Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dept of Energy seeking battery EV's with fuel cell range extenders to reduce battery pack cost

The US Dept of Energy is seeking information (RFI DE-FOA-0001145) on fuel cells to be used as a range extender in a battery EV.   It's important to remember that a fuel cell vehicle is an electric vehicle, but with a pathetically small battery pack, and all the energy comes via hydrogen passing through a fuel cell.  But the DoE is envisioning a different model, where the vehicle is a competent battery electric vehicle and a fuel cell is used to extend the driving range.

Think of the two versions of the BMW i3 - one is a pure battery electric vehicle, while the other has the same size battery pack along with a small gasoline engine.  The engineless BMW i3 has an empty space in the rear where the engine goes on the REX version.  Who's to say BMW couldn't develop a small fuel cell to fit into the same location?

Maybe, just maybe, a car could be designed such that before heading out on a long trip, you go to the dealer who installs a rental range extender.

Before you get too excited, the target of the RFI is commercial vehicles - delivery vans and the like.  The idea is to develop an add-on fuel cell dohickey to help such commercial vehicles have enough range for daily use in a commercial fleet.

In 2013 the DoE did a feasibility study, titled Fuel Cells as Range Extenders for Battery Electric Vehicles, which used two vehicles (a Nissan Leaf and a large Navistar truck) to evaluate the potential of a fuel cell paired with a battery EV.  They found it was possible to drastically reduce battery pack size, by 80%, while maintaining range.  Or you could increase total range by adding a fuel cell and not reducing battery pack size.

The slide deck doesn't discuss the cost of the fuel cell.  If the fuel cell's price is more than the savings from a smaller battery pack, then you haven't gained anything.

That is, what they're looking for is a route to replace a large number of fleet vehicles with some kind of zero emission vehicle.  The combination they're looking into is to reduce battery pack size by using a fuel cell, perhaps making the vehicle more cost effective.

Reducing battery pack cost is widely seen as a key to battery electric vehicle adoption.  Big trucks require a far bigger battery pack than the family sedan's we drive around.  A class 8 big rig with a 50 mile range might require a 250 kilowatt-hour battery pack, or 10x the pack size on a Nissan Leaf.  An 80% reduction in pack size means eliminating 200 kilowatt-hours of battery pack, representing gobs of money.

These are interesting ideas but I think there's a flaw in the reasoning.  Namely - will battery packs always be expensive.

It appears there's a battery pack cost breakthrough just around the corner - and that it's for real this time.  There has always been technology just around the corner that promises much cheaper battery packs.  But so far that idea hasn't panned out.  What's different is rumors of car makers who are imminently announcing battery EV's with 200+ mile range at affordable prices.  That combination requires a battery pack cost breakthrough.

In other words, is the Dept of Energy about to optimize away the cost of something whose cost is about to plummet?

For this concept to pan out, the the fuel cell must cost less than the battery pack cost being displaced.   Additionally, it appears that fuel cell refueling stations cost $2 million apiece, while not being as clean as they're touted to be.  Given that fuel cells are very expensive, the refueling equipment is very expensive, and fuel cells don't really produce the desired environmental gains, I have to wonder out loud whether this is something the Dept of Energy should be pursuing at all.

Gigafactory work still underway in Reno, Tesla seeking tax credits in several states

Tesla Motors is still saying the Tesla Model 3 will go on sale in 2017, despite my prediction the date will slip.  To make that date the company has to ramp up the gigafactory, and time is ticking.  Since that's the key, what's the latest news?  It's been almost a month since Tesla Motors confirmed that the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center is a potential Gigafactory site.  That free'd up the contractor to speak about the job they'd done.  And, there's some news to discuss about the incentives packages being offered by the states.

The Reno-Gazette Journal was able to talk with the owner of F and P Construction, the company hired to prepare the site.  F&P Construction hired 250 men and women, and used $65 million worth of equipment — 200 pieces of equipment, bulldozers, excavators, haul trucks.  They moved 3 million cubic yards of "dirt and brush" to level the site, big enough to hold a 5 million square feet building.  The goal was to finish work by July 21 to prepare for a site visit by Panasonic.

Our coverage of that project occurred at about that time, and operations shut down by the 25th when it appeared plausible that Tesla had pulled out of the Reno site.  Since then Tesla and Panasonic announced an agreement to codevelop the Gigafactory.

According to the developer of the TRIC, Lance Gilman, work has not stopped at the Tesla site.  he said:  "There's still ongoing things, building catch basins, rerouting flood control, bank stabilization. But the pad is finished. It's ready."  Gilman also said the "steel" had already been ordered, which may or may not be a sign that Tesla will choose the Reno location.  Gilman said the steel could be reused in some other project if Tesla decides to not use the site.

What Tesla is doing is a high stakes game of playing one state off another.  The company is doing, as do so many other companies, its best to wangle the best deal from the host state.

The Detroit News has a list of the states, and the incentives being offered in each.  It also says Elon Musk has said the winning state is expected to shoulder 10% of the Gigafactory's cost or about $500 million.

  • Reno Nevada: The state has no taxes on a long list of activities, and close proximity to important raw materials including lithium mining.  There is a direct rail connection from Reno to Fremont, where Tesla's car factory is located.
  • California: The state legislature has enacted tax credits etc that benefit certain kinds of corporations, including aerospace and battery manufacturing.  Sales tax is also waived on the first $200 million of capital equipment purchases for those companies.  The legislature is considering waiving environmental rules.
  • Texas: The Texas Enterprise Fund regularly gives tens of millions of dollars for companies opening new operations.  SpaceX has received over $10 million from the TEF.  The Texas Emerging Technology Fund is another source of money.  There are additional tax credits, and some cities like Austin has offered additional incentives.
  • New Mexico:  A long list of tax credits are available for manufacturers.  Cities can tap public funds to build roads and other infrastructure around factories.  The state has low tax rates, rail connections to California, and low electricity rates.
  • Arizona:  Tax credits for manufacturing, and another tax credit for each employee.  There's a tax credit if Tesla were to install enough solar power capacity.  Facilities located in foreign trade zones get another large tax credit.  

Friday, August 29, 2014

Both road tripping and apartment dwelling electric vehicle owners say we need fast charging NOW

I'm beginning to think the real future of electric vehicle charging has to switch to a filling station model.  Today most public electric vehicle charging uses a parking lot model, because the typical charging rate (Level 2 AC at 6 kilowatts) gives 20-25 miles of range per hour of charging.  That's not fast enough for road trips (unless the driver is really dedicated), therefore it's deployed as a parking service, and used for opportunity charging as people drive around town.

There's two scenarios where this model doesn't work well:-  a) road trippers, b) those who cannot charge at home.

The generic Road Trip involves driving for 4-5 hours at a stretch, pulling into a gasoline station, refueling the car while stretching your legs and taking a potty break, then hopping back in the car, with a hamburger or other fast food on the seat next to you to eat while you're driving.   There's a huge dependency on refueling infrastructure between cities, where clusters of fast food, gasoline and hotel joints spring up at highway exits in the middle of nowhere to support road trippers.

Electric vehicle refueling infrastructure is not (yet) this well developed.  Other than the Tesla Supercharger network, EV recharging between cities is largely unheard of.  The Supercharger network doesn't even support a regular road trip - it takes an hour to recharge 265+ miles of range, rather than 5 minutes.  While a 265+ miles/hr charging rate is amazing, it doesn't match the refueling rate for gasoline/diesel vehicles.

The intrepid few who do make EV road trips today carry portable high power EVSE's, a bag full of adapter cables, and stop at RV parks or sometimes laundromats.  But they're still limited by the charging rate of the on-board charger, which in most cases is limited to 6.6 kilowatts.  The rule of thumb for 6 kilowatt charging is that an electric car gains 20-25 miles of range per hour of charging.  The road trip scenario doesn't work very well if every 80 miles you're stopping for a 3-4 hour recharge cycle.

There are exceptions such as the West Coast Electric Highway that was supposed to spread from California to Washington, but is sadly only covering Oregon and Washington.  Leaf owners in those states routinely take longer trips because they have plenty of CHAdeMO fast charging stations - 60ish miles of range gained in 30 minutes.

There's another segment of people not served well by the public charging infrastructure - those who cannot charge at home, such as apartment dwellers.  For the most part apartment dwellers simply do not buy plug-in cars because they immediately face a large headache recharging their car.  As I wrote the other day, I am living in exactly this situation and will do so for at least the next 11 months.  For example the other night I had to recharge the car, and stopped at a nearby public charging station for 1 1/2 hours.  Fortunately there was a public WiFi and I was able to use that time to write a blog post.  Unfortunately I had to cut the charging session short, leaving the car incompletely charged, because I had to use the bathroom and therefore had to go home.  Suboptimal.

If I were less dedicated to the cause, I'd be looking for a car with a gasoline engine.

What prompted this post is a long post on Facebook by a friend, Terry Hershner, who has logged more long distance electric vehicle trips than practically anyone.  His vehicle is a 2012 Zero S that's been modified beyond belief to have a 24 kilowatt-hour battery pack, fast charging implemented via multiple on-board chargers for an 18 kilowatt charge rate, and an aerodynamic fairing Terry developed with famed motorcycle designer Craig Vetter.

He's on his way to the Nevada/Utah border to participate in the latest Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge which is scheduled to take place this afternoon.  He's hoping to win, which would be the first time an electric motorcycle wins that event.

Terry posted the picture above to demonstrate a flaw in the electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  Look carefully on the map and you see two large gaps - one in the shape of Nevada, the other in the shape of Montana.  Those gaps are areas which have zero ChargePoint charging stations.

Why?  Both Nevada and Montana are mostly empty of large cities, and therefore don't have urban oriented charging infrastructure.  If you zoom in the map (go to and browse around the country you'll see that most rural areas have little charging infrastructure.

In other words, other than the more adventurous electric vehicle owners, we're trapped within the bubble of public charging in large cities.

Terry had to cross Nevada today to get to the starting point of the race.  He's crossed the country many times now, and is very familiar with the rituals of accessing power outlets at RV parks.

He writes that the manager of an RV park in Elko NV at first refused to allow Terry to plug in his bike at any of the 50 amp outlets scattered around the park.  A 50 amp outlet at 240 volts is nearly 10 kilowatts, and Terry was looking to use two of them, for an hour, consuming perhaps $1 worth of electricity.

RV parks are, in theory, an electric vehicle recharging infrastructure because they often have 50 amp 240 volt outlets in abundance.  But EV charging isn't their line of business, people driving RV's on vacation are.  In practice it's up to the RV park manager to allow an EV driver to recharge at a power outlet, and as Terry learned today not all of them are enlightened enough to do so.  Fortunately for Terry he was able to sweet-talk her for a half hour after which she relented.

It would be better if, instead, there were a string of recharging stations whose business is providing electricity to EV owners.  I suppose in the due course of time they'll be built.  And, in fact, they are being built, by Tesla Motors, but because of the proprietary charging plug their use is limited to owners of Tesla's automobiles.  Those of us who cannot afford a $100,000 car are out of luck, trapped in the bubble of urban public charging stations.

Both the road tripper, and the apartment-dwelling EV owner, need the same thing - fast charging.  The faster the better.  The faster the charging rate the more it will resemble a stop at a refueling station rather than a parking lot.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Transportation advocates looking to eliminate, or at least reduce, car use for environmental goals

There's a movement afoot aiming to drastically reduce driving, the need for driving, and the need for parking, all in the name of environmental goodness.  The theory is that reducing vehicle miles traveled will reduce the negative environmental impact (like greenhouse gas emissions) from transportation, and there will be additional benefits on gridlock (less driving means the highways aren't as crowded) and lower competition for parking spaces.  At the same time our population is growing rapidly, meaning the more enlightened government planners are racing to get ahead of natural increases in car use due to population increases.

It means that, at least in California, the goal is to drastically reduce and in some cases eliminate the prevalence of cars.

Normally on The Long Tailpipe we're writing about the wondrous virtues of electric cars, and how electrified transportation can help wean us off fossil fuels, hopefully avoiding the looming disasters sparked by peak oil and climate change effects.

The problem is no matter how wonderful electric cars are, they do not solve for a long list of other problems such as traffic congestion, or parking congestion.

I've been interested in electric cars for a long time, since at least 1998.  That year I began researching how to build an electric car (because the car companies weren't doing so), but I had a long commute through the worst gridlock Silicon Valley had to offer.  Sitting in "traffic" crawling at 5-15 miles/hr for 10+ miles at a stretch (I-880 or I-680 south from Fremont), I eventually realized that an electric car is just a car, and that even if all the cars on a gridlocked highway were electric the highway would be just as gridlocked.

The only positive impact from an electric car is emissions and fossil fuel reductions.  These solve for the problems we suffer from using fossil fuels.  A car is a car, and still takes up room on the road and in parking lots.

It's estimated that for every car there are approximately 8 parking spaces, because of requirements in U.S. Zoning ordinances for certain ratios of parking spaces to building size.  For example the local Target Store will be surrounded by an ocean of parking, and most of the year the parking lot is mostly empty.  Zoning ordinances typically require stores like Target to build parking sufficient to handle the maximum parking demand - namely, December 23-24 - despite the fact it goes unused most of the year.

Ponder if you will, what's the best use for the excess land tied up by parking lots that sit mostly empty most of the year?  Isn't this a huge environmental problem?  Huge swaths of land have their potential for productive use smothered by layers of asphalt.  The same holds true when highway commissions widen highways to relieve traffic congestion, only to see the quantity of traffic expand to fill the available lanes.

All this was the topic of a meeting I attended this evening sponsored by Sunnyvale Cool Cities - Growth Without Gridlock.  They gathered a panel of experts from the Mountain View and Sunnyvale governments, as well as a local housing developer and a representative from TransFORM CA.  The topic was how to manage the massive growth we're seeing in Silicon Valley, while maintaining or improving the quality of life, environmental quality, and meeting various environmental goals required by California State Law.

California, being California, has aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals, as well as goals for reducing other impacts on the environment.

Trudy Ryan of the Sunnyvale city government talked about "Transportation Demand Management" or TDM.  It comprises a range of strategies to reduce car travel, or to redistribute that demand.

A small example of redistributed travel demand is the method I chose to get to the meeting.  I found the traffic on El Camino heavy enough that, rather than drive, I rode the #22 bus to the meeting location.  What would have been a car trip by a single-occupant-vehicle (my car) became another rider on the bus, because of heavy traffic.

Sunnyvale has a "TDM Toolkit" which is supposed to be available on the city website somewhere.  Google found for me a report from 2011 which is a transportation demand management plan for the Mary Ave corridor.  The toolkit helps the City with its efforts in this area.

One specific strategy she mentioned is to change the ratio of floor area to parking lot size.  Lowering this ratio allows retail, office and housing construction to be built with fewer parking spaces than is currently done.

Shrinking the pool of parking spaces has two effects:  a) land can be put to more productive uses, b) it discourages taking trips with a car.

In other words - how many car trips can a given area tolerate?

The next speaker works for the Mountain View city government, and he talked about development plans for the North Bayshore area.  That's a region north of Highway 101, that's the headquarters locations for high tech companies like Google, LinkedIn, and Intuit.  Google and its huge growth rate is the big problem faced by Mountain View.

One measure of the traffic that North Bayshore can tolerate is the fact that there are precisely three entrance roads to the area - Shoreline, Rengstorff, and San Antonio Rd.  Every day these three roads are clogged with traffic going in and out.  City planners have refused to allow housing development in that area, so therefore it's dominated by office parks with Google being the current 800 pound gorilla.  Sun Microsystems used to be the dominant company there, but that was a different era.

The next speaker, Jeff Oberdorfer, represented First Community Housing, a non-profit housing developer specializing in "Sustainable Affordable Housing".  They've focused on developing housing projects (multi-unit-dwellings) with all kinds of LEED and Green features, located next to transit hubs, like light rail stations, and which have other features allowing them to receive waivers from the city to build with a lower ratio of parking than is normally required.

He noted that each structured parking space costs the developer approximately $50,000, and has to be maintained at additional yearly cost.  Therefore, by reducing the number of parking spaces, their costs are reduces and it's easier for the housing developer to offer affordable housing.  Many of their projects could not be built at the usual parking space ratio, he said.

The last speaker was Ann Cheng, who works for TransFORM CA as the Green Trip program director.

GreenTrip is a certification program meant to be similar to LEED certification, but to certify that a given housing development has features which lead to lower impact from transportation. As it's put on their website: "GreenTRIP provides a range of tools to developers, cities, and community advocates to help create low-traffic developments that include strategies like free transit passes and carshare membership for residents, secure bicycle parking and bike sharing."

A primary measurement she, and the others, discussed was the ratio of parking spaces per unit of housing.  Again, reducing that ratio means that, in theory, lots of environmental goodness will result.

There are 15 GreenTrip certified developments in the Bay Area.  These are estimated to mean over $17 million in additional revenue for transit agencies, as well as some number for environmental impact which I didn't write down.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

California apartment renters will soon be able to install electric car charging stations

Renters and other multi-unit-dwelling occupants have a huge barrier to electric vehicle ownership - the access to electricity needed to charge their car at home.  I call this "level 0 charging" to differentiate from level 1 (120 volt AC) and level 2 (240 volt AC through a charging station).  We just moved into an apartment and are living the level 0 lifestyle, and finding out what range anxiety is all about.  Fortunately our state, California, has passed a law which (pending Gov. Brown's signature) will require apartment owners to allow tenants to install charging stations, at their own expense.  Unfortunately the law doesn't go into effect until next summer.  Fortunately it may be a big help to tenants across California, so let's take a look at AB2565.

AB-2565 Rental property: electric vehicle charging stations, passed by both houses of the California Legislature on Aug 25, would, if signed by Gov. Brown, extend existing law for rental properties to require landlords to allow tenants to install electric car charging stations, at their own expense, under certain circumstances.  

Cue the sigh of relief from tenants around California.  

As of August 25, 2014, the law passed in both chambers of the California Legislature.  ChargePoint issued this statement:
Sacramento, Calif.– Assembly Bill (AB) 2565 by Assembly member Al Muratsuchi moves to Governor Jerry Brown after passing both houses of the State Legislature with bipartisan support.

AB2565 will give tenants the right to install electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at their home or business if the tenant is willing to pay for the installation. Today, lease restrictions often times add financial burden or even stop tenants from installing charging stations at all. ChargePoint has worked with Assembly member Murastuschi, prior opponents and longtime supporters in drafting AB 2565. ChargePoint’s CEO, Pasquale Romano had the following to say:

“The widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) is driven by access to EV charging. AB 2565 is critical to expanding access to charging around the state, including to the more than 40% of Californians who live in multifamily housing. This bill fosters the EV industry and drives the state toward Governor Brown’s goal of 1.5 million zero emission vehicles by 2025. In addition, local economies throughout California will benefit from the employment opportunities created as the industry grows. I thank Assembly member Muratsuchi and Senate Floor Manager Kevin de LeĆ³nfor their strong support of the EV industry, and I urge the Governor to add his signature to this legislation.”

California is the largest market for EVs in the U.S., representing over one third of national sales. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates that between 1 million and 1.2 million public, workplace and residential charging stations are needed statewide by 2020. Governor Brown has until September 30 to sign AB 2565 into law.
Unfortunately it's not that simple, so let's take a look at the specifics.

The law applies to commercial and residential rental properties where off-street parking is provided in the lease, with more than five parking spaces, and where EVSE's number less than 10% of the parking spaces.  It requires the use of regular charging stations, so simple power outlets would not be sufficient.

The process starts with a written request from the tenant to the landlord, and the tenant has to meet a fairly high level of documentation.  This includes a complete plan, provided by the tenant, for the installation, use, maintenance and removal of the charging station, as well as a complete financial model, and complete documentation of modifications required to the landlords property.  Additionally the tenant will have to put up a $1 million insurance policy naming the landlord, in case there is some kind of problem.

The requirements are understandable but so high that typical tenants won't be able to comply.  Instead, I predict some electrical contractors will develop expertise with the requirements.  Tenants will be able to buy a service package that produces all the documentation, the insurance, and the contractor to do the wiring.  NRG's eVgo operation in California could step into this game, because they are required to install wiring for electric vehicle charging in multi-unit-dwellings across California.  ChargePoint will also, obviously, be interested in this business.

Landlord's are understandably reluctant to offer charging station access to tenants.  Many renters move from place to place every year or so, making landlords uncertain if an investment in electrical wiring for electric car charging will pay off.  The legal requirements in AB2565 seem meant to assuage the fears of the landlords.

I touched on a lot of these issues in an extensive article written for Charged EV's Magazine (issue 5, Oct/Nov 2012) about a project in San Francisco to incentivize landlords to install charging stations.

Here's AB 2565 as it currently stands on Aug 25, 2014:
SECTION 1. Section 1947.6 is added to the Civil Code, to read: 1947.6.
(a) For any lease executed, extended, or renewed on and after July 1, 2015, a lessor of a dwelling shall approve a written request of a lessee to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted for the lessee that meets the requirements of this section and complies with the lessor’s procedural approval process for modification to the property.
(b) This section does not apply to residential rental properties where:
(1) Electric vehicle charging stations already exist for lessees in a ratio that is equal to or greater than 10 percent of the designated parking spaces.
(2) Parking is not provided as part of the lease agreement.
(3) A property where there are less than five parking spaces.
(4) A dwelling that is subject to the residential rent control ordinance of a public entity.
(c) For purposes of this section, “electric vehicle charging station” or “charging station” means any level of electric vehicle supply equipment station that is designed and built in compliance with Article 625 of the California Electrical Code, as it reads on the effective date of this section, and delivers electricity from a source outside an electric vehicle into a plug-in electric vehicle.
(d) A lessor shall not be obligated to provide an additional parking space to a lessee in order to accommodate an electric vehicle charging station.
(e) If the electric vehicle charging station has the effect of providing the lessee with a reserved parking space, the lessor may charge a monthly rental amount for that parking space.
(f) An electric vehicle charging station and all modifications and improvements to the property shall comply with federal, state, and local law, and all applicable zoning requirements, land use requirements, and covenants, conditions, and restrictions.
(g) A lessee’s written request to make a modification to the property in order to install and use an electric vehicle charging station shall include, but is not limited to, his or her consent to enter into a written agreement that includes, but is not limited to, the following:
(1) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the installation, use, maintenance, and removal of the charging station and installation, use, and maintenance of the infrastructure for the charging station.
(2) Compliance with the lessor’s requirements for the lessee to provide a complete financial analysis and scope of work regarding the installation of the charging station and its infrastructure.
(3) A written description of how, when, and where the modifications and improvements to the property are proposed to be made consistent with those items specified in the “Permitting Checklist” of the “Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook” published by the Office of Planning and Research.
(4) Obligation of the lessee to pay the lessor all costs associated with the lessor’s installation of the charging station and its infrastructure prior to any modification or improvement being made to the leased property. The costs associated with modifications and improvements shall include, but are not limited to, the cost of permits, supervision, construction, and, solely if required by the contractor, consistent with its past performance of work for the lessor, performance bonds.
(5) Obligation of the lessee to pay as part of rent for the costs associated with the electrical usage of the charging station, and cost for damage, maintenance, repair, removal, and replacement of the charging station, and modifications or improvements made to the property associated with the charging station.
(h) The lessee shall maintain in full force and effect a lessee’s general liability insurance policy in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000) and shall name the lessor as a named additional insured under the policy commencing with the date of approval of construction until the lessee forfeits possession of the dwelling to the lessor.
SEC. 2. Section 1952.7 is added to the Civil Code, to read: 1952.7.
(a) (1) Any term in a lease that is executed, renewed, or extended on or after January 1, 2015, that conveys any possessory interest in commercial property that either prohibits or unreasonably restricts the installation or use of an electric vehicle charging station in a parking space associated with the commercial property, or that is otherwise in conflict with the provisions of this section, is void and unenforceable.
(2) This subdivision does not apply to provisions that impose reasonable restrictions on the installation of electric vehicle charging stations. However, it is the policy of the state to promote, encourage, and remove obstacles to the use of electric vehicle charging stations.
(3) This subdivision shall not grant the holder of a possessory interest under the lease described in paragraph (1) the right to install electric vehicle charging stations in more parking spaces than are allotted to the leaseholder in his or her lease, or, if no parking spaces are allotted, a number of parking spaces determined by multiplying the total number of parking spaces located at the commercial property by a fraction, the denominator of which is the total rentable square feet at the property, and the numerator of which is the number of total square feet rented by the leaseholder.
(4) If the installation of an electric vehicle charging station has the effect of granting the leaseholder a reserved parking space and a reserved parking space is not allotted to the leaseholder in the lease, the owner of the commercial property may charge a reasonable monthly rental amount for the parking space.
(b) This section shall not apply to any of the following:
(1) A commercial property where charging stations already exist for use by tenants in a ratio that is equal to or greater than two available parking spaces for every 100 parking spaces at the commercial property.
(2) A commercial property where there are less than 50 parking spaces.
(c) For purposes of this section:
(1) “Electric vehicle charging station” or “charging station” means a station that is designed in compliance with Article 625 of the National Electrical Code, as it reads on the effective date of this section, and delivers electricity from a source outside an electric vehicle into one or more electric vehicles.
(2) “Reasonable costs” includes, but is not limited to, costs associated with those items specified in the “Permitting Checklist” of the “Zero-Emission Vehicles in California: Community Readiness Guidebook” published by the Office of Planning and Research.
(3) “Reasonable restrictions” or “reasonable standards” are restrictions or standards that do not significantly increase the cost of the electric vehicle charging station or its installation or significantly decrease the charging station’s efficiency or specified performance.
(d) An electric vehicle charging station shall meet applicable health and safety standards and requirements imposed by state and local authorities as well as all other applicable zoning, land use, or other ordinances, or land use permit requirements.
(e) If lessor approval is required for the installation or use of an electric vehicle charging station, the application for approval shall not be willfully avoided or delayed. The approval or denial of an application shall be in writing.
(f) An electric vehicle charging station installed by a lessee shall satisfy the following provisions:
(1) If lessor approval is required, the lessee first shall obtain approval from the lessor to install the electric vehicle charging station and the lessor shall approve the installation if the lessee complies with the applicable provisions of the lease consistent with the provisions of this section and agrees in writing to do all of the following:
(A) Comply with the lessor’s reasonable standards for the installation of the charging station.
(B) Engage a licensed contractor to install the charging station.
(C) Within 14 days of approval, provide a certificate of insurance that names the lessor as an additional insured under the lessee’s insurance policy in the amount set forth in paragraph (3).
(2) The lessee shall be responsible for all of the following:
(A) Costs for damage to property and the charging station resulting from the installation, maintenance, repair, removal, or replacement of the charging station.
(B) Costs for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of the charging station.
(C) The cost of electricity associated with the charging station.
(3) The lessee at all times, shall maintain a lessee liability coverage policy in the amount of one million dollars ($1,000,000), and shall name the lessor as a named additional insured under the policy with a right to notice of cancellation and property insurance covering any damage or destruction caused by the charging station, naming the lessor as its interests may appear.
(g) A lessor may, in its sole discretion, create a new parking space where one did not previously exist to facilitate the installation of an electric vehicle charging station, in compliance with all applicable laws.
(h) Any installation by a lessor or a lessee of an electric vehicle charging station in a common interest development is also subject to all of the requirements of subdivision (f) of Section 4745 of the Civil Code.

Living with level 0 charging even makes experienced electric car owners get range anxiety

Do you know the pain of living on "level 0 charging"?  That obtuse question is preventing those who rent from buying plug-in electrified vehicles.  Level 1 (AC) charging is a 120 volts connection that's barely suitable for EV charging, while Level 2 (AC) charging is the typical 240 volt 30 amps (or more) charging connection through a charging station.  Either one is simple to procure for a home OWNER, they simply call an electrician who runs some wires to their service panel (assuming there's sufficient electrical capacity to their home and to their neighborhood), connecting the charging station to power, and the job is done.  But, a renter, or a condominium owner, they're in a whole different universe, stuck with what we might as well call "level 0 charging," or no charging at all.

Everybody recognizes that charging at home is a base requirement for successfully owning an electric vehicle.  When I hear government planners speak about EV charging infrastructure, they repeatedly describe charging infrastructure that starts at home.  But what about the people who cannot procure a charging connection at their home?

The advantage electric vehicles have over other fuel systems is that electricity is everywhere.  Theoretically we just tap into an electrical outlet, and there's our fuel.  But, the powers-that-be decided things would be more complex than that.  It's like that line - everywhere there's water, but not a drop to drink.

Renters (and other occupants of multi-unit dwellings) might not even have an assigned parking space.   Even when they do, access to electricity from that space might be tricky.  Often there's no electricity in the parking area, or when electricity is present it's "house power" paid for by the building owner.  What's exceedingly rare is parking, at a multi-unit dwelling, with an electrical outlet whose electricity is charged to the tenant.

That's the world I am now occupying, due to the vagaries of my life situation.  My only vehicle is an electric car with 50ish mile range (see, and we've just moved into an apartment complex with assigned parking in a carport where I cannot run electricity.  The apartment complex was built in the 50's, when there was no thought anywhere that cars would be fueled on anything but gasoline.

I've gone to a lot of trouble to divorce myself from gasoline, and in this apartment we're completely divorced from fossil fuels because it's an all-electric-kitchen.  But, fueling my car is difficult because it can't be done at home.

I've learned a lot already in the last three weeks.  For example, I'm now experiencing range anxiety when before I had range confidence.  The range anxiety myth is sold to us as a way to persuade people away from buying electric cars, when it's been shown time after time that after a couple weeks of electric car driving everyone develops range confidence.

What I'm finding is that being unable to charge at home leaves me uncertain, every day, about where and when the car can be charged.  The uncertainty gnaws away, producing some anxiety.

The car is constantly in a state of not completely charged, putting uncertainty into every trip.

I expect to be writing some more observations from the land of "level 0 charging" over the next few months.  We're three weeks into a 12 month lease.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Is Gasoline a 'stone age' energy source? Do electric cars run on modern age energy?

Source: Wake Up World via Facebook
We as a people are transitioning into a fundamentally different society than previous era's of humanity.  This multi-faceted transition is based on new capabilities given us by the new technologies bursting every day into our lives.  The key transition making everything else possible, is the shift from burning stuff to get light & heat & motion to using electricity.  

To me the old pattern is like stone age cave people, banging rocks together to make sparks to light the fire that keeps the bears away at night.  We are still doing the same today, thousands of years later, using sparks in objects like gas furnaces or gasoline powered cars to set things on fire to give us light, heat and motion.  The new pattern is different.  Instead of burning stuff, we flip a switch, energy flows through wires, and voila light, heat or motion happens.

Driving an electric car, turning on an electric light, cooking on an electric stove, ironing clothes with an electric iron, etc, are all accomplishable without (directly) burning anything.  There's no exhaust pipe out any of those objects, because nothing is burned (at the point of use).  You can't say that with the previous generation of technology, where cars have exhaust pipes, light comes from burning candles or kerosene, food was cooked on a gas or wood burning stove, and the first step to ironing clothes was heating an iron on a fire.  Where tailpipes and smoke stacks once were everywhere, they're becoming a thing of the past.

To burn, or not to burn, that is the question of our age.

Burning things to get light & heat & motion is, in essence, little different from banging rocks to make sparks to light a fire.

It doesn't matter how technologically advanced and fuel efficient a gasoline or diesel engine is - you're still making sparks to make fire to make something move.

The fossil fuel companies want us to continue burning things to run our society.  That's how they make their money, after all,  They extract burnable stuff, selling it to us in a form convenient for burning, which we use run machines that supposedly simplify life.  But new technologies beckon that let us run the machines without burning stuff.  The tech is all electrical, and often has computers buried inside.  It's becoming possible now to completely switch from the cave man paradigm (burning stuff) to the new energy technology paradigm.   The new energy technology companies face an enormous headwind of resistance generated by the entrenched power of the fossil fuel companies.

The fossil fuel companies want to, metaphorically speaking, keep us in the stone age.

Instead of using the physics of heat, electrical systems use the physics of electromagnetism.  An electric motor operates not on heat and the expansion of hot gasses, but by the opposition of electromagnetic fields.  There's no sparks, no heat, just electromagnet fields pushing at each other, with nothing directly consumed in the process.  Soon there may even be lots of gizmos using the physics of the quantum field, as the high efficiency LED lightbulbs do.  Who says we have to burn things to make things happen?  Oh yeah, the fossil fuel companies.

Instead of burning stuff to run machines, in the new paradigm we harness pure energy to make machines run.

The difference between gasoline powered and electric cars give us another useful distinction:  The consumption of fuel.  In gasoline or diesel cars, energy is stored in the fuel, that energy coming from sunshine millions of years ago which gave life to ancient plants and animals, whose bodies were sequestered by the planet eventually forming hydrocarbon deposits.  Fossil fuel companies de-sequester that stuff, refining it into burnable products like vehicle fuel.  Fuel is burned in an engine, releasing the stored energy, causing the wheels to turn, and toxic exhaust gasses spew out the tailpipe.   In an electric car, energy is stored electrochemically in a battery, released on command of the car driver, and in the electric motor electromagnetic fields cause the drive shaft and wheels to spin.  Nothing is burned or otherwise consumed on the vehicle.  Instead, the battery changes its electrochemical state, a state that's restored when the battery is recharged.

Unfortunately there is a little flaw in the perfection of this story.  Where does the electricity come from?

While we are doing fabulous things with electrically powered gizmos, and those gizmos don't themselves have tailpipes, that doesn't mean fossil fuels aren't being burned and that there's no tailpipe.  The tailpipe is over at the power plant.  We have a little fiction going on where, at the point of use (say, a cell phone) there's no tailpipe in sight.  The debate over this focuses on electric cars, but it's a problem for the electrification of all things.

No matter how many studies show electric cars run on electricity generated from coal are cleaner than gasoline powered cars, coal-sourced electricity still keeps our society in the stone age mindset.   We're making sparks to burn ancient hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) to generate the electricity that moves electric cars.  

Our electric shaver, or electric computer, or electric hot water heater, or electric refrigerator, or electric car, there's no tailpipe on any of them.  We can ignore the smokestack over at the power plant, see there's no tailpipe on the electric gizmo, and feel like the gizmo is clean and wonderful.  But that's a sham.  Around the world the majority of electricity comes from coal fired power plants, with natural gas plants being proposed as the cleaner alternative.   Both are based on the old stone age paradigm of burning stuff to get light, heat or motion.

We can only escape the stone age mindset when the entirety of our society runs on the new energy paradigm.  Instead of burning things to extract energy stored millions of years ago, instead of living in the stone age energy mindset, we can and should base our society solely on the modern age energy mindset.  The principles of electromagnetism and quantum physics should be our focus, not heat and the expansion of gasses.

There are approximately two reasons why we need to escape the stone age paradigm.  a) Peak Oil, b) Climate Change (and other environmental harms).  Together those spell out a calamitous future for humanity.

Burning the hydrocarbons stored by the planet depletes their quantity, and we're already beyond the point where the majority of "easy oil" has been found and extracted.  What's left is the difficult stuff, that has to be fracked or other noxious and expensive processes.  Oil and other hydrocarbon products are only going to get more expensive, making it tougher and tougher to keep modern society functioning.  Add on top of that the effects of climate change - more frequent extreme storms, deepening drought conditions, and other weather events causing huge costs to society.  Add on top of that, the various ecological and food system calamities such as the looming complete die-off of the oceans - the source of much of humanity's diet - and we can expect widespread famine because it will be impossible to grow enough food.

A big cause for those problems is the stone age mentality of burning stuff (hydrocarbons) to get light, heat and motion.

We're already deep into the transition into the new energy paradigm.  Electrically driven gizmos are completely a part of modern life, with a few big exceptions, one of those being our cars, motorcycles, buses, and trucks.  Electrifying the transportation system will be a big step toward completing the shift to the new energy paradigm.