Saturday, February 27, 2016

Energy Storage Issues

In the early parts of the 20th century, an average 400 Americans were struck and killed by lightning annually. That rate has plunged as urbanization has swelled to an average of less than 30 per year.  In fact; the ENTIRE WORLD only have roughly 300 killed by lightning.  Why is this happening?  Several advances in technology including electrification has simply drawn lightning's attention away from us and to the electrified object which is grounded thus making it more "attractive" to the lightning.  In fact, rural areas are much more prone to deadly lightning strikes but mostly because there is nothing out there to hit. Lightning always looks for the easiest path to ground. But if there was a charging station out in middle of nowhere with you, lightning will always take the station and not you!  The question remains is that would I use such a lame statistic as another advantage of Electric Vehicles?  OH HELL YA!!!

The popular weapon of the day for the Oil Company onslaught against Electric Vehicles is inadequate storage; IOW, pathetic battery capacities, poor energy densities, and conversion losses.  LIKE WOW! They have room to talk about pathetic storage capabilities?

We all know about the Horizon Deep Oil Well fiasco and how it took months to stop the flow of poison into the Gulf of Mexico.  Data is still pouring in on possible long term effects of the enormous amount of oil into a vital fishing area and sensitive ecosystem.  But what happened? Excuses.   "Oh we could have done better but it was so deep underwater"  Ahhh poor baby!!  

So what did we learn from it? NOTHING!!!   A USA Today article shows that deep water permits have skyrocketed since the BP led disaster.

The number of permits for deepwater drilling increased from 14 in 2010 and 274 in 2011 to 603 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which oversees the drilling.
But in retrospect; risk was never the determining factor in what ultimately happens. Its all about the money honey!  What about leaks that have no real access issues? The Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Storage facility plugged a leak this week. Now is that news? It is when you consider the leak was discovered October 23!  So for one day short of FOUR MONTHS, Methane (a greenhouse gas 40 to 90 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide) has been pouring into the atmosphere.

How bad was Aliso Canyon?  Another article in the journal Science states the single event doubled the Los Angeles area methane footprint.  Flyovers using special equipment measured the leak at 60 metric tons PER HOUR.  

But the one thing we need to not forget when these big ticket items hit the news is the impact of small leaks nationwide. Its estimated that 1.4 Billion Dollars of Natural Gas escapes into our atmosphere annually. A recent study was so shocking that it was discarded and redone with similar results

The most notable thing about the draft, however, is a dramatic upward revision of methane emissions statistics. The new figures for methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are about 27 times higher than previous estimates. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, that difference represents a 20-year climate impact equal to 200 coal-fired power plants. It also represents about $1.4 billion worth of lost natural gas.
Yeah, thats right; TWENTY SEVEN TIMES!!

So who has the "storage" problem??  What about accidental leakage?   Thankfully, Natural Gas explosions tend not to kill people. I personally find this statistic to be surprising but not very comforting. Something about explosions, fatal or not, that just does not sit well with me. Either way my plan of illustrating how many more people are killed by Natural Gas leaks over being electrocuted did not work. In the consumer World, we do manage to kill about 60 people a year by using "personal" testing equipment on live circuits but in reality, most electrocutions are from poorly maintained electrical appliances.

So we have to realize that storage issues is not an EV only issue. It is simply more publicized.   But its understandable. After all the Methane molecule is only 3.98 Angstroms (Angstrom is a really teeny tiny thing!)  so its really small and as we all know when we dropped our collection of beads is that the smaller the object, the harder it is to store so...

now we come to the real reason for this blog.
The Hydrogen molecule (yeah that is two of them stuck together) is .74 Angstroms. or 500% SMALLER than Natural Gas and we want to base our transportation system on something we can barely hold on to??  Cmon now!!

Technology Leaps; Why Did The Fuel Cell Fall On Its Face Before It Left The Starting Gate?

Technology does not ooze forward. (unless its cellphones) In truth, technology discoveries do inch forward but "technology acceptance" comes in leaps and bounds and this primarily due to the confusion created by computers that have obscured the ability of the average consumer to recognize, utilize and appreciate enhancements.

We all know who won the videotape wars but do we know why?  VHS won but not because it was better or cheaper. In fact, it was neither.  Beta was better but its "technological leap" was too small to matter. There was no compelling reason to change technology (and rebuild our videotape library!) This same problem plagues cellphone manufacturers today.  Great products at better prices hit the market every day only to be buried by their lesser but well known and widely accepted competitors.  And the reason is that we will not accept newer technology if there is familiar technology, even if its lesser, slower, smellier, or smokier.  We simply get comfortable with what we know and we resist change.

But in this case, advances in technology are not only cool but vital to our survival on Earth and in no area is this more obvious than personal transportation but Big Oil has assured that many of us continue to be oblivious to the true detrimental effects of fossil fuel technology.  So the question that we EVers have struggled over is how is the Oil Industry able to fight us when they have no real ammunition?  EVs aren't "slightly" better. They truly are a significant leap forward.  So why are we struggling?

Well, the Oil Industry has a huge advantage and that is familiarity.  They can relate aspects of "oilizing" to something we have extensive experience and knowledge about and that is gassing up.  We have done it so many times we accepted it as "ok."  We have simply stopped analyzing our true preferences over the chore of stopping for gas and nowhere is this more obvious than when we switched to electric. It did not take many of us very long to be "customized" to filling up at home.  It wasn't until a return to the gas world like company cars, rentals, etc. that we realized just how much we hated stopping for gas!

So the real challenge for electric vehicle adoption is familiarity. Right now, the bulk of new EV purchases are coming from word of mouth.  Friends and relatives of current EVers.  This is ok but its a slow process.  Public charging helps to spread the word as well especially when gassers actually see EVs plugged in. Soon they become familiar with the sight and begin to equate them as normal


We could promote hydrogen cars.  So the question becomes  $30,000 charging stations or a Million Dollar Hydrogen refueling station... Hmmm??  What would you choose?  Because adoption of new technology has to be familiar before it becomes widespread. The more money we have on the table, the more familiar it has to be.  Until charging stations attain the same spread as gas stations, EVs will struggle.  Recently California approved funding to complete the West Coast Green Highway. This puts fast chargers on the highways 25-40 miles apart so one could drive a LEAF from Canada to Mexico.  For the most part; Washington and Oregon completed their portions years ago. Funding for the project is looking to be 8.8 million with 4 million going to Chargepoint to put in the dual QCs.  I am not finding good information on how many stations will be installed but a quick glance at the map shows mostly non existent coverage from South central California to Oregon.

So we can cover over half the state with a basic fast charge network for the same cost as 2-3 hydrogen fueling stations?  

Yeah, tough decision.... NOT!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


Having logged over 90,000 EV miles, I am pretty aware of what my LEAF can and cannot do and yesterday was no different. I had a light morning workwise so had planned to charge after the 2 hour job just 10 miles away in Tumwater, WA.  But as luck would have it, a last minute change required me to get to the office and I had to do it before noon.

I had not charged the LEAF overnight because I try to avoid being at a high SOC if I am not needing that much and I figured I had plenty of time before my other job which was 20 miles away but did not start until 7:30 pm.  But I figured I had just enough to get to the office and almost all the way home.  Errands at the office took a bit longer than expected so I left there being roughly 3 miles short of what I needed to get home.  I then decided I would stop in DuPont for lunch at Happy Teriyaki while my car got a charge from the Blink stations at the hotel.  Because its a few blocks off the freeway, I have used these stations several times in the past.

I pulled in and swung around to the stations to see only one ICEer but there are 4 stations so I was good to go. As I parked, I immediately realized something was wrong. The stations did not look good. They looked neglected and sure enough, all 4 were DOA.  They appear to have been disconnected and abandoned.  Well, I was screwed...

As you can see, Plugshare confirms DuPont is utterless plugless. The nearest station was the SemaConnect at Walgreens off exit 113. I was at exit 119 with roughly 3 miles of range left.  I had no choice but to hop back into the car and take off down the freeway.  It is almost all downhill from DuPont to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge marked in green on the map. I got off the freeway at the Nisqually cutoff and first thought I would try to make it up the hill to Walgreens about 2 miles away at this point but as soon as I started up the hill, my power circles started disappearing.  I already knew my pack was not in good balance and it was showing. There is no way I should have been losing circles when I still had 6 GIDs!  I immediately slowed to 30 mph but to no avail. I went down to two power circles in the next ¼ mile and realized I would not have enough to get up the hill to a spot on the road wide enough to pull over so I did the unthinkable (for some but actually I have done this twice before on the same stretch of road) of making a u-turn over double yellow lines to coast back down the hill to the gas station.

Great... oh well, I called Roadside Assistance thinking it would be an all day affair getting my car to a plug. After a painful 14 minute conversation with customer service, a tow truck was sent out.  I received a text from the tow truck driver before we hung up. It stated about 90 minutes.... not unexpected.

But to my surprise, I had barely updated my status on Facebook when the driver pulled in 19 minutes after I received the text.  He laughed as he got out of his truck saying "A LEAF! I should have known!"

As it happens, this was his 4th stranded LEAF and talking to him really gave me some insight as to how valuable keeping a teeny tiny charge in the battery pack can be.  He had towed a young lady just a few weeks prior and her battery was so dead that he had to hook up a jump box to be able to boot the car up so he could put it in neutral.  Then after towing her to the charging station a few miles away, he was nice enough (lucky for her!) to hang around since it was very late at night by now to make sure she was ok and yeah, the battery was so dead, the LEAF would not recognize or take a charge. So he had to get the jumpbox out again to help her get the charge going.

I was very happy to have an experienced EV tow truck driver (less than a hour from the original call to plugging in in my garage) but at the same time a bit dismayed he had had so much practice lately.  But I had become careless in my EVness since I knew several charging companies had issues but until now, it had not affected me in a major way.  Its more than a bit shocking to me that after 5+ years that our public charging network seems to be regressing in the areas where its needed most. All I hear about is a new charger installed a few blocks away from and existing charger. Don't get me wrong; the more the merrier but it seems like we are not really making any headway as far developing a more effective network.

We still must navigate by leaps and bounds and this is not a good thing. Too many people complain as soon as someone hits 81% SOC without a hint of leaving but with these charging gaps, it is no longer easy to judge others for the time they take to charge. To address one's comfort level, maybe 90% or more is needed and its the thought that that possibility exists that we still have a lot of work to do.

**EDIT**  Lots of feedback on this post, both appreciated with a few "head scratchers"...

For the head scratchers; One thing to emphasize; I was not stranded due to limitations of the LEAF. I did mention that I passed dozens of viable charging options on the way to DuPont. So this is nothing about limited range, insufficient instrumentation, or poor planning.

When I mention DOA; I am talking about the current state of public charging in my area.  The LEAF is more than capable

Thursday, February 11, 2016

All I Need Is To Need! AKA "If Only"

Just about a year ago, NRG announced expansion of the EvGO network into Washington State and put the first 4 fast charge stations at key mall locations. So Happy Anniver...uh... hmmm??...ok, hold on a sec...

In November of 2007, I brought home my teeny weeny EV with its teeny weeny range. It was a ZENN. It was a two door glorified golf cart that despite my grand plans ended up being no more than a bonding tool for me and my then one year old Son but only because that is all I could fit in the car!

So it was definitely not going to replace the family car. But I wanted an electric vehicle and the options back then were slim to none.  So I got the ZENN and decided that I would make it work and I did. I lived only 6 miles from my work so I commuted with that ZENN for the next 3½ years.  Now, it was not effortless by any means. I went thru 3 battery packs (all under warranty so at least it cost me nothing) several various BMS systems, battery preservers, extenders, thises and that's and yes, those did cost me money but all the while the one constant remained; I could not leave town!

Well, actually that is not completely true. During the time I had my ZENN, I lived in both Olympia and Lacey and worked in both Tumwater and Lacey (business moved to bigger shinier house!) but never at the same time.  My speed max'd out at just over 35 mph so I could go anywhere I wanted to... as long as it did not involve a highway or freeway.

But the real issue was the range. During my good days AKA as fresh battery pack, I could do 25-30 miles but it was more like 15-20 miles.  Now, I did convince my employer to allow me to plug in at work. After all, it was dinging him for roughly 25 cents per day so its not like it was cutting into his profit based bonus.  Also, the City of Lacey did have a few public charging stations scattered around their downtown area so it was not easy but it was doable. Now, if only I had more range. Then LEAF showed up. At the time, I decided I would be thrilled to have 70 miles of range simply because that is what my minimal "point A to point B" range was for a majority of the places I wanted to go.

And LEAF was awesome!! for a while anyway.  I soon realized that the farther my EV could go, the farther I wanted to go. So what would be the "right range" for me?  By now, I had had several years of EV driving under my belt so I no longer looked at it as "miles" it was Kwh.  What was the right Kwh for me?  I then got my 2013 LEAF which did have more range. Not a lot but enough that I now could add a major client destination to places I could go that did not require any on the road charging.

At first I was really quite surprised at how much joy I got from what was essentially just a few extra miles that wouldn't likely last more than two years. This got me to thinking; What range would I be happy with in the long term?

Well, the question needs to be answered by addressing the fact that I do not consider the current LEAF to be "purchasable" due to its current range (2016 LEAF SV/SL included) which is why I am on my 2nd lease of the LEAF.  A purchase with payments lasting at least 5 years means I have to be happy with the worst case level of degradation after the payments have stopped.  The whole benefit of purchasing is enjoying that time between completion of payments and the search for the replacement.  I like that to be at least 2 years so I am looking at range with the 7 year mindset.

Now the 7 year thing is something I have come to accept simply because it fits everything. This means one new set of tires during that time but likely no other major expenses.  When the car goes onto the trade in block, yes it will need tires and its starting to become time where a closer monitoring of the brake system is recommended.

So I then figured that 165 miles would be where I need to be.  Now, I had figured that so long ago, I forgot the math used but that doesn't matter because I soon realized that even if it was 500 mile range EV I was buying, it would still not eliminate the need for public charging stations. No matter how far I went, I still had the desire to at least have the option to go visit the "other side."  Right now the biggest knock on EVs is range, the time to charge and the level of inconvenience associated with the two.  But an EV with 200 miles of range actually becomes convenient because this can allow one to recharge part of that range only when its convenient. The window of opportunity as it relates to convenience is much larger.  Sure this won't work for 1500 mile road trip, but how many of those do we take?  Not many but a 200-300 mile weekend trip?

 But not everyone shares my views especially now that the big news is how much people would flock to the next round of EV offerings from Chevy, Nissan, Tesla and others. Them along with others have at least mentioned their plans for a 200 mile EV, all at prices less than my first LEAF.  Well, that would definitely cover the math from last year but I have come to the sudden realization that there is no such thing as a convenient time to get gas which is really the same as there is no such thing is "all the range I will ever need" simply because...

Now recently a company raised 9 million in funds to start a type of gasoline delivery business where they come to your car and fill you up.  I find this incredible that there are people out there who would waste their money on something like this. I thought people with money were smart which led to them getting the money but apparently the addiction of cheap fuel knows no IQ boundaries! But this does illustrate the fact there is NO RANGE THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH! So what is stopping us??

The real problem is that there is no conventional profit model for an EV charging network.  The installation costs are high while revenues barely cover the cost of ongoing operation. There is simply not enough EVs to support the cost of even a fraction of the expansion currently needed in most areas. We are faced with a chicken/egg scenario.  But this is not the first time our country has faced this. The US Interstate system, telephone and the power grid were both built with the full knowledge that it would be decades before any real return could be realized. But the government knew that these services were vital to growth and prosperity of a country still trying to figure out what to do with all the far flung resources at its disposal.  It was this ability to understand the long game that allowed America to become a great country which is what allowed us to win World War II.  Sure it was partially the fact that America was simply made of a different kind of people; born and raised during the depression, never knowing easy, understanding and accepting that anything in life worth having was worth fighting for, etc. Long known as the "Greatest American Generation Ever" (at least Tom Brokaw thought so) they accomplished a lot with very little, but without the help of the government and its funding, it would have all been for naught.

Would Las Vegas have flourished without the Hoover Dam? California's Central Valley without the viaduct? Phoenix without the freeway system?  The time has come for another nationwide infrastructure buildout and that is for the direct support of electric vehicles and yes it will cost a lot of money and no, it won't be paid back anytime soon if ever but will it be worth it?  I say every penny spent plus more.  Any large scale buildout will stimulate the economy as it will require a large workforce to cover every state but the advantages only start there.  Imagine a very large power need scattered no more than every 50 miles. The two options are to run the wire or create the power.

A nationwide charging network could easily double as a local power generation and storage site. Power generated locally instead of being distributed in the normal fashion by wire could be used to power cars. Sound inefficient? How can we store power in our cars when we need all of it to get around?  As always, scale can accomplish a lot when a little is taken from multiple sources.  Even if a car transported as little as 2 kwh from one area to another times 10,000 cars this potentially power a small town  (average consumption per person per day runs roughly 10 kwh per day) So there is a lot of upside to having power sources blanketing the country.

But again; its all about money. Eisenhower perfected the art of getting Congress to pay for the Interstate Highway System using National Security as a reason. Now getting a President to fund a comprehensive public charging network to prevent another country from using Oil for leverage is where we need to be.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

$150 EV Registration Fee?? AWESOME!!

A lot of crying going on about Washington States Electric Vehicle registration fee and I don't blame WA from wa-wa-ing... What?? What do you mean its not the state crying? it the drivers?  No way! Can't be!

We EVers are getting over BIG TIME!! We should be celebrating!  After all, only $100 goes towards the highway fund. The other $50 will go towards putting in more chargers that will allow us to go to places like the Washington Coast or the Olympics or other currently ignored areas. It will also allow us to double up on the plugs in the most congested areas.  Sure its great to meet other EVers but if its a party of 5 at a single plug, it could be and usually is a problem!

But $100 bucks is $100 bucks so why am I so happy? Well because I know the alternatives and they aint pretty! Gas maybe cheap where you are but its never really that cheap here and taxes is why. Every gallon of gas sold in WA comes with a 62.9 cents tax bill.  44.5 cents from Wa, 18.4 cent from Uncle Sam.

So on the one hand we have $100 that ALL GOES TO WA verses $100 for gasoline tax of which WA gets only $70.74 with Uncle Sam getting the rest. Well you say  "Well ok, the more Uncle Sam gets from us, the more we get from him, so that $29.26 is a good thing, right?"

wrong Wrong, WRONG!!!  No matter how much we give Uncle Sam, we will get the same back.  If you think what the state puts in matters, look at Alaska or Montana and you will quickly realize some states put in very very very little and get a lot back...

Now some say the flat tax penalizes them and I say sure it does if you NEVER LEAVE TOWN!  Let me give you an example. My Corolla is driven for work only.  Last year, I drove it just 6700 miles... ya, 6700 miles, averaged 38 MPG and still paid $115.10 in gas taxes (well would have if the rate had been the same all year)

So if you drove your LEAF less than 6700 miles last year while your 38+ MPG gasser sat in the driveway, then and ONLY THEN you have something to say!

Sooooo, who has something to say!!!

Ya...yep.... that's what I thought.

So the next time you want to complain about the EV registration fee, take my advice and CLAM UP!!! Your words might actually get someone at the State to investigate the fees and you gotta know by now the results of that investigation is likely fees going up!

So yeah, I am very happy to pay my $150 EV registration fee!!

**Edit**  Ok apparently the original bill was supposed to earmark $50 of the fee for building up the infrastructure but that part was nixed.  What we ended up getting is funding for a "public-private" pilot program. Guessing its some sort of organized method to get businesses to host charging stations...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Jan 2016 Drive Report

Another month, another $70 down the gas tank!  Well, actually it was $71.92 burnt up in the Corolla in January going a record (for gas) 1403.1 miles averaging over 38 mpg @ 5.12 cents per mile.  This marks the first time (I think...) that the gasser out did the LEAF's 927.5 miles @ 2.27 cents per mile or a total cost of $21.12.

But there is a bit of a silver lining. With a mere 31,900 on the odometer at the end of the month,  I am nearly back to my 15,000 annual lease pace, well nearly...

But I have to admit part of the reason the Corolla got the lion's share is that I was experimenting a bit to see how out of balance I could get my pack. If you remember, I was seeing near new battery stats at the beginning of the month which I have to think was partially due to a well balanced pack.  A few times during this stint of high numbers, I was seeing as little as 55-60 mV range with SOC under 15%.  My numbers had dropped considerably going as low as 60.99 ahr, 93.78 Hx and 20.4 kwh available.  This was accomplished by basically keeping the LEAF in town.  Over 10 days, I did not drive more than 12 miles at any one stretch with one charge up lasting 6 days!

So today, it was time to see how bad the balance was and I saw this at 10 GIDs

Pretty wild swing especially considering I wasn't even driving when I took this pix. Just parked in the garage.  Guessing under power, it was probably worse. For at least a week or so, I plan to go back to regular LEAF usage and should have 3 (including today's) deep discharges. We shall see what the balance is a bit later!

In other news; Oil companies claim a 91% drop in profits from 2 years ago which basically means their profits went from insane to merely ridiculous.  They may cry a lot but no one on the board is going hungry. This reminds me of an article I read about how the US Economy has not reacted as some expected due to low energy prices. The economic uptick has not happened and I can tell you why it hasn't for me.

Last year, I gassed it 6212 miles putting out $498.54.  This year, it was 6677 miles for $409.34.  Yeah, less than $100.  Not really a watershed event at my house!

But habits of gassers has changed. Guessing they are not realizing how little they saved but its hard to tell. This morning, I was unloading equipment from my car making two trips back and forth and the whole time, there was a car idling next to me. So, I snapped a pix.  Well cell service inside the building sucked and got a call from my district manager and went outside so I could hear her and that car was still there smoking away

Can I have him arrested for attempted "Autocide?"

I posted this online and immediately got stories about similar situations including a soccer practice where one parent idled inside their car the entire time; 90 MINUTES!!  Which reminds me!

2015 is now the all time hottest year on record breaking the long standing (a whole 12 months!) record held by 2014.  

Michael E. Mann, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, calculated that if the global climate were not warming, the odds of setting two back-to-back record years would be remote, about one chance in every 1,500 pairs of years. Given the reality that the planet is warming, the odds become far higher, about one chance in 10, according to Dr. Mann’s calculations.

One in 10 chance of back to back records eh?? well, we kinda blew that out of the water. Add in 2015 and its like 3 out of 4 years setting records...

Back to the article the quote came from

Scientists started predicting a global temperature record months ago, in part because an El NiƱo weather pattern, one of the largest in a century, is releasing an immense amount of heat from the Pacific Ocean into the atmosphere. But the bulk of the record-setting heat, they say, is a consequence of the long-term planetary warming caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

Well, you know scientists. They are hesitant to make blanket statements so they say they have to look at the next few years before they can say for sure that the World is in a warming trend.

Well, I ain't no scientist but I do know Human Behavior enough to know that cheap gas might as well put next to Devil's temptations and Republican Presidents for things that seem too good to be true...