- Hurricane Isaac Has a Wind Power Message for Mitt Romney
- Florida Stimulus Success: The Untold Story of Energy Savings and Economic Development
- Energy Subsidies & Re-Considering the Economics of Solar Power
- Romney’s Opposition to Wind Power Tax Credit Could be a BIG Deal in Iowa
- Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle Charger Unveiled
- Infiniti LE Electric Car with Wireless Charging — Coming 2014
- 4 Ways to Improve Home Energy Efficiency Today for $100 or Less
- Suntech Founder Dr. Shi on the Future of Suntech
- Small Island Nations Take Fight Against Climate Change Into Their Own Hands
- Join Us in the Comments!
- California Plug-In Car Owners Driving Less & Saving Serious Money
- Crowdfunding + Renewable Energy to Sweep the World?
- Smarter AC from Mitsubishi
- 5 Things Electric Car Owners Always Say
- Charged 2012 EV Symposium
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 01:46 PM PDT
Wind Power Rising in the U.S.A.
Okay, so the Isaac thing is probably just a coincidence, but when you talk about U.S. energy resources, the hurricane is a fair reminder that wind is a powerful source of energy, and that coal, oil, and natural gas are just three parts of a much larger domestic energy pie that includes solar and geothermal, too.
According to the recently released Wind Technologies Market Report, wind has become a first-tier player in the national energy grid in terms of new added capacity. In 2011 alone, wind accounted for an impressive 32 percent of new capacity.
Back in 2008 and 2009, wind’s share of the pie was even larger, but uncertainties over extension of the wind energy tax credit have put a damper on the industry’s growth this year.
Fossil Fuels Face an Uncertain Future
Despite the opposition of Mitt Romney and most of the Republican party, wind is on the upswing in the U.S. In contrast, coal has been withering on the vine, starting a couple of years ago when improved biomass technology began coming on line as a feedstock for power plants. More recently, the availability of cheap natural gas has played a key role in shoving coal aside.
As for domestically sourced natural gas and oil, both face significant obstacles to future growth over the long run. For natural gas the problem lies in potential impacts of fracking (water contamination, air pollution and even earthquakes) on local communities including high-population areas in the eastern U.S. For oil, it’s the ongoing environmental issues including disasters like the Gulf oil spill, as well as price spikes and supply bottlenecks that attend the global marketplace.
Aside from periodically wreaking havoc on household and business, continued dependence on the global petroleum market will have a significant impact on national security.
Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 08:31 AM PDT
In July of 2012, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), led by Commissioner Adam Putnam, issued an audit of energy initiatives including those funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds — also known as the Stimulus. The audit states that: "Based on reports received by the Office of Energy (OOE), the State of Florida has benefited from the investment of ARRA funds…state agencies, local governments, profit and non-profit organizations, indicate that the rebates and grants awarded have led to emission reduction, energy savings, energy cost savings and job creation and retention." July 2012, Operational Audit of the Florida Office of Energy
Combined, the Stimulus funds from the Energy Efficiency and Community Block Grant (EECBG), Energy Assurance Grant and Energy Star Appliance and State Energy Programs totaled $175.86 million, 60% of which has already been pumped into the Florida economy. "Some recipients, such as local governments, reported progress in energy savings in areas that involved building retrofits, equipment upgrades, and the installation of more efficient lighting. These returns resulted in reductions in greenhouse gases and electric and natural gas consumption, as well as overall dollars saved through increased energy efficiency. This was achieved through the development of energy efficient strategies and procurement of energy efficient systems, such as: retrofitting buildings with energy efficient HVACs; installing energy efficient lighting; purchasing alternative fuel vehicles; using biofuels and compressed natural gas to reduce fossil fuel consumption, and purchasing residential ENERGY STAR appliances and HVACs."
Let's take a closer look at some of the actual projects that took place:
- $17.6 million ENERGY STAR rebates helped to fund new appliances.
- The number of HVAC and geothermal systems purchased added $26 million to the Florida economy.
- The Solar for Schools Grant totaled $10 million – with 19 projects completed and 71 in various stages of completion.
- $39.39 million in ARRA funds supplemented the State's Solar Rebate Program, which resulted in over 11,000 rebates.
- The Florida Energy Opportunity Fund (FOF), a direct investment grant created to promote the adoption of energy efficient and renewable energy products and technologies in Florida, was awarded $36.08 million.
- The Sunshine State Buildings Initiative of $7.62 million expended $5.55 million (or 73% of the total). The grant is projected to reduce electricity consumption significantly.
- By May 11, 2012, of the projects that competed for funding, four major projects have been completed and 120 agreements are still in progress. In addition, recipients have already begun to report return on investment (ROI) data for 50 projects.
- The City of West Palm Beach used their $6.8 million in ARRA funding to retrofit all City-owned street lights with energy efficient LED lighting and induction technologies, upgrading lighting in 15 city buildings and three City garages, and installing HVAC improvements in various parks and recreational facilities. The project is anticipated to result in savings of over $11 million in reduced energy and operations costs over a 15-year term.
- Sarasota County combined their ARRA funding with the Cities of Sarasota, North Port and Venice for a total of $2.13 million and put into place their residential energy efficiency initiative, which is still ongoing.
Perhaps the best success story is the Solar and Energy Loan Fund (SELF), which got its start in St. Lucie County. SELF matched the $2.9 million in ARRA funding with private sector funds. They created a low interest rate loan program to help reduce energy bills in communities and provide access to various clean energy solutions such as energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy production. SELF is now expanding into other areas of the state and transforming itself from a revolving loan fund to a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury. This designation will provide access to even more funding and ensure that SELF can serve the citizens of Florida for years to come.
There will be even more successes in the pipeline to share, as Floridians will continue to benefit from the future energy savings of these projects.
The audit was of significant importance to establishing the success of the Stimulus; we have to look closely at what worked and what didn't and take those lessons forward. The good news is that of the $175.86 million, 98.6% of the Stimulus funding went to projects that were or are in the process of being successfully implemented and only 1.2% of the total amount – $2.26 million in grants – were terminated due to irregularities and to avoid fraud investigations. I'm not sure what it says about what makes headlines, but when West Palm Beach can save $11 million, that's big news!
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 08:00 AM PDT
I just noted on Thursday that I attended, the night before, a great Vote Solar webinar on energy subsides. That webinar is now on-line — it’s the video above.
I also mentioned to upcoming Vote Solar webinars in that Thursday post. After publishing that, I got word of one more webinar the team is soon offering. Here are the details for that one, Re-Considering the Economics of Solar Power, featuring Michael Liebreich and Jenny Chase of Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF):
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 07:22 AM PDT
Chaz Allen is the exact type of voter that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama would love to win over in the fall.
A registered Independent, Allen's political views range across the political spectrum. As a moderate fiscal conservative, he's concerned about some of the spending measures proposed by Democrats. As a moderate on social issues, he believes that Republicans have become too polarizing on gay marriage and abortion.
But for Allen, there's one really big issue that could influence his vote for president: Wind.
Allen is mayor of Newton, a town in central Iowa that represents one of the most visible and uplifting stories on the economic impact of domestic wind manufacturing. And as someone who's seen the enormous jobs benefits from the wind industry, he's increasingly worried about a key federal tax credit for the industry set to expire at the end of this year.
Romney says he wants to immediately end the tax credit; Obama has been pushing Congress to renew it.
"This is a very big deal for us," says Allen, leaning back behind his desk at his office in City Hall. "There are a lot of issues that people will be voting on. But for us here in Newton — and a lot of other communities around Iowa — this one really sticks."
Newton has received a lot of attention in recent years because of its dramatic economic turnaround helped by the wind industry. Obama even campaigned here in May. For 115 years, the town was home to the headquarters of appliance manufacturer Maytag Corporation, which at one point employed 4,000 workers in a town of 15,000. But over the years, as the company declined in health, local jobs were shed. By 2006, the company was sold to rival company Whirlpool, operations were consolidated, and the Maytag facility was closed. Nearly 1,800 jobs were lost.
In 2007, after Allen came into office, the town embarked on a "team effort" with the state and federal government to attract businesses in the rapidly growing wind industry. It worked. Soon after, the turbine blade manufacturer TPI composites and the wind tower producer Trinity Structural Towers moved to Newton, helping create more than 950 manufacturing jobs. Trinity even opened up its operations in the old Maytag plant.
"Bringing in these companies, it was like hitting the lottery," says Allen, smiling. "Wind is about jobs for us."
Driven by improving economics, strong state targets, and a federal production tax credit that provides wind farm owners with 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, the Midwestern market exploded in the mid-2000′s. Today, Iowa gets 20 percent of its electricity from wind, has up to 7,000 jobs in the industry, and has brought in $5 billion in private investment over the last three decades.
But now, communities and companies in wind states across the country are concerned about the expiration of the federal production tax credit at the end of the year.
Since this federal tax incentive was put in place for the the technology in the 90′s, the wind industry has been able to drop installation costs by 90 percent, according to the American Wind Energy Association. However, with natural gas prices at historic lows due to a glut of supply and many states reaching the upper limits of their renewable energy targets, the wind industry says that another extension of the tax credit is needed to continue momentum.
Unlike permanent tax credits for oil and gas producers, the production tax credit is only extended on a short-term basis, making long-term investment decisions difficult. As a result, wind installations are expected to crash in 2013.
Trying to break through Congressional gridlock as the election season unfolds, the wind industry has been pushing Congress for a one-year extension. Some wind proponents have also suggested a three- to five-year extension, with a phase-out schedule that would give investors and manufacturers more clarity, rather than just a sudden elimination.
Killing the tax credit could force the layoff of up to 37,000 workers in the wind industry, according to an analysis from the consulting firm Navigant Consulting. Already, manufacturers and developers in Arkansas, Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have cancelled projects, laid off workers, or announced plans to lay off workers. And just this week, the turbine manufacturer Clipper Windpower said it will lay off 174 employees, including an unspecified number of workers at its facility in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Even with job creation such a big national priority, Congress hasn't budged.
However, this is not just a Congressional issue anymore. With Romney's campaign now saying that the candidate supports immediately ending the credit, the debate over federal tax incentives for wind has been thrust into the national presidential campaign.
But for a large number of voters in the Midwest who see how important wind is for their local economies, it's not a debate at all.
"When Romney comes out and says that he wants to end this incentive for this industry, I think for a lot of voters in Iowa, that's a huge turnoff. For some, it's a killer," says Rob Hogg, a Democratic state senator from Iowa's 19th District. "We may lose hundreds and potentially thousands of jobs in this state because of this. So yes, for a lot of communities that are invested in this, it's an issue."
In July, a poll from Public Opinion Strategies showed that 57 percent of Iowans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposed an increase in wind development. Furthermore, the poll showed that 59 percent of Independents felt strongly enough about wind to influence their vote.
And it's not just Democrats and Independents concerned. Romney has broken with nearly every Republican ally in Iowa on the issue as well. Prominent GOP policymakers like Governor Terry Branstad, Representative Steve King, and Senator Charles Grassley have all urged Romney to reconsider. He has not. Senator Grassley, the so-called "father" of the production tax credit, said earlier this month that Romney's position was "like a knife in my back."
Iowa is a hotly contested swing state this election cycle. Obama won Iowa in 2008, but Romney is campaigning hard there, hoping to take the state back. He's already been to Iowa five times since emerging as the presumed GOP presidential nominee. With Democrats, Independents, and Republicans in the state all raising public concerns about Romney's stance on wind, the issue could be turning into a political liability for him.
Down the road from Newton City Hall, a large transfer truck carrying a wind turbine blade pulls out of the parking lot of TPI composites, making its way to one of the many wind farms under construction throughout the region.
Sitting in his office, Mark Parriot, the general manager of TPI's Newton facility, explains why these blades allowed him to keep his job — and his family — in Newton.
As former general manager of the Maytag plant, Parriot lost his job when the plant closed in 2006. After living in Newton for 25 years, he was afraid that he would be forced to relocate. But when TPI decided to open a facility in the town, he got his job back.
"That was an emotionally and economically difficult time for the town and for me. But here I sit, five years later in Newton as a direct result of the wind industry. I could introduce you to hundreds of people here who would tell you a story similar to mine," he says.
When Parriot found his way into the wind industry in 2007, he came in at an historic time for the industry. In 2006, with a limited domestic supply chain, wind turbine manufacturers were only able to source about 35 percent of components from American companies. Today, with 500 manufacturing facilities now in operation around the country, manufacturers are sourcing 67 percent of components from American companies — a doubling of domestic content in the last five years.
"I think that's a huge American success story," says Parriot. "I'd hate to see politics make that come undone."
With 75,000 wind jobs encompassing every single state in the country, these stories aren't limited to one area. In fact, wind is more heavily concentrated in conservative areas of the country. According to the American Wind Energy Associations, 81 percent of all wind capacity has been installed in Republican congressional districts, and only 16 percent is in Democratic districts.
"We've demonstrated in Iowa that it's not divisive because we view wind as a jobs issue and we've seen great returns," says Parriot. "And this industry has phenomenal diversity across the country — I'm genuinely excited about it. I find it frustrating that this has become a politically divisive issue."
It remains to be seen how much that frustration will influence wind-supportive voters in the voting booth.
This article was originally published on Think Progress. It has been reposted with permission.
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 07:00 AM PDT
The advantage of their SunStations is that they can be installed just about anywhere, as long as there is enough sunlight. (Most EV chargers need to be located near a conventional power supply.)
SunStations can be used for power needs other than electric vehicles, such as homes or small businesses after an electrical outage from a storm. There may also be interest for use in other countries where there is no grid, and no or little electricity. A SunStation might actually be able to provide electricity to an entire village in some remote areas.
There are two sizes available, one with four solar panels and a 1.6 kilowatt battery for $27,000 and a larger one priced at $55,000.
In August of this year, Santa Clara County (in the Silicon Valley area) announced it has twelve EV charging stations available to the public at the County of Santa Clara Civic Center.
Princeton Satellite Systems, Inc. also develops software for the aerospace industry, iPhone apps, and will be releasing CubeSat hardware as well.
Image Credit: Princeton Satellite Systems
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 06:46 AM PDT
Check out this awesome new car coming from Nissan/Infiniti, an electric car with wireless charging (most definitely) that is supposed to be out in 2014:
Infiniti LE Electric Car Coming In 2014 With Wireless Charging (via Gas 2.0)
Nissan's grand experiment with electric cars doesn't seem to be panning out as hoped. Leaf sales are slumping both here in America and abroad, and recent battery life issues have started cropping up in the hotter states. But Nissan still has an ace up its sleeve; the Infiniti LE electric car, which…
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 06:40 AM PDT
Four Home Energy Inefficiencies You Can Remedy This Weekend for $100 or Less (via Green Living Ideas)
Turning a standard home into a pillar of energy efficiency is often thought to be an expensive and time-consuming process, but this doesn't have to be the case. In fact, there are plenty of easy ways to "green" a home that are both cost-effective and able to be done on any average weekend. Best…
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 06:34 AM PDT
Eleven years. I've been told that Fortune 500 CEOs serve an average 3.5 years before changing roles, so in that sense my transition from managing Suntech's day-to-day operations is overdue; I served three tenures! But eleven years at Suntech isn't like eleven years at most companies. In that time, we grew our manufacturing operations from one employee to 15,000; from 10MW to over 2,000MW of production capacity; from US$10 million to US$3 billion in annual revenue; and from serving customers in one market to dozens.
We had to accomplish in a decade what many told me would take a century. Some believe that we grew too fast; and certainly, you can't achieve what Suntech has achieved without some growing pains. But the world couldn't afford to wait a hundred years to solve our planet's energy and environmental crisis. That urgency only rises with global temperatures and sea levels – anyone who doesn't take global warming seriously isn't paying attention.
Over the last several months, global oversupply conditions for cell and module manufacturers have driven a number of high-profile bankruptcies, and manufacturers are struggling to maintain profitability. Do not despair. This is a necessary rite-of-passage for our maturing industry, and one that we've seen in dozens of other global industries like consumer electronics and automobiles. In 1915, for example, there were about 350 U.S. manufacturers of automobiles that produced less than 1,000,000 automobiles per year. By 1975, there were only about a dozen U.S. manufacturers, but they produced about 10,000,000 automobiles per year. I believe the same thing will happen in solar. By 2030, there will be fewer than a dozen significant PV manufacturers, and by then we'll be talking about terawatts instead of gigawatts.
As the world's largest producer of solar panels, with more than 7GWs deployed in more than 80 countries, Suntech has an incredible platform to chart our future growth. Of course, Suntech faces many of the same headwinds that challenge all PV manufacturers, as solar manufacturing stocks have suffered due to the unprecedented supply imbalance. This isn't a US, EU or China specific phenomenon – it's a global industry challenge that many other global industries before solar have overcome.
In this climate, financial and operational discipline is critical. That's why we decided to empower our CFO David King as our new Chief Executive Officer. Transitioning from the CEO position is something I've envisioned for some time now, but I wanted to make sure we had the right person for the job. Now, we do. Over the last year and a half, David has proven to be an indispensible leader for the team. Suntech's total debt has fallen by about $120M in this time, and we've made great progress on aggressive cost targets without sacrificing the product and service quality that distinguishes Suntech. In addition, David is perfectly fluent in English and Chinese, and represents our diverse, multinational executive team and global heritage.
I'm not headed off on vacation. I will retain my role as board Executive Chairman and take on the responsibilities of Chief Strategy Officer. This transition will allow me to focus my energy on three areas critical to Suntech's success: 1. Guiding Suntech's long-term strategy amidst a crowded industry; 2. Building relationships with customers, partners, and banks; and 3. Commercializing some exciting new technologies.
Personally, as a solar scientist, I'm most excited about the technology side of our business. This shift allows me to work more closely with our Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Stuart Wenham and our R&D team to bring new wafer and cell-level technology advances out of the lab and into the field. I can't talk too much about these yet, but we've made great progress in the last few years – particularly on the silicon materials side – and I'm eager to implement more technologies into large-scale production. Suntech's roots are in innovation, and technology differentiation remains the blueprint for our long-term success.
There's no question it's a tough time to be a solar manufacturer, but competition is the lifeblood of our industry. We've achieved our own version of Moore's Law in increasing power output and reducing prices with remarkable consistency. When I started Suntech in 2001, the average levelized cost of energy for a solar project in good sunlight was around US$0.50 per kWh, or higher. Today, new solar power plants are promising clean electricity for less than US$0.10 per kWh – that's without subsidies. In other words, it's a brilliant time to be a solar customer, and that's what matters most to our industry's long-term success.
As an industry, we're at the start of a new chapter. Solar is still the future – but now it is ready today. This is no fringe industry, as Suntech alone has produced enough solar panels to power Costa Rica or Paraguay. Even the concept of grid parity no longer makes much sense, because in many countries we're right in the thick of it. We are permanently changing the global energy landscape. To continue our progress, however, we cannot afford to be distracted by international trade disputes. We need to encourage national policy makers to engage in constructive dialogue to avert a solar trade war that would harm the many for the benefit of the few. We have to keep our eyes on the prize of deploying affordable solar energy for everyone, everywhere.
This is also the beginning of a new chapter for Suntech, and David is the right person to lead Suntech's operations. As Executive Chairman, I will continue to work closely with David and the Board to navigate through these choppy waters. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported me and Suntech over the last decade, particularly our loyal customers. I'm excited about our future and look forward to achieving what we set out to do, together.
Onwards and upwards.
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 06:22 AM PDT
But the advanced economies have their own agendas, leaving these island countries practically alone to fight and adapt to the rising sea levels and depleting resources.
However, over the past few years, these island nations have been pushing their agenda at international summits with increasing thrust. Quite appropriately, these countries have taken matters into their own hands, realizing that depending on the more advanced economies may not be the best approach. A number of these countries have taken steps to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Tokelau, a small group of Pacific atolls situated off the coast of New Zealand, is all set to become the world's first truly renewable nation. The island houses 1,400 people who are currently dependent on diesel fuel generators burning 200 liters of diesel daily. However, residents hope to depend on solar energy by October this year.
The funding for the project will be provided by outside companies, along with $7 million advance from the New Zealand government.
The group of small island nations has always called upon the developed and the advanced developing countries to do more on the climate change front by setting up more ambitious emission reduction targets. Recently, Micronesia proposed several strategies to counter climate change. These strategies include significant reduction in production and use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are several times more potent that carbon dioxide.
According to a report recently released by Oxford University Centre for the Environment, all the Caribbean Islands face tremendous economic losses due to increasing sea levels. Islands in the Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and off the coast of Africa also face similar fate if no immediate measures are implemented. But these island nations can no longer afford to wait for rest of the world to solve their diplomatic stalemates and agree upon a suitable solution.
Image: Edvac / Wikimedia Commons
The views presented in the above article are author's personal views only.
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 05:47 AM PDT
One of those “nonessentials” is keeping up with and moderating comments, which one of our top readers actually does for us, very kindly, on a volunteer basis (and is why I felt like I could take a break from that while traveling).
However, upon returning, I did decide to catch up with a number of the comment threads. Doing so made me value, even more than before, all the great readers and comments we have on this site. There’s so much to learn and gain from the comments under many of our posts.
Certainly, not every post gets comments, or gets in-depth and informative discussions going, but numerous posts do. So, here’s just a friendly nudge to keep an eye on the comments of posts (and chime in yourself!), if you want to learn a bit more than you do simply from reading our articles.
I’ll also try to do a better job of pulling interesting facts and points out of the comments to post as full articles, but with all the cleantech stories I’d love covered every day, and all the great comments I’d like more people to see, many are surely destined to remain useful comments only to those who spend the time to scroll down a little further and read a little more. So, nudge nudge, consider doing so (or doing so more often)!
Image: 3D people chatting via Shutterstock
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 05:21 AM PDT
Survey: California Plug-In Car Owners Drive Less, Make More Money (via Gas 2.0)
Among alternative fuel advocates, there is a raging debate as to the viability of pure electric cars. Many people argue that the limited range of EVs makes them impractical for most Americans. But a new survey of America's largest plug-in car market, California, reveals that plug-in car owners drive…
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 05:12 AM PDT
Will Renewable Energy Be the Focus of Crowdfunding Social Entrepreneurs? (via Ecopreneurist)
Businesses measure performance in profit and returns. Social entrepreneurs measure performance in terms of positive impact on society. Of the many things that a society needs to function are basic necessities like food, water and electricity. We've seen the impact of the ebbs and flows of food…
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 05:00 AM PDT
The ZW series has two sensors that can switch between low-consumption mode if a human body hasn’t been sensed in the room within a few minutes to off if a person hasn’t been detected for 30 minutes.
The ZW series is going to be available in November and will retail for about $2,651.
Source: Earth Techling
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 04:55 AM PDT
Let me say at the outset that I don't yet own an electric car, so I'm not a member of the club and don't know the secret handshake. But since I spend a considerable percentage of my waking hours interviewing and bantering with card-carrying owners, I think I have the lingo down. And there's a pattern!
EV owners tend to be true believers, which is what any movement needs. So here's a few things that LEAF, Volt, Mitsubishi i, Tesla Roadster and even Wheego owners have said to me. I have yet to meet a seriously dissatisfied electric car owner (though judging from some of what I've seen online, there are some out there). Note: I'm leaving out what people also say about their concern for the environment. That's kind of a given. We've yet to get to the point where people are buying electric cars to save money:
I only drive 30 miles a day. EV owners are always at pains to explain that they're daily commutes are well within the car's capabilities. They seldom admit to range anxiety, and I never hear of them complaining about the grandma's house problem—what to do if they need to take a 300-mile trip. In fact, a new survey of EV owners finds that a majority have a plug-in vehicle as their only car. The corollary to this is boasting of the number of miles you've covered on a single charge.
I love how quiet the car is. EV owners celebrate the gentle whirr of their electric motors. Non-believers actually get nervous about this, thinking the cars are going to sneak up on people. They've been turning one of the chief virtues of electrics—no engine noise—into a negative. It's even led to pending federal legislation, the result largely of activism on behalf of the blind community, that will require plug in to emit some kind of sound below 30 mph.
Electric vehicle consultant Chelsea Sexton doesn't see the point: "The goal shouldn't be to make [electric cars] louder but to aim at sucking decibels from all vehicles….Cleaner, quieter transport means higher property values in often economically depressed neighborhoods adjacent to freeways and high-traffic roadways, to say nothing of the health of the families living there and public dollars saved from not building sound walls and other noise abatement measures." The bottom line, she says is that the driver of all kinds of vehicles "have the responsibility not to hit someone."
Charging is easier than getting gas. The onerous task of plugging in looms large for some people, but the people who actually own the cars say it's freed them from the tyranny of gas stations. They love "fueling up" for pennies per gallon equivalent in the garage, then driving past the $4 a gallon signs. They don't have a problem setting the timer so the car plugs in during peak times and charges off-peak. Still, we shouldn't underestimate how big a change it is for most people—whose fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers all pumped their fuel.
Electric cars have 100 percent torque at zero rpm. They don't always put it that way. Sometimes, I get, "It takes off like a bat out of hell" or "I leave muscle cars in the dust." Basically, they're talking about their cars' zero-to-30 time. It's where the EV shines, and why it works so well for quarter-mile drag races. On the short course, it's unbeatable.
"It's been X days or months since I burned any gas." The exact form of this statement varies, but the fact that people say it speaks of a sea change in American driving behavior. Once you've plugged in, you don't go back. Driving gas-free miles appears to be incredibly liberating, like giving up smoking or getting released from jail. A variation of this is plug-in hybrid owners who make a point of saying how little they use the gas engine. Jay Leno is like that with his Volt. "I'm thrilled that almost all of our local city driving miles are electric—with no gas or tailpipe emissions," says Gina Coplon-Newfield, who heads the Sierra Club's electric vehicle initiative and recently bought a plug-in Prius. "Like all EVs, our car is quiet, smooth, and much gentler to the planet than our last car."
Lots of Good Things
There are lots of other things that come up—the $7,500 federal income tax credit they got, the fact that they're the first in their town or on their block to plug in, and what happened when they attempted longer trips.
Jackie Eskin, who recently bought a Nissan LEAF in Fairfield, Connecticut, summed up what owning an electric car is like in an email to me. "I am extremely pleased with my LEAF. I love that it might help affect our foreign policy and make us more self-sufficient. And I love that it is zero emission, and I don't have to buy gas or oil or transmission fluid, etc. But, incredibly, I love that it is such fun to drive. I'm so glad that all these people, you included, are working to make this work for all of us. I'm happy to be part of this revolution."
Posted: 26 Aug 2012 04:47 AM PDT
Charged 2012 | Silicon Valley’s EV Symposium Takes Off (via Gas 2.0)
On day one of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's EV Symposium, the future of sustainable transportation looks like…. car sharing. That's right. I went to an EV conference, and the panels I attended- "Bringing EV Charging to Multifamily Buildings" and "Emerging Business Models for Transportation…
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