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December 27, 2013

Nissan Leaf Sales up for 2013

When Carlos Ghosn decided to really embrace the electric drive vehicle, he attracted vocal opposition and derision. No doubt the ride has not been as smooth as he had planned, but there seems little doubt now that it was the right call.

According to this article,
Overall, Leaf sales are up 141 percent so far this year, enough that Nissan already is exploring options for increasing production of the car at the Smyrna plant.

A fairly new plant, still ramping up production overall, and it appears that production of the Leaf is constrained by their ability to make battery packs, not consumer demand.

Up 141% in a year is considerably better than the 70% annual sales growth I postulated in my previous post.

2014 might be a good year not to invest in a new fast oil change shop if your expectation is long-term stable revenue for fifteen years or longer. On the other hand, it might be a good time to stake out some property for the installation of fast-charge stations, where the driver and passenger can be entertained or use their time productively for a 30 to 60 minute recharge stop. It may take a while to sort out the electrical supply and which charging stations you want to install, but it's not too soon to figure out where people will want to stop for a recharge, and what would attract them to stop at your location instead of the one just up or down the road from you. Hint: it may take more than coffee and doughnuts.

Plug-in hybrids may remain a significant niche market, so don't rule out having gas/diesel pumps on the same lot as charging stations.

Previous years EV Blog Entries: 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012



December 18, 2013

Are Electric Vehicles Already Halfway to Market Dominance?

I was at a meeting yesterday where the subject of forecasting EV sales growth and their ratio of the total light vehicle fleet came up. That brought this recent article by Tam Hunt back to mind.

Forecasting the weather 2 days hence in Ottawa is easy as pie nowadays with all the electronic remote sensing gear and computational power at our disposal, not to mention all the fancy graphics display equipment and green-screen technology. Getting that 2-day weather forecast correct on a regular and reliable basis, well, that remains an elusive goal. So it goes with forecasting EV sales, a question I get asked repeatedly. I have some ideas, but there are so many variables at play, there is no way I can make a definitive response. Variables including the price of oil and fuels derived from it, the price of biofuels, the price of electricity to consumers, the (dropping) price of EVs and particularly their batteries, the styling choices of EV designers and how they play to vehicle buyers, the total market for new vehicle purchases, the state of world and local economies, incentive programs, the impact of growing the number of telecommuters, constraints on electricity delivery to the household, the number of charging stations being installed and where they are being placed, the extent to which purchasers start weighing life-cycle cost against initial sticker price, and so on. See, not complicated at all, provided you know all the variables and can accurately determine their relative importance, and can solidly quantify each to at least three significant digits. A light mathematical exercise I will leave to the reader (smile).

However, we have a lot of experience in recent years with the uptake of semi-disruptive technology products like personal computers, VCRs, DVD players, cellular and smart phones, etc. These have gone from non-existent, to grabbing a tiny niche in the early adopter market to market dominance in less than 2 decades in each case. While I believe it will take longer for plug-ins to achieve market dominance, all it would take is capable technology (we have), price shocks for petro-fuels (coming), falling prices for EVs based on economies of scale and improved production techniques (appearing), and some creative financing options (mortgage brokers, are you listening ?) to shred my belief in an extended cut-over period.

Still, I would like to leave you with a few numbers to ponder. My focus is the North American market, so these numbers are intended to apply here.

2011 was effectively the first year you could buy a modern era electric car from an OEM in the U.S. Quantities were very limited and there was no marketing of substance. In general, you still could not buy an EV in a showroom, you had to order them on-line based on images on the screen, and frequently without a test drive. They were very expensive by relative standards. Yet, American consumers bought every one that was available. In 2013, prices are lower on most models, but the manufacturers still are not meeting demand - there is no glut of EVs sitting on dealer or manufacturer lots.

The growth rate of sales in the U.S. for plug-in cars is about 70% year over year from 2011 to 2013. Extrapolating from sales numbers - which won't include conversions or LSVs - current plug-in market share for the light vehicle on-road fleet in the U.S. is about 0.75%. If we project from that base as the end of 2013 number, and allow for a simple 70% annual growth rate (compounded), where do we see the ratio of plug-in sales 5 and 10 years out?

Year - % of new sales
2014 - 1.3%
2015 - 2.2%
2016 - 3.7%
2017 - 6.3% (isn't geometric growth fun?)
2018 - 10.6% (5 years- this is where it starts to get exciting, unless you own oil stocks)
2019 - 18.1%
2020 - 30.8% (Ontario target for 20% of sales to be plug-ins)
2021 - 52.3% (now we have to assume a lower YOY sales rate as we are past mid-curve)
2022 - 68.1%
2023 - 81.6% (10 years)
(All numbers above rounded for presentation, based on simple and questionable assumptions and highly spectulative.)

Note - the initial figures for 2011-2013 are all supply-constrained. If the OEMs really step up with serious production capacity, and anything else happens to further drive adoption (e.g., oil price shock), adoption rates for EVs could skyrocket. EV sales in Norway (an oil exporting nation), for example, are already well beyond these rates, primarily due to a strong purchase incentive program.


December 17, 2013

Driving forward electric vehicle adoption in Britain: Overcoming the barriers

A commentary by Brian Smithers, Strategic Development Director, Rexel Northern European Zone includes this:
One of the main and often-quoted concerns from consumers regarding EVs is the lack of infrastructure required for electric to be a viable option. Further findings from the Rexel survey found that an overwhelming 72% of drivers had never seen an EV charger, and 62% perceived that the insufficient number of charging stations currently made EVs an impractical choice over diesel/petrol fuelled vehicles.

While many of us find that we can manage just fine for the majority of our vehicle trips with home-based charging and a small amount of away-from-home charging support, the key is the perception by those raised on liquid fuels that they need a filling station within sight to be comfortable. I know the rational arguments to the contrary - I have lived them for over 30 years of driving electric. That does not change the fact that the purchase decision regarding private vehicles is a highly personal, and generally not purely rational exercise. Thus, if we want widespread adoption of EVs, we need to accommodate that perception issue.

Further, beyond the logical value of having charging stations available to help extend EV effective range on occasion, I am finding a new and real reason to want Level 2 charging in urban areas. Winter.

Our Leaf, which showed us a range of over 150 km all through the summer, even on Level 1 charging, is singing a different tune now. Our car does not get garaged, so it gets cold-soaked with the weather. The past few days, night-time temperatures have dropped in to the minus 20s, and approaching minus 30 (without considering the impact of wind chill). With snow covered roads on the side streets and snow tires on all four corners, the range-remaining gauge routinely starts at less than 90 km, and one morning at 79 - fully charged - about half the typical summer numbers.

While that is still enough to meet our typical winter driving needs, it does reintroduce range concerns into the driving experience.


December 16, 2013

NYC Struggles with E-Bikes and Misses the Point - Again (and again)

It's like the Rob Ford saga - you think it has to end, but it just keeps coming back. My initial interest in the story was that it was so disinformational, but now it's just pathetic. Originally, there was the statement that e-bikes had to be banned from all of New York City because ebikes are a menace to children and society (and you thought New Yorkers were somehow tougher than folks from wimpier cities that permit e-bikes). Further, the original issue is not the bikes, it is the behaviour of the riders (speeding, riding on sidewalks, riding against traffic). So, given the stated problem is how the bike is used - not the technology - the obvious solution is not enforcement to punish actual offenders, but to ban some of the bikes, and not even all the e-bikes.

Then, there is the NYC one-hand-doesn't-know-what-the-other-two-are-doing problem. Seems it is perfectly legal to sell e-bikes in NYC that contravene the law dating back to 2004. But, the original law did not actually ban e-bikes, it banned motor scooters, a classification that predates the existence of e-bikes. Even the current law appears not to ban all e-bikes, so that won't cause any confusion for owners, riders, enforcement officials or regular New Yorkers, right?

Section 1. Subdivisions a and d of section 19-176.2 of the administrative code of the city of New York, as added by local law number 51 for the year 2004, are amended to read as follows:
a. For purposes of this section, the term "motorized scooter" shall mean any wheeled device that has handlebars that is designed to be stood or sat upon by the operator, is powered by an electric motor or by a gasoline motor that is capable of propelling the device without human power and is not capable of being registered with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. For the purposes of this section, the term motorized scooter shall not include wheelchairs or other mobility aids designed for use by disabled persons[, electric powered devices not capable of exceeding fifteen miles per hour or "electric personal assistive mobility devices" defined as self-balancing, two non-tandem wheeled devices designed to transport one person by means of an electric propulsion system].
d. Any motorized scooter that has been used or is being used in violation of the provisions of this section may be impounded and shall not be released until any and all removal charges and storage fees and the applicable fines and civil penalties have been paid or a bond has been posted in an amount satisfactory to the [police] commissioner of the agency that impounded such vehicle.
§ 2. This local law shall take effect one hundred eighty days after it shall have become law, except that the commissioners of the police department and the department of parks and recreation shall take all actions necessary, including the promulgation of rules, to implement this local law on or before the date upon which it shall take effect.

So an e-bike is illegal, unless it can't be propelled without human power - like the Bionx and other e-bikes that don't supply electric power unless the rider is pedalling - or, if it can't exceed 15 mph. However, a Segway or clone, is OK, and at least one Segway has been modified to exceed 20 mph.

While NYC Council applies a city-wide solution to a problem that apparently only plagues the upper east side of Manhattan, it seems the penalties are missing the mark, too. It is not the business owners paying the fines, but the e-bike riders. Then, there is something bizarre about a jurisdiction that wants to fine you more for riding an e-bike ($1,000 and vehicle confiscation) than if you kill a pedestrian with your car ($500).

All this in the context of U.S. federal law which says e-bikes (so long as they meet the definition) are LEGAL, and should be treated like bicycles, not (gasoline) motor scooters like Vespas.


December 13, 2013

Canada Has Second Federal Green Party MP

Today, the Green Party of Canada announced that its Parliamentary caucus has doubled in size (from 1 to 2). (See the link to learn more about Ontario MP Bruce Hyer.)

This should be positive news for EVs in Canada, as the Green Party is a supporter of zero and low emissions vehicles, not something that can be said of the current federal government.


December 13, 2013

(U.S.) New 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV: More Standard Features and a $6,000-Plus Reduction in Price

Mitsubishi North America (read U.S.) announced this week the price of the 2014 i-MiEV will drop dramatically, while adding new features. It still features the ChaDeMo fast charging capability as standard equipment, which will be phenomenal when there are more 3 of these stations east of B.C. Personally, I still don't have one within driving range of home in our Nissan Leaf, which could also make good use of this charging option.

If you have been waiting for an 'affordable' EV, this may be your answer. Consider this from the Mitsubishi press release (pricing for U.S. market in U.S. dollars):
"The 2014 model year Mitsubishi i-MiEV ES model including CHAdeMO DC quick charge port, battery warming system and heated side view mirrors now starts at only $22,995 – an astonishing $6,130 price reduction from the previous generation. After factoring in the Federal tax credit of $7,500, the net MSRP of the 2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV drops down to only $15,495*."

No word on pricing and availablity for Canada as yet. Historically, the big problem with the i-MiEV in Canada is actually obtaining one as they are rarely available for test drives, let alone in showrooms.


December 9, 2013

U.S. EV Sales for November 2013

Inside EVs posts EV sales data for the U.S. on a regular basis. The data for November 2013 allow me to extrapolate totals for 2013 to be roughly 96,000 units of plug-in vehicles sold, before a couple of U.S. specific purchase incentives end. If that is the case, then 2013 sales over 2012 will boast an increase of over 80% year over year. Meanwhile, gasoline sales in the U.S. have been on a decline since the summer of 2005, and gasoline sales by U.S. refiners have been falling off a cliff since 2008. In the first three quarters of 2013, sales by U.S. refiners are down more than 15% over the previous year.

If you are an investor, and like to bet on momentum, I think this data is screaming out to you, and may explain to some extent why Tesla Motors stock continues to fetch a premium.


December 7, 2013

Electric Motorcycle a Life-Changing Experience (in a good way)

I was chasing down a story on another electric motocycle prototype (perhaps more on that in 2014) when I seredipitously came across this article about a guy who has let a Zero electric motorcycle into his life. Enough from me (e-motocycle fan since the 1980s), read what Damon Lavrink has to say about his personal e-motorcycle story.


December 5, 2013

Electric Ferries on the Thames

Regrettably this is a stale news story; by about 130 years. However, it's a great story, and a fun lead-in to a story on a couple of other electric boats, the Greenline 33 and eCraft 20, described in this MarineLink article.

The hybrid Greenline 33 boasts a crusing range of 700 nautical miles and a roof of solar panels to help with charging. Their write-up notes that running on electric power costs one-tenth what diesel operation does. All-electric range is up to 20 nautical miles.

The eCraft 20 accommodates up to eight people and makes an elegant case for day cruising under electric power.

With snow piled up outside, I'm already longing to be back out on the water in better weather.


November 26th, 2013

Briggs & Stratton on Why to Get Rid of Your Small Gasoline Engines

I suspect Briggs & Stratton did not realize they were making a public service video giving another reason why you should get rid of your small gasoline engines, but that's the message I took away from it.

So, in addition to small oil and gasoline spills, and production of noxious, carcinogenic exhaust, all the noise and cranky starts, that the gasoline you are using in the engine is actually bad for the engine. That is, if it is stale gas, and B&S says that takes just 30 days.

For my power yard tools, it's just plug it in to recharge (or operate if corded). Easy starting, low noise, no exhaust, no gas cans, no oil changes. Just switch on and go.

(It pays to be nice to your batteries. Use an intelligent charger sized for the application, like the Soneil line for lead-acid batteries.)


November 22nd, 2013

EVVE2013 Presentations Now Available Online

If you could not attend the Canadian EV conference last month in Gatineau (or even if you did), you might be interested in [link has bit-rotted: http://www.emc-mec.ca/evve2013/en/day-by-day.html] viewing the presentations which were delivered over the 3 days.

I would love to direct you this one in particular.


November 15th, 2013

Another Case Study for Remedial Media

For almost a month now, I have seen a bunch of media headlines using this exact same phrase: "New study finds biofuels are more cost-effective than electric vehicles". This is intriguiging to me, as I know it isn't actually true for most real-world scenarios. So, as the various reports all point to the same study, I decided to check it out.

The first thing I noticed was the report was commissioned by BP, who have a significant interest in liquid transportation fuels, and pretty much none in utility electricity generation and distribution. Still, the report authors may still be doing and publishing solid research despite the vested-interest sponsorship, so I went looking for the word 'cost-effective' in the text to find how they reached the headline conclusion. Funny thing. Nowhere in the study does it actually say that biofuels are more cost-effective than electric vehicles.

Here's what the report actually does say (from the Executive Summary):

Blending biofuels is a more cost effective way of reducing emissions than using plug-in vehicles in the timeframe to 2030:
• At vehicle and consumer level, blending biofuels in fuels is a cheaper way to reduce emissions than using BEVs: biofuels translate into costs of £95/tCO2 versus £170/tCO2 for BEVs in 2030, based on DECC projections of energy costs and grid carbon intensity.
• At UK level, achieving 4Mt emission savings in 2030 through the use of biofuels results in an additional cost to the UK of £336m. This is significantly cheaper than achieving comparable emission savings through a high uptake of plug-in vehicles that comes at an additional cost of over £1,200m.

Note the caveat in the text that did not make it to the headline: "in the timeframe to 2030".

The flaw in the underlying assumption is that the current investment in carbon-spewing internal combustion engines should be held against the newcomer, zero-emissions electric vehicles. Then, a couple of other things caught my attention.

Capturing the benefits of biofuels will however require policy signals for the advanced biofuel supply chain to develop. Reaching an agreement over the current debate at EC level on the revision of the sustainability criteria and rules around the 10% target of 2020 is of particular importance. It would allow for policy makers and the industry to have the certainty required for the deployment of biofuels – and thus for the UK to capture the emission savings potential identified in this study.

Let me translate: if biofuel energy is to be effective in the transition period, there will have to be an incentive to use them, either subsidies or mandates; a courtesy not suggested for plug-in vehicles in the report.

Reducing grid carbon emissions is based on DECC projections, which always makes for some light reading. However, in skimming the Executive Summary, this sentence popped at me: "This [projected emissions are higher than those published last year in the first carbon budget period but lower in second, third and fourth periods] is primarily due to faster projected decarbonisation of the grid.". In other words, the U.K. is going to make its emissions reduction targets because it is the electrical grid - not the road vehicle fleet - that is reducing carbon emissions faster than originally expected.

But it's always fun to get into the meat of these reports, I mean, it's only right that someone actually read what these folks went to the trouble to write. Which leads to this graphic on page 18.

Note the black line at the bottom of the graph, and the accompanying text: "Lowest emissions from BEV but cost challenge for uptake" (where 'BEV' stands for battery electric vehicle). This in the context of a report that already said the uptake of biofuels also will require incentives.

So, the real headline should have been: "Highest emission reductions will be achieved by using more electric vehicles".


November 8th, 2013

New Service Market Niche for Hybrid Battery Packs

It appears that a car dealership in Arizona has developed a new market niche related to battery packs for hybrid vehicles: diagnostics and replacement of weak cells or modules in the pack, not the entire pack. See the video.


November 6th, 2013

WWF's Electric vehicle status update release

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada released their 2013 EV status update this week. You can find the links at their transportation blog.


November 5th, 2013

BMW i3 - Awakening Another Auto Journalist

In late 2013, you know the car review you are reading will be a waste of time when it begins with a phrase like "namely that they’re slow, they’re nerdy, they’re homely, and they’re impractical for daily use". Clearly, this automotive journalist has not been required to spell 'Tesla', let alone drive a Roadster or Model S. Other plug-ins already on the market have also blown up that mythology, such as the Chevrolet Volt, the Nissan Leaf, the Ford Focus Electric and others. I mean, the Tesla Model S is the Motor Trend 2013 Car of the Year. I suppose one has to allow for automotive journalists having an attention span of less than one model year, so they don't even recall the GM EV-1, Toyota RAV-4 Electric (version 1), Honda EV Plus and others that blew up that mythology in the 1990s.

Still, it's clear that the mainstream media is in need of education on the subject, so [link has bit-rotted: http://www.autonet.ca/en/2013/10/21/2014-bmw-i3--electrocuting-stereotypes-while-electrifying-your-drive] here's an example of another auto writer finally getting the memo.

What I find ironic about this particular review is that I personally find the i3 to be singularly unattractive from a styling perspective, consciously striving for a nerdy look. To me, it's as though BMW is setting out to make this car fail by making look like a post-collision vehicle that will sit on the showroom floor.

Note to automakers: if you want to make a plug-in car that will be a commercial success, check out what is working already. Either make your vehicle absolutely elegant and gorgeous e.g., the Tesla Model S, or look normal, as the hybrid Camry actually outsells the Prius in many markets. Then, make sure you can actually produce enough, because at this point, Tesla and Nissan are going to own the EV niche before the rest of you realize the party has started.


October 26, 2013

Report: Impact of Electric Vehicle Charging on Electric Grid Operations Could Be More Benign than Feared

[Link has bit-rotted: http://www.pecanstreet.org/2013/10/report-impact-of-electric-vehicle-charging-on-electric-grid-operations-could-be-more-benign-than-feared/] Here's a report that didn't make the mainstream press. I guess it wasn't sufficiently alarming.

Some of the key findings from the report:

  • For the drivers who are not part of the pricing trial, only 22 percent of weekday EV charging occurred during peak electric demand hours (3-7 pm). The rate was even lower among the EV drivers participating in the pricing trial — just 12 percent of their charging occurred during peak demand hours.
  • The average weekday “charge duration” for participants was just under two hours per charge. That is consistent with approximately 20 miles of driving between charges.
  • Using national average electric rates, it costs EV drivers less to charge their cars for a month than it costs to fill up a Prius once.

    To recap, EV drivers don't pull prodigious amounts of power from the grid, because they only need to replenish the amount they used since their last charge. EV drivers likely don't recharge much at peak times because they have jobs and are likely commmuting during peak demand times. EV drivers do respond to simple monetary incentives. EV drivers are saving money on fuel costs, even compared to hybrids. EV drivers are not crashing the grid, and they're not going to in the future. We may see some heavy loading at real peak demand times if time-of-use pricing schedules do not reflect electricity demand reality.


    October 25, 2013

    Ontario electricity rates going up Nov. 1

    New rates for winter 2013-14 (November 1 to April 30)

    7.2 cents/kwh from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.
    12.9 c/kwh from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
    10.9 c/kwh from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
    12.9 c/kwh from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

    Weekends and statutory holidays have a flat rate of 7.2 c/kwh.

    Looking at electricity use patterns for Ontario the past few months, I wonder if the off-peak rate could be lower if it started at 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. The current time of use pricing structure does not deal with the early evening demand period very well.

    CBC story


    October 21, 2013

    Accelerating the Adoption of EVs in Canada

    This was the theme of the 2013 Electric Mobility Canada electric vehicle conference. I presented a paper at the conference, and am pleased to say it was well received by the audience. You can view the slide deck, if that is of interest.


    October 8, 2013

    New charging stations electrify 401 corridor

    Sun Country Highway has installed 20 Level 2 EVSE charging stations along the 401. So much for Enroute and the Ontario government showing some leadership on this issue.

    Maybe the provincial government can get back in the game by installing Level 3 chargers at their monopoly service centres.


    October 7, 2013

    Over 8,000 EVs Sold in U.S. in September 2013

    It appears the EV renaissance is in full swing and increasing in momentum. This report from Cars21 shows over 8,000 plug-in cars were sold in the U.S. last month.

    In Norway, the Nissan Leaf was the second-highest selling model overall for the month of September. That's pretty exciting for EVs, but it is more exciting when you learn that the number one selling model that month in Norway was the Tesla Model S. That's not just the rankings for plug-in cars, that's for ALL cars of any kind in Norway for September 2013.


    September 28, 2013

    Canadian-Made Electric Motorcycle - The Lito Sora

    As owner of two electric motorcycles in the past, these machines always catch my eye in passing, whether in real life or in the media. Here's the Globe & Mail's article on a new Canadian entry in the performance electric motorcycle category. Looks like a sweet ride!


    August 25, 2013

    Plugging in More EVs Could Save Money for Ontario Electricity Ratpayers

    On the Ontario Civic Holiday, the price for electricity was negative for several hours. From 3 to 7 am and again from 3 to 5 pm (when air conditioning demand would be expected to be high), Ontario was paying other jurisdictions to take our power away.

    Some math guesswork based on IESO graphs for yesterday.
    Typical price during negative pricing: -$0.005 per kWh
    Number of hours at this level: 5
    Average power surplus: 1 GW (based on 11.6 GW nuclear base supply plus wind and run of river hydro that cannot be refused by contract, and demand that fell to 11.2 GW)

    5 hours x 1 GW x 1,000,000 scale correction x $0.005/kWh = $25,000.

    If we had more EVs plugged in and charging, we could have saved Ontario taxpayers and ratepayers that money - and that's just one day. There are days in recent years that this tab has exceeded a million dollars.

    It appears the price was also negative from 3 am to 9 am on Sunday, August 4th, and reached zero at 6 am on Saturday, August 3rd.

    As the Ontario manufacturing sector continues to shrink and consumers slowly switch to more efficient appliances, there will be more occurrences like this. What is remarkable about this past weekend is that this happened in the summer, when we usually expect this scenario in the spring and fall.

    Note to Ontario Power Authority, Ontario Power Generation and Ontario provincial government: if you want to reduce electricity costs in this province, find ways to get more EVs on the road and charging at off-peak times. This strategy will save all taxpayers and electricity ratepayers money as you make better use of your installed capital (generation equipment) base, and help reduce peak demand. Did you get that last bit? EVs can help reduce peak electricity demand, as well as increase off-peak demand. EVs can help reduce peak demand in at least 3 ways.

    1) Oil refineries operate 24x7, and they are big electricity consumers. As EVs displace internal combustion engines, the demand for refined oil products like gasoline, diesel and propane gas (yes, some vehicles still run on propane in Ontario) will be reduced, thus reducing the associated electricity demand at the refinery.

    2) EVs produce a lot less waste heat, and they - like our gasoline/diesel road fleet - will operate mostly in our cities. This will reduce the urban island heating effect, reducing the demand for air conditioning, reducing the demand for electricity, especially at peak demand times.

    3) Rush hour for gasoline and diesel purchases coincides with rush hour for vehicle traffic, which tends to align with peak demand periods for electricity. It's when people are already in their vehicles as part of their commute. Gas pumps use electricity. Reducing the demand for liquid fuels will occur primarily during peak electricity demand periods, reducing the total electricity demand at peak times.


    July 13th, 2013

    Forumla E Racing - Final City for 2014 Season Named

    And then we take Berlin!

    While I'm not a car racing fan, I recognize that racing is a superb way to get through to the automotive and mainstream media. So, while I think Electrathon, Ride-n-Drives and putting EVs in showrooms are better ways of getting people engaged with clean-air, quiet, sustainable transportation, I might tune in for some of these events next year.

    This past week, the Formula E organizing body [Site no longer exists: http://www.formulaeracing.com/?p=187] announced Berlin will be the 10th and final city for the 2014 inaugural race season.

    The venues and dates are as follows.
    20 September 2014 Beijing, China
    18 October 2014 Putrajaya, Malaysia
    8 November 2014 Hong Kong
    13 December 2014 Punta del Este, Uruguay
    10 January 2015 Buenos Aires, Argentina
    14 February 2015 Los Angeles, USA
    18 April 2015 Miami, USA
    9 May 2015 Monte Carlo, Monaco
    30 May 2015 Berlin, Germany
    27 June 2015 London, UK

    For those of us in eastern Canada, the closest event will be in Miami, FL on April 18, 2015. It's going to take some planning to get there and back in our Leaf. But there's lots of time to get those DC fast chargers installed along the U.S. east coast before I'll need them.


    July 4th, 2013

    Independence Day - EV Style

    The long hours of sun and warm temperatures of early summer in Canada have drawn families into their cars from the post-war period onward and head out on the open road. Perhaps it is the false sense of freedom and independence that makes the allure so compelling. Whatever the motivation, it calls out to us, and we respond. On such a day, my wife and I chose to head out from western Ottawa to the Chateau Montebello for a leisurely lunch and a day of relaxation.

    Our steed for the journey; the 2012 Nissan Leaf electric car we have christened Black Beauty. After running several errands, we set out after rush-hour with our charge somewhat depleted, and our 120-volt charging connector stowed aboard, just in case.

    The Leaf has a realistic urban range of about 150 km in good weather conditions. That number is reduced when travelling at highway speeds. The distance from western Ottawa to Montebello is roughly 100 km, and we were starting from less than a full charge, so we knew from the outset that we would not be making the round trip on a single charge. It is also pretty clear that Nissan did not design the Leaf to be a long-haul vehicle, but rather to address the much more common short-haul urban missions that define the travel needs for most urban dwellers. So, we were pushing the envelope just a little bit.

    It is still early days in establishing the publicly available EV charging infrastructure in Canada, so some planning is required. While charging stations are being installed at a good rate (especially in urban areas) the existence of these charging stations is not well documented yet. Nor are the rules for using the charging stations uniform. While I expect this will become simpler in months and years to come, the original planning for a somewhat more ambitious trip had me looking at no less than 5 maps of charging stations (Sun Country Highway; Hydro Quebec Circuit Electrique; PlugShare; ChargePoint; and, Plug-n-Drive Ontario/CAA). None provides a single complete picture of available charging stations between Ottawa and Montreal, and where multiple maps show the same station, the information about it was sometimes contradictory.

    Our ace-in-the-hole was knowledge that a Level 2 charging station had been installed at the Chateau Montebello (our destination) by Hydro Quebec, and we had received our access card in the mail a few days earlier. Our Leaf is equipped with the ChaDeMo port, so we could do a full recharge in less than 30 minutes if a Level 3 charging station was available, but there are none along our route (or near Ottawa for that matter).

    We chose a fairly direct route, which included some primary freeway (Highway 417), and secondary highway (Route 174 and old Hwy 17 on the Ontario side and Hwy 148 in Quebec.) We elected to cross the river by ferry from Clarence-Rockland to Thurso.

    Ecolos Electric Ferry - Ottawa River - Clarence-Rockland to Thurso

    We chose this ferry because it was convenient, but mostly because it is electric powered. That’s right, a very quiet, zero-emissions large watercraft that does not shake you apart with the vibration from a large internal combustion engine, and gag you with the stink of exhaust fumes. It makes for a serene and civilized crossing. Recommended.

    Nissan Leaf electric car on electric ferry boat

    The drive along the river was pleasant, marked by small farms and flood plain. Pastoral.

    We arrived at the Chateau Montebello without incident just after noon with just under 50 km range remaining, or about 30% of our charge. We encountered staff on the private roadway in, and enquired about the location of the charging station. We received precise instructions for the short distance, and a golf car pulled out behind us. We found the charging station in front of the regular parking area, and the actual parking space is grass-covered - not paved. The Leaf’s display indicated we needed 4 hours of Level 2 charging time. We pulled in, plugged in, swiped our access card, and the Level 2 charging station started delivering charging power. Facility staff had a break area a few metres from the parking space, and clearly we were a novelty. So, we got to answer a few questions before it was time to head to the main dining room for lunch. (The Hydro Quebec fee for using their Level 2 charging stations is $2.50 per visit. At the Chateau Montebello, the bonus is that the parking for electric vehicles is free, while it is $10 or more for ICE vehicles.)

    Nissan Leaf electric car parked at Chateau Montebello charging station

    We made a point of lingering over lunch - a day of leisure was the original point of the trip. The Chateau Montebello is a phenomenal facility, and it should be enjoyed - from the main dining room, to the grand foyer with the massive stone fireplace, the sculpted logs that are the hallmark of the construction. Given the heat of the day, we chose to spend some time in the foyer - reading and chatting - before setting out to tour the grounds. I noticed there were several golf cars and low-speed utility vehicles in use for transporting staff and materials, and maintenance and grounds-keeping. I was vaguely disappointed that they were all gassers, until I saw - but did not hear - a utility vehicle go by pulling a trailer. A short walk later, I caught up with the green electric utility vehicle.

    John Deere electric electric truck at Chateau Montebello

    The trailer was a watering tank with sprayer hose. The electric pump to move the water was mounted on the trailer tongue, and powered from the electric truck’s battery pack. Nice set-up - quiet, efficient, effective.

    John Deere electric electric truck showing Electric logo

    A bit later, I was going past the marina (no electric boats I could detect), but did note that there were a couple of e-bikes parked by the marina. Apparently, some of the boaters carry these aboard for use on land when docked.

    E-bike at Montebello Marina

    With our charging time just about up, and reality beckoning back at home, I headed back to the car. I read for a few minutes as the charge topped up, then we disconnected the charging cable and started our journey home. We arrived home with about 45 km range left on the guessometer, and used some of that to out for dinner. After getting home, we had 17 hours of charging time needed on Level 1, but learned we needed the car for another trip the following morning before the charge would be complete. So, I drove our Leaf over to the dealership, and plugged it into their Level 2 charger and walked home. The cost for refueling our Leaf at the Nissan dealership? No cost. Does your car dealer refuel your gas car for free, just for the asking? Our Nissan dealer has told us we are welcome to come use this charging outlet anytime we wish to do so - no cost.

    Next morning, as I was getting ready to go retrieve our fully-charged Leaf, I was faced by this apparition - a 30-foot tree had fallen in our yard, just missing the house, but landing squarely across our electric lawn tractor. The good news is, after bringing the Leaf home for my wife to use, my electric chainsaw made quick work of the tree, and the sturdy little 40-year-old tractor was undamaged.

    Fallen Tree fills view from our kitchen window

    24 hours of running errands, a drive to a distant resort for lunch, a river crossing by electric ferry and cutting up a fallen tree - all without using fossil fuels, producing zero emissions. (The Quebec electrical grid is almost 100% hydro-powered, and in Ontario we are phasing out coal generation and natural gas is used only at peak periods, so our local grid story is pretty good when it comes to fossil fuel use, and continues to improve.) We can be increasingly independent from our reliance upon fossil fuels in our lives (and occasionally have some fun doing it), if we just choose to do so.


    April 5th, 2013

    EVVE2013 - Call for Abstracts - Closes May 5th

    This year's national EV conference takes place at Lac Leamy in October. Geographically convenient for those of us in the Ottawa area.

    If you are interested in presenting a paper or poster, please ensure you get your abstract in by May 5th.

    The theme of this year’s conference is Accelerating EV Growth. Abstracts submitted can address any topic that would accelerate EV growth in any mode of surface transportation. That includes e-bikes, boats, off-road vehicles as well as the more conventional sense of EVs.

    What do you think would accelerate the adoption of EVs? Charging stations infrastructure? Lower purchase prices? More education of vehicle purchasers? Targetting specific vehicle market niches? High performance example vehicles as trailblazers? Carbon tax? How would you turn that into a paper for presentation?

    Feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

    See the [link has bit-rotted: http://www.emc-mec.ca/evve2013/en/call-for-abstracts.html#.UWAkfleyJXM] EMC website for more information.


    February 21st, 2013

    EVs are Going PrimeTime

    How do you know when your subject area has gone mainstream? When everybody wants you to participate in their blog, and their brothers are organizing conferences.

    Earlier this month I attended the Electric Vehicle and Infrastructure Summit in Toronto. In October, Electric Mobility Canada will be holding their annual EV conference at the Lac Leamy Hilton in Gatineau (see you there). Two years ago it was tough to get enough attendees to hold one EV conference a year in Canada; now we have two.

    And that doesn't even include the conferences being held in the U.S. and around the world in 2013, like the long-running EDTA annual shindig and EVS-27 in Barcelona, let alone the new events popping up.


    February 20th, 2013

    EV Deals in Ottawa

    February is always a tough month in the car sales business in winter cities. Who wants to test drive a car when it is cold and nasty out? Which is why you tend to see the best prices of the year this month.

    I have heard from local sources that you can get a sweet deal on either a brand-spanking new Mitsubishi i-MiEV or a Nissan Leaf right now, in the neighbourhood of $22 to $23,000 (after Ontario rebate). With gasoline at over $1.30 a litre this week, and expected to be higher this summer, don't you at least want to think about making the switch to electric drive?

    (P.S., if you want to now how to knock a few hundred more off the posted price in Ottawa for either the Leaf or i-MiEV, e-mail me).


    February 19th, 2013

    If AMG Made an Electric Boat ...

    actually, no need to strain your imagination. They did it. Just check it out, or here, or here. or - OK pretty much everywhere on the web by now.


    February 18th, 2013

    Clean Grid Means Clean EVs

    First, it's good to be back posting again. The combination of today being Family Day here, and having stepped down from the Presidency of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa (evco.ca) provides the opportunity to clean up this blog page, and the time to continue posting in days to come.

    Those with an anti-EV agenda continue to perpetuate the myth that widespread adoption of EVs won't have a significant environmental benefit. Still, if you give it any thought, the benefits are obvious and significant. Being Family Day, consider the growing epidemic of just air quality issues we are experiencing: COPD, asthma, cancers, air quality days where we are told to keep our childen indoors, ... Cleaner air will obviously improve our quality of life, and that of our families.

    So it is timely that the Shrink That Footprint group has just published a paper titled Shades of Green. In one of the summary graphs, they show Canada as having an equivalent of 87 mpg due to the amount of hydro and other non-carbon generation sources - or about 2.7 L/100km - better than the Prius C hybrid ( 3.5 L/100km).

    As we shift away from coal (Ontario is on track to shut down the last of its coal-fired generation this year), and shift to renewables (wind is the fastest growing electricity generating sector), the clean EV story will only get better.


    February 16, 2013

    Call for Abstracts - Electric Mobility Canada 2013 Conference

    Electric Mobility Canada (EMC) has issued its [link has bit-rotted: http://www.emc-mec.ca/evve2013/en/call-for-abstract.html] call for abstracts for papers to be presented at its 2013 conference in Gatineau, Quebec, October 21-23.

    See you at Lac Leamy in October!


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    About the Author:
    Darryl McMahon built his first electric car in 1978, and has had at least one electric vehicle EVer since. He was a founding member of the Electric Vehicle Association of Canada. He is the author of The Emperor's New Hydrogen Economy and many articles about electric vehicles, related technology and history. He is currently a member of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa, Electric Mobility Canada, Historian for the Electric Auto Association, and President of Econogics.

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