Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cars, Garages And Outhouses, An Electric Future.

I love driving the BMW Mini-E and contemplating how radically different the future will be because of the electric car.

In the early 1900’s, around the same time the first affordable cars were being massed produced, the outhouse moved from the back forty, to inside the home. Can you imagine the conversations of the early pioneers of that revolutionary technology?

Wife: You want to move that smelly stinky fly infested s---hole to the inside of my home?

Husband: Yup. Honey I promise it won’t smell because I’m putting a pipe in as well.

How radical was that!

The electric car offers us new technology such as no emissions from the car, which means we can radically change the way we interface with the car, both at home and at Home Depot. It is the emissions and fluids that cause us to park the car outside or in a garage.

In part one of the BMW film “Wherever You Want To Go”  (click to see clip) I imagined a future where in our dense urban cities, the electric car would ride up the elevator with you.

Think of it as a vertical road with parking places on each floor, replacing the shared experience and expense of a large multi level, mechanically ventilated subterranean parking garage.  In our single family homes of the future, the living space will incorporate the electric car (perhaps next to the pantry or the pool table) and what we know of as the “garage” will soon join the "outhouse" as an architectural relic of a past era. The ability to take a car inside is just one of many ways that electric vehicle technology will revolutionize transportation and land use planning. (planners hate the long rows of ugly garage doors facing the streets)

If you think this is a bit far fetched, remember the outhouse was once the norm,  and read on,

From the Miami Herald,

Pull over into the designated space. Turn off the engine. And enjoy the oceanfront view as you escalate in a glass elevator that takes you, while you are sitting in your car, to the front door of your apartment. No, this is not the latest Disney ride. The $560 million Jetsonesque tower will rise in Sunny Isles Beach. It likely will be the world’s first condominium complex with elevators that will take residents directly to their units while they are sitting in their cars.

From Germany,

Fed up with looking for somewhere to park? Afraid of your car being vandalized? Nervous about dark alleyways and gloomy underground car parks? Your worries are a thing of the past. Imagine living in a flat - but parking your car on the same floor! Using the special CarLift, within just two minutes you can be either zooming off or back in your own home again - a loft with unparalleled standards of safety, comfort and exclusiveness. The CarLift is a special elevator which takes you to the floor you live on without having to get out of your car. A transponder inside your car informs the CarLift that you're authorized to enter - and the CarLift knows which story to take you to.

Imagine the future, welcome to the future.

Mini-E #183, 35,000 sunshine powered miles

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The solution to pollution is elimination

“The solution to pollution is dilution”

This is the dictum that has governed the modern world since the mid 18th century and the beginning of the first industrial revolution. The dictum describes an approach to toxic management whereby sufficiently diluted pollution is acceptable and of no harm ( look at the picture.) Every factory, every discharger, every government, is controlled by this dictum.

Think of a “straight” 2 oz. shot of whiskey, versus a “mixed drink” consisting of the same 2oz. of whiskey in a 5 gallon pail of water, the latter makes it impossible to get drunk.

“The solution to pollution is dilution” governs every aspect of environmental law and is the backbone of the worlds Cap and Trade, Climate Action Plans and Kyoto protocol.

Fine and dandy in an agrarian world.

The world is changing rapidly and dramatically. For the first time in our history, more of earth’s residents, greater than 50%, are living in densely packed cities. The trend lines are that up to 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by the turn of the next century.

Back to whiskey, now think of 1000 people, each pouring 2 oz of whiskey in that same 5 gallon pail ( look at the picture.)

Today in a world where most of the population is living in mega cities, the dictum, like any good virus, has morphed into a new form more resistant to mans calculations and “antibiotics.” That morphed dictum and its relation to the mega city world of today is:

“The dilution of pollution when concentrated is a disaster”

One example of why I think it’s a disaster. A few months ago as an invited guest of the German Consulate, I participated in a high level exchange of information with 20 other world leaders, activist, corporations, scientists, academics and pioneers. I was seated in the Bradley Tower, on the very top of Los Angeles City Hall. Next to me on my left was a Global Vice President from Siemens, on my right was Mary Nichols from the California Air Resources Board. Speaking was Joschka Fischer, former Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany.

Vice Chancellor Fisher looked out the windows of the Bradley Tower room, over a 360 degree view of smog polluted Los Angeles, and said “Look what we have done! 15 million people live with ever increasing health issues and social degradation, with this air that we have polluted and that they breathe with every breath.” As a native So-Cal resident, I was struck like never before by that comment.

The new dictum in our ever increasing concentration of population centers must be:

“The solution to pollution is elimination”

Elimination of fossil fuels and elimination of combustion, as Amory Lovins would say, we need to Reinvent Fire. For the first time in our history it is possible and economical to live in mega cities powered by earth wind and fire. Geothermal energy, Hydro, wind, and solar.

We can today live in home powered by, drive a car powered by, and work in a building powered by geothermal, hydro, wind and solar.

This solution is not a pipe dream nor is it an academic exercise, it is the very description of my life living in a solar powered home, driving an electric car powered by solar energy and working in a city hall that is powered by solar energy. This transition for a nation and world will not be easy and it will be incremental, however the new dictum for our future and our mega cities must be,

“The solution to pollution is elimination” we should strive for that as leaders and as individuals in every decision we make.

I am happy to be affiliated, as a Mini-E field trial driver with a company like BMW that is leading the way in reinventing mobility for our mega cities.

We need to think differently about pollution.

Mini-E 3 183, 34,000 susnshine powered miles

Thursday, November 3, 2011

100 Million Electric Vehicles

If in the course of daily life, you use a yellow pages phone book, a manual typewriter or a rotary phone, you might find this vision of 100 million electric cars, a little farfetched.

For the rest of us, the question is not if, it’s how soon the electrification of the car will happen. And one of the big questions after how soon, is how do we make all that electricity to power a large percentage of our domestic fleet of 220 million vehicles?

The answer is surprisingly simple. To begin with we need to understand that 100 million electric cars will require 1/3rd of the gross energy of 100 million gasoline cars. Energy is expensive and is needed to create both electricity and to refine gasoline. The cost of this energy is contained within the retail price of both. The electric car is three times as efficient as the gas car converting that energy into road miles thus will use 1/3 the total amount of energy. This represents a huge energy savings as well as energy independence for our country.

Here are four basic reasons why we will have more than enough electricity without building one new utility power plant to drive 100 million electric cars.

1. An energy revolution is happening. The phenomena is that approximately 25% of electric car drivers are choosing, for the first time in history, to generate their own electricity for their cars via home solar PV or use renewable energy sources via a choice from their electricity supplier. Who knows if that percentage will go lower or higher as the electric vehicles moves beyond the early adopters? Most cars have a garage or a carport to call home and an increasing percentage of drivers will want to “own or lease their fuel station” on top of these structures at a fixed cost of less $0.40 a gallon of gas equivalent forever. 25% or greater of the 100 million cars will be powered by small scale home grown electricity and renewable energy.

2. Refineries are one of the largest electricity users in the country. The refining process to turn crude oil into gasoline uses approximately $0.25 in energy cost and 8 kwhs of total energy for every $3.75 a gallon of gasoline produced. 3 kwh of that energy is electricity the rest is generally natural gas. 3 Kwh of electricity will drive an electric car 12 miles. If you add the natural gas (the other 5kw of energy) to generate additional electricity this number grows even higher to 5 kwh or 22 miles in an electric car. 22 miles in an electric car is 100% of the current fleet average of 22 miles per gallon for gasoline cars, and remember this is just the energy used in the refining process! This is 100% or the total electricity required for 100 million electric cars.

3. Per the 2010 US Census, There are 112,611,029 households in the USA. The average household energy use is 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. Appliances, lighting, LED TV’s, Computers, DVRs, HVAC, and other components are all getting substantially more energy efficient each year. The average home size, growing the past 30 years, is now stabilizing and in some parts of the country homes are getting smaller. Efficiency gains of 20% in households are easily achieved with very low cost items such as insulation or LED light bulbs or new appliances when needed. Couple this with simple behavior modifications such as turning off the TV or the lights when you’re not in the room and a 20% energy savings in each household is a no brainer. This will conserve 2150kws per household. This is enough electricity to power 100 million electric cars 8,000 miles a year. If you add similar efficiency savings in places of work, schools, shopping and manufacture, Enough electricity can be conserved to power 100 million electric cars 12,0000 miles per year. This is 100% or the total electricity required for 100 million electric cars.

4. The electricity grid. Telegraph to telephone, analog to digital, digital to wireless, wireless to connected gps and data wireless. Using this comparison of voice communication, our electricity grid would fall somewhere between telegraph and telephone. It’s 100 year old technology that cannot store energy on the grid. Because of this we generate base loads of energy at 80% of consumption, and then use peaker plants intermittently to provide extra energy when needed on high load times or when a base plant is off the grid for servicing. Unfortunately when loads are extremely low such as at night, much of this base load cannot be used or stored and is run to ground as a waste product. In energy markets, between midnight and 5am electricity trades at a price of zero. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the base load electricity run to ground at night coupled with the capacity to use the existing power plant infrastructure more effectively could power 84% of our existing fleet of 220 million vehicles without one new power plant needed. How can this be? A large majority of electric car owners will choose to charge at night with this previously wasted energy, responding to when the prices are the lowest and when it is the most convenient for them to charge, while they sleep. Enough electricity is wasted due to lack of storage and unbalanced use of existing power plants to power well over 100 million electric cars 12,0000 miles per year. This is 100% or the total electricity required for 100 million electric cars.

In Summary,

I used 100 million electric cars as a number that represents about 40% of our US fleet. The electric car will not work for everyone in the near future and we need to be very realistic about that. Based on my experience driving an electric car the past two years and 34,000 miles, research conducted by universities and auto manufactures, and the price trend lines of any emerging technology, I have no doubt that the majority of urbanites, suburbanites and those in a two or more car family will find the electric car perfectly suited for their lifestyle with zero compromise and value added. In rural America, single car households, and those that drive long distances for work, the electric car is not the answer, at least not yet.

Shifting to 100 million electric cars will not be easy and will be one of the greatest challenges that we undertake as a nation. Significant challenges and great opportunities exist beyond just the supply of electricity covered in this writing. Scale and cost, charging infrastructure, availabilities of commodities such as lithium rare metals used in some motors are just a few examples of the challenges. Huge benefits to society such as cleaner air, lower health care cost, independence from imported oil, and lower cost of energy to drive for consumers also are part of the equation.

In the great debate between using gasoline or electricity as power sources for our cars, one issue is crystal clear, we already have more than enough electricity domestically produced to drive 100 million electric cars in a manor that is cleaner, cheaper with no dependency on foreign nations. Driving 100 million electric cars will require one third the energy and cost compared to drivng a gasoline car.

And my favorite argument of all... you will never be able to drive a gasoline car powered by sunshine.



Mini-E #183, 34,000 sunshine powered miles.