Tag Archives: electric vehicle

Friday Linkage 2/10/2017

The abnormal has become the normal.  The surrogates of the president lie—massacres in Bowling Green, terrorist attacks in Atlanta, who knows that else—with a zeal that makes me wonder if it is overtly encouraged by the current president.  Alternative facts—known as lies to anyone with the sense of a first grader—have become the new currency of cable news.  Have we actually entered the Twilight Zone?

Wake me up in a few years.

On to the links…

U.S. Wind, Solar Power Tout Rural Jobs as Trump Pushes Coal—Trump has a narrative in his simple mind that coal is power and solar is for hippies.  Too bad the reality on the ground—like so many things—does not actually match this narrative.  Maybe it is an alternative fact?

Americans are Now Twice as Likely to Work in Solar as in Coal—If you were going to ask for a group’s support which would you pick: the group with more jobs that is growing or the group with fewer jobs that is declining?  Which one do you think the sitting president chose?

6 Reasons the Clean Energy Revolution Doesn’t need Trump’s Blessing—Trump may think that his perch atop his imperial presidency makes him capable of doing whatever he wants and making it happen via proclamation, but the reality on the ground is very different.

Reasons to be Cheerful: A Full Switch to Low-Carbon Energy is in Sight—I like the positive spin on this.

Cheaper Renewables to Halt Coal and Oil Demand Growth from 2020—This is what the death spiral looks like.  As the technology doing the replacing gets cheaper and easier to deploy there is no way that the displaced technology can compete on either cost or performance, so it’s displacement becomes self-fulfilling.  Once the coal mines shutter who is going to invest in coal?

Electric Vehicles Will Be A Major Oil Price Driver In The Future—The question is how much a disruption in oil demand will be needed to make a major difference in price.  Recently, we have seen swing production of less than 10% cause major price disruptions.

We’re Probably Underestimating How Quickly Electric Vehicles will Disrupt the Oil Market—Disruption can happen fast.  I cannot wait to see what the EV market looks like when both Chevrolet and Tesla are selling EVs at volume for an attainable price.

Californians are Paying Billions for Power they Don’t Need—This story kind of blew my mind.

Rachel Carson, ‘Mass Murderer’? A Right-Wing Myth about ‘Silent Spring’ is Poised for a Revival—With people like Scott Pruitt installed at the EPA and right wing whack jobs in Congress I am expecting this old trope to get a lot of play on the cable news cycle.

L.A.’s Mayor Wants to Lower the City’s Temperature, and these Scientists are Figuring out How to do it—The L.A. Times came strong with some stories this week that I think are of relevance to our understanding of the world.

Invading Pythons and the Weird, Uncertain Future of the Florida Everglades—Florida is a petri dish for everything we have screwed up over the past few decades.  Now it is also a living laboratory for what happens when invasive species change the dynamic.  After reading The New Wild [https://www.amazon.com/New-Wild-Invasive-Species-Salvation/dp/0807039551] I am left to wonder if anything can be considered invasive in Florida anymore given how dramatically that landscape has been changed over the last few centuries.

Friday Linkage 6/8/2012

A little heavy on the food related links this week.  It was nothing intentional, I just found a lot of stories about food and the modern food system to be fascinating this week.

On to the links…

Prius Success Undermines EV Attacks—Does anyone remember when the Toyota Prius was the target of attacks by the right wing blowhards?  Not since the Prius became one of the bestselling vehicles in the world.  What will the story be with the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf in a couple of years?

How Cheap will Algae Bio-Fuel Really Get—Maybe the goal should not be parity with gasoline—granted, the price of a gallon of gasoline does not include the externalities of pollution cost or wars or propping up bad regimes—but rather commercial scale and availability.  If I were able to purchase a biofuel made from algae the price premium would be worth it.

A Failed Food System—A food system is not just about production.  It is comprised of production, distribution, and nutrition.  This article about India highlights that it does not matter if you increase your food production by 50% if you cannot effectively distribute that food.  The problems may be inefficient infrastructure, too much corruption, or simply lack of processes, but the end result is that people do not get enough to eat.

Is Your Supermarket Chucking Foods Before Expiration—In India, the food goes to waste at distribution centers.  In the U.S., our supermarkets throw food away before it is expired.  The system is doomed to failure.

Small Scale Slaughterhouses Keeping it Local—One major problem with getting truly local meat is that the approved facilities to slaughter and process an animal are getting fewer and farther between.  Not to mention these facilities are often controlled by the large firms responsible for so many bad things about meat today.

Why Do Humans Crave Crispy Food—Why do we crave crispy food?  Because it is oh so good.  Oh wait, there might be a scientific reason why.

Your Burger Just Got a Little Safer…Thanks to Uncle Sam—Sometimes I think we need to say thanks in spite of Uncle Sam.  I love how the major meat packers try to persuade regulators that certain strands of E. coli are benign additions to meat and thus need not be regulated.  Huh?  It’s E. coli.  Like the famous line in Fast Food Nation: there’s shit in the meat.

The Food Movement’s Final Frontier: Taking Care of Workers—Whether it’s grape pickers in California or tomato pickers in Florida or illegal immigrants working in a packing plant in Iowa the food movement needs to make sure that the workers are taken care of as well as we expect to be taken care of by the food these people help produce.  There can be no real change unless social justice, environmental justice, and good food intersect.

Disney to Stop Allowing Junk Food Advertising—This is how things start.  A company decides to take action on an issue where it has a critical mass—like Disney does with kids—and suddenly people start realizing the world has not flown off its axis.  Do not think it’s possible?  Just look at the cigarette industry.

Reagan was a Keynesian—It is an article of faith held by most conservatives that Ronald Reagan slashed taxes and spending while beating back the Soviet menace himself.  That might be a little bit over the top, but just wait until the Republican nominating convention.  I just love Paul Krugman detailing how Reagan was not quite the darling conservatives have made him out to be in the past two plus decades.

China Wants Foreign Embassies to Stop Commenting on Air Quality—This is almost something I expect to see from James Inhofe.  There is no global warming because I do not recognize its existence.  Of course you cannot say the same thing about god.  Huh?  It’s amazing that people forget just how clean the air has gotten.  Here is Pittsburgh in the 1940s:

Of course, here is Beijing today:

Friday Linkage 4/20/2012

Here I am stuck in the rust belt of central Ohio with limited internet access, a lot of extended family, and a ten hour drive home staring me in the face.  Remind me again why I do these things?  Oh right, it’s a family thing.  Ugh!

On to the links…

Americans Link Weather Nastiness to Climate Change—Average Americans see the linkage between climate change and aberrant weather but asses like James Inhofe or Mitch McConnell fail to see the connection.  Wonder why?

Even John Boehner Should Like This Graphic—I think reality is setting in and the chorus of “drill baby, drill” or “drill here, drill now” or whatever the Koch brothers have schemed up this week is fizzling in the wake of falling gas prices and the fact that the U.S. is producing more fossil fuels than any time in recent history.  Check out the value of fossil fuel exports:

But we still need to subsidize Exxon Mobil right?

Electric Vehicle Charging Emissions and Fuel Cost Savings Across the U.S.—The latest trope from the cadre of people who hate the idea of electric cars or anything that does reek of crude oil is that the power charging your EV is just as dirty as the diesel from their F-350.  Sorry Charlie, but for a broad swatch of America and the demographic most likely to adopt EVs this is just not true.  Next?

Enslaved at the Pump—So, you bought that Chevrolet Cruze with the Eco package because you wanted to save fuel and money…uh oh!  This graph is brutal:

At the end of the day, if you are already buying a fuel efficient vehicle, e.g. a Chevrolet Cruze, your money is better spent somewhere else if you are looking for an efficiency gain.

Rethinking Old Habits in Order to be Green—Efforts to save energy too often focus on refining old habits rather than reimagining them from the ground up, at least according to the RAND Corporation.  It’s easy to imagine replacing something with a greener alternative than it is to imagine life without that item.  That is natural human behavior, but it is not always the best path of action.  If I could just convince the city that mowing my lawn is an example of this folly…

Building a Better Flusher—Using potable water to flush toilets is pure folly.  Why not use the relatively clean water from our showers or laundry or the sky to do the same job?  Or, why not just stop using water to flush our “waste?”  I know, crazy ideas…

What’s for Dinner?  Jellyfish!—I already like green sea turtles, but looking at photos of a honu firing down some jellyfish for dinner makes me like the oddly graceful animals even more.  It is still one of my vacation highlights to have sent the better part of an hour off the coast of Maui bobbing lazily in the ocean with a pair of green sea turtles.

Fence Is Behind an Explosion of Life in a Wild Corner of Hawaii—I am total sucker for stories about Hawaii and the central Pacific.  It is my favorite place on Earth.  Hawaii is such an isolated chain of islands that it serves as an interesting laboratory for species revival, habitat restoration, etc.  It is also a test case for what happens when invasive species ruin an ecosystem.  Bit by bit, pieces of the natural landscape are being recovered from our collective stupidity.

Proof of Concept

As the sales numbers for the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf roll-in pundits and talking heads, most vociferously on the right wing of the American political culture, are raining down damnation.  Their argument is that low sales figures prove that vehicles with alternative powertrains are not economically viable.  Well, as gas prices go above $4 a gallon in parts of the U.S. some of that argument may erode.

At the end of 2011 7,761 Volts had been sold and 9,674 Leafs had been sold.   The talking heads are besides themselves.  General Motors is idling the production facility where the Volt is manufactured with about a 6 month supply on dealer’s lots.  Nissan is much tighter lipped about the Leaf and production plans, but a facility in the U.S. is planned to go online to produce the Leaf sometime in the near future.

These vehicles, however, cannot be seen in the same light as a normal production car like the Ford Focus or Chevrolet Cruze.  Each is a proof of concept.  It is one thing to make a concept car and it is quite another to coach build a few examples without the intent to ever mass produce.  Look at Tesla.  Sure, the Roadster is a unique and amazing electric vehicle but is essentially a coach built luxury car for a very small slice of the car buying market.  The Volt and the Leaf, regardless of price, were always intended to prove the idea that one could design and build an alternate drivetrain vehicle in a quantity that would actually move the needle.

The true test is when these vehicles move from the first generation to the second generation where leaps in capability generally occur.  Think about Apple’s products.  What was the leap like between the first generation iPhone and the subsequent iPhone 3 or 4?

As battery technology evolves or is pushed forward by some revolutionary technology what will the Volt 2.0 or Leaf 2.0 look like?  I tend to think the answer will be further range, better mileage or mileage equivalent, increasingly fewer compromises and a cost that is equivalent or less than today’s purchase price.

Furthermore, each of these vehicles needs to be seen as a test case in the underlying technologies that can be leveraged across a vehicle lineup.  The Volt and Leaf are both compact cars in size, but with an evolution the technologies can easily be scaled for CUV or midsize car.

What about the Toyota Prius?  At this point in that particular vehicles history no one can argue that it has not been a success.  It was the platform on which Toyota evolved its gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain and proved that an alternative powertrain vehicle could be sold in large numbers.  The vehicle has gone through three generations since 2000.  It has even spawned two new models carrying the Prius name—the V and the C.  In the U.S. sales have averaged about 140,000 per year in 2010-11.  But what about its first year in the U.S.?  In 2000 Toyota sold ~6,000 and ~16,000 in 2000 and 2001 respectively.

In the first year of each vehicle’s sales history, the Volt and Leaf outsold the first year of the Prius.  Why are we not comparing apples to apples when we talk about the relative success of these vehicles’ introductions to the market.

A bigger threat to the Volt, Leaf, and any other alternative drivetrain automobile is the continued evolution of the traditional internal combustion drivetrain.  The latest crop of compact cars are achieving 40 miles per gallon on the highway in the EPA test cycle, which is excellent.  Heck, Subaru is able to produce an Impreza with supposedly fuel sucking full-time all-wheel-drive that is rated at 36 miles per gallon.