Posts Tagged ‘electric cars’


This interesting article from Popular Mechanics examines one possible route the auto industry could take in developing greener transportation options.

Mike Allen’s article says, “With few exceptions, these PHEV engineers and product planners seem to insist on one thing: The prime mover, the onboard engine (or fuel cell, or whatever), has to be powerful enough to move the car whether the batteries are charged or not. That means an engine—gasoline, diesel or E85—of 100 hp or more. That’s not only enough oomph to get to work, but enough power to really drive, chirping the tires at traffic lights, zooming onto freeway entrances and passing lollygaggers on two-lane country roads.

You know what? I think it’s time we re-examined that paradigm.”

Good thought, Mike!  I heartily approve of the sentiment.

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Original text © James K. Bashkin, 2008

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While some may love hearing about sweet rides like the $100K Tesla Roadster, a functional and economical electric car made for the rest of us would be even better. This could be it: the Th!nk City electric car, a four-seater with 110 mile range, top speed of 65 mph, priced under $25,000, and available in the US next year. This sounds like exactly what many people have been asking for. Next year!

The story comes to us from gas 2.0.

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Note added later: I recommend that people read the article by Sam Carana that describes other inexpensive electric car/vehicle manufacturers from around the world and their products, with pictures.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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“Biofuels are fast becoming a new flash point in global diplomacy, putting pressure on Western politicians to reconsider their policies.”

Note that free registration at the NYT may be necessary to see this article at the “read more” link. Nevertheless, this New York Times article needs to be read! This is true even though the article sounds more like it was written by a politician than I would have expected, giving ample space what I would call the self-serving justifications offered by Congressmen and Federal officials. The tone of the NYT article contrasts with the stronger conclusions reached in the Chicago Tribune about the growing price of eggs, where the blame is laid squarely on high corn prices (you may have to register for a free account to see this article, also). I have been writing about the topic of the unfortunate conflict between food and fuel since approximately September (not that the idea was original to me, there was plenty of documentation available!).

I don’t condemn all biofuels, and I support biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil, fish oil or other waste products as a reasonable approach, if one must have a liquid, carbon-based fuel. It is certainly clear that liquid fuels will not be disappearing overnight. However, I do not support placing food crops in competition with energy needs. In my opinion, the time of electric cars should be and is approaching, as hybrids become more popular, plug-in hybrids are near to reaching mainstream showrooms, and battery technology continues to improve, making already-available, purely electric cars even more affordable. We should be making investments in these technologies and related clean energy programs (solar, wind, geothermal), not pouring tax dollars down the drain with ethanol subsidies that have no effect whatsoever on oil and gas prices (this much is obvious, regardless of your opinion how corn ethanol and other biofuels affect food prices). The Economist was also firm in its criticism of corn ethanol programs, as reported here earlier.

Please see my recent post about the discoveries of improved Lithium ion batteries from Argonne National Labs and my post about electric cars, hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Many other related articles are published here as well.

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© James K. Bashkin, 2008


What is a plug-in hybrid? It is a car that runs on electricity via a battery that you can charge by plugging into a regular electrical outlet. These cars, being hybrids, also have gas tanks that can be used to power the car and recharge the battery, giving you what some might call the best of all world’s (assuming mass transit, bicycling or walking aren’t options). Best of all would be to burn no liquid fuel, but plug-in hybrids allow us to reach, or closely approach, this ideal in many cases.

What is different about plug-in hybrids? The plug! Current commercial hybrid cars use batteries, but they inconveniently keep a barrier between you and the electric company. You have to burn gasoline (petrol) to charge the battery.

How can you buy a plug-in hybrid? You can buy a hybrid car “off the shelf” and have it converted to a plug-in hybrid. This service is available in the US, the UK and elsewhere. Plug-in hybrids may be available directly from Toyota by 2010. For more information on plug-in hybrid cars, the following sites are very valuable: Plug-in Partners, Plug-in America, Hybrids Plus (a manufacturer of plug-in hybrids in the US). See also the DVD “Who Killed the Electric Car?”, read the book “Plug-in Hybrids: the cars that will recharge America”, and read the blog “plugs and cars”. The site “What Green Car?” provides information about plug-in hybrids for consumers in the U.K.

What are the running costs of plug-in hybrids? Estimates suggest that the transportation costs are equivalent to gasoline at $1.00/gallon.

Don’t forget that purely electric cars and trucks and buses are also available in the US, the UK, and elsewhere. For example, in the US, Tesla Motors, Volt and Phoenix Motor cars offer a range from trucks to sports cars. I wrote a recent, short post on very small and inexpensive electric cars being made for India.

I’d like to hear about other plug-in hybrid and electric car options in the US and around the world, and people’s reaction to (a) the low cost of plug-in hybrids coupled with the security of a gas tank if you need it, vs. (b) purely electric cars, which now have long range driving ability as well as high power (in some cases).

Don’t forget that you can couple electric cars or plug-in hybrids with solar and/or wind powered electric systems for your home or work-place to minimize or eliminate the use of liquid hydrocarbon fuels like gasoline/petrol, ethanol, etc. You can even run your home off your car battery!

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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“Just a great video from CBS that covers the high and low end of electric cars. There’s tremendous promise that these vehicles will help us achieve (sustainable) energy independence,” sustainable products, and sustainable design, helping the environment and society at the same time. The video also presents the most challenging part of the sustainable technology.. the battery.  Originally brought to my attention by dougschi on DIGG.

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It is important to note that sustainable electric car technology is not imaginary: it is real, as shown in the video from CBS news. See also Phoenix electric motor cars.

Coupling electric cars with solar panels allows very green, sustainable transportation to be possible, today. However, important changes in the power grid are needed to reap the full benefits of solar panels or other types of distributed, renewable energy sources. Car batteries and individual’s solar panels can help power individual homes and the electrical grid, especially if proper credit is given for this contribution to our electrical power systems. We don’t need to wait, as a nation, to implement many of these changes, though the participation by individuals and companies will be largely dependent on financial issues, including much-needed, significant Federal tax rebates for use of renewable energy and electric cars.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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CTSI, the Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization, is organizing CTSI Policy Day in Washington D.C. on March 5, 2008. CTSI is a non-profit organization that acts in support of sustainable technologies and “reduced footprint” technologies, including a wide range of topics.

Not every technology supported by CTSI is one that would be on my personal list of favorites. However, the CTSI platform doesn’t leave out any technologies that I place great importance on.

What is CTSI?

The Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization (CTSI) is a not-for-profit membership organization with offices in Cambridge Massachusetts, San Francisco California, Detroit Michigan, Geneva Switzerland and Washington DC.

Mission Statement of CTSI:

The CTSI’s core purpose is to provide a cross industry community to promote clean technology development, profitable commercialization and global integration of sustainable industry practices, enabling the transformation of businesses, governments and society towards a more sustainable global economy. The CTSI develops programs and advocacy towards:

  • Public funded research advocacy
  • Private funded grand challenges
  • Education & media programs
  • Technology publication and dissemination
  • Industry & Policy Leadership programs
  • Community development and networking
  • IP and early stage company matching with investment & corporate partners

From the CTSI website about March 5th, 2008:

Why Should You Attend?

The voice of Clean Technology must be clearly heard in Congress. As campaign platforms are launched and appropriations are made, it is critical that our elected representatives understand the economic impact of clean & sustainable technologies and how federal policy affects your business!

Come share your stories, your needs, and give support to the clean technology policy agenda which includes:

  • Increasing funding for clean and sustainable technology applied research and deployment.
  • Providing for long-term renewable energy tax incentives and implementation policies.
  • Developing tax incentives/capital depreciation mechanisms that encourage investment in efficiency upgrades, clean technology implementations, and life-cycle product management.
  • Encouraging clean & green federal procurement policies.
  • Supporting efforts to remove barriers to public market capital.

Who Should Attend?

Congress wants to hear from the companies and organizations that are changing the energy, water, and environmental landscapes through innovative technologies, processes, or just straight-forward implementation! If you are a senior-level executive at a clean technology company, a clean or sustainable expert or director at a Fortune 1000 company, an investor or financing agent, or another member of the clean technology community that wants to have a seat at the policy table, please contact us for an invitation.
Note: There is NO CHARGE to attend this event, but SPACE IS LIMITED!

The kind of activism shown by CTSI is truly needed to make it possible for clean and sustainable technology to be taken beyond the research stage and into the market place where it can have real impact.

Conventional or traditional technologies have long benefited from Federal support for research, development and commercialization. Often this support starts with grants to academic researcher groups, and the support can progress through a variety of mechanisms, from peer-reviewed grants to both small businesses and small business/university collaborations, to government contracts and other means. While these mechanisms are available for clean technologies and are being used to support considerable research, energy policy and environmental technologies need to be considered matters of national security and treated with appropriate seriousness. Serious commitment includes significantly increased budgets, tax incentives and other support.

Germany has recently made a big push towards solar energy, for example, and this is showing returns today. The US need to follow suit, with major financing and planning by Federal and State governments. As a nation, the US wouldn’t have to borrow l;arge sums of money to pay for oil every day if we could get these new technologies up and running!

Thanks to Steve B., Sam Carana and Rich for helpful discussions and information used in this post.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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An environmentally friendly technology using temperature differentials in the Tropical Ocean combined with other technologies could enable global Hydrogen distribution, by Mahesh Basantani for Inhabitat.

“Ocean waves are already being used as a source of renewable energy, but could differences in water temperatures in the sea be our next source of green power? A decade old idea to generate renewable electricity for the globe with offshore, floating ‘Energy Islands’ could soon become a reality. The concept – creating artificial islands to collect wind, wave and solar power in the tropics – is based on the work of Jacques-Arsène d’Arsonval, a 19th-century French physicist, who envisioned the idea of using the sea as a giant solar-energy collector.”

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While considering this story, I also urge you to read Sam Carana’s articles on the distributed electrical grid, a hydrogen economy and electric cars.  He offers compelling arguments to do away with liquid fuels, coal and nuclear power as soon as possible, and to invest in solar, wind, and geothermal power industries that are supplemented by the use of biomass to generate hydrogen (the cleanest of fuels, I would say).

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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As reported in the New York Times on Feb 8, 2008 and discussed by Douglas Schiller at AlternativeEnergy.com, two studies have reached the conclusion given in the title. US demand for biofuels from food sources is driving up food prices throughout the world.

A key distinction here is “from food”. We may still have the option of using waste cooking vegetable oil and other waste products to produce biofuels (for example, to make biodiesel) without harming food prices or the environment. Solutions to the problems that do not require liquid fuels, including electric cars, are looking like the best answer over the long term, however.

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For another (better) overview of the reports that were released yesterday from a number of Universities and The Nature Conservancy, see here.

© James K. Bashkin, 2008

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