28 Minutes with Felix Kramer

Thursday, February 25, 2010 0 comments
To me, Felix Kramer is the Yoda of the modern day push for Electric Vehicles...and I mean this in a good way.  While he's not 3ft tall and doesn't have big ears, he is a bit nerdy and has been a passionate and rational champion of EVs throughout the 2000s since he started CalCars in 2002.

CalCars created the first Prius Plugin conversion in 2004 and with that he became the "world's first non-technical consumer owner" of a PHEV. Since then, he's been advising and speaking about EVs...pushing their adoption as a viable path to energy independence, cheaper transportation, and especially a big way forward to curbing climate change.

In this 28 minute interview from BigThink, Felix addresses topics like...
  • How will a cleaner electric grid make cars cleaner?
  • How can business and government work together to allow for this to happen?
  • How efficient is the electrical production of energy?
  • Are there any fears that the lithium used to create so many batteries is an unsustainable resource?
  • Do you think America can lead the transition to electric cars?
  • Which countries are currently leading in this field?
  • How can we overcome the huge costs of creating sustainable energy is America?

To read more about Felix Kramer and Calcars, visit these links:

Black & Veatch Survey on the state of the US Electric Industry

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 0 comments
Have you wondered how US Electric Utilities feel about Cap & Trade, where they need to invest, and what keeps them up at night?   Wonder no more...

Black & Veatch, a 95 year old Energy Consulting Group, recently released their 4th annual Strategic Directions in the Electric Utility Industry Survey.  To get the data, they surveyed 329 utility industry representatives from public (78 respondents) and investor-owned (147 respondents) utilities as well as 104 architects, builders, engineers, non-regulated generators, financial institutions, attorneys and others affiliated with the industry.

I've included some of the findings of the report below, but it only scratches the surface of the full report that you can download free from their website: http://www.bv.com/energysurvey.- it's worth the read.

Here are the top 10 Insights from the report...
  1. Energy industry participants rate their top three concerns as reliability (old equipment and workforce), regulation (how will the carbon be regulated) and long-term investment (economic climate preventing rate increases).
  2. Many utilities rate their generation assets as near, at or passed planned service life.
  3. Survey respondents believe there remains a future for coal in U.S. power generation.
  4. Utilities perceive nuclear technology as the best technology for meeting environmental standards.
  5. Utilities expect nuclear power will play a larger role in the U.S. electricity mix by 2050.
  6. Utilities are investing in renewable energy with wind and solar leading the way.
  7. Carbon legislation and water supply are the most pressing environmental concerns for utilities.
  8. Most utilities believe that some type of carbon legislation will be approved at the national level by no later than 2012.
  9. Survey participants do not favor the cap-and-trade approach as specified in current legislation.
  10. If cap-and-trade legislation approved by the U.S. House in June 2009 is enacted, a plurality of survey respondents believe it will add between $500 and $1000 to the average homeowner’s annual energy expense by 2015.

Here's a concise list of insights into other forces that are influencing the industry (page 18)...
  • Consistent with trends in general public opinion (as reported by respected public opinion polls), the respondents seemed a bit more reserved this year than last on whether global warming is man-made, and if carbon legislation would be passed anytime soon. Fifty-two percent of the respondents believed that the country can ill afford carbon legislation, while only 28% felt otherwise.
  • Just less than two thirds of our respondents expect cap and trade legislation to result in increases in annual residential electricity bills of over $500; 25% expect the impact to exceed $1,000. This is roughly consistent with recent Department of Energy projections.
  • Thirty percent regarded generation as the asset class most in need of replacement. However, running a very close second place – at 28% - was information technology (IT), no doubt reflecting the priorities created by the Smart Grid and the need for improved cyber security.
  • Computers and networks were regarded as the asset classes most at risk of harm by outside forces, such as acts of terrorism and cyber attack, up from last place in 2006, the first year of our survey.
  • No doubt reflecting concerns about the security of assets, respondents expect the cost of complying with Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) security standards to increase significantly. Approximately 60% of the IOU and public power respondents expect cost increases of over 10%; over 30% of respondents expect increases greater than 20%. By contrast, in 2006 – the first year of our survey – only 34% were concerned about cost increases greater than 10%.
  • Respondents believe that regulation is by far the strongest driver of new technology implementation. IOUs think government incentives – inspired no doubt by the federal stimulus program in the Smart Grid and renewable supply arenas - are the second most important driver, while public power systems see customer-focused initiatives as number two. Ironically, IOUs –which in many cases have open retail access – rank customer-focused initiatives as the fourth most important driver. Industry R&D ranks last for both IOUs and public power systems.
  • DSM and Energy Efficiency programs continued to grow in size and scope. More than 50% of our respondents indicated they were spending 2% or more of gross revenues on such programs. This equates to IOU expenditures of between $5 billion to $6 billion annually - roughly 15% to 20% of before-tax-earnings. DSM and Energy Efficiency spending by public power entities is up as well. New expenditures for Smart Grid applications by both IOUs and public power systems would be in addition to this.
  • Respondents expect load and revenue growth to recover as the Great Recession unwinds, but at rates below pre-recession levels.
  • Renewables appear promising. We know that while still somewhat expensive, the costs of renewables are declining and beginning to close the gap with the costs of more traditional generation. However, the respondents identified two major challenges: (1) the cost of wholesale power and other competitive options relative to the present cost of renewable technology; and (2) interconnection and transmission capacity issues, including the management of intermittent power.
  • As in 2008, ALL respondents ranked carbon emissions and water supply as the first and second top environmental concerns. This year, mercury replaced nitrogen oxides as number three. 
  • Respondents continue to believe that the industry should place its emphasis on nuclear power as the most environmentally friendly technology for the future.
  • A large majority of respondents do not buy into the notion that the future of the industry is a highly dispersed generation model. They see, instead, an evolution towards a hybrid of central and dispersed electricity production systems by 2015.
Link to the full report: http://www.bv.com/energysurvey

Wanna buy an Electric Vehicle with 100 mile range, battery swap ready, and just $1000?

Thursday, February 18, 2010 1 comments
Wanna buy an Electric Vehicle with 100 mile range, battery swap ready, and just $1000?

You're 90 years too late.

I had the opportunity to ride in (and drive!) Tom Henry's 1920 Milburn, one of the first vehicles that women could drive because you didn't have to start your car using a hand crank.  While it may seem so foriegn to us now, most cars didn't have an engine that you could start electrically until 1926 (that's when the Model T got electric start as standard equipment).  If you didn't start a hand cranked car correctly, it might cause a "kick back" which can make a mess out of you.  If you've ever started an old Huskavarna motorcycle, you might know the pain. 

The Milburn is simple, pragmatic, and humble looking...it was all about utility...
  • The interior is open...I mean WIDE open...like there's NOTHING in the middle of the interior except for the petals for the parking and standard brake right in front of the bench seat in the back of the car.  The seating arraingement is 2 people in the back (including the driver on the left) and two in fold down jump seats in the front.  It's very easy to get around inside, but not too safe given the driver is could be surrounded by passengers,
  • Swappable Batteries. Under the hood and trunk lid, there are battery trays in the front and bank of the car which can be slid out to swap the batteries.  If you want to charge the car, there was also a DC charge port on the back of the car...but that's not used anymore since someone installed an onboard AC charger.
  • 100 Mile range.  A rack of lead acid batteries would get the car 100 miles down the road.  At a top speed of 20mph, that would be a 5 hour trip.  Does it seem odd that 100miles was the range of electric vehicle then...and now?  100 miles is the range of the new Nissan Leaf EV and Ford Focus EV. 
  • Less Maintenance.  There's not much to the car...suspension, brakes, motor, batteries, lights, and a dry place to sit.  No gas powered motors, radiators, oil changes, belt changes, tune ups...all the maintenance stuff that sucks about owning a car.  EVs were a good idea then and a better idea now for many of the same reasons...and now there's the added benefits of aiding climate change and easing our reliance on foreign oil.

The funkiest thing about the Milburn is how you drive it...it doesn't have a steering wheel!  Instead, there are two bars you lower over your lap that control the direction (right hand) and speed (left hand).  On the floor are two petals for the parking brake (left) and standard brake (right).  If you watch the video, you can see how it works.

Even back then, Electric Vehicles came at a premium price because of their low volumes...with the Milburn setting you back $1,000+ when Model Ts sold for $250.  Oddly enough, General Motors ended up killing the electric Milburn once they bought the company after 1923...which means that they killed two electric cars in their history once you include the EV1 in 1999.  If you want to learn more about the Milburn and find out who owns one near you, check out the Milburn fan site.

The owner this very well preserved Milburn is Tom Henry.  Tom is a 72 year old electrician-turned-educator who owns Tom Henry's Code Electrical Classes which has taught over 28,000 people since he opened in 1982.  Over the years, he's owned several vintage cars, including 16 Model T's he recently parted with to expand his business into teaching solar courses.  Tom kept the Milburn since, in his own words: I'm an electrician, I figured I needed to have an electric car!

Frost & Sullivan offers new research into the mind of an early adopter of Electric Vehicles

Tuesday, February 9, 2010 0 comments
In Q4 last year, Frost & Sullivan interviewed 1770 people across the United States about their interest in Electric Vehicles.  Today, the analyst company released the findings of the survey in a presentation called...

Automakers Braving to Launch Electric Vehicles to Skeptic U.S. Consumers -Who will be the Early Adopters, and will their Needs and Expectations be Met? 

It was presented by...
  • Veerender Kaul, Research Director, Automotive & Transportation, North America
  • Michael Coury, Vice President, Customer Research, North America
The 45 minute briefing covered some highlights from the insights they gained from the survey.  If you haven't attended a Frost & Sullivan briefing, you should...they're always insightful.  Here's a link to the briefing: http://www.frost.com/prod/servlet/analyst-briefing-detail.pag?mode=open&sid=191240672

Here's some highlights from their highlights of the report...

Demographics, needs, and wants
  • The Target "Very Interested" Early Adopter (12% of respondents): 18-45 male with a college degree in the suburbs that owns a single family home, makes $80K+ and has kids.  However, most broad categories of potential buyers are likely to be 36-45 year old females living in the suburbs and are environmentally conscious.
  • 97% of owners park their car in same location everyday, of which 74% live in homes, 10% in apartments, and 16% in condominium or town homes.  Average parking time during weekday is: 12.8 hrs. at home, 4.9 hrs. at work and 2.7 hrs. at other places.
  • Average weekday driving distance is 43.5 mi and weekend distance 57.5 mi.
  • The more people learned about EVs during the taking of the Frost & Sullivan survey, the more they liked them...from 25% to 50%.  This might show that don't understand the benefits of EVs today.  However, this number reversed when they were presented with the costs.
  • Range anxiety is a serious impediment to the adoption of EVs. E-REVS and PHEVs will be overwhelmingly favored.
  • Customers are more likely to purchase Hybrid, then Range Extended (Volt), then PHEV, then EV (smallest niche)
  • Development of a public charging infrastructure is critical -mitigates range anxiety, enable optimization of driving range, and reduce vehicle cost.
Vehicle characteristics
  • Acceptable price for an EV: $33K
  • 2015 demand for EVs based on performance criteria ~2.3M...but analyst said that he thinks that it's more likely that 750K-1M will be actually purchased.
  • Charging time didn't seem to make a big difference to the respondent (30m to 8h)...but 4 hours was preferred.  I'm thinking that customers didn't understand the impact of the question.
  • Roadside Assistance and Telematics and LBS services are “a must have” feature for EVs. Must be provided standard.
  • A vehicle with a driving range of 100mi is unlikely to be seen by most Americans as their primary vehicle. A range of 150mi is more likely to merit that consideration.
  • Vehicle manufacturers could consider offering BEV with a package of some free rental car days to position a BEV as a primary vehicle.  Interesting idea given that most automakers have existing relationships with rental car companies.
Information like this helps us target our efforts this year as we Get Ready  for EVs in Central Florida.

    Comparing the Energy Efficiency of a Gas Powered Vehicle to an EV

    Sunday, February 7, 2010 0 comments
    The goal of transportation is get something from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible.  If you take your car as an example, all you really want it to do is get you from your home to work...comfortably.  If you had a choice, you probably wouldn't choose to waste money heating the engine up to 220F degrees or to keep the engine quiet while it silences the millions of explosions your car makes.  You also probably would pass on the hundreds of pounds of cooling equipment to keep the engine from overheating either..that's all waste when your goal is just to move something.
    I thought it would be interesting to find a report comparing the difference between the efficiency of a vehicle powered by an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) and an Electric Motor...but I couldn't find one.

    I've known from DOEs site that Gas Powered engines only convert about 20% of the gasoline's energy down to the wheels...while EV's convert about 75% of the battery's energy to the wheels.  This is a HUGE difference, but I was wanting to see a breakdown of how they got this number.

    Then I found the above graphic on DOEs site under the Energy Requirements menu.  This breaks things down nicely, but there's no comparison to EVs...so I made a SWAG at from other data I could find and filled in the table below. 

    Internal Combustion
    Engine Losses
    Electric Drive
    Energy In 100%
    Fuel or Electricity
    Engine Losses
    (friction, heat, charge)
    10% for motor and 5% for power management.
    Standby/Idle -17.2% 0%Electric Motors use nothing at 0mph
    (A/C, Heater, etc.)
    I assumed higher because of cabin heat
    is more expensive in an Electric Vehicle
    Driveline Losses
    Most EVs that I know of have no transmission
    which makes driveline losses much less
    Total Available Energy
    for Acceleration
    80%EVs have 67.4% more energy available to move the vehicle than ICE powered vehicles...that's a HUGE difference in Efficiency!

    So there you are, an unvalidated breakdown of how EVs are much more efficient than ICE vehicles...it's really all about wasted heat.  Once the new EVs hit the street later this year, maybe someone will actually compare two similar cars (like a Nissan Versa and a Nissan Leaf) and we can see how close these guesses are to reality.

    Given the fact that petroleum is only going to become more scarce in the future, it's only sensible to use this resource more efficiently as time goes on...and using it in ICE powered vehicles is a waste compared to EVs!

    Get Ready Central Florida! Orlando is officially an early adopter of EVs

    Thursday, February 4, 2010 1 comments
    It's official, the Central Florida area (Orlando) will be an Early Adopter of EVs!

    On February 2nd, we had a double header event which was officiated by the Mayor of Orange County, Richard Crotty, the Mayor of Orlando, Buddy Dyer, Nissan's Tracy Woodard, OUC's Byron Knibbs, and Progress Energy's Rob Caldwell.  Here's what was announced...
    • Orlando becomes a Partner City for RMI's Project Get Ready.  We join 6 other cities that have been working with the Rocky Mountain Institute to get ready for electric vehicles. You can think of RMI's Project Get Ready as a recipe for how to rollout EV infrastructure in a given metro area.  This recipe was created by RMI by talking to Govs, Vendors, Utilities, and Auto Manufactures and learning from past mistakes of prior EV launches in the 90s.  This relationship also gets us access to all of this experience when we want too.  Here's the website for "Get Ready Central Florida".
    • Orlando becomes one of the Early Adopter cities for the Nissan Leaf.  We join just 20 other cities that will be selling the Nissan Leaf this year.  Together with the Project Get Ready initiative, we'll be working with Nissan to prepare Central Florida for the Leaf.  You can read the details of this relationship below in the press release below.
    The ceremony was at the Jefferson Street Parking Garage in Downtown Orlando...and although it's not the swankest place to have a ceremony, it worked out good because it was raining that day and no one had to get out in the weather to attend.  The other reason to have it there was that the test cars are not street legal.

    Centerstage was the "pretty" Nissan Leaf...the one that looks close to the final production version.  There's only 2 of these on Earth now.  The Leaf is very smart looking both inside and out and has a good amount of room inside.  The instrument cluster is clean, easy to see, and "space age" - it reminds me of the bridge on Star Trek, The Next Generation.  As a Carrot to get you to drive efficiently, you'll get little Tree icons when you drive sanely...and you'll hear a sawmill if you drive aggressively...just kidding about the sawmill.

    After the ceremony, we were offered to drive the Leaf's ugly brother...the "mule".   This version of the car is a Nissan Versa with the powertrain and battery which is close to the final production version.  For my quick lap around the garage, the car accelerated great and I didn't notice any weirdness in the transition between regenerative and real breaking.  The powertrain was very responsive and "snappy"...I'm looking forward to the real deal.

    A couple of tidbits that I picked up from the Leaf's handlers are...
    • Nissan will NOT be offering to lease the batteries if you buy the car...and Mitsubishi announced the same a few days ago.  I think this is a good move as you can lease the whole car anyway...which is what I would do if I were worried about battery life.
    • For the longest battery life, you should let the batteries deplete until a 30% State Of Charge and then charge them up to 80% SOC.  You can program the car to only charge it up to 80% if you want...and this upper limit is preset when you use the Level 3 Fast Charger to manage the intense heat that is created during fast charging.  Now we just need some time on the batteries to know HOW much longer the life will be if you follow different charge patterns.  I'm thinking most people will just charge it 100% and charge it again when they get home no matter what the SOC.
    I've been on the Steering Committee with "Get Ready Central Florida" since October 09 and I'm really excited about the future of EVs in Orlando.  We've got the commitment from several key stakeholder groups (Gov't, Utilities, & Car Companies) and the group works well together.  We're gearing up now to fill out our working groups with stakeholders in the community and we're planning some new events with other automakers...this will be fun!

    As a Floridian, I've always been jealous of the progressive EV initiatives on the West Coast.  However, after today, I don't have to be so jealous anymore.

    If you would like a presentation made to your group on the topic of EV infrastructure, just shoot me an email via my About page.

    See the Nissan-Orlando press release below...