Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Short range electric cars taking longer trips with faster charging

An electric car with just a 50 mile range can barely be used around town, right?  That's wat conventional wisdom says:  that a short range electric car is useless because the range is too limiting. What if the real limitation is charging speed, and you couple the short range car with a fast charger?

My car is one such vehicle. It's a home-built conversion based on a 1971 VW Karmann Ghia that's so pretty people routinely stop to gawk, especially after they learn it's electric. My budget only allowed for 14 kilowatt-hours of battery capacity, giving the car "only" 50 miles of range. Conventional wisdom says I would be limited to short trips around town, but I've been able to repeatedly take medium length trips (200+ miles per day) without trouble.  How?  I have a 40 amp (8-9 kilowatt) charger on-board, giving a faster-than-average charging rate.  I know where the charging stations are, and I've developed confidence in the equipment from taking several medium-range trips.

I'm taking a medium range trip (Santa Clara CA to Laguna Seca Raceway, and back - a 170 mile round trip) and hope that by demonstrating how I do this others might learn how to transcend supposed electric vehicle limitations.   We don't have to remain trapped by range anxiety fears.   These ideas apply to owners of electric cars with longer range, and while some of the details will be different, the basic concepts will hold.

The destination is Laguna Seca International Raceway, a race track that's been the site of several significant achievements in electric vehicle racing.  One such is the REFUEL race that's now in its fifth year. That event is pretty low key, and is really just a chance for a track day for electric vehicle owners.  In its first two years most REFUEL attendees were driving/riding electric conversions.  The manufacturers hadn't yet started making the LEAF or other electric vehicles, but over the years REFUEL has become a concrete demonstration of the rapid advances in electric vehicle adoption. Now, REFUEL has been taken over by manufactured electric cars, with Tesla Model S's taking the limelight.

Some principles I discuss below are:

  • During the trip you need to be either charging, or driving
  • Don't charge to 100% because the tail end of the charge is very slow and drawn out
  • On multi-hop trips, at each charging location add range a little longer than the upcoming leg
  • Having something to do during charging stops means the charging stop is not a waste of time
  • Know your charging equipment
  • Map the route carefully, knowing the primary charging stops and backup stops in case of broken charging stations

My first leg is to drive from Santa Clara to Gilroy, CA, to use the charging stations at the outlet mall. Tesla Motors chose this spot for one of the earliest Supercharger installations, making me properly envious at the charging speed Tesla owners enjoy. 

I've driven 35 miles, and have 28 miles to go before my next stop in Salinas. After that I have 14 miles to get to the track. Both those segments have mountainous stretches.  The total miles (77 miles) is more than the range of my car.  The question is, how much charging should I do to arrive safely, and how do I minimize the charging time to arrive at the event early?  

Because my car is a home-made conversion I have more flexibility than do the manufactured cars.  Such as, to install a more powerful charger.  The Manzanita PFC40 in my car can handle 40 amps, and because most commercial charging stations run at 208 volts that works out to 8.3 kilowatt charging rate maximum.  That's significantly faster than the typical 6.6 kilowatt charging of the manufactured electric cars.  I can only charge at that rate if the charging station can dish it out, and unfortunately many charging stations (cough cough Blink, Chargepoint) cannot.

I've previously validated the Gilroy charging stations can handle 35 amps, and I've set the knob on the Manzanita to that amount.  That's roughly 7 kilowatts.

The rule of thumb is for a 6 kilowatt charging rate, an electric car gains 20-25 miles of range per hour of charging.  I use that rule of thumb to calculate the charging time required to cover a given trip.

In this case I want to charge long enough to be certain of having the range to reach Salinas, the next stop, 28 miles away.  My car has roughly 15 miles of range remaining, and the next leg of the trip is mountainous and therefore will require more energy.  Adding 28 miles would require over 1 hour charging time, while adding 13 miles (and arriving in Salinas on empty) would cut that to about 1/2 hour.

I could charge to full, have a 50 mile range, and just drive straight to Laguna Seca which is only 42 miles away.  However, there are two reasons that wouldn't an efficient use of time.

First, charging  the last 5-10% always takes a long time because the charging rate naturally slows down.  To make the best use time, you want to be charging at the highest rate possible.  That means not taking the time to charge the vehicle to 100% but to charge to 90%.  By charging up to 90% your vehicle is still gaining range at the fastest rate possible, while charging beyond that point slows your effective speed.

Second, the charger at the Rabobank in Salinas can dish out 70 amps of power.  Therefore, at that station I can turn the Manzanita up to a higher charge rate (40 amps) for an even faster effective speed.

A lot depends on the distance covered in your next leg.  You have to charge the vehicle enough to handle the next leg of your trip, plus a few extra miles which will be your cushion in case something goes wrong - such as a broken or missing charging station.

I elected to charge for about 40 minutes.

The Supercharger stations behind me charge at 100+ kilowatts rate for about 300 miles of range per hour of charging. The 6 kilowatts my car is sucking down is a paltry 20-25 miles per hour of charging.  I'm really wishing I could afford a Model S but that desire will have to wait for the Model III in 2017ish.

Now I'm at the Rabobank in Salinas.  Because the car is in an indeterminate intermediate state of charge, I don't know precisely the remaining range in the pack.  Maybe it has enough range to get to Laguna Seca, but I don't want to risk getting stuck in the mountains.

The distance to go is about 14 miles and using the rule of thumb that means about 1/2 hour of charging.

If there were no charging available at Laguna Seca, the required range would be double - or about 30 miles, because I'd have to drive back to this charging station.  But in this case I know that at the REFUEL event there will be plenty of charging available, and I'll be able to charge the car to full before leaving.

Therefore, I only have to get to the track and can even arrive with an empty battery pack.  Well, not too empty, because the entrance to the Laguna Seca Raceway is a steep 16% grade climb for about a half mile, and the car will need some power to make it up that last hill.

I'm feeling urgency about getting to the track.  Rather than wait the full 1/2 hour, and assuming the car has some significant remaining range, I've only charged for 20 minutes.

I easily made it and the car never showed a sign of the battery pack running low, even on the climb into the race track.

As expected I was able to find a charging outlet, except that we had to first untrip a circuit breaker.  At first I only had a 120 volt outlet on which to charge, but later in the day after some people left there were some 240 volt 50 amp outlets available.   With that power I'm able to turn the Manzanita PFC40 to full, charging the car fully.

What about the waiting time?  Charging my car fully at the Gilroy charging station takes about 1 hour 50 minutes (I've done this several times).  This time charging to full at the race track took quite a bit longer, because of how long it had been charging at 120 volts (at a 1.5 kilowatt charge rate versus 8+ kilowatts).

The waiting time doesn't matter if you naturally have something else to do.  For example, across the street from the Gilroy charging stations is a Denny's Restaurant, and next door is an In-N-Out burger joint.  I could have had a meal at either one.  Instead I spent that time writing the first draft of this blog post, and taking pictures of the Supercharger station.   At the Rabobank charging station, I had a snack from food I was carrying with me, but could easily have gone into the Taqueria or other food joints in the shopping center.

At Laguna Seca, the total charging time was probably 3-4 hours but I didn't notice it.  That's because I was too busy talking with people and taking in all the activities of the REFUEL event.

In other words, the charging time is of no importance if you have something else to do during that time.

In the typical example - the daily commute to/from work - you may have a 3-4 hour recharge time after arriving at work.  You might think, ugh, what a burden that is, but the only cost to your time is the minute (or less) it takes to plug in to the charging station.  You plug in, walk away, take care of your business, and it doesn't matter that it took the car 4 hours to recharge.

It didn't matter that I spent nearly 1 1/2 hours of charging time to get to Laguna Seca.  I had other things to do with that time.

The return trip home was uneventful, and was just the reverse of the trip above.

At the Salinas charging station I elected to only charge for 15 minutes.  The car was full at Laguna Seca, so it was almost unnecessary to even stop in Salinas.  I wanted to use the faster charger so it might decrease the charging time required in Gilroy.

In Gilroy a longish charging session was needed because there simply wasn't enough range to make it home.  Since returning home to my sweetie was highly important, getting a full recharge wasn't needed, and I could arrive with an empty battery pack letting the car charge all night long.

In Salinas there'd been about 35 miles remaining range, and the 15 minutes charging brought it up to about 40 miles.  In Gilroy the remaining range was about 10 miles (to be on the pessimistic side), and there was 35 miles to go.  That meant a 1 hour charging time, while sitting in the Denny's having dinner and writing notes about the REFUEL event.   During the return trip, I would have spent that time anyway to have enough details in my mind to write the REFUEL event report.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is Israel's latest Gaza Strip invasion aimed to grab control of Palestinian natural gas fields?

The Israeli's and Palestinians are fighting again, because of a long-running dispute over the political system that will control the land which was once called Palestine and is now called Israel.  Normally I wouldn't cover the conflict on TheLongTailPipe because it's one of those intractable political squabbles where one wishes they'd just learn to live side by side in peace rather than fight.  But, I just learned that the conflict may have roots in control over a natural gas field, and that the fight may be about Israel seeking to establish complete control over the Levant Basin.

If the story is true, this makes yet another large scale international scope conflict where the publicly named purpose is masking the real purpose:  Control over fossil fuel supplies.

That, in turn, makes it a LongTailPipe issue because it demonstrates again the negative impact that fossil fuel extraction is having around the world.  Fossil fuels are implicated to the public in effects like global warming and other environmental ills.  The political impacts from the desperation to control fossil fuel supplies is information which is not presented to the public.

Previously on TheLongTailPipe we've documented how the same pattern is behind the fighting now underway in Ukraine.

The area of that map we wish to focus on is just offshore from the Gaza Strip, which is located on the Mediterranean Coast just north of the border between Egypt and Israel.  Look closely and you see a grey splotch just offshore that areal.  Those Levant Basin gas fields are located within Palestinian waters and not Israeli waters.  As we'll see in a minute, the Israeli government is extremely threatened by that fact.

The Levant Basin is in the Eastern Mediterranean, and an offshore natural gas field was recently discovered there.  European energy agencies have their sights set on tapping those natural gas fields as part of the overall goal of eliminating the dependency on Russian natural gas.

The publicly stated problem between Israel and the Palestinians has to do with which government controls the land - and more precisely, over the constant attacks between the two.  Israel asserts its right to defend itself against "terrorist" attacks from Palestinians.  On the other hand, the Palestinians see the Israeli government as occupying Palestinian land stolen from them in the 1950's, and they assert the right to fight to oust an occupier.  That's been the story for a long time, so why am I bringing up natural gas?

I don't want to get distracted by saying the common description of the Israel/Palestinian conflict is not accurate.  I recently watched an excellent video presenting exactly this case, by an Israeli who's the son of an Israeli general whose service covered the period from the founding of Israel to the early 1970's.  He, Miko Peled, tells a story about the Israeli Government's real intention with an excellent amount of detail and personal knowledge.

Getting back to the natural gas fields, the Palestinians granted exclusive rights to British Gas to explore the grey splotch shown on the map above.  In 2000, British Gas announced it had found a significant field, 1.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and some oil reserves.  Ever since there's been a tug of war with Israeli officials denying the Palestinians any ability to exploit those fields.  Supposedly past history has shown that any money flowing to the Palestinian Authority ends up funding terroristic attacks against Israel.

A 2007 paper published through the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs by Lt. Gen (ret) Moshe Ya'alon makes this case.  In his telling, Iran's influence over Hamas, which took over the Strip in 2007, means any proceeds from this gas field will not benefit the Palestinians but instead will flow into Hamas's war effort against Israel.  Ya'alon is important to the present picture because he currently serves as Israel's Defense Minister, and had formerly served as the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).  His paper came to a clear conclusion - allowing the Palestinians to exploit and earn revenue from this natural gas & oil field would establish a magnet for the "Global Jihad".

It's clear from the map above that the Levant Basin natural gas resources is much more than fuel for the war between Israel and the Palestinians.  The basin crosses some very tense borders, considering the ongoing war in Syria and past struggles in Lebanon, as well as between Israel and both those countries.  We found a report (linked below) suggesting this is going to lead to major battles between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians, Syria and Turkey.  Oh, and possibly Russia.

We're talking about 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 1.6 billion barrels of oil reserves, in the whole area, according to some estimates.

Israel may be looking to these fields for its own benefit, as much as Europe is eyeing it for their benefit.  According to a report in Ha'aretz in July 2012, two of the governments chief scientists wrote a letter as part of the Tzemach Committee coming to a conclusion that radically differed from what was expected.  Rather than endorse a proposal that Israel export half the natural gas in these fields, they proposed Israel keep it all to itself.  Why?  Israel is expected to have a natural gas shortfall, because of errors in forecasted natural gas demand by the Natural Gas Authority.  Israel will need all of this gas for its own needs.

On the CounterPunch news site recently, TASCHA SHAHRIARI-PARSA wrote that since the British Gas discovery off the Gaza Strip coast, Israel has ratcheted up pressure on the Palestinians there.  For example the 2008 attack on the Gaza Strip coincided exactly with the launch of negotiations between Israel and British Gas over the natural gas fields.  A March 2013 report on The Globes (a business news site in Israel) says the Israeli government has been in secret talks with British Gas about these fields.

A 2010 report in the Daily Star (Lebanon) also goes over talks between Israel and British Gas.  That writer depicts a scenario in which Israel simply cannot allow the Palestinians to control that natural gas field, and that since its discovery the Israeli government has been working to ensure that does not happen.  I'll note the writer, Mohannad El-Khairy, is a Palestinian and clearly has zero love for Israel.

Back in February, The Daily Beast published a report describing the Levant Basin as Israel's next war zone.  Israel is reportedly building a highly advanced naval fleet, as is Turkey, and Russia has signed a natural gas deal with Syria and has a fleet stationed in the Syrian port of Tartus.  Lebanon and Israel are still formally in a state of war, with the U.N. enforcing a neutral zone but the nautical border between the countries is not defined.  It turns out that both countries have overlapping claims on fields in the Levant basin.

On RT News, Pepe Escobar recently wrote a piece going over much of the evidence already stated and suggested that Israel is seeking to smash Hamas to control the fields off the Gaza Strip coast, and that the Israeli Government feels it absolutely cannot allow the Palestinians to be enriched by those fields.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Portable EVSE's and adapter cords can help you take longer trips in an electric car

Want this kind of electric driving freedom
Cannot pay $100k for a Model S
Cannot wait 3 years for the Model III
Want to own an electric vehicle, but feel constrained by the short distance?  While it's true that most people drive 40 miles or less per day, we all take those longer trips from time to time.  While Tesla Motors understands this, and builds long distance travel into their electric cars, very few of us can afford a $100,000+ car.  For the rest of us, do we own two cars (one gas one electric), or do we rent a gas car for the longer trips, or what?

Most of the public charging infrastructure is in cities, and doesn't cover the area between cities.  But if you look using a service like PlugShare (that shows much more than the official public charging network) you'll see markers pop up between the cities.  Many of them are at RV parks, or truck stops with a truck stop electrification service run by ShorePower.

RV Parks and ShorePower - 240 volts in the countryside

Many RV parks have 240 volt 50 amp power outlets available.  You probably have to call ahead for access, and they may charge a fee.  But 240 volts 50 amps is a hefty amount of power, enough to run a normal EVSE.   There are several available EVSE's that are small/light enough to carry in the car, while providing a full 6 kilowatt charging rate.  I'll go over choosing and adapting a 6+ kilowatt EVSE in a minute.

What's an EVSE?  That acronym means "Electric Vehicle Service Equipment" - and is what we commonly call a "Charging Station".   Normally these get installed to a fixed location, with the effect of limiting where your electric car can be charged.  But, what if you could take the EVSE (Charging Station) with you and charge anywhere?

The ShorePower network
ShorePower is an interesting service that I'm just now taking a look at.  The company is pursuing the Truck Stop Electrification line of business, and they're busily setting up a network of electricity access posts at truck stops across the U.S.

Truck Stop Electrification is a way to let truckers shut off the truck engine while they're parked at a truck stop.  Truckers leave trucks idling while parked, to watch television (etc) in the truck, or run the refrigeration unit on the trailer.  This way the truck isn't idling, and the trucker still has electricity.

The ShorePower network is expanding across the U.S., and is following where the trucks tend to go.  I haven't visited any of the locations, but what I see on the map is they're located at "truck stops".  It's a trucker oriented service, after all.  To use the service, first find one of ShorePower's locations, drive there, find where the power pedestal's are located, select one (you're going to be amongst big rigs).  At that point I'm not clear what to do, but they claim it's easy to use the service at the pedestal.

The ShorePower website lets you search for EVSE's for electric cars.  At the moment making just that selection results in zero choices, but it implies ShorePower is planning to directly support electric car owners.

Electric vehicle owners can use both services in the same way.  Both provide 240 volt outlets with a high enough amperage capacity to run an EVSE at full power.

Portable EVSE's and adapter cords required

Electric cars cannot use regular power outlets - because the powers-that-be deemed it would be Unsafe for to just plug electric cars into regular power outlets.  Instead we have to plug into charging stations, a.k.a. EVSE's.

That means carrying a light and small EVSE, supporting a fast enough recharge time to be useful.  This is a solution for those of us who aren't rich enough to afford a Tesla Model S.  For the rest of us, electric cars are typically limited to a 6 kilowatt charge rate and the rule of thumb states this gives 20-25 miles of range per hour of charging.

First - here are a few small/light EVSE's

The Bosch EL-51253 Power Max 30 Amp Electric Vehicle Charging Station with 18' Cord is an example of a light-weight EVSE (about 14 lbs) that's capable of a 6 kilowatt charge rate.  It comes with a cord to which one can easily attach a NEMA 14-50 plug.  Once an EVSE has a plug, it can be unplugged from one power outlet and plugged into another power outlet.  Most of the EVSE's are meant to be hard wired to your house power system (for safety) but that fact has the side effect that you can't take the EVSE with you on trips.  Add a plug to your EVSE, and it can be taken on trips.

The Leviton EVB40-5PT Level 2 40-Amp Evr-Green Flush Mount Electric Vehicle Charging Station is an interesting option because it can support up to 9.6 kilowatts charge rate.  That's important to those electric car owners whose car supports a 40 amp charge rate, such as the Gen2 Toyota RAV4 EV.  The AV TurboCord 240 Volt Plug-in EV Charger is much smaller than those two, because it's designed specifically to be small/light enough to be carried all the time, while supporting a higher charging rate than 120 volt 12 amps.  It supports 240 volts 20 amps, making it less powerful than the other two, but still useful enough.

Once you've selected an EVSE, you need to adapt it to use a regular power plug so the EVSE can plug into regular power outlets.  This is where terms like NEMA 14-50 come in.

What did I mean by NEMA 14-50 etc?  The U.S. has a nonsensical system for 240 volt power outlets, with a dizzying array of plug formats.  NEMA 14-50 is a four pin plug/socket standard that supports 240 volts at up to 50 amps.  On my car, I use 14-50 as the common socket, and build adapters to convert from various power sockets to NEMA 14-50.

I see on the ShorePower site they support both 120 volt 20 amp and 240 volt 30 amps power outlets.  According to PlugShare's listing of ShorePower sites, that means various plugs like NEMA 14-30 or the TT-30.

The first step is attaching a plug to the EVSE.  In the case of the AV TurboCord, that was already done for you, but for the others you must do it yourself.  The manufacturers mean for these EVSE's to be bolted to the wall of your garage but as I said earlier, adding a plug to the EVSE means you can unplug it and take it with you.

The EVSE's have a power cord that ends without a plug.  You simply strip the insulation off, revealing either 3 or 4 bare wires.  You simply insert the bare wires into the power plug - making sure to do so in the correct order.  Usually it just requires an electricians wire stripping tool, and a screwdriver, to do the job.  Specific instructions will come with the EVSE and the power plug

What do you do once you have a 6+ kilowatt EVSE with a plug?

You learn how to make adapter cords, that's what you do.  It's not that hard and once you make the first one it's pretty obvious how to go about it.  In fact, adding a power plug to your EVSE already showed you the required steps.

I've written, on VisForVoltage, a resource page about using extension cords and power adapters for recharging electric cars.  The page lists parts required to build the adapters, and in some cases you'll be able to find prebuilt adapter cords.

Once you have a portablized EVSE and a few power adapter cords, your electric car will have much more freedom.  You'll be able to drive up to "any" power outlet, and by selecting the correct adapter cord plug in and start charging.  Oh, and ask for permission first.

If all electric cars supported fast charging, we wouldn't have to go through this effort.  We'd just pull up to the fast charging station, plug in, and be charged in a jiffy.  Unfortunately that isn't the case, and instead we have to make do with guerrilla charging methods like this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tesla Model III coming in 2017, bringing Tesla S III X appeal to the mass market

Tesla Motors is confirming previous plans for the Gen3 affordably priced mass market electric car, and has given us the official name:  Model III (or perhaps Model 3).  Hopefully everyone will stop saying "Model E" and now get on to debating whether the correct name is Model III or Model 3.  The news came in an interview of Elon Musk by Auto Express.  Tesla Motors confirmed the story with a posting on their Google+ page (embedded below).

Most of it was simply a rehash of previous statements Tesla Motors has said about their 3rd generation electric car.  Namely, that the target MSRP is still $35,000 (before tax breaks), and that it will go on sale in 2017.  An unveiling will occur in 2016.  Driving range will be over 200 miles, and it will have strong performance.

It will be 20% smaller than the Model S.  It will be an "all new platform", because this is Tesla's 3rd generation vehicle.  The 1st generation was the Tesla Roadster, while the 2nd generation is the Model S and Model X (still due to launch sales in mid-2015).  The Model S and Model X are roughly speaking the same vehicle, but with different upper parts, and some drive train differences.

According to AutoExpress, Tesla's representatives clearly said the trademark is "Model III" with three bars.  Already there is some confusion with various articles writing it as "Model 3".  Sigh.  When you see these other authors calling it the Model 3, please point out to them their mistake.

Their article has Elon Musk retelling the story of why Tesla could not call it the Model E.  Apparently Ford Motors wants to use that name, and sued Tesla to prevent Tesla from doing so.  Which led Elon Musk to quip that Ford wants to kill SEX.  And, by calling it the Model III, Tesla will have S III X.

What Tesla plans to do is to attack the market for the BMW 3 series, and that ilk.  This is a large market, with plenty of automakers selling these upscale cars.

Because the Model X launch is slipping to mid-2015, I'm expecting the Model III launch to slip as well.  But, the Auto Express article is confirming a 2017 launch for the Model III.  Maybe Tesla can pull it off, but they do have a history of slipping their schedules.

Hyundai makes bogus claims, White House passes the buck, is Tesla's angry reaction justified?

Tesla Motors is angry this week at Hyundai making bogus political allegations about Tesla's Supercharger network, and at the U.S. White House for passing the buck in dealing with the battle over Tesla's direct car-sales model.  On the one hand Hyundai is making yet another astonishingly bad statement, and on the other hand the White House doesn't have the power to influence the car sales model since it is each individual state which sets car sales policy.  Tesla Motors' response in both cases was anger, and one wonders if Tesla is overreacting.

Hyundai causes our jaw to hit the floor with another crazy statement

In the case of Hyundai, John Voelcker (Green Car Reports) interviewed Michael O'Brien, head of product planning for Hyundai North America, about the Fuel Cell version of the Hyundai Tuscon.  During that interview O'Brien made a jaw-droppingly false statement about the funding of Tesla's Supercharger network, while at the same time jaw-droppingly ignored an issue with funding the hydrogen refueling infrastructure required for Hyundai's fuel cell vehicles.

What O'Brien said was Tesla's Supercharger network was funded using public dollars, from the grants and loans given to Tesla by the U.S. Government.  At the same time he said that Hyundai received no government grants for their fuel cell vehicles.

Pick your jaw up off the floor.

O'Brien was wrong on both counts - though, there may be ways to twist the story to fit his statement.

First, the grants and loans given to Tesla were entirely for building the factory in Fremont at which Tesla Motors is building the Model S, Model X, and the forthcoming Gen3 car.  The biggest chunk of that were loans given through the Dept. of Energy, alongside loans given to companies like Nissan or General Motors for their own electrified vehicle projects.  Tesla Motors has since paid back their entire loan, something no other company has done.

Tesla Motors has also received tax breaks from California for equipment purchases - the big machines in the factory were bought tax-free as a result.  Not loans, but tax credits.

As I recall it, no loan or grant was made to Tesla for anything related to the Supercharger system. 

What Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's vice president of business development, told Green Car Reports is: "I am furious at any allegation that any public money was spent on the Supercharger network.  Those sites have been paid for entirely by Tesla Motors--which continues to spend money in expanding the network. This stands in stark contrast to certain foreign carmakers, including Hyundai who have no manufacturing presence in California but expect the state's taxpayers to spend up to $200 million to set up hydrogen stations."

What O'Connell refers to is the program in California to build a hydrogen refueling network ahead of "mass production" of fuel cell vehicles from several manufacturers.  A program which Hyundai representatives recently openly admitted to manipulating for Hyundai's gain.

California is putting a huge emphasis on fuel cell vehicles.  In CARB's rules over the ZEV mandate, Fuel Cell vehicles earn more ZEV credits than do 100% battery electric vehicles.  While BEV sales earn more ZEV credits than do plug-in hybrid or hybrid vehicle sales, the multiplier for fuel cell vehicle sales is making fuel cell vehicles more attractive to manufacturers than battery electric vehicles.

What Hyundai said is that while the company is losing $150,000 per Tuscon FCEV delivered, they're making much more from earning ZEV credits.

In other words, Hyundai is benefitting from government programs, even if its not a direct loan or grant.

Further, the hydrogen refueling stations built at California taxpayer cost is also benefiting Hyundai. Those stations would not exist any other way - at $2 million apiece, there's no business model to support their existence.  The only way fuel cell vehicles will have value is for a refueling network to exist.  

Therefore, the automakers seeking to sell/lease FCEV's in California are relying on taxpayer funded hydrogen refueling stations to sell enough FCEV's to make enough ZEV credits to continue selling gasoline powered cars in California and thereby continue raking in money from Californians.

The truth?  Tesla Motors hasn't received loans or grants to cover development or buildout of the Supercharger network.  Hyundai, and certain other automakers, are benefitting from taxpayer funded hydrogen refueling stations.

Do I think I would be angry, if I were in Diarmud O'Connell's shoes, that Hyundai claimed the opposite?  You betcha.

Let's quibble around this a little bit, however.  

O'Brien is technically correct, because Hyundai didn't receive anything directly for their fuel cell vehicle development (so far as I know).  What I showed, though, is that Hyundai and the others are receiving indirect benefit from government expenditures.

The only way O'Brien could be accurate about Tesla Motors is that the government loans/grants gave Tesla Motors more working capital.  Yes, it was earmarked to factory construction, but because Tesla had a bigger pile of money they could spend more on Supercharger research & development.  Tesla may not have otherwise been able to create such an excellent system, and that system adds tremendously to the value of Tesla's automobiles.  Therefore, did the government fund the Supercharger system?  The connection is loose. 

Does this mean O'Connell's anger is less justified?  Maybe.

Actually, all of us should be angry that so much emphasis is being put on fuel cell vehicles.  The market is showing an appetite for quickly growing the electric vehicle market, while the fuel cell vehicle market is still in early early early R&D with limited production with what amounts to pilot project sales.  Further, fuel cells are far dirtier than is claimed, and don't produce much environmental benefit, while battery electric vehicles do (when powered from clean electricity).  

White House passes the buck on Tesla's battle over direct car sales

The other item raising O'Connell's anger was the White House response to a petition calling on the Obama Administration to intervene on state laws that are preventing Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to the public.  

Tesla Motors is facing battles in several states over this issue, with the Automobile Dealers Associations using their lobbying power to try and block Tesla from selling cars.  Diarmud O'Connell happens to be in charge of Tesla's response to this battle.

What the White House said is: “We believe in the goal of improving consumer choice for American families, including more vehicles that provide savings at the pump for consumers.  However, we understand that pre-empting current state laws on direct-to-consumer auto sales would require an act of Congress.”

The issue is state laws governing the car sales process.  Those laws vary from state to state, and some states have draconian laws completely forbidding direct car sales such as Tesla's preferred model.  

It means the Federal Government has limited power to influence State laws.

Diarmud O'Connell's response? "Rather than seize an opportunity to promote innovation and support the first successful American car company to be started in more than a century, the White House issued a response that was even more timid than its rejection of a petition to begin construction of a Death Star. Instead of showing the sort of leadership exhibited by senior officials at the Federal Trade Commission who declared their support for consumer freedom of choice, the White House merely passed the buck to Congress and trumpeted its advances in promoting vehicle efficiency. Given the economic and environmental principles at stake, we would have hoped for stronger leadership and more action."

Yes.  We tend to agree.  But, isn't this issue about state laws?

Is O'Connell's anger misplaced?  We have here two stories in which Tesla Motors is reacting angrily to stuff happening around the company.  Rather, it's Diarmud O'Connell reacting angrily.  In both cases the anger is somewhat justified, but maybe not to the extent he is showing.  And, anger isn't always the best response.

Friday, July 11, 2014

MUST HAVE: slide deck pitching corporate electric car charging station adoption

We want more electric cars on the road, and one thing sure to help is workplace charging.  By charging at the office the effective daily electric driving range is doubled - because you start from home fully charged, and get fully charged at the office.  Since it's so critical that workplace charging exist, whose responsibility is it to help companies learn about the benefits of workplace charging and otherwise goose along charging station installation at workplaces?

What's prompting this is a Facebook posting by someone whose office is next door to Google and Intuit, and therefore see's the extensive workplace charging systems at both companies.  But, the fellow doesn't work for either company, and is trying to get HIS company to set up charging stations.  He's looking for any information anybody else has gathered as a sales pitch to upper management.

The problem is the upper management at most companies is not as enlightened as are Google's management.  Google has an amazingly extensive charging station network at the Mountain View campus.  Spread among their huge real estate holdings are literally hundreds of charging stations, along with dozens of Google-owned electric cars used in a car sharing fleet, and hundreds of other electric cars owned by employees.

Another problem is the allocation of resources.  Why are the charging stations on Google's campus limited to Google employees?  Why can't employees of neighboring companies use them?  Well, Google did pay for the stations, and they're located on Google's property, making it tricky to share the stations with employees of other companies.  But couldn't things be organized differently?

In any case, what about the average boss?  The one whose primary task is finding customers to pay money for products or services, and charging station installation is way down the list next to all the other "nice to have" perks.  It's important to the individual electric car driver, of course, but the typical bossman won't see the importance.

What they'll need is a slide deck & presentation outlining the pro's & con's, how it helps employee productivity, how it can decrease the corporate environmental footprint at a time when all kinds of environmental impacts are coming under close scrutiny, etc..

If only there were thousands of brave employers with the vision to install charging stations, millions of employees would feel brave enough to buy electric cars, and we could ... but... the bossman isn't going to buy into that dream.  Bossmen get into that position by carefully weighing how to expend corporate resources - ideally.

Anyway, is there already such a slide deck someone has put together?  I don't know, but maybe some LongTailPipe readers know of something.  If so, please make a comment below.

In the meantime I had the idea to check websites for charging station networks and manufacturers, and unfortunately didn't find much: They have a lot of useful information and there's even a case study focusing on workplace charging at Google. While Greenlots offers Enterprise solutions - there isn't any information on the public website. The CarCharging Group owns the Blink network, and Blink stations are frequently installed at workplaces.  Their website has a minimal bullet list of some benefits.  GE Wattstations are apparently targeted to both workplace charging and public charging, but their website doesn't have much information for corporate decision makers. and is a charging network, and workplace charging is one of their focuses.  But, do they have any information to help corporate guys?  Nope.  While we might know eVgo most for their public charging stations, they're also looking to play a big role in workplace and multi-unit-dwelling charging.  The above page is meant to sell a corporate decision maker on electric car charging stations.  Unfortunately the page doesn't explicitly do so, instead it says to contact eVgo sales.

That's probably what's going on across the board, is that the charging network operators won't necessarily post their full sales pitch online.  Instead, they will want to post just enough to get someone to call the sales team, after which the real sales pitch is delivered.

Here's a few charging station vendors, whose websites focus more on the features of the charging stations, and not so much on why a corporation should install some stations.

In short, the best information I found available to the public to justify workplace charging stations to corporate decision makers was hosted by the ChargePoint website.  But even that didn't look like very much.

Consider the plight of a typical employee, he just bought an electric car and now wants the bossman to install a charging station.  While this person might be enthusiastic, they probably aren't the decision maker, and therefore not the person to call any of those companies.  How do they get the right person to make the call?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Is the European anti-fracking movement doing Russia's bidding? Is fracking the only way Europe escapes Russian dominance?

Anders Rasmussen
NATO Secretary General
Could the anti-fracking forces (environmentalists) be secretly working for Russia? That's what NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen recently claimed, that Russia is using "sophisticated information and disinformation operations" to engage with environmental organizations and other anti-fracking organizations, to tilt the political climate in Europe against hydraulic fracturing, so that Europe would remain dependent on Russian natural gas.

At The Long Tail Pipe we are interested in the full impact of our transportation system, and our whole modern lifestyle.  Recently this has meant looking into natural gas supplies in Eastern Europe, and Europe as a whole, as a proxy for pondering the role of fossil fuels in powering modern society.

Modern life would not exist as it is without fossil fuels.  That electric lamp at the other end of the room providing the light by which I can write this posting - it's powered by a natural gas power plant somewhere else in California.  That natural gas comes from somewhere, and in the U.S. it increasingly comes from hydraulically fracked sources.

But, let's get back to Rasmussen's statement.  We've covered several angles to the anti-fracking movement but this (Russia funding anti-fracking organizations) is a new one.

The context in which Rasmussen said this is a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the U.S./EU.  On the one hand is Russia, with massive fossil fuel supplies and a dominant position supplying natural gas to Europe.  On the other hand is the U.S. which wants to keep the EU from being dominated by Russia.

Eastern Europe shale deposits
The U.S. has an office within the State Department whose job is to push hydraulic fracturing technology on any country around the world with frackable shale deposits.  A big target area is Eastern Europe where there are significant shale gas deposits in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic Countries.  The carrot being dangled is the riches that can be made, as is being done in those areas in the U.S. where fracking is occurring.

Russia, on the other hand, has repeatedly said fracking is a bad idea.  While they're citing environmental reasons to oppose fracking, halting use of that technology would benefit Russia economically and geopolitically.  Why?  Europe would remain in dependence on Russia.

A kind of dependence giving Russia huge leverage over Europe.  Several times over the last 10 years Russia has cut off Europe's natural gas supply, for example.

Rasmussen's statement appeared in an article in The Guardian, and the NATO press office made it clear that he was speaking for himself and not speaking official NATO policy.  The press office gave this interesting statement, however:
"We don't go into the details of discussions among allied leaders, but Russia has been using a mix of hard and soft power in its attempt to recreate a sphere of influence, including through a campaign of disinformation on many issues, including energy. In general, the potential for Russia using energy supplies as a means of putting pressure on European nations is a matter of concern. No country should use supply and pricing terms as tools of coercion.
"As energy supplies and routes are an issue mostly for the EU, we count on the EU to take into account the new security realities in Europe and look at whether there is a need to review diversifying energy sources and expanding energy infrastructure. Clearly, it is in the interest of all Nato allies to be able to have adequate energy supplies. This is critical to our economies, our security and our prosperity. We share a concern by some allies that Russia could try to obstruct possible projects on shale gas exploration in Europe in order to maintain Europe’s reliance on Russian gas."
Rasmussen and the NATO press office said nearly the same thing, just that Rasmussen was being more blunt.

It would serve Russia's interest to block hydraulic fracturing adoption in Europe.  Well, that's true if the only way to power modern society is with fossil fuels.  Solar/wind/etc anyone?

Rasmussen does raise an interesting point.  But maybe his and NATO's position follows this line of reasoning:  The only way to power modern society is with fossil fuels - solar/wind/etc won't ramp up quickly enough to run all of modern society.  Europe's dwindling fossil fuel resources means either reaching far afield to resources outside Russia's control, or fracking Europe's shale deposits to try and replicate the success in America.  Therefore, they have to push for fracking, even if it causes environmental damage, because their fiduciary duty as top political leaders is to keep the mechanisms of modern society fueled.

This leaves me wondering where the truth is.

Rasmussen's allegation may have some truth to it, but I'm anxious for large scale solar/wind/etc to be used instead of all this fossil fuel crap.  The line of thinking I just theorized is, therefore, flawed in my mind, because solar/wind/etc is quite capable and getting cheaper every year.

For their part, the anti-fracking activists deny Rasmussen's allegation, according to a report on  That report quotes leaders in both Bulgarian and Romanian anti-fracking groups as taking umbrage at Rasmussen's allegation, claim to not be taking any money from Russia, and call on Rasmussen to offer real proof.

Borislav Sandov, one of the leaders of the Zelenite Party in Bulgaria (Green Party) tells an interesting story.  That when they were fighting against the South Stream project (a natural gas pipeline through which Russia would directly supply Europe with natural gas without using Ukraine as a middleman), the Zelenite's were accused of being paid by Obama and NATO.  Now that they're fighting against fracking, they're accused of being paid by Russia.