Why and how to joyfully move our butts around town, without mucking the place up.

Clean Energy and Transportation News for June 2017

ChargePoint Takes Over Management of GE’s Electric Vehicle Charging Network

(June 28, 2017)

GE has for a few years operated their own charging network. It wasn't widely recognized nor popular, but they were doing it. It makes sense that GE (a.k.a. General Electric) would get into such a business. The name of the company says it all, that GE's corporate purpose is anything to do with electricity. But, their charging station business and network was never very popular.

GE selling its charging network to ChargePoint is likely part of a larger transformation underway at GE. According to current news reports, GE sold off its appliance division, most of GE Capital, is thinking to sell its "lighting" business, amid a general sell-off of "side businesses" so that GE can return to its "industrial roots".

In other words, it would seem GE see's the charging network business as a "side business" it should jettison. If so, I'd suggest that to be short-sighted since electric vehicles are the future. Shouldn't GE be positioning itself to reap the rewards of the rise of electric vehicles?

Why you shouldn't buy a battery-electric car? Doesn't hold water

(June 26, 2017)

This Chevy Volt owner (note - Plug-in Hybrid) tells us he is frequently asked why he doesn't own a Tesla. In other words, why not own a battery electric car, and why instead to own a plug-in hybrid? The obvious first answer is that the Volt and other PHEV's are nowhere near as expensive as a Tesla Model S or Model X, and therefore regular folks can buy a Volt. That's a completely understandable answer, though will change later this year as the Tesla Model 3 comes on the market.

Next reason - usable driving range for road trips. That is, when the Volt runs out of battery power you just keep on driving because the gasoline engine kicks in. You can even never touch the charging port and drive forever on gasoline. Or, that's what the guy in the video says. Too bad that's an incorrect idea.

Gasoline vehicle owners can have range anxiety because they can be just as stuck on the side of the road having run out of fuel. It's called "running out of gas" and happens to people all the time. For more information on Range Anxiety see: A brief history of Range Anxiety

It boils down to refueling time, effective trip speed, and refueling/recharging infrastructure. Gasoline does have a very fast refueling time and therefore effective trip speed is high with gasoline. Effective trip speed means the distance traveled divided by travel time factoring in everything including pee breaks, food breaks and refueling breaks. As more DC fast charging infrastructure is built, electric car effective trip speed will increase. The guy is right that currently the balance tips towards plug-in hybrids if your primary goal is optimum trip speed on road trips. To understand the calculations see EV Charging Rates

For most of us road trips are a secondary use of our car, and the primary use is around-town driving. That means we don't need to optimize for road trip effective speed, but we need to optimize for around-town driving. See Charging rate needed

What about battery swapping as the solution for increasing charging time? It's not a good choice that failed in the market. See Battery swapping

Marc Tarpenning - Tesla's High Speed Innovation at 2017 Product Leader Summit

(June 26, 2017)

If you pay closely to your electric vehicle history, you may be aware that Elon Musk is nothing more than a co-founder of Tesla Motors. Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning started Tesla Motors, with Elon Musk joining shortly afterward as the Angel Investor. This talk is by Marc Tarpenning talking at Stanford University to a group of entrepenuerial people.

Martin and Marc had built and sold a previous company, and were looking for a new challenge. They decided to look at the Oil industry, that is to disrupt the Oil Industry out of existence. The primary place Oil plays is transportation, specifically for cars and light trucks. It's unrealistic to use biofuels -- for example corn-based-ethanol would require more arable land than exists in the USA to fuel the vehicles used in the USA. On the other hand, electric cars can be powered by the solar panels on the roof of the house. See Solar/Electric Vehicle Nirvana

They chose to build a sports car first because it's an area where they could more easily compete than other market segments. The electric drive was able to outpace gasoline powered cars because of "100% torque at 0 RPM". The Roadster doesn't do so well at a race track because they knew high speed wasn't so important for daily driving, and instead the 0-60 miles/hr time was most important.

The real plan was to make an extremely compelling attractive car at the high end, and then move towards the Sedan market.

Building the SOLN1-2000 Watt Capacitor Solar Generator

(June 21, 2017)

Supercapacitors are like batteries because they store electricity, but they're different from batteries because the electricity is not stored as a chemical reaction. Supercapacitors are capacitors, but super, meaning they hold far more energy than regular capacitors. Capacitors store energy between metal plates that are separated by an insulator, and are used in pretty much every electrical gizmo to smooth out electricity, store bits of electricity here and there in a circuit and so forth. In some cases capacitors are used as primary energy storage -- for example some photography flashguns have a large capacitor that's charged up from a battery to emit a huge flash of light.

This video shows a Supercapacitor system built with easy-to-assemble modules with built-in balancers, that is charged from regular solar panels, and can drive regular 120 volt equipment from an inverter. The system is small and lightweight, but provides great energy storage capability.

With the system shown here, he went to a remote site and ran a cement mixer and various power tools all day long straight off sunlight and a small solar array.

Polestar announces new management team to develop electrified performance brand for Volvo Cars

(June 21, 2017)

Volvo is spinning off a new company intended to enter the Electric Performance Car market.

Energy Department Announces Nearly $32 Million for Innovative Small Businesses Focused on Clean Energy Technologies

(June 21, 2017)

We're continuing to see rays of possible sunlight at the US Department of Energy. That while the Trump Administration is chock-a-block full of fossil-fuel-loving partisan advocates, that somehow the DoE is still supporting clean energy work. This set of funding supports clean energy technologies, and is part of a [larger $116 program of awards](https://energy.gov/articles/department-energy-announces-116-million-small-business-research-and-development-grants) across a wider range of technologies.

A spreadsheet showing [all the projects is on the DoE website](https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/06/f35/FY%202017%20EERE%20SBIR%20STTR%20Phase%20II%2C%20Release%202%20Award%20Selections.xlsx).

The Breakthrough in Solar Energy

(June 21, 2017)

Renewable electricity with Wind and Solar is quickly becoming financially viable as the cheapest form of electricity production. The cost curve is falling rapidly thanks to production efficiencies as the manufacturing volume rises, and as the manufacturers grow more and more comfortable with producing the technology. The cost is low enough, that in some places, it is cheaper than natural gas electricity without subsidies.

Case in point, Dubai, in the middle of the Oil-Rich Persian Gulf, is building out a massive solar farm that's slated to expend to 800 megaWatts within a few years. In the middle of the Persian Gulf region, they're able to build solar at a cost cheaper than natural gas. Let that sink in.

In the USA we did elect a government full of climate change denying fossil fuel loving leaders. But the economics dictates a different solution. The economics says that the future is renewable electricity.

One of the voices in this documentary points out that the price-cost-curve for renewable electricity is dictated by manufacturing efficiency, while the price-cost-curve for fossil fuel electricity is based on the price for the resource. With renewable electricity the resource is as endless as the Sun. With fossil fuel electricity the resource is limited, and the price for that resource goes higher the more you extract, simply because as fossil fuel resources reach depletion extraction is more expensive.

Another case story is an island in the Canary Islands. They have a high cost of energy because there is no local energy resources. Their goal is moving 100% to renewable electricity, with local energy storage, organic produce, and electric vehicles. Once accomplished more of their money will stay on the island, as opposed to the current situation where money is shipped off the island to buy fossil fuels. In other words, locally produced renewable electricity can produce great economic goodness.

The more renewable energy is deployed the less need there is for wars -- since in many cases wars (especially in the current time period) are often to do with resources. The whole mess in the Middle East is, after all, a war where the West seeks to protect access to the fossil fuels in the Middle East.

Two manned multirotor helicopter-like flights -- Kitty Hawk Flyer seen in San Francisco

(Jun 18, 2017)

Multi-rotor aircraft are related to those "Drone" devices making all those fantastic aerial movies. Except, they use quite a few more motors and propellers, and in some cases they carry passengers. Electric manned flight is happening, and it may happen faster than we expect.

We have two aircraft to report on today. The first, the Kitty Hawk Flyer, got a lot of overly hyped attention back in April. In this video we see one flying not in the overly scripted scenario of their advertising footage, but along the San Francisco waterfront. For previous coverage, see Kitty Hawk Flyer - electric powered quad-copter electric motorcycle thingymajob

The second is a gentleman with a german accent flying a vehicle in a forest, presumably on his own property. He recently posted a video showing the first flight of his multi-rotor design, and today's video shows a tuning test-flight. He flew for 11 minutes achieving 80% depth of discharge, indicating more flight time than the previous video. For previous coverage see Very cool Manned multirotor helicopter-like -First Flight!

Very cool Manned multirotor helicopter-like -First Flight!

(Jun 14, 2017)

First test flight with this aircraft - 8 minutes of flying time consumed 57% of the battery capacity. The power comes from a 35 kG LIPO battery pack, and it's estimated to have 14 minutes total flying time or 11 minutes to 80% depth of discharge. He's not wearing a helmet to feel the freedom thing.

It kicks up quite a bit of "wind" while flying - notice what happens to the plants.

Since this is an initial test flight, he's taking it easy ("don't fly higher than you want to fall"). Certain control system limits were set conservatively and he may loosen those limits for future flights.

GM's assembly line for producing Self-Driving Chevrolet Bolt EV Test cars

(June 14, 2017)

Yesterday GM released news that a hundred or so Self-Driving Chevy Bolt EV's were being manufactured on an assembly line, and being shipped to test fleets around the USA. They described this as a milestone, as the first self-driving car to be built with mass-production techniques. We've found a video that goes over the assembly line.

This is clearly not a robotized modern assembly line. Instead of an building the cars from scratch, they are attaching parts to a pre-built chassis. It looks like Engineering team members are doing some of the assembly.

The other thing to note is the size of the computing cluster, and that it takes up a significant amount of cargo space. As advanced as their self-driving technology surely is, they still haven't shrunk the equipment down to where it fits into the woodwork.

Deutsche Post and Ford to manufacture electric delivery van

(June 13, 2017)

Deutsche Post DHL Group and Ford have announced a plan to develop an all-electric delivery van for use in Germany.

GM produces first round of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt EV test vehicles

(June 13, 2017)

For the first time, autonomous self-driving cars have been built using mass-production methodology. As we can tell via the pictures released with this press release, they built some kind of assembly line for this purpose. The assembly line clearly isn't "high-end" (no robots), but it's an assembly line, letting them claim to have used mass-production methods. GM is deploying the 130 vehicles to test fleets in San Francisco, Scottsdale and Detroit.

Another thing to see in these pictures is that these cars have many sensors, including a whole sensor package mounted on the roof, and some sensors at the side near the front. The press release talks about LIDAR, cameras and other sensors, as well as computing equipment.

BMW I Ventures announces strategic investment in Proterra

(June 13, 2017)

Proterra has been raising lots of investment capital the last few months.

First automated vehicle in New York, an Audi

(June 13, 2017)

What Audi has done is achieve the first license for automated vehicle testing in New York. They held a technology demonstration in Albany NY, of the Audi Highway Pilot technology, showcasing their "Level 3" capabilities.

Available in August, Honda announces 2017 Clarity Electric lease price at $269 a month

(June 12, 2017)

The Honda Clarity Electric may be a waste of time - 2011 called, and they want their electric car. That is, the Honda Clarity Electric has specifications (80 mile range) that were hot in 2011, but are has-been today given the 200+ mile range of the Chevy Bolt EV or the Tesla Model 3. This lease price means you're not getting a lower price in exchange for sub-par capabilities.

At the same time we must recognize that Honda has until now refused to deliver a credible electric car in anything but "compliance car" quantities. Just enough Honda Fit EV's were made to produce enough electric car sales to earn enough ZEV credits so they could stay in the business of selling gasoline vehicles. This new car perhaps represents a change in tune for Honda given their long term focus on fuel cell vehicle research. Except that we see in the press release below that the Honda Clarity Electric, just as the Fit EV, is limited to California and Oregon, and is therefore a "compliance car" until proven otherwise.

Another item of note is that it supports fast charging -- using the Combo Charging System. This is the first time for a Japanese automaker to be selling (er.. leasing) a car with Combo Charging System. The Honda Fit EV was not delivered with fast charging. In general the Japanese Automotive Market requires CHAdeMO, because that system was developed in Japan long before the Combo Charging System (CCS) was developed. CHAdeMO charging infrastructure in Japan is ubiquitous, but the technology failed to take off in the market largely because the Society for Automotive Engineers choose to take a different direction. See

US Energy Department Announces $3 Million for High Performance Computing to Advance Clean Energy Manufacturing

(June 12, 2017)

We're seeing a ray of hope that all is not bleak in Washington DC, because the US Department of Energy is still moving forward on clean energy projects. In this case they're ponying up $3 million in funding for "High Performance Computing" projects meant to be applied to manufacturing processes in the Energy Industry. Specifically: "aid in decision-making, innovate in processes and design, improve quality, predict performance and failure, quicken or eliminate testing, and/or shorten the time of adoption of new technologies."

What that means is using high end computer-aided-design technologies in the product design process. For example with virtual reality hardware, an engineering team can create a virtual 3D mockup of a product and more quickly iterate the design without having to build physical hardware. Other techniques can simulate physical stresses to predict failures without building physical hardware. In general, by using virtual modeling techniques, an engineering team can iterate through large number of designs in a fraction of the time required to build and test physical hardware.

The Department of Energy is seeking proposals in these areas --

  • Proposals that require HPC modeling and simulation to overcome impactful manufacturing process challenges resulting in reduced energy consumption and/or increased productivity.
  • Proposals that uniquely exploit HPC modeling and simulation to reduce energy consumption through improved clean energy technology design and clean energy manufacturing.
  • Proposals that accelerate the development and qualification of new energy materials; with a primary emphasis on the nuclear and fossil energy program areas of the Department of Energy.