Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune expounded on the election in his blog, but he also spoke at an environmental community press conference on Wednesday to examine the election's results and talk about what's next. Here are his remarks.
In June 1989 President Bush proposed sweeping revisions to the Clean Air Act....(T)he President proposed legislation designed to curb three major threats to the nation's environment and to the health of millions of Americans: acid rain, urban air pollution, and toxic air emissions. The proposal also called for establishing a national permits program to make the law more workable, and an improved enforcement program to help ensure better compliance with the Act.
By large votes, both the House of Representatives (401-21) and the Senate (89-11) passed Clean Air bills that contained the major components of the President's proposals. Both bills also added provisions requiring the phaseout of ozone-depleting chemicals....The Senate and House bills also added specific research and development provisions, as well as detailed programs to address accidental releases of toxic air pollutants.
....The President received the Bill from Congress on November 14, 1990 and signed it on November 15,1990.
The Clean Air Act has a long track record of cutting dangerous pollution to protect human health and the environment and spur innovation. It deserves to be celebrated and protected.
America's dependence on oil has pushed oil companies to drill in more and more dangerous places for bigger and bigger profits, resulting in disasters like the explosion of BP's Deepwater rig. This disaster and its aftermath highlight the need for America to get serious about breaking our addiction to oil.
Seventy percent of the 557 million gallons of oil used daily in the U.S. are for transportation, and the vast majority of that oil is used in our passenger cars and trucks. To move beyond oil, it's clear that we have to reform our outdated, oil-soaked transportation system.
We cannot end our dependence on oil until we emphasize convenient transportation choices that reduce our need to drive, like passenger and freight rail and public transit.
Instead, we must develop our towns and cities into livable communities where people can walk, bike, or take transit to their destinations rather than waste time, money, and gas sitting in stop-and-go traffic. We must develop 21st century transportation system that includes high speed rail that connects city centers and to transit – all without oil!
The good news is that investing in transportation reform that provides 21st century transportation choices is not only the right thing to do in the wake of the BP disaster, but it's also the right thing to do to jump-start our economy.
Another report released today by the Apollo Alliance, entitled "Make it in America: The Apollo Clean Transportation Manufacturing Action Plan," (PDF) shows that investment in transportation infrastructure that creates a globally competitive transit and clean vehicle manufacturing sector in the United States can create 3.7 million jobs in the U.S., including 600,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.
In the shadow of the BP disaster and under the weight of a sagging economy, there's no time to lose. America must invest in a 21st century transportation system that puts America back to work, provides transportation choices, and moves us beyond oil.
Yes, there are details and more details and we won't have a final standard until the summer of 2012 - but the story today is that there are multiple paths the industry can take to achieve an average fuel economy of 62 miles per gallon in 2025.
No surprises here - better engines, transmissions, high strength and lighter weight materials, hybrids and electric vehicles are all technologies that automakers can use to continue to increase fuel efficiency and reduce global warming pollution for cars and trucks. With higher gas prices always on the horizon, making cars go farther on a gallon of gas is a no-brainer.
The oil disasters this past summer in the Gulf and the Kalamazoo River only add urgency to setting strong standards to help break our dirty and dangerous addiction to oil and slash global warming pollution.
We are not talking about doing this overnight. The standards that kick in between 2012-2016 will be reducing emissions of global warming pollution by 5% each year between 2012 and 2016. So, getting to at least 60 mpg in 2025 is a matter of reducing pollution by 6% per year.
Model year 2025 cars will save nearly twice the oil over their lifetimes than aiming low.
"Instead of plucking numbers out of the air, we should base policy on science and expert reviews of factors like affordability of technology, availability of low-carbon fuels and the state of the electric infrastructure."
This is about putting technology to work. We have more faith in the automakers than they do. That's nothing new - this is an industry that has said no to seat belts, air bags, air pollution controls, and for decades they said no to raising fuel economy. And, let's not forget the tens of billions of tax payer dollars that went into to bailing these naysayers out.
Our colleagues at Union of Concerned Scientists and Natural Resources Defense Council looked at technologies and costs and found that 60 mpg is not only achievable - but it also will save consumers $101 billion dollars in 2025 (PDF). EPA and the Department of Transportation have looked at the technology and the costs and made clear 60 mpg is not only achievable, but it will save far more than the technologies cost.
In fact, the agencies show that consumers could see net savings of $5,700 and $7,400 at the pump. These are savings after recovering the cost $2,800- $3,500 cost of technologies. These are dollars that stay in our economy instead going to pay for foreign oil. That's a good deal!
A recent poll shows that Americans overwhelming support getting to 60 mpg by 2025. The Administration should follow through with proposing and finalizing a 6% annual decrease in global warming pollution for 2017-2025 vehicles.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 3:10PM PST on September 16, 2010
In April, the Obama administration raised the fuel efficiency standards for model year 2016 vehicles to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon. That was a good improvement and proved popular with the public. More efficient cars mean less money spent on gas, after all. Plus, better efficiency improves air quality, reduced imports of oil, and reduces climate change pollution. With the success of the 2016 standards, the administration is now set to announce standards for 2025. By looking far to the future, the administration is giving automakers plenty of time to develop more efficient fleets.
The public is decidedly on the side of more efficient cars. In a recent national poll (pdf), 74 percent of respondents said they supported the federal government requiring the auto industry to increase average fuel efficiency to 60 miles per gallon by the year 2025. That makes sense, since fuel efficiency affects so many people directly. More fuel efficient cars are better cars. It’s pretty simple.
The most telling response from the poll, perhaps, is that sixty-six percent of respondents still supported the idea even if it added $3,000 to the price of a new car. Indeed, eighty-three percent of respondents said they would favor the policy if a $3,000 cost were recouped in four years through savings at the pump, a likely outcome.
Some automakers are fighting against the stronger standards just like they fought against seat belts and early fuel standards. But the truth is the technology to get us to 60 mpg is already here. We don’t need some new, unknown fuel source. We just need 55 percent hybrids, 15 percent electric vehicles, and the rest well-designed gasoline vehicles to get there. For more information and to take action, check out go60mpg.org.
However, the President's announcement leaves many details yet to be resolved, and entrenched interests will be fighting for continuation of the status quo. This is the beginning of a long push ahead on transportation reform.
We have a lot of work ahead of us to create a 21st-century transportation system that ends our dependence on oil. To highlight the extent of our transportation and oil problem in the United States, check out these mind-blowing facts:
Transportation consumes more than 70% of the 19 million barrels of oil used daily in the U.S. One barrel holds 42 gallons, meaning that we use roughly 557 million gallons of oil for transportation each day.
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster spewed nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico - that's just over a quarter of the amount of oil we use in the United States each day.
Fully one quarter of our nation's roads and bridges are in disrepair, and the Highway Trust Fund, which is financed by the gas tax to take care of our roads, no longer has enough money to cover the costs.
The good news is that the president's announcement is putting transportation back on the national agenda, and we have an opportunity to shape how this reform develops. The President needs to hear from citizens on what transportation reform looks like in our communities.
Posted by: Ann Mesnikoff at 3:39PM PST on August 30, 2010
The EPA and the Department of Transportation have proposed a new fuel-economy label that's intended to show how electric and alternative fuel vehicles compare to conventional gasoline passenger vehicles.
"The idea of the grade is to give a single metric that combines greenhouse gases and fuel economy into one metric," said EPA assistant administrator Gina McCarthy. "We will have information underlying those grades available to consumers when the labels are in place."
Electric vehicles are without question essential to ending America's dependence on oil, but they also need to be part of the solution to curbing all global-warming pollution. A vehicle that solely runs on a battery uses no oil. But it is also true that this vehicle will plug into the electrical grid to charge up.
Since about half of our electric power is generated by coal-fired power plants, plugging in often means greenhouse-gas pollution from a smokestack. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign is working to ensure that our electric sector cleans up. Charging up with renewable electricity will maximize the greenhouse gas benefits of plugging in. Truly, electric vehicles are the ultimate flexible fuel vehicles -- whether the electricity comes from the sun, wind, geothermal or natural gas the car won’t care. But until we have a cleaner grid, we should not ignore emissions and the EPA should give consumers the information they need to fully understand vehicles and their emissions.
Depending on where you live and what kind of power plant is providing your electricity, the global warming benefit of an electric vehicle will vary. It is on this point that the EPA seems to be missing the point by assuming that, no matter what, an electric vehicle has no global warming pollution associated with it -- zero.
The EPA is proposing some interesting choices for new labels including letter grades from A+ to D. That’s a proposal worth looking at closely, but it does not solve the problem of upstream pollution. The EPA proposes to post more information on a website for consumers who want to learn about upstream emissions. But consumers should have easy access to information at the dealership, which is where they are making a decision between vehicles based on what they see on the window stickers.
The Sierra Club joined with the American Solar Energy Society on a report a couple of years ago that provides a map documenting the best and worst places to charge up. All of these comparisons are between an electric vehicle and today’s average 25 mile per gallon conventional car -- not a high-mileage Prius.
Argonne National Lab also looked that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with plugging in and found:
The primary conclusion is that electrification of transportation significantly reduces petroleum energy use, but GHG emissions strongly depend on the electricity generation mix for battery recharging.
California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) provided that, in California, an electric car would on average emit 130 grams per mile of greenhouse gas pollution. California shows that putting a fair value on the upstream emissions from electric vehicles can be done.
The consequences of not counting the emissions associated with electric vehicles can be significant. As the Sierra Club included in comments to the proposed greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for 2012-2016 vehicles, the EPA itself noted that "in reality the total emissions off-set relative to the typical gasoline or diesel
powered vehicle is not zero, as there is a corresponding increase in upstream CO2 emissions due to an increase in the requirements for electric utility generation."
The proposal for the new labels is a good start. Considering letter grades for vehicles will certainly help move the market -- who will want to by a car or an SUV that gets a D or a C? The EPA can get this right -- consumers deserve accurate information.
Posted by: Rachel Butler at 3:15PM PST on August 30, 2010
This summer, we’ve witnessed the 10-day traffic jam in China, the million-gallon Enbridge pipeline oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and, of course, ongoing efforts to clean up the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
Traffic. Oil spills. What do they have in common? Both are at the core of our transportation system in the United States, a system which leaves us dependent on cars to get around, drains as much as $1 billion from our economy each day, and keeps Americans stuck in traffic for 4.2 billion hours each year while wasting 2.8 billion gallons of gas.
We know that America can do better. We need a 21st century transportation system that enhances our national security, economy, environment and quality of life. So the Sierra Club is launching a new network of Transportation Activists, the Club's front line on creating a 21st century transportation system in the United States.
Sick of traffic jams and oil spills? Want to learn about and take action on national transportation issues like ending our dependence on oil, expanding public transit, and promoting the development of walkable and bikeable communities? Sign up to be a Transportation Activist here and join the movement.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:46AM PST on August 25, 2010
Bicyclists probably already get a sense of satisfaction knowing that their preferred mode of transport is carbon free. But what goes through their heads when they read about a 10-day old logjam of cars that goes nowhere?
Outside Beijing, there was an epic 60-mile traffic jam described as a "standstill" that went on for a week and a half. Vendors gravitated toward the jam to sell food and items (and static drivers complained about being gouged.). It was so bad that the traffic jam morphed into "some kind of makeshift settlement." (What do you tell your boss in this scenario? "Sorry I was late to the meeting. I got tied up...")
Beijing is used to traffic horrors. According to Foreign Policy, "Despite the city's six
surrounding ring roads, numerous expressways, and the government's restrictions on car use, urban planners simply can't keep up with the massive influx of new cars that many of Beijing's approximately 20 million increasingly wealthy people (many of whom have never driven a car before) have recently bought."
It's as good a time as any to dust of the ol' bike. And it's an opportunity to plug our tips here, here, and here on becoming a bike commuter. Save money, get healthy, lower your carbon emissions, and avoid scenes like this! Get more info here on Sierra Club's Green Transportation program. (Sign up to be a transportation activist.)
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:16PM PST on August 23, 2010
My car gets good gas mileage, but there are times when I yearn for an electric car. We can dream, right? Sometimes, for a pick-me-up, I search for positive car news. Lately I've come across some great stories that I'd like to share. Here are some samples:
Demand will soon exceed supply: (Forbes) EV expert Chelsea Sexton says that by "2011 there could be 40,000 to 50,000 cars on the market, but as many as 200,000 early adopters waiting to snap them up. A big challenge will be getting the cars to the cash-in-hand customers, which is why the automakers are carefully selecting their early sales markets.
Chelsea's message is also that building a good electric car is not enough. If customers have a frustrating experience with their dealership and service network, they could abandon the brand, or even electric vehicles entirely.
Cars that drive on hemp:
(Autobloggreen) Motive Industries
has announced that they will unveil Canada's first bio-composite-bodied electric
car this September at the EV 2010 VÉ Conference and Trade Show in Vancouver.
Dubbed the Kestrel, the four-passenger compact forgoes some of the traditional
fibers used in composites for a green car (*ahem*) technology that is
renewable – hemp.
like many rapidly industrializing nations, views development in large part through
the prism of Western experience. As a result, it has become nearly axiomatic
that as economic development progresses and a prosperous middle class emerges,
consumption for a range of consumer goods increases. Of these, arguably none
are more preeminently American than the automobile.
Much hype has surrounded India
pursuing an American style development trajectory with the release of an
affordable car for the masses -- Tata’s
Nano. The implications of this trajectory have lead to predictably similar
automobile, oil, security complex. India
currently imports over 70 percent
of its oil supply from the Persian Gulf
-- primarily Saudi Arabia
and Iran -- a
situation requiring a significant naval presence. Sound familiar?
In the countries financial capital, Mumbai,which boasts a population of somewhere near
20 million residents, a sea-link (a
short bridge) was recently built to allow suburban dwellers in the Bandra neighborhood
to quickly and easily drive to the Business district in Worli. The project cost
million and will primarily benefit the less than 3 percent of residents who travel
to work by car. In contrast, an estimated 48 percent of
Mumbai’s population walks or bikes to work. The rest rely on the cities
trains and buses which are notorious for their super
dense crush load, none of which will be helped by the costly sea link.
with a population of 18.5 million, over 23 percent of land is devoted to accommodating
vehicles – which are parked 90 percent of the time. Today two wheelers carry only 20 percent
of commuters yet take up nearly 90 percent of road space. Indeed the
high costs of cars are convincingly elaborated by Sunita Nurain of the
Center for Science and Environment (CSE) in a recent Times of India Op-Ed.
Finally, of course, there is transportation impact
on climate change. In the United
States, transportation accounts for 27 percent
of greenhouse gas emissions -- 33 percent of which came from personal cars. India on
the other hand has only 12
motor vehicles per 1,000 people compared to the US
figure of 765, not to mention a population nearly four times the size.
With a myriad of daunting issues it is clear India
must follow a different path. Luckily, however, it need not look far for
examples of development alternatives. In
is now leading the nation towards modern public transportation with its new
metro. Ultimately, the world desperately needs countries like India
a new vision of development. A vision that promotes people, not vehicle,
centered urban development in order to sustain and nurture the legitimate aspirations
of billions around the world.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:22AM PST on August 16, 2010
Those of you who listen to Ira Flatow's "Science Friday" on a regular basis know how good the show can be. Tonight was especially good as Ira had Mark Perry of Nissan and Tony Posawatz of GM on as guests. Both talked of the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt respectively.
I urge you all to listen to this show. Intelligent questions were asked by Ira, along with several callers, and both Mark and Tony were spot on with their answers. Best of all, they were collaborative.
Each car represents a different market niche, and both are needed. Twenty years from now, virtually all vehicles sold will be either fully-electric or some variation of plug-in hybrid.
Rather than trying to one up each other, they spoke of the relative merits of each car. I detected mutual admiration from both parties since they seemed to understand that this is more about electricity vs. gas than Nissan vs. GM.
The sleek Leaf knifes through the air.
The Volt holds Bruce Tucker's upright bass with room to spare.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:27PM PST on August 11, 2010
A couple weeks ago, I got a call from John Waters of Bright Automotive to talk about things. I'd heard he might be leaving the company he helped start and was pleasantly surprised to hear his upbeat tone. Turns out, the rumors of Bright's imminent demise were unfounded. He instead indicated there would be a big announcement soon.
This week's announcement of a $5 million investment by GM Ventures to buy a minority stake in Bright was the reason for John's great mood. Bright will now be able to get much closer to a production-ready model of their Bright "Idea".
According to Bright CEO, Reuben Munger, "... GM has taken a minority stake in our company, and will supply advanced powertrains and technology for the Bright plug-in hybrid IDEA vehicle. GM's investment puts us on the fast-track toward mass production of the IDEA as we ramp up development later this quarter."
As I wrote in a previous post, Bright was formed of some of the best EV engineers brought together from the likes of Rocky Mountain Institute, Aerovironment, GM and Andy Frank's UC Davis PHEV program.
Their creation is designed to be light weight and aerodynamic in order to use a minimum amount of energy to get the job done. Millions of fleet vehicles burn millions of gallons gas and diesel every day in the U.S. Keep in mind that 60% of our oil is imported, so anything that can double or triple efficiency is extremely beneficial.
Should the DOE follow through with the loan to get these vehicles into production, there will be thousands of Americans hired in Indiana, a state that could use the jobs.
As for the rest of us, our local post office can trade in their funky, inefficient vans for something that does the same job with a tiny fraction of the energy.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 8:47AM PST on August 5, 2010
The entire blogosphere has joined in the fun of ridiculing Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, the one who thinks that bicycles are a sinister U.N. plot. Just don't tell him about Jose Antonio Viera Gallo, the Chilean socialist and bicycle aficionado cited by Matt Yglesias:
Expounding on the sentiment, Viera Gallo had this to say:
The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.
If socialism can only arrive by bicycle, don't expect to wait long before you hear that only socialists ride bicycles.
In other Maes news, a commenter wonders what kind of car he drives. The answer, Mr. Google reveals, was a 1993 Mitsubishi Diamante (before he wrecked it) and subsequently a 2005 Chevy Impala. Turns out that Maes' driving habits have caused him a bit of trouble -- to the tune of $17,500 in fines he had to pay to settle a campaign finance violation for paying himself $42,000 in mileage reimbursements. Alan Prendergast at Westworld worked that out to be about 90,000 miles, at current IRS reimbursement rates. Imagine how long it would take to cover that much distance on a bicycle!
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 10:39AM PST on August 4, 2010
Did you ever stop to think about how many bicycles have names that are not quite American? Pinarello. Colnago. Bianchi. Cervelo. You get the idea--lots of them are downright European. Dan Maes, a Tea Party candidate for governor of Colorado, is right on it. Maes has identified the bike sharing program that Denver mayor John Hickenlooper helped start to be a United Nations plot:
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes is warning voters that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper's policies, particularly his efforts to boost bike riding, are "converting Denver into a United Nations community."
"This is all very well-disguised, but it will be exposed," Maes told about 50 supporters who showed up at a campaign rally last week in Centennial.
Maes said in a later interview that he once thought the mayor's efforts to promote cycling and other environmental initiatives were harmless and well-meaning. Now he realizes "that's exactly the attitude they want you to have."
"This is bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms," Maes said.
Maes' proof is Denver's membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, an association of local governments that provides information, training, and technical support for sustainable development initiatives. Some 1200 communities around the world are members, including 600 in the United States. You can tell which ones by all the people riding around them in bicycles. (H/t Think Progress, Eschaton.) (An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to Maes as a Denver mayoral candidate. The post has been corrected.)
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 10:44AM PST on July 21, 2010
I had a chance to drive the fascinating Tesla Roadster this past weekend. In a word, it was, well, electrifying. The power and performance of a Lotus Exige, without the noise and pollution. More on this in a moment.
We were at a special "Bastille Day" event held by L.A.'s Petersen Automotive Museum in Malibu. Everybody dressed in white, great cars were everywhere, and Tesla was offering demo drives to this select group of automotive opinion leaders. In case you've not heard of Tesla, it is a Bay Area startup run by CEO Elon Musk, who made a couple hundred million by selling his previous Big Idea, PayPal. Tesla plans to build an electric car that will be affordable, but the initial product really is not. It sells for about $125K, plus extras such as the deluxe charging station, sport package upgrade, etc.
Let's evaluate the car first, not the price. It is based on the Lotus Esprit chassis, or platform as the car industry calls it. I have always loved the Lotus and confess to taking a special Lotus driving school in my previous life. As fast cars go, it is very lightweight, gets close to 30 mpg, corners like a mother, runs zero to 60 in less than five seconds and does this running a four cylinder Toyota engine. It is also very hard to get in and out of, has little storage space, poor visibility and is not very practical as a daily driver.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:22AM PST on July 20, 2010
There was a rumor recently that Telsa had converted a new model of Toyota's popular RAV4 into an EV. Toyota announced Friday that Tesla will supply the drive train for a resurrected RAV4 EV, possibly to be built at the recently purchased NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This is the giant 5 million sq. ft. plant that was the subject of a fascinating story on This American Life in March.
This is really good news for the EV community since the RAV EV has been the most reliable EV from the ZEV mandate days of the late 90s and early 2000s. It also gives consumers a great option if what the family needs is a reasonably sized vehicle that can haul stuff. Both the Nissan Leaf and GM Chevy Volt are great cars, but there is clearly a market for SUVs out there.
Here we are taking possession of our brand new RAV on winter solstice, 2002.
Our experience with the RAV has been nothing short of amazing. The car just works. Other than replacing the shocks at 60K miles, and consumables like tires, aux batteries and wiper blades, there has been virtually no maintenance or parts in 8 years and 84,000 miles.
Some RAV drivers have had their battery packs replaced, but they averaged about 120,000-130,000 miles before doing so.
I can't tell you how many times I've plugged my car in at a public charger and had people engage me in a long conversation about what this vehicle means to society and then express the burning desire to get one just like it. It's happened hundreds of times over the years and each time, I had to tell them, nope, can't do it, they destroyed hundreds of them, and the remaining 800 or so RAV EVs are all there would ever be.
Now I can tell them to wait a year or so and they'll not only be able to buy a RAV EV, but it'll be powered by a Tesla drive train with, we can assume, a LiIon battery pack. We don't know pricing or performance specs, all that will come in due time, but the importance of this announcement is that Toyota is getting back in the EV game. We'll have to update Plug In America's vehicle tracker page to list this popular model.
This leaves Honda as the lone hold out. They are still claiming their Clarity fuel cell vehicle is the end game of alt-fuel vehicles. But as more and more EVs are announced for delivery in the next two years, it seems as the game might end with fuel cell vehicles forever in the on-deck circle, never getting a chance to step up to the plate and bat.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:23PM PST on July 19, 2010
On Earth Day, Sierra Club member Oliver Bock and acquaintances left Woodside, Calif. on electric bikes on a cross-country trip to Washington, D.C., where they met their congressional representative. Along the way they engaged with environmentalists, bicyclists, clean-energy activists, politicians, and media members to talk clean energy and transportation. They also blogged about the journey and posted pictures -- which you can view here. Mr. Bock took a few minutes for a Q&A. (Photos courtesy Oliver Bock.)
How long did you travel and when did you get there?
Over 3,000 miles. We got there June 20.
What did you talk about with your congressional representative?
Anna Eshoo is very concerned about green issues and sustainability. She's frustrated with trying to get what they passed last June passed in the Senate. She talked about trying to green Washington and the Mall area. And we talked about bike trails. D.C. has made strong commitments to bikes, but they don’t allow electric bicycles on bike paths. She said she would talk to (Department of Transportation head Ray) LaHood about possibly getting that changed.
Talk about electric bikes for those who don’t know about them.
There are two categories. There are ready-made bikes that typically have a torque sensor and axle that activates itself when you pedal. The motor doesn’t work if you don’t work. The other category, which is what we did, is a kit where you can buy a hub motor and wire it up. Those have throttles on them. And you pedal assist. Anytime we'd talk to anybody about electric bicycles they'd asked, "Do you charge the battery when you pedal?" It’s a legitimate question because you’re generating power with your legs. But the answer is not really. The pedaling makes the battery last longer. We were getting about 85 to 90 miles on a charge, which really surprised us. If we didn’t pedal at all, we’d get about half that. So our pedaling was enough to ease the burden on the battery.
We brought a solar panel on a support vehicle with us. But this wasn’t an off-the-grid project. I don’t think it was possible to do that. We charged using the grid. We camped a lot and found places that had power. We figured we used about 1/20th of the amount of electricity used for an electric car, just based on the weight difference. And then with pedal power it adds even more efficiency. It’s really insignificant how much energy we used.
The most surprising part of the ride was how much fun it was to ride an electric bicycle. You’re in a really comfortable position. There’s no stress on your back or neck. You’re sitting up looking around. It’s a wonderful way to see the world.
One thing I noticed is, when you drive across the country, you see a
lot of wind farms. But you don’t see any signage about what they’re
doing. When you drive across Kansas, there’s nothing to look at. And
suddenly there are 100 2-MW turbines
gracefully sweeping through the air. And I want to know some real
information. Give me a sign with some numbers. So we’re going to look
at what it’d require to get signage, kind of like what you see on
freeways, similar to those signs you see that say, "This section of
highway is cleaned by the Kiwanis Club."
Where was it the toughest to ride?
As any biker would agree, the biggest challenge is headwinds. Even with the motor, we had to work pretty hard. We hit some major dust storms. From Flagstaff to Window Rock (in Arizona) there was a dust storm that closed the interstate. The dust gets into everything. That was a day we portaged about 30 miles. It was too insane. Northwest New Mexico was even worse. Talking to people who live there, they said the wind and dust were never that bad. There’s desertification. It’s blowing over cropland that’s pretty marginal to start with. When you combine that with coal companies extracting water from the aquifer to make their coal slurries -- it’s amazing how everything’s interconnected with what’s going on.
Besides Rep. Eshoo, who were some of the people you met along the way?
Well, we attended events that ranged from showing up to bike shops and talking to them and customers about electric bikes to more sophisticated events. In Window Rock we had some exhibitors. It was elaborate. We had four or five newspaper articles. We had a couple of radio interviews that increased the curiosity. We met with a couple of mayors. The mayor of Flagstaff, Sara Presler, was completely delightful. She got on the electric bike. She was tentative at first. She ended up riding it for about 45 minutes. We also met the governor of Colorado. There was a group in Denver honoring Lester Brown and the governor was speaking there. Colorado is shooting for 30 percent renewable.
How was your message received? Any critics or unexpected responses?
Early on there were two older guys we were talking to. I started about global warming and immediately it turned from friendly into, "Oh, we don’t believe in that!"
Using the language of climate change has become political. So anyone critical of politics is going to look at the whole conversation as a political one and not science-based. So after that we chose to stay away from that language. What resonated was talking about green jobs, especially with the oil spill. We'd talk about the potential of wind and solar.
What did you take away from the trip?
Gratitude for the people we met who are really committed to this stuff. Some of these people could be making huge salaries. They’re very talented and bright. But for them that’s not what it’s about. They don’t have money. They just really care about what they do. One guy we met in Champaign -- his wife is pissed off because he took out a loan to get an electric vehicle and everything he does is focused on trying to move sustainability forward. He’s an IT guy who works on the campus there. He was just very gracious. But he hosted us and showed us around and was really wonderful. That was the positive.
On a negative note, it was disappointing to see the health of the American population. Physical and mental. So many people are living on corn and sugar, a highly processed food diet. It’s hard to feel hopeful about where we’re going. Seeing a lot of that was a little discouraging.
Our next steps are doing some kind of publication and researching the stops we did on the way and flush out what these people are actually doing. We’re interested in connecting some of the people we met with each other. They don’t know each other but there is some sort of synergy going on out there and it’d be great to get some networking going.
Posted by: Heather M at 12:50PM PST on July 8, 2010
The momentum against bringing Canada's dirty tar sands oil into the U.S. via the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline continues.
Today across the nation are a series of rallies and public events bringing attention to this dirty and dangerous option, and the need for the U.S. State Department to not approve TransCanada's permit for this pipeline. The events are organized by Corporate Ethics International, Friends of the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
The background on this dirty tar sands pipeline: In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These rallies come on the heels of last Tuesday's final public hearing on the pipeline (which I blogged about here)
I attended the rally today in Washington, D.C., outside the Canadian Embassy, where many gathered wearing orange shirts that said, "Oil Spill Prevention Team" on the front and "We Want Clean Energy Now!" on the back.
One of the rally speakers was Paul Siemens (pictured below), a rancher from Draper, South Dakota, whose own land would be crossed by this pipeline if it's built.
"Is South Dakota a state of no consequence? The State Department and TransCanada want you to think so," said Draper, noting that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the State Department acted as if a spill in rural areas would be no big deal.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) brought in a celebrity, too - former "ER" star actress Gloria Reuben - who was born in Canada but is now an American citizen.
"These mine pits (where they get the tar sands) are so massive you can see them from space," said Reuben (pictured below), who serves on the NWF board of directors.
"Enough is enough - Secretary Clinton, we do not want any more fast-tracking for these industries," she added, pointing to the BP oil disaster and the Massey coal mine tragedy.
The ralliers then marched from the Canadian Embassy (seen below in the background, where employees gathered on the steps to see what we were up to) over to the White House, carrying signs and chanting for clean energy and against tar sands oil. You can learn more about the fight against tar sands on our Dirty Fuels page and on our coalition website. And be sure to join the "Say No to Tar Sands" Group here on Climate Crossroads.
If you're going to pave paradise and put up a parking lot ... do it with a bunch of solar panels on it. That's the message behind this excellent interview with Envision Solar CEO Robert Noble in the NYT's Green blog. For the past four years, Envision Solar has focused on the concrete deserts that are parking lots -- prime real estate and urban heat islands to boot.
So far the juice generated by these 1,000-square-foot solar canopies flow into adjacent commercial buildings. (View pics of UC San Diego's solar lots here.)
But with the rise of EVs the company is working on modifying the design to function as vehicle charging stations. That would potentially create a harmonious renewable system (like this one) of PVs and EVs, independent of crude oil and coal power plants. And it would add a purposeful element to these empty, destitute masses of land.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:03AM PST on July 6, 2010
I was going through some old papers and came across the letter above that Zan and I wrote to the NY Times back in December of 2002, just days after taking possession of our brand new Toyota RAV4 EV. We had responded to an article about hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars that were all the rage during the early Bush administration. We were so new to the EV world that we didn't know a fight had been brewing for some years over the controversial Zero Emission Vehicle mandate that had forced the auto companies to build electric vehicles, a fight in which fuel cell cars played a pivotal role.
To the Editor:
The Column notes that fuel cell technology, while promising, is unlikely to be viable for decades. We have just taken possession of our new Toyota RAV4 EV, an all-electric car that we will charge with power generated from our rooftop solar panels.
Our new car will easily accelerate up to 80 miles and hour and travel 100 miles on a single charge. Installing a charger at work would give the car a traveling range of 200 miles. More than enough for most folks.
The column says we must cut our dependence on foreign oil. I strongly agree that self-sufficiency is a laudable goal. However, while auto companies go on searching for their fuel cell holy grail, we'll be cruising the streets and freeways of Southern California in a 100 percent pollution-free vehicle using technology that's been around for over a century.
Zan Dubin Scott
Santa Monica, CA , Dec. 23
Within two weeks of this letter, we organized our first event drawing some 50 EV drivers to our quiet street in Santa Monica. That's when we started meeting all these other activists, some of whom had been working on the issue for a few years. In our naivete, we thought a few protests and a concerted letter writing campaign would suffice to save the EVs from destruction. Boy, were we wrong!
The crucial California Air Resources Board (CARB) meeting of March 2003 stunned us. In spite of overwhelming support by the drivers of these EVs, the Board acquiesced to the demands of the car companies to kill the battery EV in favor of this promising new kid on the block, the fuel cell.
George Bush proclaimed in his 2003 State of the Union speech, “With a new national commitment, our scientists and engineers will overcome obstacles to taking these cars from laboratory to showroom so that the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen and pollution-free.”
When I heard George Bush say this, it occurred to me that a child born before the Civil War was able to drive a battery EV since that technology dominated the cars of the 1890's. Well, the kids born in 2003 are now seven years old, still a ways from driving age, but much has happened in the intervening years. Virtually all the car companies have announced plug-in vehicle programs (Honda, where are you?), and we're on the cusp of seeing thousands of Leafs and Volts on the roads.
Just this week, Tesla held a very successful IPO becoming the first electric vehicle company to do so. And on Wednesday, Zan and I were invited to see the gorgeous Fisker Karma at the local Santa Monica Fisker dealer. In this picture, newly minted Phd., Shannon Arvizu ("Miss Electric"), joins us in celebrating the moment.
So, as the oil continues to gush into the Gulf, billions of dollars continue to gush out of the country to buy oil, and our Congress continues to gush over oil companies' largess to campaign coffers, the only good news is that, with each spin of the Earth, we get closer to the day when we no longer have to participate in all of that.
Posted by: Paul Rauber at 2:59PM PST on July 1, 2010
Suburbia ain't what it used to be--or what it could be: fun, attractive, and sustainable. That's the message from Atlanta architect Ellen Dunham-Jones in this engaging TED talk (h/t to Ezra Klein). (It runs almost 20 mintues.)
"The big design and devlopment project of the next 50 years is going to be retrofitting suburbia. Whether it's redeveloping dying malls, reinhabiting dead big-box stores, or reconstructing wetlands out of parking lots, the growing number of empty and underperforming retail sites throughout suburbia give us a tremendous opportunity to take our least sustainable landscapes right now and convert them into more sustainable places."
One big challenge: "underperforming asphalt"--the huge parking lots around defunct malls. Dunham-Jones cites an example in Minnesota where a lot was torn up and restored to the wetland it once was. The result? People wanted to live nearby, sparking private investment in homes. "It restored the local ecology and the local economy at the same time."
Posted by: Heather M at 7:18AM PST on June 30, 2010
Tuesday was the last public hearing on the proposed TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - which would carry toxic tar sands oil from Canada through the American Heartland to Houston.
In an effort to save money, TransCanada has applied for a safety waiver for the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would allow the company to operate with thinner pipe and higher pressures than standard operating procedure; they also lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
So on Tuesday, a big crowd of clean energy advocates rallied before the hearing and then took it inside the U.S. State Department to let their opinions be heard on why this pipeline is a bad choice for our country's energy future and why the State Department's draft Environmental Impact State (DEIS) is flawed.
There were plenty of industry people at the hearing - they'd even signed up for the first 20 speaking spots, but thankfully the State Department rep who was running the hearing recognized that and did his best to alternate between the varying interests.
That means Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune (pictured below) got to speak second, and he did great.
"I am here to officially state for the record that the Draft Environmental Impact Statement grossly underestimates the negative impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline in three critical ways," said Brune.
"First the Draft EIS fails to adequately assess the air and health impacts of refining tar sands in the United States; second, it includes an improper analysis of the global warming pollution of tar sands oil; and third, it fails to assess this pipeline's ability to drive expansion of the environmental 'Armageddon' occurring in Canada."
If you're not familiar with how dirty tar sands are, then you should definitely check out www.DirtyOilSands.org
Tar sands oil contains more sulfur, nitrogen, mercury, lead, nickel, and arsenic than conventional crude oil. All of these pollutants are harmful to human health causing lung and respiratory problems such as bronchitis, asthma, respiratory infections, and decreased lung function. Many of the metals released into the air such as mercury are neurotoxin; and some of the volatile organic compounds emitted by refineries are carcinogenic.
Not to mention that this proposed pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans in the Midwest.
In addition to that, both the tar sands industry and the scientific community agree that over its entire lifecycle tar sands oil emits 15 -20% more global warming pollution than the conventional oil we currently use.
Two speaker highlights for me during the hearing were a farmer from Montana and Marty Cobenais of the Indigineous Environmental Network (IEN).
The farmer, Tom Rudolph, said the pipeline will cross his land and he's worried about its safety - especially in regards to the thickness of the pipeline and the lack of emergency safety procedures should something go wrong. "BP's disaster is a warning, we should address the safety," said Rudolph, pictured above.
Then IEN's Cobenais spoke of his travels up and down the pipeline's route through middle America to speak with impacted Native American tribes. He said the majority of the tribes oppose the pipeline.
"Oil is not good for us anymore," he said. "We need to get off it."
Cobenais also brought up the national security issue. "We talk about the national security - well what's more important to us - agriculture or oil? They won't mix for long, especially if there's a spill out there."
Lena Moffitt, Sierra Club Washington Representative for our Dirty Fuels Campaign, said she thought the hearing went well despite the large pro-tar sands attendance.
"The community opposed to increasing our reliance on dirty fuels made a great showing today at the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline hearing," said Moffitt. "We had 13 dedicated activists give testimony in opposition to the pipeline, and one member of Congress submitted written comments for the record (Rep. Mike Quigley, IL-5 will be sending them in electronically).
"Considering how out-funded we are on this fight, and the fact that DC is the hub of industry lobbyists, our showing was great and demonstrated broad opposition to this project and the ecological disaster that is tar sands."
If you weren't able to make it to the hearing, you can still submit a comment opposing this pipeline by taking action right here.
All photos by Heather Moyer except the polar bear one, which was taken by Kelly Trout of Friends of the Earth.
If we could go back in time before the BP Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, what would we learn? What steps would have helped avert what is now the nation's worst environmental disaster? Could this hindsight help us prevent similar catastrophes in the future? Would our political leaders have the moral compass to "get it right" this time around?
A ready-made test case for such an exercise exists in the form of TransCanada's push for a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, through the American Heartland down to Houston.
In an effort to cut costs, the company is requesting a special safety waiver to use thinner pipes and pump oil at pressures that exceed the normal limits allowed by current pipeline safety regulations. They lack a public emergency plan in the event of a leak and have not demonstrated that emergency responders have been identified, contracted or trained.
These are the same type of cost-cutting and corner-cutting methods that got us into the BP mess. It's hard to believe that, knowing what we know today, we would tolerate another rubber stamp approval for the oil industry whose safety assurances have rung hollow and wreaked havoc.
Not heard much about the reckless expansion of tar sands? Our new report "Tar Sands Invasion" (PDF) is a good primer on tar sands, and the National Wildlife Federation also just released a report on the subject.
It's actually an ongoing disaster coupled with a series of potential disasters, with different risks and concerns as the landscape is annihilated during extraction and the pipelines and refineries wind 2,000 miles across six states.
But the best way to wrap your head around the tar sands issue is to hear from the people who have been and would be impacted in Canada and across the U.S.
In Nebraska, residents are worried about the threats to the Ogallala aquifer. David Kromm, an expert on groundwater management, has written, "the future economy of the High Plains depends heavily on the Ogallala Aquifer, the main source of water for all uses. The Ogallala will continue to be the lifeblood of the region only if it is managed properly to limit both depletion and contamination."
In Kansas, where TransCanada has already been involved with tar sands construction, landowners like Harry Bennett have borne witness to the "pennywise and pound foolish" approach of the company. In his eyes the Department of Transportation's Office of Pipeline Safety is in the same class as the much-maligned Minerals Management Service—the cozy relationship with the oil industry and propensity to cut corners is "the same song, second verse" of what we've seen unfold in the Gulf. When it comes to the tar sands pipeline, which will skirt his property, "these pipelines go together with very little oversight."
In Detroit, the Marathon oil refinery would have to be expanded to process the heavy tar sands oil. It's heartbreaking to hear Theresa Landrum talk about their situation:
"When we found out Marathon was bringing in nasty tar sands from Canada, with more emissions at an expanded refinery, we started doing research into what kinds of chemicals would be emitted into the air. We found terrible things like benzene, which affects the nervous system, carbon monoxide, toluene, methyl ethyl ketone, which is hazardous to human health at any level, and other carcinogens.
"My mom had four different cancers and passed away from the last one. My dad died of lung cancer, and I was diagnosed with cancer in 2007. On my block alone, ten people have died of cancer over the last decade. These companies put dollars above human life. Are we not what we eat, drink, and breathe? What are we to do? Where can we go? We're an economically stressed community without resources for health care, or for people to move out. Are we just sitting here waiting to die?"
"The Enbridge pipeline runs through the Leech Lake Reservation, and there have been several spills right outside our town that Enbridge hasn't been able to clean up. We're close to Itasca State Park, the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and the oil from these spills has gotten down into one of our two aquifers and contaminated the water in the top aquifer. The oil is still there, the water is still contaminated, and the damage is still being done. Tribal residents' wells are being contaminated, and now there's a restriction on how much fish we can eat per week because of mercury pollution."
Despite all of these concerns, tar sands oil is poised to blaze a toxic path through America's pipelines and refineries and into our cars and air. The final public hearing on the Keystone XL toxic tar sands pipeline is set for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and the comment period gives everyone an opportunity to weigh in until July 2.
Let the Obama Administration know that you heard loud and clear these words from his Oval Office speech:
For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we've talked and talked about the need to end America's century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires...We cannot consign our children to this future. The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.
The 5th Annual National Dump the Pump Day on Thursday, June 17, will give people the chance to make a statement in support of public transit and its ability to help our country reduce its reliance on oil...(T)he National Dump the Pump Day is a public awareness day that highlights the benefits of public transportation.
Public transportation is part of the solution for our country attaining energy independence as U.S. public transit ridership saves 4.2 billion gallons of gasoline annually. By using public transportation on June 17, people will be able to show their support for public transportation and also for our nation's goal of energy independence.
In addition, riding public transportation can help people save money. The most recent APTA Transit Savings Report showed that on the average, an individual can save can more than $9,000 a year by taking public transportation instead of driving a car.
More than 100 public transportation systems are participating in National Dump the Pump Day activities this year.
So how about you, will you be taking public transportation tomorrow?
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:06PM PST on June 15, 2010
Americans burn 378 million gallons of gasoline a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. Oil is the lifeblood of the automobile, and there's no better place to start cutting down your oil usage than that metal box sitting in your driveway.
We're not saying you have to sell your car. But if you can make your trips to the pump less frequent, it'll add up. Start by inflating your tires, clearing your trunk (Carting around an extra 100 pounds can reduce your mileage by 2 percent), driving more slowly (or at least not over the speed limit), and biking or walking short trips.
Just how much better is bicycling compared to driving? Mr. Green had fun with some arithmetic by comparing gas usage of a car to that of a bicyclist who eats cornmeal for his or her fuel. Let's say it takes two gallons of gas to drive 48 miles. A typical cyclist would need about 1.25 pounds of cornmeal for the energy to bike 48 miles. "It takes a gallon or so of fossil fuel to produce 50 pounds of corn, so the amount of fossil-fuel energy needed to grow enough corn for the 48-mile ride is a meager .025 gallons," says Mr. Green. Imagine every American walking or bicycling short trips. Do you think BP (and other oil companies) would take notice?
Do you want to start cycling to work and nearby locations and don't know how to get started? The Crossroads blog has some excellent starting tips by Canyon Kyle here, here, and here. Also, check out Commutebybike.com's Commuting 101.
Have you got other ideas about oil and cars? Share them in the comments.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:44PM PST on June 15, 2010
There's a whole new class of small, highway capable electric cars preparing to enter the American auto market. These "City Cars", exemplified by the Mitsubishi iMiEV and Mercedes' Smart car, are designed for commuters who are in need of good, inexpensive vehicles that do the job of transporting to and from work while using a minimal amount of energy.
Norway's Think (sometimes written as "Th!nk") is making a strong push for the American market with their recent announcement that they are building a manufacturing plant in Elkhart, IN near Enerdel, the battery manufacturer they have chosen to supply the 24 kWh packs that will power the cars.
Eight Plug in America members were recently asked to come to the Orange County offices of Think to test drive the latest version of this highly efficient EV. Linda Nicholes, past president of Plug In America, has written a great blog on the test drive, so I won't go into too much detail, but I will say that the Think impressed me with its overall performance and handling. It's very similar to the iMiEV in most all respects, and if both are priced appropriately, i.e., a few thousand lower than the Nissan Leaf, they'll sell very well.
Think isn't ready to announce a price yet, but they should by the end of the year. As we get into the era of expensive oil, city cars will gain an ever larger share of the market. Easy to drive, easy to park, and they use minimal energy to get the job done. Total cost of operation will be very low relative to even the smallest of gas burners.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:07AM PST on June 8, 2010
Let's take a quick break from the BP calamity to point to something fun.
Our panel of judges has picked from 330 entries the finalists for the bike-ku contest here on Climate Crossroads! These three entries have been sent to Rep. Earl Blumenauer's office, where the congressman will select the grand-prize winner. The grand prize is a Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. The other two finalists will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 11:04AM PST on June 7, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day, Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on electric bicycles on a cross-country adventure. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We are posting some of his writings here.]
We woke early to grey and threatening skies with weather reports predicting rain. Before 7, we were on wet roads with occasional rain showers but we did manage to dodge most of the bigger raindrops.
Our map pointed out the Gothic House painted by Grant Wood. It was a 15 mile detour so I wasn't too excited about seeing the house until the road we were supposed to take turned out to be closed. The Gods were guiding us again!
We took great photos at the house and pushed on arriving in Fairfield about 11:30 where our host, Stuart Valentine invited us for lunch on the town square. In preparation for our evenings activities, we chased around getting prepared and trying to relax a bit by taking a wonderful swim in the pond at the bottom of Stuart's property.
The Fairfield Art Walk is a monthly event that takes place on the Fairfield square. We arrived in time to participate in the largest one of the year and the theme was 'All Things Italian'. The only thing Italian about us is the shade of our overexposed to the sun skin.
The square was hopping. All the shops were open. Food, art and entertainment opportunities were set up all over the square and there was a sustainability theme as well. We were very busy talking and talking about the bikes, our trip our reasons for doing what we are doing and dealing with folks who wanted to ride the bikes. Rolf was very busy talking to people as well and I think the conversations he had improved both his English skills and his knowledge about the electric bikes.
Fairfield is a very interesting town. Over 35 years ago the Maharishi movement bought an old campus and moved its headquarters here. Since then there has been a slow but steady blending of the "meditators" with the local farming community. Obviously, there are huge differences between the two cultures but over the years acceptance has grown. It was very easy to see at the Art Walk who the Maharishi folks are and who the other folks are. The town has more recently begun to attract people who like the culture here because of the diversity and the commitment to sustainability that is part of the Maharishi culture. Our host, Stuart is a mediator but not a blind follower of the Maharishi culture. His insights and observations about the community make for great stories and we really enjoy hearing about the integration that is happening as Iowa looks for ways to reinvigorate its economy via green jobs like wind turbine manufacturing.
Swinging on the swing bike.
Catherine and I doing a radio interview at the local solar powered radio station.
Talking electrics with Mark Stimson, Fairfield's electric vehicle guru.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 9:22AM PST on June 3, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day, Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on electric bicycles on a cross-country adventure. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We are posting some of his writings here.]
After an early start and farewell to the Kansas Bocks, we rode the two miles into Nebraska where we immediately picked up a tailwind!! What a difference. We got to Rock Port in less than 3 hours (over 50 miles) and spent almost 3 hours with Eric Chamberlain, the local man who got the Rock Port owned utility to agree to install 4 large wind turbines that feed directly into the local grid.
We wanted to video Eric but he said that he has a face for radio and didn't want to be filmed. Rolf took lots of pictures so that and our memories and the notes that Catherine took will have to describe what we learned today. I called Eric from the Rock Port City Park and he cam out and we talked for a while about Rock Port's history as a town that not only has its own utility but also has its own phone company. Rather unique for a small town of 1500!
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:34PM PST on May 27, 2010
The Climate Crossroads Bicycle haiku (bike-ku) contest ends Monday. It's easy to enter! All you have to do is join the Bicycle group, post a picture, and paste in a haiku. Since May is National Bike Month, the contest is all in good fun. But there are some serious prizes.
Go ahead and enter our Bike-ku contest, but don't end up in court like these dudes on account of our contest. (It's pretty funny watching Judge Judy grapple with the price of this stolen bike -- check it out at the four-minute mark.)
On Earth Day. April 22, 2010 Denver, CO launched the first U.S. citywide B-cycle bike sharing program. The program has been popularized in over 50 cities Europe and Asia and has recently started making its way to North America. B-cycle members can pick up and return their bike at over 500 B-cycle stations around Denver and surrounding areas.
Bike-sharing could be part of the solution to traffic congestion, air pollution, and obesity. The Denver program has spurred others around the country to take up similar plans. Minneapolis is launching its Nice Ride Minnesota program as soon as June 10, 2010. Washington, DC and Arlington, VA plan to unveil a joint bike sharing program this Fall which will be the largest scale program in the U.S.
“Bike sharing is a viable transportation option to help improve the overall health of Americans and reduce our carbon footprint. Let’s start a two-wheel revolution. Let’s make every day Bike-to-Somewhere Day." said Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper before leading a bike parade around Denver's City Center Park. With this program he also leads mayors in implementing similar programs around the country.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 11:00AM PST on May 27, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here.]
Prime Kansas Prairie
After a horrible night of barking dogs, constant driving around by the neighbors, a almost skunk intruder and more wind, we hit the road with me feeling rather weak.
The winds started the day from the north and moved around rather quickly to the east. So not only was I feeling weak but we were battling headwinds all day. After 72 miles, we stopped but Sean wanted to ride so I gave him my bike and Catherine and I drove another 30 miles to Norton where we found a nice campground alongside a reservoir. The winds were dying down and we were feeling pretty good when we saw Sean ride in. As he got within about 100 feet of our site, he hit a pile of loose gravel and went down. There was plenty of gore and Catherine did her best to clean up the wounds. Sean was a real trooper and didn't cry at all!! Fortunately for my bicycle, SEan took most of the impact of the fall and my bike survived with only a couple of new scratches.
As the evening fell, a thunderstorm moved in along with huge winds that lasted all night. We did't get much rain but we did get a pretty good show of lightening and thunder.
Posted by: Heather M at 2:23PM PST on May 26, 2010
Clean Energy Works and a coalition of environmental and veterans groups (including the Sierra Club) gathered on Capitol Hill today for a press conference calling for some major action on ending the BP oil disaster and passing comprehensive clean energy legislation. The coalition's top five priorities are:
Stop the gusher
Now is not the time for new drilling
Make the Gulf communities and environment whole
Demand more accountability and transparency from government and industry
End dependence on oil and move to a new clean energy economy
It was an impressive list of speakers:
Margie Alt, Executive Director, Environment America
Lt. General John Castellaw, US Marine Corps
Gene Karpinski, President, League of Conservation Voters
Mindy Lubber, President, Ceres
Kevin Knoblach, President, Union of Concerned Scientists
The speakers all echoed this sentiment: We can do better than oil - there's no need for our country to be so addicted to it. The words were dramatic when combined with the feed of the BP oil pipe gushing playing on a TV behind them - you can see that behind LCV head Gene Karpinski in this photo.
I also particularly enjoyed hearing from Lt. General John Castellaw (retired, and shown at the podium in the photo at the top of this post) of the Marine Corps, who spoke about the threat of our oil addiction to our national security.
Today's press conference also highlighted a letter to President Obama that 26 groups signed onto calling for those five points listed above to be met. Click here to read the letter (PDF).
Posted by: Paul Scott at 8:54AM PST on May 26, 2010
Announced Thursday, the hooking up of Tesla with Toyota took everybody by surprise. As part of the deal, Tesla is buying the giant NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. This facility has an interesting history as told in this excellent piece from This American Life. Tesla's CEO, Elon Musk, lusted after this plant early in the search for a manufacturing plant for their Model S, but the size of the plant at 5.3 million sq ft was too much for his needs. With Toyota's desire to build a low-cost EV using a Tesla designed drivetrain, all of a sudden, the numbers started to work.
According to GreenBeat, "Again, this is a pretty radical change of pace for Tesla — and it’s apparently come about very quickly. The company had been interested in the NUMMI facility for a while. It met with the plant’s representatives about three months ago with no results. About a month ago, Akio Toyoda, president and CEO of Toyota, approached Musk about a potential strategic partnership, and the two executives hit it off, Musk says".
Also from GreenBeat:
1. The joint development of a brand new,sub- $30,000 electric car, that will contain Tesla’s unique powertrain design, with everything else built by Toyota;
2. The purchase of the NUMMI plant, where Tesla plans to manufacture both its Model S sedan due out in 2012, a new $30,000 Tesla-designed vehicle, and the more affordable jointly designed “third-generation” vehicle;
3. A $50 million investment from Toyota into Tesla when the company goes public, probably later this year.
All in all, this is great news! We'll have more choices in the EV world in a few years. The Volts and Leafs will prime the market for late entries, and if we get a decent energy bill that assigns a price to carbon, then the cost of gas will rise making more and more people make the switch.
Posted by: Heather M at 11:54AM PST on May 25, 2010
Our Illinois Chapter got a visit from a major icon. On Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson invited Illinois Chapter staffers Jack Darin, Jen Hensley and Sarah Gulezian to march with him and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition at a Chicago BP Station. Check out this video from the event:
The initial proposal is for a limited production line that won't make full use of the plant's capacity, so it's important that Toyota commit to going beyond this first step by also making hybrid vehicles -- not just electric vehicles -- in Fremont until the customer demand for EVs has grown significantly.
Nevertheless, this is a tremendous victory for the partnership between environmentalists and labor, as well as a model for how to start building the green-jobs economy of the future while getting America off oil.
Another big break came today in the Rose Garden of the White House when President Obama announced that, for the first time, the federal government will establish fuel-efficiency and greenhouse-pollution standards for heavy-duty trucks as well as for passenger vehicles. In a relatively short time, such standards could reduce emissions from long-distance trucking by one third.
The president had another, equally important, announcement: The EPA, Department of Transportation, and California will collaborate to set emission and efficiency standards for cars and light-duty passenger vehicles on a much longer time horizon. That's an essential step for letting automakers know: "You've got 15 years here, but you have to get off oil." Although those standards weren't announced today, this is still a huge breakthrough in the reshaping of the American transportation sector so that it can free itself from the grip of oil.
Improvements to freight truck engines and trailer design, using technologies already on the shelf, can significantly increase efficiency. These improvements will save truckers money, lower costs for businesses, and reduce oil use and emissions from freight shipping. To seriously tackle emissions from freight shipping, we must begin to shift freight to rail and make freight trucks more efficient.
Also this morning, the President announced that the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would begin work on the next round of efficiency standards for our passenger cars and trucks for 2017 and beyond. Importantly, California will be at the table, as it is currently developing state greenhouse gas standards for cars from 2017-2025.
My take on this morning - it is clear that the years of inaction that have hooked us on oil are over. This administration has set a path that will cut oil from our freight trucks for the first time ever and is moving aggressively to develop and deploy advanced technology vehicles that can provide a cleaner alternative to oil altogether. This is a wonderful first step, and we must continue to push for a future not dependent on oil.
Posted by: Heather M at 6:57AM PST on May 21, 2010
Sierra Club Executive Chairman Carl Pope and Green Transportation Campaign Representative Jesse Prentice-Dunn are at the White House this morning at President Obama makes an important announcement on emissions and fuel economy standards for trucks. Jesse will be live-tweeting from @SierraClubLive - so go check that out (unless White House officials block that fun capability!).
Truck Emissions Standards a Strong Start
Will Decrease U.S. Global Warming Pollution, Oil Dependence
Washington, D.C. – President Barack Obama is announcing today that
the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) are setting the first-ever emissions standards for medium
and heavy duty trucks starting in 2014 and will begin the next round of
standards for cars and light trucks for 2017 and beyond.
Statement of Carl Pope, Chairman of Sierra Club
With the oil disaster in the Gulf showing us of the true cost of our
oil dependence, we applaud President Obama for this
historic announcement to improve the fuel economy of trucks. We urge
the administration to set the strongest standards to drive us towards an
oil-free energy future.
We need to end our dependence on oil as quickly as possible and the
steps the President announced today will help us move us closer to that
goal while also cleaning the air we breathe.
After cars and light trucks, freight trucks are the second largest
consumers of oil – burning more than 2.4 million barrels per day and
growing. Right now these trucks only average 6 miles per gallon--a
number that has remained virtually unchanged since the 1970’s.
We are thrilled that the administration is moving forward with the
next round of standards for cars and light trucks. Setting standards
for vehicles for the longer term is needed to push old technology out
and bring in the new. We are pleased that California is joining with
EPA and NHTSA in looking at technology, continuing its critical
leadership in setting a high bar for reducing vehicle greenhouse gas
For heavy duty trucks, these standards are a great start, but it is
important to begin moving more freight by rail. This will yield the
greatest savings in both oil and global warming pollution.
As part of the plan to end our oil dependence, we are also calling on
President Obama to issue a presidential moratorium on offshore
drilling. We already have the technology to create a clean, 21st century
transportation system that will end our addiction to oil. We've been
talking about getting off oil for decades. The disaster in the Gulf is a
wake up call. It's time to get off oil and on to clean energy.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:30PM PST on May 20, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, left the Bay Area on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here.]
From the road in Durango ... including "poppa wheelies" bike delivery service checking out the bikes.
Jeff Litton of ugena.org joined the Green Riders for the first couple of days of the ride and created this video which is a great introduction to what the Green Riders are doing and why. http://ugena.org/thegreenriders/
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:11AM PST on May 14, 2010
The bike-ku contest here on Climate Crossroads is off to a great start. We've had more than 60 entries so far and there are still more than two weeks left for people to enter.
Remember, by entering you get the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
As we've watched the Gulf Coast clean up from the massive BP oil disaster, besides BP picking up its own PR mission to improve its image, we've also noticed another disturbing PR campaign: the coal industry and the tar sands industry are both starting to use this disaster to tout the supposed "cleanliness" of their respective energy sources.
There are more and more "clean" coal ads appearing alongside oil cleanup articles, and the tar sands (also known as oil sands) industry has already made the outrageous claim that they are "safer" than offshore drilling. One executive said "that while there can be failures with conventional oil and oil sands projects, 'the damage would be much smaller and more modest' than with offshore spills.'"
The mining and production of oil from tar sands creates three times the carbon emissions as that of conventional oil. As if its global warming pollution were not bad enough, tar sands mining also results in the destruction of the Canadian boreal forest, a vital carbon reservoir for 11% of the world's carbon and a global nesting ground for 166 million birds. In other words, not only does tar sands development create vast quantities of new carbon emissions, it destroys the Earth's natural ability to capture carbon through the forest.
And think BP's bad behavior only crops up in oil? Think again - BP is actively involved in the tar sands industry and has recently been cited for cutting corners on a tar sands project that would have impacted the drinking water for the eight million people residing in the Chicago area.
If that incident doesn't scare you, one of BP's tar sands operations, ironically named Sunrise, is situated above Canada's biggest freshwater aquifer. Rick Boucher, vice-president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region One, fears that "It's just a matter of time before an accident causes injury or death, and pollution of this massive underground freshwater system."
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:30AM PST on May 11, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
The mayor of Flagstaff tries out an electric bike ... and likes it!
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:25AM PST on May 11, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
We woke to more wind and predictions of 50 mph + winds by the afternoon. Even though it's Mother's Day, we managed to get Derrick to ride with us for the day and we headed out after saying goodbye to Linda (Derrick's mother in law). She was so sweet to us and we basked in her hospitality.
We went to Mc Donalds to get "the best coffee in town", unload our bikes, use the bathroom, load up on water and head out of town.
The first 25 miles or so were up a wide valley with smooth, rounded red rock cliffs just on our right. It was some of the most spectacular scenery we have seen and our friendly tailwind kept us smiling. Derrick was a delight. He enjoyed every minute of the ride and added his knowledge and fun commentary to our day.
We turned east and headed up the pass that would drop us into New Mexico. Again, tailwinds helped us up a somewhat challenging pass and we stopped to picnic right below the summit where the rest of Derrick's family met us. It was great hanging out with them and Sean played in the snow with the three kids until his hands hurt from making and throwing snowballs.
At the top of the pass, Catherine turned over the reins of her steed to Sean to avoid the long steep windy downhill. And it was a long, very steep downhill. I used my brakes most of the way down and had trouble keeping myself below 40 mph.
Sean disappeared immediately and I won't say how fast he went. Almost at the bottom, I got my first flat tire and did a roadside repair with the help of Catherine who stayed behind us and was able to stop and help me fix the flat.
We reached our destination and it was obvious that our path forward was full blown sandstorm again. So, after a fond farewell to our new friends Derrick and his family, we loaded up all the bikes and detoured up to Mesa Verde where I am now sitting in a campground while Catherine cooks mutton stew and we are looking forward to spending most of the day tomorrow exploring Mesa Verde.
It's sad to be leaving Navajo Country. The limited services and lack of internet barely registered on our radar when compared to the warmth and beauty of the Navajo lands and people. I will need to come back and I will never forget the strength and warmth of the Navajo's we were so lucky to get to know.
Gearing up for the days ride at Mc Donalds
While rolling -- Pretty good huh?
Yet another roadside attraction
I-phoning the route
Green Riders in front of a green mountain
Sean and Logan playing
More snow play
Derrick wants an electric bicycle - And so does Jessie
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:09AM PST on May 10, 2010
Sick of oil? Do you bike instead? Do you haiku?
Enter our bike-ku contest for the chance to win a brand new Breezer Uptown 8 bicycle. Runners-up will get a Kryptonite lock and a Nutcase helmet. A panel of bike-commuting Sierra Club staffers will pick the finalists and the winner will be selected by Congressman Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, founder of the Congressional Bicycle Caucus.
It's National Bike Month and with news of oil spills clogging up your ears, there's no better time to celebrate our beloved, emissions-free, two-wheeled pals.
Today had a few highlights, and I'll started with hearing Senator John Kerry speak this morning. He greeted the huge, clean-energy-loving crowd with a "Welcome to the future!" Senator Kerry touched on many issues, including the fact that clean energy matters for our health, but mostly touching on the climate and energy bill he's been working tirelessly on with Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Lindsey Graham.
"We will roll out a bill very very soon, and we will have a unique coalition," said Kerry, which was greeted with cheers from the crowd.
I also enjoyed what I heard from Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. "When we plan for green jobs, we have to remember red, white, and blue," he said, referring to the oft-mentioned clean energy tech being manufactured overseas and not in the U.S.
In the afternoon session, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley spoke quite a bit about the importance of greening our transportation industry.
"It disturbs me that we spend $1 billion/day on oil," he said. "This is a tremendous part of our trade deficit."
Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a great presentation complete with a very informative power point on the competition between China and the U.S. when it comes to switching to clean energy and manufacturing the components for doing just that.
The U.S. is making some strides, but we have a long way to go before we get equal with China. "The Recovery act is making a $80 billion down payment on the clean energy economy here," said Chu, adding that it's esimated to have created nearly 2.4 million jobs.
"Part of getting America into a clean energy economy is to encourage energy efficiency," added Chu. "We are open to all ideas on how to make energy and money savings a social norm."
Two workshops I particularly enjoyed were the "Youth in the Outdoors" one, about getting our youth outside and ready for green jobs, and the workshop entitled "Building a Greener Ark," which focused on the faith community's role in the green economy.
The youth workshop had a great youth attendance, as the Sierra Club's own Allison Chin talked up our youth programs and the importance of getting kids outside at a young age so they see the importance and fun in the outdoor world.
The faith workshop showcased several faith community leaders taking strides in their own communities, be it through weatherization training and weatherizing community homes, to looking at national policy and making sure the faith community's voice is heard.
"We need to focus on how to create a new just green economy," said Josh Tolken of Jewish Funds for Justice. "We have a big opportunity to change the narrative around this issue." I also learned about a new faith-based enviro group - Green Faith. I look forward to hearing more about their work in the future.
Finally, UPS showed up to speak and show off two interesting vehicles. One was a UPS truck from the 1930s - that was electric powered.
They also showed off a brand new hybrid electric UPS truck. I like the innovation - too bad we had all those years between the 1930s and now that had no electric fleet, though.
All in all, I really enjoyed the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference. It was very inspiring and I look forward to next year's.
Did you attend the conference? If so, leave a comment telling us what you enjoyed and saw.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 6:33AM PST on May 5, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, set off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some of his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Woke to a really cold morning and dashed off to the lodge for breakfast. Sean wanted pancakes.
After doing the ritual computer work, we walked out to the rim for a morning look and farewell. It was a crystal clear morning and since it was still pretty early, there were almost no people out. There was a school group that we passed on the trail who were all walking with their eyes closed holding on to each others shoulders until they reached the rim and were allowed to open their eyes. A moment most of them will always remember.
We unloaded our bikes about 20 miles outside of Flagstaff and rode into town to make our 2 o'clock meeting with the folks at Southwest WindPower. On the way, we stopped by The Grand Canyon Trust where we met some of the kind staff people I have been talking with over the last several months. They invited us to stay in their beautiful office which is a converted homestead farmhouse with solar panels and all sorts of energy efficiency features incorporated into the remodel.
We learned that our contact Derrick Terry in Window Rock has been very busy putting together a big event for next Saturday where a lot of Navajo sustainability people will show up as well as some of the staff from here. We are completely flabbergasted by how motivated people are to help spread the sustainability message. As The Green Riders, I feel like we are unleashing an opportunity for local communities to stand up and shout about the good they are doing and how much more needs to be done.
We rode down to SouthWest WindPower and met with Miriam Robbins, the marketing director. She gave us a great tour and spoke passionately about the need for alternatives when it comes to energy production. It was refreshing to hear her talk about the renewables as a family and consumers get to pick the renewable sibling that best suits their resource. If sun is in your air, go with solar. If it's wind, choose a turbine.
Even though Paul Gipe doesn't think small scale solar and wind contribute enough, quickly enough, he also said we need it all. So small scale distributed energy has its place. The value it gives to the user as a doorway into becoming engaged in building a sustainable future can be way more significant than the actual watts being produced by their home renewable energy system.
Tonight we are settled into the very nice offices with lots of computer access, wonderful maps and posters and even a firehouse next door!
Tomorrow is a big day. Our first real event where we will set up our roadshow and see what happens!!
Coming into Flagstaff - Note the solar array on the house
With as many as 5,000 barrels a day of oil spewing from BP's Deepwater Horizon site we have a stark reminder that our addiction to oil does come at a steep price. It certainly is a "blowout" to use the technical term.
Deepwater is 50 miles off shore, which sounds like a lot, but with everything from fisheries, wildlife and beaches and coastal tourism threatened, it clearly is not that far when thousands of barrels of oil are bubbling up to the surface. In attempt to stave off disaster along the coasts chemicals are being dispersed to break up the oil and fires are being lit to try to burn it off.
This one giant disaster, which could match or exceed the infamous 1969 Santa Barbara spill that proved a turning point for limiting offshore drilling, should force us to assess what we can do to cure our addiction.
We have a transportation system that is almost entirely dependent on oil, guzzling some 13 million barrels worth every day. Just our 240 million registered vehicles drive some three trillion miles - two-thirds of which are driven in urban areas - and consume nearly nine million barrels of oil per day.
Not that the cure is fast or easy, but if we don't act now, calls for Drill, Baby Drill will come and billions more dollars will leave our economy. Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have issued prescriptions for oil independence.
EPA's prescription is a mix of continued strengthening of vehicles standards for cars, heavy duty trucks, airplanes and trains, more electric vehicles, and investing in transportation choices and other measures that will reduce how much we drive. Using 6.7 million fewer barrels of oil every day by 2030 is worth fighting for.
DOT has also issued a very detailed prescription (PDF): Some 605 pages of strategies to reduce oil consumption and greenhouse has emissions from transportation - given the "illness," the prescription doesn't differ too much from EPA's - we have to deal with vehicles, fuels and how we move stuff and people. DOT details how we can reduce carbon-intensive travel, which will largely overlap with oil intensive travel. DOT notes:
The spill is a reminder of the consequences to our environment as we look for oil in more and more difficult places.
So, as oil continues to gush from the sea bed a mile down and the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has called the "leak" of national significance, and cabinet secretaries are heading down to look at the mess, we should take good look at prescriptions from EPA and DOT.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:49PM PST on April 21, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
The nerves are a'tingling.
We are not ready but hopefully ready enough. Unfortunately, today is filled with events leaving very little time for organizing. We've come to the point where our actions have very little control over outcomes so we'll put this show on the road and see what happens!
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 12:39PM PST on April 21, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Less than 36 hours to departure! Here is the latest episode of "The Green Riders Videos" showing us (Oliver and Catherine) practicing riding and talking at the same time!
While we are on the road we hope to publish video shorts of our experiences. Please subscribe to the Green Riders videos at youtube.com/user/TheGreenRidersVideos (click the yellow 'subscribe' button at YouTube.)
Besides the eco-friendly stuff, Greyhound has made many other improvements: free wi-fi, outlets for laptops and cell phones, and more legroom at every seat. No scrunching or security lines? Count me in!
There's a small catch, though. You can currently only hop aboard one of these fancy new buses on a handful of frequently traveled Eastern Seaboard routes that compete with commuter plane flights. But the buses are coming to other Northeast cities soon (and eventually, I hope, to the rest of the country).
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:40AM PST on April 20, 2010
Last Monday, GM's Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt, and Dave Barthmuss, GM's communications director, invited a dozen Plug In America members to Dodger Stadium for what turned out to be an exciting test drive of the Chevy Volt. Coming hard on the heels of our Nissan trip, it's clear the leading car makers bringing back plug-in cars are serious about soliciting input from the people who have the most experience driving EVs. That's a good sign.
We started off with a thorough explanation of the car including the charge port and 120Volt cord set with the standard three pronged plug. Given that the battery pack holds 16 kWh, but only 8 kWh will be usable (this is to protect the longevity of the pack), Level one charging on a 120V should suffice for most folks. According to Dave Barthmus, Level two charging (240V) will be available, but it's not been decided whether this will come standard, or be an option.
As for the price, Barthmus said that GM will announce this crucial piece of information about a month prior to the release of the Volt this fall. I hinted to them that they needed to be at least as low as $35K-$37K to be competitive, and lower would be better.
My first impression of the car was how nice it looked. When I first saw the body at Chris Paine'shouse during our Plug In America fundraiser 18 months ago, it was surrounded by a crowd of people and nose to nose to a Tesla Roadster. Here, however, I was able to get a good look, and I liked what I saw. Not too conservative and not too wild, not too big and not too small, a car most people would feel comfortable driving.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 1:37PM PST on April 16, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Once upon a time there were two brothers who both loved to fix things and solve problems.
The one brother lived in the heart of a very high tech wealthy community that relied on the development of exotic solutions to problems. He built a beautiful and very expensive electric car that appealed to the small group of people who can afford fancy things and also support a sustainable future.
The other brother lived in the heart of the country in a struggling agricultural community that was losing talented young people to the wealthier parts of the country. This brother used pragmatic, clever solutions to solve problems. He saw the economic and environmental advantages of bringing wind turbines on to farmers' land as a way of keeping the farms viable through lease income. The turbines also reduced the demand for dirty coal fired electricity generation.
The two brothers loved each other very much and loved to share their experiences about how their projects were going.
One day a reporter learned about the two brothers and saw a great story. The reporter wanted to discover which brother was taking the right approach to solving problems. He contacted the brothers and engaged them in long discussions about whose strategy was the best. The two brothers refused to be drawn into a competitive match.
Try as he might, the reporter couldn't get the brothers to argue about who was solving problems the right way. After many hours of effort, it finally dawned on the reporter that the two brothers were both solving problems in the right way. So he wrote a story about that.
Moral: There are as many solutions to solving problems as there are brothers.
So here's some things you can do to become a sustainability brother or sister:
Posted by: Paul Scott at 3:12PM PST on April 6, 2010
As reported in Autobloggreen, the EPA has announced it will allow the first 200,000 units of a given manufacturer's EVs sold as zero emission for the purpose of corporate average fuel economy (CAFE). After that milestone is reached, the EPA will start assigning pollution credits based on the pollution from generating the electricity that powers the car. Regardless of how many units sold, after 2016, all EVs will be assessed some level of pollution. The reason this is important is because the carmakers have to hit a CAFE standard of 34 mpg by 2016. If they count the pollution from the generation of the electricity, then more of their gas cars will have to be smaller. A good thing for society, but not necessarily what the dealers want.
This idea has merit, but only if implemented fairly.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 10:48AM PST on April 5, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting some his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
On Friday April 2nd, brother Michael brought Catherine and my bicycle down to our mother's house. We also met Dave Werkley who will be riding the first two weeks with us. He's a gem and we are thrilled to have his company. His wife, Donna also came and we enjoyed the afternoon and evening together. We took the rigs out for test rides around the streets where I learned to ride a bike as a kid and it was completely delightful!
Now we are in the final push. Taking longer rides, gearing up the bikes and support vehicle and nailing down visits along our route. The reality of this project is finally hitting Catherine and she's having some anxiety. I feel better that I have someone to share mine with!!
Michael seems a little sad to let go of his babies and send them out into the world.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 3:35PM PST on April 1, 2010
Well, the gauntlet is down.
Nissan announced yesterday a price of $32,780 for the Leaf, a price that no doubt sent shivers down the spines of Toyota and Honda, not to mention GM execs. They now have to compete at a much lower price point if they want to play the game in which Nissan is writing the rules.
Keeping in mind the federal tax credit of $7,500, the price drops to a very affordable $25,280. Then, to top it off, several states throw in inducements of their own with CA providing an additional $5,000 rebate. We now have a base price of a mere $20,280, and the damn thing runs on sunlight!
It surprised me that Nissan was willing to divulge the price so early, but given the storm of interest the announcement has created, it was clearly a good idea.
Nissan won't be able to keep up with demand for at least the first two years. Word-of-mouth will be unlike any consumer product since the iPod. When each happy customer brings a Leaf home to display in their driveway, all their neighbors, family and friends will be clamoring for rides, and once given, they'll be sold that electric drive is the way to go.
This is not to say other plug-in vehicles won't sell just as well (we want you ALL to succeed), but Nissan will certainly grab the low hanging fruit that's been ripening for a long time. I imagine the Volt will do well, too, but we need to see their price before predicting much.
The federal tax credits are good for the first 200,000 units from each manufacturer. California's rebates only total $4.1 million, so they'll go fast, although there's a decent chance we'll add more to the kitty next year. Other states offer incentives, too. See Plug In America's compilation here.
To get in line for a Leaf, you need to go to their website starting April 20 through May 15 and register by putting down a $99 fully refundable deposit. That gets you in line. Some time in August, you'll actually get to tell Nissan what goodies you want on the car and place your order. Deliveries to selected markets start in December and roll out across the country in 2011 and globally in 2012.
It is confirmed that you'll have the choice of buying the car or leasing, although the trial balloon of buying the car and leasing the battery is no longer on the table. A $2,200 charging station will be installed and 50% of that is returned as an additional federal tax credit.
Nissan's willingness to lock in the price at such an early date has made the wait for the car easier in a way. With the benchmark made real, we can all plan for the day when the Leaf, or some other plug-in car, is ours to keep.
Old Walt here has turned into a grumpy puppy waiting for his owner to get an EV. Pretty soon, I hope to see him smile again:~)
We are one day away from a new world for vehicle standards - April 1st may be April Fools Day, but when it comes to saving oil, curbing global warming and keeping billions of dollars in our pockets and our economy - the Obama Administration's action tomorrow is no prank. This is the biggest step the government has ever taken to save oil and curb global warming pollution.
On April 1, 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation will make final rules for both fuel economy and greenhouse gases for new vehicles. Consistent with what President Obama announced a little less than one year ago in the Rose Garden, by 2016 new vehicles will average 35.5 miles per gallon and emit 250 grams per mile of CO2. This final rule shifts vehicle standards out of the 1970s and into the 21st century.
President Obama even mentioned the rule in a speech today:
Just a few months after taking office, I also gathered the leaders of the world's largest automakers, the heads of labor unions, environmental advocates, and public officials from California and across the country to reach an historic agreement to raise fuel economy standards in cars and trucks. Tomorrow, after decades in which we have done little to increase auto efficiency, those new standards will be finalized, which will reduce our dependence on oil while helping folks spend a little less at the pump.
So my administration is upholding its end of the deal, and we expect all parties to do the same. I'd also point out: this rule will not only save drivers money; it will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil. That’s like taking 58 million cars off the road for an entire year.
Tomorrow's final rule marks EPA's first greenhouse gas standards for cars and light trucks under the Clean Air Act - an authority now under attack in Congress. Starting in 2012 consumers will have a new metric for judging new vehicles - grams per mile of CO2 spewing from the tailpipe. Cars and light trucks emit 20% of U.S. CO2 pollution and EPA's 250 g/mile standard in 2016, will keep an anticipated 950 million metric tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. These standards will make the connection between global warming and tailpipes clear. In addition, EPA is setting standards for additional potent greenhouse gas gases associated with vehicles including air conditioning refrigerants.
EPA's standards complement the familiar miles per gallon standard from NHTSA - but we now hit the 35 mile per gallon standard called for in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act four years early with EPA's CO2 standard - intended to match the stringency of California's landmark standards. Fuel economy goes up and emissions from new vehicles will go down by 30%.
For some context, according to EPA, the 2009 fleet of vehicles averaged 26.4 mpg and emitted 337 grams per mile of CO2 - the industry now has a clear path for progress.
Both EPA and NHTSA developed separate standards for cars and trucks based on footprint - ramping up between 2012 and 2016. Consistent with the Supreme Court's Massachusetts v EPA decision - the two agencies worked together using their different yet complementary authority to achieve two critical national goals - energy security and reducing greenhouse gas pollution.
As identified in the proposed rule, under the Clean Air Act EPA brings a different approach to setting standards for vehicles and measuring compliance:
EPA addresses the 4 greenhouse gases vehicles emit (nitrous oxide, methane, hydroflourocarbons and CO2);
EPA indicated its intent to make compliance transparent – and we look forward to how EPA addresses this issue tomorrow – we all deserve a clear way to judge how automakers are complying with the law each year, something that has been lacking under the CAFE program.
The Administration has done its job setting a clear path forward for the auto industry and it is up to the industry to apply technology to deliver a full range of vehicles that emit less pollution, reduce our dependence on oil and save consumers billions at the pump - but we must also be clear that tomorrow's final rule is a first BIG step forward and that the next step must come quickly - we cannot afford decades of stagnation.
California is already working toward setting standards for vehicles made in 2017 and beyond. With new light weight materials, hybrid technology, better engines and transmissions - new standards must challenge the industry to deliver!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:01AM PST on March 30, 2010
Gov. Schwarzenegger famously rides his Harley up the Pacific Coast Highway on weekends with his buddies, but last week, he took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the benefits of zero-emission bikes when he showed off several Zero Motorcycles outside the capitol in Sacramento.
Zero seems to be gaining ground in this burgeoning market of quiet, yet powerful 2-wheel scooters and motorcycles. Several companies are vying for the upper end of electric motorcycle world, Mission Motors, Brammo and Honda among others. Zero, however, has been selling their super quick dirt bike for over a year now and have added a road version to entice commuters wanting some excitement in their ride to and from work.
I had the opportunity to ride the Zero a while back at Santa Monica's AltCar Expo and was thoroughly impressed. As a rider of the super smooth Vectrix Maxi Scooter, I was ready for some quick acceleration, but what I got was way more than I was prepared for. The 0-30 was a scary quick 2 seconds! I know, I know, we usually hear 0-60 times, but you have to experience this off-the-line speed on a virtually silent bike that weighs a mere 172 lbs to understand how cool that is. By comparison, my Vectrix hits 30 in about 4 seconds and weighs in at a hefty 465 lbs.
I'm looking forward to trying the Zero road bike next. Maybe I'll check them out at Hollywood Electrics, a new store specializing in electric bikes of all kinds.
For those who live in big cities in warm climates, the electric two-wheeler is a great option for getting from point A to point B with a minimum of energy or effort. Now, I'm gonna take a quick ride down to the beach for the sunset!
On the far right is Plug In America's super-effective legislative director, Jay Friedland. When you finally go to pick up your shiny new EV at the the showroom of GM, Ford, Nissan, Volvo, Mercedes, or any other OEMs making them, say a little thank you to Jay for the $7,500 federal tax credit and the $5,000 CA state tax credit ($1,500 for motorcycles :~). Jay was instrumental in making those happen.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 9:53AM PST on March 30, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
As our electric bicycles go through their testing, tuning debugging etc., we are pushing dangerously close to our departure date without having full confidence in our rigs. The most recent concern has been the bicycle we built up on a cargo bike frame. The bicycle works well but the extra weight adds extra stress to the wheel and requires more battery power to get the mileage we need. As a consequence of losing confidence in the cargo bike for the long trip, I approached Michael DeVisser, the owner (with his father) of OHM bikes. About a month ago they had expressed interest in providing us with a bicycle but I wasn't interested since we were counting on the cargo bike.
I called Michael on Thursday, we talked for about 15 minutes and I emailed him our website and a short note updating the status of the trip and by 4 p.m. Friday he wrote back to me and offered us the loan of an OHM bike!! Not only that, he is loaning us the high end model with the bigger motor and suspension and providing an additional battery pack to extend our range to where we need it. OHM is a small company and to loan us a bicycle that won't come back new is a big deal for them. Not only am I completely delighted with their generosity but their bike uses the very reliable BionX system.
The disadvantage of the OHM for many people is the price. I'm not sure what they retail for but they are more expensive than most electric bicycles out there. On the other hand, they use excellent components, they ride really well and they will outlast most other electric bicycles on the market today. So, you get what you pay for. The OHM's are selling really well in Marin where the terrain overwhelms the lower end electric bikes.
Here's a terrible picture of the bike OHM is loaning us. Here's a link to their website where you can learn more about the OHM. The bike has a pressure sensor that provides power based on how hard the user is pedaling. I don't have much experience with this system but I figure I will by the end of June!!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 4:36PM PST on March 25, 2010
Jim Motavalli reports on BNET that the first production models of GM's Chevy Volt are close to rolling off the Hamtramck assembly line in Detroit. No specific date was given, nor did the story say whether the cars would go on sale sooner than the oft-stated November time line. However, it's becoming clear that GM has been aggressively pushing their EV team to be the first major OEM to release a plug-in car to the public to get ahead of the competition.
Nissan is scheduled to bring their 100% electric Leaf to market by December. The battle for market share between the plug-in hybrid vs. pure battery electric will commence shortly. The photo is of the battery pack being installed at the Hamtamck assembly plant.
Posted by: Oliver Bock at 8:41AM PST on March 23, 2010
[ editor's note: On Earth Day Oliver Bock, a Sierra Club member, and his sister, will be setting off on a cross-country adventure on electric bicycles. Follow Oliver's journey at his blog. We will be posting his writings here as well. And join the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads.]
Way back when we started this project, a good friend listened to me describing the ride and said: "Sounds like Street Theater."
In order to attract attention we have to provide a show and part of providing a show is having good sets. We have had lots of conversations about how having a support vehicle is cheating and not very green. I agree with the not very green part but we can only cheat if we do something we said we wouldn't do. Catherine and I are not purists and since our goal is to educate, inspire and motivate people to engage in building a sustainable future, having a support vehicle is not really an issue.
So the project for today was decorating the trailer.
Last weekend I installed some giant logos on the trailer and today, my girls and I got creative.
We had a great time and we hope you like the results!!
LaHood states that "People across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."
LaHood provides these new recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
Go beyond minimum design standards.
Collect data on walking and biking trips.
Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are
protected (for example, snow removal)
Improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects.
Interestingly enough, just last week, the Washington Post featured a story on bike lines soon to run down the center of Pennsylvania Avenue - the path the President strolls down on inauguration day. This is part of DC's effort to add to its existing 45 miles of bike lanes (on 1300 miles of streets). And to help you plan your biking route in DC and other places, Google just added handy bike (and walk) route options to its Google maps site.
For a country addicted to oil - Americans consume some nine million barrels of oil every day and travel nearly three trillion miles every year- devoting more attention to making biking and walking a safe and a viable option for getting around is long overdue. This also comes as interest in bike commuting is on the rise - as noted in Sierra Magazine, 720,000 Americans commuted to work by bike in 2008 - 43 percent more than in 2000. Not everyone will bike commute, but failing to invest in the infrastructure to make it choice is bad policy. LaHood's recommendations are a huge lift of zero carbon and non-oil dependent transportation.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 2:11PM PST on March 16, 2010
The big topic these days is charging infrastructure, a rather dry sounding term, but something with which everyone will soon be very familiar. It's what gets the kWh into your battery.
This is a very good article on the joining of five of Japan's strongest companies in the auto and electric power business forming a group to, among other things, set a standard for fast charging electric vehicles. To recap... there are three levels of charging a plug-in vehicle.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 10:56AM PST on March 9, 2010
I'm here in Japan as part of a California State Blue-Ribbon Commission set up by Treasurer Bill Lockyer to see whether we can persuade Toyota to change its plans to shut down its plant in Fremont and to keep it open to produce hybrid cars. I've been part of the Fremont story since before Toyota opened this plant (in a joint venture with GM) as its first foray into making cars in the U.S. The Fremont plant has served as tangible evidence to Californians -- who are Toyota's best market -- that there is a "Toyota Way," and that it's different.
As the San Francisco Chronicle put it, "the plant has won myriad awards for its quality and productivity, is in the heart of Toyota's key U.S. market and has an experienced workforce with a union that time and again has proved willing to work in partnership with the company." But in announcing -- for very flimsy reasons -- that it plans to shut down the Fremont plant in April, Toyota is sending a signal to its best market that maybe Toyota is no longer that different.
I served for decades as an informal environmental adviser to the joint venture, and was consistently impressed by how Toyota handled environmental issues. And for decades U.S. automakers really didn't offer Toyota any competition for environmentally motivated auto customers like myself (Corolla, Camry, now Prius). But that's no longer true -- so Toyota is taking a big risk.
I was heartbroken when Toyota announced its plans to shut the plant. California, and the Bay area in particular, are the heart of Toyota's customer base. Toyota's presence in the Bay area as a manufacturer, not just a retailer, has been an important part of that bond. And at this time of suffering and distress for both the state and for Toyota, it seemed tragic and unnecessary to break this bond. Further, California is moving forward now with a new Zero Emission Vehicle program and greenhouse gas standards for vehicles that will grow the need for hybrid vehicles. California's leadership in clean vehicles will drive up demand for the very best and Toyota can show its commitment to the consumers in this state by bringing hybrid manufacturing to NUMMI. The market is here for your vehicles and the NUMMI plant is the place to manufacture them.
But can Toyota change its mind, now that it has announced and planned to shut Fremont? I'm here to meet with them tomorrow. We'll see how well the Toyota Way is doing.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:39AM PST on March 9, 2010
On Earth Day, Oliver Bock -- a Sierra Club member from the San Francisco Bay Area -- and his wife will be embarking on a journey across the country on electric bikes.
Oliver is a member of the Bicycle group here on Climate Crossroads. He is running a blog called The Green Riders about his upcoming adventure. His blog articles also will be featured at the Bicycle group. So keep your eyes peeled as things develop!
Unfortunately, I can't speak Spanish but I know what NADA means - nothing. An alternative definition for NADA is National Automobile Dealers Association and nada (the Spanish definition here) is what they want to have happen when it comes to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action on climate change. On March 1st, NADA sent a letter supporting Senator Lisa Murkowski's resolution to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gas pollution under the Clean Air Act.
Murkowski's resolution, aka the Dirty Air Act, would not only block EPA from taking responsible steps to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gases which threaten public health and the environment, it would kill EPA's historic greenhouse gas standards which complement new fuel economy rules.
Contrast NADA's "nothing" approach to tackling greenhouse gas pollution for vehicles under the Clean Air Act with what happened last week in California as reported by Megan Norris, Sierra Club California's clean car organizer:
California and the nation have a reason to celebrate. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted unanimously to pass a resolution that accepts compliance with federal greenhouse gas emission standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) fuel economy program as compliance with CA's vehicle emissions standards.
Sierra Club California's Director, Bill Magavern testified at the hearing applauding CARB for setting the example for the rest of the nation when it comes to setting standards to reduce greenhouse gas emissions spewing from our passenger vehicles. The auto manufacturers showed up, but this time it was to applaud CARB and the US EPA for taking steps to set national greenhouse gas standards. In fact, the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers (AIAM) and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) both testified that they look forward to working on setting the next wave of national greenhouse gas standards for model years 2017 and beyond. Sierra Club California will be working hard to hold them to their end of the bargain.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions coming from our cars and trucks across the country could significantly clean up our air for our children and future generations, create new jobs and advance technology by creating a new green vehicle industry. Union of Concerned Scientists research shows that by setting high standards drivers could save tens of billions of dollars, curb US oil usage by 1.3 million barrels each day by 2020, and cut emissions that cause global warming by 217 million metric tons in 2020.
Next steps include the US EPA setting the final national standards by March 31, 2010.
In addition to what automakers said in California last week, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers - which represents GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and many other major automakers - has specifically expressed support for EPA finalizing its greenhouse gas standards along with new fuel economy standards: "It's important to manufacturers to have those rules in place so that we can finalize future product plans," said alliance spokesman Charles Territo.
Posted by: Abel Collins at 2:54PM PST on March 1, 2010
My mission with the Sierra Club is to fight climate change by reducing Rhode Island’s carbon emissions. Since 42% of our State’s emissions are produced by the transportation sector, Sierra devised the Transportation Choices 2020 campaign to affect the greatest reduction. Essentially, Rhode Island needs to move away from its dependency on the car culture in order to do its part, and that means we need more options than just the car in the driveway.
Too often, we overlook biking and walking as viable alternatives to our automobiles, but the fact is we live in a tiny State where the power in our legs could easily satisfy many of our transportation needs. If we placed greater emphasis on designing our communities and the roads between them to be more walkable and bikeable, we could reap enormous rewards in the battle against climate change, at the same time encouraging much more healthy lifestyles.
Unfortunately, Rhode Island bikers and pedestrians are confronted by unfriendly roads, designed for the singular use of the car. There is a movement afoot to change our cultural disregard for walking and biking, and it’s called complete streets. The idea is to incorporate space for all modes of transportation into street design and to restripe our old roads so they meet everyone’s needs.
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:06AM PST on March 1, 2010
courtesy Zan Dubin Scott
Tom Fuller, a financer from Santa Monica, is the proud owner of the electric Tesla. Moreover, his car is powered by solar panels that have sat on his home’s roof for 10 years. This is the last of three interviews with EV owners. Read the others here and here. For more information on how to become an EV owner, visit PlugInAmerica.org.
Tell me about the Tesla Roadster.
It’s a lot like a traditional Roadster. It’s very light, tight, with less suspension. It bounces around like crazy. It’s incredibly fast. In terms of trying to change the world and create a movement, they designed a high-performance, albeit fairly expensive, electric car to get past people’s resistance and perception that electric cars are slow, clunky, and kind of not cool. So they went for the cool factor and I bought into it. It was kind of a fun thing to do. Tesla has been very instrumental in changing people’s perception.
Why did you get it?
I’m not a hardcore environmentalist. I don’t spend a lot of time being an activist although we act locally and think globally. Putting panels on my house and getting this car seemed like the right thing to do.
You touched up on the fact that the Tesla is a bit pricey. That’s one thing critics focus on.
Clearly it’s an expensive car to make because of the technology. And they have no volume so the unit costs are quite high. With limited production it’s hard to make a car that’s cheaper. But they did an interesting thing. They positioned it as, “Yeah, it’s expensive.” It’s about $105,000. But for a car like that, it’s not more expensive. A Mercedes 500 probably sells for more than that. Though it’s not nearly as fancy as a Mercedes or Porsche. It’s faster though.
They did a phenomenal job at marketing it to people like me. It was convincing that -- yeah, it’s expensive but by buying this car, you’re keeping it in business -- by immediate cash flow and sales, but also by being a driving advertisement. I wasn’t really price sensitive anyway and I thought it was important to do. They created a following around the company.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:51AM PST on February 25, 2010
courtesy Charlie Garlow
Charlie Garlow, a Sierra Club member from Silver Spring, Maryland owns a three-wheel electric motorcycle. Garlow is planning this summer to hitch a solar trailer to it and drive across the country with his dog Rex to raise awareness for EVs and renewable energy. His journey will probably launch after the EV drag race in June at the Mason Dixon Dragway in Hagerstown. Follow his progress on his website FunRunintheSun.org and his blog. This is the second of three interviews with EV owners. Read the first one here.
How did you get this electric motorcycle?
It’s a little tricky. There are not a lot of three-wheel electric motorcycles for sale. But there is a company out in Oregon that is now manufacturing the bodies -- or shells, frames -- so that you can put it together yourself and you can put into it your own electric motor that you buy from them or separately. I bought a separate motor because I wanted more power. Mine is considerably modified from the original BugE.
Can you describe this vehicle?
It’s got two direction wheels in the front and one drive wheel in the rear and a body structure that is aero-dynamically streamlined that makes it slick to the wind. It looks kind of interesting, frankly.
What’s the range?
If you have lead acid batteries in there, it’ll probably go about 30 or 40 miles on a charge. If you put in lithium ion batteries, as I’m attempting to do, it’ll have a 100-mile range or more.
And your adventure will be powered by solar?
My intention is to have a trailer to be pulled behind it with solar panels on top of it. It will also have extra lithium ion batteries underneath the panel to give it extra weight or ballast to hold this thing down. I have six 80 watt Sharp PV polycrystalline solar panels, but I am open to an upgrade!
Have you always been this passionate about EVs and renewable energy?
I’ve always been interested in reducing my carbon footprint. For the last 20 years I’ve been involved in electric vehicles. I’ve owned a series of EVs. One was a sedan -- a 1981 Dodge Neon. I had a 1997 Chevy pick-up truck made by General Motors at their factory. And now I’m working on this three wheel motorcycle. I feel a bit like Toad of Toad Hall -- that animated cartoon from years back who always wanted to buy the latest contraption that would take him around.
Let’s say I’m a typical middle-class American and I want an EV. What's your advice?
There are a number of second-hand, cheaper electric vehicles, whether they’re motorcycles or cars or trucks. They’re on sale on eBay or Craigslist and you can find them through various electric vehicle associations. There are electric vehicle clubs. If you have enough money to buy a new electric vehicle, Nissan is coming out with the Leaf all-electric vehicle sometime in 2011. The Volt is an electric hybrid, which is a pretty good idea. It’s pure electric for the first 40 miles, which then kicks in your gasoline engine. By that process you can go 100 or 150 miles per gallon. The Volt’s supposed to be sold this fall. And there are a lot of other companies that are getting on board.
What do you think about when you see gas prices?
Gas prices are way too low in this country. We need to tax gas so that it’s $5 a gallon like it is in Japan or $7 a gallon like it is in Europe. That would be more of an incentive for us to think about electric vehicles. I think a lot more people would look at it and say, “This is a great idea.” In fact, it’s already a great idea. If you get yourself an electric vehicle, your cost for fuel -- your electricity -- is one-quarter the cost of gasoline, presuming gas is about $2.50 a gallon. When we had $4 a gallon the summer before last, we had a lot more people asking about electric vehicles. And maintenance costs! There are no oil changes, there’s no muffler to be replaced....
All of those costs to maintaining a gas engine, which is basically an explosion going on in your car -- no wonder the thing falls apart -- don’t happen. Think about your power drill you keep down in the basement. When was the last time you had to overhaul its engine, or change the oil, or flush the radiator? Never!
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:56AM PST on February 24, 2010
courtesy Colin Summers
In 1998, Colin Summers, an architect who lives in Santa Monica, convinced his wife that they should get an electric car. They got one and never looked back. Today, they are the proud owners of a four-door Toyota RAV 4. While his wife primarily uses the car for her commute, Summers drives a Prius. They also have solar panels on their home. This is the first of three interviews with EV owners. For more info on becoming an EV owner, visit PlugInAmerica.org.
When did you get the car?
In 2004. We had a four-year lease on it and then we bought it. My wife has 57,000 miles on it. Before that she drove GM’s EV1. So she’s been driving electric for over 10 years now. It’s our family car on the weekends, but she’s the one who uses it during the week for her commute. I work from home primarily and picking up the kids from school is less than three miles, so I do a lot less driving. Right now for her it’s about 20 miles each way.
What was your initial reason for getting an EV in 1998?
My love of technology and being an early adopter for things. That was the infancy of the Internet and just after Google appeared -- everyone had dial-up but we had an ISDN line, for example. When GM started marketing the EV1, they knew it was a big jump for people, which is why the dealerships would let you have one for the weekend. So I had them drop one off and I thought it was astonishing.
It’s odd to look back and know that if GM just had just the nerve to stay with it, they’d be so far ahead of everyone right now rather than needing bailouts from the government. They would’ve owned the market.
Anyway, here in Hollywood it’s nice to have an identity and not be just another person driving a Lexus SUV. So I convinced my wife that it’d be a cool car for her.
Can you describe the battery?
It’s a nickel-metal hydride. When we first got it, it had a range of 120 miles and now it’s probably about 80 or 90, so it’s still useful for her. What’s great is that it’s a four-door, so on the weekends we’re able to go down to the science center and the Natural History Museum in downtown L.A. -- and driving there and back, we don’t burn any gas at all.
Like the battery in your laptop, they slowly lose the capacity for a charge. When it’s no longer useful you can replace the battery pack entirely, which is I think over $10,000. But, on the balance, the car has never needed any maintenance. It gets its brakes checked and tires rotated, but there are no oil changes, no coolant, no need to recharge your AC system. It just has never needed anything other than the basic check-up once a year.
Let’s say I’m a typical middle-class citizen who makes $50,000 a year. Can I get an EV or is it still too exclusive?
This car is certainly not exclusive. It was leased as though it was a $35,000 car. So it was on par with the sporty model of the RAV 4. And then at the end of the lease we bought it for $20,000. So, to me that was within reach of middle-class America. When we got the EV1, I was watching our electric bills for what the jump would be, and it only went up $10 a month. At the time back in ’98, the gas I was spending on my Saab was $120 a month. So we were instantly saving $110 a month, the insurance was cheaper, there was a $3,500 tax credit, and the maintenance was no cost at all. All of that slides it down to the middle class.
What’s the biggest myth about EVs?
That there’s a complexity to the vehicle. It’s actually a simpler machine. When people look at it they think, “This isn’t a useful car to me.” But the truth is for a two-car family, 90 percent of the driving they’re doing is easily within what an electric car can do. Our family can probably get away with two electric cars -- and once or twice a year we’d need to rent a car for a weekend trip to the desert or the Bay Area.
Describe the process of charging your car. For anyone who’s never even seen an electric car, I’m sure it’s hard to imagine.
It’s incredibly simple. There’s a little flap on the front of the car. There’s a button inside that you press, similar to what you open for your gas tank flap. You push it and the flap pops open and then the charger -- there’s a plastic paddle and you slide it into a slot in the front of the car and the car and charger communicate with each other. And tells the charger the state of the battery is and how much current it needs and it slowly charges itself up. Completely, it takes about three hours, but it goes up to 80 percent in less than an hour.
Do you and your wife even think about gas prices anymore?
Well I do, because I still need gas with my Prius. But that’s one of the things that she talks about. She loves that it’s been 10 years since she’s stopped for gas somewhere.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 3:02PM PST on February 22, 2010
Last Friday, Chelsea Sexton dropped off the cute little Mitsubishi iMiEV (pronounced I-meev) test car. She and her husband, Bob, had been driving it for a week, and now it was our turn.
This version is a right-hand drive built for the Japanese market. Driving from the right side of a car isn't that hard to get used to, but remembering the turn signal vs. windshield wiper switch took concentration.
According to Mitsubishi, this Smart-sized EV will be aimed at the commuter market which, given the sub-80 mile range, is a perfect fit. The 16 kWh LiIon pack, located under the passenger compartment, keeps the center of gravity low. One of the benefits of having a smaller battery pack is that the overall weight of the car is just a bit north of 2300 lbs.
The driving experience was very good. Acceleration was comparable to our RAV, which is to say, it's not going to beat a Tesla Roadster, but it had no problem accelerating up to speed on the freeway. I particularly liked its cornering ability, and the small size makes it very easy to park just about anywhere. Their engineers must have been listening to us since they incorporated a creep mode into the software. This mimics how a gas car will roll forward when you take your foot off the brake. It's helpful when you're on a hill so you don't roll backward, and it's something you expect, so the experience is very close to what you're used to. The iMiEV is also very quiet, much like the RAV.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:05PM PST on February 19, 2010
We are big fans of Peter Sinclair's YouTube videos. Here are a few for your viewing pleasure! The top clip looks at solutions while the bottom video is part of his ongoing series "Climate Denial Crock of the Week."
Posted by: Brian F. at 1:19PM PST on February 19, 2010
The Big Picture -- our biggest group here on Climate Crossroads -- is doing some awesome things. Read the group's latest bulletin and get involved:
Earlier this month we asked Big Picture supporters to write a personal letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to counter the intense pressure the coal industry is putting on the White House to weaken or halt draft EPA regulations that would protect at risk communities from coal ash disasters like the 2008 spill in Tennessee, as well as gradual but dangerous water contamination as coal ash toxins, such as arsenic, selenium, mercury, and cadmium seep into drinking water. Over 2,000 people submitted a letter for us to take to a meeting with OMB or deliver in person to the office! You can keep the momentum growing by taking the movement on to Facebook.
As I recently blogged, TIGER grants announced this week will fund transportation infrastructure projects that help build the foundation of a more efficient transportation system that reduces global warming pollution. In particular, biking and pedestrian infrastructure were big winners, with 24 of the 51 funded projects including some biking or walking component. Two grants in particular will fund bicycling and walking infrastructure networks in Philadelphia, PA, and Indianapolis, IN. Other funded projects will add bike lanes to bridges and downtown streets.
Creating safe and accessible biking and walking infrastructure could not come at a better time, as levels of commuting by biking and walking are skyrocketing. This month's SIERRA magazine features a great story on bike commuting and pedaling towards a post carbon future. Check it out!
The line for a new plug-in vehicle from a major OEM is now forming with Nissan's announcement that you can register for a first come - first served place in line to get their Leaf.
You can reserve your place in line starting in April for a refundable $100, and confirm the purchase as early as August for a delivery probably in December, or shortly thereafter.
Of interest is that they are confirming you can either buy the car, or lease it. No confirmation on whether you can buy the car and lease the battery. They're still working on how that would work, if at all.
Some might not feel it's important to get one of the first of any particular car, especially since brand new vehicles tend to have some shakeout issues that get fixed in subsequent iterations. However, there are those who like being in the vanguard and want to be the first on their block with exciting new technology.
Well, if you fit that description, you'll definitely want to get on Nissan's list. And GM's for that matter when it starts.
I wasn't that type of guy for most of my life, but I stumbled into the most incredible opportunity in 2002 that literally changed my life forever. My wife and I bought an electric car.
From that point on, we haven't emitted a whiff of pollution while driving.
We stopped going to gas stations entirely.
We never, ever wondered if our car would start and run. It's operated perfectly 100% of the time for over 7 years and 78,589 miles.
All of our energy money stays in our country. Most of it in our own pockets.
We can run our car with energy generated from the sunlight falling on our house.
All of these things making driving a complete and utter joy.
This is why I think Nissan and GM, not to mention BMW, Mitsubishi, Volvo, Mercedes, Ford and all the rest, are going to have a hard time keeping their cars in stock. There will be a strong initial demand followed by huge word of mouth.
I doubt there was a drum roll or trumpet fanfare, but yesterday Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the long awaited recipients of 51 TIGER grants.
What is TIGER, you ask? In the economic recovery bill passed by Congress in February 2009, $1.5 billion was allocated for a competitive transportation grant program, named TIGER, with funding given to projects that have a significant long-term impact on a region and increase the sustainability and safety of our transportation system while making our communities more livable. Essentially the TIGER grant program is a competitive, performance-based method of funding transportation projects instead of the traditional earmark and formula-driven methods.
Over the last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) received nearly 1500 applications from all 50 states, territories and the District of Columbia, requesting funding for projects totaling $59 billion – roughly 40 times the amount of funding available. Applications ran the gamut – from new highways to downtown transit projects to port improvements. With so many applications, DOT had the opportunity to either select a range of forward-looking projects or continue funding the same sprawl and congestion that has grown for decades.
The result? From a quick glance at the 51 projects announced today, the Department of Transportation has fulfilled the goal of the TIGER program, selecting projects that will help build the foundation of a more efficient transportation system that reduces global warming pollution.
The projects funded represent a range of modes that will increase transportation options – 26% transit, 25% rail, 23% roads and 8% ports. Some specific examples of funded projects include a bicycle and pedestrian network in Philadelphia, a New Orleans streetcar line connecting an Amtrak hub to local transit, and intermodal rail facilities in Memphis, TN, and Birmingham, AL, that will redirect freight from highways to more efficient rail. To see the full list of projects funded, visit the Department of Transportation website (PDF), and you can also see the various states' reactions via this Google News Search.
The bad? Fortunately there's very little to report in the way of the bad or the ugly. Road and bridge projects funded focus primarily on repair and maintenance instead of merely constructing new capacity. The few projects that build new capacity, such as a highway around Dallas, Texas, will include tolling and other congestion mitigation technology. Additionally, we were pleased that several projects that do not advance the goals laid out in TIGER were not selected, such as a proposed bridge over the wild and scenic St. Croix River in Minnesota, which our North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club has fought for years.
In sum, the TIGER grants announced Wednesday show that there are innovative transportation solutions throughout the country that will help us create a greener, more efficient transportation system. Further, the 51 projects selected from a wide range of the good, the bad and the ugly are those that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lay the foundation for 21st century transportation.
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 9:13AM PST on February 9, 2010
Bicycling is a great way to get around. It’s much faster than walking and, of course, no fossil fuels are required. Unfortunately, cyclists and drivers are often at odds. Somewhere along the line, cycling became more a form of exercise than transportation in the U.S., and riding a bike to get somewhere just doesn’t occur to many people.
As a kid, I biked around the block a bit, but, like many people, I abandoned my bike as a teenager when the biggest concern was being “cool.” I was eventually inspired to start riding again while on a trip to Europe. We stopped for a couple days in Copenhagen (see above photo), where I was thrilled to see rows upon rows of bikes locked on every corner and people of all ages riding. After returning home, I adopted my mom’s road vintage road bike and haven’t looked back since. During college, I rode around everywhere, pretty much all the time. The city where I attended school is hilly and poorly planned, but has somehow morphed into a haven for cyclists over the years.
I happened upon this LA times article and corresponding blog post about Long Beach, California’s intent to become "the most bicycle friendly city in America."This is a noble goal, and it’s refreshing to see city governments working to increase cyclists’ safety.The article lists other cities that “have made safe passage for bikes a priority,” and they’re the usual suspects: Portland, San Francisco, and New York City.These places are cycling bubbles (especially the Bay Area), and I know transportation by bike is not an option in many more rural areas.
The article piqued my interest because I’m going to Long Beach next weekend to visit friends. Maybe I should take my bike along to see what all the fuss is about! Long Beach is taking a page out of Vancouver’s book by creating “bike boulevards,” or “preferred routes for cyclists.” The city is also investing in programs to educate both cyclists and drivers about safety and sharing the road. After all, it’s scary being just a soft body on a bike surrounded by giant, speeding metal boxes, especially if you’re out there all alone (like I am most days on my ride to the train station). The best ways for me to feel safe on my bike are to wear a helmet, signal, ride with a light when it’s even the slightest bit dark, and actually follow all traffic laws – a novel concept for some cyclists.
Perhaps Long Beach can serve as a model for other city governments to invest in bicycle infrastructure. I’m holding out hope that, slowly, cyclists and drivers everywhere will learn to coexist.
Posted by: Brian F. at 10:47AM PST on February 8, 2010
Here was Audi's "green police" Super Bowl ad. Funny or offensive? To me, almost all the Super Bowl ads were disappointing, including this one. The Betty White ad was the best. But that's just my opinion. What did you think?
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 8:56AM PST on February 1, 2010
Danish architect Jan Gehl is one of the preeminent urban planners in the world. Since the 1960s, he has worked to make Copenhagen a cycling- and pedestrian-friendly city. His concepts of “human scale” design and the importance of public spaces have led city planners the world over to rethink the way they design. In 2007, New York City sought Gehl’s help when improving its bicycling infrastructure, which has paid off with huge increases in cycling. We spoke to Gehl on the phone from his office in downtown Copenhagen.
Q: Designing with the human dimension in mind is a key part of your philosophy. What does it mean to build on a “human scale?”
A: I mean planning where you put an emphasis on the people walking and bicycling and also on public life in general. That means you start with the people and end with all the other things […] you start with the people and have motor traffic and buildings as second priorities.
And the point is, in all this, is that if you don’t start with the people side of the story, you can never add the people side after you have made cars happy and placed a number of buildings around a place, and then you look at what space is left over and that can be used by people. You have to start with the people. So, when we talk about human dimension in city planning, that is something about putting a high priority on making sure people are treated well in the planning and then the other things will have to be treated afterwards.
The focus of this year's auto shows has been the burgeoning crop of plug-in hybrids (like the Volt) and electric vehicles (like the Leaf) and the smaller cars the industry is proving can be fun, safe and efficient (and yes sexy). After all, the industry finally has new vehicle standards to aim for – 35.5 mpg or 250 grams per mile CO2 in 2016 (that's compared to a new vehicle average of 26.4 mpg or 337 g/mi CO2 in 2008)
Yes, we will visit the Advanced Technology Superhighway. But there are a few facts we will keep in mind as we tour the best and yes, the worst, of the industry's offerings.
Cars and light trucks in the US consume nearly nine million barrels of oil every day, some 142 billion gallons per year, spewing out 20% of US global warming pollution. While new vehicle fuel economy standards are heading up to a to 35.5 mpg, the fleet of 2016 vehicles is more likely to have an on road fuel economy that is perhaps 20% lower - something more like a 27 or 28 mpg (PDF). And, to get to this average, vehicle sales will have to shift significantly toward cars and away from light trucks. The new 2016 standards must be a starting point for consistent improvements if we are going to curb our addiction to oil.
Plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles are coming, but to get where we need to be for the long term, it is the larger cars and trucks that will need to make big strides. We will be looking for the technologies the industry is offering for these vehicles, not just what they have on deck to makes small cars even better.
So while we take a good look at GM's Volt, we will also be looking at the 2010 Tahoe, with its paltry 15 mpg city average. GM sold 91,578 of these in 2008; the Volt is expected to go on sale this year. We hope to see strong evidence at this year’s auto show that the industry is committed to on-going improvements in fuel efficiency for all vehicles. Look for photos of the best and worst of the 2010 DC Auto Show!
Posted by: Sophie Matson at 12:16PM PST on January 21, 2010
Last week I read an article in my local newspaper about the environmental impacts of a decrease in public transportation ridership, and the subject of commuting has been on my mind ever since. The article described issues facing transit authorities these days:
Without a doubt, air quality inventories show that the best way to cut greenhouse gases in the region is by removing cars from the road.
However, with the cost to drive plummeting and fare increases and service cuts making transit less practical, transit agencies are having problems retaining their old passengers, let alone attracting new ones. If that continues, the effects could be dramatic — more cars on the road could endanger human health, produce hazier air and contribute to rising sea levels.
Budgets are very tight in California, and public transportation is on the chopping block. Transit authorities have cut the number of trains and buses running and increased fares (and they're only going to get more expensive). My commute costs more than I believe it reasonably should, although I haven’t done the math to figure how expensive it would be to drive (and park in downtown San Francisco – not an easy or inexpensive feat). I much prefer riding my bike to the station and hopping on the train.
For many people, simply the thought of their commute- traffic jams, gas prices- causes stress and anxiety. But I’ll admit it- I like my commute. I insert my headphones and listen to an audiobook for the entirety of my 45 minute train ride. This is a pleasant and meditative way to begin my day. I have actually started looking forward to the ride, and am often disappointed when I reach my stop and have to disembark during a particularly interesting part of the audiobook. Perhaps this only works for me, as an admitted fiction junkie, and other people find it impossible to escape the stresses of their morning commute.
There are many reasons why people choose not to take public transit: they don’t like it, it’s too expensive, public transit in their region is unreliable or nonexistent, or they work far from any bus stop or train station. Last year I worked in an office that was prohibitively far from public transit, but now that my office is very close to the train station, I would be crazy not to take advantage of the convenience. But how much is convenience worth? I would like to think that even if driving were less expensive I would still take public transportation because it is less stressful and better for the environment.
It’s disconcerting that public transit is starting to become more expensive than driving, pushing more people back into their cars, particularly in the eco-conscious San Francisco Bay Area. The article makes the important point that, when commuters abandon public transit for their cars, the public transit itself becomes less efficient.
Do you drive to work, bike, or take public transit? Have you noticed changes in your commute since the beginning of the recession and subsequent budget cuts?
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:51AM PST on January 19, 2010
What do Texans know about electric cars? Quite a bit it turns out.
I spent Friday and Saturday in Austin at their Climate Protection Conference and Expo. Fellow Plug In America board member, Marc Geller, and I set up our booth and spent two days talking non-stop to Texans about plug-in cars and renewable energy. We also spoke on two panels, Marc spoke about the cars themselves and I spoke on a panel about charging infrastructure.
Having grown up in San Antonio, I remember how conservative Texans were in general, so I fully expected to encounter some push back on our positions regarding EVs. On the contrary, with one notable exception*, everyone we met was as hungry for EVs as we were. The only difference was that they had not yet learned about the coming plug-ins. It was our job to inform them. Once told of the auto industry's rapid move toward electrification, you could feel their excitement grow.
I was struck with the pervasive desire to quash our addiction to oil and replace it with a healthy reliance on renewable energy. The demand for plug-ins is not just on the two coasts, Americans everywhere want them.
My previous statements, that the market for plug-ins is much larger than the automakers think, were borne out in our conversations with these Texans. To a person, they were desperate to move away from oil. Granted, we were in Austin, the most liberal city in the state, but not everyone at the conference was from Austin. We met people from San Antonio, Dallas and Houston and they were all the same. They couldn't wait for the opportunity to drive on electricity.
"We can now see a clear path to having thousands -- even hundreds of thousands -- of zero-emission vehicles on Texas roads in the next several years," said Jason Few, president of Houston-based Reliant Energy. The local utility, Austin Energy, has been a leader in wind energy with the nation's highest percentage of wind in a municipal utility grid mix. Their understanding of the benefits from plug-in cars goes back many years to the inception of their Plug In Partners program. Using that strong west Texas wind and the plentiful sunshine to replace the 60% foreign oil in every gallon of gas makes sense to everybody.
The only downside here is that most Texans are going to have to wait a bit longer to get the cars because the GM Volt roll out will be limited to California, at least for the first few months; and Nissan's announced plans for the Leaf are mostly for a West Coast roll out with some cars going to Arizona and Tennessee. I recently heard that Nissan has agreed to supply Houston with a few Leafs from the initial manufacturing run. This is a good idea since Texans are hot for EVs. Marc and I told them repeatedly to contact their local GM and Nissan Dealers in Austin and request they get them as soon as possible. From a marketing viewpoint, getting these cars in the hands of outspoken early adopters will go a long way toward preparing the ground for others. Word of mouth will be strong.
I think the nervousness from the OEMs about the market for plug-ins is misplaced. What we're seeing in Texas and elsewhere seems to be prevalent. I honestly think their problem will be keeping up with demand.
I want to personally thank Chad Schwitters of Seattle, Brett Conrad of Santa Monica and Peter van Deventer of the Netherlands for their generous contributions to help defray the costs of my trip. Our membership continues to grow, allowing Plug In America to further educate info-hungry drivers on the benefits of going electric and preparing them for the change.
* The notable exception mentioned above is my very own brother, Harrel, who lives a short drive from Austin. He drove up to see me on his motorcycle, instead of his giant SUV. I took that as a good sign:~)
I'll consider my work done when he's driving on electricity.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:28AM PST on January 14, 2010
The Detroit Auto Show opened Monday amid a flurry of stories about electric vehicles. The LA Times reported this morning on Ford's confirmation of the electric Focus hitting the market early in 2011.
This is good news for consumers since we now have a viable American entry into the race for an affordable compact battery EV. Nissan's Leaf will beat it to the market, but not by much.
Ironically, the adjacent story in the LA Times business section was of the recent rise in gas prices in spite of higher reserves and lower demand. This should be a huge story, but will probably get little coverage.
If you read the story, you'll see that the money manipulators are reaping huge profits just by betting on the future prices of oil. They're stealing your money because you have no choice!
Our country desperately needs to raise taxes on oil-based fuels to cover the health, environmental and national security costs this dirty fuel inflicts on our society. Whenever the subject is raised, however, a cry erupts from all sectors saying there is no way we can raise taxes in this time of economic turmoil.
It'll kill jobs, they say. What about the poor, they say.
Well what about the jobs and the poor now that the oil companies are raising the price of our fuel? What are you going to do? Nothing?
We have no leadership when it comes to this problem. The politicians, even the "good ones", are deathly afraid to touch the third rail of gas taxes. It's up to us.
The one big thing you can do is buy a car that doesn't use oil as a fuel. NO PLUG - NO DEAL!
There is a great way to prepare for the coming plug-ins. From now on, when you buy gas for your car, double the price you pay. Take the second half and deposit it in a separate account that you don't touch for anything but your first EV. If you need service, like an oil change or tune up, double that as well and stash it away. This tough love saving exercise will highlight how expensive oil-burners are to operate while providing you with a fat accumulation of cash to add to your trade in on the new plug-in car.
Then, when the plug-in of your choice hits the market, you'll be ready to kiss those gas pumps goodbye!
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:19AM PST on January 13, 2010
Mr. Green dipped into his mailbag again and addressed this question: "Can you drive a stake into the persistent myth that hybrid cars are bad from a cradle-to-grave carbon footprint perspective? I am tired of someone (who is mechanically inclined and has much more time on his hands than me) going on about the MPG of his 1993 Mustang."
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:59AM PST on January 13, 2010
This is a great video for all you bike enthusiasts out there. "I think I'm the only Hispanic around this area, because I haven't seen other Hispanics working on bikes." Do you know the people behind the counter of your local bike shop? Join the bike group, post a pic of your bike, and discuss!
Norway based Think has changed hands a few times among various groups that tried to get it going. This latest iteration is up and running in Finland, finally rolling EVs off the line for the Euro market. Now they've decided on Elkhart, IN as the location for their U.S. manufacturing.
Building EVs will bring much needed jobs to Indiana where, not coincidentally, EnerDel, Think's battery maker of choice is located. No sense shipping those heavy batteries too far.
The Think is a "city car", a classification that's quite popular in Europe. With a top speed of 60 mph and a range of 100 miles, it's ideal for the commuter. Small and light, it'll go many miles on just a few kWh.
Best of all, the Think will be a great entry level EV. I don't have pricing info yet, but the small size should enable them to get away with a small pack, I'm guessing somewhere around 20 kWh.
It should be quite popular as a first car for your high schooler, can't go too far or too fast.
The Indiana choice is interesting as it's just 137 miles from Anderson, IN, home of Bright Automotive, the maker of the most innovative plug-in hybrid work van I've seen. Here's hoping this will be the start of a center of EV innovation in the heartland.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:42PM PST on January 6, 2010
Renault, the French partner to Japan's Nissan, has produced the first ad of what will become a steadily growing genre depicting the benefits of driving on electricity. (Be sure to click on the 3rd little square in the lower right corner of the site for the full spot)
I've been saying for years that once the creatives at the ad agencies get the chance to develop marketing and advertising campaigns for EVs, we'll see them comparing and contrasting this clean technology with the dirty fuels. This ad does that in a very soft and subtle manner, although this line implies the stakes are serious: "Does enjoyment for some have to cost the lives of others?"
Oh, and watch for the nod to Renault's sister company, Nissan, toward the end when the little boy watches the "leaf" fly by.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 2:06PM PST on December 22, 2009
Winter solstice has always been special to me given it's the shortest day of the year. Even with the short hours, our 3 kW PV system will generate many clean kilowatt hours today, and every day from now till June's summer solstice, we'll generate more as the sun reaches higher in the sky and more photons slam into the panels at 300,000 kilometers per second knocking electrons free from the silicon so they can travel through the copper wires and do the work we need done.
But in addition to the extreme astronomical position, winter solstice just happened to be the day that my wife Zan and I took possession of our EV. Our planet has traveled around the sun 7 times since 2002 and we've driven our EV more than 77,000 miles on the solar-generated kilowatt hours made on our roof. There's a bit of a back story here that many of you on my list might find interesting. I asked Zan to help write this post, given her part in making it all happen.
She said: Seven years ago today Paul and I took delivery of our Toyota RAV4 EV and everything changed.
This post is essentially an open letter to Washington governor, Chris Gregoire, asking her to enact a simple plan that will hasten the adoption of plug-in cars. I want you to forward this to your respective governors since the concept is relevant to all 50 states.
Essentially, Hayes and Marshall propose that Gov. Gregoire enact a moratorium on the purchase of new fleet vehicles. Just keep the three year old cars a bit longer. This would save several million dollars the first year alone. Then, when the Leaf and Volt enter the market, they want the state to buy as many as possible for their fleets with the saved funds, ensuring a strong demand from the start. In other words, "No Plug, No Deal" on a statewide scale!
The Washington State Transportation Commission estimates $16 billion leaves the state each year for foreign oil. Every person who fills a tank with gas or diesel sends over 60% of their money out of the country. Additionally, the Washington taxpayers spend tens of millions of their money to fuel the state fleet.
This is important because, for every EV that replaces a gas burner, the money spent for the energy to move it stays local. $16 billion dollars in the case of Washington. Imagine what it is for California? For the whole country?
With each plug-in car that's sold, the spigot of money that's on full blast right now going to the oil companies, will gradually close, until decades from now, it's shut off entirely. All those billions of dollars that had been lining the pockets and robes of the most evil people on earth - and I don't make that statement lightly - will instead be staying in our own pockets, with a little going to the utilities.
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 11:59AM PST on December 15, 2009
So I was wondering, why is it that commercial air travel is considered so non-green? It seems unjust that my efforts to live green all year are negated by a few flights to Sierra Club headquarters and a trip or two to visit my parents.
Most carbon calculators - but notably not ours at Sierra Club Green Home (www.sierraclubgreenhome.com) - penalize even the dark green citizen who is required to fly commercial for work. Let's say you're a sales manager, you diligently recycle, you watch the thermostats, you have low-water landscaping, you eat organic vegetables, you're doing everything right except your job requires you to fly from Denver to Cincinnati twice a month. According to most evaluations, you are a serious carbon emitter. I don't think this is right, it's not fair to call this person a polluter. His or her lifestyle and home are green, and should be respected as such.
Posted by: Carl Pope at 2:33PM PST on December 14, 2009
In a few hours I'll arrive at the UN Conference in Copenhagen -- surely the biggest environmental gathering I've ever attended and, arguably, the most consequential ever to meet. The sheer scale of the threats posed by climate disruption (and of the actions needed to protect us against it) does make global warming seem different from other environmental challenges we've faced. But in a number of important respects, it's not different at all. I think it might even help us understand what we're up against if we look at some of the lessons we've learned from those other challenges.
Lesson 1: Safety First -- It's Cheaper
If you listen to the so-called "climate skeptics," you might start to think that the history of environmental policy is one of expensive false alarms and unnecessary panic. But in reality, it 's almost always turned out that interventions taken to protect people from environmental risks were inadequate and too late -- and that prevention would have been much cheaper than cleaning up the mess. And history also shows that scientists, more often than not, underestimate the risks -- they are not nervous Nellie alarmists.
Take formaldehyde. We've known that for decades that it's toxic. It's also ubiquitous and consumer exposure to it is widespread: permanent press clothing, particle board, and some kinds of plywood. Yet for decades federal regulators failed to establish safety standards for formaldehyde exposure in consumer use and, as a result, manufacturers kept churning out mobile homes that had formaldehyde concentrations higher than those permitted in chemical plants for workers -- much higher. Only when FEMA loaned hundreds of these toxic trailers to Katrina victims -- a population that was concentrated and easily monitored -- did the Sierra Club uncover just how bad the situation was. And even then FEMA stonewalled, resisted, and argued that the trailers were not the problem -- until Congress stepped in and finally forced them to get people out of the trailers. (They also had to force FEMA to abandon plans to simply sell these trailers to other victims.)
The California Air Resources Board, in the wake of the scandal, passed consumer formaldehyde standards. And this month the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported out legislation that would make the California standards nationwide -- an important step forward. Will this end the formaldehyde risk? Probably not, although it will reduce it. New scientific studies expected from the EPA next month will show that formaldehyde is toxic at even lower levels of exposure than previously believed -- so the new standards, while an improvement, will still leave millions of Americans still at risk.
The science of climate change is similar. Over the last decade it's become clear that global warming is happening faster than anticipated, that CO2 disrupts the climate at lower-than-expected concentrations, and that the addressing the problem will cost more than we previously thought.
So taking early action to avoid risk is the prudent, cheap, economic course of action. One question I have often wanted to ask the climate skeptics is "What do you think the chances are that you're mistaken and we are disrupting the climate? And at what point are the odds of a global castastrophe high enough that you would favor preventive action? One in four? One in ten? One in a hundred? And do you have fire insurance on your home? What are the odds on its burning down next year?
Chesapeake Bay, the economic linchpin of the economies of Maryland, Delaware, and eastern Virginia, is in serious ecological distress. After more than a decade of federal action, the loss of fisheries and biological productivity hasn't stopped -- largely because agriculture has been permitted to handle its manure improperly, which has led to huge quantities of toxic water pollutants in the streams that drain into the Bay.
Posted by: Heather M at 1:41PM PST on December 14, 2009
Transportation emits one-third of US global warming pollution and is the fastest growing sector. The Sierra Club's Green Transportation Campaign aims to reduce transportation emissions with stringent standards for our cars, clean fuels, and supporting transportation choices that will help us reduce how much we drive. States are moving forward on all fronts, including showing strong support for passenger rail, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide convenient transportation choices to more people.
The following is a post from Dave Cullen of the Sierra Club Florida Chapter highlighting a tremendous victory for passenger rail in Florida. In short, Florida has demonstrated a commitment to making rail an option for residents. --Ann Mesnikoff
Passenger Rail Passes! by Dave Cullen
A special session of the Florida State Legislature ended Dec. 8th with the passage of HB 1B, a bill supported by Sierra Club Florida, approving the $432 million purchase of 61.5 miles of railroad track from freight operator CSX. The purchased rail will serve passengers on Sun Rail in Central Florida. The bill also shored up funding for Tri Rail which serves the Miami to Palm Beach corridor.
HB 1B is Florida's down payment on a vision for passenger rail in the state that will link bullet trains from Tampa to Miami and connect local rail systems around the state.
“This is exactly the kind of clean tech investment that Portland, and Oregon, have fought for, “said Mayor Sam Adams. “I have committed to making Portland a national leader in the EV industry, and with Nissan and eTec, we’re able to move our agenda forward.”
“Electric vehicles have the possibility to transform our economy, revive our car industry, and improve our environment. To make sure electric vehicles succeed this time around we need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in battery technology and [charging] infrastructure.”
In Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels, who is arguably the best of the lot when it comes to the environment said,
"I extend an invitation to my fellow mayors to join us. I congratulate Portland and San Francisco for taking major steps to green up their grid while preparing for the electric car revolution. This is an exciting time, and the coming clean energy economy will open up plenty of opportunities for all of our cities to win jobs and investment."
And Mr. "better late than never" Los Angeles Mayor, Villaraigosa, finally joined the group last week at a Bloomberg conference near UCLA saying LA would install 500 charging stations. While this is a good start, it is coming a bit late to the game. Since much of the modern EV movement was birthed from LA companies like AC Propulsion and Aerovironment. you'd think our Mayor would be more engaged. They need to put a team of people together and get busy. There's a lot of work to do.
Which brings me to BYD, the Chinese battery company-turned-EV company. You may recall that Warren Buffett bought 10% of BYD about a year ago. He wants to make Los Angeles the U.S. headquarters for the fast growing EV/PHEV maker. He also sees our city as the most logical starting point to sell his cars.
"BYD Co., the Chinese auto maker part-owned by one of Warren Buffett's companies, is likely to choose the Los Angeles area as the lead market for the electric car it plans to start selling in the U.S. late next year, a senior executive said. BYD is also leaning toward choosing the West Coast metropolis as home to its U.S. headquarters for the auto business, Henry Li, a BYD senior director in charge of its auto business outside China, said in an interview Wednesday."
At a time when we must get serious about increasing the safety and efficiency of the cars and trucks we drive, President Obama has found the right person for the job. Late last Friday evening, President Obama announced that he would nominate long-time Senate aide David Strickland to head the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This nomination comes at a critical time for NHTSA, as it is finalizing new fuel economy rules with the Environmental Protection Agency that will ramp up the efficiency of passenger vehicles to 34.1 miles per gallon in 2016.
As a long-time aide to the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees NHTSA, Strickland has a deep knowledge of automobile safety and fuel economy issues and was instrumental in writing the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, which raised fuel economy standards for the first time in three decades. With years of experience David Strickland will be able to go from zero to sixty in no time in helping Americans drive safer, cleaner cars and trucks.
There has been a phenomenal increase in the number of cars on Indian roads leading to a huge rise in vehicular pollution. Photograph: Gurinder Osan/AP
India became the last of the "big four" polluters to reveal its opening hand in the negotiations today, ahead of the crucial climate change talks in Copenhagen next week.
Government sources revealed the country could curb the carbon emitted relative to the growth of its economy – its carbon intensity – by 24% by 2020.
The target would mean emissions would continue to rise as the government aims to lift millions out of poverty, but by less than currently predicted.
The leaked figure days after the announcement last week that China would cut its carbon intensity by more than 40% by 2020. The EU has already pledged a 20% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 – set to rise to 30% if other developed countries match the European target – while the US last month proposed cuts of 17%. These four are expected to emit almost two-thirds of the carbon between now and 2050.
Comparing the targets is complicated. India and China's target are for carbon intensity, but they at least use the same base year, 2005. The EU uses 1990 as a base year, while the US uses 2005. But observers see all the targets as below what scientists say are needed to give an even chance of keeping temperature rise below the dangerous limit of 2C.
"If India offers an emissions target, even if it's relative to their economic growth, it's a very welcome step," said Bryony Worthington, founder of campaign group Sandbag. "It's yet another sign that rapidly developing countries see the potential for green growth. Europe now needs to up its game and commit to targets which really get to grips with our apparently unshakeable addiction to carbon."
Sources told the Indian media that the reduction in carbon intensity could go up to 37% by 2030, compared with 2005. India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, is expected to make a statement in parliament tomorrow to announce the targets. To reduce emissions, India's national action plan on climate change sees increasing solar power generation and improving energy efficiency as a route to "greener growth". In August, India laid out an ambitious plan to generate 20GW of solar power by 2020, which could equate to 75% of the world's solar energy.
The country, which is the fourth-highest emitter of greenhouse gases, has been under pressure from developed nations to announce its plan to control emissions.
The "voluntary reductions" were first floated by Ramesh last week during talks with the Chinese prime minister. He told journalists then that India could not afford to be seen as lagging behind in other nations in offering to act.
A senior government official, who declined to be named, told Reuters that India's final targets, likely to be presented in Copenhagen, could reflect a broad range rather than a specific figure.
The momentum generated by the succession of announcements on targets may throw attention on to the issue of funding for climate adaptation in poorer nations.
Delhi has been a hardliner in the negotiations saying it won't accept legally binding emission caps and offered only to keep per-capita output of carbon lower than that of richer nations. The average Indian's carbon footprint is eight times smaller than the average person in Britain.
Posted by: Janet Gardner at 12:27PM PST on November 25, 2009
I sold my car last Sunday. I’m totally thrilled about this -- not only is it pretty green, which was my main consideration, but I’m also saying buh-bye (good riddance!) to car payments, car insurance, gas and parking in my neighborhood.
I signed up for Zipcar -- which I’ll review once I’ve tried -- and am totally digging taking the bus. I love trying new routes and feel like I’m on vacation in my own City whenever I take the underground.
However. There’s one thing I haven’t quite gotten down yet. How do I manage hauling a gym bag, purse, laptop bag and other assorted bags on various days (gym shower stuff! groceries! jacket! change of shoes!) on public transit?
Last night, I tried carrying way too much at once – laptop bag, change of shoes, reusable bag (containing a dress, 2 pairs of knit tights, 1 pair of bright blue tights, a cabbage and an onion – what, that’s normal, right?), and a bag full of groceries. On three buses. Definitely one bus too many. I won’t make that mistake again. Lesson learned!
I don’t have egg on my face, but I do have it all over my coat.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:18AM PST on November 18, 2009
The Guardianrecently asked, "What's stopping teenage girls from riding bikes?"
Teenage girls don't ride bikes. Or so says the Darlington Media Group, who have set about trying to rectify the problem with a campaign to get young women cycling.
Several years ago, the National Children's Bureau published research that revealed that on average, boys cycle 138 miles a year and girls only 24 miles. This still rings true. Christie Rae, 16, from Newcastle told me: "I do have a bike, but I don't really use it. Only sometimes in the summer when my friends and I cycle round to see each other. I don't know many girls that do, actually."
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 11:56AM PST on November 17, 2009
Mexico City has some of most polluted air in the world. And until recently, there were few public transportation options available to commuters looking for a cleaner, easier way to get around the city. Seeing the need for more options, EMBARQ, a project of the World Resources Institute, stepped in to help the city create a thriving public bus system, the Metrobus.
In 2002, EMBARQ established a Mexican nongovernmental group, CTS-México, whose goal was to create a new bus system. It opened in 2005. Commuters who had previously sat in traffic for up to two hours to get across town are now able to make the same trip in 30 minutes. The buses have been so popular that the system was expanded in 2008, and now serves 450,000 passengers a day.
The Mexico City project shows how any city can improve its air quality and reduce its emissions — and also make its citizens' commutes more bearable — by focusing on public transportation. And for its work in Mexico, EMBARQ recently won the 2009 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership from Harvard University.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 2:00PM PST on November 16, 2009
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault/Nissan, was on hand to introduce the new Nissan Leaf electric car this morning at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. A large crowd of media and EV enthusiasts were on hand to drive the Nissan Versa test vehicle sporting the electric drive train of the Leaf.
The Versa is very close in size and weight of the Leaf, so the driving characteristics are pretty much what you'll see in the Leaf itself when Nissan brings it to market next fall.
Acceleration was quite good even when going uphill with the weight of three adults. Nissan's Larry Dominique says 0-60 is under 10 seconds, quick enough for most folks. Regenerative braking will be automatic with two levels, a very mild deceleration similar to what you feel when you lift your foot from a gas pedal in an internal combustion car, and a slightly stronger regen you can employ by moving a lever. It wasn't clear if the car will be enabled to "freewheel" like my RAV. For hypermilers such as myself, freewheeling is very important. I assume they'll incorporate it eventually if it's not already there.
I found the car to be a bit more attractive in person than in the photos. It's distinctive without being bizarre. The lines are clearly drawn with a low drag coefficient in mind and this accounts for the ability to average about 4 miles per kWh.
The car comes equipped with a lithium manganese battery pack made by Nissan partner, NEC. The capacity is a mere 24 kWh, 3 less than my RAV's NiMH battery holds.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 1:54PM PST on November 12, 2009
As if we needed anything more to worry about, we read today inThe Guardianthat the U.S. has pressured theInternational Energy Agencyto lie about the level of worldwide oil reserves. Ostensibly, this was done because revealing the true level of reserves would cause a financial panic since, well, we don't have much of an alternative to turn to.
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
This is important because once the economy improves, and it becomes apparent that global oil production cannot meet increased demand, the radically increased price will wreak havoc with the world's economies. We're already weakened from the Great Recession. A dramatic run up in the price of oil will cause many jobs to disappear overnight just as consumer goods, food and energy costs rise.
And we're what, still a full year from the first wave of plug-ins to come to market?
I'll be curious to see how the media plays this one. Do they ignore it, or do they begin to inform people that we're about to go up a stinky creek, and um, you better take a paddle with you.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.
If that comment doesn't send a chill down your spine, you should read it again.
This report should make the front page of every newspaper, but I fear it will be buried.
All I can say is we better push for viable plug-in cars to get to market sooner than later. Everyone should pay close attention to who's making what kind of EV and be ready to act when they do get to market. Once the peak is evident, it'll be too late to get one at MSRP.
Posted by: JennyWaggo at 1:38PM PST on November 10, 2009
If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Crossroads blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. We’ve already discussed picking out a bike, your first day, and weather. Today's post is about biking for women.
If you look around at the cyclists in your city or town, most likely most of them will be men. In fact, male cyclists outnumber females by two to one in the U.S. But that’s not the case in European countries like The Netherlands, where female cyclists actually outnumber their male counterparts. The U.S. can increase the number of female cyclists by building more bike-only commuter routes and paths that provide a greater sense of safety for cyclists. But while we work on that, there are some easy ways for female riders to start biking to work now. Here’s how.
We've talked about needing an effort on the scale of the Apollo Project to launch a clean energy revolution. To follow that comparison, yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took one small step for bureaucracy, but a giant leap towards solving global warming. The EPA sent its finalized decision that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare to the White House for review and approval. This decision will put into law what has become quite clear – climate change is real, the threat is serious, and the time to act is now.
This ruling, when finalized, will recognize that emissions spewing from the tailpipes of new motor vehicles are contributing to global warming (they account for 20% of our country's global warming emissions) and lay the groundwork for new greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. These standards will reduce our dependence on oil, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and save consumers money at the pump. The decision will also allow the EPA to reduce emissions from other major sources of global warming pollution.
This may seem like old news – EPA has already proposed historic new vehicle standards and received coverage when it announced this endangerment finding – but there's more to it. The White House now has 90 days to review EPA's endangerment finding. It's now official, before the United Nations meet in Copenhagen to work towards a global solution to climate change, President Obama can finalize EPA's decision and show the rest of the world that the US recognizes the danger of global warming and is acting to stop it.
One other thing: When EPA announced that it had sent the endangerment finding to the White House, it mentioned that the agency received more than 300,000 comments from the public regarding the decision. This shows me that the public is engaged, people want global warming solutions, and the administration is listening.
Over the next few months, there will be plenty of opportunities to make your voice heard and, as EPA notes, make a difference. Right now you can send EPA and the Department of Transportation a message to make our vehicles as clean and efficient as possible, or stay involved through the Sierra Club's Big Picture Campaign to learn the latest on what actions the administration is taking to reduce global warming pollution. As the United Nations prepares to meet in Copenhagen, show Washington and the World that you want to move to a clean energy economy. It will make a difference.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 8:58AM PST on November 4, 2009
I try to only talk about the future of EVs here, but this story from the past got my attention.
From All Cars Electric entitled, "GM Insider Admits Company Knew Consumers Demanded Efficient Vehicles Decades Ago." This is a pretty astounding admission.
As McManus said, "The survey would estimate that people would estimate fuel economy fairly highly. Being a good economist, I said, 'No, they don't,' and I changed the results. [...] Our job was not to seek the truth, but to justify decisions that had already been made."
So, as we go forward toward this new electric future, keep in mind that when big dollars are involved, you can expect that not everything the car makers, the utilities, and even the regulators tell us is going to be true.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 9:12AM PST on November 3, 2009
A nice (snowy) day for a ride.
If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Crossroads blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. Today's post is about weather. We already discussed picking out a bike and your first day.
Okay, so you’re a bike commuter now -- at least some of the time. And you totally get it. Commuting is fun, you show up to work feeling great, and maybe you’ve even lost a few pounds. But as the days get cooler and cold weather starts to loom, maybe you’re wondering if you can keep it up. You can.
It’s not all or nothing. Don’t think just because you can’t bike every day or every week you should give up on bike commuting altogether during the winter. When a snow storm hits, or you have extra responsibilities at home or work, taking off a few days is fine. No one’s judging you. Just remind yourself how much you love biking to work when things clear up, and then get back in the saddle. Remember, people bike in Minneapolis (in what locals like to call MinneSNOWta) all year round!
It’s raining! You wake up and it’s raining. Should you leave the bike at home? Not necessarily. Rain is not a major problem for bikers, as anyone who's ever lived or visited Portland, Oregon knows. Just wear appropriate clothing (rain coat, rain pants, gloves) and give yourself a little extra time. Bike slower than normal since the roads are slick and your stopping power is reduced, and take the turns with caution. Paint on roads is slicker than the blacktop when wet, so stay away from paint when possible.
But it’s cold! The key to cold-weather riding is limiting the amount of exposed skin to the wind. Since you’re pedaling enough to generate heat, your core will stay warm. But your hands, knees, and head might get chilly. Wearing gloves, tights, and a wool hat under your helmet will keep you comfy. And wear a few core layers, so you can adjust warmth easily as the ride goes on. There are cycling-specific clothing options available, but you can also use your hiking wool and synthetics.
Today’s forecast: snow. A little snow won’t stop you from biking to work (but again, it’s not all or nothing -- if you are not comfortable in snow, that’s cool, take the day off). Snow can be slick and is best met with thick knobby mountain-bike tires. It can also hide black ice, so be careful – especially when riding over bridges, where ice forms first. Use a “beater” bike if you have one, and make sure to clean the muck off your bike to keep it functioning well.
Have a backup plan. It’s best not to be forced to bike if the weather turns in the middle of the day. Before winter hits, know alternate options like which bus or coworker can take you home. Leave your bike at work for the night if you need to. If you park it outside, make sure it’s secure and not sitting in a pool of rust-inducing water.
Have questions about commuting or finding the right bike? Ask them in the comments below.
If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Crossroads blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. Today's post is about getting started. We already discussed picking out a bike.
Okay, so you have a bike and you’re excited to bike to work. How do you actually go about doing it? While you could just head out the door and make your way to work like any other day, doing a little planning is a great idea and will make your first day of bike commuting much more enjoyable.
Bikes are not cars. Don’t assume that the route you use in your car is the best one for biking. Many cities have bike maps published by either the local city government or a bicycle advocacy group. Pick up a map at your local shop or find it online (Google “Atlanta Bike Route Map," for example, and it will give you A-Train).
Now, create a route using the most direct streets with bike lanes and bike paths, if they exist. If you live in a city with a lot of hills, take them into consideration. Going a little out of your way might be worth it to keep away from monster climbs. There are great bike route maps for San Francisco and other cities that allow you to enter the maximum incline you want to climb. Google Maps will soon offer bike routes, too.
Your first day is your second day. Now that you have a route figured out, try it out on a weekend instead of on Monday morning. That way you can time it so you show up to work relaxed and on time. Just remember that there will be more traffic on a weekday, although bikes rarely get stuck in traffic (another big perk!).
Posted by: Paul Scott at 3:48PM PST on October 26, 2009
Now that we're in the last year prior to the release of several EVs and plug-in hybrids, the mainstream media is beginning to cover the story. The LA Times' Ken Bensinger wrote in Sunday's business section a fair and thorough account of the trials and tribulations we'll encounter as the cars begin to roll out this time next year.
Posted by: Canyon Kyle at 9:11AM PST on October 22, 2009
A good example of a steel commuting bike with fenders and racks.
There are few things simpler than riding a bike to get around. It’s a pleasure most of us learned as a child but gave up somewhere around age 16 when we picked up a set of car keys. Maybe later on we started riding again to get in shape, or because we saw Lance Armstrong powering up the Alpe d'Huez and thought, “Wow, that whole biking thing is pretty cool.” And now, when we think about climate change, ways to reduce our carbon emissions, and all those people on bikes we see each morning, we wonder if we could actually become a bike commuter.
If you ever considered biking to work but were kept away by worries about logistics, rain, or what your co-workers might think, you'll find a series of tips here on the Crossroads blog to get you to work on your bike at least once a week. Today's post is about bikes.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:19AM PST on October 21, 2009
The cost of driving your gas car and powering your house just got quantified a little better.
And you thought it was just those numbers on the Chevron sign:~)
Whenever I give talks about EVs and renewable energy, I invariably get asked about the price of both. My solar customers ask how long it takes to pay off the photovoltaic system, and those I encourage to buy the coming EVs ask how much they'll cost compared to similar gas burners. These are legitimate questions, of course, but I'm always left with having to explain that the "price" of these things does not reflect the "cost".
"Internalize the Externalities." That should be a bumper sticker that all enviros use to get across the idea that dirty fuels are not priced according to their true costs. This NY Times article discusses a Congress-authorized study by the National Academy of Sciences that took into consideration some, but not all, of the external costs of fossil fuels.
It turns out that the burning of the two worst fuels, coal and oil, accounts for about $120 billion each year in health costs. The study was very conservative in detailing the costs. They left out any costs attributable to climate change as "too uncertain to estimate" for instance.
Posted by: Heather M at 6:22AM PST on October 21, 2009
This morning our own Jesse Prentice-Dunn of the Sierra Club Green Transportation team is in Detroit, where the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation are holding the first of three public hearings on strong new vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards.
The Department of Transportation proposed accelerating fuel economy standards to 34.1 mpg by 2016 and the Environmental Protection Agency proposed setting a standard of 250 grams of CO2 equivalent per mile by 2016.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:16AM PST on October 9, 2009
I spent both Friday and Saturday at the AltCar Expo in Santa Monica. This convention has been showing alternative vehicles to the public for four years now, but little in the way of highway capable cars that the masses can buy.
On Friday night, Gov. Schwarzenegger dropped by with an entourage that included CARB Chair, Mary Nichols, and former CA EPA head, Terry Tamminen, the subject of an earlier blog. I watched as the Gov spoke about his Hydrogen Highway with a smug Tamminen beside him. I had to bite my tongue.
At least the Gov was able to see that the rest of the show included plug-in vehicles almost exclusively, and by the time he left, my hope was that batteries had mostly replaced pie-in-the-sky fuel cells in his mind.
As for the show, it was smaller than last year, both in attendance and vehicles. However, there was a palpable feeling in the crowd that wasn't there in years past. Everyone seemed to understand that this was the last AltCar at which you would not be able to buy a highway capable EV from a major OEM. Thus, the countdown has commenced. By the time of next year's AltCar Expo, several major, and a few minor, car makers will have vehicles in the market.
As a testament to this, the parking lot had a sprinkling of Teslas and Mini Es. I expect that next year's event will have much, much more.
Posted by: Brian F. at 2:53PM PST on September 21, 2009
I enjoy Matthew Yglesias' blog. Apparently he's hanging out in Germany. Today he posted this picture and wrote:
[A]s everyone knows dense, walkable areas may work in Europe where nobody has children but it could never fly in the U.S. where people need to tote the kids around. Or maybe it’s that there’s no way to build human-scale walkable communities without blotting out the sun with Manhattan-style skyscrapers.
Join the Walk About group here on Crossroads if you're the kind of person who likes to stroll the urban sidewalks.
Today at the White House, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson and Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood took the first step towards making President Obama’s vision for cleaner, more efficient cars a reality, releasing proposed regulations that fill in the details of how we will meet the President’s goal of a fleet that averages 35.5 mpg and 250 grams of global warming pollution per mile.
The rules proposed today are a historic first step on the path to highly efficient vehicles. They are the single biggest step we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preventing 950 million metric tons of CO2 from being pumped into the atmosphere. Not only will new standards reduce our oil consumption, they’ll save consumers an average of $3,000 at the pump over the life of the vehicle.
Secretary LaHood and Administrator Jackson laid out a National Program, combining existing DOT fuel economy standards with first time EPA greenhouse gas standards, all reaching the goals that California’s Pavley standards would have achieved. Although California has agreed not to implement its Pavley standards (bowing to the national standard), it retains the authority to set more stringent standards, driving emissions reductions and efficiency in the future. This National Program will not only significantly reduce emissions and oil consumption, it will give automakers the certainty and direction they need to invest in new technologies and create more efficient cars and trucks.
The new standards will help automakers put technologies already on the shelf onto new vehicles. Conventional technologies such as turbocharged engines, lightweight materials, continuously variable transmissions and reduced rolling resistance tires are available today to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy. New standards will also help drive innovation and advanced technology vehicles, such as the soon to be released plug-in electric Nissan Leaf and the plug-in hybrid electric Chevrolet Volt.
The high-level announcement today is great, but the devil is always in the details. Over the next two months, we’ll be looking over the hundreds of pages of proposed rules to make sure that excessive credits and overly generous flexibility measures don’t undercut the program.
The Obama Administration should be applauded for creating a program that is a win for the environment, automakers, and consumer’s wallets. Find out more about the new standards and use our handy new online tool to send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper!
Posted by: Jennifer Schwab at 1:54PM PST on September 10, 2009
We believe that the best way for America to get out of this mess is by becoming the world’s leader in renewable energy, green products and jobs. This agenda is mantra for President Obama and his platform. Here’s a fly in that ointment, however, and it won’t surprise you where it comes from -- China.
It seems that the Chinese government is subsidizing its leading producers of photovoltaic solar panels so they can sell here for less than American-made panels. Chinese firms such as Suntech Power Holdings are opening offices and production facilities on American soil to avoid tariffs, similar to what the Japanese car companies did over the past 40 years with great success. Journalist Keith Bradsher of The New York Times unearthed plenty of examples of this plan in his recent article.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:00AM PST on September 8, 2009
This story is about the economics of EVs, but it addresses a mostly unknown aspect that is only recently getting some attention.
What is the value of the battery pack when it can no longer give you the service you require?
Lithium-ion batteries have a limited number of charge cycles in electric vehicles, but once a car’s battery pack goes kaput, it can be recycled or find new life in less demanding applications — storing renewable energy generated during off-peak hours, for example.
This is precisely what Ed Kjaer of SoCal Edison told me when I toured the SCE "smart garage". The large battery packs will have a long afterlife storing kWh from off peak charging at night in your garage or anyplace you can safely store the batteries. In the near future, we will all be on Time of Use (TOU) utility rates, so any energy we use during peak load times will be much more expensive than energy used at night.
Charging these large battery packs at night on 8 cent/kWh energy and using it to offset 40 cent energy the next day could prove quite lucrative. Therefore, when you replace your EV's battery pack with a new one after 7-10 years, the old pack may be worth hundreds, or even thousands of dollars as a storage pack in your house, or at a commercial building where many packs are strung together. It's this value that Nissan, and everyone else, wants to know.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:35AM PST on August 31, 2009
As most you know, renewable energy is an integral part of the move to electric vehicles. Even though studies show that charging an EV from the existing grid is still much cleaner than driving a gas car, the goal is to run our cars on renewable electricity to the extent possible. One of the drawbacks to renewable energy is the intermittency of solar and wind. While this isn't much of a problem with solar since the peak demand for electricity closely follows solar production, it is a problem for wind. Wind is typically strongest at night when the grid has considerable excess capacity and prices are low.
Storing this low cost energy for the following day is therefore of great value to the utilities. Not only does it allow them to add to their portfolio of renewables, which they must do to meet ever more stringent environmental laws, but it can reduce the need to use expensive natural gas "peaker" plants.
Southern California Edison (SCE), the largest investor owned utility here in SoCal, has applied for a Department of Energy grant to utilize a massive battery storage unit supplied by MIT start up, A123 Systems, in an 8,000 sq ft building in the Tehachapi region of California. SCE intends to have as much as 4,500 megawatts of wind energy in this region by 2015. Plug-in vehicles will be charging mostly at night and will therefore constitute an ever growing market for this energy, but the numbers will be small for some time to come. It's necessary to store as much of this energy as possible so that we don't end up with the same problem they have in Texas and other states with their prodigious wind farms generating so many kiloWatt hours that the market can't absorb them and the price drops to zero. With daytime costs of kWh reaching into the 30-40 cent range, it make sense to store this clean energy for use during times of peak load. See the whole story here.
On a related note, northern California's Pacific Gas and Electric, has applied for a grant to study the use of compressors to pump air into underground storage reservoirs with this excess night time wind energy, then using the stored compressed air to turn turbines the next day to generate kWh for peak demand. Same idea, different storage mechanism.
It remains to be seen how efficient these two techniques will be, but it's a good use of our federal tax dollars in my opinion.
Participating consumers valued fuel economy. Clunkers traded averaged 15.8 miles per gallon (mpg), while vehicles purchased averaged 24.9 mpg. The 9.2 mpg difference means that the average consumer increased the miles per gallon of their vehicle by 58%.
Consumers replaced trucks and SUVs with cars. Of the vehicles traded in under Cash for Clunkers, 84% were trucks and SUVs, while 59% of purchased vehicles were cars. Furthermore, the top 10 models that were traded in were all SUVs and trucks; conversely, nine of the ten best selling models were cars.
The program spurred auto sales (including domestics). This $3 billion program resulted in sales of 690,000 new vehicles. Of these vehicles, 38.6% were manufactured by the Detroit 3. General Motors and Ford sold the second and third most vehicles under the program of any manufacturer, respectively.
Clunkers brought fuel economy and its benefits to the dinner table. Now for something that isn’t as easily quantifiable. Cash for Clunkers captured the public’s attention in a way that few government programs have. It was widely discussed, heavily covered in the media, and many rushed to participate. More importantly, the basic fuel economy requirements of the program created a national discussion and understanding of the benefits of efficient vehicles – reducing our dependence on oil, curbing global warming, and saving money at the pump.
A more efficient fleet will reduce global warming pollution. While the Cash for Clunkers program was designed primarily to stimulate auto sales and did not contain stringent fuel economy requirements, it is clear that consumer decisions over the short life of the program will result in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Using our Sierra Club Cash for Clunkers Calculator, we estimate that the average consumer will save $664 per year at today’s gas prices and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by roughly 2 tons. Given all the vehicles sold, the program will reduce oil consumption by roughly 186 million gallons and save more than $458 million.
In a more in-depth analysis, Dr. Rick Larrick at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business estimates that, on average, vehicles purchased under Cash for Clunkers will pay down their carbon debt from manufacturing within the first 35,000 miles of driving and reduce greenhouse gas emissions thereafter.
So what’s under the hood? Over the past month Cash for Clunkers spurred sales of more efficient vehicles, taken hundreds of thousands of inefficient trucks and SUVs off of the road, and led to broad public discussion of fuel economy. With 250 million vehicles on the road that, on average, get only 20.8 mpg, we have a long way to go to transforming the fleet, but Cash for Clunkers shows that when it comes to the benefits of efficient vehicles – reducing oil consumption, cutting global warming emissions and saving money at the pump – consumers get it.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 2:27PM PST on August 26, 2009
My good friend, Bill Moore of EV World, reports that China's BYD (Build Your Dreams) is planning on bringing their E6 EV to the U.S. market a full year ahead of time to compete with the roll out of Nissan's Leaf and GM's Volt. As reported earlier, BYD is the Chinese battery company that decided to build cars around it's Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. They were the first in the world to begin selling a plug-in hybrid version (only in China so far), and now this pure electric version is expected to hit showrooms in the U.S. some time next year.
Warren Buffet's purchase of 9.9% of BYD last year catapulted the company to global prominence in the car world, especially after BYD stated that it intended to become a world leader in electric vehicles.
Posted by: Brian F. at 3:40PM PST on August 24, 2009
Mr. Green is always reading his mail. Go to his blog to read how he answers this letter:
Hey Mr. Green,
While I very much appreciate your cash for clunkers calculator, I very much doubt I can afford a new car even with a clunker rebate. So I'm shopping for a moderately priced used car. I want high mileage, but also reasonable safety and reliability. I plan to look at back issues of Consumer Reports to try to estimate miles per gallon of various models I'm considering. Is there anything besides MPG that I should consider to keep my carbon footprint low as possible? Anything else I need to look for? Any pertinent websites you can direct me to?
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:38AM PST on August 20, 2009
The New York Times reported today that Toyota could be falling behind its rivals in the race to go electric. They specifically mentioned rivals Mitsubishi, Nissan, Tesla and GM, but could have listed a dozen others (see Plug In America's EV Tracker for a complete list).
“The time is not here,” Masatami Takimoto, Toyota’s executive vice president, said during a factory tour this year. Electric cars “face many challenges,” he said, adding that “to commercialize pure E.V.’s, we need a battery that far exceeds the current technology.”
Coming from a VP of Toyota, this is an absurd comment. I'm still driving a Toyota-made EV that was designed over a decade ago. Hundreds of these RAV4 EVs continue running perfectly, and I can assure you these are not secondary vehicles but the primary vehicle for the families that own them. To make a comment like this doesn't show ignorance, there's something else behind it.
“In a world where vehicles run on electrons rather than hydrocarbons, the automakers will have to reinvent their businesses,” Russell Hensley, an analyst at the consulting company McKinsey, told clients in a recent report.
Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in place to recharge them.
How far is far enough? Over 80% of American drivers don't exceed 40 miles a day. Tens of millions never drive long distances, and of those who do, a plug-in hybrid would suffice.
The batteries are costly, I'll give him that, but the prices are getting lower every day. As for not reliable, of all the RAVs Toyota has put on the road, virtually none have had battery failures. The batteries are exceptionally reliable.
This last bit about the infrastructure is laughable. The electric grid is everywhere. The cost and effort to install a charge station in a garage or driveway is minimal. The public charging will be built out as the cars are delivered. I recently attended a stakeholder's meeting at Plug In 2009 in Long Beach, CA where utilities, automakers and city planners were all discussing how they were going to build out home, workplace and public charge stations over the coming years. Toyota wasn't in the room. Maybe they should attend these conferences. They'd learn a lot and maybe stop making such boneheaded statements.
"Even when electric cars are sold widely, the company says, they will be suitable only for short trips and serve a decidedly niche market."
Short trips constitute the vast majority of all trips. A car suited for short trips of less than 100-200 miles per day does not serve a niche market, it serves the majority market.
"Meanwhile, Toyota’s new president, Akio Toyoda, has become a big promoter of the company’s fuel cells, which he calls the 'ultimate' technology."
A huge mistake!
“You don’t see many competing technologies survive in a key market for very long,” said Mr. Shimizu, the Keio University professor. And more often than not in the history of innovation, a change in the dominant technology means a change in the market leader. “Electric cars are a disruptive technology, and Toyota knows that,” Mr. Shimizu said. “I wouldn’t say Toyota is killing the electric vehicle. Perhaps Toyota is scared.”
Here's what I think. Toyota is working feverishly on an EV to compete with Nissan's Leaf. They are going to release the plug-in Prius late next year to compete with the Volt. In the meantime, they'll make public statements about how the batteries and the infrastructure aren't ready to try and damp enthusiasm for plug-ins so they can continue to sell their hybrid models to the very demographic who are likely plug-in buyers. Then watch what they say when they hit the market with their own EVs.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:58AM PST on August 19, 2009
On Saturday, Kevin Czinger, CEO of Coda, the new American car company that split off from Miles Automotive, brought the prototype of their new highway capable EV to our Electric Vehicle Assoc. meeting in Diamond Bar, CA. I have been following this car for over three years since hearing about it in the spring of 2006. Back then, I was told it would be available in a couple of years, but as these things go, it's still a year from delivery. Kevin assured us delivery would begin in August of 2010, putting this one ahead of both Nissan's Leaf and the Chevy Volt. He said they plan on selling about 2,000 units the first year thinking that will break into 40% fleet sales and 60% private. In year two, they will be prepared to make up to 20,000 cars.
The Coda's styling isn't going to turn heads on the highway, but since I often get asked why EVs have to look "so weird", I expect the vanilla styling will suit quite a few folks just fine. It's along the lines of a Toyota Corolla in size and looks. The fit and finish was better than I expected since it is coming off an assembly line in China. It appears the Chinese are improving quickly in this regard. Ultimately, they want to manufacture and assemble the Coda in California.
The range is a solid 100 miles based on the US06 driving cycle, a much more realistic test than the old EPA ratings used.
Posted by: Brian F. at 12:51PM PST on August 18, 2009
The Bicycle group on Crossroads wants pictures of your bike! Its photo gallery is already pretty impressive. On a related note, here's what a trike ride looks like if you're cruising to a fish market in Taiwan.
Posted by: Brian F. at 9:54AM PST on August 11, 2009
Now that's what I'm talking about. GM today announced its 230-mpg Chevy Volt that is in the works. That's 230, people! Wow.
The Volt, which is scheduled to start production late next year, is expected to travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge. The company says the car can extend its range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator.
Assuming the average cost of electricity is approximately 11 cents per kilowatt-hour in the United States, a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.
Neither General Motors nor the EPA are making declarative statements about how, exactly, the 2011 Chevy Volt will achieve it's much-touted 230 mpg rating that was announced today. GM's most clear statement [...] says that some consumers "may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas" and that "key to high-mileage performance is for a Volt driver to plug into the electric grid at least once each day." Without access to the actual method that the EPA is tentatively going to apply to plug-in vehicles (we have requests for clarification out to the EPA), all that GM's Dave Darovitz would tell us is that the number is "based on city cycles and we're not really talking in detail yet."
Posted by: Paul Scott at 4:08PM PST on August 5, 2009
So, how did my test drive go? I've had the opportunity to drive both the Tesla Roadster and BMW's super quick Mini E, so I had to re-calibrate my expectations some, this is a delivery van after all, but I'll give them a strong B+. The acceleration was pretty good, but when the internal combustion kicked in, it was noticeable. Talking to the drivetrain team of Sean Stanley and Patrick Kaufman, they assured me that would be smoothed out soon. All in all, I was very impressed that they've come this far this fast. I fully expect they'll have the vehicle in A+ shape in a matter of months.
So, how soon will these clean-running vans begin replacing the noisy and dirty postal carriers plying our roads? Well, like Tesla Motors, they've applied for a loan from the Department of Energy's Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Incentive Program. Telsa, along with Ford and Nissan have already been awarded their loans and they are all in the process of hiring thousands in California, Michigan and Tennessee, respectively, to staff up to build plug-in vehicles and batteries. Bright has not yet heard about their loan yet, but I would be amazed if the DOE didn't see the promise I saw in this company. The fleet vehicle niche is a large one consisting of hundreds of thousands of vehicles used by private and public fleets throughout the country. The sooner these fleets get vehicles that allow them to use cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity instead of dirty, expensive, foreign oil, the better.
This nondescript building on the north side of Indianapolis is where much of the battery and drivetrain development occurred for the EV1. I wish I could have recorded John Waters' discourse on the history of his team's part in the EV1 program. Someone should write a book about it. Fascinating!
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:28AM PST on August 5, 2009
It's that time of the year again. The media are starting to pay attention to football season now that team camps are underway. And with that, you sometimes get a nugget like this, concerning Steelers linebacker James Harrison (emphasis mine):
Harrison, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year last season, often is a contrarian known for doing things his way, and he did so again Friday. While his teammates mostly piled out of large SUVs or pickup trucks, he pulled up to camp in a Smart car that was only slightly larger than Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton.
Harrison gave coach Mike Tomlin a ride in the smaller-than-subcompact vehicle that is popular in Europe, where gas prices are much higher than in the United States. And, yes, both player and coach fit in the car at the same time.
"It's not so much the gas mileage ... I just want to do something to help the environment," said Harrison, who said the car was lent by a dealer.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:08AM PST on August 4, 2009
This past Friday, I got to drive an Idea.
Bright Automotive, a start up based in Anderson, Indiana, about as heartland USA as you can get, is poised to become a very successful company. I've written about them a couple of times based on news items and their own press releases, but this time, I'm writing based on first hand experience. Full disclosure, they paid my airfare and bought me lunch.
The team at Bright consists of many of the same engineers responsible for the EV1. Starting with CEO, John Waters, and including engineers like Sean Stanley and Jeff Ronning in addition to battery experts like Kurt Rogge. Several members of the team have spent time at the prestigious Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Amory Lovins' think tank in Snowmass, CO dedicated to efficiency. Other team members, such as Dave Busch, come from equally sterling backgrounds at engineering powerhouse Aerovironment where he worked on the precursor to the EV1 under the tutalege of "Engineer of the Century", Paul MacCready, whose biography is entitled, "Doing More With Less". This seemed to be the mantra at Bright Automotive, a company with one of the most competent teams of EV engineers anywhere.
They are singularly focused on one goal, to make the most efficient and cost effective plug-in hybrid delivery van in the world.
I was surprised to learn that much of the work on the EV1 had been conducted in nearby Indianapolis. Turns out, Indiana has been home to over a hundred car companies in years past and once vied with Detroit as the car capitol of the U.S. John Waters drove me to a nondescript group of buildings on the north side of Indianapolis where he told me he had worked on the battery pack that powered the EV1 and spoke at length of the historic efforts of their team that created the "Car That Could".
Toward the end of "Who Killed the Electric car?", Ralph Nader lambasts GM executives for their part in killing the EV1, but he pointedly excepted the engineers who he says really did want to make a better car. These are the guys Nader was talking about.
After GM's bean counters unceremoniously killed the EV program, Waters spent some time at RMI where he again got the bug to get back into electric vehicles. RMI's "Hypercar" program had piqued his interest in efficient vehicles, and a key meeting with Amory Lovins and people from Google and ALCOA convinced him to make the leap. They arranged a meeting with the head of the postal service's fleet services and came away convinced they could make a plug-in hybrid that could economically compete with existing postal delivery trucks and save a lot of energy in the process. In early 2008, Waters assembled his team with ex-EV1 engineers from RMI, Aerovironment and at least one protege of Professor Andy Frank of UC Davis, the "Grandfather of the plug-in hybrid". Thus was born Bright Automotive.
With Paul MacCready's "do more with less" mantra constantly in mind, they set about to design a vehicle that could haul a full ton of cargo with 180 cubic feet of space, yet travel up to 30 miles on electric power alone before the internal combustion engine kicked in. This would enable most postal vehicles to deliver their routes without burning any gas, and allow fleet operators needing more range to average as much as 100 mpg.
The key to success lay in doing this without making the vehicle cost too much relative to the existing internal combustion vehicles. With a judicious use of aluminum for the frame and skin, they were able to keep the weight to a remarkably low 3200 lbs, and their design team managed a drag coefficient of less than .3, very slick for a delivery van. This meant they could achieve their 30 mile all-electric range with a very modest 10 kWh battery pack.
The team is replete with experts in design and drivetrains, but it's their battery expertise that sets them apart from most start ups of this nature. They have decided to remain agnostic as to the cell manufacturer and will try out any LiIon cell that comes their way, although they are currently using lithium iron phosphate cells from EIG in Korea. Their testing equipment is the state of the art ABC 150 from Aerovironment which can replicate charging profiles of an infinite nature, and their dynometer room can test batteries in both hot and cold weather conditions. Their expertise with batteries is such that they will offer to package cells into battery packs for hire since not all OEMs have their depth of knowledge.
During the week that the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program was launched, GM’s small car sales increased 54.8 percent over the preceding week
The leading Ford vehicle being purchased under the program is the 28 mpg Ford Focus at nearly 30 percent of all Ford sales
Toyota reports that 78% of their Cash for Clunkers volume were the Corolla, Prius, Camry, RAV 4 and Tacoma, with a resulting average of 30 mpg
Hyundai is reporting a 59 percent increase in fuel economy compared to the old vehicle—which averaged 140,000 miles
Don't listen to the talking points spouted off by the opponents - this is turning out to be an extremely successful program.
"What we’ve learned is that American consumers are choosing vehicles with much higher fuel efficiency than is required," said Sen. Feinstein in her news release. "To date, it has proved to be both a stimulus and a fuel efficiency program. It’s clear that consumers are trading in their old, inefficient trucks for more fuel efficient vehicles. That’s really a credit to the American people who understand that the price of gas is on the rise and that improved mileage is important."
But, alas, the program has its critics. And the good folks at 40MPG.org are miffed:
Looks like the government is taking a bad idea and making it even worse. We've said from the start that the "cash-for-clunkers" legislation was a mistake. Now it appears the EPA is changing the fuel economy ratings of many older vehicles so some become ineligible and others that did not qualify before now do. It's turning into a real mess for consumers, especially those who tried to take advantage of the legislation early now find they either have to return the new car or pay $4,500 more.
Posted by: Brian F. at 4:31PM PST on July 27, 2009
You know the feeling. Your car is a piece of junk. Its once shiny hue has faded. It's a polluting machine. It makes funny noises. You thank God every time you complete your trip without breaking down.
Now's your chance. The newly-launched Cash for Clunkers program encourages owners of old gas guzzlers to trade in their vehicle for a $3,500-$4,500 voucher toward the purchase of new, more efficient vehicle.
Hey look! There's now a Cash for Clunkers group on Crossroads. The group has a nifty calculator posted that you can use to calculate your savings should you choose to take advantage of the program. Join the group and post a picture of your clunker!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:28AM PST on July 17, 2009
I'm probably going to seem a little Nissan-centric this month what with their imminent big announcement August 2nd, but also because I, along with a few other Plug In America members spent the better part of the past three days meeting with about ten of Nissan's advanced planning team. They invited us to come to their Los Angeles facility and participate in a wide ranging series of discussions, marketing seminars and even a drive over to Santa Monica to see what a normal day driving an EV was like. They were a delightful group, younger than all of us except for Chelsea. (Full disclosure, while we gave them many hours of our time, they did treat us to one dinner.)
Today was the last day, and for me, the most interesting. They had scheduled a tour of the Southern California Edison "Smart Garage" in Pomona with the dynamic Ed Kjaer as tour leader. Ed, you may remember, gave President Obama a tour of the same facility a couple of months ago, which may account for the strong support we're seeing from his administration for plug-in cars.
SoCal Edison's Electric Vehicle department is probably the most sophisticated of its kind anywhere, and Ed runs the place. Seeing him describe how plug-ins will be integrated into the newer grid, yet to come, is to fully comprehend what our future will be like. Quiet, clean and powerful cars running on renewable electricity....
Posted by: Brian F. at 11:54AM PST on July 16, 2009
Grist reflects on the question that's on everyone's mind: How should you talk to your cranky cab driver about cap-and-trade?
He drives a cab for a living, and he sees this new legislation as a threat to that living. Maybe he thinks he’ll have to buy a new, more fuel-efficient cab or pay for the “privilege” to pollute. Maybe he believes the debunked but persistent right-wing talking points claiming that cap-and-trade would cost every American household $3,128 a year. Maybe he doesn’t believe climate change is happening. Or maybe he doesn’t quite understand how all this will affect him and the prospect of change is frightening.
Watchers of the auto industry (and of GM in particular) have been wondering why on earth Fritz Henderson, the head of NEW GM (fresh out of a whirlwind bankruptcy) recalled Bob Lutz out of his almost-retirement to head up creative products and customer relationships.
Why the bewilderment? Bob Lutz is infamously know for calling global warming a total "crock of SH-T!". Other bloggers have tracked “Lutzisms” attacking fuel economy and the ability of the industry to do better – "There is no technological bag of tricks that enable much better fuel economy than we have today," and "Despite what the alarmists may think, we don't have any magic 100-mpg carburetor that we're holding back because we're in bed with the oil companies."
Just last Friday Lutz noted “where we really messed it up and took our eye off the ball in terms of product was in ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s.” No wonder we tax payers have spent $40 billion to keep this company afloat. Lutz was quick to note that he wasn’t there during those many years – but his reputation as Mr. Muscle and Power may leave us – the taxpayer owners of NEW GM – wondering whether he is the right guy to put NEW GM’s eyes back on the ball. But the fact is that new greenhouse gas standards and accelerated fuel economy standards are a ball GM must keep its eyes on.
To his credit, Lutz has been the champion of the Chevrolet Volt, perhaps the most advertised vehicle that isn’t even for sale. The challenge for NEW GM and Mr. Lutz is to do more than talk up the 10s of thousands of Volts that will trickle into the market out of the nearly 10 million vehicles sold each year (even in this down market). These will be important but are not enough to the hide millions of gas guzzlers that dominate GM's fleet.
In the same press event in which he announced Lutz’s return to GM, Henderson noted the priorities for NEW GM – Customers, Cars, Culture. Perhaps a fourth “C” is needed – Compliance. The company we own much of should pledge to give the taxpayers true compliance with new standards, not compliance made possible with fuel economy credits for vehicles that can (but rarely do) run on E-85, or by borrowing, banking and trading credits that will continue to make it impossible to determine if the company we own is actually complying with the law in any given year. But, NEW GM, with compliance as a priority, and the products Mr. Lutz will create and market, should make a pledge to actually comply with the law each year.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:09AM PST on July 13, 2009
We'll finally get to see the new Nissan August 2nd (Tokyo time; it'll still be the 1st here). I assume they'll have the name finalized by then, too. I'm kind of excited to see this car, having tested the drivetrain in the Nissan Cube. The drivability was similar to my RAV, but quicker. Since the Cube is 200 pounds heavier than the final body of the EV, it should be a bit quicker still.
The best thing about it is the expected price range of $25K-$34K. This is before the $7,500 federal tax credit.
Some think Nissan is taking a gamble by rapidly moving into mass marketing of EVs. They compare Toyota and Honda's approach of "wait and see how the market materializes for EVs, then jump in". I think it's Toyota and Honda that are gambling. They own the hybrid market and are doing quite well, thank you, so why adopt a whole new technology that's untried on a large scale? The gamble is that Nissan grabs the EV market and dominates it till BYD (China) enters the U.S. in 2012.
Those who make the decisions to forgo battery EVs in favor of plug-in hybrids only, ignore a sizable market. I can only assume they have not spent any appreciable time in a well made EV. The benefits overwhelm the perceived problem of range. Once several thousand people get the opportunity to buy a well made EV the likes of Nissan's, the demand from the early adopter's friends and family will expand exponentially. Of this I am certain.
Of course, we need millions of plug-in hybrids, too, so more power to everyone contributing to that market. It's interesting to speculate as to the relative market share the EV will have to the PHEV. I'm guessing close to 50/50. It'll be mostly driven by the cost of gas, that's a given.
All I can think is that Carlos Ghosn (Nissan CEO) has driven an EV -- maybe the RAV itself -- and this is why he's positioning his company to be the leader in EVs. He knows how good it feels to drive a quiet, powerful car that doesn't pollute. One that only uses domestic energy. He knows that if given the choice, millions of people would choose that over a car that poisons the air and uses mostly foreign energy.
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 9:46AM PST on July 13, 2009
This post is from Jesse Prentice-Dunn with Sierra Club's Green Transportation Program.
Thinking about cashing in on the recently passed Cash for Clunkers program? Take a couple of minutes to check out the Sierra Club’s new Cash for Clunkers website to learn how to make the most out of trading in your clunker.
The Department of Transportation is currently finalizing the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save (CARS) Program, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Obama on June 23. The CARS program encourages owners of old gas guzzlers to trade in their vehicle for a $3,500-$4,500 voucher towards the purchase of a new, more efficient vehicle.
Unfortunately, the CARS program does little to encourage consumers to buy vehicles with the best fuel economy. Believe it or not, an owner of a 14 mpg gas guzzling truck could trade that vehicle in and get $3,500 taxpayer dollars toward the purchase of a 15 mpg gas guzzler! It’s now up to consumers to ensure that $1 billion taxpayer dollars actually go towards getting old, polluting cars off the road and replacing them with the most efficient vehicles that automakers have to offer.
If you’re participating in the CARS program, trade in your guzzler for a truly efficient vehicle. Not only will you help curb global warming, you’ll save money at the pump. Check out our 5 easy steps to get the most out of cash for clunkers and take a look at lists of the most fuel efficient cars, SUVs and hybrids on the market.
Posted by: Adam Kapp at 2:51PM PST on July 1, 2009
When I envisioned an electric car, I always pictured some vaguely boxy auto, designed for efficiency with style as something of an afterthought. Something not unlike the world's current best-selling electric car, the REVA.
That was until yesterday afternoon when I had a chance to take a ride in a Tesla Roadster. The Tesla does 0-60mph in under four seconds, and can go almost 250 miles between charges. For those with the means, that alone may be worth the $100,000 price tag. But the enthusiastic comments on the car's design we got from neighboring drivers at every red light, accompanied with their subsequent disbelief upon finding out the car didn't have a gas tank? Priceless.
Great news! After four years of waiting and a misguided rejection by the Bush Administration, the EPA has finally granted California the waiver necessary to implement its clean car standards. This is a real victory for California and the fourteen other states that have adopted the greenhouse gas emissions standards for vehicles.
California's standards, which require automakers to sell cleaner, more efficient vehicles, are more stringent than the current national fuel economy regulations and will cut oil consumption and global warming pollution. While new national greenhouse gas standards for vehicles will apply to vehicles in 2012-2016, this decision will allow California and other states to implement tailpipe standards in the years leading up to 2012. In 2010, automakers will have to meet California's greenhouse gas standards (PDF) in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington. In 2011, Maryland and New Mexico will join the program.
It's important to note that California retains the Clean Air Act authority to set global warming standards in the future. In adopting clean car standards, California has proven that it can lead the nation in developing policies that will curb global warming and drive innovation.
Also, check out California's Environmental Performance label for vehicles (the image above), which allows consumers to see how a new vehicle stacks up against others in terms of greenhouse gas and smog forming emissions. Eight states have adopted California's Environmental Performance label. While automakers must make cleaner vehicles, providing consumers with this information will allow them to factor global warming and pollution into their purchasing decisions.
So happy Waiver Day, everyone! Granting the California waiver is yet another concrete step by the Obama Administration to reduce emissions – let's keep this snowball rolling downhill!
Posted by: Nithin Coca at 11:32AM PST on June 26, 2009
This week's post from Sierra Club Media Intern Natalie Gaber
In case you hadn’t noticed, life is more expensive these days, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any cheaper.
As a Berkeley resident commuting to San Francisco three days a week, I’ve especially noticed this cost-of-living increase in public transportation Three of the Bay Area’s largest public transportation agencies, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), AC Transit, and MUNI, are all sticking customers with fare increases starting July 1.
BART, the local subway system, is faced with a $249 million budget deficit over the next four years and is implementing a 6.1% cost-of-living based fare increase, which amounts to an average fare increase of 20 cents.
AC Transit, the East Bay bus system, and MUNI, San Francisco’s public transit agency, are engaging in similar fare increases. Fares will soon rise for both agencies by 25 to 50 cents.
To add insult to injury, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that AC Transit is considering service cuts of up to 15%, which translates to 905 hours of weekday operation and 458 hours of weekend operations disappearing. Clarence Johnson, spokesman for AC Transit, says he hopes the cuts won’t be “too draconian,” but who is he kidding? If AC Transit revenue is down, then they should be providing incentives for people to ride the bus, not reasons to avoid the bus (i.e. increasing fares and cutting service).
Fortunately, biking in San Francisco is set to get a whole lot easier if all goes according to plan. After a 3-year battle between various city agencies, organizations, and courts, approval is expected this week for a plan to improve biking conditions on San Francisco’s streets. According to the Chronicle, the approval would give a green light for the city to start striping 34 miles worth of new bike lanes, installing bike racks, and engaging in 46 other neighborhood-specific projects, such as removing traffic lanes on Second Street and prohibiting left hand turns at various intersections. All these plans are consistent with San Francisco’s “transit first” policy, which has been mandated by voters and encourages alternatives to personal car transportation.
San Francisco’s plans come in the wake of similar measures taken by New York City, where the Department of Transportation is already leading the way for bike-friendly cities with its “Sustainable Streets” program. The program includes expanding “alternative mobility strategies,” such as biking, and D.O.T. Commissioner Sadik-Khan says that NYC is poised to “become the biking capital of the nation.” This is a bold claim, but with over 200 miles of new bike lanes installed in the city and a public bike-sharing program in the works, Sadik-Khan may be justified in her audacity. Other cities, such as Portland, Oregon, have enacted similarly impressive bike programs, showing that bicycle commuting is feasible, and, given the current state of the financial world, an increasingly attractive alternative.
The bottom line: public transportation is expensive, and it’s about to get more expensive. It’s still cheaper than driving in most circumstances, and it definitely has a lower carbon footprint, so if faced with the choice between driving somewhere and taking public transportation, definitely opt for the latter. But, whenever possible, your go-to transportation method should involve two wheels and a set of handlebars. It’s free, it’s convenient (and getting more convenient every day), it’s good exercise, and it’s downright fun.
Yesterday President Obama signed the bill that includes the "Cash for Clunkers" program into law. So, what are we getting? For one thing, this is a smaller program – one billion taxpayer dollars toward the purchase of new vehicles in exchange for retiring “clunkers” – instead of the original four billion dollar proposal. But the fact remains that the overall structure of the program is overly weak when it comes to ensuring taxpayer dollars go toward the purchase of gas "sippers."
The Environmental Protection Agency will have just a few weeks to issue the rules that will govern this program. Cash for Clunkers will be coming to a dealer near you soon!
The one thing we can do is urge those who turn in gas guzzling clunkers – vehicles that travel 18 miles to the gallon or less – is to use their vouchers toward the purchase of the most fuel efficient of vehicles on dealer lots. There are plenty of cars to chose from – the Chevy Malibu (conventional and hybrid), the Ford Focus, the Chevy Cobalt, and more. Let’s not forget that GM advertises that it has more models that get over 30 miles to the gallon (on the highway) – but still, the point is that a $4,500 voucher should help consumers buy the best fuel economy.
Gas prices are going to go up. We need to end our addiction to oil and curb global warming pollution. This Cash for Clunkers program could subsidize the sale of 250,000 new cars – let’s make sure those are 250,000 efficient ones!
Posted by: Paul Scott at 1:02PM PST on June 24, 2009
We've been waiting for several months to hear this good news. Three EV pioneers, Tesla, Nissan and Ford, are receiving loans from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. Totaling $8 billion, the funds will be used to manufacture efficient vehicles and electric drive components.
In Tesla's case, they'll receive a total of $465 million to set up their factory in Southern California for the production of their hot Model S. This car has generated a lot of interest given its superb styling, performance and efficiency. The price point of $57K makes it affordable for a large segment of the population. Part of the money will be used to set up a production line for their battery packs and electric drive trains to be sold to other manufacturers such as their new partner, Daimler.
Nissan will receive $1.6 billion to build EV and battery factories in Tennessee. Having experienced the drive train for their new EV, I am very pleased that this will enable them to ramp up quickly to 150,000 EVs annually. This car will appeal to a larger segment of the population given its price of around $30K.
Ford is the big surprise for me. They're getting the lion's share of the money at $5.9 billion. They'll use it to increase the efficiency of several of their cars and trucks. I assume some will go toward building their new EV with the help of Canadian parts supplier, Magna.
This announcement assures that large numbers of electric vehicles will be available to U.S. customers starting late next year and growing rapidly soon after. Additionally, tens of thousands of jobs will be created.
There will more announcements to come. I'm betting that Bright Automotive in Indiana will be on the next list of recipients. They sure deserve to be.
Posted by: Brian F. at 8:59AM PST on June 17, 2009
Bob Schildgen, aka Mr. Green, gives advice on the wisdom of buying a Prius, considering that the batteries are toxic. It's worth reading his whole blog post. Here's a snippet:
The fuss about Prius batteries is because they're made of nickel. Thirty years ago, Canada's nickel-mining industry was particularly toxic, but our northerly neighbors have since cleaned up their mining mess. Only a fraction of the world's nickel is used for batteries, and those made for Priuses (Prii?) are recyclable. For a fuller refutation of this and other myths about the Prius, go to tinyurl.com/mrgreenprius.
However, don't rush out to buy a $22,000 Prius unless you have unlimited funds. You might net greater energy savings by purchasing a cheaper but still-efficient car[.]
Posted by: Paul Scott at 9:41AM PST on June 16, 2009
I heard that Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, was giving the commencement address at CalTech, so I jumped in our solar-powered RAV and drove over to Pasadena to hear what he had to say.
Pasadena is a beautiful city, and the section of town where CalTech is located is old and very wealthy. Walking through the leafy campus, Jacarandas in full bloom, I admired the buildings that for decades housed some of the smartest students our country ever produced as well as a sizable number of foreign kids intent on getting the best education possible in their chosen fields of mathematics, science and engineering. My anticipation over Dr. Chu's speech grew with each step.
He did not disappoint.
Those of us in the EV movement were overjoyed when Obama picked Dr. Chu to head the Energy Department. An actual Nobel-winning PhD in physics who has a deep understanding of our predicament regarding energy and climate change in charge of the Energy Department. A true breath of fresh air!
He broke the ice by defining the term, nerd, using the Wikipedia definition, since most in his audience proudly considered themselves as such. I think it's actually on the form when you apply to CalTech.
Having dispensed with the obligatory humorous start, he got down to business by reminding the audience that, in the early 70's, scientists solved the pressing need to grow more food in order to keep millions from starvation and expressed that our problems today are every bit as important if not more so. He implored the students to take seriously the need to act fast in solving these problems and to not allow those who prefer faith over reason to interfere with the task at hand.
As one would expect, he talked about energy mostly, but my ears pricked up when he said we needed to prepare for the "inevitable transition to electricity as the energy for our personal transportation". While most may have missed the importance of this comment, it meant everything to me. Those at the top of the Obama administration understand the need to move from dirty fossil fuels to renewable electricity, and their efforts so far show they are serious.
Chu's defunding, at the federal level, of the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle means he knows we need to put our efforts toward solutions that are ready now, not some expensive, inefficient technology that requires us to continue buying our energy from oil companies.
As the speech ended and I started to go, the strains of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 "Ode to Joy" flowed out of the loud speakers and I walked through the beautiful purple flowering Jacarandas happier than I've been for a while. Maybe these scientists, engineers and mathematicians can indeed help us to ward off the worst of what will come.
Usually I look forward to Tuesdays because of my evening softball league; however, next Tuesday promises to be more exciting. On June 9th, the EPA will hold a public hearing in Washington, DC, on its proposed Renewable Fuel Standard. The proposed regulations will oversee a Congressionally-mandated increase in biofuels, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons in 2022. Importantly, for the first time the EPA will require biofuels to reduce their life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to gasoline.
In the hearing on Tuesday, the EPA will be asking the public to comment on the agency's program to increase the use of biofuels. We're expecting that turnout will be high and that testimony will be both highly critical and supportive of the EPA's plans.
Here’s a quick preview:
For the past two weeks, Colin Peterson, the Chairman of the Agriculture Committee in the House of Representatives, has threatened to work to defeat comprehensive energy and climate legislation unless extensive changes are made to the RFS to eliminate environmental safeguards and further prop up the corn ethanol industry. Peterson's bluster is no laughing matter, as the entire House Agriculture Committee has co-sponsored his bill (HR 2409). Similar viewpoints asking the EPA to ignore science and environmental safeguards will no doubt be expressed at Tuesday's hearing.
The recent spotlight on biofuels has made the EPA's hearing that much more important. We'll be at the EPA's hearing to show that the public supports a strong, science-based standard that makes sure biofuels reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and are a part of the solution to global warming, not the problem. It is imperative we increase our use of biofuels responsibly by taking a big picture account of the full lifecycle emissions of these fuels - from the field to the tailpipe, including consequences for land use as we grow more crops for fuel.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 1:10PM PST on June 2, 2009
New production electric cars are being delivered at a rate of 100 per month. Teslas mostly, like you see here in the picture. But, the first BMW MINI E was also delivered last week, and we'll have about 500 more of them on the road within the month.
Back in 1999, when we were all a twitter about Y2K, there were about 5,000 production EVs on California roads with a few dozen more in both Arizona and Georgia. Then they were gone. All but a thousand or so survived the crusher and have been proving themselves for 6-10 years by driving millions of oil-free, noise-free miles.
As we watch the first thousand of the new breed of EVs enter, and by doing so, double our national fleet, we can take heart that this meager trickle of cars will grow into a flow of thousands of EVs within the next 24 months. Then, everyone on this list can get one. Yahoo!
Each EV will replace a gas burner, thereby reducing the pollution we all breathe and the demand for oil which will keep the costs down for all of us.
How long before the number of plug-in cars outnumbers the gas burners? I think it'll happen some time around 2022, give or take. Of course, you can help your community get there earlier by getting in line early for yours.
BTW, the Tesla in the picture above was delivered to a friend of mine here in Santa Monica. For about $13,000 he bought enough solar to generate all the energy he'll need for driving his Tesla 12,000 miles per year for at least 50 years! There undoubtedly will be a succession of EVs charging from those panels.
If you have the right roof for it, solar is cost effective now. And as the price of gas goes up, it'll only get more cost effective.
During the first quarter of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks. While the Great Recession is hurting bike sales, they didn't fall as fast as automobiles. Around 2.6 million bicycle purchases were made, compared to ~2.5 million cars and trucks that left our nation's lots.
Did you buy a bike this past year? Post a picture of it here.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 11:11AM PST on May 27, 2009
Boy, it wasn't that long ago that VW was teaming with Toshiba to make drive systems for EVs. Now, VW is teaming with China's BYD (Build Your Dreams) to "explore the possibility of collaborating in the field of electric vehicles and batteries."
These kinds of collaborations between battery and car companies are getting commonplace.
Volkswagen also said in the statement that it has shown an electric car prototype to BYD, which could possibly indicate that the German carmaker would either build or buy an inexpensive assembly plant in China to build the electric car, which could be later showcased in this year's motor show in Frankfurt.
Add to this the tier one supplier, Canadian company, Magna that has developed a full EV based on the Ford Focus platform and is offering to build it for any other platform of similar size. Everyone's cutting deals to get in on the action. China is clearly gunning for the lead, and with BYD leading the way, they'll be hard to stop.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 4:36PM PST on May 20, 2009
Remember just a few short months ago, we were demanding that "green strings" be attached to the billions we were about to give GM and Chrysler? Now this:
"The goal is to ensure that cars and trucks sold in America will be nearly 40 percent cleaner and more efficient by 2016."
Why is this happening now?
Because the government is providing loans to help U.S. automakers survive, the Obama administration is in the driver's seat to make these demands of automobile manufacturers.
Fourteen states — including California — and the District of Columbia have been bucking for higher standards. And the Supreme Court has ruled that under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency must take steps to curtail greenhouse gases. Increasing efficiency with a stick works, but it's not as elegant as a carrot. While I love that CAFE standards are rising, the most effective method of increasing efficiency and reducing pollution is to make the dirty energy cost what it costs society.
In the spirit (or lacking spirit) of last week's Bike to Work Day, George Will, the popular WashPost op-ed writer -- who constantly gets his global warming facts wrong -- focused his recent column on the nauseating idea of biking to work, something endorsed by transportation secretary Ray LaHood.
[LaHood] says he has joined a "transformational" administration: "I think we can change people's behavior." Government "promoted driving" by building the Interstate Highway System—"you talk about changing behavior." He says, "People are getting out of their cars, they are biking to work." [...]
Does LaHood really think Americans were not avid drivers before a government highway program "promoted" driving? Does he think 0.01 percent of Americans will ever regularly bike to work?
Will claims to find it unbelievable that as many as 0.01 percent of Americans would ever bike to work regularly. But rather than tossing off ridicule, he might have looked up the Census Bureau’s statistics on commuting patterns and seen that right now 0.4 percent of commuters normally get to work on bicycles. Now that’s a small percentage. But it’s forty times larger than a percentage that Will deems unrealistically utopian.
And if you're a part of that .4 percent -- or considering it -- join the bicycle group here on Crossroads.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 12:28PM PST on May 15, 2009
When we first got our RAV EV in 2002, there was talk on the EV lists about how future EVs could drive across the country. One camp favored battery swapping, much like demonstrated here. The engineers of the group favored fast charging. Still others, actually it was mostly just Felix Kramer, who thought these "plug-in hybrids" were the way to go. Turns out he had the best idea, although all three ideas seemed plausible to me at the time.
But since Better Place went to the trouble of building this thing, how well does it work?
If you watch the video, it shows a Nissan sport utility vehicle driving into a small facility where a mechanized device unlatches the battery pack and replaces it with a fully charged one. The whole operation takes slightly over a minute, two minutes if you count driving into and out of the facility. Presumedly, payment is automated, so you never need to get out of the car, well, unless you gotta pee.
That sure compares well with filling up a gas tank, but I still wonder about its feasibility.
Posted by: CityCyclist at 4:53PM PST on May 12, 2009
Just back from a three-week bicycle odyssey on old Route 66. Yes, that's a trip that's more commonly associated with cars, trucks, SUVs, and, Lord help us, RVs, but it can be done on a bicycle. In fact, many of the old alignments of Route 66 can ONLY be reached by bicycle these days.
Route 66 has a lot of history associated with it -- especially the Dust Bowl years chronicled by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, but this trip also provided many opportunities to reflect on America's current transportation and energy issues.
Let's set aside that our trip started during a record April heat wave in Southern California that saw 100-degree temperatures. We don't want to confuse weather and climate change, after all. Still... we weren't expecting Mohave-desert temperatures while still in Beverly Hills!
Right from Route 66, you can see many different ways of generating power. In California, it's hard to miss the giant solar installation in the Mohave desert. Near Joseph City, AZ, we rode right past the Cholla coal-fired power plant (pictured below). Even more sobering was the sight a few hours later of a long train of coal cars piled high with fuel for that same plant (Route 66 and the railroad run in tandem through most of the Southwest). Then, in New Mexico, it's windmills dotting the distant mesas and even towering over the Community College in Tucumcari. That last turbine is being used to train future wind-turbine technicians (as well as power the college).
Tucumcari, like Winslow, AZ, and Barstow, CA, also has a grand old passenger-rail terminal -- reminders of a time when passenger rail was still a thriving industry. When you compare an old Harvey House railroad hotel such as the newly restored La Posada with the offerings off the Interstate, it's hard not to mourn what was lost when we turned our back on passenger rail. Sixty years ago, you could take a train from Tucumcari to Amarillo, TX, for a day's shopping. These days, the Interstate is your only option.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 10:13AM PST on May 11, 2009
Listen closely... that sound you hear is the banging of the final nail in the fuel cell coffin. Sweet music to our ears, my friend.
Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy, has determined that this technology is not practical in the near term. This vindicates Joe Romm and Alec Brooks who years ago made very strong cases against the use of fuel cells to power vehicles. I read Alec Brooks' paper (pdf) when I first got involved with EVs years ago and was immediately convinced that technology would never work for personal vehicles.
When Bush said in one of his State of the Union speeches, “the first car driven by a child born today could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.”, I realized that since battery electric vehicles existed in the 1890's, a child born before the Civil War could have driven an EV. Bush's Energy Dept. then went on to waste a couple billion of our tax dollars on this boondoggle.
To make things worse, California was suckered into spending millions on its vaunted Hydrogen Highway. Terry Tamminen, an otherwise respectable environmentalist, is guilty of being the person most responsible in convincing Gov. Schwarzenegger to go down this H2 highway. The waste of tax dollars was bad enough, but worse was the wasting of nearly a decade of valuable time when we should have been improving the battery electrics that were already viable.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 8:45AM PST on May 7, 2009
Last week, I got word that BMW was holding an event for the lessees of their Mini E. It was held two nights ago at the Science Center next to the University of Southern California, a really stellar venue when you consider the product they would be showing. I arrived at the same time as Stefano Paris, Plug In America's documentarian, and as we walked from the parking lot, we went past an SR71 Blackbird on display to get to the party. This sleek, titanium marvel can travel at mach 3.2 orders of magnitude faster than the 95 mph Mini E, a truly awesome feat of engineering. It got us in the mood to see some equally exciting engineering, this time a combination of AC Propulsion's drive system packed into the tight confines of the German engineered Mini.
There were lots of folks I knew in attendance, all of them excited that delivery was finally close. There have been delays, something we advocates of plug-ins have grown to expect. But these were happy folks, there was no mistaking it.
I got to meet Nathalie Bauters, the communications director for the Mini E program in the U.S. and she assured me the delay was only due to getting final UL approval for the plug they are using for charging. The cars have been waiting in a parking lot in Oxnard for weeks. BMW wants to make sure all of their customers have an approved and permitted charging station installed in the customers garage before delivery. This is exactly what happened when we got our Toyota RAV EV six years ago. No charger, no car.
So, it appears most, if not all of the cars will be delivered in June. These Minis, combined with the 400-500 Tesla Roadsters that will be on the road by end of June, effectively doubles the number of production highway capable EVs in the U.S. The Teslas will continue delivering at a rate of 100 per month while the Mini E customers will be the only ones in the country with these cars until the year long test phase is over and BMW cranks up the production of more.
The difference with how Nissan is approaching the EV is interesting. While BMW is taking a careful look at how its customers will be driving the cars and how they charge them, trying to see if there are any issues to deal with before committing to large numbers of EVs, Nissan is racing to get thousands on the road as fast as possible. They seem very comfortable that their car is going to be bulletproof right out of the gate. I heard today that they expect to have 5,000 Nissan EVs for sale by the end of 2010. It is expected they will expand production quickly to the tens of thousands in 2011.
We are privileged to have front row seats to observe this quickly evolving transportation technology. When you look back 20 years from now, when virtually every vehicle sold has a plug on it, you'll remember these pioneer companies as being well ahead of the curve. Tesla will be a common brand, with several well received models in all price ranges, and there will be a few proud owners of the original Apteras zipping along the freeways among all manner of new plug-in cars, trucks and even SUVs. The gas burners of today will be mostly gone, replaced with cleaner and quieter cars.
There were two more inside the building that drew crowds like this. My good friend, Jeff U'ren, who came loaded with questions for the BMW folks and came away satisfied with the answers. The one question about whether the lessees can take the $7,500 tax credit is still to be determined. More on that later...
Bike to Work Day is next Thursday. Join the Bicycle group on Crossroads if you haven't already. Go there and post a photo of your bike!
For people who eat and breathe bicycling, there are several great bike blogs out there that I'd recommend. You might like this guy over in L.A. The Bike Snob in New York maintains a good site. Have you heard of Bikerowave? Here's Copenhagen. And this person rides around in Amsterdam.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 2:26PM PST on May 1, 2009
This article from yesterday's NY Times special section called, "Business of Green", describes how our electricity has been sold for the past many decades and how it will be sold in the future. Since most people reading this will be early adopters of cars that run on kilowatt hours instead of gasoline, this is important.
The first “dumb” thing to go may be flat pricing. Today, a kilowatt-hour of electricity, enough to burn a 100-watt bulb for 10 hours, costs the same to most customers at all times, whether it is a sweltering summer afternoon or a balmy spring night. But the cost to the utility swings wildly, and the company may have to spend much more money to supply extra energy at peak times than during slack periods.
Time of use pricing (TOU) is very popular among those who buy solar systems since the cost of peak energy (noon to 9 pm for some utilities, 10 am to 6 pm for others) is much higher than off peak energy. Those peak times tend to coincide with the peak output of the solar system, so if you are generating more than the house is using, you can "sell" back to the utility at the higher rate. As I sit here in my home office, my 3 kW solar system is generating more than my house is using and Southern California Edison (SCE) is crediting me at over 30 cents per kWh for the excess energy. At night, when the sun is down, I buy those credits back, but at a much lower rate, around 10 cents kWh. That is when I charge my EV or use other heavy electrical loads.
As the people interviewed for this article attest, this incentive works very well for shifting loads from peak times to off peak times.
One thing the article did not discuss was tiered rates. In Los Angeles, the municipal utility, LADWP, charges a low flat rate no matter how many kWh you buy. In SCE territory here in Santa Monica, we pay according to how many kWh we use. The utility gives us about 300 kWh at a low price, then there are 4 more tiers of kWh at an every increasing price. The top 3 tiers are very expensive, which provides a great incentive to cut back on waste. This is also an very good incentive to go solar since the solar is paid off with the more expensive energy first.
A combination of TOU pricing and tiered rates are necessary to reduce waste and shift electric loads to off peak times.
Posted by: Paul Scott at 1:29PM PST on April 27, 2009
AC Propulsion, the San Dimas, CA company that birthed the modern-day EV with its AC-150 drivetrain, was tapped by BMW last year to provide drivetrains for an initial run of 500 Minis. Dubbed the "Mini E," these fully-electric cars are just weeks from being deployed on the streets of SoCal and New York/New Jersey. I'd been promised a test drive, so when Wally Rippel (you'll remember Wally from "Who Killed the Electric Car?") called and invited me out, I jumped at the chance.
Wally was involved in the design of the Impact/EV1 while at Aerovironment along with Alec Brooks and the incomparable Allan Cocconi (the "AC" of AC Propulsion). Wally worked for a while helping Tesla Motors launch their Roadster and is now back at AC Propulsion working on the newest iteration of the AC-150. Rumor has it that this next one will be quite a bit more powerful than the first.
Wally drove me to a local restaurant for lunch so I could get familiar with the interior of the car without having to watch for traffic. The Mini is a well designed car with all the amenities one would expect of a new car these days. I was more impressed than most, probably because I'm still driving that old RAV that was never much of a luxury vehicle to begin with, and 6 years in, it hasn't gotten any more comfortable. (Zan, I might add, adores the car. Has no complaints.)
When it was my turn to drive, the first thing I noticed was the lack of a creep mode. This is what Toyota built in to the RAV to simulate a gas car.