Environmental issues, energy and electric cars
I got a chance to visit the Energy Observer, a French boat powered by solar and wind with hydrogen energy storage as it visited SF while sailing around the world.
Hydrogen doesn't work so well in cars, but it can make sense in other places like aircraft, trucks and grid. But what about on a boat?
Read my analysis at Aboard the Energy Observer, a French hydrogen/solar/wind powered boat
8 years ago, I proposed that pool pumps really should be designed to make use of solar (or wind) power. We have now seen used solar panels show up at the ridiculous price of $50 for 250 peak watts.
Governor Inslee of Washington has refused to sign a bill he says he supports, which bans new fossil cars by 2030. He refused to sign it because it ties it to creating a road use tax system for EVs, which he says he also supports, but not in the same bill.
He might be right, but the reality is that having a road use tax system is a pretty trivial thing for the cars of 2030. In fact the Teslas of 2018 could do it with a software update.
President Biden has proposed massive spending on electric vehicle infrastructure, including 500,000 charging stations. Yet the first 100,000 stations were deployed for the wrong reasons, and many sit mostly unused. We do want lots of charging stations, but they don't need to be very expensive at all. I outline how in this new Forbes site article at:
A proposed California bill would require all robocars to be zero emission in under 4 years. As good as going electric is, the government should not be picking the power train so soon, especially when there is no sign that the existing players are bad actors. I detail more in my Forbes site article at
A new company offering battery swap for EVs launches today. They convert the car's battery pack to use standardize 2.5kwh modules, and cheap robotic stations swap them out. Battery swap has a number of useful advantages, but it's failed before because it's not actually that great a solution for private car owners, and it standardizes the most important area of EV innovation.
Gas stations are a business -- they sell gasoline at a profit. But EV charging isn't like that, and almost no EV charging stations are run with the primary goal of selling electricity at a profit to customers.
Some want the business, but will it work? Is this a temporary or permanent situation?
I explore that in my new Forbes site article at Can EV charging be a business?
Recently Tesla had a network outage which caused a very small number of customers to be unable to authenticate payment at superchargers -- and thus be stranded unable to charge. Due to the larger outage, they could not put in a new credit card either. (The system lost their working cards, they did not have bad cards.)
While it seems only a few were affected, it shows the challenge of having anything critical depend on a network that might go down.
When California announced it will ban the sale of new gasoline cars in 2035, a lot of people wondered how the electric grid would handle all that new electrical demand.
The answer is (almost) "easy-peasy" thanks to solar being cheap if you have storage tech, and cars all have storage.
I outline why in a new Forbes.com article at The grid will handle it
Uber, following Lyft, announced a big push towards electric rides, declaring all rides will be electric by 2030. That's a good goal, but as I outlined earlier, there are reasons your Uber is not usually electric today. They need to find ways for lower-income drivers to own electric cars and a place to charge them overnight, and also briefly during the day, and we have to wait for the cars to get cheap. I outline the issues in this new article on Forbes.com
With few other travel options available, everybody's taking road trips, and trying to avoid Covid in hotels, camping where they can. Here's a new article from the Forbes site on charging your car while staying at RV parks and other locations so you can tent it and get off the main roads on your trip.
In EV charging, there's a big contest to see who can be the fastest, with 250KW and 350KW chargers competing with Tesla's superchargers. But charge-really-fast is "gasoline" thinking and it's much more expensive. For the same money, for example, a corporate parking lot would be better served with 40 Level 1 (2KW) chargers and 4 Level 2 (7KW) than 15 Level 2. And a new generation of cheaper 50KW chargers in places we stop for an hour could make more sense than 250kw ones.
Before I bought an electric car, I knew it would be different and I was ready for it. Even so, here is my list of 17 things that I didn't quite expect, that I only realized after driving one for a while.
See the list at my Forbes site article Top 17 surprises from the first year of a Tesla
If you read stories that California just put in new regulations that will change all the per-minute chargers and Tesla superchargers, don't worry, the changes are not that big and don't apply to chargers for some time. But it is worth examining how the regulations, such as they are, exhibit 20th century "gasoline thinking" by imagining that the same rules that apply to gas pumps should apply to electric charging stations. See about it in my Forbes site article:
Often when you attempt to install an EV charging station in an older home, you find that the old 100 amp service on your panel is not enough, and the electrician may quote a very large price to replace the panel and upgrade the service.
There are ways to avoid paying thousands of dollars by putting in a modestly smaller circuit, and you may find it charges you just fine. Here is a guide to how to get away with less than a 50 amp plug and save many thousands.