systems are taken as signs of systemic problems that indicate we as a society and species have been living beyond our means, both financially and resource-wise.It gets worse. Visions of chaos, riots, political upheaval, and war are often brought out. At minimum, the specter of drastically declining lifestyles is brought up, or worse, of wealth destroyed. It's easy to get lost in depressive visions of possible outcomes and futures.But, for those of us doing that, it is important to step back and have some perspective.What else is new? That cliché applies to all of the change we seeing around us. Our period in history was nearly unprecedented in its lack of major war, high degree of globalism, and so much wealth distributed so widely*. There is no time in history that 30 years of adult work would generate enough wealth to support someone through a work-free retirement, except recent history. So if the pessimists are right, wealth-wise we are simply returning to "normal". I'm no happier than anyone else about loosing the ability to access the wealth for a nice retirement - but the skeptic in me long ago said that day would never come anyway. Loss of wealth is scary. Just as is loss of health, loss of a loved one, or any major change. War and political upheaval are scary too.But I do not have much control over those things. I do have some control over my own life, and how I interact with the changes.For years, I've felt change was coming, in my gut. At times it was sickening. So I've done things to prepare, like learning to live with less. One view is: hey, if we're going to loose our wealth tomorrow, why not enjoy it to the maximum today, and party it up? My own view is rather than partying until the end and then crashing suddenly into unplanned misfortune, I'd prefer to gently ease myself into the change. My purchase of an Xtracycle was one of the many steps taken in that direction. I am learning to live without using a car very often, even though I still own one. I keep extending the range of use of my bike, helped by newer battery technologies and electric assist. And also helped by my enjoyment of riding the bike.That's the thing of it. I am enjoying not using the car, except for an occasional longer trip. The bike is really fun. But wait, wasn't I saying above that change is scary? Now I am saying that I'm having fun with it. How can this contradiction be explained?As I've mentioned before, biking is more connected with my environment, it is slower, more relaxing, more enjoyable. This is a clear case where, for me, the wealth represented by an automobile does not bring happiness, but quite the opposite.Today in USA Today (10/20/08), there was an article, "Lower Gas Prices come as a relief". With the lower gas prices recently, it states: "... motorists are no longer facing the kind of gas prices that had forced them to eat out less, avoid travel, and bike to work." As if biking to work was a real hardship! Ouch. This goes to point out that the pain of change all depends on how one responds to that change. If, say, gas prices go to $10 in the future, that change will have only a moderate effect on me (mostly in food prices), because I don't depend on gas for my day-to-day activities any longer. I enjoy biking, and I have at least some insulation from future drastic change. My remaining car trips are mostly discretionary, and can be cut if necessary.The same is true of things like eating locally produced food. If one develops relationships with local farms, e.g. through a CSA membership, then if gas prices go through the roof, or if other upheavals occur, one will be more insulated to change than those dependent on groceries shipped cross country. In my own experience, doing this has many other rewards, such as getting to know the people that produce my food, visiting the farmer's market regularly, and knowing that my food is grown without supporting a big agribusiness. If, in the future, I have to ride my electric-Xtracycle 30 miles to the farm to pick up my food, I can see it as a pleasant outing rather than ordeal (especially if less fast moving SUV's are on the road).Change does not have to be painful. There may be regions of the globe where change results in very negative occurrences, such as dictatorship, war, famine, etc. Other places change could simply result in downshifting of standards of living**. Regardless, one can either choose to be happy and enjoy what they have, or to be sad and glum about what was lost and how things used to be. I think that the first step in being happy with change is being prepared for it, mentally if not physically. And then focusing on what one has, rather than what one doesn't have.I am very happy to have my health (helped by regular bicycling), have food (transported by bicycle to my home), have shelter, have transportation (by bicycle), and have the opportunity to work on things that are interesting to me. This results in a mostly positive outlook for whatever may come. That is not a positive outlook about the external circumstances, but about my own ability to deal with whatever those circumstances are. Biking is a change that doesn't have to be a hardship, despite what the mainstream media may say about it. We have a lot of customers who write to us, telling us what great enjoyment they get out of riding their bikes. We have people who couldn't ride a regular bike due to a disability, but now can with an electric assist, and really enjoy it. One such customer recently had a little glitch with her bike, and while we had it in our shop, she called every day to find out how the repair was going -- she missed her bike!It is my hope that as the change becomes more apparent, more people will discover ways to cope with the change that don't involve desperate lashing out into war or riots or whatever, in hopes of maintaining what used to be. I hope more people will find biking as a way to lessen environmental impacts, oil dependency, and health problems that are associated with automobile use. This is the core mission of Cycle 9 - these are our values. * Not widely enough, but moreso than any period in history. **Scientific studies have confirmed the following relationship between wealth and happiness:1. Being very poor, such that one can't afford food and clothing, makes people unhappy2. Being very rich, such that one can afford any material luxury, also makes people somewhat unhappy (not as unhappy as #1, though)3. Being of moderate means - enough to afford food, shelter, and clothing, but not a lot of extra - makes people the happiest.

Cycle9: Store is now open!

Our new store is open, at 601D W Main st. in Carrboro, NC.Carrboro is the sister city to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The two have "grown up" and melded together. But they still retain somewhat distinct personalities. One thing we really like about Carrboro is its bicycle infrastructure. There are lots of bike paths here, that encourage people to get out an ride more. Here's a map to the store:View Larger Map

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cleaning up the 12 volt side

Now that the high voltage electrical is starting to look good, I figured it was time to start cleaning up the 12 volt side of things.  I made a fuse/relay board to mount everything to:

 
The weather has finally started to change and today was the first day I need to move my car while it was raining (there is a short drive from my storage container to the shop). I didn’t want my electronics to get wet so I used a little shrink wrap to make a windshield and trunk lid:

It may not look so in the picture, but my shrink wrap windshield is quite easy to see through.

Cleaning up the 12 volt side

Now that the high voltage electrical is starting to look good, I figured it was time to start cleaning up the 12 volt side of things.  I made a fuse/relay board to mount everything to:

 
The weather has finally started to change and today was the first day I need to move my car while it was raining (there is a short drive from my storage container to the shop). I didn’t want my electronics to get wet so I used a little shrink wrap to make a windshield and trunk lid:

It may not look so in the picture, but my shrink wrap windshield is quite easy to see through.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

CleverCycles: A new sobriety

Via Copenhagenize — too good not to share! Art by Nick Dewar.

I’ve long loved the ephemeral art of the period between the first and second world wars, particularly Europe’s constructivist and the United States’ Works Progress Administration related work. With a deepening world economic chasm opening, and President-Elect Obama’s likely stimulus scope beginning to resemble [...]

Friday, December 12, 2008

RevengeOfTheEV: Filming Tesla (2 of 2)

Our co-producer continues her account of shooting behind the scenes at Tesla.
As we captured key meetings with department heads,  Elon stressed his commitment to ramping Tesla up – and the fact that his role was hands-on. He reminded person after person that no problem or detail was too small. The buck stopped with Elon.
Elon Musk inspects a Roadster's PEU (Power Electronics Unit).Elon Musk (left) inspects a Roadster
We pulled a marathon day, and our cameraman, Adam, worked valiantly to keep up.  Filming meetings is actually difficult to do well. You need to know the subject, know the players, and then make split-second decisions as to how to follow the action. Along the way, we captured a couple of job interviews and captured Elon’s policy of interviewing most employees in person.
One of our interviews was a young engineer. When asked about the recent layoffs he said “You have to cut your burn rate. It’s just the way business works — for start-ups especially.”
A couple of Tuesdays later, I took a cameraman back to witness an “all hands meeting” at Tesla’s Menlo Park office. Again, the back warehouse was full with cars about to be delivered. This time, we saw cars approaching VIN number 100.  Elon voiced his displeasure with an internal issue that had been passed on to the press by an employee.   Then a slide show came on, and we got a sneak peak at a photo of ‘Model S’. OMG.  I don’t usually think of sedans as sexy, but this car is gorgeous.  If and when this happens, Tesla will have trouble keeping them in stock at any price point.  My family of five might just have to be first in line.
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CleverCycles: Lo, a sign

Hat tip: BikePortland.org

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

First week with the Tesla Roadster

Chris Paine directed “Who Killed the Electric Car?” His new project is “Revenge of the Electric Car,” a documentary film and multimedia blog now in production. The film is slated for theaters in 2010.
When “Who Killed the Electric Car” premiered at Sundance in 2006, it surprised viewers with an exposé of what happened to California’s [...]

RevengeOfTheEV: Filming Tesla (1 of 2)

Warehouse full of Tesla Roadsters.Tesla Roadsters awaiting final prep and delivery to first owners.
Let me just give it away now….the first day we filmed this fall at Tesla, we got to see not one, not two, not three, but, and I counted—over 40 production Roadsters in the Menlo Park buildings. There is something about the sight of more than four million dollars of incredibly sleek, fast (they do look fast – even standing still) car flesh under one roof that really makes you tingle. It was tangible proof that the cars were…..well, that the cars were, and that the production line was moving. It’s also when and where our Director, Chris, finally got to meet his car, a real beauty. See Chris’s Blog Post about his Tesla delivery.
Once again, it’s an exciting time to be following the electric car world. We’ve been following the Tesla story since they were in “stealth” mode, in the spring of 2006. Most of you have seen those few precious seconds of Tesla footage in “Who Killed the Electric Car ?”  What most of you couldn’t guess is that when JB Straubel backed the car out of an enclosed trailer below the windmills of Altamont Pass for our film shoot, there was a gaping hole where the front grill should have been. When asked, JB replied that some details, like the entire grill, were not yet finalized. Hmmmm. A quick trip down to Home Depot for some landscaping mesh plus some metal binder clips from Office Depot gave us all we needed [the film crew mind you, not Tesla engineers] to fabricate a grill worthy of a film appearance.  Elapsed time: 35 minutes. JB was impressed! We even let him ‘keep’ our design.
That was our first brush with Tesla. Then, the company was pure California start-up – occupying a no-frills warehouse space in a little lane in the heart of Silicon Valley.  We found a bunch of geeks, EV nerds and entrepreneurs who were thrilled to be able to actually get jobs working on a technology that they thought might help change the world—and what a sexy technology!  The car we filmed that day was just a rough version of the highly refined luxury mobile offered today, but still it was the quickest 0-60 that I’d ever done.
Two years later, we took our crew back to Tesla to film the arrival of production car #1, Elon’s personal hot car. The mood in the air was pure victory, even though the car was well over a year coming than originally forecast.  Journalists jockeyed for the pole position to capture Elon’s triumphant peel out of the driveway in his new baby. The crowd was on fire.

Six months later the world had changed. The financial market had tanked, taking Tesla’s cash source with it. And the online rumor mill had changed its tune from “Gee, isn’t this an amazing technology that we wish we could all own?!” To, “Gee, how much longer do you think this company can last with dwindling cash reserves, missed delivery targets,” and a new blogger chorus:  ”Tesla sucks for making a cool car that none of us can afford to own.”
With storm clouds brewing, our “Revenge” team was lucky enough to be granted access to Tesla’s San Carlos shop to check in with Elon, and see how his first weeks as CEO were shaping up.
While I can’t tell you everything we filmed, or Elon would have to kill me. What I can tell you is that we were able to witness some serious team building and whip cracking …which we’ll share with you soon!
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Cycle9: Brick and Mortar Store? not quite yet...

Due to delays beyond our control from the power company and contractors, we haven't been able to open our doors to the public quite yet. We're clearing the hurdles one step at a time and still aiming for this weekend to be really open. We do have staff at our location during our regular business hours to answer your questions, but don't have all of our goods available for you to see and touch just yet. Stay posted everyone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Post Carbon Cities 2008 Year in Review

2008 saw a flurry of new government responses to peak oil, plus groundbreaking legislation in California. Also, the oil price spike, the intensifying global recession, and the historic US presidential election have all helped create a sea change in our thinking about energy and what it means for the economy.
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Monday, December 8, 2008

RevengeOfTheEV: AC Propulsion: Making Gas Cars Electric

The talented Kristen Reeves produced this wonderful video segment on AC Propulsion and their world class electric vehicle drive technology.  For the past 3 years AC Propulsion has been converting gasoline Scion xBs to 100% electric drive with their phenomenal AC150gen2 electric drive system.  In her video, Kristen interviews AC Propulsion President & CEO Tom Gage, and legendary actor/director and longtime EV enthusiast Tom Hanks.  Mr. Hanks purchased the very first consumer eBox back in 2006 and uses it as his primary vehicle for all SoCal commuting.
Kristen writes:  ”Imagine taking the car you drive now, and never having to stop at a gas station ever again. AC Propulsion, has been converting gas-fueled cars to electric for two decades.  This is a piece profiling AC Propulsion’s car, the eBox, with a special interview with Tom Hanks who owns one of these cars.  Is this the way of the future?”
AC Propulsion: Making Gas Cars Electric
Tom Hanks shares the joy of driving electric (an AC Propulsion eBox and Toyota RAV4-EV) in his videos below.
My Electric Car – Part 1

My Electric Car – Part 2

[Source:  Current.com,  Tom Hanks]
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No Heat - No Problem

http://electricvw.blogspot.com/2008/12/no-heat-no-problem.html

RevengeOfTheEV: Director on CNN – Purchase Orders, Not Bailouts

From December 3, 2008 broadcast of “Issues With Jane Velez-Mitchell” on Headline News
Topic: Are Bailouts the Answer to Economic Woes?
Chris Paine (director of “Who Killed the Electric Car?”) – …what the government should be doing is writing purchase orders and saying, “Hey, we want something for our money. So we’ll write you a purchase order for, you know, X billion worth of plug-in cars and hybrid trucks.” Let’s get something for our money and put people to work. It’s funny. The whole system is about a market system. And then we’re all in bailout mode. Well, instead let’s go into purchase order mode…
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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cycle9: New Store open Tuesday, Dec 9

We're getting closer on the new retail store, but we're still finishing some renovations on the building, waiting for the power company to turn the power on, and will be moving in this weekend. So, we anticipate being able to open the doors on Tuesday, December 9. We'll still be getting organized, but you can see and ride our bikes and check out what we've got on special for your holiday shopping. See you then!

Friday, December 5, 2008

All cleaned up…

All the high voltage electronics are now neatly mounted on the rear tray.  In the process of remounting everything, I removed a lot of excess wire  to clean everything up:

My goal is to make the tray removable to enable easy access to all the electronics.  To make this work, I need to “connectorize” the pack, the motor and all the low voltage control lines.  My plan is to get two beefy Anderson connectors (one for the battery pack and one for the motor) and some kind of multiconductor bayonet connector for all the low voltage lines…
Here’s a couple pictures I took a while back, but didn’t include in previous posts.
This is a shot of the roll cage/body mount:

As you can see, I still need to weld the last piece to attach the windshield pillars to the chassis.
Here’s a shot of my LED tail lights:

All cleaned up…

All the high voltage electronics are now neatly mounted on the rear tray.  In the process of remounting everything, I removed a lot of excess wire  to clean everything up:

My goal is to make the tray removable to enable easy access to all the electronics.  To make this work, I need to “connectorize” the pack, the motor and all the low voltage control lines.  My plan is to get two beefy Anderson connectors (one for the battery pack and one for the motor) and some kind of multiconductor bayonet connector for all the low voltage lines…
Here’s a couple pictures I took a while back, but didn’t include in previous posts.
This is a shot of the roll cage/body mount:

As you can see, I still need to weld the last piece to attach the windshield pillars to the chassis.
Here’s a shot of my LED tail lights:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Peak oil still relevant? More than ever.

Oil production is up, but prices are back to 2005 levels. You might think this means the pressure's off on peak oil. But a closer look at what's actually happening -- and what the peak oil concept says about the real long-term constraints on oil supplies -- reveals the low prices will actually create more problems, and sooner.
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Indicators, Grips and the Motor

http://emotorcycle.blogspot.com/2008/12/indicators-grips-and-motor.html

Indicators, Grips and the Motor

I have been getting quite motivated lately to get some work done on the bike. I have just received some led blinkers. I have ordered the 0-5v hall effect twist grip throttle that should be arriving tomorrow. I have done some more research on Mosfets and IGBT's for the motor controller. At the moment I am leaning toward a 600V IGBT. I am switching 360V which is a little on the high side for mosfets, and there are some quite quick IGBT's. I am about to start the schematic for the motor controller.The good news is that I have finally cracked open my 3kw 3 phase induction motor and had a peak at modifying the wiring to half the voltage I need to drive the motor with. I started by cutting the tape holding the wiring together and numbering each slot. The motor is a 4 pole motor with 36 slots. This gives me 12 slots per phase,and each slot is paired to make 6 coils per phase. There are the 6 wires coming into the motor and 9 wires that jump between coils. After writing all this down I then had to work out what it meant and what I have to cut to take the 6 in-series coils in half to get 2 3 in-series coils and run them in parrallel to get half the voltage. I figured out that each phase has 3 slots next to each other and then the next phase has 3, then the next and so on. This give me 4 sets of 3 slots per phase which is where the 4 pole comes from. So I have found the 3 wires I need to cut to halve the voltage. Yay!!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

RevengeOfTheEV: Hawaii opts for EVs and renewable energy

My wife, Zan, and I were recently on the Big Island, Hawaii, and while there we toured the state’s only geothermal plant. It’s located close to the town of Hilo on the island’s east side and on the flank of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.
Hawaii's 30 megawatt geothermal control room.Hawaii's 30 megawatt geothermal control room.
This is the entire control room of the 30 megawatt facility.  Two affable men explained how the whole plant worked inside of ten minutes.
Here’s the scoop:  Engineers drill a hole about 6,000 feet down where the magma has heated the surrounding area to about 400-500 degrees Farenheit. An injection well pumps water into this hot layer where it is turned to steam.  A second well is drilled close by and the steam is released into ten turbines that generate electricity.  It’s a little bit more complex than that, but not much.
Once the capital costs of setting up the facility are recouped, about ten years in this case, all they have are maintenance and operational costs since the energy source is essentially free forever. There is no pollution to speak of with these plants.
This 30 MW represents around 20% of the island’s demand for power.  Another 5% comes from wind and 5% from hydro. The rest of Hawaii’s electricity is generated by burning oil.  Yes, tankers of dirty, expensive oil are brought in and boatloads of money are shipped back to the oil companies.  Oil burning is one of the single biggest sources of pollution coming from the whole state.
Richard Dods, a consultant working with the Israeli company that owns the facility, Ormat Technologies, says that in theory, there’s enough geothermal capacity here to power all of Hawaii.  In practice however, getting power from island to island is a major challenge.  More locations are currently being scouted out     in order to place additional geothermal plants close to areas of greatest demand.
Hawaii's 30 MW geothermal power plant.Hawaii's 30 MW geothermal power plant.
Geothermal is particularly attractive since it’s a “forever” renewable power source much like wind and solar – but without the intermittency of those clean energy sources. This means it is a “base load” energy.  Clean base load energy is particularly important since that is usually generated by nukes, burning coal or, in the case of Hawaii, oil.  As Hawaii taps into more of this clean geothermal energy, they can retire, one by one, their dirty, expensive oil burners.
Here’s a shot of the facility.  It uses only about five acres out of 500 acres of property.  The whole facility employs 18 people and is very efficient all the way around.
And as a timely follow up to my story above, read yesterday’s NY Times article on Hawaii’s plan for Electric Cars after the jump.

Here is the full text of the NY Times article (in case the link goes bad).
URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/03/technology/start-ups/03hawaii.html?partner=permalink&exprod=permalink


Hawaii Endorses Plan for Electric Cars







The entrepreneur Shai Agassi, right, met with Anders Eldrup, center, a Danish energy executive, in Copenhagen last March.The entrepreneur Shai Agassi, right, met with Anders Eldrup, center, a Danish energy executive, in Copenhagen last March.

By JOHN MARKOFF
Published: December 2, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO — The State of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Electric Company on Tuesday endorsed an effort to build an alternative transportation system based on electric vehicles with swappable batteries and an “intelligent” battery recharging network.
The plan, the brainchild of the former Silicon Valley software executive Shai Agassi, is an effort to overcome the major hurdles to electric cars — slow battery recharging and limited availability.
By using existing electric car technologies, coupled with an Internet-connected web of tens of thousands of recharging stations, he thinks his company, Better Place L.L.C. of Palo Alto, Calif., will make all-electric vehicles feasible.
Mr. Agassi has succeeded in assembling a growing consortium of national governments, regional planning organizations and one major car company. Tuesday’s announcement follows earlier endorsements from Israel, Denmark, Australia, Renault-Nissan and a coalition of Northern California localities supporting the idea leading to the deployment of an electric vehicle with a range of greater than 100 miles, beginning at the end of 2010 in Israel. The company plans test deployments of vehicles in 2009 and broad commercial sales in 2012.
Mr. Agassi has raised $200 million in private financing for his idea. In October, he obtained a commitment from the Macquarie Capital Group to raise an additional $1 billion for an Australian project.
On Tuesday, he said that he was optimistic about his project despite the dismal investment and credit markets because his network could provide investors with an annuity. Users of his recharging network would subscribe to the service, paying for access and for the miles they drive.
Given the downturn in the mortgage market, he said that investors are looking for new classes of assets that will provide dependable revenue streams over many years. “I believe the new asset class is batteries,” he said. “When you have a driver in a car using a battery, nobody is going to cut their subscription and stop driving.”
Mr. Agassi has argued that even if oil prices continued to decline, his electric recharging network — which ideally would use renewable energy sources like solar and wind — could provide competitively priced energy for a new class of vehicles.
He supposes that his network idea will be appropriate first for “island” economies that typically have significantly higher energy costs, and then will become more cost-competitive as it is scaled up.
“We always knew Hawaii would be the perfect model,” he said in a telephone interview. “The typical driving plan is low and leisurely, and people are smiling.”
Hawaii is a relatively small market with high energy costs. The state has about 1.2 million cars and replaces 70,000 to 120,000 vehicles annually.
Drivers on the islands also rarely make trips of more than 100 miles, meaning there will be less need for his proposed battery recharging stations. Part of Mr. Agassi’s model depends on quick-change service stations to swap batteries for drivers who need to use their cars before they have completely recharged their batteries.
Peter Rosegg, a spokesman for the Hawaiian Electric Company, said that Better Place would become a major customer for electricity and was also planning to invest in renewable energy sources that would be connected to the electric grid.
“It’s going to be a nonexclusive agreement, but so far they’re the only one that has shown up,” Mr. Rosegg said.
In late November, the mayors of San Francisco and other major Bay Area cities endorsed the Better Place network to help create an electric recharging network by 2012. The company estimates that it will cost $1 billion to build a charging network in the Bay Area that may create as many as half a million charging stations.
Despite challenges, the Better Place model is promising, said Daniel M. Kammen, a professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. It could appeal to owners of fleets of vehicles and to early adopter customers who are willing to work through the difficulties that will inevitably accompany a new transportation system. “It has a lot of promising features,” he said.
[Source:  NY Times]
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