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Forwardable Plug-In Intro by David Morris -- Plus Plug-In Airplanes

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  • Felix Kramer
    David Morris has written frequently about plug-in hybrids. This happens to be a particularly readable and comprehensive review that also includes plug-ins
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 3, 2008
      David Morris has written frequently about plug-in hybrids. This
      happens to be a particularly readable and comprehensive review that
      also includes plug-ins' modern history since 1990. At the article's
      URL you can also find a huge volume of comments.

      In addition, we were intrigued today to hear of a practical electric
      airplane, recently flown in Oshkosh Wisconsin, reported by the "other
      EAA" (the Experimental Aircraft Association," whose annual conference
      just ended. At
      http://www.airventure.org/2008/8sun3/electra_flyer.html read about
      the Electraflyer, a one-person plane that flies up to 90 MPH for
      1.5-2 hours, with a 5.6 kWh lithium polymer battery pack that
      recharges in 2-6 hours and weighs 78 pounds. If all that interests
      you, then don't miss the PHEV version: at the website for the second
      annual Electric Airplane Symposium
      http://cafefoundation.org/v2/pav_eas_2008.php in San Francisco, CA on
      April 26, 2008, download "Hybridizing Light Aircraft" PDF (290K),
      CalCars' Technical Lead Ron Gremban's 13-slide talk showing that
      plug-in hybrid designs may also be viable for light aircraft.

      Electric Cars Are the Key to Energy Independence By David Morris,
      AlterNet. Posted August 2, 2008.

      David Morris is vice president of the Institute for Local
      Self-Reliance. His report on the future of transportation, Driving
      Our Way to Energy Independence, was published in April 2008. He is
      also the author of Self-Reliant Cities (Sierra Club Books, 1982).

      Al Gore's heroic speech challenging us to make our electrical system
      100 percent renewable promised it would simultaneously address three
      major crises: the weak economy, catastrophic climate change and the
      dire national security problems inherent in our dependence on imported oil.

      He got two out of three right. A crash renewable electricity
      initiative would provide an immediate boost to our economy and could
      slow climate change, since electricity accounts for about a third of
      our overall greenhouse gas emissions.

      But it would do little to enhance our national security.

      Oil generates only 3 percent of our electricity. Therefore a 100
      percent renewable electricity system does little to reduce our oil
      dependency -- unless that electricity is used to substitute for oil
      in our transportation system.

      Al Gore knows this. In other venues he has mentioned electrified
      vehicles. But he needs to make electrifying our transportation the
      central element in his 10-year plan, for at least two reasons.

      One is that it is an initiative that would prove far more compelling
      to the vast majority of Americans. Climate change is abstract, and
      the strategies to resolve it are remote. Our relationship to our
      vehicles, on the other hand, is both concrete and visceral. We
      desperately want to get off oil, especially when gasoline prices rise
      to $4 per gallon.

      But it is more than a pocketbook issue for many of us; it is a moral
      issue. Americans hate being dependent for our mobility, and therefore
      for our livelihoods, on countries often hostile to our way of life.
      Electric cars promise to end that dependency.

      And as a bonus, with rooftop solar cells, we can become independent
      not only from OPEC but from remote and often unresponsive utility
      companies. We can become energy producers as well as energy consumers.

      And then there is the plain fact that once significant numbers of
      electric vehicles are on the roads, word of mouth will be a powerful
      marketing tool. The reason? As Marc Geller, a longtime advocate of
      electric vehicles, told me a year ago as we were traveling up Route 1
      in Northern California in his all-electric small SUV, "Anyone who
      drives an electric car falls in love with an electric car." That love
      affair will be aided and abetted by a population eager to embrace a
      homegrown fuel and vehicles that offer quicker propulsion, a quiet
      drive and zero tailpipe emissions.

      There is another persuasive reason for Gore to focus on an
      electrified transportation system: It is simply physically impossible
      to convert our entire electricity system to renewables in 10 years,
      but it is possible to convert our entire ground transportation system
      to renewable electricity within a similar time frame. That would
      require a national mobilization, to be sure, but it can be done.

      Converting our electric system fully to renewables would require us
      to shut down about 80 percent of our current electricity-generating
      capacity, much of it low-cost, already paid off and capable of
      generating electricity for another 25 years or more. Moreover, to
      reach very high penetration rates of renewable electricity would
      require that we overcome the principal shortcoming of wind and
      sunlight: intermittency.

      To electrify our transportation system, on the other hand, we could
      displace rather than shut down the existing system, and we would be
      replacing a physical stock with a relatively short life expectancy.
      Given the average seven-year life expectancy of existing vehicles and
      the high probability that we would offer an incentive for owners of
      older gasoline-powered vehicles to trade them in, new electric
      vehicles could constitute the entire fleet within a decade, and that
      doesn't take into account the potential for conversions of existing vehicles.

      Powering 100 percent of our transportation system would require about
      30 percent of the electricity generated in 2006. With a massive
      effort, using a combination of solar and wind power, we could
      generate about that much electricity by 2020.

      The fact that we can even contemplate the rapid electrification of
      transportation is a testament to 20 years of grassroots activism at
      the local and state level. The enactment by Congress of a renewable
      electricity tax incentive in 1992 was important, but the wind energy
      industry did not take off until states began to mandate renewable
      electricity. Today more than 25 states boast such mandates. A recent
      report put together by a task force of California leaders urges the
      state to double its renewable electricity mandate to 50 percent by 2020.

      We have done a great deal, from the bottom up, to increase the supply
      of renewable electricity. Less well known is how much we have done on
      the demand side of the equation, that is, the use of electricity in

      A brief historical review might be in order here. The first electric
      utilities were born largely to serve the transportation sector, which
      in the late 19th century meant urban streetcars. Until 1920,
      transportation remained the nation's utilities' single largest
      customer. And as the birth of the automobile age began, electric
      vehicles were by far the most popular. In the late 1890s electric
      vehicles (EVs) outsold gasoline cars 10 to 1. Many of the first car
      dealerships were exclusively for EVs.

      The future of transportation abruptly changed in the 1910s. Mass
      production of gasoline-powered cars dramatically lowered their price.
      The introduction of automatic ignition removed the difficult and
      dangerous task of cranking to start the gasoline engine. Meanwhile
      the infrastructure for electricity was almost nonexistent outside
      city boundaries, limiting the utility of electric vehicles.

      For the next 70 years, electric transportation all but disappeared.

      Then, in 1990, two events occurred to revive the prospects of
      electrified vehicles. One was a private sector initiative; the other
      a public sector initiative. One was technology driven; the other
      politically driven.

      In 1990, Sony introduced the lithium ion battery. Its higher energy
      density quickly made it the battery of choice for electronic
      equipment. Over the next 10 years, as portable electronic equipment
      demanded more powerful and longer-lasting batteries, the lithium ion
      battery industry saw many technological advances. In the last five
      years, many variations of that battery have begun to vie for
      supremacy as the foundation for a new generation of electric vehicles.

      The public initiative was California's Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV)
      Mandate. Enacted in 1990, the mandate required that 2 percent of all
      new vehicles sold by major car manufacturers in that state be
      all-electric by 1998, and 10 percent by 2003. By 1994, 12 additional
      states had adopted its mandate.

      If that mandate had remained in place, more than 10 million EVs might
      be traveling our roads today. But as the marvelous documentary "Who
      Killed the Electric Car?" reveals in depressing detail, the ZEV
      mandate was weakened in the 1990s and finally killed in 2003.

      Notwithstanding its demise, the mandate did result in several
      important and positive outcomes. One was the hybrid vehicle, whose
      development was in part an outgrowth of the vigorous developments in
      electrical and electronic vehicle systems spurred by the ZEV mandate.
      Another was the advance in large-format battery technology after many
      decades of stagnation. The new Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) battery
      replaced the lead acid battery for ZEVs sold in California, and by
      the late 1990s, a second-generation NiMH promised to last the life of
      the car, almost halving the capital cost of an electric vehicle.
      (Tragically, patent disputes have stifled NiMH development.)

      Perhaps the most important enduring legacy of the ZEV mandate was the
      creation of tens of thousands of Californians who experienced the
      pleasure of driving or being driven in full-size electric vehicles
      capable of high-speed, long-distance highway driving. "Who Killed the
      Electric Car?" portrays what seemed to be a futile grassroots effort
      to stop car companies from taking back their EVs and crushing them.

      Yet even as the movie ends, the uprising began to gain traction. GM
      proved incorrigible. But creative and extensive protests here and
      abroad persuaded Ford and then Toyota to cease crushing their
      vehicles and begin offering them for sale. Reportedly, Chris Paine,
      the director of "Who Killed the Electric Car?" is making a new movie
      titled "Who Saved the Electric Car?" It promises to be a very uplifting sequel.

      At its peak, the ZEV mandate brought some 5,500 electric vehicles
      onto California roads, ranging from Ford's small Think Car to
      Toyota's small SUV, the RAV4, to Ford's light pickup truck, the Ranger.

      After the protests ended and the dust cleared, more than 800 electric
      vehicles were saved, most of them RAV4s. Some have now traveled more
      than 110,000 miles, validating both the durability of the batteries
      and the vehicles' remarkably low maintenance costs.

      The EV movement was aided and abetted by the introduction, in 2004,
      of the second iteration of the Toyota Prius. The best-selling car
      sported a mysterious blank button on the dashboard. Via the Internet,
      Americans were told that in Japan the button was operational. Pushing
      it allowed the car to travel solely by electricity for a mile or so.
      Engineers in Texas and California quickly learned how to convert the
      Prius to drive solely on electricity, and they added sufficient
      battery capacity to travel 10 and then 20 and then 30 miles before
      recharging was needed.

      Several start-ups began to offer plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV)
      conversions. Felix Kramer, the Paul Revere of the movement, spent the
      next two years trying to convince national reporters, members of
      Congress, Silicon Valley businesses and even EV advocates, many of
      whom believed a car with a gas engine was a sacrilege, that a plug-in
      hybrid electric vehicle could become the foundation for a transition
      to an electrified transportation sector. Kramer convinced a leading
      car industry reporter based in Michigan to run a story, which quickly
      translated into dozens of stories in the national media. In the
      spring of 2006, he spent $15,000 to transport his own converted Prius
      PHEV to DC and allow several senators and leading policymakers and
      opinion leaders to literally kick the tires and drive in it.

      At the time fewer than a dozen Prius conversions existed in the
      entire country. But the work of organizations like Plug-In America
      and Plug-In Partners and Kramer's own CalCars began to seize the
      popular imagination.

      In just the last 12 months, the dam against electrified vehicles
      seems to have broken. For the first time since 1910, an oil-free
      transportation system is on the table.

      New announcements by businesses large and small have become almost a
      weekly occurrence. Hymotion, a small company affiliated with Internet
      giant Google and the MIT spin-off, battery maker A123, has begun to
      roll out a nationwide network of certified plug-in hybrid converters.

      Toyota, which for the first six years of Prius sales used the
      advertising tag line, "You Never Have to Plug It In," announced in
      2007 an abrupt change of mind. In 2010, Toyota will begin leasing
      plug-in Priuses in Japan. GM, which had originally loudly and
      sarcastically dismissed the concept of hybrids, announced it will
      offer a plug-in hybrid with a 40-mile driving range in 2010. Nissan,
      VW, Renault and other car manufacturers have all announced their
      intention to introduce electric vehicles in the same time frame.

      In July 2008, San Jose announced the beginning of a network of easily
      accessible and useable EV-charging stations in parking garages around
      the city. San Francisco followed with its own request for proposals
      for a similar citywide network.

      On the political front, the current energy bill stalled in Congress
      because of Republican opposition: The bill contains a tax incentive
      for plug-ins sufficient to make the first cost of such vehicles
      nearly competitive with conventional vehicles.

      The energy bill signed into law just before Christmas in 2007
      includes a little-noticed but very powerful incentive for
      all-electric vehicles. For purposes of meeting the new higher fuel
      efficiency standards, all-electric vehicles will be awarded an
      efficiency rating based largely on the amount of gasoline displaced,
      which translates into an overall fuel efficiency rating for a typical
      mid-size EV of about 350 miles per gallon.

      And on the customer level, gasoline prices of $4 per gallon have
      generated a palpable hunger for alternatives and changed the
      comparative economics of EVs and gasoline-powered vehicles. Driving a
      mile on electricity today costs about 3 cents while traveling a mile
      on gasoline costs about 15 cents. This can translate into annual fuel
      savings of more than $1,000.

      The advent of EVs may change not only the contours of our
      transportation system but also the structure of our electricity
      system. The unique characteristic of the electricity system is that
      the product must be instantaneously transmitted and no storage
      capacity is available. This is the reason Enron and others were able
      to manipulate the system in deregulated California 10 years ago, a
      manipulation that led to the near bankruptcy of the state and
      continues to burden the state budget.

      The prospect of a large battery capacity contained in tens of
      millions of electrified vehicles could be, in the words of one
      utility executive, "a game changer." Utilities, eager to nurture a
      potentially large new customer, are also vigorously assessing how
      this new electric capacity can be integrated into the existing
      distribution and subtransmission parts of the grid system.

      Some studies have estimated that utilities could pay an EV owner
      several thousand dollars a year to tap into the car's batteries when
      needed for energy used to keep the local grid stable. The vehicle
      would be available for such tapping a considerable percentage of the
      time. A typical vehicle sits idle some 23 of 24 hours a day. Millions
      sit in commuter parking lots for eight hours a day.

      A large storage capacity could also ameliorate the intermittency
      problem of renewable energy, which in turn could allow a much higher
      proportion of renewable electricity on the grid. One study of the
      Sacramento, Calif., electricity network concluded that a significant
      penetration of battery-powered vehicles could boost the potential
      wind energy contribution to about 50 percent of total electricity generation.

      EVs might spur a profound relocalization of our electricity system. I
      discovered the intimate link between electric vehicles and
      decentralized electricity in the spring of 2007, when I spent a week
      in California driving or being driven in a variety of electrified
      vehicles, from glorified golf carts to PHEVs to the "0 to 60 in less
      than 4 seconds" Tesla. I was invited by a national travel magazine to
      investigate the future of the car based on my 2003 report on the
      subject, "A Better Way." Everyone I met who had an EV or a PHEV also
      had solar cells on their roofs. And why not? Not only does it make
      them more energy self-reliant, but the value of the electricity
      generated by the solar array is far higher when it displaces gasoline
      than when it displaces conventional electricity.

      Indeed, a symbiotic relationship between car and house may be
      emerging. California has time-of-day tariffs under which electricity
      consumed at peak hours, say, midday on a hot summer's day, can be
      several times more expensive than electricity consumed during
      nighttime odd-peak hours. If EV owners must use electricity at peak
      times, they can tap into the stored electricity in their vehicles.
      The EV serves as a source of backup power for the house. More than
      one EV owner boasted about how his was the only house with lights on
      when the neighborhood suffered a blackout.

      If Congress enacts its electrified vehicle incentive, we should see
      an immediate surge in conversions and new PHEV and EV sales. In 2010
      several EV and PHEV models should be available from major car
      companies, albeit in small quantities, and these should allow us to
      gauge the costs of an all-electric transportation system.

      If I were Al Gore, I would ask Congress not only to pass the EV
      incentive but also to phase in a mandate for an all-renewable-fueled
      transportation fleet, perhaps beginning with 5 percent of all new
      vehicles by 2012 and moving toward 100 percent by 2020. A call to
      arms would resonate with the American public. And as both consumers
      and citizens, Americans could quickly translate their support into a
      mass movement to finally eliminate our addiction to oil.

      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
      Felix Kramer fkramer@...
      Founder California Cars Initiative
      -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --
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