New Video on Solutions: The EV Revolution

October 16, 2014

I’ve been talking about the revolution in transportation for some time, and one of the classic responses I get when I bring up electric cars is, “But wait, cars are the problem, we need to get away from cars.”

Typically this will be in a setting where almost everyone has arrived and will leave in a car. Not the best idea, this total American reliance on the automobile, but it is, for now, a fact. I point out that even if we plunge into an Apollo scale program to bring US mass transit up to the standards of, say, Europe – that’s a 30 year program, and at the end of it, we’re still going to have  lot of cars – and we should be thinking about changing the way we fuel them. That said, I’m all about mass transit, and increasingly, cities around the country are getting it, and realize that if they want to be successful and vibrant, good public transit is a priority. Even Detroit is now breaking ground on a new light rail system. I’ll be reporting more on this in the future.

It’s fascinating that, when I did my previous video about electric car solutions, one of the main points I was making was the idea of “V to G”, vehicle to grid storage of energy – which is still a good, viable idea – but the interesting addition to the mix now is the rapidly exploding revolution in solar technology, and right behind that, battery tech.  Just a few years ago, the idea was that the only batteries large enough to store significant energy would have to be in a car, they’d be too expensive to be part of a household system. Now, better technology, and equally important, new economic models, are going to make household energy storage systems much more common, even ubiquitous.

So the idea, expressed in the video, of “driving on pure sunlight” – seems much more within reach than it did just a few years ago.
For reference, here’s my older video, obviously dated because it came out before the Chevy Volt, but still useful.


23 Responses to “New Video on Solutions: The EV Revolution”

  1. Hi Peter,

    This is great. I used the plug-in hybrid video extensively for teaching students here in Germany about smart solutions, so this new video is a great follow-up.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Since this is Climate Crocks, why isn’t anyone asking whether EVs are actually good for the climate?

    Let’s take a Nissan Leaf in Melbourne.  Australia’s grid emits on the order of 1000 gCO2/kWh.  A Leaf consumes on the order of 150 Wh (0.15 kWh) per km.  The Leaf in Melbourne emits 150 gCO2/km, 50% greater than the 99 gCO2/km that many European vehicles eke out.

    Denmark’s grid emits 385 gCO2/kWh.  This gives a Leaf in Denmark total CO2 emissions of 58 gCO2/km.

    Sweden’s grid emits 23 gCO2/kWh.  A Leaf in Sweden emits just 3.5 gCO2/km.  We can safely say that if the entire world drove Leafs charged using Sweden’s grid mix, the use of personal cars would cease to be a significant factor in greenhouse-gas emissions.

    On the personal level, some locals actually noticed how quiet my Fusion Energi was the other day and I did a bit of evangelizing.  It didn’t take long before I got the remark about my “coal-burning car”.  Had the “environmental” movement not gone all-in for “no nukes” in the 1970’s, we might already have eliminated coal-burning plants (as Ontario has done) and such a phrase would simply make people laugh.  Sadly, it has currency today… thanks in no small part to those now calling themselves “green”.

  3. jimbills Says:

    Okay, I’ll rant one more time about EVs. It’s getting tiresome for me, ha ha, and I’m sure it’s tiresome for others, too.

    First off, I’m not against EVs per se. By themselves, they are significantly less polluting than gasoline combustion engine vehicles. That’s a good thing, of course. And yes, if one ties EVs with alternate energy sources, it’s even less polluting than that (not zero polluting, but far better than gas engines now).

    The problem I have with EVs is the message that goes along with them – that we can just keep going per usual and everything will be fine. That’s what those EV commercials are saying as an underlying message (like the frankly retarded polar bear commercial). What’s worse, many in the environmental community seem to be agreeing with that message, that we can continue everything else if we just swap out the types of vehicles and the types of energy production.

    We built a deeply wasteful and very environmentally costly way of life on fossil carbon, most of it enabled by seriously powerful (and at the time, very cheap) private gas vehicles. Even if EVs can provide completely for this massive infrastructure put in place by fossil carbon, which is far from certain, and highly unlikely before 2050, all we will have done is manage to continue this extremely wasteful and destructive land and resource management.

    The thing we have to remember is that it’s not just emissions/pollution/resource use from the vehicles themselves. It’s the entire way of life enabled by them. Compare a person living within walking distance of their job in an apartment, and a person living 30 miles from their job with a large home and yard. It’s not JUST the commute. It’s all the additional resources used to provide for that lifestyle, and all of those require emissions/other pollution/resource use.

    The EV message is that there’s nothing wrong with that – let’s just keep going by buying a new vehicle. Yes, people are going to keep driving, anyway, but in essence we are giving a pass to it, saying that it’s okay, and even desirable (by touting how much EVs have, for instance). And by “we”, I mean the people who should darned well know better.

    Additionally, there is no such thing as “driving on pure sunlight”, unless one thinks the cars magically sprouted from the ground using photosynthesis and water, that they are powered by chlorophyll on their roof, and that they float on air. All of the items necessary to allow these vehicles requires actual emissions/other pollution/resource use in the real world.

    Now, let’s make two assumptions. 1) EVs and renewable energy will become more affordable and technologically capable (I happen to think this is highly likely), and 2) we have a lot of fossil carbon left (even with peak production events, we do) and 80% of world energy use is currently reliant on fossil carbon (it is – ).

    As time progresses, theoretically, EVs and alternate energy will start to displace total fossil carbon use. So far, this hasn’t happened yet:

    And it doesn’t look like it will happen for several more decades. But as alternate energy rises, a natural economic effect will be to lessen supply pressures on fossil carbon, lowering their prices on a global level. Both that price easing and the fact that many systems will still require them means that it’s going to get used somewhere in the system. In effect, alternate energy will facilitate fossil carbon consumption for many decades.

    This is why technology doesn’t solve what is essentially a human behavioral problem. You have to address the human behavior, too, or else the technological advances (which can help, but not solve) simply allow the human behavioral problems to continue and, in many cases, grow.

    The only real way to solve CO2 emissions in anything like an adequate time frame is to insist that their use be drastically curtailed on its own. Gradual or steady replacement by another source (which we’re nowhere close to as yet) by itself simply allows the problems to continue and spread. This means taxation and banning production (and pipelines), which the conservatives have right when they say it will hold economic growth down. If it’s done aggressively, it will mean economic contraction – which honestly I take as civilization’s only hope for surviving the next few centuries.

    If we have contraction, we’ll find again humanity’s amazing ability to adapt. We’ll stop bickering about mass transport, walkable communities, growing food locally, biking, etc. We’ll find we’ll have to do those things, anyway, and a result will be that emissions/other pollution/resource use will fall far more effectively and dramatically.

    Alternate energy should be pursued and built out conjuctively, of course. But on its own it’s merely a tool. It’s not a solution. We are the solution – what we actually do is.

    No, this isn’t fun. But imagine a party in a room. A lot of alcohol is consumed, a lot cake and pig products are eaten, and a lot of trash is made. At some point that party ends and everyone goes back to work. We’re living in this party at this stage of history in the economically prosperous corners of the world, and it’s a delusion to think it will continue. The idea that it absolutely has to continue, or else we won’t be happy and/or survive, is also a delusion. At some point we have to grow up and go back to work, and no, it isn’t fun.

    And guess what? It’s 3 am and our neighbors are knocking at the window asking to be let in. And who can blame them? Hey, we’ve got a couple of beers left in the fridge and a few shriveled hot dog weenies stuck to a paper plate. Party on!

    • redskylite Says:

      I am impressed with your excellent post, links and sentiments.

      What you say about the message that EV’s give is very true, at least for affluent developed countries (like mine), but we have to remember we are talking “global” warming, EV’s, hybrids, fuel-celled or fossil fuelled cars are just a dream to a vast proportion of our world’s populous and of course to the unborn future generations that are still in our hands.

      Unfortunately we are running out of time, if we had built more nuclear plants in the 70’s we may well have been in a much better position today, however we did not and I think that the blame for that is more to do with ignorance, politics and economics, than just a bunch of enthusiastic protesters.

      Taking the advise of the international scientific consortium who decided we had a 50% chance of avoiding catastrophic (+2°C) average global temperature rise, if we stayed around 450 ppm of atmospheric CO2 concentration, we have around decade to react.

      Uncomfortably close and highly frustrating.

      • jimbills Says:

        Well, thanks, but I know the vast, vast majority would view it as something close to insane. That’s okay. I view the world as insane.

        This video should be shared to the few that might be receptive to it. It relates:

      • jimbills Says:

        One more – it also relates:

        “Never accept failure as the price of expediency.” Please watch to the end of the video. It has a slow start.

        I’ve posted these two videos to show that I’m not alone in what I’m saying here. It may sound crazy to many, but maybe we should just consider that pretending this isn’t our only option is the irrational position.

        There is the general question, as Hagens states it, of voluntary degrowth or an involuntary end of growth caused by dynamics in the global economic system that can’t be stopped. If I had to put ballpark odds on it, I’d say there’s a 1 in 1 million chance of voluntary degrowth, a 98% percent chance of involuntary end of growth, and the remaining percent is that by a combination of monetary finagling, technological advances, and sheer stubbornness and abject denial of the harm we causing to our long-term prospects, we power our way past economic failure, only to get environmental failure.

        I argued above for what Krumdieck is suggesting – voluntary degrowth – even though I know we won’t likely do it. But, to me, it’s the only rational response to the problems we face this century when viewed in unity and in their entirety, and it can’t hurt to suggest it, at least in a place that theoretically is one of the few places should be receptive to it.

        The EV hidden message of technology as solution, to me, is just another layer of denial to the problems we face. They are a shiny distraction.

        I’ll probably not speak much about this subject again here in the future. The trends should be obvious to anyone who really studies it. Thanks for indulging me if you’ve read this and watched the videos.

      • jimbills Says:

        Okay, one more Krumdieck one. Ha ha. It relates, and goes into the dynamics of it all:

        • dumboldguy Says:

          You said “I’ll probably not speak much about this subject again here in the future. The trends should be obvious to anyone who really studies it” and “I know the vast, vast majority would view (my thoughts) as something close to insane”.

          Your comments are among the more sane here, and MORE of us need to address these topics more often rather than less. The number of “thumbs down” garnered by your comment on October 16, 2014 at 6:17 pm is indicative of that need. The graph of world fuel consumption over the past 25 years doesn’t take a lot of study to show that fuel use has risen by over 60% (while human population has risen by only 40%), and that fossil fuels are an ever-INCREASING portion of the total.

          I myself have spoken often about population dynamics, unsustainability, bright-sidedness, and wishful thinking. Following is a quote from a long-lost thread on Crock. Look especially at the increase in human population from 1 billion in 1800 to 7+billion today, a time period that correlates with the industrial revolution, increased energy use, and burning of fossil fuels. Then look at the tiny wedge of renewables on the fuel consumption graph but then “do an Arcus” and babble on about solar, EV’s, grids, storage, and GERMANY.

          “I’ve made comments like this before on other threads, but the ongoing denial of certain truths by so many who visit Crock leads me to do so again. I’ve also made comments about the large number of hockey sticks that we are seeing appear on the “score sheet” of the human race. Once again, let’s look at some population dynamics:

          “1) Estimated world human population at the dawn of civilization 8-10,000 years ago was ~5,000,000 (5 million)
          2) Estimated human population in 1800 was 1,000,000,000 (1 billion)
          3) It took 130 years to add another billion and reach 2 billion (1930)
          4) It took 30 years to add the third billion (1959)
          5) It took 15 years to add the fourth billion (1974)
          6) It took 13 years to add the fifth billion (1987)
          7) It took 12 years to add the sixth billion (1999)
          8) It took 13 years to add the seventh billion (2011)
          9) Estimates are that it will take 13 years to add the eighth billion (2024)

          “Google “human population growth” and view the graphs for yourself—you will a huge and near-perfect hockey stick. The growth rate IS declining, and the UN projects that there will be 10 billion humans in 2062, ~50 years from now. That’s adding roughly one billion every 25 years. Now you need to superimpose the many hockey sticks I have previously referenced from “blog2009 The Graph: A Picture of the Present and Future”.

          “Then realize that the hockey sticks of UNsustainability you see there result mainly from the activities of 20-25% of the human population in the developed world and that most of the remaining 75-80% want to achieve the same “standard of living” (read “consumption level”) as we in the west enjoy. Then do some extrapolation, and you will find that if that occurs, the carbon footprint of the human race 50 years from now could be equal to as many as 40-50 billion “2014 human equivalents”.

          “BUT, you say—-“We we are converting to renewables…and Elon Musk…and wind power…and EV’s…..and…”. Then look at how Exxon Mobil intends to burn every last bit of fossil fuel they can find, and how much coal India and China (with 1/3 of the earth’s population) intend to burn over the next 50 years. Then tell us we’re not whistling past the graveyard as we head towards 500 PPM of CO2 fifty years from now. The story is not here in the U.S. or in Germany or in France, folks, and Guy McPherson is not the extremist many would make him out to be—he is a realist..

          • jimbills Says:

            DOG – I can’t stay angry at people forever, ha ha, so I’ll respond here.

            Yeah – I remember that discussion. I wish you hadn’t brought up Guy, though, because he’s easily pigeon-holed as crazy, – mostly because he’s the most extreme of the ‘sudden emergency’ doomer camp. I think you take his conclusions of imminent catastrophe within 30 years (all life extinguished on Earth) as figurative rather than literal, but I’m certain he means them literally, and many of the people who read and follow him do as well.

            The result is a sort of nihilistic belief system in which people might as well drive SUVs as much as possible, or that we should instigate nuclear war, and they hold serious discussions about suicide as a rational option. This is not exaggeration on my part. I’ve read his stuff, and I’ve read the comments following his stuff.

            People might read what I’ve said above, or watched the videos, or what you’ve written, and think it’s a doomer message, too. It’s not. What it’s really saying is that there are understandable conclusions to the patterns of modern society, and that a failure to recognize these conclusions, plus a failure to reverse course on them, will lead to those conclusions. We create our own doom. I honestly take the technophile belief in EVs as solution as the final nail in the coffin for our society, because they are a rationalization for maintaining the status quo system as a whole. We’ve chosen our path.

            You know what all the recent “go to Mars” stuff is? It’s the frickin’ backup plan. We instinctively know as a society we won’t do the things necessary to avoid environmental destruction, and instead of confront them head on, we choose to believe in fantasy.

            The recent discussions here about Arctic methane often miss the point. It’s highly unlikely that there will be sudden catastrophic methane release in the next few decades. But it’s highly likely that our current patterns will release enough GG to trip positive feedbacks, and over timescales of centuries instead of decades, the possibilities do increase significantly for catastrophic positive feedbacks.

            Also, I personally dislike the laser focusing on climate change as the only concern in our environment. It’s far from it, and the patterns of modern society are gradually disrupting many of “free” services from our environment that we take for granted.

            Anyway, que sera, sera. I’ve found almost everyone just believes what they want to believe. There’s very little convincing to be done, because it most often can’t be done. The human mind is amazingly capable at putting up barriers to protect core values. It’s what denial is, in all its forms.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            I knew you wouldn’t stay angry at me forever. You’re too smart, but more importantly, it would be like getting angry at your own face in the mirror because we see so many things the same way and agree on so much.

            I think Guy is deliberately overstating the “doom and gloom” case to try to get people’s attention before it’s too late. He is not responsible for the people who take him literally and adopt the “nihilistic belief system” (or the “fatalism” that Peter expressed concern about). There are always people “seeking” and looking for excuses, and some of them end up on the fringes of rationality thumping bibles, while others advocate suicide, nuclear war, or vote Republican. So be it.

            We talked about what state evolution has brought the human race to, and it can be summed up in a few words—-we have evolved to the point that we control evolution rather than the other way around, and the thing that distinguishes man—-his thinking powers and ability to create and use technology—-are simply F**Ked up.

            You and I do not send “doomer” messages, we simply rationally analyze factual evidence and reach conclusions that are not “bright-sided”. I agree totally with “…..there are understandable conclusions to the patterns of modern society, and that a failure to recognize these conclusions, plus a failure to reverse course on them, will lead to those conclusions…..We’ve chosen our path”, and it is a path of denial and fantasy.

            “….the patterns of modern society are gradually disrupting many of “free” services from our environment that we take for granted” is another true statement, with emphasis on “gradual”. Mankind’s inability to look beyond the “now” is going to be the death of all life on the planet, with the only question being “how long will it take”?. McPherson may be rushing it with decades, but if we don’t get moving soon, it will be game over at some point down the road. No rational person can conclude otherwise.

            Anyway, que sera, sera. I’ve found almost everyone just believes what they want to believe. There’s very little convincing to be done, because it most often can’t be done. The human mind is amazingly capable at putting up barriers to protect core values. It’s what denial is, in all its forms.

  4. I have nothing against EVs. Maybe some day I’ll even own one. Here in Taiwan electric motor scooters are actually sold and used, though still a small percentage of our total scooter traffic. The electric scooters only cost about US$1000 new. Range is only around 50km when new, and decreases as the batteries age. That’s OK for use in the downtown area of a big city, but forget about driving one on a trip to the mountains.

    The idea of plugging an electric and scooter or car into the grid and using it as backup power for the house at night when the sun isn’t shining – it’s just ridiculous. I challenge anyone to do this. Just try running your refrigerator, lights, oven and TV set off a car or scooter battery and see how long it lasts.

    You don’t need to wait for new technology to try the experiment. A Chevy Volt or Tesla can be used to test it. Not everyone has one, but if you can beg, borrow or steal one for a day to run the experiment, that’s all you need.

    In the list of absurd ideas that greens have come up, this one rates near the top.

    • lesliegraham1 Says:

      Just felt obliged to mention that I DID use to run my lights, refrigerator, TV, computers (2), water pump and small fans off a bank of batteries.
      They were in my 44ft long solar powered housebus in Australia.
      To be fair the oven was powered by gas.

  5. redskylite Says:

    There is some scepticism regarding V2G technology, but this article from Australia’s Reneweconomy is very upbeat:

    “As far back as 2011, Nissan unveiled a system that enables electricity stored in its LEAF lithium-ion batteries to be used in the household; effectively acting as home battery backup system with enough storage to run the average Australian household for over a day.

    The batteries being used in some of the latest model Teslas can store enough energy to power the average house for three and a half days.”

    There is also ongoing research at the University of Delaware, and Denmark’s Edison project, a consortium with IBM, Siemens and Eurisco. Having lived and worked through amazing advances in IT hardware (from the cumbersome mainframes of the late 60’s to the sleek servers of today), I can easily imagine it happening.

  6. An EV parked at work and hooked to a charger can have V2G. Wholesale daytime electricity costs drop when solar is added to the grid. Right now, EVs plug in at night for lower rates. When solar kicks in, EVs will charge during the day.

    More. Add one more to the myth of base load power.
    The myth of renewable energy storage need.

    ” The electricity grid is by far the most cost-effective and reliable way to deal with the variability of wind and solar, just like it deals with the variability of demand.”

    Another study, released by NREL last November, found that storage wasn’t cost-effective until variable generation reached at least 40 percent of annual energy.

    recently commissioned a report from four research institutes that found storage to be unnecessary in Germany until renewables hit at least 60 percent of the power supply.

    But storage may thrive for other reasons, according to Agora, such as at the distribution level, for the benefit of customers.

    They point out that feed-in tariff payments last twenty years, while PV systems may last longer. As customers reach the end of their tariff, a battery system will help them use all of their own PV output, rather than losing it to the grid.

    Another value of storage, providing operating reserves like regulation and contingency reserves, is worth more, but the overall market size is small.

    So while there may be a rationale for energy storage, integrating wind and solar into a modern power grid is not one of them.

    At least not until levels exceeding 40% renewables integration. In the next decade, as V2G kicks in, there will be large amounts of storage on the grid.

  7. Clean fun! I like it it.

  8. MorinMoss Says:

    I thought that the “Holland. The Original Cool” ads were hip & amusing but after reading that they’ve purchased 3 BYD buses and 167 Model S to use as taxis at the Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, I just might be willing to believe them.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      What you can believe is that the “government incentives and subsidies” must be rather large in order to make a $70,000 car an economical choice as a taxicab.

      It’s a shame that much of Holland will likely be under water in a century or two (unless they stop subsidizing Tesla taxis and start putting the $$$ in the “Raise the Dikes” fund instead).

  9. […] Anyhow, though, it’s a great video. Watch it above if you haven’t yet, and a big thanks to Peter. […]

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