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Plug-In Drivers Not Missin' the Piston Electric vehicles are here to stay. Their market acceptance is currently small but growing...

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Giant Lithium Spill

Do you remember when all that Lithium spilled into Prudhoe Bay? Or the massive Lithium leak in the Gulf of Mexico? Dead birds and sea life washing onto the shore for weeks.

Or the train car full of Lithium that exploded in a Canadian town and killed several people?

Of course you don't. None of these headlines ever happened. Well, not with Lithium any way.

From Charged EV Magazine:
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has published a guide for the safe handling of lithium batteries on aircraft. The IATA estimates that each year, over a billion lithium batteries are transported by air as mail, cargo or in passenger/crew baggage. 
Kevin Hiatt of IATA said “This guide was developed with the input of leading industry groups specialized in the area of handling potentially dangerous goods. Whether on passenger or cargo aircraft, operators can now rely on this guide...”
So now there are even better regulations for the transportation of Lithium.

As 2014 draws to a close, here are some headlines to consider:

By the way, all of these headlines are just from December 2014.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mental "Glitches" Are Slowing EV Sales (Part 6) - Anger Response

Welcome to part 6 of the cognitive biases and logical fallacies series. We are examining the mental glitches that all of us humans share and how they could be impacting the mass adoption of plug-in vehicles. We have looked at Cognitive DissonanceStatus Quo BiasConfirmation BiasIngroup Bias, and the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. In this post, we'll be looking at Anger Response.

When we are confronted, stressed, or otherwise feeling anxiety, our brains have many defense mechanisms. These defenses protect our self-esteem, ego, our cherished beliefs, or our comforting mental models of the world. One of the many tools in this bag of defensive tricks is hostility or the Anger Response.
Angry Comedian Lewis Black. Photograph by Cla McBride
During anger arousal two of the hormones we secrete are the amphetamine-like epinephrine and the analgesic-like norepinephrine. Together these two provide an adrenaline rush feeling as well as pain relief from emotional or physical pain.

Flame Wars

Flame Wars are nothing new on the Internet and many of these raging rants are great examples of the Anger Response. You can find flame wars in the comments section of nearly any popular story about a wedge issue (politics, religion...). What could be a rational debate about the problems, policies, and solutions often devolves into name-calling and mudslinging.

I have often wondered why this is the case. If someone states something that you believe to be false, you can make a counterpoint, ask for sources, or maybe even think about it, read more, and learn something. If you have done these things, you have stated your case, and you still don't agree, then agree to disagree and walk away. You might not have convinced that one person, but if you have stated a good case, it may help all the other people that will read it later. Name-calling or (even worse) threats are never going to convince someone that you are right and might even dissuade others from your side; and yet it happens over and over again.

Why does this occur? This must serve another purpose.

Is it simply a lack of emotional and social intelligence? These may be contributing factors to the behavior, but I think there is more to it. Another contributing factor, is that in a face-to-face conversation, we generally limit ourselves to avoid a physical confrontation. Online forums remove the inhibition that the fear of being punched in the face provides. So the forum medium may remove the inhibition, but that still does not explain why anyone would select such an ineffective debate technique.

Anger can be used to substitute nearly any emotion that causes us anxiety. 
Googling on this topic, I was surprised that I could not quickly find an answer. I found some 2007 online anonymity research and a couple other papers, but online flaming behavior seems to be an area that is not well researched.

Given this, I will submit my own baseless hypothesis. Anger can be used to substitute for nearly any emotion that causes us anxiety. When we are confronted with something that disrupts our status quo, challenges a deeply held belief or our self-perception, confuses us, frustrates us, or creates cognitive dissonance, one of the defence mechanisms at our brain's disposal is the Anger Response.

Ironically, despite outward appearances, anger creates a self-soothing sense of control. If the only options available to our brain are confusion, frustration, loss of self-perception or anger, then anger is the knee-jerk reaction that is going to often win. In many situations, your ego has the option of a display of weakness (confusion, self-questioning...), or a display of strength (anger). Regardless the rational choice, the emotional response is usually to avoid showing weakness. Here is how this particular mental glitch might play out: If you are in an argument with someone and you are starting to feel emotional about it, the welling emotions become difficult to deal with. This emotional vulnerability is painted over with a coat of red. The unsettling emotions are masked with anger. You have been "amygdala hijacked". Now a rational discussion is impossible, this is a war zone and they are the enemy. In such a battle, shouting louder than the other side is a victory. In this state, the technical merits of the discussion are no longer relevant, only the emotional ones matter now. We want to "win" and, once in this state, we will burn bridges and insult your mother to do it. If we win, then we were not wrong, or inconsiderate. Victory means that our self-esteem is justified, whatever self-doubts we might have had were unfounded.

Anger Response Applied to Plug-in Cars

Plug-in vehicles are a disruptive technology. They rock the boat on several fronts. Many people are happy with things the way they are today. So when they hear things like plug-in cars are part of the solution to foreign oil dependency, CO2 emissions, or air quality... for some, they don't even want to hear that there is a problem. Problems would disrupt their status quo. Denial of the problem is much simpler. Once these are denied, all the post-rationalization methods that our brains are so good at can be utilized.

If these rationalizations are threatened in any way, then the anger response can be invoked to shutdown the messenger. The more fragile the rationalization, the more likely that defensiveness will emerge and anger response is to be deployed.

There are plenty of people online that can rationally discuss the pros and cons of plug-in driving. If you encounter an anti-EV rager, now you have some understanding of the underlying mentality, even if they do not.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Can Tesla Power Its Gigafactory with Renewables Alone?

Elon Musk has said that all the energy that the Tesla Gigafactory uses will be from onsite solar, wind, and geothermal renewable sources.

Engineering.com recently pulled out their calculator to run the numbers. They wanted to see if it penciled out. Could the entire Gigafactory run exclusively from onsite renewables sources.

Being both a renewable energy advocate and an electric vehicle advocate, I found this to be a fascinating question.

Since the factory is not yet built, they had to make some assumptions based on the announced plans and the size of the plot. I'll spare you the math (which they did in detail) and cover just the highlights.

Assuming the factory roof is covered in solar panels and considering the regions solar capacity, solar photovoltaic would generate an estimated 850 MWh each day. Additional solar panels could be ground mounted if needed and they could be even more efficient if they have sun tracking mounts. But we'll assume just rooftop solar for now.

The image has 85 wind turbines according to their count. Given the regions average wind speed, this would generate roughly 1836 MWh of wind energy per day.

Nevada has several geothermal energy plants in operation today. The newest of these is a 20 MW plant. They assumed that Tesla would build one that is only half this size. This would produce 240 MWh of electricity each day.

Adding these up:
  850 MWh of Solar
1836 MWh of Wind
  240 MWh of Geothermal
Totals up to 2926 MWh per day.

For perspective, this is enough to power about 97,000 homes.

How Much Does the Factory Need? 

Navigant Research estimates that for all the factory's activities, it will consume approximately 2400 MWh per day (about 80,000 homes worth).

Net Zero? Yes. Even Better, Energy Positive!

Given these assumptions, 2900 MWh are produced and only 2400 MWh are used per day. So it is possible for Tesla's Gigafactory to be powered by 100% onsite renewable energy. The additional capacity will allow the factory to feed the local grid with surplus renewable energy during peak generation times. This will allow for net-metering or "running the meter backwards" during sunny and/or windy days.

Additionally, this is a battery plant. One of their products (in addition to vehicle batteries) will be grid-level energy storage systems. One of these systems would both showcase their product and allow the factory to store surplus energy when it is generated and then draw from it as needed. This would smooth out any intermittence caused from the sun and wind.

Via Engineering.com

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fuel Cell Advocate Strikes Back

Fuel Cell cars are on full parade at the LA Auto Show this week and they are getting significant media attention.

In preparation for the show, Green Car Reports collected fuel cell vehicle (FCV) questions from their readers to pose to the automakers that are promoting the tech (Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai). As you might imagine the 10 questions were critical of fuel cells as most of GCR readers are plug-in vehicle fans.

One of the readers, Jason Lancaster, however, is a fuel cell fan and he didn't like questions that cast his favored future fuel in a poor light. In response Lancaster called "a lot of this FCV criticisms coming from BEV advocates are completely and totally irrelevant." Lancaster then wrote 10 questions of his own for plug-in car advocates like myself to answer.

As you'll see, his questions are occasionally leading and obviously biased. For example, his first question is "Why do BEV advocates cling to a highly irrelevant electricity efficiency argument?" As you can see, the question assumes that efficiency is irrelevant. With each question Lancaster has a brief commentary explaining the flaw in BEV advocates thinking, what he thinks the real questions should be, and how he thinks FCV are an important part of our transportation future.

As requested, as a plug-in vehicle advocate (although I only speak for myself), here are my replies to Jason Lancaster's 10 questions:
1. Why do BEV advocates cling to a highly irrelevant electricity efficiency argument? The argument goes like this:
  • Separating hydrogen from water is a great way to drive without contributing CO2 to the atmosphere, but it “wastes” electricity 
  • Therefore, making hydrogen isn’t a “good use” of electricity…that energy should be stored in a battery pack instead.
The trouble with this argument is that it doesn’t acknowledge a fundamental economic reality: battery packs are expensive, but electricity is cheap. The relative efficiency of using hydrogen as a transportation fuel vs. electricity as a transportation fuel can’t be discussed in a vacuum. If wind energy costs less than 4 cents per kW, it’s likely cheaper to “waste” that electricity separating hydrogen than it is to buy expensive battery packs.
In other words, “waste” has nothing to do with it. Economics is the only concern.
You make the point that it really should be about economics. Efficiency is the first order measure of a mature technology’s economics. Today, both fuel cells and batteries are expensive. As these technologies mature, their prices will drop. Then the total cost of ownership economics will be driven primarily by fuel cost. As you stated, electricity is cheap. Your own H2 FAQ says a kilo of H2 will cost $5-$6 ($0.07 - $0.09 per mile). I charge my car up at off-peak rates, here this rate is $0.047 per kWh (1.3 cents per mile). I would rather pay 1 cent per mile than 7. 

Your comments around this question also seems to indicate that you think most H2 will be generated from electrolysis; however, it is well understood that 95% of H2 is currently is (and will continue to be) derived from natural gas. The energy and electrode costs for electrolysis cannot compete with Methane Reforming. So this makes FCEVs yet another fossil fuel powered car. 

My BEV can be powered by the solar panels on my roof. A FCV would never be able to do that. And if it could, it would require an array at least twice as big to generate and compress the H2. 

2. Why do BEV advocates insist on contrasting the Nissan Leaf, Tesla Model S, etc. with FCVs? Don’t they know that 97% of the vehicles on the road today are powered by gasoline or diesel? Doesn’t it make more sense to compare both FCVs and BEVs to the market leader than to one another?
If someone were sitting at home and thinking “I’m tired of buying gas. For my next car I want to get something else”, then the alternatives offered from major auto companies are a plug-in car or a FC car. Like it or not, plug-in cars and fuel cell cars are in competition for market share, infrastructure funding, and mindshare as the next personal transportation platform. So there has been and will continue to be criticism from both sides as they try to advance their solution of choice. 

I agree that the real goal is to give more people a viable alternative to gas cars, I just don't think that promoting FCVs achieves this goal. In fact, I think it detracts from it. More on this in answer #10 below.

3. Why assume that refueling time is the only advantage FCVs have over BEVs? We created a nice little FAQ here that explained fuel cell stack costs are expected to be cost-comparable to gas-powered hybrids in just a few years (2018). FCVs aren’t just going to be fast and easy to refuel. They’re going to have lower up-front costs than BEVs too.
Both FCVs and BEVs are driven by electric motors, so they will have similar (great) performance. Refueling IS the biggest difference. You go on to say that cost will be the biggest difference. When this is true (if ever) then you’ll have something else to talk about other than a prediction. I read the FAQ you linked to, predictions about fuel cell prices are easy to make and hard to deliver. Batteries prices are dropping and performance is improving every year driven primarily by the consumer electronics industry’s demand for longer battery life. 

If you want to talk about refueling, the real winner technology is plug-in hybrids. They can plug-in overnight cheaply and they can fuel up in just minutes at more than 100,000 gas stations in the US. 

4. Why do FCV critics ignore all the investment in (and excitement for) fuel cell technology outside of transportation? Fuel cells aren’t just for cars – they’re being used to create grid-sized power stations, industrial power generation, fork lifts, buses, etc., and the technology is being pursued by industrial heavyweights like GE, Microsoft, and (ahem) Toyota.
In the post on GreenCarReports.com, you wrote:
A small but strong and vocal lobby of owners, supporters, and advocates has advocated for electric cars for 20 years now. Where is the similar groundswell of fuel-cell advocates?
Shouldn’t you walk that back a bit? Or perhaps acknowledge that a “groundswell” of support is irrelevant when evaluating the efficacy of a particular technology?
Because we are talking about transportation solutions. Excitement does not get me to work. If you want to look at technologies outside of transportation, then mobile consumer electronics are driving battery tech with far more research dollars than forklift research is advancing fuel cells. 

4a. … acknowledge that a “groundswell” of support is irrelevant when evaluating the efficacy of a particular technology? 
When looking at efficacy, sure. When trying to sell a product, it is very relevant. You might make the Henry Ford faster horse argument here and say that people just don’t know what they want yet. But FCVs would have to deliver something great that PHVs or BEVs cannot. Currently they don’t.

5. Why don’t BEV advocates understand that fuel cells are the only workable technology for trucks and large SUVs? The energy density of battery packs makes their use in large vehicles unlikely – this is why fuel cell powered buses a better option than battery electric buses (according to the US DOE). Even unabashed BEV advocates acknowledge that fuel cells are best for larger vehicles.
Can’t we have FCVs in the mix, if for no other reason than to use them in big vehicles?
Because Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai keep showing FC passenger cars at the major auto-shows and claiming battery cars are pointless and that FCVs are the future. This answer also applies to question #2 also. There very well may be a place for large FCVs. There are electric buses that get 30-second over-head quick charges at every stop, FC buses will need to compete with this. For long haul applications, the real question is which is cheaper to install, a coast-to-coast quick-charge infrastructure or H2 infrastructure. At $10,000 per station, quick charging is way cheaper than the $1M per station for H2 pumps.

6. Why don’t BEV advocates acknowledge that battery chemistry has stagnated? The CEO LG Chem – one of the largest battery manufacturers in the world – says that “we’ll have lithium ion for at least the next 10 to 15 years“, suggesting that today’s lithium ion battery technology is in no danger of taking a giant leap forward anytime soon. Yet BEV advocates assume that Tesla, Nissan, etc. will somehow significantly increase BEV range and decrease cost over the next 3-5 years.
How are BEV manufacturers going to accomplish significant improvements with the same old battery chemistry? And why is the CEO of LG Chem soft-pedaling the possibility of future advances?
Because the tech hasn’t stagnated. Lithium-ion batteries have been getting 7-8% better per year for two decades and it shows no sign of slowing down. It is not doubling every year, it does not have to be big leaps and bounds. Slow and steady improvements yield vast improvements over time. Nearly every week there is some lab breakthrough announced. Many of these will eventually work their way into improving final production batteries. Looking forward, there are solid state batteries, Lithium-air batteries, ultracapacitors, and things yet to be discovered that will continue to advance battery tech.

P.S. You have taken the LG Chem quote out of context. He said the Lithium-ion will be the battery chemistry of choice for the next 10-15 years, not that it will not improve. In fact later he goes on to talk about how much it has improved since 2010 and how much more it will improve by 2016.

7. Why are BEV advocates so willing to overlook battery range problems? Most BEVs that have been sold in the last few years struggle to live up to their published range – one need only read GreenCarReports.com to see that. Why don’t BEV advocates acknowledge that BEVs might not ever be feasible for climates with wide temperature variations (aka most of the planet), and/or that they may have long-term degradation problems?
No one is overlooking this. BEVs (with the range limits they have today) have some of the best owner satisfaction scores of any vehicle type. A person should buy a car that fits their needs. If you need to drive hundreds of miles per day, a BEV is probably not the right choice. Most people don’t drive that much. If you need something for around town commuting and errands, BEVs are great. If your region has fast charge infrastructure like the West Coast Electric Highway in Oregon and Washington, then a BEV can do even more. If you want a plug-in car with long range then a PHEV or a Tesla Model S might work.

Range: It is not a matter of ignoring it. It is a matter of understanding it. 

8. Why do BEV advocates talk so much about the lack of hydrogen infrastructure? We’re in the earliest stages of FCV use. Saying that FCVs are “doomed” because of a lack of fueling points is like saying that the very first gasoline powered cars should never have succeeded. Infrastructure isn’t an insurmountable obstacle. No one had ever heard of a gas station in 1900.
The gas cars of 1900 had limited refueling infrastructure, but they were only competing with horses. FCVs today have to compete with gas, PHEV, and BEV options. A car is only as valuable as the utility it can provide. Today, there are more than 100,000 places to fill up a gas car and any outlet can be used for an EV. I can drive coast to coast with the Tesla supercharger network for free (with the purchase of an 85kWh Model S). I can drive a Nissan Leaf all over western Oregon because the area is blanketed in CHAdeMO charging stations.

If you search, you’ll find hundreds of articles from 2011 and 2012 that said that EVs would flop because of the chicken and egg problem of charging infrastructure. The difference is that BEVs can be plugged into any outlet (albeit slow) and for less than $1000 you can get a get a charging station in your garage. With FCVs, 'where to fill up?' really is a concern. No one is willing to go back to 1900.

No one is willing to suffer 1900 level of infrastructure. 

You have to have the freedom to drive wherever you want to go. FCVs can never be more than a niche product without a vast refueling infrastructure. BEVs have the advantage here because we already have a vast electricity network.

9. Why does Elon Musk criticize FCVs so regularly? If Musk is right and FCVs are “fool cells,” than he wouldn’t give them a second thought, right? Musk doth protest too much, don’t you think?
I'll speculate: Elon Musk has done his own research and reasoning and determined that if you look at the whole picture of energy needs, infrastructure, batteries, fuel cells… that for passenger vehicles, BEVs are the most likely long-term winner. Tesla Motors’ entire business plan is based on the success and growth of battery electric cars. If it turns out that FCVs are the technology winner, then Tesla will cease to exist as we know it.

10. Why can’t Tesla and Nissan Leaf fans just relax? What’s with all the hate? Even *if* battery packs become the best option for most cars, it’s likely that fuel cells will power pickup trucks, large SUVs, and probably even some cars too.
Can’t we all just get along?
FCVs are held up as the next great thing. The promise is that they have all the performance of an EV with none of the range concerns or recharge time hassles. But that is not the whole story. Rather FCVs are used as a “spoiler” to EVs. FCVs are the promise of tomorrow, that never delivers. Even the FCVs that are coming out now, they will only have a handful of deliveries, enough to make some press hype and not much more. The message is “just keep driving gas cars until FCVs are ready”. We don’t have time to wait any longer. PHEV/BEV solutions are here today. Five years from now, FC advocates will still be making promises about growing the infrastructure and the coming price drops just like they have been since 1960. If Lucy keeps moving the football, eventually Charlie Brown will just go play soccer instead. The public money that will soon be spent building-out H2 infrastructure could build 10X the amount of fast charge EV infrastructure. An “all of the above” policy means that neither EVs nor FCVs will receive the funding that they need to become a serious threat to the incumbent, reigning champion, gasoline. If you want a real solution to driving with lower emissions today, then plug-in vehicles are the way to go and any empty promise that delays that needs to be swept aside.

Friday, November 21, 2014

EVs The Oregon Way: Selling Cars Without State Incentives

Oregon's Chief EV Officer recently laid out the plan that her state has been using to make EVs successful there and (spoiler alert) it is not big cash incentives.

This presentation was given at Canada's largest EV conference, the EV2014VÉ Conference & Trade Show, in Vancouver, BC. Canada currently has aboot 10,000 plug-in cars registered today and a nice projected growth curve shown below:

Back to "EVs The Oregon Way". At the conference Oregon's very own Chief EV Officer, my friend, Ashley Horvat from the Oregon Department Of Transportation, gave an overview of strategies that she's using to promote EVs in the state. Below is my paraphrasing and elaboration of the presentation. I'd like to clarify that this is in no way a dictation of her presentation, it is, rather, ideas that she inspired or my interpretation of what she said. So if you find something insightful or clever below, it is something she said. If you find something erroneous or disagreeable, I get credit for that.

Ashley Horvat,
Oregon's Chief EV Officer
Point 1 - Infrastructure Increases the Utility (and Therefore the Value) of EVs

A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that there are five states with EV sales which are 2-4 times higher than the national average. The states are Washington, California, Hawaii, Georgia, Oregon, and Colorado. The high EV sales can generally be correlated to state EV incentives. Washington waives a 6.5% sales tax (about $2000 on a $30,000 car), California has a $2500 incentive (plus HOV lane access), Hawai'i has a $4500 incentive, and Georgia has a whopping $5000 incentive for EVs.

It doesn't take a study to know that reducing the price of something by thousands of dollars will increase sales. The one outlier state on this top-5 list, however, is Oregon. Oregon does not have a tax rebate for buying an EV*. All that Oregon has today is a small 25% incentive for a residential charging station (and you can skip the DEQ test).

Based on 2013 electric vehicle registration data provided by IHS Automotive

* Oregon had a $750 EV incentive in 2011 and 2012, but this was discontinued in 2013.

How does Oregon make it on a list with states that offer $2000+ incentives? The state's green ethos helps, but the real reason is because of the EV charging infrastructure that's in-place in Oregon today. This infrastructure makes EVs *more valuable* here.

Oregon (at least western Oregon, where most of the state's population lives) is swimming in EV charging stations:

Oregon EV Charging Infrastructure, November 2014, via PlugShare
Having a vast EV charging infrastructure network, specifically a fast charge, means that EVs can go more places. They are not restricted to just what they can do with overnight charging. This makes them appeal to a larger segment of the car-buying population.

Incentives alone cannot increase the market size for EVs. Without an infrastructure to support them, EVs are only useful within a radius of 50% of their range. In such infrastructure barren areas battery electric EVs, even long range EVs, will only appeal to diehard few.

Tesla Motors understands this. That is why they are building a charging network across the US and in countries around the world to support their vehicles.

Let me be clear, I'm not saying EVs are worthless without infrastructure; just that they are more valuable with it. I drove an EV from 2007 until 2011 using home charging almost exclusively. It was great for commuting and errands and most of my annual miles were logged in my electric Chevy truck. Road trips, however, were out the the question. In 2011, when a Nissan Leaf replaced the electric truck, fast charge infrastructure allowed my to start taking trips like this one or this one.

EVs are not worthless without infrastructure. 
They are just more valuable with it.

Think about it this way, if you were interested in buying something, and you were on the fence about it, there are two primary ways to convince you make the purchase: one, reduce the cost; two, increase the value. State incentives are the first method, deploying EV infrastructure is the second method.

Discounts can only get you so far. For example, if I offer to sell you dog food but you don't have a dog, you are not likely to buy it, even if I offer it at half price. The product has to meet your needs. If you want people to spend their own money on a car, it has to be able to meet their transportation needs. Fast charge infrastructure enables EVs to meet many more transportation needs or scenarios.

Point 2 - Where You Put The Infrastructure Matters

Horvat told the story of the West Coast Electric Highway (WCEH) collaborative. Oregon, Washington, and California agreed to create the West Coast Electric Highway on Interstate 5 (I-5). I-5 is the major artery of the US west coast. On the ~1500 miles of I-5, you can drive from San Diego to Seattle while passing through all the major population centers of the West Coast. Making this a fast charge corridor enables much of the West Coast population to make EV roadtrips.

Oregon jumped into the WCEH project with both feet. Fast charge stations were installed every 30 to 40 miles along I-5 in Oregon. On July 4th 2012, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley set off on an all-electric border to border drive across Oregon.

Horvat didn't stop there. Next she worked with Travel Oregon to find day trips to electrify. These scenic loops can be strung together to make longer drives. This effort put fast charging in the Columbia Gorge, the Oregon coastline, Mt. Hood, and Oregon Wine Country. This enabled EV tourism in the state without concerns about running out of charge.

Horvat pointed out that you need a deployment plan, “Don’t just give a charging station to the first place to raise their hand.”. In haste to deploy stations to spend grants or budgets by given deadlines, this happens all too often. A smattering of stations is not as useful as a well planned network.

Point 3 - Err on the Side of Action

There is no clear blueprint for mass deployment of EV infrastructure. Even when you do make detailed plans, there will be complications. It is important that you keep moving forward. One example in Oregon is the town of Elsie. This little town is between Portland and Seaside. It would be the perfect place for a fast charge station. However, they don't have the needed electrical service. Routes to other beach towns: Astoria, Tillamook, and Lincoln City were established from Portland. Once you are on the coastline, there are charging station all along the coast as far south as Port Orford.

This makes Seaside accessible from Portland, not ideal, but still possible. Elsie would still be a good spot for a charging station and maybe one will eventually be installed there. We have not given up. Until then, there’s no point in complaining about it. It’s much better to make the most of the resources you've got. Make a plan and err on the side of action.

Point 4 - Have a Dedicated Mission Control

Achieving something like this is very involved. Doing it right is a fulltime job. There are permits, electrical service considerations, signs, site hosts, partners, grants, contractors, vendors, parts ordering, government agencies, money management... You need someone with project management skills. You need someone with people skills that site hosts can talk to when they have questions. You need someone to drive consistency. You need single point of contact, a single voice of direction. In Oregon's case, that voice is Ashley Horvat, the EV Chief Officer at the Oregon Department of Transportation.

You also have to document things. Procedures need to be written down and lessons learned need to be applied the next time a charging station is planted. Horvat has published white-papers explaining the methods that Oregon has used and she gives presentations at conferences like this one in Canada.

Jerome Kersey and Ashley Horvat
on the Plug & Pinot Tour

Point 5 - Create a Brand & a Consistent Experience

Horvat and team created an appealing West Coast Electric Highway (WCEH) brand. They defined the experience for a WCEH charging locations. EV drivers should immediately recognize the signage, colors, and station design at every location. The procedures for charging is the same at every location. The charging stations themselves must stand out. There is always at least one CHAdeMO and one Level 2 station. Think Starbucks or McDonalds in terms of consistency. There are variations from location to location, but the standard menu items are always there.

Point 6 - Create Buzz

She wrapped a presentation with a video about an Oregon marketing initiative: the Plug and Pinot Tour starring former Trail Blazer star Jerome Kersey. Horvat persuaded this towering 6'7" athlete to take a Nissan Leaf on an electrified Oregon wine tasting tour. The routes were published and the wineries offered free charging. A small herd of EVs caravanned from one winery to the next, sipping pinot while they charged and reporters snapped pictures. The effort was supported and promoted by several wineries and the story showed up in several local news outlets announcing that EV tourism had come to Oregon.

Jerome Kersey plugging in on the Plug & Pinot Tour
with solar panels and grape fields in the background

In Summary

More than just cash incentives can be used to increase EV sales. In fact, direct incentives may not even be the best use of public funds if mass adoption is the goal. A robust, reliable EV charging network increases the number of car buyers that will consider buying an EV.

If you want EVs to be popular in your region/state, then that local government has to take EV-policy seriously from the Governor down to the local administrator. You need focused EV leadership that can establish direction and drive consistency.

Err on the Side of Action. A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Get something done and talk about it. Create a brand and buzz. EVs are an exciting new technology that offer a new way to power personal transportation. This is a once-in-a-lifetime transformation. Tell the story.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Audi Shows a Plug-in / Fuel Cell Hybrid Car

I have written many articles about Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Generally speaking, I don't like them. Their fuel, H2, is derived from Methane and in the rare case that electricity is used to make H2 from water, this electricity would be better used directly in an electric car.

There is one case where I conceded that I would consider buying a fuel cell car. That is if it was a plug-in hybrid with decent (40 mile+) electric range. You may not be aware of this, but FC vehicles generally include batteries. The batteries are there to recapture regenerative braking energy and to supplement the peak power demands such as during quick acceleration.

If the capacity of these batteries were increased from the 4kWh or less that usually found in FCEVs, to say 16kWh found in a Chevy Volt today or more, then you have a car that can be charged up at home and fueled up (with H2) when it is on the road. In fact, the original Volt drivetrain design, then called E-Flex, was designed so that the range extender could be a generator or a fuel cell.

Despite this concept of a plug-in hybrid FC vehicle being around for a while, none of the FCVs announced for production from Toyota, Hyundai, or Honda allow the car to be plugged in. Some of them even have a CHAdeMO port, but that is there to allow the car to be used as a backup power source, not to charge the car.

Audi just changed that at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show. They are showing a five-door luxury fastback billed as the first sporty fuel-cell car. Audi calls the A7 h-tron quattro a "technology demonstrator".

The A7 h-tron quattro has 8.8kWh of lithium-ion batteries (the same as the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid) and like the A3 e-tron it can be plugged in and recharged. Audi claims an all-electric range of 28 miles in the A3. This is enough for most commutes. I'd prefer 40+ miles of electric range, but this is a good start.

Four storage tanks hold enough H2 for 310 miles of range once the batteries are depleted. They're housed under the hood, where the internal-combustion engine of a normal gas-powered A7 would be.

If only there was a nationwide network of H2 filling stations. Today there is no such vast H2 filling infrastructure and, IMHO, any public money spent building one would be better spent putting in much cheaper fast charge stations for EVs.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Do You Chauffeur Your Kids To School In An EV?

Is your "Mom's Taxi Service" vehicle powered by batteries? If so and you are in the greater Portland, OR area, a market research firm is interested in your opinions and you can earn $150 for helping them out. Here is the note from them on the topic:
I am looking for drivers with school age children who on an average day are taking their children to school, sports, activities, etc. I am hoping to get a mix of EV types, including Tesla, Fiat, BMW, and Mercedes. I also have 1-2 spots for Leaf drivers. The user sessions are taking place on December 1st and 2nd and will be 90 minutes with a $150 compensation (with a 15 minute arrival prior to your scheduled session).
The time slots available are 9:00am, 11:00am, 1:30pm and 3:30pm. 
If you are interested, please contact: 
Regan Nelson
Focus Group Coordinator
reganwnelson at gmail dot com

Oregon DEQ Cash for Clunkers Diesel Truck Program

From the Oregon DEQ:

The EPA is currently soliciting interest in grant funded projects to improve air quality from diesel engines at select ports across the country. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, in collaboration with the Port of Portland and the Oregon Trucking Associations, are preparing a request for funding and are especially interested in recruiting heavy duty truck owners who carry cargo in and out of port, railyard and other intermodal facilities in the Portland, Oregon area.

EPA funding is available to cover half the cost of the purchase of 2011 and newer model year trucks, providing a truck between 1991 to 2006 is scrapped. If you are interested in possibly being part of this project, please contact Kevin Downing at DEQ, downing.kevin@deq.state.or.us, 503.229.6549 or Ruth Kinney at the Oregon Trucking Associations, ruth@ortrucking.org, 503.513.0005.

Friday, November 7, 2014

First US e-Golf Comes to Oregon

Volkswagen e-Golf

The electric Volkswagen e-Golf went on sale in the US this month (November 2014).

To kick off the event, VW decided to auction the first US e-Golf and donate the proceeds to charity. The auction ended on October 29th and the car was delivered on Halloween. InsideEVs reports that the winner of the auction was Bruce Oberg of Oregon.

Congratulations to Bruce! One more EV on the road and a donation to Global Green USA.

The winning bid was $41,400 – about $6,000 over the car’s sticker price of $35,445.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tesla & SolarCity usher in the New Energy Era

At some point late in 2013, I think the future business plans for SolarCity and Tesla Motors were mixed together. The page that said "Gigafactory" slipped from one to the other and now they both have a Gigafactory in their future.

Together these two gigafactories will reduce the cost of solar panels and energy storage. These factories, along with the wave of competition and copycats that they kick-off, will create the new energy era of 2030.

Let's look at each of these planned factories and their impact.

Tesla Gigafactory

Tesla is building a massive battery factory in Nevada. The figure below gives you some perspective on the size of the planned Tesla Gigafactory.

This comparison shows the size, but it is a bit of a cheat in that it is comparing the *footprint* of the factory to the *profile* of the other buildings. Below is a comparison of just footprints:
I'm not sure why the above figure (from Reddit) includes a banana on the right, but the comparison to the 80,000 seat Dallas Cowboys' football stadium is telling. This will be a massive factory.

Tesla expects their battery cost to be reduced by 30%. The output of the factory is expected to be 35 GWh/year of cells and, with additional cells from their partner Panasonic, 50 GWh/year of battery packs.

There are the numbers, but what does that mean? Let's put it in perspective, this is more battery capacity than all the factories in the world made in 2013. That is worth reiterating. This factory will produce, under one roof, more batteries than all the factories in the world made in 2013. This is enough battery capacity for:
o 22 billion iPhone 5s
o 1.2 billion iPad Retinas
o 2 Million Nissan Leafs
o 588,000 Tesla Model S P85D

More on the Tesla battery factory later, let's look at the solar gigafactory.

SolarCity Gigafactory 

The SolarCity Gigafactory will be located in Buffalo, New York at the High-Tech Manufacturing Hub. It is a one-million-square-foot site.

SolarCity intends to build a factory with 1 gigawatt of annual solar capacity. The modules will be highly efficient and have the lowest cost per installed kilowatt of any on the market. Depending on where it is installed, 1 GW of panels could generate 1 terawatt-hour of energy annually. This is enough to power over 85,000 US homes each year it is operational.

SolarCity's Silevo Solar Cell
According to SolarCity's press release, the company will spend $5 billion on their gigafactory over the next 10 years.

Putting Them Together 

Solar panels that generate energy and batteries that can store that energy are a natural fit. There are many ways that these can be used together. The Tesla battery gigafactory and acres of the desert around it will be covered in SolarCity's panels. Many of the Tesla supercharger stations will have SolarCity panels. These minor cooperative efforts are nice and to be expected considering the relationship between the companies, but this is just the camel's nose.

In late 2013, SolarCity started offering energy storage systems to businesses using Tesla batteries. The system has energy management software that stores energy when there's surplus and supplies energy during peak times to avoid demand charges and peak rates. Soon we could see projects that allow the utilities to buy this stored energy when they need it, thereby increasing their operating reserve. Another clue to what's to come.

Creating the New Energy Era 

It is easy to see how energy storage and solar are complementary, but the real disruption here is the scope of these two factories. Together they will reduce the cost of solar and energy storage to the point that they are game-changers. By 2030 things will be radically different. The combination of the Tesla and SolarCity gigafactories could make the next great energy powerhouse.

The combination of Tesla & SolarCity could be the next energy powerhouse. 

Energy Generation 2030

Cheap energy storage means that renewable energy can be the primary supply for the power grid. Intermittent sources, such as wind and solar, are easily managed when there is energy storage that buffers generation from use. This energy store can be tapped as needed, on-demand, with no spin-up delay. Energy will become "digital". Once we hit this digital-energy tipping point, all new generation plants that utilities bring online will be renewable. With renewable generation, there is no need to pay for ongoing fuel costs, waste disposal, or emission controls. Fossil fuel burning and nuclear will just not pencil out for cost and the "baseload" argument is moot once-massive grid-scale energy storage is viable.

Cheap industrial-scale batteries will make energy "digital". 

This might sound like a radical shift in energy production but the trends are already starting. The cost reductions in solar and storage will hasten the transition.

Cheap solar panels will mean that any building with an unshaded roof will be a candidate for solar. For example, if you could install solar panels and a scaled-to-fit energy storage system on your home or business, that cost you nothing upfront and this allowed you to pay for all of your electricity at off-peak rates, there are clear economic benefits, it's a no-brainer. Most people would jump at a chance to reduce their electric bill.

Transportation 2030

As batteries become cheaper, plug-in vehicles become cheaper, have longer range, and grab more market share. This also allows batteries to be used in more vehicle types. Today BYD is making electric buses and there are electric garbage trucks on the roads in Chicago and Beijing.

Elon Musk has stated by 2030 that 50% of all new vehicle production will be fully electric. I have made my own prediction here. In my prediction, I did not distinguish between plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles. I predicted that 50% of all new vehicle sales will be plug-in vehicles in 2035. So I am only slightly more pessimistic than Mr. Musk, but we are in the same general ball-park. Plug-in vehicles have clearly crossed the chasm by 2030 and are clearly on their way to market dominance.

Not only will batteries become cheaper, they will become lighter. Currently, Li-ion batteries store about 250 Wh/kg. Today this allows for expensive ~200-mile range cars. Battery energy density is improving at about 8% per year. Assuming this general rate continues, things start to get very interesting when the technology crosses the 400 Wh/kg milestone in ~2020.

The 400 Wh/kg milestone is significant because it will allow EVs to be lighter while still carrying a significant energy capacity. This will result in longer range without increasing the capacity. According to Car & Driver, the 2013 Tesla Model S 85 battery pack weighs 1323 pounds. A 30% reduction in pack weight would remove 400 pounds from the car. This would improve the acceleration, range, handling, and braking without any other changes to the car.
2013 Battery Pack Comparison
Let's look at air travel.

Today there are small experimental electric aircraft. At the 2014 Berlin Air Show Airbus demonstrated their E-Fan two-seater electric aircraft shown below.

Smaller aircraft, such as the Embraer Regional Jet and twin-turboprop commuter lines, will likely be among the first commercial planes to be electrified. Airbus has already demonstrated that they want to lead in this space even if it takes a radical redesign of planes.

As the fuel savings for these smaller aircraft becomes apparent, the technology will move up the ranks.

With 400 Wh/kg batteries, it is possible to have battery-powered coast-to-coast commercial airline flights. At 700 Wh/kg (in ~2030), it would be possible to have battery-powered intercontinental flights.

Where Does It End?

Battery technology will continue to improve. They will get lighter, cheaper, charge faster, and last longer. Our current chemistries will, eventually, be replaced by lithium-air, solid-state, or another breakthrough. These will be refined and eventually displaced by ultracapacitors or a yet-to-be imagined storage system.

This improved energy storage will drive development and new applications in transportation and energy management. By 2070, all transportation (except rockets) will be electrically powered from renewable energy.

Create the future you want to live in

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tesla CHAdeMO Adapter Really Coming Soon

Tesla Model S charging w/ the CHAdeMO adaptor

Tesla has been selling their CHAdeMO adaptor in Japan since mid-2013. However, they have not started selling it in the US yet. The adaptor has been listed on the Model S accessories page for over a year with a "coming soon" tag.

Here in the NW corner of the US, there is a vast CHAdeMO network, as you can see in the image below. A CHAdeMO adaptor would be very handy around here.

Oregon & Washington CHAdeMO Charging Stations, Oct 2014 
Tesla has built out their Supercharger network in this area too. You can see it in the image below.

Tesla Supercharger Network in Oregon & Washington
Comparing the CHAdeMO network and the Supercharger network, you can see that there are far more CHAdeMO stations. Granted, the Superchargers are faster and free, but that does not mean that they are located everywhere that you might like to stop and charge.

The CHAdeMO adaptor would allow Model S drivers to decide where they'd like to charge.

Since the adaptor first appeared on Tesla's accessories page, it has had a price of $1000. Today, that price was reduced to $450. It is still listed as "coming soon" but the price reduction is a promising sign that "soon" may finally actually be soon.

Friday, October 10, 2014

West Coast Electric Highway Drivers Wanted

Do you fast charge your EV on the West Coast Electric Highway in Oregon? If so, author Jim Motavalli would like to interview you.

Oregon's Chief EV Officer, Ashley Horvat, is helping Jim find frequent fast charging EV drivers. If you would like to talk with Jim, please contact Ashley at Ashley.N.Horvat@odot.state.or.us

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Mental "Glitches" Are Slowing EV Sales (Part 5 - Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon)

Welcome to part 5 of our series of cognitive biases and logical fallacies. We are examining these biases that we all have and how they could be impacting the mass adoption of plug-in vehicles. We have looked at Cognitive Dissonance, Status Quo Bias, Confirmation Bias, and Ingroup Bias. In this post, we'll be looking at Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Have you ever learned a new word and then in the following few days you run across it several times? This is the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Expanding on this concept, have you ever bought a new car, then suddenly you start seeing that model on roads all over the place. For my last example, when my wife was pregnant, it seemed like I was seeing pregnant women everywhere we went.

This phenomenon is one example of how our attentiveness can be primed. As we walk through the world, our previous experiences determine what we see as salient and what is filtered out.

In some cases, there really is an external change that causes a spike in some events. These seeming coincidences could just be a statistical clustering of events or they could have a common, perhaps non-obvious, source such as a meme or trend. With the word example, perhaps it was used in an influential article or speech and this spurred other writers to use the word or phrase.

In other cases, your attentiveness has changed. As in the car example, buying a new car is a big purchase and an emotional experience. The number of similar cars on the road didn't change from the day before you made your purchase. They were there before, but they didn't have the same level of emotional connection. What has changed is your ability to notice them (selective perception bias).

In yet other cases, this is can be because your exposure to the item of note has changed. In the example of my pregnant wife, we were going to the obstetrician's office and birthing classes, and we were of an age that many of our friends were also starting or expanding their family.

There you have it, the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon can be a coincidence, a trend, selective attentiveness, or a change in your exposure of a constant.

Why We Filter 

Let's look at the selective attentiveness aspect of Baader-Meinhof a little more. If priming can make us aware of things that were already there of which we were previously ignorant, then it stands to reason that there are other things that we are currently exposed to but not perceiving. What advantage would there be for our brain to keep us ignorant of things in our surroundings?

Filtering is vital for decision making 

When driving, we don't notice the make, model, license plate number, and driver details of every vehicle around. It is enough to notice if they are staying in their lane and then use our attention to think about what we are doing to do that evening or to listen the radio. If you were trying to assimilate all this information, you would likely rearend the car in front of you when they stopped and you didn't notice because you were noting the eye color of driver in an oncoming car as they passed by you.

While awake, our brains are constantly drown in torrent of information streaming in from our senses. To understand the world, this data has to be manageable. That means in complex scenes, only the things with 'significance' get through the filters. This is a mechanism to help us make sense of the world.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon Applied to Plug-in Vehicles

How does this apply to plug-in vehicles and the public infrastructure they plug into?


One of the primary objections to plug-in vehicles is that there is not enough infrastructure to support them. This is the, so-called, chicken-and-egg problem (EVs need infrastructure before people will buy them, but there is no reason to build infrastructure when there are so few plug-in cars on the road).

I would argue that there is EV infrastructure, it is just that most people are selectively blind to it. It fails to meet the Baader-Meinhof significance test and it is glossed over. Below are some examples of EV charging infrastructure.

Various EV charging infrastructure (not to scale)
These are not consistent in their appearance. They could easily be dismissed as a parking meter or other utility access items. Unless you have used these, you could be walking or driving past one or more per day and not even notice them. To see how many charging stations are in your region, open plugshare.com, type in your zipcode and look around.

Below is a screenshot of the Portland, Oregon area where I live. You can see that there are charging stations all over the place. There are DC Fast Charge stations (orange), Level 2 stations (green), and even people that will let you charge up at their house (shown in blue).

Plugshare listing of Portland Oregon 2014

Furthermore, EV drivers know that nearly any outlet can be used to charge up their car. There are millions of outlets in the US. Nearly every house has an outlet in the garage and/or an outdoor outlet that can used for holiday lights. Many RV campgrounds are happy to let you plug-in too.

Despite Portland currently having more infrastructure per capita than any other city in the US, when I am displaying my car at events, I still hear people say "As soon as they have more charging stations, I'll consider getting a plug-in car."

My point is that some people say "there is no infrastructure", whereas others see us as awash in it. Filtering and confirmation bias explain how these two groups can live in the same world and see it very differently.

Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon Applied to EVs

In a similar manner to the EV infrastructure, many people don't see the EVs that are out there. Given that there were only two mass produced models on sale in 2011, EVs have come a long way.

As of the time I am writing this, Plug In America.org estimates that there are 257,222 plug-in vehicles on the road in the US.
October 2014 estimate from PlugInAmerica.org
For those that assume this is "just a west coast thing", you may be surprised to hear that for the first half of 2014, Georgia outsold all other states. Utah, Arizona, and Tennessee are also in the top ten.

EV sales are still small, relative to the total car market. But the rate has been growing exponentially and the first half of 2014 is 84% higher than the 2013 rate.

There have been several studies and stories that show that one person in a community can clear the doubt and the veil that hides EVs from sight and then spark a neighborhood or community to adopt plug-in vehicles. Nissan spokesperson, Brian Brockman said “We find that once you have one or two people in a neighborhood driving a Leaf, they share stories about the benefits with friends, family and coworkers, which leads to additional sales,” in an interview with NextCity. Tesla has reported similar clustering of sales.

Just the act of the new technology showing up on a neighborhood driveway can disrupt the status quo bias and if the new owner is a member of the local ingroup, this would allow plug-in cars to get true consideration.