Saturday, January 31, 2009

EV News, Jan 31, 2009

All May Not Be Lost for the American Car: The prognosis seems grim for American car companies. They're facing lower demand etc and have already tapped Washington for $17.4 billion in emergency loans to avoid bankruptcy. The hopeful path requires rethinking not just old-line management and work practices but also how cars are sold, serviced and powered — that is, reinventing the industry and the car itself.
External Media

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CivicConversion: The Plan, Civic EV 2.0

I am developing a plan for installing the newly acquired EV parts. For the time being, I am going to continue to use the motor I have and get that blower installed, which I now have all the parts for. I have done some range tests, and will do some more to gather data.My plan is to install the new motor, but in order to do that I need new adapter plates and motor mounts. I am going to put the motor on the bench and clean it up, adjust the brush timing and get the commutator cleaned up. It has been sitting for 7 years, but spins up just fine. This is the list of things I want to do:

  • Remove Transmission and have new plates made for the FB1-4001A
  • Upgrade to a stiffer Coilover system
  • Rewire EV with the better 2/0 gauge cable and proper lugs
  • Mount PakTrakr and AMP meter to dash
  • Build metal frame for the battery racks
  • Rebuild front control tray
  • Setup K&W BC-20 Charger

This is pretty much Civic EV 2.0 because of all the upgrades/changes.I am saving up the money required for the new plates, and hope to have the new Coilovers ordered soon. My plan is to get the motor/transmission to the machine shop, and while they work on it I will work on the rest of the EV. My time is limited due to classes, and I spent two weeks on the plates before, probably 40+ hours of cutting work, and just don't have the time. Everything else is small, probably a weekend's woth of work and a few people already have shown an interest in helping out.

RevengeOfTheEV: The EV Curveball

Welcome back to guest blogger Andrew Grin …
Andrew Grin and his modified Hyndai TusconAndrew Grin and his modified Hyundai Tuscon
As a new driver, learning on the roads of Kansas City, I pass by Suburbans and Tahoes on a daily basis.
“Who Killed the Electric Car?” made me realize the huge impact that these big SUV’s have on our environment and our country.  The film inspired me then as a young 14 year-old to take a stand against the flawed status quo.  At that moment I made a promise to myself to never call a gas car my own. I have stuck by that promise, and am now the proud owner of a newly converted 2005 Hyundai Tucson electric vehicle.
The first question anyone asks after turning 16 is ‘Did you get your license yet?’ – which ultimately leads to ‘What kind of car are you driving?’  In the midst of conversations during lunch about engines and audio systems, I like to throw in my curveball : “I drive an electric car.”  Some have no clue what I am talking about, while the car junkies have heard of plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt. The usual questions that follow are “how far?” and “how fast?”
Very simply, the Tucson travels far enough for my daily needs (about 50 miles), and it can travel up to highway speeds (75+). I love answering questions, and, after hearing me talk, almost no one doubts the viability of a plug-in car.
The Suburbans of my middle American town are going to have to get used to me rolling by in my converted electric car. The future is coming, not only in the form of a sporty Tesla, or any brand new car, but also something for the average America. A converted electric car.
car
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Friday, January 30, 2009

RevengeOfTheEV: Smart Meters and Electric Cars

This is a well written story in the Pasadena Star News about how the utilities are gearing up for the coming plug-in vehicles. While many people are wringing their hands over how the grid, old and cranky as it is, will be able to handle the millions of EVs that will be on our roads in the years to come, several forward-thinking utilities are beginning to implement the smart meters that will enable the grid to handle the added load by timing the charging to when the capacity is there to handle it.
Edward Kjaer, the director of electric transportation for Southern California Edison, demonstrates how the Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle or MiEV plugs into their Garage of the Future at their Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona on Thursday, January 22, 2009.Ed Kjaer, the director of electric transportation for Southern California Edison, demonstrates how the Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle or MiEV plugs into their Garage of the Future at their Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona on Thursday, January 22, 2009. (Photo by Eric Tom)
“The idea is for electric cars to take advantage of “off-peak” hours of low energy demand late at night, when the lights are out and TVs are off, but power plants are still producing, explained Ed Kjaer, director of electric transportation at Edison.”
The new digital meters are being installed by the thousands in many utility districts, and in SoCal Edison’s case, they expect to be fully installed by 2012. That should be in plenty of time since even the most optimistic of us (that would be me:~) don’t expect much more than a million vehicles delivered nationwide by 2012. To be honest, we’ll be very lucky to see that many. The grid today could handle many millions of EVs charging late at night when rates are lowest.
While the timing of charging can be handled through the use of these smart meters, this does not preclude the need for upgrading the grid, a project that will save massive numbers of kWh that are currently being wasted due to the incredibly old and cobbled together grid we’ve got now. By 2012, we should have made some progress on this, just in time to re-elect Obama to his second term.
Paul
Here’s the full text of the entire article, in case the link goes bad:
http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_11539009
Smart meters and electric cars: a match made in efficiency
By Rebecca Kimitch, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/23/2009 02:49:34 PM PST
Edward Kjaer, the director of electric transportation for Southern California Edison, demonstrates how the Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle or MiEV plugs into their Garage of the Future at their Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona on Thursday, January 22, 2009. The garage studies the integration of the electric vehicle into the power grid system where it either charges or discharges to accommodate the owner’s electricity needs. (Eric Tom, Correspondent) The picture of our carbon-free energy future is often depicted by a sea of solar panels shimmering in the sun, or orderly lines of giant white wind mills covering a hillside: large structures that capture nature’s gifts. But an increasingly important energy resource is little more than a digital electric meter.
And it is this meter that will make possible the widespread use of electric vehicles, according to representatives of Rosemead-based Southern California Edison.
Automakers unveiled more than a dozen production-ready, plug-in electric and hybrid electric vehicles at the Detroit auto show earlier this month, many of which will be on dealership lots between 2010 and 2012.
Several automakers, including Ford, have partnered with Edison to ensure those cars can get their electricity from somewhere.
“When we look at the electrification of vehicles, there are a lot of different issues involved,” said Ford spokeswoman Jennifer Moore. “There is the technology, there is the market, but there is a bigger question than that: it’s also very much about connecting to the nation’s (electrical) grid and where the electricity comes from.”
With a national electrical system that at times and places is severely strained and in need of expansion, the last thing anyone wants is for electric vehicles to be powered by building more emission-producing power plants.
Edison’s answer: new meters.
The idea is for electric cars to take advantage of “off-peak” hours of low energy demand late at night, when the lights are out and TVs are off, but power plants are still producing, explained Ed Kjaer, director of electric transportation at Edison.
“We have a huge amount of generation capacity in the U.S.,” Kjaer said. “But it is an inefficient system. You have to build power plants to meet the peaks when every single air conditioner is going full blast.”
Though some types of power generation can easily be
Edward Kjaer, the director of electric transportation for Southern California Edison, describes some of the systems that are used in their Garage of the Future at their Electric Vehicle Technical Center in Pomona. (Eric Tom, Correspondent) turned off and on, others like nuclear and wind continue producing whether the electricity is used or not. Studies have found that electric vehicles could be charged with electricity produced under the current system, if done at the right time, agreed National Resources Defense Council scientist Simon Mui.
It might seem that simply plugging in your Chevy Volt or Ford Escape before bedtime would do. But increased use of electric vehicles could lead to everyone plugging in at the same time, peaking demand and complicating things, particularly if electric vehicles take hold of entire neighborhoods, as car trends often do, Kjaer explained.
So instead, Edison and auto manufacturers are turning to “smart metering” technologies. Such technologies allow consumers and, potentially appliances, to be aware of how much electricity is being consumed everywhere so that they can try to consume when other people are not.
While traditional meters do nothing more than report to electric utilities how much electricity is consumed in a given amount of time, smart meters give real-time information and allow for two-way communication between the power grid and consumers.
This would allow utilities to stagger when electric cars are charging, or charge up power all at once if generation is high.
Plug-in hybrids require about as many annual kilowatt hours of power as two or three plasma TVs or air conditioners, according to Mark Duvall, director of electric transportation for the Electric Power Research Institute.
Edison figures it will have smart meters installed in all its customers’ homes by the end of 2012, in compliance with California Public Utility Commission requirements.
Smart meters have uses far beyond electric vehicles. Future appliances, such as dishwashers or dryers, could also react to real- time electricity use before deciding when to power on.
Because wind typically blows harder at night, environmentalists are particularly excited about its potential on such a system, Mui said.
To be sure, smart meters alone will not produce highways full of electric cars. The sticker prices of all-electric and plug-in hybrids will be well beyond the reach of average consumers for several years, hardly dipping below $30,000, Kjaer said.
Early support from those who can afford them, as well as the federal government, will be necessary, he said.
The economic stimulus package currently before Congress could include incentives for both buyers of electric vehicles and electric vehicle battery manufacturers.
While it is not the first time a future of electric cars has been on the horizon, industry experts say this time its for real.
“I have never before felt that we were at this point,” Duvall said. “The auto industry is aligned, the public is aligned, even the president is aligned. He even knows what a plug-in hybrid is.”
“We are dealing now with a perfect storm,” agreed Kjaer. Energy security, the politics and marketing of oil and concerns about climate change are creating an unprecedented global push toward electric vehicles. And President Barack Obama told the country during his inaugural address: “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”
And we will use meters.
rebecca.kimitch@sgvn.com
(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2105
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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Chevy Volt to be known as Vauxhall Ampera in Europe

Volts? Amps? What makes an electric car move is watts, which are made of volts and amps. So calling the Chevy Volt by the name Ampera makes a certain amount of sense. Maybe. Whatever. This is the brilliant mind of marketing at work. So long as it moves butts around town without burning fossil fuels, that's a good thing.
It's due to go on sale in 2011. There are due to be some changes e.g. in nose design. Initially it will be built in the U.S. but eventually made at the Vauxhall plant in the U.K.

Article Reference: 
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Headlights, head liner and more!

The list of “stuff to do” before I put the body on is growing short.  Here’s what I got done this week:
I built some new brackets for the headlights. It’s now easy to adjust the position and angle of the lights.:




I installed the battery hold-downs.

I applied some bright orange tape to the high voltage lines.

I used some fairing compound on the area where the headliner will eventually go.  I want this to be nice and smooth.

I built some brackets for the AC condenser.


Stuff left to do before the body goes on permanently:

  • Weld up some body mount brackets to support things like the rear quarter panels and other pieces of fiberglass not in direct contact with the chassis.
  • Add some steel around each of the door/trunk latches.
  • Add a support for the rear hood.
  • Mount the motor controller radiator.
  • Add some steel around each of the hinge locations for the trunk lids.

Headlights, head liner and more!

The list of “stuff to do” before I put the body on is growing short.  Here’s what I got done this week:
I built some new brackets for the headlights. It’s now easy to adjust the position and angle of the lights.:




I installed the battery hold-downs.

I applied some bright orange tape to the high voltage lines.

I used some fairing compound on the area where the headliner will eventually go.  I want this to be nice and smooth.

I built some brackets for the AC condenser.


Stuff left to do before the body goes on permanently:

  • Weld up some body mount brackets to support things like the rear quarter panels and other pieces of fiberglass not in direct contact with the chassis.
  • Add some steel around each of the door/trunk latches.
  • Add a support for the rear hood.
  • Mount the motor controller radiator.
  • Add some steel around each of the hinge locations for the trunk lids.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Retrospective: design decisions

http://volt914.blogspot.com/2009/01/retrospective-design-decisions.html

RevengeOfTheEV: Bright’s Plug-In Car: Aerodynamics Are Key

bright This new company, Bright Automotive, is founded by ex-GM EV1 people, and the super efficient Rocky Mountain Institute to make plug-in hybrids in Indiana.
Like Paul MacCready’s original design for the Impact that established the world’s lowest drag coefficient of .195, Bright will be building cars that “do more with less”, a philosophy MacCready was famous for (and the title of a wonderful biography on him). It’ll be interesting to see how their vehicles compare to all the rest in terms of efficiency.
bw_hp
At the end of this article, Prof. Andy Frank makes the observation that parallel hybrids (Toyota Prius) are cheaper than series hybrids (Chevy Volt). This runs counter to what I’ve been led to believe, so since Mr. Frank is on this list, I’m asking him if he’ll explain why this is. I’m still not convinced.
Paul
Think Tank’s Plug-In Car: Aerodynamics Are Key
Bright Automotive says it soon release an electric car with a 100 mile per gallon plus plug-in – and the company says it will keep the car economically priced.
By Michael Kanellos, for Greentech Media
“The slimming of the battery essentially comes because of a focus on weight, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, new construction materials and other design factors, he said in an interview. By reducing wind resistance and weight, the company’s engineers effectively are reducing the amount of work an electric engine will have to perform to get the car up to driving speeds, which in turn conserves battery power.”

Here is the full text of the entire article in case the link goes bad:
http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/think-tanks-plug-in-car-aerodynam...
Think Tank’s Plug-In Car: Aerodynamics Are Key Bright Automotive says it soon release an electric car with a 100 mile per gallon plus plug-in – and the company says it will keep the car economically priced.
by: Michael Kanellos
January 21, 2009
How can you quickly improve the performance of the battery in an electric car? Lose weight.
Bright Automotive, which spun out of the Rocky Mountain Institute in January, is building a plug-in hybrid vehicle that will get 100 miles a gallon (see Green Lightpost). Just as important, Bright is going to try to keep the car economically priced, in part by reducing the size of the battery.
The battery pack in Bright’s car, conceivably, could be made 40 percent smaller than the batteries in similar plug-ins, according to CEO John Waters. To date, the relatively high cost of batteries has kept electric and plug-in vehicles at the fringes of the auto industry.
The slimming of the battery essentially comes because of a focus on weight, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, new construction materials and other design factors, he said in an interview. By reducing wind resistance and weight, the company’s engineers effectively are reducing the amount of work an electric engine will have to perform to get the car up to driving speeds, which in turn conserves battery power.
“It’s a revolutionary platform,” he said. “The platform that’s been on the road today is 100 years old. [The traditional technique for making cars] uses a lot of steel.”
Granted, nearly every other electric car company is trying to increase performance through aerodynamics and new construction materials. Bright will also face the same challenges in raising capital and moving from crafting prototypes to producing commercial vehicles. But it does have experience on its side. Waters worked on the battery for the General Motors EV1 and also worked at Ener1, which makes lithium-ion batteries. Many of the other executives have years of experience in the auto business.
Weight and poor design result in a disproportionate amount of fuel consumption in vehicles, Waters said. The U.S. Post Office operates 162,000 delivery trucks that get around 10 miles per gallon, he said, and these trucks drive around 18 miles a day. If those trucks are put into use 300 working days a year, that’s 87.5 million gallons of gas consumed by those white little trucks trolling your neighborhood. Boosting mileage to 100 miles per gallon conceivably could save nearly 80 million gallons of gas.
A one cent increase in the price of fuel raises the operating budget of the federal government by $8 million, Waters said.
“That’s a lot of money the federal government is putting into fuel,” he said.
Waters wouldn’t provide a lot of details on the vehicle. Bright has built a “mule” or concept prototype with a working drive train that it demonstrated to select guests and policy makers in December. In May, the company plans to show off a commercial prototype at the Electronic Vehicle Show in Stavanger, Norway. A commercial release, ideally, could occur three or so years from now.
The car will go 30 miles on batteries before the gas engine kicks in and be street-legal. (Some manufacturers such as Zenn Motor broke into electric cars with limited speed vehicles that top out at 25 or 35 miles per hour.) Together, the gas and electric engines will give the car a 400 mile range, or far farther than the fully electric $109,000 Tesla Roadster.
Although Bright will pursue the mass market, we mostly discussed the delivery vehicle market.
Bright’s vehicle will also likely keep the series versus parallel debate alive in the hybrid world. In a series hybrid, the electric engine propels the car down the road. The onboard gas engine largely exists to recharge the batteries for the electric engine. The Chevy Volt is based around a series hybrid design and so is the Karma coming later this year from Fisker Automotive.
The series hybrid architecture, however, is complex, say critics. In a parallel hybrid, both the gas engine and electric engine are used to propel the car. The Prius is a parallel hybrid and Toyota plans to use a parallel hybrid architecture in its first plug-in hybrid. UC Davis professor Andy Frank, the so-called father of the plug-in, has formed a company, called Efficient Drivetrains Inc., that will make components for parallel hybrids (see Green Light post).
“They think [series hybrids are] cheaper but [they] is not. In order to get the same performance, you have to get a much bigger electric motor,” Frank said in an interview in August.
Bright is based around a parallel hybrid.
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Saturday, January 24, 2009

PeakOilDebunked: 392. BOOK REVIEW: "THE MYTH OF THE OIL CRISIS"

[This post is by Ari, my co-blogger at POD. --JD]The Myth of the Oil Crisis (MotOC) is a very recently published book (2008) by Robin Mills on the subject of oil, natural gas, and more broadly, energy. As the title suggests, Mills tackles the notion that we are on the brink of an “oil crisis,” known online largely by the monicker “peak oil,” from which the world will never recover. If Campbell and Laherrére are the professionals that gave the peak oil movement its credentialed weight (by being professional geologists), then Mills is perhaps the antithesis for the “debunking” movement. While the book is flawed, it presents a broad optimistic view of energy reserve availability and potential for development and supply of those reserves in the foreseeable future. What makes the book most important, however, is that Mills demonstrates, using easily accessed sources, that the imminent peak arguments are highly flawed and irrational.Robin Mills is, according to his biographical blurb, “an oil industry professional with a background in both geology and economics. Currently (as of 2008), he is Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai. Previously, he worked for Shell.” Mills is a fairly impressive person, even not including his graduate degree from Cambridge University (in petroleum geology), Then again, so are many of those who currently write about oil depletion from the “peak oil” side. What makes Mills different? For one, he's relatively young (born in 1976). But more importantly, he is someone who is currently in the thick of the oil business in the Middle East itself. Unlike many “peakniks,” Mills actively participates in the energy production business as I write this review. He is not some “armchair analyst” like many of us, and has more of a “veteran view” than many others seem to demonstrate.Mills sets the stage by placing the oil commentators into five camps (examples chosen by me): The Geologists (Campbell, Laherrére, Deffeyes), The Economists (Odell, Lynch, CERA), The Militarists (who are actually made up of the militarists, media, and mercantilists), the Environmentalists (Greenpeace et al.), and the Neo-Luddites (Heinberg). It is important, I believe, to note that “The Geologists” doesn't refer to petroleum geologists, per se, but because they worked at some point in their careers as professional geologists. Mills notes that they can also be referred to as “Malthusians,” which is a fairly fitting appellation. Some may object to the rather broad categories that Mills uses to group the various commentators, however. After all, some actors clearly align with more than one camp. Nonetheless, it serves as a useful way to group the widely divergent views of the oil commentary community.Mills' book's greatest strength is its ability to deconstruct the most frightening of the peak prophecies and show how they are either incorrect, or at the very least, misguided. He is thorough in demonstrating, through both data, and clear, well-sourced arguments, how the extreme pessimists of the energy commentary community are generally incorrect in their arguments and assumptions. He even demonstrates how Hubbert, commonly hailed as a sort of “peak oil prophet” (words mine), was hardly as accurate as he is shown to be. In fact, Mills scrutinizes Hubbert in the fourth chapter, entitled “Half-Full or Half-Empty?” Hubbert, despite his supposed accuracy, was actually fairly inaccurate on a lot of important issues, as Mills demonstrates in the following bullet points:

  • Hubbert actually proposed 1965 as his most likely peak date (US oil production); 1970 was a fallback if secondary recovery proved to be more successful than he expected (as it did)
  • Although arguably correct on the date of the peak, he was wrong about its height: total annual US production in 1970 was 20 percent (emphasis mine) higher than he expected...
  • He forecast that world oil production would peak between 1995 and 2000 at 33 million bbl/day. The true figure was 75 million bbl/day in 2000, and it has continued to rise subsequently.(MotOC pg. 42.)

Mills also demonstrates that the Hubbert curve, despite being seen as a sort of sacred truth of petroleum geology, fits many countries' production curves rather badly (notably the UK and Iraq) (pp 40-41.) He also-- rather adeptly, in my opinion-- demonstrates that peakniks are extremely pessimistic relative to nearly every other professional estimate of reserves. In fact, where Campbell says that the world has a total endowment of around 2000 billion bbl of oil, even the second most pessimistic estimate (Bentley) gives the world over 3000 billion bbl of oil-- that's a significant difference! Moreover, both Campbell and Bentley are over 1000 bbl behind the most conservative “non-peaknik” estimate of over 4000 billion bbl by CERA (supposed "Pollyannas," no less!). A key difference, Mills notes, is that everyone but The Geologists allows for significant reserves growth. An example of this is the reserve growth of around 69 billion bbl from the 2000 USGS review to its 2005 self audit, which amounts to nearly half of Campbell's YtF (yet to find)! If nothing else, the book demonstrates rather clearly that the peaknik community is beset in all directions by an institutionalized form of pessimism that rarely follows reality.Another strength of Mills' book is the credence he pays toward economic factors. He shows, throughout the book, that economic factors play a significant role in energy production. One of the often ignored (or derided) factors in energy is the capital needed to keep it running smoothly. The Geologists see geography as the ultimate factor in deciding energy availability, but they are far too willing to ignore the fact that even assuming you have a powerful physical limitation in place, you cannot drill oil if you lack rigs and manpower. Unfortunately, we live in a world today where the physical and human capital needed to run the oil industry has become significantly scarcer than in decades past-- this is largely a consequence of the previous decades of incredibly cheap oil. These same low prices drove OPEC to reduce production as well, which allowed oil commentators (Simmons, for example) to say that Saudi Arabia is in a state of decline. Unfortunately for Simmons, KSA was merely responding rationally to low prices by reducing production. The reader will see a lot of this kind of debunking throughout the book. For some, it will be interesting to see the shriller voices of energy commentary dismantled. For many readers of this blog, however, it will be a rehashing of what has been said here by JD and others. Nonetheless, it is important stuff, and Mills does a good job of taking out some of the more pernicious fallacies with sound economic thinking.Other topics that Mills deals with are unconventional oil, backdating (one of the more irritating traits of The Geologists), natural gas, geopolitics, demand, and finally the environment. I am glad to say that he does a good job of dealing with unconventional oil (it's not as impossible to produce as some say), backdating (basically, contemporary reserve growth is moved back in the past in order to make it look like we ain't finding more!), natural gas (energy of the future, he argues), and demand (not necessarily going to grow exponentially forever.) I was less impressed with his environmental arguments, mostly because I think he arrives from a strange foundation (The Stern Report). Regardless of my misgivings with his use of what I see as an unnecessarily alarmist paper, I believe it is a positive step to see petroleum executives treating CO2 emissions as a serious issue.However, like I said at the beginning, there are problems with MotOC. For one, it is somewhat too technical for most laypersons to read without some difficulty. Mills does a commendable job with explaining the terminology as best as he can, but I sometimes found myself flipping to the glossary to relearn terms that I had forgotten from previous chapters. I also found myself occasionally having to reread sentences to figure out what Mills meant because he occasionally inserted sentences of length and complexity that would make Proust weary. While this is fine for an academic market that is used to dealing with long, convoluted prose, the book seems to be marketed more broadly toward a “well-educated” market. While Mills' sometimes awkward prose is not an overly serious issue, it does detract from the experience.Overall, however, I recommend this book to the “armchair energy analysts” and anyone else who is interested in the topic of energy markets. It may not be groundbreaking for those of us who read this particular blog on a regular basis, but it is a useful text in the sense that it puts a great deal of important data at your fingertips, as well as giving a great deal of insight into the market itself. It is a challenging read, but it is definitely worth the time spent. I doubt it will turn any “doomers” or “peakniks” into optimists, but it will definitely put a lot of things into context for both “debunkers” and those sitting on the fence about the future. It is also, in my opinion, a good text to recommend to friends who stumble on to the “peak oil” scene for the first time, if only to give them insight into how flawed most of the doomsday arguments really are.by Ari

PeakOilDebunked: 392. BOOK REVIEW: "THE MYTH OF THE OIL CRISIS"

[This post is by Ari, my co-blogger at POD. --JD]The Myth of the Oil Crisis (MotOC) is a very recently published book (2008) by Robin Mills on the subject of oil, natural gas, and more broadly, energy. As the title suggests, Mills tackles the notion that we are on the brink of an “oil crisis,” known online largely by the monicker “peak oil,” from which the world will never recover. If Campbell and Laherrére are the professionals that gave the peak oil movement its credentialed weight (by being professional geologists), then Mills is perhaps the antithesis for the “debunking” movement. While the book is flawed, it presents a broad optimistic view of energy reserve availability and potential for development and supply of those reserves in the foreseeable future. What makes the book most important, however, is that Mills demonstrates, using easily accessed sources, that the imminent peak arguments are highly flawed and irrational.Robin Mills is, according to his biographical blurb, “an oil industry professional with a background in both geology and economics. Currently (as of 2008), he is Petroleum Economics Manager for the Emirates National Oil Company in Dubai. Previously, he worked for Shell.” Mills is a fairly impressive person, even not including his graduate degree from Cambridge University (in petroleum geology), Then again, so are many of those who currently write about oil depletion from the “peak oil” side. What makes Mills different? For one, he's relatively young (born in 1976). But more importantly, he is someone who is currently in the thick of the oil business in the Middle East itself. Unlike many “peakniks,” Mills actively participates in the energy production business as I write this review. He is not some “armchair analyst” like many of us, and has more of a “veteran view” than many others seem to demonstrate.Mills sets the stage by placing the oil commentators into five camps (examples chosen by me): The Geologists (Campbell, Laherrére, Deffeyes), The Economists (Odell, Lynch, CERA), The Militarists (who are actually made up of the militarists, media, and mercantilists), the Environmentalists (Greenpeace et al.), and the Neo-Luddites (Heinberg). It is important, I believe, to note that “The Geologists” doesn't refer to petroleum geologists, per se, but because they worked at some point in their careers as professional geologists. Mills notes that they can also be referred to as “Malthusians,” which is a fairly fitting appellation. Some may object to the rather broad categories that Mills uses to group the various commentators, however. After all, some actors clearly align with more than one camp. Nonetheless, it serves as a useful way to group the widely divergent views of the oil commentary community.Mills' book's greatest strength is its ability to deconstruct the most frightening of the peak prophecies and show how they are either incorrect, or at the very least, misguided. He is thorough in demonstrating, through both data, and clear, well-sourced arguments, how the extreme pessimists of the energy commentary community are generally incorrect in their arguments and assumptions. He even demonstrates how Hubbert, commonly hailed as a sort of “peak oil prophet” (words mine), was hardly as accurate as he is shown to be. In fact, Mills scrutinizes Hubbert in the fourth chapter, entitled “Half-Full or Half-Empty?” Hubbert, despite his supposed accuracy, was actually fairly inaccurate on a lot of important issues, as Mills demonstrates in the following bullet points:

  • Hubbert actually proposed 1965 as his most likely peak date (US oil production); 1970 was a fallback if secondary recovery proved to be more successful than he expected (as it did)
  • Although arguably correct on the date of the peak, he was wrong about its height: total annual US production in 1970 was 20 percent (emphasis mine) higher than he expected...
  • He forecast that world oil production would peak between 1995 and 2000 at 33 million bbl/day. The true figure was 75 million bbl/day in 2000, and it has continued to rise subsequently.(MotOC pg. 42.)

Mills also demonstrates that the Hubbert curve, despite being seen as a sort of sacred truth of petroleum geology, fits many countries' production curves rather badly (notably the UK and Iraq) (pp 40-41.) He also-- rather adeptly, in my opinion-- demonstrates that peakniks are extremely pessimistic relative to nearly every other professional estimate of reserves. In fact, where Campbell says that the world has a total endowment of around 2000 billion bbl of oil, even the second most pessimistic estimate (Bentley) gives the world over 3000 billion bbl of oil-- that's a significant difference! Moreover, both Campbell and Bentley are over 1000 bbl behind the most conservative “non-peaknik” estimate of over 4000 billion bbl by CERA (supposed "Pollyannas," no less!). A key difference, Mills notes, is that everyone but The Geologists allows for significant reserves growth. An example of this is the reserve growth of around 69 billion bbl from the 2000 USGS review to its 2005 self audit, which amounts to nearly half of Campbell's YtF (yet to find)! If nothing else, the book demonstrates rather clearly that the peaknik community is beset in all directions by an institutionalized form of pessimism that rarely follows reality.Another strength of Mills' book is the credence he pays toward economic factors. He shows, throughout the book, that economic factors play a significant role in energy production. One of the often ignored (or derided) factors in energy is the capital needed to keep it running smoothly. The Geologists see geography as the ultimate factor in deciding energy availability, but they are far too willing to ignore the fact that even assuming you have a powerful physical limitation in place, you cannot drill oil if you lack rigs and manpower. Unfortunately, we live in a world today where the physical and human capital needed to run the oil industry has become significantly scarcer than in decades past-- this is largely a consequence of the previous decades of incredibly cheap oil. These same low prices drove OPEC to reduce production as well, which allowed oil commentators (Simmons, for example) to say that Saudi Arabia is in a state of decline. Unfortunately for Simmons, KSA was merely responding rationally to low prices by reducing production. The reader will see a lot of this kind of debunking throughout the book. For some, it will be interesting to see the shriller voices of energy commentary dismantled. For many readers of this blog, however, it will be a rehashing of what has been said here by JD and others. Nonetheless, it is important stuff, and Mills does a good job of taking out some of the more pernicious fallacies with sound economic thinking.Other topics that Mills deals with are unconventional oil, backdating (one of the more irritating traits of The Geologists), natural gas, geopolitics, demand, and finally the environment. I am glad to say that he does a good job of dealing with unconventional oil (it's not as impossible to produce as some say), backdating (basically, contemporary reserve growth is moved back in the past in order to make it look like we ain't finding more!), natural gas (energy of the future, he argues), and demand (not necessarily going to grow exponentially forever.) I was less impressed with his environmental arguments, mostly because I think he arrives from a strange foundation (The Stern Report). Regardless of my misgivings with his use of what I see as an unnecessarily alarmist paper, I believe it is a positive step to see petroleum executives treating CO2 emissions as a serious issue.However, like I said at the beginning, there are problems with MotOC. For one, it is somewhat too technical for most laypersons to read without some difficulty. Mills does a commendable job with explaining the terminology as best as he can, but I sometimes found myself flipping to the glossary to relearn terms that I had forgotten from previous chapters. I also found myself occasionally having to reread sentences to figure out what Mills meant because he occasionally inserted sentences of length and complexity that would make Proust weary. While this is fine for an academic market that is used to dealing with long, convoluted prose, the book seems to be marketed more broadly toward a “well-educated” market. While Mills' sometimes awkward prose is not an overly serious issue, it does detract from the experience.Overall, however, I recommend this book to the “armchair energy analysts” and anyone else who is interested in the topic of energy markets. It may not be groundbreaking for those of us who read this particular blog on a regular basis, but it is a useful text in the sense that it puts a great deal of important data at your fingertips, as well as giving a great deal of insight into the market itself. It is a challenging read, but it is definitely worth the time spent. I doubt it will turn any “doomers” or “peakniks” into optimists, but it will definitely put a lot of things into context for both “debunkers” and those sitting on the fence about the future. It is also, in my opinion, a good text to recommend to friends who stumble on to the “peak oil” scene for the first time, if only to give them insight into how flawed most of the doomsday arguments really are.by Ari

Possible Design Defect

http://electricvw.blogspot.com/2009/01/possible-design-defect.html

Friday, January 23, 2009

RevengeOfTheEV: Plug-in America’s Inaugural Parade

Guest Blogger Colby Trudeau takes us behind the scenes at Plug In America’s Inaugural Parade
All photos take by our Production Photographer, Todd Westphal.
What an amazing day! Last Saturday, January 17th, 2009, 77 highway capable plug-in vehicles, their drivers, and spectators came together to celebrate the upcoming inauguration.
Jordan Howard, member of the "Green Ambassadors" youth group.
After gathering in the parking lot of Santa Monica Civic Center for a press conference, the cars silently paraded out into the city streets armed with signs, American flags, and enthusiastic passengers.
Chris Paine in his Tesla as he drove in the Plug In America Inaugural Parade.Chris Paine in his Tesla as he drove in the Plug In America Inaugural Parade.
It all started when we heard that Plug In America had not been accepted into the 2009 Inaugural Parade. One of our board members, Paul Scott, suggested having our own parade here on the West Coast.
We started organizing and planning – with an initial goal of 30 plug-ins for the parade. Less than three weeks later, we found ourselves driving through the streets of Santa Monica surrounded by nearly 80 plug-in vehicles, including a number of prototypes from major auto manufacturers.
Yet again, our supporters amazed us with their numbers. After confirming 74 plug-ins for the parade, not only did every single one of them show up, but also three more unexpectedly arrived.
In addition to drivers and their families, numerous EV enthusiasts from around the US and Canada came to Santa Monica for our event.
The EV movement is here and no one can stop it!
coolsign
Plug In America is very excited with the Obama administration’s plans for one million plug-ins by 2015, but we would like to see it happen even faster.
Plug In America calls for one million plug-ins by 2012, the end of the new president’s first term, and 10 million by 2016.
I was absolutely astounded at how well this parade went and I can only imagine what the future holds.
This event was the first of many steps that the EV movement will take on its journey with the new presidential administration.
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Thursday, January 22, 2009

RevengeOfTheEV: Will CARB’s New Rules Damage EV Startups?

36aa_feature1_1_jpg-originalPaul Guzyk and Daniel Sherwood of 3Prong Power. Photograph by Chris Duffey.
3Prong Power converts existing Toyota Priuses into plug-in hybrids that can run entirely on electricity.
The company  launched last month at Green Motors in Berkeley, California.  But  it now looks like the California Air  Resources Board (CARB) is about to adopt some new regulations which could put it out of business quickly.
3Prong says the two new sets of regulations, scheduled to be voted on at CARB’s January 22-23rd meeting, insert hundreds of thousands of dollars of unfair and unneccesary costs into the process.  Some immediately – such as the requirement for somewhere between 20-100,000 dollars in testing –  but it’s the 10 year 150,000 mile warranty on the batteries themselves that’s the dealbreaker.
Some have suggested that these new regulations are a way to give large car manufacturers the upper hand, by starving out the smaller companies that are just starting to enter the market:
“They’re suppressing the little guys — the people who work out of their garages, the people who create,” said Robb Protheroe, owner of Plug-In Supply, which provides electric batteries to 3Prong Power and four other small companies around the state. “It’s Who Killed the Electric Car 2.0.”
Who’s Killing the Plug-In Hybrid?
The same state agency that drove the electric car off a cliff is now poised to wreck a new Berkeley company that triples the gas mileage of a Toyota Prius.
By Robert Gammon for the East Bay Express
Here is the full text of the entire article, in case the link goes bad:
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/news/who_s_killing_the_plug_in_hybrid_/Con...
East Bay Express    Who’s Killing the Plug-In Hybrid?
The same state agency that drove the electric car off a cliff is now poised to wreck a new Berkeley company that triples the gas mileage of a Toyota Prius.
By Robert Gammon   January 14, 2009
Daniel Sherwood and Paul Guzyk never dreamed they would be accused of harming the planet. After all, the primary goal of their Berkeley startup company, 3Prong Power, is to curb greenhouse gas emissions. They convert Toyota Prius hybrids into mostly electric vehicles that get 100 to 150 miles per gallon. But a powerful state agency is poised to put 3Prong Power out of business and deal a severe blow to a promising new industry.
Next week, the California Air Resources Board is expected to adopt strict new regulations based on the theory that the innovative technology sold by 3Prong Power and other companies may be bad for the environment. Sherwood and Guzyk say that if the board adopts the new rules at its January 22 and 23 meeting, it likely will force them to shutter their business, which just had its grand opening last month at Green Motors on San Pablo Avenue.
In addition, proponents of the nascent plug-in hybrid industry say the air resources board also may snuff out a key component of what environmentalists believe will be the next generation of eco-friendly cars, thereby hampering our ability to wean ourselves from foreign oil, avoid petroleum wars in the Middle East, and slow the potentially devastating effects of global warming. “It’s simply too early for government regulation of plug-in hybrids,” said Felix Kramer, a leader of CalCars.org, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit that has led the fight for plug-in vehicles. “Acting too soon will shut off innovation and will kill companies that are just getting started.”
Air resources board employees say the new regulations are not designed to squelch technological breakthroughs or bankrupt new businesses. They say they are merely trying to protect consumers’ rights and ensure that the new technology doesn’t roll back their attempts to limit cancer-causing emissions. After all, the board’s main function is to regulate smog — not greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Indeed, the story of the board’s attempt to regulate plug-in hybrids has turned out to be a battle between an agency whose primary mission is to protect Californians from breathing unhealthy air and a group of environmentalists and engineers who are fighting to slow global warming. The new proposed rules also appear to contradict the board’s own recent attempts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions in the wake of a groundbreaking global warming law signed by the governor in 2006.
And even though the air resources board appears to have some valid concerns about plug-in-hybrid technology, to date it has acted more like an uncompromising bureaucratic agency than a trendsetter committed to saving the earth. In fact, it represents a classic case of not being able to see the forest for the trees.
3Prong Power and similar small companies that have cropped up around California over the past year are threatened by two sets of new regulations proposed by the staff of the air resources agency, also known as CARB. First, the board’s staff wants to force the new startups to put their technology through a series of rigorous and expensive smog tests that could cost between $20,000 and $125,000, depending on how many cars the agency decides must be examined. The board’s staff also wants to require the new companies to provide consumers with warranties for the changes they make to hybrids for up to ten years or 150,000 miles.
But the tests are too costly for the typical small startup to afford and the warranties are unattainable because the electric batteries currently used to power plug-ins don’t last ten years. “For California to be on the cutting edge of green-tech, they need to be more of an enabler than a restrictor,” Guzyk said. “For us, the new regulations, especially the warranty, are a deal breaker.”
3Prong Power and its competitors transform Priuses into plug-in vehicles by putting a large flat battery in the trunk. The battery can be recharged by plugging the car into any electrical socket and allows the Prius to run entirely on electricity for speeds up to 34 miles per hour. Going faster than that triggers the car’s gasoline-powered engine, transforming the vehicle back into a traditional hybrid. The conversion can double or even triple fuel economy, thereby severely limiting carbon dioxide emissions. CO2 from cars does not contribute to smog and is not harmful to human health but it is one of the leading contributors to global warming.
State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, an environmentalist and a Prius owner, said she understands the air resources board’s concerns about smog. But she believes the agency needs to balance the regulation of smog and of greenhouse gases and should attempt to reach a compromise that will keep 3Prong Power and other small startups from going belly up. “I’m hopeful that CARB will meet with the companies and really try to partner with them,” said Skinner, who attended 3Prong Power’s grand opening in December and wants to convert her Prius to a plug-in. “These are small companies. They are innovators. There must be a way to share the burden.”
But the proposed regulations are not expected to significantly burden major car manufacturers that are planning to introduce new plug-in hybrids in the next couple of years. General Motors plans to unveil the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid, sometime in 2010, and Toyota may begin selling a plug-in Prius in late 2010 or early 2011. Both cars will be subject to the new CARB rules, but GM and Toyota should have no problem affording the rigorous tests or financing the warranty requirements.
But the new rules could make it virtually impossible for current Prius owners to transform their cars into super-efficient vehicles that get up to 150 mpg. The new regulations will drive up the price of such conversions, putting them out of reach for most Prius owners, and ensuring that the only way to purchase a next generation eco-friendly car will be from one of the world’s two largest auto companies. “They’re suppressing the little guys — the people who work out of their garages, the people who create,” said Robb Protheroe, owner of Plug-In Supply, which provides electric batteries to 3Prong Power and four other small companies around the state. “It’s Who Killed the Electric Car 2.0.”
The award-winning 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? pinned some of the blame for the death of the electric vehicle in the United States on the California Air Resources Board. In 2003, the board relaxed its landmark support for so-called zero-emission vehicles after being sued by the major car companies and the Bush administration. Automakers and the administration convinced air board members that hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles were a more viable technology than battery-operated cars, despite the fact that fuel-cell vehicles currently cost about $1 million each and are believed to be at least fifteen to thirty years away from mass production.
The board had voted in 1990 to require that at least 10 percent of cars sold in California to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2003. The board’s ambitious goal was to significantly reduce smog in a state with the worst air quality in the nation. To meet the regulations, GM, Toyota, and other automakers began manufacturing electric cars and they quickly gained an underground cult status. But the auto companies hated the CARB rules and never really wanted to sell the cars. They claimed the vehicles weren’t popular with most consumers because the car’s battery had a limited range of 60 to 100 miles before having to be recharged. The documentary showed, however, that the car companies never marketed the electric cars to a mass audience and didn’t make them available to everyone who wanted one.
When the air resources board relaxed its rules in 2003, it allowed car companies to receive credits toward zero-emission standards by building so-called partial-zero-emissions vehicles — super clean cars that produce little or no smog. The board considers Priuses and other hybrids, along with several gasoline-powered cars, to be partial-zero-emissions vehicles, not because they get good gas mileage and limit CO2 emissions, but because they produce very little smog-causing gases.
Over the past few years, many environmentalists have become convinced that plug-in hybrids represent the next generation of super clean cars that will help continue the battle against smog and assist in the fight against global warming. Like hybrids, plug-ins have no range limitations, because when the battery runs out, the hybrid system takes over. That means you can drive around town as an electric car, and then jump on the freeway and head to Los Angeles, without having to recharge the battery. Plug-ins also get far better gas mileage than traditional hybrids — a regular Prius gets 50 to 60 mpg, compared to a plug-in Prius’ 100 to 150 mpg. As a result, the plug-ins burn much less fuel, thereby significantly reducing CO2 emissions. In fact, plug-ins can produce virtually no emissions at all while driving around town, as long as you don’t exceed 34 mph or press the gas pedal past halfway and engage the gasoline-powered engine.
On a recent test drive around Berkeley and onto Interstates 880 and 580 to Richmond, one of Sherwood and Guzyk’s cars drove like any other Prius, except for the incredible gas mileage and the quiet serenity of being in an electric car. According to the car’s dashboard computer, we got 77.7 mpg on what was mostly a freeway excursion. And around town, we were virtually all electric except for a brief stretch in excess of 34 mph on Gilman Street, or when a new driver hit the gas pedal too hard during acceleration. Sherwood said many of their customers pride themselves on making sure they never engage the gas engine and run electric for days, if not weeks, at a time.
It takes 3Prong Power a little more than a day to convert a Prius to a plug-in, and costs customers about $6,700. The price is high, but you can make up for the initial costs by saving money on gas over time, especially if gas prices rise dramatically again. Sherwood said the company has remained busy in recent months despite gas falling from $4 to about $2 a gallon. Before the holidays, they had four cars on their waiting list. Since opening inside of the Green Motors dealership in March of last year, the company has converted a dozen Priuses.
The conversion is simple. Guzyk installs twenty lead-acid batteries packaged together in a suitcase-like steel box that he locates in the trunk just above the spare tire. The batteries essentially take up no trunk space because they go in a hidden compartment that most Prius owners don’t realize they have. In addition, he puts the battery on a hydraulic system to make for easy access to the spare tire. Guzyk then connects the battery to the car’s computer system and instructs it to use the lead-acid batteries only when driving below 34 mph. He then drills a hole in the bumper so that the owner can easily plug-in to a wall socket and recharge the battery at home. It takes four hours to completely recharge a battery that is good for ten to twelve miles of electric-only driving. “When your batteries run out, you just start up the motor and it runs like a regular Prius,” Sherwood explained.
3Prong Power is the only plug-in conversion company in the East Bay. There are two in San Francisco, Luscious Garage and Pat’s Garage, and one on the Peninsula, A+ Japanese Auto Repair in San Carlos. Both 3Prong Power and Luscious Garage use lead-acid batteries, which are recyclable but only last about two to three years, while the others use lithium batteries, which last longer and are significantly more expensive. A conversion system at Pat’s Garage, for example, costs $10,400.
But if the air resources board approves the new regulations next week, those prices could rise dramatically. Or the businesses themselves may simply cease to exist.
So why are plug-in hybrids potentially harmful to the planet? Air resources board officials are concerned about two potential problems that could increase smog emissions in some conversion systems. The first has to do with the car’s catalytic converter. Located underneath the car, between the engine and the tailpipe, the catalytic converter cleans the emissions that spew out of the engine before they’re released into the air. Catalytic converters, along with so-called leak-proof emissions systems, are the primary reason why today’s cars are so much cleaner than those of several decades ago.
But catalytic converters only work well when they’re warm, and they warm up when the engine turns on. Consequently, gasoline-power vehicles pollute the most when the engine is first turned on in the morning after being off for many hours. This high-pollution moment is referred to as a cold start. A regular car or hybrid typically has only one or two cold starts a day. However, it’s possible for plug-in hybrids to have several of these high-pollution moments in a single afternoon of driving. The gasoline engine might click on several different times when driving around town — whenever the car exceeds 34 mph or the driver hits the gas pedal too hard. “The potential exists to significantly increase emissions,” explained John Swanton, an air pollution specialist for the air resources board.
The other potential problem with plug-in hybrids involves unburned gasoline vapors — a real threat to air quality. When gasoline-powered vehicles are turned off, some of the fuel in the gas tank evaporates. These vapors are stored in an adjacent canister built to hold up to three days worth of vapors. If you leave your car’s engine turned off for more than three days, the canister overflows and the vapors leak into the air and cause pollution. But if you turn your car on before the three days are up, the canister vents the vapors through the engine, allowing the catalytic converter to clean the emissions before they come out of the tailpipe.
Most people typically don’t keep their cars turned off for more than three days. But with a plug-in hybrid, it’s possible for the gasoline engine to not turn on for days or even weeks at a time. That’s especially true if drivers never hop on the freeway and don’t otherwise exceed 34 mph. As a result, it’s possible for plug-in hybrids to spew gasoline vapors out of the vapor canister on an almost-constant basis, turning a Prius into a gross polluter.
Consequently, air resources board engineers are recommending that plug-in hybrids undergo extensive cold-start emissions and gasoline-evaporation testing. According to agency documents, the tests likely will cost about $20,000 to $25,000 per vehicle. Swanton said in an interview that the board may only require that one vehicle be tested, but the agency’s own documents state that the board may force companies to submit up to five test vehicles, meaning the total test costs could amount to $100,000 to $125,000.
Such tests would be prohibitively costly for small startups like 3Prong Power. They also appear to be somewhat capricious. Swanton said the agency’s concerns stem in part from testing by at least one major auto manufacturer, which found significant pollution problems in cold-start emissions testing of its own plug-in hybrid prototypes. But the test results “are confidential,” because they’re considered trade secrets, he said. In other words, a state agency is about to adopt new regulations that could cause some companies to go bankrupt based on testing results that allegedly reveal a problem that it won’t reveal publicly. “It’s ridiculous,” said Robb Protheroe, owner of Plug-In Supply. “So you’re going to have a government agency producing regulations based on confidential data? It should be transparent.”
Protheroe also pointed out that California is literally strewn with new and used car lots full of vehicles that don’t get turned on for weeks, or months, at a time. If air resources board engineers are correct, then tens of thousands of these cars are constantly spewing unburned gasoline vapors into the air, doing far more damage than the relatively small number of hybrids that have been converted to plug-ins. “Why don’t they ask the dealers to go out and start their cars every third day?” Protheroe asked.
It turns out, however, that the argument over emissions and evaporative testing is mostly academic. Last year, a Massachusetts-based plug-in hybrid conversion company passed the air resources board tests easily. The company, A123 Systems, which makes the Hymotion lithium battery supplied by Pat’s Garage in San Francisco and A+ Japanese Auto Repair in San Carlos, found a simple solution for the cold starts and unburned gasoline vapors problems. They just make sure the Prius’ gasoline engine turns on when you start your car. That way, the catalytic converter warms up and the evaporation canisters are vented, explained Pat Cadam, owner of Pat’s Garage. It’s counterintuitive, but it works. It turns out that you have to turn on the gasoline engine and burn gasoline in your mostly electric car to make it more eco-friendly.
Because of this breakthrough, Sherwood and Guzyk of 3Prong Power aren’t worried about passing the tests. It’s an easy software adjustment for them to tell the Prius’ gas engine to turn on whenever the car starts. But they say they still can’t afford the expensive testing. Nor can they afford the extensive warranty requirements the board is expected to pass next week.
When the air resources board capitulated to the auto industry and relaxed its landmark zero-emissions rules, General Motors, Toyota, and other carmakers immediately pulled almost all of their electric cars off the road. The companies never actually sold the cars to consumers; they only leased them. But in exchange for the relaxed rules, the air resources board required that the car companies provide extended warranties on the new partial-zero-emissions vehicles, including the Prius. The agency mandated a fifteen-year or 150,000-mile warranty on the car’s emissions system, and ten-year or 150,000-mile warranty on the battery.
The agency adopted these new warranty requirements because it was allowing car manufacturers to replace zero-emission vehicles — the electric car — with autos that are not quite as a clean. Electric cars don’t need extended warranties because they produce no emissions even when they break down. By contrast, a partial-zero-emissions vehicle might become a conventional polluter if one of its key components fails. Consequently, the air resources board engineers reasoned that when a company, such as 3Prong Power, converts a partial-zero emission vehicle to a plug-in, it should provide the same kind of long warranty it requires of the major auto manufacturers.
Under the warranty rules proposed by the agency’s staff, a plug-in conversion company must provide an extended warranty for the Prius parts it alters or affects, along with a warranty for the parts it installs, including the battery it adds. The length of the warranty depends on how old the car is. 3Prong Power only works on Prius model years 2004 to 2009. So if the company converts a 2009 Prius, then it must warranty the Prius emissions parts for ten years or until the car reaches 150,000 miles. It also must warranty the Prius battery for ten years or until the car reaches 150,000. And it must warranty its own battery for ten years or 150,000 miles.
3Prong Power and A123 Systems have no trouble with providing warranties for the Prius parts they alter or affect. Sherwood explained that Priuses are very well-made, built to last, and that converting them to plug-ins doesn’t harm them in any way. But 3Prong Power and A123 Systems object to having to provide a ten-year warranty for their own batteries. After all, the plug-in batteries don’t replace the Prius’ battery, they only supplement them. As a result, if the plug-in battery fails, the car simply reverts to being a regular hybrid. And because the batteries they install don’t last ten years, both 3Prong Power and A123 Systems put in a simple switch for consumers to turn off their battery if they malfunction or die, thereby turning their cars back into regular Priuses.
3Prong Power, A123 Systems, and other plug-in advocates argue that the length of the warranties should be left up to the marketplace. If one company offers a two-year warranty on its battery, and another offers three years, then consumers should decide which company to buy from. “The people who are buying these conversions are grown up and ought to be able to make their own decisions,” said CalCar.org’s Felix Kramer, who in 2006 became the first non-technical owner of a plug-in hybrid in the nation. “They know what they’re getting and they should be able to get it if they want it.” Sherwood also said they’re completely upfront with their customers, and inform them that the batteries only last two to three years and that replacing one costs about $900.
Swanton said the air resources board may be open to some sort of compromise on the warranty issue. But he noted that investors who have expressed interest in financing plug-in hybrid conversions may balk if there is no warranty requirement. Venture capitalists might not invest in a technology that only lasts two to three years, he argued, noting that there is no guarantee a consumer will replace his or her plug-in battery when it dies. Swanton, however, appeared to indicate that board staff was less willing to allow wiggle-room on the emissions and evaporative testing costs.
He pointed out that under the existing state motor vehicle code, companies such as 3Prong Power are technically operating illegally. The code makes it unlawful to degrade a car’s emissions by adding an after-market part and consequently requires testing of systems such as plug-in conversion kits. In the past, state officials have used this law to target street racers who add turbochargers and other devices to make their cars faster. Swanton acknowledged that enforcing the law against plug-in conversion companies has not been a priority for state officials, because those businesses are attempting to achieve a public good — reducing greenhouse emissions. But that likely will change if the air resources board adopts the new regulations.
Sherwood, 33, said he started 3Prong Power with Guzyk, 43, because he’s been interested for years in getting people “off petroleum.” He also said it never occurred to him that state officials would determine that converting Priuses to plug-in hybrids could potentially worsen a car’s emissions and add pollution to the air. He believes the state agency has failed to see the big picture in its attempt to regulate the field. Clearly, plug-in hybrids are usually cleaner than regular hybrids, he said, because they burn less fuel and run on electricity when driving around town. In addition, the A123 Systems testing proves that a simple fix can address the legitimate concerns of the air resources agency.
Still, the agency’s staff is attempting to regulate with a heavy hand. There is no good reason why it can’t work more closely with small companies such as 3Prong Power and help them finance the costly smog tests or provide them waivers for the time being. After all, Priuses themselves are exempt from smog regulations until 2011. Moreover, if A123 Systems passed the smog tests, then 3Prong Power should be able to as well, since it’s essentially using the same technology.
As for the proposed extended warranty requirements on plug-in batteries, the board should not adopt them. The contention that venture capitalists may not invest in plug-in technology without the warranties is not the board’s concern. Its mission is to clean the air, not make investors rich.
And finally, the board’s attempt to strictly regulate plug-in hybrids flies in the face of the sweeping new regulations it adopted just last month to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Among other things, the new rules will reduce the amount of carbon in motor fuels and require future cars to get better gas mileage. The regulations stemmed from a 2006 landmark law that put California at the forefront in the fight against global warming.
Clearly, the board’s proposed regulations on plug-in hybrids are not in keeping with last month’s vote, nor will they help California maintain its leadership role in combating greenhouse gases. It also makes no sense to snuff out the efforts of green entrepreneurs before they’ve even had a chance to grow.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

RevengeOfTheEV: Interview with Chris Paine in the Whole Life Times

Chris Paine in the Whole Earth TimesChris Paine in the Whole Life Times
The Whole Life Times just published an Interview with Chris :
The Electric Car Returns (and This Time It’s Personal)
Filmmaker Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and its forthcoming sequel, talks to us about the fate of GM, the downfall of hydrogen and why electric cars truly are making a comeback By Siel
What happens to an electric car deferred? Ask Chris Paine, director of the documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006), and you’ll learn that those once-dead electric vehicles (EVs) are now exacting a shocking revenge.
Paine was one of the first to lease a General Motors EV1 in 1997 — only to get the car wrenched away from him five years later when he took it in simply to get a brake light fixed. In Who Killed the Electric Car?, Paine followed the plight of his EV1 to its (literally) crushing end. Today, EVs are making a comeback, and Paine’s chronicling the EV’s resurrection in his follow-up film, The Revenge of the Electric Car, set to jolt theaters in spring 2010.

After all, it takes someone who refers to his Prius as “the gas guzzler” and his Culver City, Calif., home as “the Plug-In Mecca” to tell this EV story right. For his sequel, Paine’s been gauging the mood at the now-much-gloomier GM headquarters, visiting geothermal-powered and EV-friendly Iceland, and test driving his brand new Tesla in Los Angeles.
Q: I hear you didn’t even like cars — yet now you’re seen as a champion for the electric car. What got you interested in EVs?
A: Electric cars just totally changed the game! I never liked automobiles because I don’t like burning gasoline. I don’t like how it smells; I don’t like the smog. Obviously cars brought a lot to our society, but they’ve also had a tremendous cost. When I started driving electric cars, I got really excited because you had all the fun of a car, but without nearly as much of the damage.

Reproduced with thanks to Whole Life Times.  Here’s the full text of the interview, in case the link goes bad:
http://wholelifetimes.com/2009/01/conversations0901.html
January 2009 | Conversations The Electric Car Returns (and This Time It’s Personal)
Filmmaker Chris Paine, director of Who Killed the Electric Car? and its forthcoming sequel, talks to us about the fate of GM, the downfall of hydrogen and why electric cars truly are making a comeback By Siel
What happens to an electric car deferred? Ask Chris Paine, director of the documentary film Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006), and you’ll learn that those once-dead electric vehicles (EVs) are now exacting a shocking revenge.
Paine was one of the first to lease a General Motors EV1 in 1997 — only to get the car wrenched away from him five years later when he took it in simply to get a brake light fixed. In Who Killed the Electric Car?, Paine followed the plight of his EV1 to its (literally) crushing end. Today, EVs are making a comeback, and Paine’s chronicling the EV’s resurrection in his follow-up film, The Revenge of the Electric Car, set to jolt theaters in spring 2010.
After all, it takes someone who refers to his Prius as “the gas guzzler” and his Culver City, Calif., home as “the Plug-In Mecca” to tell this EV story right. For his sequel, Paine’s been gauging the mood at the now-much-gloomier GM headquarters, visiting geothermal-powered and EV-friendly Iceland, and test driving his brand new Tesla in Los Angeles.
Q: I hear you didn’t even like cars — yet now you’re seen as a champion for the electric car. What got you interested in EVs?
A: Electric cars just totally changed the game! I never liked automobiles because I don’t like burning gasoline. I don’t like how it smells; I don’t like the smog. Obviously cars brought a lot to our society, but they’ve also had a tremendous cost. When I started driving electric cars, I got really excited because you had all the fun of a car, but without nearly as much of the damage.
Q: How do you get around now?
A: For the last five years, after they took the GM EV1 away, I’ve been driving a Toyota RAV4 EV. And like the EV1, the RAV4’s been service-free. A lot of people feel that that’s the real reason car companies don’t like electric cars — because EVs kill the parts and service business. Electric cars don’t need any tune-ups.
Q: And you just got a Tesla.
A: The Tesla is a beautiful car — I’ll give it that. It’s by far the most expensive car I’ve ever owned in my life. And I think it’ll probably hold its value because it’s such a collector’s item. But down the road, the idea of the Tesla is to use this car to kick the company off, and then to get a sedan under $50,000 that’ll appeal to a lot more people.
My primary car is the RAV4, which I was thinking of selling on eBay because one of these sold for $65,000 or so. I also have a gas-guzzler for when I want to go up to San Francisco or drive up to Colorado.
I just finished a house that I’m calling the “Plug-In Mecca.” The whole roof of the house is solar, so I can plug in all sorts of different kinds of cars. The RAV4, the Tesla and my electric bike all have different kinds of charging systems, so it’s kind of fun having them on hand.
My gas-guzzler, by the way, is a Prius, which I try not to drive. Until Toyota gives consumers a plug-in option, I consider myself officially at odds with that company — although I have to appreciate that the Prius is a pretty amazing car.
Q: What about hydrogen? In California, Governor Schwarzenegger seems dead-set on developing the hydrogen highway.
A: Schwarzenegger got some very bad advice, and he pursued hydrogen because it seems like a good option at first. The problem is, the hydrogen car is not here until 2020 at the earliest, in terms of something that can be built in mass quantities. The second big problem with hydrogen is that it’s very expensive — energy-expensive — to make hydrogen fuel. It’s cheaper just to use a battery and electricity than to go and make this whole in-between step of making hydrogen. The reason hydrogen created a lot of vitriol is because it was used as a bait and switch to kill existing technology that was ready to go.
Q: In the past, you’ve pointed out that big car companies keep delaying EV production for the consumer market. With the promise of GM’s Chevy Volt and other EVs, are you more hopeful now?
A: I’m much more hopeful today than I was in 2005, simply because the car companies have painted themselves into a corner. People are demanding electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Even the car companies are saying, “Well, no one’s trying to buy our SUVs, so for us to stay in business, we need to have other kinds of cars.”
Q: When gas prices went up, people started driving less, and interest in EVs soared. But now, gas prices have fallen below $2 in some places. Is this discouraging?
A: Certainly, when oil prices are down, it makes it harder for the competition. However, I think in the medium and long term — and maybe even the short term — electric cars are going to come on, because there’s a huge national security push to get us off oil altogether.
And on the environmental side, people are saying, “I’d rather have something I can fuel myself or has less of a carbon footprint.” Oil price fluctuations are tough for small companies to deal with as consumer demand goes up and down, but I think the long run looks pretty bright.
Q: GM, the main company featured in Who Killed the Electric Car?, is now in serious financial trouble and asking for a bailout. Could you have predicted this?
A: We absolutely did predict it. In the movie, Joe Romm [author of The Hype About Hydrogen: Fact and Fiction in the Race to Save the Climate] says, “This may be the most serious blunder in the history of the automotive industry.” And he was right. The problem is that car companies put everything in gasoline, the SUV, the truck. They had no alternate plan. It was just very bad decision-making.
Q: What motivated you to make The Revenge of the Electric Car? Did you have a sequel in mind when you were making Who Killed the Electric Car?
A: We didn’t think about a sequel at all. What happened was the incredible reversal of everything we covered in the first movie. It’s fascinating what’s happened, from Tesla to the Volt to what hundreds and hundreds of garage mechanics are doing, converting cars. I think the theme in the last movie was “Change has stopped.” And for this movie, the theme would be “Change prevails.”
Q: When do you expect the EV to exact revenge?
A: I know that Mitsubishi, Nissan and a lot of smaller companies all will have cars available to buy in 2009. For the big car companies, it’s probably going to be 2010, 2011. When the EVs are in showrooms for sale, and people are buying them, and the SUVs are sitting unsold everywhere.
I think we’re halfway there. Certainly, we’re there with SUVs being on the sidelines. We’re maybe not there yet in terms of EVs being available.
Q: When GM forcibly took back your EV1, your CD collection and gym bag were still in the car. Did you ever get those back?
A: I got them back, but they never told me where the car was! I said, “I’ll go pick up the stuff,” and they said, “We can’t tell you where the car is now, but we’ll arrange for you to get your stuff back.” Then they sent the stuff back to me.
The joke of the time was that the electric car became like an X-Files episode. When I started working on Who Killed, I thought the film was more a parody, like, “Only in LA would celebrities hold a funeral for a car.” The incident with my car made us start to think that maybe the story was more of a murder mystery.
Stay tuned to the story at whokilledtheelectriccar.com and revengeoftheelectriccar.com
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Eva: ElectroCat has arrived!

Finally! ElectroCat has been released from customs and arrived home to me!...