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I imagine I am in a minority of Americans when I can say truthfully that I have never purchased a car.

Oh, I've been driving since I was 16 like everyone else -- hand-me-down cars from my older siblings and parents. All internal combustion engines, getting between 10 and 18 mpg.

About six months ago, I returned the last hand me down car back to my parents and signed up for Zipcar. Since using Zipcar I have not only driven much less, but I have driven only hybrid cars (I like the Honda Civic hybrid best).

But this diary isn't about Zipcar, or my moral superiority. It's about something much bigger, and much more compelling.

This diary is about a generation of Americans -- of which I include myself -- who is never going to have to buy a polluting, carbon-spewing, internal-combustion-engine-driven gasoline-powered car.

I believe that generation is alive today.

The (Cold, Hard) Facts
The U.S. consumes 20.6 million barrels of petroleum per day.

Of that 20 million, 9.2 million barrels per day go directly to gasoline consumption (that's 390 million gallons per day, for those counting).

Transportation in total consumes 70% of our total oil consumption.

I'll remind you that we are dependent on net petroleum imports for 58% of our petroleum energy use.

(All stats courtesy of EIA)

The Problem (That's Not Going Away)

Current cars suck. As Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute has shown, less than 1% of the liquid energy you put into them actually go towards moving the driver.

Hybrid cars are cool, but the embodied energy they represent -- not to mention shipping them across oceans -- aren't exactly carbon-friendly.

It seems like, if we could get this country off liquid hydrocarbons for transportation, we could make a big huge dent in our dependence on foreign oil, doesn't it?

A Possible Solution

Meet Shai Agassi.

He's an Israeli software whiz-kid who grew up to be CEO of SAP, the enterprise-software solutions giant that reported €10.25 billion in revenue in 2007.

Now, he's changing the world.

Shai left SAP recently to start his own company, Better Place, which aims to do nothing short of start a global transportation revolution.

The plan is to effect his change through a combination of fully-electric cars, massive infrastructure build-out, smart engineering, smart incentives, and minimal government regulation.

The Better Place model has as its aim:

- taking countries entirely off oil (by tackling dirty transportation)
- using existing, off-the-shelf technologies
- relying on market economics entirely with as little government intervention as possible

What Shai has built in a working system that has already been sold to Israel, Denmark and Australia answers the following questions:

- what would happen if drivers paid for the miles they drive, not the fuel they used?

- what would happen if electric cars had removable batteries?

- what if you could plug in your electric car whenever you stopped?

Let's take each of these in turn.

The Amazing Removable Rechargeable Battery
Plug-in hybrids are a great step up from hybrids -- but as long as you're going plug-in, why not go entirely electric?

The battery technology we have today in Li-Ons (lithium ion) can provide 100-120 miles on a charge. Yes, they take a long time to recharge, about one minute to recharge per one minute of use, but they are not prone to blowing up or catching fire (you can make Li-Ons using iron phosphate instead of metal oxides, which is much safer).

So the first innovation Better Place is introducing is a replaceable battery in their cars.

You drive to work, you drive to the store, you drive home, you plug your car in, and it slowly recharges as long as it's sitting there.

If you go on a roadtrip of 2-300 miles, you get to the end of your charge at 120 miles and pull into a service station, where your battery pack is pulled, and replaced with a fresh battery -- and you go on your merry way. This process takes about 3 minutes.

The cars will be built by Renault-Nissan. They have 9 models already designed and ready for production. Their acceleration power is about 2x that of an ICE car. They are of differing power levels and sizes. You want a bigger, more powerful electric car? You can have it -- as long as you're willing to pay for it.

Pay Per Mile
This brings us to the second innovation BP is introducing. You buy the car -- you don't buy the battery. The battery is BP's asset.

A lot of complaint about hybrid vehicles electric cars has been the price -- and the price is built upon the mistaken idea that the car owner should also own the "powerplant" that drives the car -- in fact, the Chevy Volt is simply an electric car with an entire power station shoved in the trunk. If you want to own a powerplant, be my guest, but Better Place is showing us there's a better way.

They say, Let us own the battery. We'll maintain it, we'll recharge it for you, we'll swap it out for you whenever it runs out. We will also guarantee that you will only have to swap it out a maximum of 52 times a year -- the same number of times per year you would have visited the gas station on average. If you swap batteries more often than that, we'll pay you for your inconvenience.

Obviously it is in their best interest to keep those batteries topped off and in good condition, and also delivering the range they've promised.

And here's the final major innovation that powers the industry-disrupting BP model: sustainable transportation as a service.

That's right. You buy the car, you own the car, but you don't pay for the fuel. Ever.

What you do pay for is a mileage plan, like you pay for a minutes plan on your cell phone.

If you pay for an all-you-can drive plan, you pay more. If you pay for fewer miles, you pay less. If you make a longer commitment -- say a 2-year or 4-year contract -- you get your fuel prices (essentially electricity prices) locked in for that time period -- meaning you can predict, to a dime, how much you are going to pay for transportation for years down the road.

There's another benefit that comes from this setup. If you pair the purchase of a more fuel-efficient (i.e. smaller) car model with a long-term contract, Better Place will actually pay you monthly for the fuel savings you are creating -- a payment you can send right over to Renault-Nissan, which will mean that, in some markets, this will mean your car is actually free.

This is where the blinders came off for me. Let's see -- instead of having to worry about a big car payment, big maintenance costs, and big (and unpredictable) fuel costs, I could instead have:

- a small (or zero) car payment
- a predictable monthly fee for miles
- the freedom to drive wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and keep going for as long as I wanted?

This. Is. Revolution.

The Grid
The magic doesn't end there. We need to add more electrons to the grid if this plan is going to scale, right? Replace even a few million ICE cars with all-electric vehicles and you're going to overtax the grid.

Better Place vows to add as much power generation to the grid as the cars in its program will use -- sustainably.

In Israel, this was taking a circle of unused desert a citing a massive solar-thermal plant there. In Denmark, it was using the excess electrons from their awesome wind-generating facilities. You can imagine what the source might be in Australia. The U.S. has a myriad of possibilities -- solar thermal in the Southwest, wind in the Great Plains. Hell, even adding more coal in the East would be (almost) palatable, since coal or LNG-fired combined-cycle plants can produce energy more efficiently than the ICE (which just happens to be one of the least efficient engines ever built).

Better Place has already announced major strategic partners in the form of local utilities -- including AGL Energy in Australia and PG&E in the U.S.

It's in utilities' best interests to build out their green generating capacity. By feeding that green power into electric cars, you are essentially creating the largest mobile flex-battery in history.

The Challenges (a.k.a, "Getting Over Sticker Shock")
Okay, so to make this work, you're talking about a major infrastructure investment. You're talking about billions of dollars.

Precisely.

The price tag for all our imported oil is $700 billion. . . per year.

You don't think re purposing some or all of that money could make this project a reality?

To do Israel is reportedly about $200 million. That's the infrastructure.

For a nationwide electric plugging grid in the U.S., we're looking at closer to $600 billion. That's a single year's supply of oil.

Let's look at the plus side. What do we get for that $600 billion investment?

. . . long-term, local jobs that can't be outsourced.
. . . revitalization of major industry (autos, if we could get Detroit to wise up and start producing electric cars)
. . . creation of an entirely new industry (battery production)

How many jobs would we add between the three of these? 1.5 million? 2 million? Maybe?

You think President-elect Obama might be wise to look into this plan?  

The Toehold
Trust California to lead the way.

Better Place has gained a toehold in the U.S. market in the San Francisco Bay Area. Shai recently met with top California lawmakers and agreed to a $1 billion project to build out the network of electric infrastructure in the SF Bay Area, including Oakland and San Jose.

The project is slated for planning in 2009 with final roll out expected by 2012.

Which brings me back to the beginning. I started this diary by telling you I'd never personally purchased an internal-combustion engine car.

I'm going to end it by telling you I plan to never have to.

You see, I'm moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in February of 2009. I plan to make maximal use of the area's excellent public transit system. At least until the Better Place project is rolled out.

Then you'll see me rolling in my Renault-Nissan -- no, scratch that, hopefully American-built -- 100% electric, 100% zero-emissions, rechargeable electric car.

And the era of the road trip will return.

Further Reading
More questions? I'll admit I'm not as good a salesman as Shai Agassi, so I'd recommend you watch the entire video in which he outlines this plan: Transforming Transportation Globally:
Part I

Part II

Part III

Originally posted to Andrew Ekud on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 12:53 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for a better future (44+ / 0-)

    And never driving gasoline again.

    Final comments from me: I really don't think we'll get a better window of opportunity for this plan than right now. Gas prices may be (temporarily) lower, but Detroit is on its back, the economy is in dire need of real economic stimulus, and we have a dire need to reduce our carbon emissions....yesterday.

    What needs to happen is

    1. We need to wake up Detroit, and
    1. Regional and state governments need to pick up and run with this plan regardless of what the Fed mandates. As Agassi says in the videos, Federal policy can really help accelerate the change process (i.e. by taxing ICE cars and providing rebates or lower taxes on electric cars), but it's not necessary. Simple economics provide the leverage.

    Someone will probably bring up the battery-recycling issue. Li-Ions made from iron phosphate aren't as toxic as other types of batteries. We wouldn't want the heavy metals getting anywhere near the groundwater but they can be recycled...it's just not very cost-effective now ($100 / ton of scrap batteries). But a company like Better Place or a competitor using the same business model could work something out. That may be a good area for government subsidy.

    Thanks for reading.

    •  Toshiba Has a New 10-Minute Charge Battery (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, mataliandy, RJP9999, FarWestGirl

      It's probably not perfected quite yet either, but the batteries should be standardized with a competitive group of makers selling and improving their batteries.

      Standardizing on computer peripheral connectors and interface standards has brought us a great rapidly advancing environment where new things can be connected to existing infrastructure at low cost.

      Kudos for this post.

      RMD

      The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

      by RedMeatDem on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:20:58 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Does it store anywhere near enough energy to move (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wondering if, FarWestGirl

        a car?  A car uses a thousand of times more power than a laptop does.

        Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

        by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 03:15:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Titanates (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RedMeatDem, KenBee, BYw, flitedocnm, RJP9999

          You might be interested in my diary series, "Going EV".  I cover a lot about battery tech and economics in it.  But to basically sum up:

          Toshiba's "SCiB" (Super-Charge Ion Battery) chemistry is a titanate chemistry.  To describe the implications of that, I'll need to back up.  Your conventional lithium-ion battery has a lithium cobalt oxide cathode and a graphite anode.  The benefits of this are 160-180 Wh/kg energy density and pretty good power density.  The primary downsides are a short lifespan, both in cycle life and aging, as well as posing a fire risk.  These downsides imply an additional downside -- limits to how fast you can charge/discharge them without making those problems worse.

          Titanate batteries modify the anode to a "nano-titanate" structure.  This reduces the energy density significantly -- down to ~70Wh/kg (only a little better than NiMH).  You gain ridiculous power density and extreme stability (many charge cycles, very long lifespans, very fire resistant).  These, in turn, give you very fast charge/discharge times.

          One additional downside, unfortunately, is that the titanate chemistries tend to be very expensive -- about $2/Wh (compared to ~$0.30-$0.40/Wh for conventional li-ion).  Toshiba is actually a latecomer to the game -- AltairNano is the name brand in titanate cells.  Hopefully a big player like Toshiba can bring the price down.

          Most EVs are instead looking at a few different chemistries related to changing the cathode -- phosphates and various stabilized spinels.  These chemistries all have fairly similar properties, and are sort of a compromise between regular li-ion and titanates.  They generally get around 100Wh/kg, and have power density approaching (but rarely equalling) that of the titanates.  Minimum charge times are more in the 10-20 minute range than the 5-10 minute range of titanates.  They're quite stable and long-lived, although not as ridiculously long lived as the titanates (more than good enough for EV applications, though).  The main upside?  They're only about $0.50/Wh right now, and some of the manufacturers are looking at significantly lower prices in the near future -- even besting traditional li-ion.

          One big exception to the trend is what Tesla Motors does.  Tesla uses conventional li-ion, but babies them to the extreme.  They burn extra power running climate control systems whenever the pack gets slightly warm.  They limit how much they charge them by a good bit.  They do very careful load balancing and cell isolation.  They use a very big pack so that each cell only does a little bit of the work.  And so on.  Net result, they manage to coax about five years of life out of the pack.  Not the same as the 10+ years from a phosphate or spinel pack, but impressive given what they have to work with.

          •  Fascinating! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            flitedocnm

            God, I LOVE blogs!

            So much to learn is major addictive!

            RMD

            The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

            by RedMeatDem on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 07:25:35 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  Would the Tesla model obviate the need for swaps? (0+ / 0-)

            Is their technology extensible to larger vehicles than their small sports car? Would this be complementary to, rather than competitive with, the need for the massive battery-swap infrastructure that Agassi describes?

            This truly is fascinating. One of the most interesting and optimistic and timely discussions I have read at dKos (or anywhere else) in a long time. (Well, aside from electing Obama.  :-)

            "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

            by flitedocnm on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 08:47:22 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Tesla's approach (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KenBee, flitedocnm
              By using conventional li-ion cells and babying them, the pack is incapable of charging in faster than an hour or two without serious loss of life.  So while it could lend itself to a swapping system (although that pesky standardization problem would still rear its ugly head), it couldn't be fast charged.  However, with its sizable range, many people may decide that it's simply "good enough".  This becomes especially interesting as some of the new li-ion techs currently in the lab (fluorinated metal cathodes, layered cathodes, silicon or graphite nanostructured anodes, etc) make their way to the market; they have the potential to double or triple battery energy density.  So, even if they're similarly short on cycle life like traditional li-ion and aren't fast-charge capable (which many actually are), the increase in energy density alone would mean less cycles overall, meaning longer life.  And, at the same time, that 250 mile pack turns into a 500 or 750 mile pack -- and if you can drive that far on a charge, who needs to fully charge faster than two hours or so?  ;)  Factor in 20-30 minutes of charging at each meal stop, and that's a full day's worth of driving right there.

              The cost issue for such a large pack, however, will still remain for a while -- the pack alone would cost tens of thousands of dollars.  The mass market approach, at least at this point in time, is for smaller packs of the more durable chemistries rather than trying to baby a large pack of more delicate chemistries.  Phosphates and spinels have a lot of potential for cost reduction, too, as the raw ingredients for them are dirt cheap.  Actacell's phosphate tech is particularly interesting; they've cut the cathode production down from hours to minutes by using microwaves.  

      •  Fast charge does do well with BEV (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KenBee, IreGyre

        the power needed to charge the batteries of an electric car in 5 to 15 minutes is well in excess of what the lines to a house can carry, and evens exceeds that of many small businesses.

        You get 3 to 4 miles per kWh of power in newer hybrids and pure electrics that are street legal and enough like ordinary cars for the public to be willing to drive them.  Now say you're satisfied with getting 50 miles on a charge, which means you'll need roughly 15 kWh.  For a one hour charge that's 65 amps coming in the mains to your house, actually more like 75 amps to allow for inefficiencies.  Try to do that in 10 minutes and the current goes up six-fold, to 430 amps.  The breaker box in most houses is rated in the 100 to 200 amp range.

        And the problem gets worse when you factor your neighbors in. The power lines usually are designed to handle an average load somewhat below what you would get if everyone on that line pulled the maximum current their house wiring was installed for.  Right now the electric and water utilities can have problems when everyone gets home from work, turns on the lawn sprinkler, switches on the TV, and starts fixing dinner.  If they decided to fast charge their car, the problem would be an order of magnitude worse.

        This is why battery pack swapping comes up so often.  The alternative is to have sufficient local storage to hold a 'refill' for the car; storage that is trickle charged constantly.

        •  Many errors here (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KenBee, Stwriley, BYw, RJP9999
          1. Fast chargers use onboard battery systems; they don't draw straight from the grid.  Multiple fast chargers share common battery banks.  
          1. 50 miles on 15kWh means 333Wh/mi.  That's way high.  Most EVs are 200-250Wh/mi.  The Aptera is under 100Wh/mi.  333 is almost what the RAV4EV electric SUV took.
          1. Fast chargers make little sense for houses.  You only nee a fast charge when you're going on a long trip.  Fast chargers are needed at rest areas and such locations.  Ever taken a look at the transformer box in your typical rest area?  Every rest area I've checked out has a pretty massive power feed.  Again, though, not like you need a massive power feed (see #1).
          1. The battery banks in fast chargers reduce the stress on the grid, just as EVs in general do.  With a smart grid, which is one of the main goals of EV infrastructure, fast chargers charge to full at night and then smart charge during the day, drawing more power when the grid has surplus and less (or even feeding back) when the grid needs more.
          1. Battery swapping provides essentially no difference to the grid in comparison to fast charging, since both involve smart charging banks of batteries.  The big problem with battery swapping is that there's a lot of doubt that it'll work.  The questions about it aren't related to whether you can make machines that swap batteries right, although that is an issue.  The big issue is that batteries are such a huge moving target, and there's no way you can really standardize them across such a wide range of vehicles.  A charging station can't realistically stock ten different types of battery packs; it'd never be economically viable.

          In case you're curious, fast charging infrastructure already exists in some places, such as Oahu.  A 40kW fast charger costs about $30k, while a 250kW fast charger runs about $120k.  The latter is pretty similar to the per-pump price of your typical eight-pump gas station.  I'd be glad to do various calculations for you at your request -- total power usage on a typical day and on an atypical day, throughput, economics, etc.  My diary series already covers a number of such cases.

    •  And just where does the electricity come from? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Stwriley, itzik shpitzik

      Fossil fueled power stations that burn oil, gas or coal.

      Until you solve the overall energy problem with a an economically efficient green renewable energy source, all you are doing is moving the carbon emmission somewhere else.

      The first and cheapest steps are energy conservation.

      High energy effiecent housing.

      Higher mileage per gallon vehicles ( compare Europe to the US)

      Reduction in the overall use of energy - High speed TGV train network across the States - to cut down on airplane use.

      •  This is not either-or. We need to do both. (0+ / 0-)

        What Agassi is proposing is not meant to suggest that we should not also do all the conservation measures that you have listed. If nothing else, his idea makes sense NOW for the massive economic stimulus, and job creation in the U.S., that will be associated with the infrastructure build-out. Couple this change to overwhelmingly electric transportation with energy-efficient housing and a state-of-the-art nationwide rapid-rail system that works, and we will truly transform this country. And yes, during the transition, sure, let's see higher mpg cars. But he's right: we need to completely get off petroleum based transportation. If Detroit does not do this now, we may bail them out in 2009, but they'll be dead in 2020 if not sooner. That is NOT what we need.

        "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

        by flitedocnm on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 08:57:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  This may perpetuate the need for non-renewables (6+ / 0-)

    From the diary:

    The magic doesn't end there. We need to add more electrons to the grid if this plan is going to scale, right? Replace even a few million ICE cars with all-electric vehicles and you're going to overtax the grid.

    Better Place vows to add as much power generation to the grid as the cars in its program will use -- sustainably.

    So instead of renewables replacing  non-renewable generation, in this scenario, renewables add generation to the grid-- more electricity than we use now. And it increases the need to maintain existing types of baseload generation that can run all the time.

    I'm not saying electric cars are not ultimately a net improvement over fossil-fueled cars. I am saying that it's not a panacea and that there are major debits to the equation that advocates ignore, hoping they'll go away.

    I think we need to create a generation that drives less miles and expects to travel less. Our energy problems arecaused as much by our consumption levels and patterns as by the consequences of relying on finite, unsustainable and polluting resources. If we just keep on consuming miles at the present rate, we'll never create enough renewable alternatives to meet the demand.

    This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

    by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:10:47 PM PST

    •  Criticizing a First Step in the Right Direction (7+ / 0-)

      is kind of lame.

      The first thing they teach you in brainstorming sessions is to not stop brainstorming to bicker over the lack of fully formed perfection in the ideas going up on the whiteboard.

      RMD

      The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

      by RedMeatDem on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:17:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed (8+ / 0-)

        Quibbling will lead to more of doing exactly what we're doing now. Also, it is not necessarily a given that more electrons need to be added to the grid. Charging a car battery is like powering a light bulb. Massive amounts of power aren't required. Depowering the grid every night is expensive and leveling out demand may create some efficiencies.

        What is badly needed is a grid upgrade that can shift power around better and deal with surges in inputs typical of that caused by non-hydro renewables. We have the technology in hand now to do all of this. Nothing more needed to be invented.

        That said, batteries are getting better. The more of this tech we use the better it will get. Costs will plummet - especially because electric vehicles require 1/100 the maintenance of an IC engine counterpart and they don't need oil changes. This and zipcar-style car sharing plans can get us much further ahead, faster, than most people seem to realize.

        Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

        by The Raven on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:28:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Quibbling? (4+ / 0-)

          I raised some serious questions, based on professional knowledge, because folks advocating for change deserve a reality check about what is feasible, and what the unintended consequences are. That's not to prevent progress but to steer it towards things that will make fundamental change.

          My own utility has succeeded in getting to 80% renewables with no fossil fuels or nuclear in our mix.

          Comments in response to your points:

          The amount of charge the battery needs to store is the amount of energy needed to operate the car. That is a significant amount of power, if everyone does it. If it's just a few people, it isn't noticed. If additional lightbulbs were turned on equal to the number of cars in America, or half the cars, you are talking about a lot of additional electric generation, especially if we are also trying to take non-renewable generation off line.

          The grid "upgrade" that you're advocating, and which I fully agree with, is a massive piece of work with it's own impacts, that will not be easy to site. Transmission lines are among the most controversial projects in the communities they affect.

          This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

          by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:44:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  To what extent ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            melo, BYw, RJP9999

            do you buy into smart(er) grid, V2G, intelligent power management. Better Place is asserting that they will be using their systems to flatten out load, so that 50 million people aren't drawing power for their cars at the same time ... unless there is excess capacity in the grid to support that.

            •  Partially (8+ / 0-)

              I think there is a lot of potential in what's being called smart grid, but there is also an awful lot of hype. A lot of people touting it are the developers of new technologies, some of which will be feasible but most not, whose success hinges on people believing that the smart grid will do everything people say it will. I do not think that physically moving higher volumes electricity over greater distances will ultimately work well and I think it creates magnified reliability and security issues. In my work I have focused (successfully) on sources closer to home.

              The last time I saw this kind of what sometimes feels like faith-based enthusiasm for a restructuring that would be the answer was around retail competition, which also assumed that the grid would accommodate the change. Maybe that makes me a bit cynical, but someone has to be.

              Flattening load is not reducing load, just shifting it. Capacity is not generation. It just means the machinery is there. Electric cars will use kilowatt or megawatt hours, not kilowatts or megawatts of capacity.

              Flattening load has what I think may be a temporary economic impact, with some ancillary environmental benefit. It will make more efficient use of existing generation and that's good. However, if efforts like this actually succeed, then the wholesale market will respond by eliminating or lessening the price differential between peak and off peak, because there won't be much peaks and valleys, just a higher overall usage level. So there goes the incentive everyone talks about.

              I am not enjoying being the skeptic around here because my career has developed based on the hope for a new way of dealing with energy use and generation. But I also read a lot of pie in the sky stuff and someone has to say let's be real too.

              This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

              by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 03:01:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Don't worry about 'skeptic' ... (9+ / 0-)

                in conversation. Realism is far more important than hype in helping shape paths forward.

                On the other hand, how much of previous obstacles were social, bureaucratic, fiscal policy, such rather than technological challenge. Often the last is the hardest to change, but it looks like we might be at a point where the other elements might shift (and perhaps significantly).

                If we can, for example, get smart systems into household appliances (such as ice makers for cold storage in freezers and defroster controls that grid can override in terms of timing defrost), we might be able to have a significant flattening (that you point to) or, even better, enable introduction and better exploitation of more intermittent renewable sources. (And, well, for nuke advocates, make the off-peak nuclear power more valuable.)

                There are tremendous obstacles to moving toward a better grid ... across a spectrum of reasons for the difficulties.

                Now, if you delve into Better Place, I think that they see these, but see themselves aligned with paths toward moving forward. And, they're talking of, for example, that their home charging station will be a smart V2G system that will enable two-way power movement (thus, distributed power storage) and eased ability to managed flow of power into the car (perhaps based on pricing), including the ability to say how much driving is expected before next plug in (enabling grid to partially power up batteries to meet requirement rather than always having to fully charge up cars).

                Again, however, honestly arrived at skepticism matters ... and is of value as it enables conversation and questioning that can lead to better paths forward, perhaps even pats to a Better Place.

                •  Lack of political will, the power of money... (4+ / 0-)

                  ...and occasional unadulterated evil intent.

                  In my opinion, that's what's gotten us where we are and what's prevented us from making progress.

                  I read about the next greatest technology answer to our our energy future at least once a month and sometimes weekly. The point at which advocates are most vocally claiming that their technology is commercially viable is actually the precise point that their backers start abandoning ship because it really isn't. Maybe one in ten make it through the R&D and testing phase and actually help change the world.

                  Ten/twelve years ago, fuel cells were going to change the world, including residential home-based ones. I had a fair amount of involvement with that one and with one of the leading developers of hat change that never happened.

                  In my job, I'm also responsible for keeping peoples' lights on, so I read everything with great interest but at a certain point have to say call me when it's ready for prime time.

                  But I have great admiration for the technology visionaries and pioneers because a few will emerge as world-changers.

                  This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

                  by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 03:31:18 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Some errors with your arguments (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KenBee, Stwriley, BYw, flitedocnm, RJP9999
            1. Adding a few million EVs does not cause relevant need for increased grid capacity.  EVs, in general, charge at night when there's ample surplus capacity.  According to the DOE/PNL, 84% of our nation's vehicles could be switched over without building a single new power plant (the main holdups are in the Pacific Northwest).
            1. Also according to the DOE, even with our current grid, switching conventional vehicles to EVs would reduce our CO2 emissions by a third.  Let alone if we increase our renewables share.
            1. Renewables != Non-baseload.  Sure, many of them aren't baseload, but many of the new techs being looked at, such as EGS, high altitude wind, ocean current, etc, are baseload.  EGS is one of my favorites, as it allows us to redirect our existing oil production knowledge and tech base into renewables.
            •  Correction (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KenBee, Stwriley, BYw, flitedocnm

              That's reduce our road transportation CO2 emissions, not total CO2 emissions, of course.  As for other transportation-related pollutants: PM10 goes up by a third, SOx stays the same, NOx goes down by a third, and VOCs and CO are nearly eliminated.

              •  Big Battery<->Big Oil (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Stwriley, BYw

                I've been scepticle of this plan since I saw it, he's clearly a brilliant and charismatic salesman. But a cell phone type plan would mean likely a very  top down type structure...and no thanks! It would be like having to only buy your gas at Exxon per your Plan...and if that could have been made to work, it would have already been done, but it's obvious it wouldn't be acceptable  to the customer and profitable. Using  Big Oil Company credit cards was an attempt to try to get name brand customers...and it probably worked a little.
                   With the price of batteries going down, materials scientists working feverishly on the task, BP's plan is so far based on a high cost of the battery which will change pretty rapidly I'd bet.
                 The business plan  in ten articles I've seen they only talk about the convenience of swap, and the low cost of the car, "like cell phones" but what I've also seen elsewhere are estimates of $300-$500 per month contract.
                   Costs of tires, brakes, and insurance are a wash, the car is the same, the propulsion system and fueling systems are both going to eventually be similiar costwise, and you're telling me that my $150 car payment, and $40 month gas is somehow worse? To make up the difference, that's a lot of car repairs and oil changes for a newish car with a warranty and service contract.
                I notice in this enthusiastic diary that monthly price is nowhere quoted... and that makes me very cautious...this is a sell job.
                 Without real costs this is hype...sorry, and I'm a big EV proponent, and will never buy an ICE again...

                 With many different manufacturers all coming out with their version of cars and no consensus on standards Nissan/Better Place will be alone in this, with many others competing for your faith and money.

                Another problem with Better Place, I WANT to be able to recharge my battery when and where I want to or need to, and not have to rely on finding a Better Place service station.....and having to drive Xteen miles to find it. I think they are going to try to make a local network in Portland Oregon, maybe I just read that in Wired or Intersection....
                 I haven't seen that these will be user rechargeable, I would think they would have to be, but the business plan you suggest seems to be saying I would pay anyway. If these can be recharged at home, or at any fast recharge station, and maybe swap the battery when it's convenient , and at another pricing schedule, now that would make some sense, but then you've paid for a car that is just like any other EV that is going to be out there, EXCEPT that you will have paid for, somehow,  for a battery that can be swapped, which I would guess would be more costly as other mfg's are not designing cars with that feature.
                 I'm sorry, I need to see real numbers, and the longer I see hype the louder I call bullshit. But I'm glad we are ALL in agreement that EVs are the future, that is frkn progress.

                 And rant #6:
                       I'm not interested in paying for and dragging around a battery set that will take me 120 or 259 miles. I only travel 20 -50 miles ...ever, daily.
                 When I do go somewhere else I will happily take the train or rent or carpool, just like I do now. (and to the fella with the trailer battery option: you're not naive, it's a current  option and so is a trailer with a genset/battery/luggage space available...)

                I will bet there will be an EV for me in the 12-15000$ range that will be freeway legal and all weather. And it won't be a Nissan/BP.

                'Thank goodness we Aussies got the criminals and the 'mericans got the Puritans."

                by KenBee on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 01:23:44 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Probably just over $20k initially (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  KenBee
                  But yes, there are several coming out like that in the next couple years.  The first one that comes to mind is Subaru's R1e... looks kind of like a Smart Car, and is designed exactly for people like you.  

                  Over time, they should get down to the $12k-$15k, but not right off the bat.  But even at just over $20k, when you factor in that electricity is roughly ~$0.70-$1.20/gal gasoline equivalent, price-wise, that the drivetrains are ridiculously simple (low maintenance), and that the battery warranties being talked about on this next generation of EVs are for 10+ years, there's some serious operating cost savings to be had.

                  (And I agree with everything you wrote about PBP, by the way.  If they do buy their way into becoming the defacto standard (grumble, grumble), my hope is that they'll also allow normal purchase plans where you buy it and its yours, period, end of story)

                  •  Agassi never says that the batteries aren't user (0+ / 0-)

                    rechargeable. In fact, unless I heard this entirely wrong, they are user recharged all the time. The only time that the swap becomes necessary is on longer trips. Is that not correct?

                    "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

                    by flitedocnm on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 09:07:19 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  actually looked for that in the several articles (0+ / 0-)

                      and have failed to find since he first announced this idea a year or so ago
                      A. a reference to 'user charged'....ever
                      B. quoted Plan prices.
                       and now this diary as saying you would pay as if you swapped, even if you didn't actually swap.
                       Verizon/Cox want my car, oh yeah.
                       I am going to continue to think of ABP customer's as user charged, just not the cars :>
                       If my phone wasn't paid for by someone else I'd buy a plan less phone and pay for the minutes, I'm One of Those.

                      Now I can see where someone could come up with an idea where you buy the car itself, and then you shop for a battery lease from some other entity, but pay for your own charging.
                            As a feature set, swap when you want a fast getaway, great, pay more for that if you want it, but having a Plan for the charging...there are already companies installing charging stations where you pay for what you use, but a cell phone like plan is not going to be supported by the consumer or you would already have such a plan called a Gas Card Plan, for an amount of gasoline at a fixed price...you could Play the Commodities Market sorta...but I haven't seen where that has even been tried, much less accepted by consumers.

                      'Thank goodness we Aussies got the criminals and the 'mericans got the Puritans."

                      by KenBee on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 11:32:49 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  woke up with venture capital post buzz headache (0+ / 0-)

                    again...like the Memphis Blues Again headache but different.
                      ABP's market may be transportation systems like County and City car pools, you would buy 100 cars, 120 batteries and three chargin stations e.g.
                      If they had charging/swap stations along obvious long routes between LA/SF, NYC/Boston ...then maybe.
                     But he sounds way to venture capital baiting for me :>, but a fact of life.

                    'Thank goodness we Aussies got the criminals and the 'mericans got the Puritans."

                    by KenBee on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 11:16:32 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Please reread what I wrote (0+ / 0-)

              People are saying over & over that EVs don't increase the need for grid capacity and I agree with that. Capacity is just the availability of the generating machinery. But the machinery will need to generate more electricity, which takes more fuel.

              No new megawatts are needed, but a whole lot more megawatt hours are, is another way to say this.

              At this point, renewables are overwhelmingly intermittent, not baseload. The baseload sources such as biomass are mature but limited in the total amount of generation potential. Others like ocean current are interesting but really speculative at this point.

              FYI, my utility gets 70% of its power from landfill methane, which is baseload renewal, but it's a tiny amount of power in the big picture, and we're on the largest landfill in our state.

              This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

              by itzik shpitzik on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 04:24:29 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  You skipped most of the techs I mentioned (0+ / 0-)

                For example, EGS is already in the large-scale pilot stage, and full-scale commercial plant construction should be starting soon (the pilots have been overwhelmingly successful so far).  EGS could provide nearly all of the US's power needs at competitive rates on its own, and it's practically the definition of baseload.

                •  OK. EGS and high altitude wind (0+ / 0-)

                  High altitude wind is a speculative technology, one of many, only a handful of which will be feasible. I'm not saying high altitude wind won't be feasible, I'm just saying it is nowhere near the stage where anyone with the statutory responsibility to assure power supply to consumers could count on it materializing. But I hope it does.

                  EGS is farther along and I expect it will make a difference in our power supply. But here's what sends the red flags up for me about this:

                  First line from google corp's website promoting enhanced geothermal systems ( http://www.google.org/... )

                  The energy from the heat beneath the earth's surface is essentially an unlimited resource.

                  That's a dangerous claim. To someone with a history in the energy field, that is very reminscent of the claims of the oil and natural gas companies in the early days, the claims of the natural gas and coal industries today (coal is in fact incredibly plentiful- that's not its problem), and the claims of the nuclear industry in the 1950s and 1960s.

                  We do not yet know what the impact on the planet will be once we start tapping and using up this resource in a very significant way. And like with most things, we won't know until we're doing it.

                  This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

                  by itzik shpitzik on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 07:44:14 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  They're pointing out facts (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    KenBee
                    And you have a problem with that?  The energy from the heat beneath the Earth's surface is an essentially unlimited resource.  This is energy that is already escaping and will continue to escape with EGS -- the only difference being that it will escape where we want it to, where it will generate power, rather than diffusely as virtually unmeasurable milliwatts per square meter.  

                    And it is for all practical purposes unlimited.  The heat is replenished from radioactive decay deep in the Earth's core.  Yes, when you initially tap a heat reservoir, the heat potential that you get out of it in the first ten to a hundred years or so will be several times higher than what you get out of it after that.  However, you can continue drawing a lower level of heat essentially forever, and if you were to abandon the reservoir, it would refill.  It's nuclear power, but the "reactor" is and always has been running deep beneath us, with thousands of miles of rock as shielding.

                    All of the data from EGS so far has been very promising -- especially pricing data.  Even that big pilot plant in Australia is producing power that's cost-competitive with coal.  The only negatives I've run into so far is that creating the reservoir for the first time, since it involves loosening up the rock, can create small earthquakes if there's pent-up energy.  But that hardly seems a significant impediment for adoption of the technology in most areas.

                    As for other techs, I only listed a handful, since EGS is my favorite.  High altitude wind is not "a" speculative tech, but a whole spectrum of dozens of completely different technologies.  The odds of every last one not working out economically seems quite low to me.  OTEC seems better for producing freshwater than power, but it can indeed produce power in the process.  Wave power plants already exist.  The power is expensive, but new designs promise to radically reduce this cost.  Tidal power already exists in commercial form.  Low-speed wave/current doesn't, but looks incredibly promising.  The ideas and real-world implementations go on and on, all the way to things as far out as space-based solar.  Oh, and I haven't even gotten into pumped energy storage or low-cost flow cells so that intermittent sources become baseload.  This means that the intermittent sources need to be cheaper (to justify the extra cost of the storage system), but with some new techs for intermittent really do look to be that cheap (CIGS solar, for example).  And, of course, long-distance transmission can have the same effect.

                    •  When we actively release the earth's energy... (0+ / 0-)

                      ..rather than letting its diffusion affect the environment and climate as we know it, how can it not have an impact to be reckoned with? I'm not smart enough to know what the impact will be but I am enough of an expert to know that there will be one.

                      I don't dispute the economics you cite.

                      I'm not talking about the impacts of a few plants, or even a significant number. I'm talking about this, again from google.org:

                      ...but with the potential to power the world many times over

                      This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

                      by itzik shpitzik on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 08:47:49 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  The energy already gets diffused (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        KenBee
                        Just as I said previously.  It's just that it's being diffused through the entire surface of the Earth, rather than a few thousand geothermal wells.  The huge spread of how it gets diffused currently means that the power density of geothermal heat on the Earth's surface is mere milliwatts per square meter -- an almost immeasurable amount, dwarfed by that of solar and atmospheric inputs.

                        I'll repeat: it's escaping either way.  The nuclear reactions in the Earth's core go on whether we harness their output energy or not.  They've been doing so for 4.5 billion years, and they're not about to stop.  A hundred million years from now, the Earth's core heat output will only have decreased by 1.5%.

                        Now, as I mentioned, the initial tapping of a geothermal reservoir unleashes additional heat that has collected there over time for the first ten to a hundred years or so of plant operation.    Picture it as having a big pot of water on a burner set to "low", and leaving it there untouched until it reaches a steady state temperature.  Now picture ladeling out some of the hot water and replacing it with cool at a given rate.  Your first several minutes of ladelling will give you hotter water than you'll get an hour later.  However, as long as the burner (i.e., the Earth's core) keeps inputting heat, you're going to keep continuing getting water that's hotter than that which you put in.

                        Is this somehow a problem for the planet?  Not in the least.  Global warming isn't based on instantaneous heat interchanges, but radiative balances.  Fossil fuel plants don't warm the planet because they release the heat of combustion into the atmosphere (which they most certainly do).  They warm the planet because CO2 traps sunlight, altering the radiative balance.  Nothing like that happens with geothermal.  So even the fact that the first decades of a geothermal plant's life are outputting more heat than goes into warming the reservoir is irrelevant; you're just replacing fossil fuel heat with geothermal heat in terms of power generation, but you're no longer releasing the real problem, which is greenhouse gasses.  And once you reach a steady state, there's essentially no difference to the planet whether the heat escapes through a turbine or through the ground at extremely low densities.

                        I should point out that the heat reservoirs we're talking about are not in the core, or even the mantle; they're miniscule region of crust.  Even the deepest geothermal reservoirs people are looking at tapping go no deeper than halfway through the outermost layer of the crust.

      •  The problem with cars is that anyway you cut it, (5+ / 0-)

        they take too much force to move with every person who wants to go somewhere.  Something has to generate a large amount of force to move tons of metal at high speeds. There simply is no environmentally sustainable way to generate that much energy.  We need to reduce the energy needed for transportation in our society, which means not takes tons of metal with us wherever we go.

        Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

        by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:33:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Aptera Doesn't Weigh TONS (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Big Tex, A Siegel, Stwriley, BYw

          When people pay more to move TONS then we'll see lots more light, yet strong cars on the road.

          I'd use maglev trains if we had'em.

          Why don't we?

          RMD

          The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

          by RedMeatDem on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:41:15 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good question. Why don't we have maglev trains? (0+ / 0-)

            A much better question than "how can we twist the second law of thermodynamics?", which is what I hear all too often here.

            The answer is Bush & Republicans.

            Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

            by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:55:26 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Reagan and Liddy Dole (10+ / 0-)

              My Dad worked on maglev for decades.

              They were making some decent progress in the US in the 1970s, then Reagan took office and appointed Elizabeth Dole to head the DOT with the directive to kill Amtrak and make rail fail in the US. She did.

              Now you have to go to Europe or Japan to ride a maglev train. All the Republicans have managed to do with their shortsighted policies, which I can the "oil-baron support program" is to force the US to stop innovating.

              You don't need to protect me from someone else's spelling, grammar, extra posts on a topic, or use of quotations.

              by mataliandy on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:53:16 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  Indeed (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KenBee, BYw

            Would you slam a sledgehammer against your car as hard as you can?  There's a YouTube video of Chris Anthony doing exactly that to an Aptera shell.  Composites are great materials, and it's about time we see them more widely used in the automotive world.

            Rolling drag is directly proportional to how much weight is on the tires.  Aero drag is proportional to cross sectional area and drag coefficient.  Reduce all three and you dramatically reduce your energy consumption.

            The first Aptera 2e gets delivered in December -- keep an eye out!  :)

          •  Because they are too expensive (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BYw

            Not too expensive in the sense "we can't afford them," but too expensive in the sense "we could achieve the same result with a less expensive technology."  

            The TGV in France has demonstrated a maximum speed that is within 5mph (~1.5%) of the fastest maglev in the world (look at the respective wikipedia articles)--and it did so using mostly-stock TGV equipment on a mostly-stock LGV, (high speed line) which was used for revenue service the next day.  Add to this the fact that steel wheel trains can use existing rails--albeit at "regular" speeds--in city centers (instead of requiring a whole new infrastructure to be built), and there's just no comparison in terms of cost.  The last point is particularly important, not just from a cost perspective. NIMBYism in cities often delays transit projects for years or decades (just look at the red/purple, SUBWAY, line in Los Angeles).

            It's possible to build a much more extensive rail system than maglev system for the same money, or the system that serves the same markets for much less money.  In either case, the value-for-money of rail ends up being greater.

            •  The First Steam Train Was 'Expensive' Too (0+ / 0-)

              The first cars were expensive. The first airplanes were expensive.

              The first of anything is expensive.

              And... every bridge has to fight past the "It's too expensive" detractors.

              It's time to see the 'Brooklyn Bridge', 'Panama Canal' and transcontinental railroad of our age!

              Spend the bailout money on new infrastructure projects.

              RMD

              The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

              by RedMeatDem on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 08:40:40 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  This isn't about the first (0+ / 0-)

                With due respect, I think you've missed my point.  It's not that we can't find the money to build a maglev on a certain route.  Rather, the problem is that we could build a much more extensive conventional system for the same money--and the benefit's of transit systems increase more than linearly as you expand them due to network effects (add station c, and the traffic at stations a and b increases).  

                If we do a cost-benefit analysis of maglev vs. conventional, it isn't obvious what benefits offset the higher cost.  They don't travel significantly faster (to put this in perspective, a 2500 mile journey, roughly LA to NY, would take 12 minutes less on the fastest demonstrated maglev compared to the fastest demonstrated conventional train), they don't use significantly less energy (actually, I think they use more), so what do we put in the maglev's column to justify the cost?

                My point wasn't that we couldn't afford to build a maglev, but that we could build a much better conventional rail system for the same price.  One that reaches more destinations and carries more passengers.

                Finally, to directly address your point about the first of anything being expensive:  Maglevs require a much more complex, powered, track than conventional trains, and the trains themselves require a more complex control system than conventional ones.  It just doesn't make any sense that such a system could ever be cost-competitive with a steel rail.  The magnets are made from copper, which is more expensive and malleable than steel, and the track needs to support just as much structural load.  But, of course, if you have actual, real-life, numbers that refute this, I'd be more than happy to be enlightened.

      •  But Better Place ... (6+ / 0-)

        is far past the 'brainstorming' stage and are moving into implementation.  Standards aren't fully set (as of last month, at least); specifications for equipment sets are being created; manufacturing lines are being created. This is far beyond, imo, a few people sitting around a conference room with a white board.

        •  There Need To Be Standardized Battery Designs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw

          There are laptop batteries with different levels of uptime, however they fit in the same slot(s).

          We should/could do the same for cars. If some soccer mom doesn't need a 120 mile battery, then she should be able to trade for a 40 miler battery until she wants to visit mom a couple of hours away.

          RMD

          The Bushiter's Iraq 2004 - 1268 Dead, about 25K Medivacs and 9000 Maimed... It's the Bushiter Way, wasting other people's money and lives. And it's worse now.

          by RedMeatDem on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 07:21:36 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  You've done your sums wrong ... (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, mataliandy, Big Tex, A Siegel, BYw, RJP9999

      ... gasoline is a non-renewable power source. Switching to electricity produced renewably is a switch from non-renewable to renewable power.

      And, indeed, since electric traction is more energy efficient, a switch from a larger amount of non-renewable energy to a smaller amount of renewable energy.

      •  I didn't say it wasn't a net winner... (0+ / 0-)

        ...hypothetically and probably actually.

        I am very concerned, and therefore skeptical, about present fossil fuel uses just being transferred to the electric grid because all that new generation will presumably be renewable. I think that's a stretch in the short term (by which I mean a planning horizon of 20 years or so.)

        I agree that electric traction is more efficient at the end use. What I don't know at this point is the net calculation of generation> transmission> distribution> end use efficiency.

        This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

        by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:34:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  The first question is effectiveness. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          melo, BYw

          Before being able to assess the efficiency of a system, it is necessary to work out what effect the system is trying to achieve.

          A reasonable target is to get 80% of freight and 80% of passenger miles onto dedicated electric transport corridors of one sort or another.

          For freight, electrification of STRACNET and some key connecting corridors and investment in a parallel 100mph freight/semi-HSR network would, in a high crude oil environment, likely suffice.

          For passenger-miles, a three level rail system of a core true HSR network, the semi-HSR / high speed freight grid, and local rail transit would take a slice out of it ... trolley buses could extend it some more.

          And complementary to the dedicated electric transport corridors are a range of decentralized transport tasks on the public right of way ... home to station, warehouse to railhead.

          True, the increase in efficiency is only a marginal percentage gain versus doubling and quintupling for different transport tasks shifted off the road onto dedicated electric transport corridors, but in large part those efficiencies are due to the not trying to be a one-size-fits-all solution and instead trying to perform one set of transport tasks very well. So that 20% of passenger-miles and ton-miles carried on road plays an important role in making sure that all the bases are covered.

    •  Better Place ... (9+ / 0-)

      leadership is impressive to listen to.  There is an emphasis that they are striving, within their zone, to replace fossil fuel (ICE) with renewable energy (electric car with renewable electricity).

      They talked, confidently and knowledgeably, about how the V2G required for their car charging will work with / enable smart grid for leveling power demands and enabling even more renewable electricity into the grid. They seem to understand, strongly, energy efficiency and the power it brings.

      Each time I've been in the room with them (conferences / lectures / otherwise), I've come away even more impressed by the vision and the potential.  

      There are very real challenges (such as standards development, new technology, making automatic battery changes work, determining how this works in an open architecture/competitive space.

    •  By the way ... (5+ / 0-)

      Your last paragraph points to one (of many?) fundamental issues with Agassi's / Better Place's vision. It, in essence, accepts a demand for personal vehicles, a growing demand, and then offers an alternative (better) path for meeting it.  They do not, as far as I know, speak to linking their electric vehicles with far better public transport, the need for smarter growth/urban planning, etc ...  

      On the other hand, they are a "business", even if 'saving the planet' is part of their vision for their business plan.  Thus, a business that brings a silver bb to the table impresses me ... even if they're not bringing a full solution set.

      •  Big country = personal vehicles. What % is (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel, Stwriley, wondering if

        debatable, but mass transit is only efficient where there are masses to be transported and a significant % of the country consists of small towns and rural farming/ranching areas. Public transportation within and between population centers needs to be massively upgraded, but don't kid yourself that personal transport is ever going to completely disappear.

        Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

        by FarWestGirl on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 06:03:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Cheap battery charging ........ (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BYw

      ......when grid capacity exceeds demand  would enable transport batteries to act nationwide as huge baseline storage facility.

      I don't want to be committed .......

      by gerbilmark on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 02:47:12 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  WHA-A-A-AAT? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, Stwriley

      "I think we need to create a generation that drives less miles and expects to travel less."

      That's just ridiculous. Stalinist, in fact. Travel, like education and health care, should not only be encouraged, but subsidized. The more people travel, the broader their outlook. To inhibit travel is to inhibit personal growth and development, and to promote an insular, iconoclastic, atomized society.

      •  Not Stalinist but market based (0+ / 0-)

        Energy is a finite and rare commodity, whether we are talking about peak oil having been reached or the price of renewable alternatives. The price will change behavior and it already has to some extent.

        Most travel is local, not tourism. We need to learn to carry out our functions with less vehicle miles and passenger miles. You misread my post.

        This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

        by itzik shpitzik on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 04:33:21 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  "Misread?" (0+ / 0-)

          "We need to create a generation" hardly sounds like a call to let the price of energy in an open market influence behavior. And saying we need to create a generation that "expects to travel less" certainly doesn't sound the same as saying that people should try to avoid long commutes and unnecessary drives to the supermarket.

          Driving to work and running errands aren't "traveling."

          •  That's where we travel the most, locally. (0+ / 0-)

            That's where we have the greatest opportunity at a personal level to do things very differently. With that said, the volume of air travel and the number of flights in the air is not sustainable. Whether by Stalinist measures or gradual evolution, people will find that they can't afford it financially or environmentally. That's just the truth, LongTom, the limitations of the planet we live on are catching up to us.

            We do need to "create" a generation that acts differently than in the past. A major change of culture, not just "trying" to. Prices will force that in any event. The real price of energy is somewhere between the irrational peak of earlier this year and the fire sale price of today, and once it levels it will then continue to climb. It always trends up.

            This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

            by itzik shpitzik on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 07:24:02 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  "It always trends up?" (0+ / 0-)

              That's just completely at odds with near-term and long-term history. Near-term, gasoline was never cheaper than in the late 1990s, adjusted for inflation. It's probably cheaper right now than it was in the early 1960s.

              Long-term, technology has cheapened travel enormously. How much did it cost to travel from New York to San Francisco at the beginning of the Gold Rush in 1849, as compared to now? Hint: a lot of people went around Cape Horn to get there.

              Before the automobile and the airplane, travel required enormous amounts of time, money, and usually both. Most people lived their lives within a 30 mile radius of their homes. Most of those that didn't were either wealthy, at war, or driven off their native heath by famine, war, or pestilence.

  •  We're just supposed to just say yippee here? (10+ / 0-)

    This is a serious diary with a lot of information, and it deserves informed responses. I work in the energy field, with a major longtime focus on conservation and renewables development. When I raise a significant and perhaps fundamental question, based on my own professional knowledge, that's not flaming. I thought that's what we do here.

    There is a lot of enthusiasm for energy alternatives here, with very little said about our most fundamental energy problem: how much we use, and in this case how many miles we drive ourselves around in personal passenger vehicles.

    There is also not a lot of understanding about the real consequences of adding new electric demand on our system, as if plugging in a vehicle or a house is a truly green alternative.

    No apologies for being a devil's advocate or offering a reality check to this diary.

    This is not what I thought I'd be when I grew up.

    by itzik shpitzik on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:29:31 PM PST

    •  I agree. People need to learn to use public (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, RJP9999, itzik shpitzik

      transportation, and stop getting sucked into pipe-dreams of environmentally friendly ways to drive because it's easier and more comfortable for them.

      Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

      by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:36:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for your informed comments. (9+ / 0-)

      I'm glad to see folks who are so involved in the energy economy reading and participating here.

      Your point stands. This is a step in the right direction, but it's not going to save the planet -- by itself. That will require many other technological innovations AS WELL AS lifestyle changes.

      I work for a small company based in two major West Coast cities, with lots of air travel between them. I am lobbying my company to start subsidizing all the travel costs at rail only rates. Meaning anyone wanting to travel between Portland and San Francisco would have to take Amtrack. It takes over 20 hours, it costs $100+ less per trip, and it produces a hell of a lot less Co2. The biggest pushback? "It takes too long". I work in an industry that is NOT time-sensitive at all. And with Blackberries, our execs can do email and other work on the train. All of them could probably benefit from 1-2 scenic 24+ hr train trips per month anyway -- trips where they'd be FORCED to do less work.

      Let's slow down the pace of life, absolutely. Let's stop borrowing the future and the past at once, absolutely. But let's also go at this problem with a prosperity mindset. There are enough dollars lying on the ground in terms of conservation it would be stupid for us to ignore them. And there's enough sunlight reaching our planet's surface every hour that we'd be stupid not to invest a whole lot more money into solar thermal / photovaltics.

      Cheers.

    •  The new California law passed this (6+ / 0-)

      election may provide a huge shift in emphasis on building denser, transit-oriented development. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen, but it is one of the most radical transformations of zoning and building laws and incentives the country has ever seen.

      To reduce miles driven, building these transit-centered developments will be essential and can happen alongside the development of electric technology. People will always drive, but if we create communities where they don't have to, huge numbers will naturally choose not to.

  •  12 o' clock flashers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, wondering if, itzik shpitzik

    Considering a good portion of our population can't program the microwave clock. I think this may be a reach for the American people. Now, I'm not disagreeing, but, let's be honest. If a clock can confuse them. What makes you think this will work?

    Religion murders people, molests children, corrupts minds. And they get to tells us who can marry for love? What's wrong with this picture.

    by Victory of Renegades on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 01:39:12 PM PST

    •  How much brain power does it take (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mataliandy, BobTrips, BYw, sovery

      To plug in an appliance?

      Or drive into a service station?

      I might be missing your question.

    •  Exactly what about this is confusing? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, mataliandy, BYw, FarWestGirl

      If it's the contract terms, smart people will blaze the trails and dumber people will choose one of those trails to follow.

      If it is exchanging batteries, it's easier than using a car wash; you don't get out of your car, you wait in line until your car is next, drive your car over the pit, wait another minute while your battery is replaced, and drive out. There is no charge to pay; that was included in the contract.

      If it's the chore of recharging the car at home or in some parking space its equivalent to plugging a specialized extension cord into your car, connected to something that looks like a parking meter. Again no charge for the electricity: that's been included in the contract.

      So what about this is so confusing that an elderly person having still enough wits to be on the road driving in the first place, can't manage?

      •  well (0+ / 0-)

        Since elderly people don't have to have enough wits to keep driving. They just need thier 8year-old grandchild to renew it for them online. But I'll go ahead make a very small point, tiny even, count how many people used turn signals on your way home.

        Religion murders people, molests children, corrupts minds. And they get to tells us who can marry for love? What's wrong with this picture.

        by Victory of Renegades on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:13:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  My point: they should be banned from driving -nt (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BYw, Futuristic Dreamer
          •  That's discrimination of age (0+ / 0-)

            Religion murders people, molests children, corrupts minds. And they get to tells us who can marry for love? What's wrong with this picture.

            by Victory of Renegades on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:24:05 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So you are saying (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bronx59

              that since an 8 year old can fill out a driver renewal form online, that child should be able to drive?

              /snark

              January 20 2009 cannot come soon enough.

              by Crisis Corps Volunteer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:37:57 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Anyone who is a hazard to innocent bystanders (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BYw

              and others on the road, should be banned from driving.

              Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

              by Futuristic Dreamer on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 03:03:46 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  Not age! ... Ability! -- (n/t) (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BobTrips, BYw
              •  Age is correlated with ability... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                sjbob, IreGyre

                But not at the 100% level.

                There are ways to measure ability other than counting years on planet.

                15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                by BobTrips on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 07:13:52 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah! ... Have them retake the road test for new (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  BYw, IreGyre

                  drivers and make sure they can drive onto those stalls, with a pit below, that will be used for exchanging those battery packs.

                  Also have them show they can plug and unplug an electric car into the electrical grid for purposes of battery recharge.

                  •  You do realize ... (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    KenBee, sjbob

                    plugging in an electric car is roughly the same as plugging in a toaster, don't you?

                    We could do re-ups with driving simulators.  And not all 30-somethings would pass....

                    And battery exchanges...

                    A few years ago I thought this a good idea.  Now I'm not so sure.  We're too close to a "better" battery and no need to swap packs.

                    Personally, I wouldn't invest in the idea....

                    15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                    by BobTrips on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 08:14:50 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  As for battery exchanges, ... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      KenBee

                      I had been thinking about a form of that concept (on my own) for several years now. Came to the conclusion that, if sufficiently automated, it beats waiting for a recharge to occur no matter how many miles one can reasonably get out of a typical charge.

                      And once that cruise range surpasses 200 miles or so, further improvements would be more worthwhile if the range were to be kept closer to 200 and the total weight and volume of the battery pack was reduced instead. Even my car runs slightly more efficiently with a gas tank kept less than half full.

                      There are many things I just do not like about owning the batteries, and other things which can be done better by another owner than myself: complete battery packs are almost as expensive as the rest of the car; they wear out before the useful life of the car; they degrade in performance before the entire pack needs to be replaced; they must periodically be replaced at great expense, considering that the car is now worth less than the newly bought batteries; the process of refurbishing used batteries is best done by the company which made them in the first place, without exorbitant middleman (handling) charges being added by retailers; battery examination should be frequent and done responsibly by the experts who work for the company responsible for maintaining them and manufacturing them in the first instance; sometimes just an individual cell goes bad and can be replaced in the field by staff who know how.

                      My first thoughts in this regard were quite naive compared to the system described here: I envisioned the battery packs in various sizes, depending upon trip length, built into specially designed trailers and pulled behind my electric car. It already had the necessary trailer hitch at the time of purchase.

                      I imagined these battery trailers as rentals to be used only for long trips, and exchanged for another at any branch of the same rental company nationwide. The car itself had a standard sized battery pack having sufficient range for driving around town.

                      •  You're gonna pay... (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        BYw

                        You're either going to pay when you buy the batteries or your going to pay via the exchange/lease route.  

                        I'm guessing that it might be a bit more expensive to go the exchange rate as you will also have to pay for the exchange station stuff.

                        BYD (the Chinese battery/car manufacturer) says that they are going to start selling (I think next month in China) an all electric car with a 180+ mile range.  And that it can be 80% recharged in 15 minutes.

                        That would mean SF to LA with two stops rather than only one with a gas powered car.  Not a significant difference.  And many people wouldn't need to overnight charge more than a couple times a week for their local driving.  Once a week would do me.

                        --

                        Battery life.  The Prius batteries are holding up very well.  At least one set has gone ~300,000 miles.

                        And when BEV batteries do lose enough capacity to cut range they still have significant value.  

                        Plans are underway for setting up a market selling them to utility companies for grid storage.  If you are racking batteries in warehouses their capacity isn't as critical.  Space is cheap and weight is pretty irrelevant.

                        15 to 6. Pulled ahead as soon as the gate opened and never looked back....

                        by BobTrips on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 10:59:50 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

  •  sometimes you never know until (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mataliandy, BYw, sovery, FarWestGirl

    you try, and a pilot program in the Bay Area sounds ideal.

    People have to be honest about evaluating, which is always more difficult when some folks stand to make or lose money on the outcome.  But that's got to be part of the equation.

    As for what "the American people" are ready to do or not do, I doubt that anybody knows.  There are lots of American peoples.  And I was personally amazed at the openness to new ideas on fueling cars I encountered on a visit back to western PA among the working/middle class people that constitute my family and their friends there. Mass transit isn't going to work for people in those spread-out small towns, but new ways to get out from under enslavement to the ups and downs of gasoline prices will intrigue them.  Or that's my guess--let's see.

    "The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan

    by Captain Future on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 02:02:20 PM PST

  •  Good write up (6+ / 0-)

    of Better Place.  Thanks. And, thank you for the optimism.

    It is hard not to be inspired when hearing directly from Shai or those who work with them.  They are changing the world.

  •  Never Owned a Car (4+ / 0-)

    I have never owned a car - new, used, or otherwise.  Never bought into it.

    I learned how to drive, initially on a modified Model A dump truck, modified by losing its dump and being used as a "doodlebug" in the woods of Vermont, but I haven't sat in the driver's seat for over a decade now.

    Still have a license and will renew it when I have to but basically only for identification purposes.

    This makes me completely un-American but I have money in my pocket, health due to walking or biking where I want to go, and a unique perspective.

    I wonder how many people like me there are in these United States.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 03:44:27 PM PST

  •  Hmm... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, Big Tex, BYw

    When the Segway first came out and they said it was going to revolutionize urban transportation, I looked at it and said, "Where do I put the kids and groceries?"  Not to mention, how do you use one of them on a hill in the snow, or driving rain.

    We have a 12 year old Civic with less than 30,000 miles on it (never been used as a commuter car), and living in the city means that when I do need to schlep kids and groceries, I don't drive far.  We've been mulling over converting the Civic to electric, but the cost compared to how much we drive it doesn't make that a terribly sensible option.

    We've pretty much determined that whenever we buy our next car, it at the very least will not be gasoline only, and if it is a hybrid, it has to be pluggable.  Given that we buy a car about once a decade on average, it has to be a car that has some longevity to it, no flash in the pan hype for us.  I hope that by the time the Civic dies, some plan like this will be in place and we can buy one.

    •  Lol If you only have 30K miles on it now, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      melo, BYw

      you're going to have it to pass on to your grandkids. The Hondas routinely go 150-200K miles if they're maintained. Relax. Do take it out on the freeway for some distance driving occasionally to burn off deposits on the engine, but otherwise, name the darned thing and assume it's part of the family.

      Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

      by FarWestGirl on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 05:42:10 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nissan Renault and Chrysler? (0+ / 0-)

    The US Federal assist bridge loan to GM and possibly Chrysler should be directed to encouraging a common platform for light vehicles and middle/vans trucks, a pair of electric standard rechargeable vehicles that could be a common propulsion platform and the manufacturers body them as needed in differnt markets . we did this before, years ago....

    http://www.dailykos.com/...

    The national grid needs a big update and upgrade, both to be a smart grid and a higher efficiency transmission grid. Also to have ports to all those renewavbles  energy sources to come into the grid in the next several years.

    Slack capacity like after midnight could be the rechargeable at home default option. rechargeables on the road could be redone in the "swap" or rapid charge mode. Generally conventional batteries run 1.10 or 1/15 the rate of recharge that normal operation or the full capacity is without overheating. The new technologies might speed that up.

    The electric car, a new grid, alternative clean sources displacing the dirty sources, mostly made in USA, sounds like a number of winning cards in that hand.

    cast away illusions, prepare for struggle

    by Pete Rock on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 08:45:38 PM PST

  •  could I get car insurance with this too? (0+ / 0-)

    I don't drive much, and have always wanted insurance by-the-mile. :)

    The only issue with pay-by-mile I see is that it does encourage less efficient driving (eg frequent accelerations/decelerations).

  •  Electric cars are a great start! (0+ / 0-)

    If only they were affordable and abundant.

    It would be great if one day we could forgo the need for using vehicles altogether. Pardon as I'm a big dreamer, but it would be really cool if there was technology that enabled teleportation and personalized flying capabilities (jetpacks, anti-gravity gadgets, etc.).

    Obama has a lot of investing in science and technology to do.

  •  I would have clicked on this diary sooner. (0+ / 0-)

    Electrons buzzing my brain.

    Thank you.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    by JugOPunch on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 09:40:02 PM PST

  •  This is far from revolutionary. In fact, it is (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BYw, flitedocnm

    very reactionary, very wasteful, quite retrograde, and did I mention the part about "minimum government regulation"? After what we've just gone through thanks to "minumum government regulation"? Please.

    First, the technology is already there for cars to do 221 miles on a single charge. Tesla just unveiled one. Most people in America do not do 221-mile trips. In fact, most people do not do 221-mile trips in an entire working week. And the Tesla battery bank lasts a 100,000 miles. That's the life-time of the average vehicle in America. The challenge is not how long a charge will take you or how soon you need to change the batteries in your car. Those challenges have already been met.

    The real challenge is further refining the technology and making it affordable. None of Better Place's solutions even begin to meet that challenge.

    Rather than being innovative let alone revolutionary, BP's solutions are conceived on the old, conservative premise that we've reached the end of the technolgoy and now it's time to reap dividends. This is bizarre. It presumes that the only way to power an electric car is through the battery technology that we had yesterday that gives you only 120 miles per charge and takes 24 hours to recharge. Hence the ludicrous spectacle of service station battery handlers hauling batteries in and out of your car (and screwing up the rest of your electric motor after every three battery changes!)

    Instead of all the money that will go into the infrastructure to make BP's even most basic "solution" half-feasible, those resources could be put into the dual challenge of refining and further advancing the technology, one, and two, making it more affordable. See how far we've gotten with computer power technology by following that principle?

    Just how is BP "solution" different than the gas manufacturing and distribution industry that is currently screwing everyone out of every dollar? Have you asked yourself seriously why they want no government regulation?

    Why would anyone want no government regulation when you're dealing with high voltage electricity, thousands of service station workers, industry standards, market pricing, and so on?

    Hello? Is this real?

    The psychology of the dispossessed can be truly frightening
    - Chinua Achebe

    by 174winchell on Sun Nov 30, 2008 at 11:27:24 PM PST

    •  Just reading from the diary, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      flitedocnm

      it appears that a major thrust of BP is "making it affordable." Probably why they're not proposing to use undeveloped battery technology. Some of their other ideas have merit regardless of the technology brought to bear. In particular, the idea of battery contracts that are similar to cell phone contracts. This is new to me, and if that alone is implemented in any transportation plan, I think it would usefully change behavior.

      As to the lack of gov't regulation, the diary doesn't say anything. So, I guess I'll have to go to BP's site and see what they mean by that.

      •  I never heard Asassi bash regulation. He simply (0+ / 0-)

        says that this needs to make economic sense with requiring government subsidy, i.e. be self-sustainable. That's his argument. In fact, he emphasizes the need for agreement on, and adoption of, uniform standards. That sounds like regulation to me. I think the diarist somewhat mistakenly equated the self-sustainability argument with lack of regulation, and I don't think that's BP's model at all.

        "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

        by flitedocnm on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 09:13:17 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  correction - second sentence above was supposed (0+ / 0-)

          to say, "He simply says that this needs to make economic sense WITHOUT requiring government subsidy..." (Sorry 'bout that.)

          "But there is so much more to do." - Barack Obama, Nov. 4, 2008

          by flitedocnm on Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 09:14:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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