This document is an archive of text and links from:

Josh Landess
EVWorld Blog Archives
(2005-2009)

The links were eventually made invalid when the Blog was retired. The blogs themselves are presented stripped of some formatting and generally the page may not be fully in order. The primary purpose of the page is as a quick archive by the author; while the basic information is intact, the exact presentation is left imperfect.

The Obama Administration Has Not Done Anything About The NiMH Battery Situation
14 Chinese Battery Makers Restricted By Ovonic Battery (With Some Help From Chevron I Surmise)
Seven blogs I meant to do
Recent declines in monthly average global Oil Production
Improve Home Dashboards to Monitor Air, Water, Energy
Solid State Gravitational Energy Storage
Approximately 137,000 Traffic Injuries Per Day On Earth?
US-Oriented Transportation Safety & Fuel Statistics Of Note
Comparing Possible Bankruptcies: GM Versus Think Global AS
Pollution & War Taxes On Gasoline & Other Fossil Fuels
Oil Price Gyrations And Peak Oil
Hunan Corun New Energy Seeks To Produce NiMH Propulsion Batteries (Yay!)
Reducing and eliminating some energy expenditure related to transportation.
A Criticism Of Nuclear Energy On Economic Grounds
The 198+ MPGE ElectricMotorCycle Solution, For Sale Right Now
The Ratio Of Air To Fuel
The comparisons of Microsoft to Detroit Automakers always seemed to have some validity, didn't they?
Reducing Motor-Vehicle-Related Deaths, Injuries and Property Damage
I Think America Needs A Price Floor For Fossil Fuels, Via Taxation
A First Few Energy Policy Suggestions To The Obama Administration
A Ford Dealership Lets Down A Ford EV Customer
Someone Asked: 'Is Valence A Good Company?'
Have we reached an energy pricing threshold?
Does the Vectrix really get 340 miles per gallon-equivalent of energy?
NiMH Is Apparently Not Being Used In the Fiat Palio For Brazil
What happened to Innovative Transporation Systems AG, and why are they suing Energy Conversion Devices?
WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? RELEASE SCHEDULE
The Japanese Government Appears To Be Laying The Groundwork To Back Battery Blectric Vehicles
90 Day Countdown to Wednesday June 28 Film: 'Who Killed the Electric Car?'
Peak Oil Again
Apparently, Japanese Companies Are Not Very Important
Maybe New York State Will Not Wait For Detroit
Cobasys Research
The NiMH Battery Industry Pelican Brief... Of A Sort
Demand Destruction For Oil Vs. Predictions Of Higher Prices


Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

The Obama Administration Has Not Done Anything About The NiMH Battery Situation

 

Thursday | July 02, 2009

As far as I know, the Obama Administration has done nothing whatsoever about the NiMH battery situation.  For all of the energy and money they have put into promoting clean renewable domestically-produced energy and energy efficiency, when it came down to it, they have had nearly six months in office and have not taken a shot at even mentioning or discussing the Oil-Company-Stultified excellent tried-and-true energy storage technology.


I was reviewing the specs of the Lithium-powered vehicles that are apparently coming to market over the next few  months.  In some cases coming "to market" is a bit of a stretch, but we'll see a few hundred vehicles on the road, here  or there, basically in the hands of fleets... that sort of thing.  ... Some of the specs are not actually that impressive, and some are.  Whereas some NiMH-powered vehicles  were traveling well more than 100 miles on a charge, at highway speeds, in the 1990s, the Lithium-powered offerings  from Subaru and Mitsubishi from 2009 don't seem to be there, or seem to struggle to match those numbers.  To form a counter-point, we know that a good Lithium-Powered car from Tesla or BMW or others would at least bring out the strengths that Lithium offers, such as excellent range and low weight.


I'm a fan of Lithium vehicles, and I hope they'll work out.  In the meantime, they are going to market with a prime  proven-reliable competitor (NiMH-powered-vehicles) apparently not allowed to compete fully.


As far as I've been able to tell in my research so far, no mention has been made by anyone in the Obama Administration (or by anyone in policy-making for that matter) of the NiMH Battery situation.  You can't fix what you can't discuss.  Perhaps they think they can just close their  eyes and hope for the best and everything will be ok?  Maybe some think that Lithium vehicles will be produced in the hundreds  of millions without any economic issues relating to a lack of competition or insufficient resources? 

Cobasys has been financially dying on the vine in Michigan for a year or two or more, with its workers' future in limbo, and yet no  policy-maker wants to talk about this?  I thought policy-makers liked to talk about jobs?  ECD and Chevron have been collaborating  quietly to keep non-US companies from doing much with NiMH batteries suitable for highway-capable BEVs, and yet no policy-maker has anything to say about this?  I thought they wanted to say they cared about energy policy and  "energy independence".

One specific idea perhaps worth pursuing would be to work to try to discover a White Knight to purchase financially troubled Cobasys.  If this course were pursued, at least two important things would have to be kept in mind.  First, we should not be naive: the joint venture owners of Cobasys might try to harm the company's battery production rights and business (even more?) if it is being pried away.  Second, prying Cobasys from its owners would not by any means solve all problems.  Cobasys has North American exclusive production rights to batteries of a certain type, I believe, but they are not the basic patent holders.  So, the global licensing situation would still need to be addressed.


A funny thing is that I hear some of the same arguments from both sides: Lithium batteries are too resource constrained  we are told.  Then again, Rare Earth Metal investing seems to be driven largely these days by the idea that we  will have to turn to NiMH traction batteries whose rare earth element ingredients are also not the most abundant things around.


What if this suppression of NiMH battery technology had occured in smaller batteries?  What if the extraordinarily quick advances in laptops and cameras and cell phones had been held up by some artificial oil company nonsense?   Would we have stood for it if we had been told that we had to wait for a laptop until Lithium Ion was worked out because NiMH batteries weren't available or weren't good enough?


I see there is a new book on Amazon.com which seeks to address itself to the NiMH battery situation, and the EV situation.  I haven't read it, so I can't venture an opinion, but I am mentioning it for EV fans.


Two Cents per Mile: Will President Obama Make it Happen WITH THE STROKE OF A PEN? (Paperback)
by Nevres Cefo


There also seems to be a web page to petition the Obama Administration to do something about the NiMH battery situation.


dcmonitor.com


The web page in my view is a bit too focused on the idea that hydrogen is the false-promise answer being held up to us.  I think we're going forward with Lithium Ion Batteries, and in the end they will work somewhat.  Heck, if I were an auto designer, I'd probably have to favor designing in Lithium batteries over NiMh batteries. 

Yet, aren't automakers concerned with product durability and reliability and safety?  Isn't NiMH technology in some ways more proven than LIthium technology in these areas for use in cars?

A problem, as I see it, is that even assuming Lithium is in many ways superior to NiMH technology, competition is still significantly constrained and this is bad for all concerned and is likely further to delay the necessary cost-effective implementation of much-more-efficient and cleaner transportation.

It's good to see Mr. Cefo out there trying to get the Obama adminsitration to step in and really make things happen on NiMH batteries.  I'm not holding my breath for anyone (anywhere) in the Obama adminsitration to do  anything.  You can't fix what you aren't willing to mention.  To this day, no policy-maker of prominence, in or outside the Administration, of  whom I am aware, has so much as publicly mentioned the NiMH battery situation.

Disclaimer: I have a modest indirect interest in the fortunes of companies that make all manner of traction batteries, including lead-acid, NiMH and Lithium-Ion.

 


Originally published: July 02, 2009 | Total Page Views: 8022


 

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READER COMMENTS

John Hurt:

Oh,the grease lubricates the squeeky campaign wheels another presidential term!
02/Jul/2009
[67220]

 

 

Report abuses to: editor@evworld.com

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

14 Chinese Battery Makers Restricted By Ovonic Battery (With Some Help From Chevron I Surmise)

 

Friday | June 26, 2009

Beginning on July 11, 2000 (and continuing through the present day), shortly after Texaco (soon thereafter  merged with or acquired by Chevron)  took a 20% stake in their parent company, Ovonic Battery Corporation (OBC) has by my fallible count announced 14 agreements for the licensing of NiMH batteries:

- All of those agreements have been with Chinese manufacturers.
- All of those agreements have excluded the manufacturers from the right to make batteries for highway-capable four-wheel EVs. 

[There is a tiny chance that TWD is an exception, since the agreement just says "consumer" applications and does not explicitly exclude propulsion applications.  Given the use of the word "consumer", and the passage of time since 2002 with no apparent EV-batteries from TWD (that we have seen?) it seems probable that 4-wheel highway-capable propulsion was not part of the deal.]

Here are the 14 agreements:

With the link, the date, the company and the terms.

[Any emphasis is underlined and bolded and is mine.]

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=256

 

ECD Grants Patent License to Chinese Company
July 11, 2000
BYD Battery Co., Ltd. of the People's Republic of China.
...consumer nickel metal hydride batteries for non-propulsion applications.

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=248

ECD Grants Patent License to Chinese Company
Oct. 5, 2000
SANIK Battery Co., Ltd. of the People’s Republic of China.
... consumer nickel metal hydride batteries for non-propulsion applications.

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=205

ECD Grants Patent License to Chinese Company
June 6, 2002
Lexel Battery (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd. of the People's Republic of China.
...consumer nickel metal hydride batteries for non-propulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=203

ECD Grants Patent License to Chinese Company
July 25, 2002
Henan Huanyu Power Source Co., Ltd. (Huanyu) of the People's
Republic of China.
...consumer nickel metal hydride batteries for non-propulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=196

ECD Grants Consumer Battery License to TWD of China
Sept. 23, 2002
TWD Battery Co., Ltd. (TWD) of the People's Republic of China.
...consumer nickel metal hydride batteries, with the right to sublicense affiliates of TWD.

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=67

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Suppo of China
May 19, 2005
Union Suppo Battery Co., Ltd. (Suppo) of the People's Republic of China.
.... consumer NiMH batteries for nonpropulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=68

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Wintonic of China
June 1, 2005
Guangzhou Wintonic Battery & Magnet Co. Ltd. (Wintonic) of the People's Republic of China.
... NiMH batteries for consumer, nonpropulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=133

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Intellect Battery Co. of China
August 17, 2005
Intellect Battery Co. Ltd. (Intellect) of the People's Republic of China.
...NiMH batteries for consumer, nonpropulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=122

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Zhejiang Kan
March 27, 2006
Zhejiang Kan Battery Co., Ltd. (Zhejiang Kan) of the People's Republic of China.
... NiMH batteries for consumer, nonpropulsion applications.

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=121

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Hunan Corun of China
March 29, 2006
Hunan Corun Hi-Tech Co., Ltd. (Hunan Corun) of the People's Republic of China.
... NiMH batteries for consumer, nonpropulsion applications .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=340

ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to TMK Power Industries of China
Aug. 16, 2006
TMK Power Industries Ltd. (TMK) of the People's Republic of China.
... for consumer applications and electric bicycles which are manufactured in ChinaAll other propulsion applications are excluded .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=462
ECD Ovonics' Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to G4 Synergetics
April 26, 2007
G4 Synergetics Incorporated (G4).
... for consumer applications. Additionally, G4 has the option to expand its license to include the right to manufacture NiMH batteries for electric scooter and bicycle applications in China and to use and sell those batteries worldwide. Other propulsion applications are excluded .

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=481

ECD'S Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Shenzhen Grepow
Aug 8, 2007
Shenzhen Grepow Battery Co., Ltd. (Grepow) of the People's Republic of China.
... NiMH batteries in China and use and sell NiMH batteries worldwide. No propulsion battery rights were granted .
 

http://investor.shareholder.com/ovonics/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=299379

ECD'S Battery Subsidiary Grants Patent License to Guangzhou Great Power
March 13, 2008
Guangzhou Great Power Battery Co. Ltd. (Great Power) of the People's Republic of China.
...NiMH batteries in China and use and sell NiMH batteries worldwide. No propulsion battery rights were granted .

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Background:

On May 2, 2000, Texaco announced the purchase of 20% of Energy Conversion Devices.  ECD owned (and still owns) roughly 91% of Ovonic Battery Corporation.

In October of 2000, Texaco acquired GM's stake in a venture to make the larger energy-dense and power-dense NIMH batteries suitable for vehicular propulsion; Texaco was itself merged with or acquired by Chevron beginning within a week or two.


http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases.cfm?dy=2000

May 2, 2000 Texaco Purchases a 20 Percent Interest in Energy Conversion Devices, Inc.

October 10, 2000 Texaco To Acquire General Motor’s Share Of GM
Ovonic Battery Joint Venture more

October 12, 2000 Texaco and ECD Restructure NiMH Battery Joint
Venture – Texaco Ovonic, LLC more

October 16, 2000 ChevronTexaco Merger Will Pursue ECD's Advanced
Energy Technologies more



I'm not sure of the significance, but it is perhaps worth noting that a few months prior, On April 19, 2000, ECD/Ovonic Battery had announced a deal to secure Rare Earth Metal materials which are used (among other applications) for the making of NiMH Batteries:

http://ovonic.com/ne_ecd_ovonics_press_releases_more.cfm?pressrelease_id=265

ECD/Ovonic Battery Begin Major Battery Project in China
Troy, Mich., April 19, 2000
... joint venture formed by [...] Ovonic Battery Company, Inc. ("Ovonic Battery"), and Rare Earth High-Tech Co. Ltd. ("Rare Earth High-Tech") of Baotou Steel Company, Inner Mongolia, China.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Summary:

While we see many promising Lithium Ion Battery efforts coming out of China, and while the Chinese auto manufacturers do not seem to have got the memo to avoid building highway-capable plug-ins for consumers, it is hard to find Chinese NiMH battery makers who have put their product out their for highway-capable plug-ins.  The only exception I can think of is Hunan Corun who (although they appeared to sign an agreement with OBC in 2006) seem to have found a way around OBC/Chevron's seemingly apparent legal blockade by venturing with GP Battery.  GP had an agreement in-place with OBC before Chevron came along and (I am guessing) helped buttress OBC's financial and legal wherewithal to pursue these matters.

Ovonic Battery Company appears (in my fallible estimation) to have tried (successfully it seems) to stop many Chinese manufacturers from making batteries suitable for highway-capable EVs.  A basic part of the legal strategy seems to be that when a battery company agrees to license from Ovonic to make less energy or power-dense batteries, then they are also explicitly agreeing that they do not have a license to make the batteries suitable for such applications as 4-wheeled highway-powered vehicles.

ADDENDUM:

It seems worth summarizing by the numbers

8.5+years of Chevron involvement with NIMH Batteries

14 new licensees, all in China

0 new licensees allowed to make batteries for highway-capable 4-wheel vehicles

1 Bankrupt North-American LLC maker of NiMH batteries for highway-capable 4-wheel vehicles (Cobasys)

1 Lawsuit by Daimler or a subsidiary (for failure to deliver those batteries?)

Near-zero focus on NiMH batteries and the Power Storage business by Energy Conversion Devices

When Chevron first officially got involved with NiMH batteries nearly 9 years ago, some were of the opinion (this was grossly naive in my view, but it was their view) that as a profit-seeking enterprise they would not harm the production of or business prospects for NiMH batteries of the type we needed for highway-capable plug-in vehicles. 

I think with the passage of nearly nine years we can say that this opinion has not borne out.  I do think Chevron has quite successfully pursued profit but it seems more likely this has been by benefitting from a global delaying of plug-in-vehicle-suitable NiMh batteries and plug-in highway-capable cars.  How much were they able to maximize their oil assets if the deployment of any meaningful fleet of plug-in vehicles was delayed by 5 or 10 or 20 years or more?   This delay was arguably worth dozens of billions of dollars (or more?) to Chevron and its fellow American Petroleum institute Members, so any money Chevron sacrificed in (arguably) making a show of being in the NiMH battery business was a comparatively small price to pay.

Sure, I could be wrong.  Maybe they tried their darndest and couldn't make it work.  Mabye, when they owned 20% of ECD, one of the world's wealthiest and most capable companies really did try their darndest to help OBC find and sign new licensees and succeeded except they couldn't quite get them to sign to make highway-capable-plug-in-suitable batteries?  Or maybe they wanted to limit the number of new licensees so as to maximize the position of existing licensees including Cobasys?  Ok, so maybe one of the world's wealthiest and most capable companies, in partly owning Cobasys, and watching car companies clamor for competitive advanced batteries, just wasn't able to make sales?  And they just weren't able to build batteries with sufficient quality?  Maybe while licensees Panasonic and Sanyo seemed to be doing ok business making batteries for non-pluggable hybrids, licensee Cobasys just couldn't make the financial equations work?

I just can't quite make myself believe these hypotheses.  I believe that the folks at Chevron are capable and have enormous resources, and I suspect their involvement in the battery industry has played out pretty much as they originally intended, and that they have benefited not by making batteries but rather from the frustration of any marketplace demand that might have existed or developed for highway-capable plug-in vehicles and batteries that could have viably powered those vehicles.

Disclaimer:

I have an indirect financial interest in the fortunes of OBC's approximately-91%-owner-parent, Energy Conversion Devices, as well as in Sanyo.

Originally published: June 26, 2009 | Total Page Views: 928


 

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READER COMMENTS

Chris O:

Delaying the introduction of highway capable plug-in vehicles has not been just a financial thing. By attributing to continuing western oil addiction Chevron's strategy has attributed to many oil related conflicts. For instance: would America have ventured into the Iraqi quagmire if there had been a sense that oil dependency had run most of it's course? What role is America's oil dependency playing in not being able to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions? In other words: how many people were killed and maimed because of Chevron's involvement in prolonging western Oil dependency? How many more people will be killed or maimed because of it? So what exactly is the scope for prosecuting Chevron CEO's for economic crimes against humanity?
27/Jun/2009
[67164]


Joe Average:

So why not build a demo EV with a proper NiMH battery (breaking patent restrictions if necessary) and start showing it off around the world? Here folks is a full featured, normal dimensioned EV with 150 miles of range. It uses a battery that Chevron doesn't allow to be built. WHY is that? Is the WKTEC II going to address the battery story more than the first? Thanks! Great article!
29/Jun/2009
[67180]


Gary Sooter:

I found your article to be correct in the assumption that Chevron and others involved in the ownership and running of Ovionics and it numerous affiliates of deliberately suppressing this battery technology. Unfortunately they are not the only compainies to do this sort of suppression, look at , MES DEA the manufacturer of Zebra Battery, PML Flightlink for in wheel electric motors. It amazes me that the technology is developing fast but there seems to be no mass production of anything that could be used for DIY or developing auto manufacturers. Where is all the money for production?
29/Jun/2009
[67181]


Ivor Thomas:

Of course they're spiking the story, to use a journo phrase. Is this really any different than the dismantling of our urban streetcar systems in the 1940s by GM, Standard Oil (ahem!), and Firestone? Hard to prove outright to legal standards, but there's proof in that pudding, I say!
29/Jun/2009
[67182]


Denny :

How long will Cheveron continue to put short term profit ahead of global well being? Instead of putting a stop to this kind of indefensible profiteering, our government bought GM! Let's look at next quarter's financial statement instead of our children's future. :(...
29/Jun/2009
[67183]

 

 



Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Seven blogs I meant to do

 

Sunday | June 14, 2009

June 12 2009:

Here is my list of blogs that I haven’t been able to get to:

Blog 1:            Why Environmentalism?

This is perhaps the most overdue topic.

I don't have solar panels or support EVs or engage in analysis of alternative energy organizations because of some generic broad desire to “help out people” or “make the world a better place”.  It is as though there is a standard set of bland altruistic motives that are projected upon advocates of better practices and technologies, and this act of projection I think in some ways gets in the way of progress itself.


I engage in advocacy of better energy policy, protection of inventors’ rights and consideration of their inventions for reasons including:

-          US Energy Policy, particularly as it relates to US Foreign Policy, is, and has been for several decades, an enormously destructive sham, a grotesque absurdity, and has been totally unworthy of many of the citizens who have been paying for it to be formulated.

-          I’d like to see improvement in protection of the rights of the creative inventors who come up with better transportation and energy devices.  At present, those rights are not adequately protected.

-          I love efficiency.  I’m not sure why, but I do.

-          Global Warming appears to be a life-and-death issue, or there is at least sufficient possibility that it might be life-and-death so that the precautionary principle indicates action is warranted to forestall global warming.

-          The folks who often seem to sneer at consumer rights, alternative energy technologies and businesses often do so under the pretext that “if the market wanted such products, then they would exist and be doing well”.   In my view, the markets have for some time now been unhealthy, weighed down in part by corporations hawking old, dirty, inefficient energy technology.  The problem has been in part not just that the markets, left to their own devices, have given us the answers they have given us, but that rights, procedures and principles of free markets have not been fully enforced.  For example, consumers are not always treated properly in their contracts with large organizations.  For another example, environmental (property) damages resulting  from use of some products are not reflected in the price of those products… property rights are not fully enforced, and when this happens damaging products can thrive where less-damaging products are not able to shine in price and effectiveness.

There are other good reasons to discuss energy policies and businesses and technologies, but I guess the main point here was to articulate that it gets enervating always to hear some versions of “so you’re interested in doing what’s good for the environment” or some such.  I’m just never sure how to respond to that.  I think that many of us who are inspired to immerse ourselves in some aspect of the world of EVs and solar energy and related are not exactly driven by this bland formulation.

Blog 2:            Auto Industry Chaos, Billy Durant, 100 years


As we have watched GM on its descent, it seems that the auto industry has returned (in a way) to its earliest days. In the late 19th and early 20th century we saw fervent competition.  From what little I understand, there were dozens of car companies competing for our dollars in a nascent industry.  GM, I guess, was in a way formed as a response to this competitive chaos (with Billy Durant famously having that vision of consolidating many companies into one?) 

It would be interesting to hear from a capable auto industry academic  It might make for a decent EVWorld.com article, I suppose, if someone wanted to distill their knowledge of 100-years-ago Auto-industry so as to give readers perspective?  Are there parallels to the present situation?  Important differences?  Can many small companies rise from the ashes?  Must the results be another round of global consolidation?  Have US efforts fallen behind?  Isn’t this a good thing, in a sense, if one is a fan of global competition and better technology, in general?  

The commitment of Detroit to old technology has hurt them. Will new technology bring a new race toward transportation innovation worthy of the hairy-scary days of the early auto industry?  If we do nothing to improve protection of the rights of innovative engineers in the US, how can we expect them to help us move toward a renewed vehicle-making industry? 

One of the reasons that many of us have thought there was something wrong over the last 20 years has not so much been that our favorite technology did not win (if we even had a favorite) but that real competition seemed to be somewhat stultified.  Are we now seeing a renaissance of competition?


Blog 3:            Continuing discussion of Global Transportation Safety and preventable deaths


Intense competition amongst many smaller companies seems to have been a hallmark of the early auto industry.  So too, there seems to have been a lack of safety.  I don’t know enough about the history of this other than to blurt out that I’m hoping we can, finally, start to get a handle on the terrible lack of safety that (I think) was a distinct problem of the early auto industry.


As I blogged last month, there are more than 1,000,000 traffic deaths per year, on Earth.  These are largely preventable deaths since there is much room for further safety improvements of transportation systems, vehicles, and our use of them.  The topic of transportation safety is, in my view, ripe for more coverage by auto journalists, finance industry journalists covering the insurance and transportation industries, internet entrepeneurs seeking web-page topics, and by others.   

I think that one overall cause of accidents in some transportation systems is the introduction of comparatively modern technology (the car) into comparatively established older-technology systems.  This isn’t just a matter of recent introduction of vehicles in emerging societies and developing markets. This also describes the introduction of the automobile into late-19th- Eartly-20th- century US Society. Did cars (and relatively inexperienced drivers and perhaps under-developed laws?) mix well on roads shared with horse-drawn carriages, pededstrians and trains which were in many cases there first?

It isn’t that any given developing-world country can’t be brought into a modern transportation era, with motorized vehicles and rail and all the fixings.  It is that it perhaps cannot be done suddenly and in an unplanned way without “a lot” of preventable deaths.  I’m not quite sure how to put a number on “a lot”.  So, as we address the topic of transportation safety, I guess a subset of that topic is how to address transportation safety in developing nations that have such a broad mixture of transportation methods and customs and technologies.

Blog 4:            GP (Gold Peak) Batteries emerges as another Battery-Maker going into ownership of vehicle production

Along with BYD, this is at least the second time that we have seen an established and credible battery-maker move to get involved in the vehicle production business.  Both happen to be China-based (or at least based in Hong Kong or Singapore).  I am thinking there could have been other instances involving battery-makers moving into making lower-weight vehicles (basically: 2-wheelers), but the examples of GP and BYD involve heavier vehicles (basically: 4 wheelers).

GP not only has a stake in Vectrix, for whom they make NiMH batteries (and said they were to make Lithium Ion Batteries), but also has a stake in Prius PHEV modifier PICC.  GP not only has a grandfathered right to make NIMH traction batteries suitable for highway-capable plug-in vehicles, that ECD can’t seem to stop,  but they have their alliance with Nickel industry company Hunan Corun New Energy to make batteries suitable for EVs and have also indicated that they are seeking to make Lithium Ion batteries for EVs.  So, they seem to have a lot of bases covered. 

Hunan Corun in theory is limited from making Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries for full-power EVs by this typical OBC/ECD/Chevron restrictive agreement from 2006 (if I have the right company, and if they didn’t make any other agreements), but I hypothesize that maybe the alliance with GP was struck in part because GP is not so restricted.  GP, for example, been making the 30 amp-hour NIMH battery for the Vectrix.

Yes, Vectrix is on the brink of bankruptcy if they do not score some funding.  The stock has been suspended for some time now.

I am not making any investment comment, one way or the other, as to GP, BYD, Vectrix or any other compan.  What I am saying is that this is a somewhat recent and noteworthy trend… battery makers, outside the control and purview of the US Oil companies and others… going into the vehicle business whether anyone likes it or not.

This is very good to see, in my view.

I disclaim an interest in the fortunes of BYD.

Blog 5:            I Am In Favor Of Higher Fossil Fuel Taxes

I have done a bit to try to understand exactly what legislators and the White House are going for with the latest Waxman-Markey legislation, but if the gist of some of it is to find a way to move us to a lower-carbon affordable solution, couldn’t we just get to the point and have higher taxes on gasoline and diesel transportation fuels?  Isn’t that the best and most direct and most principled way to address:

-  The property-damage and health-damage costs (including damage resulting from global warming) of burning non-renewably-derived hydrocarbons?

- The national security ramifications of shipping money overseas for oil?

- The national economic ramifications of blindly sending Roman-Empire-Sized wealth out of the country to buy energy?

When we had higher oil prices last year, it provided a long-overdue boost to the nascent EV business, and the recent comparative decline of oil prices has momentarily hurt demand for EVs.  How about a price floor on gasoline and diesel, via a tax mechanism so that we can get more steadily on-track toward alternatives to oil?  If taxpayers are being asked to foot the bill on subsidizing various types of vehicles, perhaps it would be helpful if we were certain there will be comparative demand for those vehicles?

If higher oil prices helped spur demand for vehicles that used oil-alternatives, then so too I think higher coal and natural gas prices would help spur demand for alternatives to those power plant fuels, such as solar and wind energy.

It can be counter-argued that while price floors for damaging fossil fuels might have been a good idea in the past, in the present economy they might be simply too much.   I think there is some merit to that argument, considering the fragility of the economy, but it should I think these concerns should be weighed against the urgency of addressing global warming, national security concerns and the issue of costs to the economy if we don’t move away from the damages being caused by non-renewably-derived hydrocarbons.

Blog 6:            The silence of the lamb finance journalists and policy-makers

Or (Alternative Title #1):

Will no one call DCFS to save NiMH technology from its neglectful parents?

One of the latest developments in the saga of NiMH traction battery technology is that in the most recent ECD quarterly report it was finally revealed that GM was the customer who had been propping up Cobasys and (surprise) GM had backed out of any aspiration to buy them.  Mercedes Benz US International, Inc. (MBUSI) has re-asserted itself as suing Cobasys and its two neglectful parents.  This makes two potential comparatively large customers for NiMH Traction Battery Technology who have apparently got the runaround from Cobasys, going by the ECD reports.  Innovative Transportation Systems AG (I blogged about that situation here) was also seemingly blown off a year or two ago, though I can’t find information yet as to how that situation was resolved (the lawsuit is no longer mentioned in the ECD reports).   

It seemed for years that we were told that ECD/OBC and Cobasys wanted to do business with big-time companies, and large-volume orders and so this was one of the reasons they gave us for shunning the developers and small-time shops who sought to be allowed to develop vehicles around NiMH technology.  Meanwhile, when push came to shove, I guess Cobasys either gave the runaround to those who wanted to order batteries or loused it up. 

I mention Cobasys possibly lousing things up because GM appears to have been cost valuable momentum in its own much-criticized push for can’t-be-plugged-in-hybrids:

GM Hybrid Sales Hurt by Recall of 9,000 Faulty Batteries

Posted by

Scott Doggett June 2, 2008, 3:07 PM

General Motors Corp. won't sell as many hybrid cars as it had hoped this year due to 9,000 defective batteries the automaker is in the process of recalling, a company spokesman said today.

[…]

Automotive News reported that GM had planned to sell at least 27,000 of the hybrid cars in 2008. If that figure were true, it means that fully a third of the 2007 Aura and Vue hybrids GM had hoped to sell were affected.

[…]

Ovonic Battery Company may have been formed in 1982 to try to commercialize and bring to market this wonderful technology, but where is the highway-capable plug-in vehicle that we can buy, nearly 30 years later?  It is as though the parties to pay the most attention back then were the Oil companies, and it is as though someone has done a magnificent job of orchestrating a nearly 3-decade-long foot-dragging ceremony toward viable highway-capable electric vehicles.

To this day, I have never heard one single policy-maker or government official so much as mention the plight of NiMH traction battery technology.  There was one online non-subscription (freely available) business journal that seems to have covered the most recent Cobasys side of things:

Michigan advanced battery maker Cobasys on edge of bankruptcy

by Sven Gustafson | Michigan Business Review

Thursday May 21, 2009, 10:19 AM

The news was covered by at least one subscription (non-free) business journal, run by my colleagues at NEF.

I disclaim an interest in the fortunes of ECD.

 

Blog 7:            Where is the competition for Lithium Ion?

I like Lithium Ion and think it will shake out to be a worthy competitor and quite possibly will solve many of our issues.  In the meantime it strikes me as an unhealthy economic and political situation that:

- Policy-makers seem to be crossing their fingers and hoping that Lithium Ion will indeed solve all our problems.  They are not doing anything about clearing up any competition problems with NiMH.  They have never mentioned any such issues.

- Any time that policy makers (through action or inaction) are making our technology decisions, rather than the marketplace, then I think we should be concerned.

The point of keeping NiMH in mind for plug-in vehicles, and not just for  non-pluggable Hybrids (NPHEVs), is not to say that NiMH should be regarded as necessarily superior.  It is to say that:

    There are concerns about finite materials resources (limited amounts of key ingredients) for Lithium Ion batteries, NiMH and other chemistries.  Critics of Lithium Ion ask whether there will be enough lithium ion production and recycling in  Critics of NiMH have similar things to say about the resource constraints we find with the Rare Earth metals that are an important part of good NiMH batteries.   Nickel is not exactly super-cheap when it is in demand for the making of stainless steel and batteries and other things. So, if both battery chemistries have some unanswered resource constraint question-marks hanging over them, wouldn’t it be best for both chemistries to compete and any problems that emerge with resource limitations can be spread across the competition?

Competing technologies should get a fair hearing and level playing field in the global marketplace.  At present Lithium is competing largely with itself.  NiMH isn’t being allowed to compete fully by its own parents and patent owners.  Heck, I’ve never heard of key EV makers like Think Global even considering NiMH.  I’m guessing some of those ev makers knew that the “fix was in” against real-world NiMH availability.

Automakers have often discussed real-world concerns about cost and durability and reliability.  NiMH has a somewhat-more-proven record than Lithium in durability and reliability (depending on how the chemistry is set up and charged and used over its lifetime).  Yet, automakers seem to be ignoring it for their plug-in vehicle efforts.

The thing for policy-makers to do, I think, would be to rescue NiMH technology on grounds of restraint-of-free-trade, or some-such.  That, I think, would be an accurate and correct assessment of the situation.

 


Originally published: June 14, 2009 | Total Page Views: 640


 

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Recent declines in monthly average global Oil Production

 

Tuesday | May 26, 2009

If I go to this Energy Department web page, and if I specifically download this spreadsheet, I can get a US government estimate of gobal oil production as recently as February 2009.  I check this sheet for updates every once in awhile to get a sense of whether or not global oil production (by one defininition) is peaking, and more broadly to get a general sense of global fuel production. 

Of course, as fans of considering alternative fuels (boron, electric-charge-as-a-form-of-fuel, etc.) we can say that it would be nice also to have data on the extent to which other forms of energy are being increasingly tasked to transportation use and occupying a higher percentage of the mix. 

In any event, what seems worth noting here today is that according to the data in the links there are signs that global oil production has for the moment declined a bit.

[all numbers revised except February 2009 which is preliminary estimated data]

Some Annual numbers:

2005 Average: 84.573 million barrels per day
2006 Average: 84.538 mbpd
2007 Average: 84.413 mbpd
2008 Average: 85.462 mbpd

2008 Monthly Numbers:
January 2008 Average: 85,544 mbpd
February 2008 Average: 85,734 mbpd
July 2008 Average: 86,697 mbpd

(This July average appears to be an all-time monthly average production high by EIA's measurements. It also seems to correlate to the high in prices that we saw last summer, such as we can see at this chart.)

2009 Monthly Numbers:
January 2009 Average: 83,112 mbpd
February 2009 Average: 83,650 mbpd (preliminary estimated data)

So, there are signs that we are "not off to a good start" for global production in 2009.  Does this mean we have peaked?  Anyone who states that we have reached a peak is more-or-less engaging in speculation, whether they admit this or not, whether their speculation is informed or not.  I am wary of here-in-this-blog trying to figure out if this is a peak, but I have to speculate at least a little bit.

As to monthly average peaks, will our production again reach last July's average of 86,697?  I do think it is important to note the apparent power of pricing to draw increased production  back into the market.  Last July, the price was pretty high.  If it gets up there again, perhaps we will see similar levels again (though the ability of producers to meet quite that level of production has I think been called into question by people with some knowledge of global production issues).  So, I'd like to believe that we have peaked, because I'm a bit tired of waiting, but I'll say that it's perhaps more possible than people realize that we could see some last-hurrah global conventional oil production above that July number.  Production sure did seem to be responsive to pricing. 

Will our annual peak turn out in hindsight to have been in 2008?   Again, I don't know.  If we see another month or two of this moderated global production, then 2009 will likely be a decline from 2008.  Whether or not 2008 will be an interim sort of peak annual average should become a bit more clear over the next quarter or two as we examine whether the global producers are able to respond to a rise in global prices or whether they can't take advantage of the revenue opportunity.  If the latter is the case, and if we (somewhat less-informed analysts like myself, as peak oil is not my main thing) gain more knowledge that investment in new production cannot reasonably be expected to result in 87+ mbpd for the foreseeable future, then I think 2008 will amount to a peak, or at least an interim one, unless-until the world shifts to different sources for oil. 

I say "at least an interim peak" because I think if we look further out into the future, we may see producers able to meet demand for oil via different methods (such as oil from shale, tar, and maybe forms of oil from such sources as coal and biomass via Fisher-Tropsch processes?).  So, going further out into the future, producers may recover some of their presently-questioned ability to be responsive to swings in demand.  In that case, there may be a sense in which "some of the bets are called off" as to defining peak oil or gauging whether it has happened.  If we confine ourselves more narrowly to conventional definitions of crude oil derivations, then I think we can say with more confidence that there will soon be (or has been) a peak in production.  If we take broader definitions of oil production then the question of a peak I think becomes somewhat different.

Anyway, global demand for oil will (hopefully) be mitigated by global carbon legislation efforts, but if we keep putting vehicles and drivers in place that need oil to get where they need to go, then I think we'll keep having strong global demand for oil, and producers will try to follow the money, whether by past conventional means of production or otherwise.

All peak oil debates aside, I think it is valuable to make sure we are aware that for the moment, while 2008 appears to have been another global record production year, on avearge, there are signs that 2009 will be a year of decline.

Perhaps the EIA and DOE could start also displaying the percentage of global electricity production estimated that is tasked to transportation, and the percentage of other fuels consumed in transportation rather than in general energy production.  For fuels producing electricity onboard vehicles, this "overlapping" number I think should be attributed to the fuel and not electricity.

To wrap up for the moment, I should note that some attribute little credibility to the US EIA (Energy Information Administration) government data and point us to Matt Simmons and other experts' websites.  A colleague told me flat-out last year that we peaked in 2005 and that this is demonstrated by data outside of EIA.  I don't know yet.  I am more familiar with the EIA data.  The EIA data does seem to show a recent decline, though it is wel away from showing a peak in annual average peak in 2005.  Rather it seems to show that we continued upward in 2008 when taking the annual average as a whole.  I wonder what the differences are about in this claimed dispute between information sources?  I haven't checked Simmons site yet to understand better what he is or is not claiming.  I have spent some time at the oil drum in the past, which is a site that has a nice fanatlcal air to it but is a little hard for me to navigate.  Maybe there are some differences here in definitions of oil production?

 


Originally published: May 26, 2009 | Total Page Views: 857


 

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jim stack:

a MAJOR point is the USA already peaked in 1970 and we import over 60% of our oil. World peak will hit everyone and Matt Simmons and many otehrs figure we already hit that in 2005. Many far east oil producers don't verify their numbers.
28/May/2009
[66918]


Max Reid:

Please read that EIA article again.

It says "Total Oil Supply [Includes Crude Oil, Natural Gas Plant Liquids, Other Liquids, and Refinery Processing Gain]"

and the Other Liquids includes Bio-fuels, if we exclude bio-fuels, the increase in Oil is much lesser.

Last year, Ethanol production increased 40 % in US and Brazil also increased a lot.

Again the oil prices are increasing. Lets see where the production goes.
31/May/2009
[66935]

 

 


 

osh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Recent declines in monthly average global Oil Production

 

Tuesday | May 26, 2009

If I go to this Energy Department web page, and if I specifically download this spreadsheet, I can get a US government estimate of gobal oil production as recently as February 2009.  I check this sheet for updates every once in awhile to get a sense of whether or not global oil production (by one defininition) is peaking, and more broadly to get a general sense of global fuel production. 

Of course, as fans of considering alternative fuels (boron, electric-charge-as-a-form-of-fuel, etc.) we can say that it would be nice also to have data on the extent to which other forms of energy are being increasingly tasked to transportation use and occupying a higher percentage of the mix. 

In any event, what seems worth noting here today is that according to the data in the links there are signs that global oil production has for the moment declined a bit.

[all numbers revised except February 2009 which is preliminary estimated data]

Some Annual numbers:

2005 Average: 84.573 million barrels per day
2006 Average: 84.538 mbpd
2007 Average: 84.413 mbpd
2008 Average: 85.462 mbpd

2008 Monthly Numbers:
January 2008 Average: 85,544 mbpd
February 2008 Average: 85,734 mbpd
July 2008 Average: 86,697 mbpd

(This July average appears to be an all-time monthly average production high by EIA's measurements. It also seems to correlate to the high in prices that we saw last summer, such as we can see at this chart.)

2009 Monthly Numbers:
January 2009 Average: 83,112 mbpd
February 2009 Average: 83,650 mbpd (preliminary estimated data)

So, there are signs that we are "not off to a good start" for global production in 2009.  Does this mean we have peaked?  Anyone who states that we have reached a peak is more-or-less engaging in speculation, whether they admit this or not, whether their speculation is informed or not.  I am wary of here-in-this-blog trying to figure out if this is a peak, but I have to speculate at least a little bit.

As to monthly average peaks, will our production again reach last July's average of 86,697?  I do think it is important to note the apparent power of pricing to draw increased production  back into the market.  Last July, the price was pretty high.  If it gets up there again, perhaps we will see similar levels again (though the ability of producers to meet quite that level of production has I think been called into question by people with some knowledge of global production issues).  So, I'd like to believe that we have peaked, because I'm a bit tired of waiting, but I'll say that it's perhaps more possible than people realize that we could see some last-hurrah global conventional oil production above that July number.  Production sure did seem to be responsive to pricing. 

Will our annual peak turn out in hindsight to have been in 2008?   Again, I don't know.  If we see another month or two of this moderated global production, then 2009 will likely be a decline from 2008.  Whether or not 2008 will be an interim sort of peak annual average should become a bit more clear over the next quarter or two as we examine whether the global producers are able to respond to a rise in global prices or whether they can't take advantage of the revenue opportunity.  If the latter is the case, and if we (somewhat less-informed analysts like myself, as peak oil is not my main thing) gain more knowledge that investment in new production cannot reasonably be expected to result in 87+ mbpd for the foreseeable future, then I think 2008 will amount to a peak, or at least an interim one, unless-until the world shifts to different sources for oil. 

I say "at least an interim peak" because I think if we look further out into the future, we may see producers able to meet demand for oil via different methods (such as oil from shale, tar, and maybe forms of oil from such sources as coal and biomass via Fisher-Tropsch processes?).  So, going further out into the future, producers may recover some of their presently-questioned ability to be responsive to swings in demand.  In that case, there may be a sense in which "some of the bets are called off" as to defining peak oil or gauging whether it has happened.  If we confine ourselves more narrowly to conventional definitions of crude oil derivations, then I think we can say with more confidence that there will soon be (or has been) a peak in production.  If we take broader definitions of oil production then the question of a peak I think becomes somewhat different.

Anyway, global demand for oil will (hopefully) be mitigated by global carbon legislation efforts, but if we keep putting vehicles and drivers in place that need oil to get where they need to go, then I think we'll keep having strong global demand for oil, and producers will try to follow the money, whether by past conventional means of production or otherwise.

All peak oil debates aside, I think it is valuable to make sure we are aware that for the moment, while 2008 appears to have been another global record production year, on avearge, there are signs that 2009 will be a year of decline.

Perhaps the EIA and DOE could start also displaying the percentage of global electricity production estimated that is tasked to transportation, and the percentage of other fuels consumed in transportation rather than in general energy production.  For fuels producing electricity onboard vehicles, this "overlapping" number I think should be attributed to the fuel and not electricity.

To wrap up for the moment, I should note that some attribute little credibility to the US EIA (Energy Information Administration) government data and point us to Matt Simmons and other experts' websites.  A colleague told me flat-out last year that we peaked in 2005 and that this is demonstrated by data outside of EIA.  I don't know yet.  I am more familiar with the EIA data.  The EIA data does seem to show a recent decline, though it is wel away from showing a peak in annual average peak in 2005.  Rather it seems to show that we continued upward in 2008 when taking the annual average as a whole.  I wonder what the differences are about in this claimed dispute between information sources?  I haven't checked Simmons site yet to understand better what he is or is not claiming.  I have spent some time at the oil drum in the past, which is a site that has a nice fanatlcal air to it but is a little hard for me to navigate.  Maybe there are some differences here in definitions of oil production?

 


Originally published: May 26, 2009 | Total Page Views: 858


 

Add Your Comments

READER COMMENTS

jim stack:

a MAJOR point is the USA already peaked in 1970 and we import over 60% of our oil. World peak will hit everyone and Matt Simmons and many otehrs figure we already hit that in 2005. Many far east oil producers don't verify their numbers.
28/May/2009
[66918]


Max Reid:

Please read that EIA article again.

It says "Total Oil Supply [Includes Crude Oil, Natural Gas Plant Liquids, Other Liquids, and Refinery Processing Gain]"

and the Other Liquids includes Bio-fuels, if we exclude bio-fuels, the increase in Oil is much lesser.

Last year, Ethanol production increased 40 % in US and Brazil also increased a lot.

Again the oil prices are increasing. Lets see where the production goes.
31/May/2009
[66935]

 

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Improve Home Dashboards to Monitor Air, Water, Energy

 

Tuesday | May 19, 2009

Just as the display of a dashboard in a car affects how we drive the car, so too the display of a dashboard in a home or building affects how we use the home or building.

When can't-be-plugged-in hybrids (NPHEVs) first came to the US from Japan, it became clear that well-designed dashboards in a Honda hybrid were causing some drivers to find it fun to drive for energy savings rather than for speed.

Likewise, a well-designed dashboard in a home could give us improved knowledge of our resource use and allow us to make adjustments.

Energy Use

Instead of having to walk outside to a relatively uninformative electric meter reading, we could stay inside, glance at a great deal of useful information (how much energy did the fridge use last month?… would it be best to replace or repair it?) and start to see where much of the least necessary energy waste is in our home. We could monitor electricity, propane, natural gas and any other energy use. In theory, we could even get that valuable thermal imaging information that consultants charge hundreds of dollars to provide. If it costs that much, maybe this is a signal that it would be worth it to install some permanent thermal monitoring capability on the home?

Air, Water

My friend Elisa (who has contributed ideas to this and a couple of previous blogs) shares with me a long-time habit: always crack a window for fresh air. To our surprise, not everyone does this. Why not? If you keep your home or building so well-sealed off and insulated that energy is preserved, do you think it's safe to assume that you have sufficient oxygen for long-term health? Carbon Monoxide monitors may detect buildup of that dangerous gas and sound an alarm, but there is no way at present for an alarm to sound to let us know that there is simply the buildup of CO2 and a concomitant depletion of O2. Well, maybe there is some way this sort of alarm could be rigged, but I'm not sure what it is. Should we ghetto-rig some overly-expensive CO2 detection device. I think they're around… I think marijuana and other indoor gardeners use these to ensure good crops. Even then, what about O2 detection? What about other gases such as Nitrogen (about 80% of day-to-day air) and who knows what else?

Ideally, entrepreneurial chemical engineers with an eye toward making money for ingenious new green devices for the home would get on the ball and start to sell us devices that provide us with an improved array of information about our indoor air composition … not just the usual smoke/CO/Radon detection.

Ideally, entrepreneurial engineers also could look to provide us with the ability to detect water composition. If we are taking measures and spending extra money to purify the water in our homes and sometimes to buy bottled water, why shouldn't we be able to monitor the chemical composition of our water Why not just run the water through some good monitoring equipment and find out everything we need to know?

We have all manner of information on a wide variety of other aspects of our lives. A person can test and research their internet connectivity information, for example, even if they are not particularly technologically savvy. A person can run their finances and portfolio through all manner of systems (good or bad) and get an evaluation.

Yet, the most basic health-related information that we need to give us feedback on our air and water quality in our homes is available to us only in modest bits and pieces.

So, I think we could use some improvement of home dashboards.

I also want to include food here, to some extent, yet it seems hard to include it in ideas for improving home dashboards. Some of us already spend more than a bit of extra time and-or money buying or growing organic. A primary reason we do this (among several) is to improve our confidence that we are not buying and consuming poison. Yet, how many of us have ever really had the ability to test our food and find out what is really in it?

Food testing seems a bit more complex and so I don't know that it would be possible to carry out at the home level.

There are probably quite a few companies who would prefer that we not know that much about the quality and quantity of the water, air, energy and food that we consume. I wonder what our local water utilities would say if all of a sudden every home could actually figure out the exact good and points of water quality? In many cases it might turn out that they are simply doing a good job. Shouldn't we be able to find out better?

Our local energy utilities have sure taken awhile, haven't they, to partner with us to provide us with more information about our home energy use? Smart meters are popping up. They're still at inconvenient spots on the outside of the house in many cases. They're not appliance-specific for us to always know how to reduce use, though this is asking a bit much.

While there is no company that sells us our air, there is still the need for us to breathe clean air, and while many do not seem to care (at all) if a window is cracked or if they know the composition of the air they breathe, others of us are left wondering … will an engineering outfit ever step forward with improved affordable home detection equipment?

As to food companies miffed when we finally figure out the poisons and various other unsuitable items in our food, that wonderful process of revelation has been taking place over the last 20 years, though it still has quite far to go. If we look at the somewhat-improved nutritional and other labeling on food at US supermarkets, and some of the nutrition issues that have been partly addressed (Hydrogenation of food for example has been recently somewhat addressed) then we can see a path to improved knowledge of what is in our food.

 

 


Originally published: May 19, 2009 | Total Page Views: 524


 

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Solid State Gravitational Energy Storage

 

Saturday | May 16, 2009


If improved Energy Storage is one of a few important Achilles Heel points of the Global Alternative Energy Paradigm (with others including waste disposal including particularly improved carbon capture and sequestration) , and if we are therefore scouring the global seeking any and all possible Energy Storage alternatives at large and mid-sized levels of scale, then I sometimes wonder why we are not considering a very simple and basic approach:

For large-scale power storage, why have we not built large-scale weights (many hundreds and thousands of pounds each) that could slide up and down tracks on hillsides (or go up and down existing mine shafts, or follow other methods)? As they go up, they could accumulate potential energy, and as gravity later brings them back down, they could put their potential energy back into the grid. For purposes of this particular blog, I will call this SSGES (Solid-State Gravitational Energy Storage).

I can find little discussion of this sort of idea on the web, and so I am finding it a bit difficult to find a toe-hold for discussion or blogging about it. This page, for example, discusses “Gravitational (potential) energy storage”, so the idea is out there… I have at least been able to verify that.

Perhaps I am not using the right key words in my searches? Another problem of doing an initial web-search into this sort of thing is that unrelated non-simplistic scientific theories come up that have little to do with the simple business idea of loading weights in a way that they could store and release energy when needed.

One possible important environmental advantage of SSGES is that it is not very chemical-oriented, as batteries are. So, a solid-state gravitational energy storage device would perhaps not raise the same levels of environmental concern as a battery factory’s waste chemical outflow or the waste disposal of used batteries.

Another possible important environmental advantage is that SSGES does not have the same water resource issues that go along with liquid (hydroelectric dam and reverse pumped hydro storage) energy storage solutions. We must unfortunately associate many dams with significant environmental concerns including the harming of fish, fouling of traditionally clean water in some cases, out-gassing of methane from lakes behind dams, and so-on. These concerns would not seem to apply to the simple method of pushing solid-state weights up and down hillsides.

Of course, every technology has its drawbacks and I’m sure that fault could be found with SSGES. Safety, for example, could be an issue if-and when there were seismic or other disruptions to a facility storing thousands of kWh in the tracked-elevation of weights each weighing tons or more. If we are to follow the precautionary principle better than our forebearers have done, we must try to anticipate the problems the technology could bring. I guess a SSGES device on a hillside could be regarded as a controlled avalanche of heavy bolders going up and down. Of course, there are other variants of SSGES devices we could consider, such as buildings constructed to house a modest level of SSGE storage.

Part of following alternative energy is to notice that some folks get overly seduced by new technologies simply by their newness and advanced scientific principles. Tried-and-true older technologies and principles will also have a role to play in the future energy systems we will use. For example, I think there is a lot to be said for returning some focus to hydroelectric power storage and delivery and asking what can be done to do this in improved ways that have a smaller environmental footprint.

In the end, there are many technologies we are looking at for energy storage. They include ingenious new batteries, established hydroelectric technologies, various fuels such as Methanol, Boron and Hythane, flywheels, compressed air and thermal storage. Heck, I think it’s interesting in principle to follow spring-makers since after all that is technically an ancient and workable energy storage method, of a sort.

So, I think we should add SSGES to the long list open for discussion. In the years I’ve been following alt energy tech, I have heard little or nothing of policy makers or business people stopping to give consideration to this concept.

Sure, absolutely, I could be missing much here.

Lastly for now:

If the weight machines that we use at work-out centers (24 hour fitness and such) are in some cases miniature examples of energy storage and conversion devices, some of them miniature SSGES, then surely some enterprising would-be green company could modify such machines (particularly certain ones such as the bicycles which presently throw away all their energy to friction and heat). The modifications could involve converting them so they shunt their energy into the grid and help power our lives. Sure, it’s only some tiny amount of energy, but why throw it away? In some cases it is being used productively such as when weights are lowered and the person working out is able to lower them slowly and control them and thus get a workout on the way down as well as on the way up. However, in some cases the energy could be used not only to power a tiny portion of our lives but perhaps to re-work how one approaches using the machine.

I noticed when hybrids first started coming out that some drivers (such as Honda hybrid drivers) remarked that the re-worked dashboards were allowing them to re-work how they approached driving and that instead of thinking maybe about going a little faster they found themselves enjoying challenging themselves to drive for energy savings. Maybe, along the same lines, users of workout machines with re-worked LCD readouts could find a way to see putting a bit of energy back into the grid as an interesting challenge that might be fun for their workout.

It turns out that in fact there are some workout machine approaches which do seek to bring the "wasted" energy of working out back into the grid.  Here, for example, is news in February 2009 of a very large installation of such technology at Oregon State University.

Ok, so, back to my main point: is SSGES a solution that is right in front of us waiting to be exploited? Or are there myriad reasons why we have not gone down this path? I don't know the answers to these questions and there seems, at first glance, so little serious business discussion of it on the web that I am hard-pressed to find a toe-hold for discussion, so I am just putting the question out there as-is.  Maybe the answers are in part that the technology and business efforts are already making some headway, and I just need to learn more about it.

 


Originally published: May 16, 2009 | Total Page Views: 598


 

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David Loll:

In a place or two you mentioned hydro power. Instead of building a dam,backing up water to get the vertical drop needed to run a power generating plant,why not use a floating water wheel. A round tank like one of those LP Gas storage tanks with small paddles ( maybe 6" by the length of the tank) on the outside to catch the normal flow or the water it is floating on would turn the wheel and that could be used to turn a high pressure pump to pump water to the generator turbine,then dumped right back into the flow from which it was drawn. The water wheel could be sized to fit nearly any waterway. I am not an engineer,and this is not intended to be an engineering letter,but an idea that has been overlooked,for what ever reason. There are millions of existing dams with waterways that are not used for any purpose that would lend themselves to a project of this type with little or no impact on the enviroment. If the water flow below the dam were used,you wouldn't even have a problem with the water freezing in the winter. As the water wheel would be floating on the water it could adjust itself to stay at the proper level as the river level raises and falls through the seasons. Simple and effective.
17/May/2009
[66811]


Bill Funderburk:

We have damn few mountains here in the flatlands of Texas (Houston) but every town has a water tower. I'm not a scientist or engineer so I will leave the feasibility of using them as some sort of gravitational hydroelectric device to others with greater technical understanding of what might be involved. Just a thought. Enjoyed the article. Bill
18/May/2009
[66814]


Warren Heath:

Using weights to store energy is one of those ideas that sounds wonderful, until you work the numbers. Fortunately for EV fans, it takes only a small amount of energy to raise a heavy weight up thousands of feet, otherwise you would never be able to drive your EV through the mountains. Raising a heavy 1000 kg mass up 1000 vertical meters only requires 2.7 kwh of energy, in Li-ion that’s 21 kg, and in future Li-ion, more like 8 kg. Much simpler, smarter and cheaper to use batteries for energy storage.

Paddlewheels, or other devices that capture the energy of flowing water do not produce a lot of energy. The energy of Hydro is almost entirely due to elevation change between the water levels at Forebay to that of the Turbine. For instance a large river with 10,000 cu-meters per second of flow, @ 10 meters per second, would have 22 MW of power contained in the flowing water, but if the same river had an elevation change through a dam of 150 meters, it would have 14.7 GW of power contained in the gravitational potential energy of the falling water.

I must admit to being perplexed by all this Energy Storage Hype. I would call it the Energy Storage Scam. We already have huge amounts of cheap Energy Storage – its called fossil fuels. Energy of the Sun stored over millions of year. We’re burning them up anyways, so the obvious thing is to avoid burning fossil fuels for baseload power or non-essential applications – like city transportation.

There is an advantage to short term energy storage for Grid Stabilization and to reduce peak late afternoon demand – one to four hours of battery storage is suffice for those applications – batteries are likely the best way to do that.

The vast majority of energy storage needs are for distance transportation, summer cooling energy and winter heating energy. Also renewable energy varies substantially over long periods of weeks, months and even years. Batteries, pumped storage, molten salt or compressed air storage are utterly useless for those applications. A much wiser use of our existing supplies of stored energy is by far and away the most efficient and cost effective way to achieve energy storage.

We need fossil fuels, in particular, Oil & Gas, for three essential purposes:

1) to make chemicals, including fertilizer

2) for compact energy storage for transportation

3) to supply peak energy over cycles of weeks or months, mostly air conditioning in the summer in the South and heat in the winter in the North.

Major use of fossil fuels for any other application, is absolute stupidity, a total waste of a valuable, inexpensive energy storage resource. Wind Energy is becoming the #1 offender in the absolute senseless waste of Natural Gas, used to complement Wind’s fluctuating energy output. 70-80% of the energy of a Wind / Natural Gas Electricity system comes from Natural Gas. And since that Natural Gas is burned in single cycle gas turbines rather than the more efficient combined cycle gas turbines – the essential fact is that Wind Energy does not reduce fossil fuel consumption or GHG emissions one iota. A criminal waste of a precious clean burning fuel, that can be converted to Methanol for 7 cents a liter and used in Engines at double the efficiency of Gasoline Engines.


18/May/2009
[66815]


Eric Marshall:

PUMPED HYDRO is essentially SSGES ... I guess it would be LSGES (Liquid State Gravitational Energy Storage), but it uses the same concept, pump water to a higher altitude when extra electricity is available, increasing it's potential energy. Then when demand is high, reverse the process (using a traditional hydro-electric turbine generator). Check out the Wikipedia article, PUMPED HYDRO is already being used for utility-scale electrical energy storage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity
18/May/2009
[66816]


Warren Heath:

Just like for the weight system you have to move enormous amounts of mass to get significant energy storage. Pumped storage requires a rare mountainous storage site, and is extraordinarily environmentally destructive and also carries danger of devastating floods. The GHG absorbing ability of the flooded landscape is lost. Much worse than even Hydro installations, and has only a 50% round trip efficiency – thus effectively doubling costs – even before you add the $2,000 to $4,000 cost per kw to the capital cost of the Solar or Wind installation. Unlike Hydro, in order to utilize the Pumped Storage you have to flood a huge area of pristine wilderness, and instead of a pristine man-made lake (like lake Mead), you get a giant reservoir that must be raised and lowered dozens or even hundreds of feet by the day or week. And that is good for at most one month energy storage for a very large (environmentally destructive) volume site, at a cost of say $3,000 per kw pk output @ 50% duty cycle and 50% efficiency, yields an ADDED cost of about $12,000 per kw. About double the cost of new USA Nuclear power plants, just for a very days or weeks of energy storage. And any such installations will commonly go through a nightmare of environmental opposition, lawsuits, land buyouts, aboriginal land claims etc. Absolutely untenable for any significant amount of energy storage.


18/May/2009
[66817]

 

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Approximately 137,000 Traffic Injuries Per Day On Earth?

 

Saturday | May 09, 2009

I ended my last blog by making some addendum-level attempt to research global traffic safety statistics.  Those statistics, it turns out, are somewhat mind-boggling.  When we look at global traffic safety, it is hard to get the numbers straight.  Is every accident reported in some developing countries?  Every injury or death?  How do we adjust official statistics to account for under-reporting?  We should not let the statistical counting issues get in the way when the bigger picture is not that difficult to see.  Not only are global traffic deaths at around 1,200,000 people per year (roughly one out of every 5,600 people on Earth) but accidents (and the accompanying capital losses and injuries) are also very high.

 

This Nordic site seems like a decent starting point for looking into this matter.  It is called   “Nordic Road And Transport Research: A joint publication in English with the latest research findings of six public research organizations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden”.  

 

It says:

 

Global Traffic Safety
Traffic accidents kill 1.2 million people every year, while an additional 50 million are injured. 86 per cent of these accidents occur in developing countries, where the cost of traffic accidents equals all bilateral aid. Traffic in the developing world is becoming a disaster.

 

Ok: 1.2 million deaths per year?  50 million injured?  How many accidents without injuries?  These numbers seem perhaps a bit on the high side, but I don’t know.  They lose a bit of credibility by saying (an apparent typo) 1.5m deaths per year elsewhere on the very same page.  I like their attempt to bring some global cost accounting, as well as health concerns, into the discussion.

 

Traffic accidents
[…] This is a Tsunami of death with 100,000 killed every month. 85 per cent of the victims, and 96 per cent of all traffic accidents involving children, occur in the developing world.

The costs of traffic accidents are staggering.  In 2005, traffic accidents in the developing world equalled all bilateral aid received that same year. Even worse, this represents only the direct costs of the accident, in terms of the value of lost labour.

 

The World Health Organization seems roughly to confirm the 1.2m per year number on their website with a slightly more conservative number:

 

Road traffic injuries

More than 3000 people die on the world's roads every day.

 

Doing the quick math, this means that they are saying that there are more than 1,095,000 fatalities every year, a number roughly in the same ballpark as the Nordic site’s 1.2m per year.

 

Another place to check is that we have some 10-year-old 1999 estimates here:

A REVIEW OF GLOBAL ROAD ACCIDENT FATALITIES
By G D Jacobs and Amy Aeron-Thomas

For 1999, they appear to estimate between 745,769 and 876,539 deaths worldwide, making some attempt to take into account under-reporting and other counting issues.  These numbers I think rely all or in part on WHO data, so I make note of that.

 

I suppose it is possible that the 1,000,000 road-accident-deaths-per-year line was passed sometime in the 2000s.  This New York Times article from 2002 seems to give some indication that the line had been crossed, and also gives some indication of costs (keeping in mind that if we were to get even more serious about this, we’d have to delve deeper into “where are they getting these numbers?” questions).

Global Traffic Deaths Put at Million a Year

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2002

Traffic accidents kill more than a million people each year, injure additional tens of millions and cost developing countries twice as much as they receive in international aid, a public health expert said today.

[…]

'This is a neglected health problem,' the expert, Dr. Adnan Hyder, interim secretary of the Road Traffic Injury Research Network, said at a news session. 'The global cost of road accidents in developing and emerging nations is at least $100 billion a year.'

 

I can’t seem to get estimates for total numbers of global vehicle accidents, (including ones without injuries).  Here we are all schmoozing for a decade on EVWorld.com about vehicles, usually with respect to their energy use and not safety, but how about getting some broad overview perspective on the health and also economic costs of accidents in our global transportation system?  If we want zero, or near-zero fatalities, don’t we need zero, or near-zero, traffic accidents?  If we don’t know how many accidents there are, how can we get perspective on the importance of eliminating them?

 

We can get this data for US total accidents, if not for the world:

Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2007 (PDF)

2006  US Highway Fatalities:             42,642
All other forms of transportation
(including airplanes, trains):                2,814

2006 Highway Injuries:                      2,575,000
All other forms of transportation:            32,080


2006 Total Highway Accidents:         5,973,000
All other forms of transportation:           27,030

So, there were 5,973,000 highway accidents in 2006 in the US alone.  16,364 per day(!)  How many for the world?  I can’t yet seem to find data. 

Can we interpolate and do a proportional estimate based on US population?  That might be quite tricky and potentially misleading.  In the US, we have to remember that it is a “highly motorized country” and many of the fatalities are occurring in countries with different proportions of cars to pedestrians… that sort of thing.  In the US we have in 2006  roughly 140 accidents, and 60 injuries, for every fatality, according to the NHTSA data.  Looking at the global data posted at the Nordic website, we have a claimed proportion of about 43 injuries for every fatality.  The proportions are not really the same, which makes some sense.  In the developing world we’re not talking so much about the same number of vehicles as in the US… it’s more about introducing more and more cars into established patterns of pedestrians and bicyclists?

If we take the estimate of 1.2m fatalities per year, and the US proportion of 140 accidents per fatality, then we would estimate 168,000,000 accidents per year (460,000 per day).   I think this number is high since in the developing world, there seems to be a higher fatality rate per injury and since the accidents there reportedly more often involve mass transit (going by the Nordic site).  For now I really think that I don’t have enough to work with to estimate this critical number, so I am going to fall back to using a round number: I  will pencil in, for my own working purposes (to be revised later) that I am guessing there are something like 100,000,000 accidents per year (in the general vicinity of a quarter million per day) on Earth.  I look forward to fixing my probably-wrong numbers.  Also, we should have an idea of other forms of transportation (planes, trains, etc.) and whether they factor into the WHO and other global transportation safety numbers. 

My 100m estimate comes from this being roughly twice the 50m injury estimate from the Nordic number, and the US total accident estimate was roughly twice its injury estimate.  The number could be dramatically lower if the number injured per accident in the developing world turns out to be much different than in the US.  As I said, I will revise the number later, when I find some data on this (any data).

…. A quarter million (or so) motor vehicle accidents per day, on Earth? 

How are we ever going to get to zero, or near-zero, injuries and fatalities if we are looking at these sorts of accident numbers and not getting them to zero or near-zero.  When then-US-Transportation-Secretary addressed representatives of other nations on this topic in 2004 he said:

“I have invested both my time and influence to provide for the safety of the traveling public in the United States,” Secretary Mineta said. “We must take what we’ve learned in the United States and export best practices to help emerging countries deal with this growing epidemic. Over the past 40 years, we have gained tremendous experience in the area of road safety and are willing to share this successful formula for reducing traffic fatalities.”

I think taken in isolation this sounds somewhat impressive.  Here is a top-level official willing to call this situation a “growing epidemic”.  In 2005 he said when talking about the US situation:

“We are in the midst of a national epidemic,” said Secretary Mineta. “If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine. [...]

This continues to sound good, doesn’t it?  Mr. Mineta then went on to say:

The irony is we already have the best vaccine available to reduce the death toll on our highways – safety belts.”

Now, it seems true that safety belts would help reduce the US fatality toll from highway accidents.  However, are they a cure-all or even “the best vaccine” for the global accident epidemic?  I doubt it.  As with Global New Energy, I think too we see with Global Advanced Transportation: it is necessary to put many pieces into place to solve the puzzle… a daunting challenging puzzle.   So, I’m not sure what Mr. Mineta would say if we specifically shifted the conversation from US Highway Fatalities to Global Accidents, but to make my own point of view clear, I don’t think we should be discussing only safety belts when there are so many other partial imperfect solutions to discuss which, if taken together, can imperfectly but significantly help us make a real dent in this global problem.  

The imperfect solutions to this terrible epidemic include building cars which help drive themselves and which sense pedestrians and other upcoming problems in the road, traffic systems designed to handle cars which can communicate with each other and which can help drive themselves, better traffic engineering and design, and a commitment to integrating and coordinating cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trolleys and all other vehicles and people that may occupy the roads (or to selectively keeping some vehicles from some roads, for the right-minded sake of safety).  These solutions no doubt include some enforcement of existing laws against drunk driving, speeding, following too closely, driving too slowly, and other laws pertaining to vehicle conduct.  They include a respect by traffic engineers and vehicle drivers for the roles of walking, bike-riding and mass-transit in urban and other environments.  They include the need for awareness that pedestrians and bicycle-riders do not end up killing and terribly injuring people when there is a collision.  It is cars and trucks and buses and the like which, when they collide with pedestrians and others end up harming those in and outside the vehicles.

These are just a few of the many ideas we need to address this problem.  We should also buckle up, but while seatbelts may help somewhat reduce US highway deaths, I think if we want to get serious about the global traffic accident epidemic, it will take a lot more than buckling up.

 

 


Originally published: May 09, 2009 | Total Page Views: 663


 

Add Your Comments

READER COMMENTS

Warren Heath:

The solution is to seperate our transportation systems - from one that combines the movement of typically one person, much less commonly two persons, from point A to point B, with the movement of heavy loads of goods & people. It is sheer insanity to moving a 150 lb person around in huge steel monstrosities that weigh 2000 to 5000 lbs, designed to go over 100 mph, but end up only going an average of 20 mph.

My favorite idea is the ultalight BEV with 4 wheel motors. Since you have no mechanical drivetrain - you can have drive-by-wire and steer-by-wire - and the frame can be made from composites that can distort in a collision, absorbing the energy of impact. Composites have up to 13 times the energy absorbing ability of steel. Top speeds can be limited to a pragmatic 50-60 mph. Except the small vehicles can be moved onto carriers and high speed, lightweight rail for rapid transit to a dozen or so nodes within a city or between cities. These vehicles, could gradually evolve into a sophisticated PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) or PAT (Personal Automated Transit) without huge expenditures by cash-strapped cities.


11/May/2009
[66759]


Josh Landess:

Hi Warren: Thanks for the input. I did really leave out the idea of reducing the weight per vehicle where it is not necessary to have a 2000 pound vehicle hauling around a 150 pound human being, and so I think it's great that you got that in there. We could save not only energy but also perhaps improve safety if we take an approach of lightening and strengthening our four-wheel vehicles.

This is a double-edged sword because when very heavy vehicles collide with the lightened vehicles we envision, the lightened vehicles will sustain more damage than we want. Even if they are strengthened using composites and such, ideally they would not have to share the road with accident-prone unnecessarily-heavy vehicles. So, it's perhaps an under-discussed paradox of our global transportation system (in need of working out). Some will say that a person must buy an ever-bigger-and-heavier vehicles to protect themselves. This logic would lead to everyone driving around a 60,000 pound tank. There must be a better way.

Anyway, I like your focus on lightening the vehicle while at the same time making it stronger and safer to the occupant and taking into account some idea of a limitation on speed. Years ago I saw a blurb in a magazine about a motorcycle that was very enclosed, so as to much better protect the rider's body from any contact with the road and other things in the event of an accident, and this sort of design attempt was somewhat along the same line of thinking. It probably wasn't as safe as what you envision, but was in somewhat the same line.
12/May/2009
[66768]

 

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Approximately 137,000 Traffic Injuries Per Day On Earth?

 

Saturday | May 09, 2009

I ended my last blog by making some addendum-level attempt to research global traffic safety statistics.  Those statistics, it turns out, are somewhat mind-boggling.  When we look at global traffic safety, it is hard to get the numbers straight.  Is every accident reported in some developing countries?  Every injury or death?  How do we adjust official statistics to account for under-reporting?  We should not let the statistical counting issues get in the way when the bigger picture is not that difficult to see.  Not only are global traffic deaths at around 1,200,000 people per year (roughly one out of every 5,600 people on Earth) but accidents (and the accompanying capital losses and injuries) are also very high.

 

This Nordic site seems like a decent starting point for looking into this matter.  It is called   “Nordic Road And Transport Research: A joint publication in English with the latest research findings of six public research organizations in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden”.  

 

It says:

 

Global Traffic Safety
Traffic accidents kill 1.2 million people every year, while an additional 50 million are injured. 86 per cent of these accidents occur in developing countries, where the cost of traffic accidents equals all bilateral aid. Traffic in the developing world is becoming a disaster.

 

Ok: 1.2 million deaths per year?  50 million injured?  How many accidents without injuries?  These numbers seem perhaps a bit on the high side, but I don’t know.  They lose a bit of credibility by saying (an apparent typo) 1.5m deaths per year elsewhere on the very same page.  I like their attempt to bring some global cost accounting, as well as health concerns, into the discussion.

 

Traffic accidents
[…] This is a Tsunami of death with 100,000 killed every month. 85 per cent of the victims, and 96 per cent of all traffic accidents involving children, occur in the developing world.

The costs of traffic accidents are staggering.  In 2005, traffic accidents in the developing world equalled all bilateral aid received that same year. Even worse, this represents only the direct costs of the accident, in terms of the value of lost labour.

 

The World Health Organization seems roughly to confirm the 1.2m per year number on their website with a slightly more conservative number:

 

Road traffic injuries

More than 3000 people die on the world's roads every day.

 

Doing the quick math, this means that they are saying that there are more than 1,095,000 fatalities every year, a number roughly in the same ballpark as the Nordic site’s 1.2m per year.

 

Another place to check is that we have some 10-year-old 1999 estimates here:

A REVIEW OF GLOBAL ROAD ACCIDENT FATALITIES
By G D Jacobs and Amy Aeron-Thomas

For 1999, they appear to estimate between 745,769 and 876,539 deaths worldwide, making some attempt to take into account under-reporting and other counting issues.  These numbers I think rely all or in part on WHO data, so I make note of that.

 

I suppose it is possible that the 1,000,000 road-accident-deaths-per-year line was passed sometime in the 2000s.  This New York Times article from 2002 seems to give some indication that the line had been crossed, and also gives some indication of costs (keeping in mind that if we were to get even more serious about this, we’d have to delve deeper into “where are they getting these numbers?” questions).

Global Traffic Deaths Put at Million a Year

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2002

Traffic accidents kill more than a million people each year, injure additional tens of millions and cost developing countries twice as much as they receive in international aid, a public health expert said today.

[…]

'This is a neglected health problem,' the expert, Dr. Adnan Hyder, interim secretary of the Road Traffic Injury Research Network, said at a news session. 'The global cost of road accidents in developing and emerging nations is at least $100 billion a year.'

 

I can’t seem to get estimates for total numbers of global vehicle accidents, (including ones without injuries).  Here we are all schmoozing for a decade on EVWorld.com about vehicles, usually with respect to their energy use and not safety, but how about getting some broad overview perspective on the health and also economic costs of accidents in our global transportation system?  If we want zero, or near-zero fatalities, don’t we need zero, or near-zero, traffic accidents?  If we don’t know how many accidents there are, how can we get perspective on the importance of eliminating them?

 

We can get this data for US total accidents, if not for the world:

Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2007 (PDF)

2006  US Highway Fatalities:             42,642
All other forms of transportation
(including airplanes, trains):                2,814

2006 Highway Injuries:                      2,575,000
All other forms of transportation:            32,080


2006 Total Highway Accidents:         5,973,000
All other forms of transportation:           27,030

So, there were 5,973,000 highway accidents in 2006 in the US alone.  16,364 per day(!)  How many for the world?  I can’t yet seem to find data. 

Can we interpolate and do a proportional estimate based on US population?  That might be quite tricky and potentially misleading.  In the US, we have to remember that it is a “highly motorized country” and many of the fatalities are occurring in countries with different proportions of cars to pedestrians… that sort of thing.  In the US we have in 2006  roughly 140 accidents, and 60 injuries, for every fatality, according to the NHTSA data.  Looking at the global data posted at the Nordic website, we have a claimed proportion of about 43 injuries for every fatality.  The proportions are not really the same, which makes some sense.  In the developing world we’re not talking so much about the same number of vehicles as in the US… it’s more about introducing more and more cars into established patterns of pedestrians and bicyclists?

If we take the estimate of 1.2m fatalities per year, and the US proportion of 140 accidents per fatality, then we would estimate 168,000,000 accidents per year (460,000 per day).   I think this number is high since in the developing world, there seems to be a higher fatality rate per injury and since the accidents there reportedly more often involve mass transit (going by the Nordic site).  For now I really think that I don’t have enough to work with to estimate this critical number, so I am going to fall back to using a round number: I  will pencil in, for my own working purposes (to be revised later) that I am guessing there are something like 100,000,000 accidents per year (in the general vicinity of a quarter million per day) on Earth.  I look forward to fixing my probably-wrong numbers.  Also, we should have an idea of other forms of transportation (planes, trains, etc.) and whether they factor into the WHO and other global transportation safety numbers. 

My 100m estimate comes from this being roughly twice the 50m injury estimate from the Nordic number, and the US total accident estimate was roughly twice its injury estimate.  The number could be dramatically lower if the number injured per accident in the developing world turns out to be much different than in the US.  As I said, I will revise the number later, when I find some data on this (any data).

…. A quarter million (or so) motor vehicle accidents per day, on Earth? 

How are we ever going to get to zero, or near-zero, injuries and fatalities if we are looking at these sorts of accident numbers and not getting them to zero or near-zero.  When then-US-Transportation-Secretary addressed representatives of other nations on this topic in 2004 he said:

“I have invested both my time and influence to provide for the safety of the traveling public in the United States,” Secretary Mineta said. “We must take what we’ve learned in the United States and export best practices to help emerging countries deal with this growing epidemic. Over the past 40 years, we have gained tremendous experience in the area of road safety and are willing to share this successful formula for reducing traffic fatalities.”

I think taken in isolation this sounds somewhat impressive.  Here is a top-level official willing to call this situation a “growing epidemic”.  In 2005 he said when talking about the US situation:

“We are in the midst of a national epidemic,” said Secretary Mineta. “If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine. [...]

This continues to sound good, doesn’t it?  Mr. Mineta then went on to say:

The irony is we already have the best vaccine available to reduce the death toll on our highways – safety belts.”

Now, it seems true that safety belts would help reduce the US fatality toll from highway accidents.  However, are they a cure-all or even “the best vaccine” for the global accident epidemic?  I doubt it.  As with Global New Energy, I think too we see with Global Advanced Transportation: it is necessary to put many pieces into place to solve the puzzle… a daunting challenging puzzle.   So, I’m not sure what Mr. Mineta would say if we specifically shifted the conversation from US Highway Fatalities to Global Accidents, but to make my own point of view clear, I don’t think we should be discussing only safety belts when there are so many other partial imperfect solutions to discuss which, if taken together, can imperfectly but significantly help us make a real dent in this global problem.  

The imperfect solutions to this terrible epidemic include building cars which help drive themselves and which sense pedestrians and other upcoming problems in the road, traffic systems designed to handle cars which can communicate with each other and which can help drive themselves, better traffic engineering and design, and a commitment to integrating and coordinating cars, bicycles, pedestrians, trolleys and all other vehicles and people that may occupy the roads (or to selectively keeping some vehicles from some roads, for the right-minded sake of safety).  These solutions no doubt include some enforcement of existing laws against drunk driving, speeding, following too closely, driving too slowly, and other laws pertaining to vehicle conduct.  They include a respect by traffic engineers and vehicle drivers for the roles of walking, bike-riding and mass-transit in urban and other environments.  They include the need for awareness that pedestrians and bicycle-riders do not end up killing and terribly injuring people when there is a collision.  It is cars and trucks and buses and the like which, when they collide with pedestrians and others end up harming those in and outside the vehicles.

These are just a few of the many ideas we need to address this problem.  We should also buckle up, but while seatbelts may help somewhat reduce US highway deaths, I think if we want to get serious about the global traffic accident epidemic, it will take a lot more than buckling up.

 

 


Originally published: May 09, 2009 | Total Page Views: 663


 

Add Your Comments

READER COMMENTS

Warren Heath:

The solution is to seperate our transportation systems - from one that combines the movement of typically one person, much less commonly two persons, from point A to point B, with the movement of heavy loads of goods & people. It is sheer insanity to moving a 150 lb person around in huge steel monstrosities that weigh 2000 to 5000 lbs, designed to go over 100 mph, but end up only going an average of 20 mph.

My favorite idea is the ultalight BEV with 4 wheel motors. Since you have no mechanical drivetrain - you can have drive-by-wire and steer-by-wire - and the frame can be made from composites that can distort in a collision, absorbing the energy of impact. Composites have up to 13 times the energy absorbing ability of steel. Top speeds can be limited to a pragmatic 50-60 mph. Except the small vehicles can be moved onto carriers and high speed, lightweight rail for rapid transit to a dozen or so nodes within a city or between cities. These vehicles, could gradually evolve into a sophisticated PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) or PAT (Personal Automated Transit) without huge expenditures by cash-strapped cities.


11/May/2009
[66759]


Josh Landess:

Hi Warren: Thanks for the input. I did really leave out the idea of reducing the weight per vehicle where it is not necessary to have a 2000 pound vehicle hauling around a 150 pound human being, and so I think it's great that you got that in there. We could save not only energy but also perhaps improve safety if we take an approach of lightening and strengthening our four-wheel vehicles.

This is a double-edged sword because when very heavy vehicles collide with the lightened vehicles we envision, the lightened vehicles will sustain more damage than we want. Even if they are strengthened using composites and such, ideally they would not have to share the road with accident-prone unnecessarily-heavy vehicles. So, it's perhaps an under-discussed paradox of our global transportation system (in need of working out). Some will say that a person must buy an ever-bigger-and-heavier vehicles to protect themselves. This logic would lead to everyone driving around a 60,000 pound tank. There must be a better way.

Anyway, I like your focus on lightening the vehicle while at the same time making it stronger and safer to the occupant and taking into account some idea of a limitation on speed. Years ago I saw a blurb in a magazine about a motorcycle that was very enclosed, so as to much better protect the rider's body from any contact with the road and other things in the event of an accident, and this sort of design attempt was somewhat along the same line of thinking. It probably wasn't as safe as what you envision, but was in somewhat the same line.
12/May/2009
[66768]

 

 


 

osh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

US-Oriented Transportation Safety & Fuel Statistics Of Note

 

Thursday | May 07, 2009

[Note to start: I've been online 17 years and I just suffered one of my all-time 2-or-3 worst blogging data losses of composing in a web browser and accidentally closing.  So, I will attempt to recreate what I just wrote, and not make that stupid lousy rookie error again.  I must confess severe frustration... I thought I had really succeeded in laying out what I wanted to say.]

Each year I tend to revisit transportation statistics, particularly safety statics for motor vehicles.  Each year the situation is similar: the NHTSA and FARS do provide useful good information, but it can be difficult to get at.  Each year we seem to accept that so many have their lives changed dramatically for the worse by experiencing a traffic accident, but what can any one individual do about the amount of time it is taking the US and the world to improve transportation safety?

We are in the midst of concerns about the H1N1 flu virus.  As of this writing about 2 people have died in the US, while about 102 people, on average, die in the US every day in traffic crashes.  The point here is not to criticize our concerns about H1N1 (on balance, considering what a very real killer influenza has been and will be again, we are I think very right to be cautious); rather, the point is that we should take very seriously that the deaths, injuries, financial burdens and general misery from traffic crashes are an ongoing epidemic and we are not doing enough in the face of this epidemic.  The word "epidemic" was used by then Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta in 2004

"“I have invested both my time and influence to provide for the safety of the traveling public in the United States,” Secretary Mineta said. “We must take what we’ve learned in the United States and export best practices to help emerging countries deal with this growing epidemic. Over the past 40 years, we have gained tremendous experience in the area of road safety and are willing to share this successful formula for reducing traffic fatalities.”

and again in 2005:

“We are in the midst of a national epidemic,” said Secretary Mineta. “If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine. [...]

Mr. Mineta went on to say:

The irony is we already have the best vaccine available to reduce the death toll on our highways – safety belts.”

I disagreed with what I took to be Mr. Mineta's over-emphasis on safety belts.  I personally don't think safety belts are anything more than one tool among many to help reduce traffic accidents, injuries and deaths.  Other important progressive safety measures I think include cars that help drive themselves, redesign of roads and traffic systems and intersections to address real-world immediate problems, long-term better design of roads and systems, reduction in congestion, safer cars in general (not just safety belts), and so-on. Of course, I could be wrong and maybe safety belts are "the best vaccine".  I guess I will look forward to learning more about whether Mr. Mineta was on the money.

In any event, here are some of the statistics of which we can take note, from March 2009, an “early release” of the 2008 NHTSA data.

The “Fatality Analysis Reporting System” (FARS) of NHTSA gives us this:

US Crash Fatalities (this doesn’t include such things as airplanes and trains… just conventional road or “highway” (why do they call it highway if it includes slower-speed roads?) transportation and related.

2007    41,059

2008    37,313            

 

US Fatalities per 100-million Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) from the Federal Highway Authority:

2007                1.36

2008:               1.28

So, we see a good improvement here.  “Only” 37,313 Americans died last year in crashes. 

As I have noted elsewhere, I have had a question in my mind, as we have gone through the global economic downturn and oil price problems, as to whether folks would travel fewer vehicle miles, or travel more slowly, or take more care.  I haven’t yet concluded that the reason for the downturn in deaths per 100m VMT is one of these.  I’m just saying: if some of us are driving a bit more carefully, or amidst a bit less traffic, and if this leads to lower numbers of crashes and injuries, it’s not a bad thing.  It’s still nowhere near where we need to be (near-0 crashes, near-0 deaths).  It is merely a matter of taking a bit of a clue from events and trends.  I think in order to get to near-zero, near-zero we will need cars that drive themselves or help do so, redesign of traffic and I-don’t-know-what-else.

What about the bigger picture.  How many non-fatal injury and non-injury crashes were there in 2008?  The best I can do for now is find the 2005 and 2006 numbers.  The NHTSA tends to make it a bit harder to find these bigger-picture numbers.  I found this obscure and helpful-seeming University of Minnesota site that leads to this link where we get the juicy bigger-overview information, albeit a few years delayed:

Transportation Statistics Annual Report 2007 (PDF)
U.S. Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 2007
This annual statistical report presents data on the nation's transportation system that includes safety, economic performance, energy use, and environmental impact data.

Stats of note:

2005, Total Registered highway vehicles:    247,421,120

(Apparently we did not have enough vehicles in 2004, so we increased the number by  4,410,571 from 243,010,549…. It’s interesting to remind ourselves, using the population data available at census.gov, that the US with 306,376,462 has only abour 4.5% of the world’s population.  If we project US vehicle numbers out over the entire global population (ignoring for the moment the imperfections of the 2005 source of our vehicle data) then we would get something like 5,480,000,000 total registered highway vehicles for the globe… not that there are such numbers, but if the entire world carried the same number of vehicles per person as the US).

2006  Fatalities:
Highway                                             42,642
All other forms of transportation
(including airplanes, trains):                2,814


2006 Injuries:
Highway:                                      2,575,000
All other forms of transportation:      32,080


2006 Total Accidents (including ones where there was only property damage but no injury):
Highway:                                            5,973,000
All other forms of transportation:           27,030                    

If these numbers seem a bit skewed, I think it can be interpreted only with some additional perspective.  Accidents and injuries and fatalities per passenger-mile traveled and vehicle mile traveled do not seem to be part of this report, although I may have missed them.  We do have these summary quotes and stats which help us understand the dominant role of conventional motor vehicle travel:

[…]

• Passenger-miles of travel (PMT) in the United States exceeded 5.0 trillion in 2005, or about 17,800 miles for the average person.

• 86 percent of PMT in 2005 was in personal vehicles (passenger cars and light trucks, which include sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, and minivans). Air carriers accounted for another 11 percent of PMT.

• Vehicle-miles of transit grew by 25.9 percent between 1995 and 2004, to almost 4.5 billion miles, while passenger-miles on transit grew 23.3 percent to over 49 billion.

• Freight ton-miles within the United States amounted to over 4.5 trillion in 2005, compared to about 4.1 trillion in 1995.

Turning from the NHTSA safety-oriented statistics, and looking at Fuel statistics:

We can note that we in the US used less oil last year, even dipping below 19m bpd during Q3 2008.  Overall we use less than 22.7% of the world's oil now, down from such numbers as 2004's 25.2%.  Wahoo.  It's progress, but by some measures, pathetic, when we contemplate how far along the US should be in disengaging from the global merry-go-round of oil dollars, terror and pollution.  The Energy Department has generally, in my view, provided a well-run website with useful information.  From this document we can also glean that according to the Energy Department, as of the end of 2008, we had not yet reached peak global production.  Sure, there are folks who may disagree.  I am just pointing this out: total global production in 2008, on average, per day:

85.46 mbpd

In Q3 2008, the world seems to have produced 85.72 mbpd, and demanded (same thing as "used" sort of?) 84.73 mbpd while the US used only demanded 18.84 mbpdUS demand may seem high, but for a country that has long had roughly 5% of the world's population while using something like 25% of the world's oil production, this sort of made an impression on me.

Lastly for now, I sometimes revisit the statistics on Iran’s oil production, and the extent to which Japan is buying from Iran.   What difference does it make if some countries boycott other countries in the global oil markets if in the end both buyers and sellers can find people to deal with?  It probably makes a bit of difference (at an inconvenience level) but not enough to put anyone out of business.

US Oil Imports 2007:

From Persian Gulf:                  16.1%

From OPEC:                           44.5%

Top Oil Importers 2007:

The US, Japan and China ranked 1,2,3

In 2007, 12% of Japan’s oil imports came from Iran, their third-largest supplier after Saudi Arabia and UAE.

While the US will not purchase oil from Iran, in 2007, Iran was able to export Oil to these countries:

Top Iranian Crude Oil Export Destinations, 2007

Country        thousands bbl/day


Japan                      523
China                      411
India                      374
South Korea                258
Italy                      197
France                    131
South Africa               128
Greece                     113
Netherlands                 93
Spain                      79
Other                      151
Toal:                    2,458
Global Trade Atlas, FACTS, EIA

So, for example, at a rough estimate of $80 per barrel in 2007, Japan was sending about $41,840,000 per day to Iran.  I wonder what Iranians did with the money?

There is no direct relation between the fuel statistics and transportation safety statistics I have cited.  If there is arguably some parallel, of some sort, I think it is something like this:

Our lack of sufficient response to 100+ highway deaths per day epidemic in the US, and 16,000+ highway accidents of all sorts, is roughly in some way akin to the lunacy of spending decades exporting Roman-Empire-Sized wealth on a weekly basis outside the US, some of it directly to the Middle East, and then acting mystified that the US Economy has suffered, jobs are gone and in some cases our global security (and many others') has been made much more expensive in lives and money.  The latter problems in the end have always seemed to me the most crazy part, but then I come back to considering the plain old dangers of driving and it becomes a debate.  I guess driving is (statistically) one of the most dangerous things, if not the most dangerous thing, that many of us do in our normal daily lives.  It would be good if we could get the injuries, deaths and property loss to zero, or at least near-zero, from their present levels of 100+ deaths and 16,000+ crashes per day in the US alone.

[Addendum May 8, 2009: I got to talking with Jim (below) and I figured why not just go and look up and find out how many fatalities there are around the globe from road accidents?  Based on one helpful-seeming bit of research:

A REVIEW OF GLOBAL ROAD ACCIDENT FATALITIES
By G D Jacobs and Amy Aeron-Thomas

It looks like my first guess may have unfortunately been better than my second.  Even though there are so many more cars in certain countries, the fatality rates are still high in "Low Motorized countries" .  For 1999, the study appears to estimate between 745,769 and 876,539 deaths worldwide, making some attempt to take into account under-reporting and other counting issues.]

 


Originally published: May 07, 2009 | Total Page Views: 453


 

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jim stack:

Good research. We kill over 40,000 people on the highways each year yet it is accepted. Like I have written vehicles are the WMD Weapons Of Mass Destruction right in front of us and don't see it. The injuries you listed is also big. Somehow we just don't see it and change. Driving slower and a lot less is a big part of the answer. Mass transit also makes a huge difference. I ride a bicycle most of the time and I've never heard of a bicycle running into someone and killing them. They don't make pollution or use imported fuel. It even makes you healthier than riding in a vehicle. Even a clean electric car can be driven unsafe and hurt someone. Always drive slow and be careful for everyones sake.
08/May/2009
[66735]


Josh Landess:

jim stack: Good research. We kill over 40,000 people on the highways each year yet it is accepted. [...]

Thanks for making those various points Jim. I think in the US the official figure for 2008 dipped below 40,000 to 37,313, but I think even one death is too many, and clearly more than 37 is still outrageous. That's just in the US!!

I just now revised the paragraph on this blog where I quoted Secretary Mineta. I wanted to point out that while I was very glad to see him discuss the problems of auto safety as an "epidemic", I thought he did not serve us well in naming "safety belts" as "the best vaccine". I believe that proper use of safety belts does help save lives, but I also believe that it is only one tool among many to address the terrible safety problems of automobiles, and so singling out safety belt use is in my view wrong since it draws too much (in my view) attention away from the multifaceted required other measures we must take to improve safety.

Your points about bicycles not killing people and helping with our health are thought-provoking to me as I am not a bike rider.

As soon as automobiles were introduced into human society more than 100 years ago, I think they started taking lives and injuring people, and even when people aren't hurt in accidents, they lose some measure of economic standing (capital) when they experience an accident. I don't know enough specifics about the history of automobiles to speak authoritatively, but I think this is what happened.... and here we are with still almost 40,000 people dying in the US alone. If the US has about 4.5% of the world's population, and if it has a similar proportion of traffic deaths, then the number of global deaths attributable to traffic accidents per year would be something like 829,000 per year. I have no idea though if the proportion of accident-related-deaths in the global population is similar to that of the US population.
08/May/2009
[66737]


Josh Landess:

whoops, I said "37", where I meant "37,000" in the previous comment.
08/May/2009
[66738]


Josh Landess:

Also, my estimate for global deaths, while off-the-cuff, was probably so far off that I have to disclaim. If there are only 3 or 4 x the number of cars globally that there are in the US, then maybe there are only 3 or 4 times the number of deaths (between 150,000-200,000?) Anyway, it seems likely that it is nowhere near the population-based number I came up with before. Maybe the World Health Organization, or some other similar body has reliable figures.
08/May/2009
[66739]

 

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Comparing Possible Bankruptcies: GM Versus Think Global AS

 

Saturday | April 18, 2009

Where the hell is GM's sense of urgency?  Why aren't they rolling plug-in vehicles out the door by the dozens right now, with some ramp-up later this year?

I ask these guestions because at least one other company (BYD) seems to be selling decent plug-ins to consumers in China.  I ask because a company in a country that is supposedly at "war" would be rolling out electric vehicles to citizens so they could reduce their use of an important strategic fuel (oil).  A company in a country struggling for its economic life would be fast-tracking technologies designed to compete for consumer dollars.  A company in a global economy endangered by global warming would be rolling out answers to global warming rather than causes of global warming.  A company fearful of a brain drain would be begging forgiveness from the hundreds and thousands of engineers they have betrayed over the years when the company feigned interest in top technologies and then literally crushed those techologies for sham business reasons.


Even if we entertain the idea that GM's possible bankruptcy would be "surgical" so that many of the jobs and plants and customer relationships could survive, I am still left asking... are they going to get it going or not?  My father says they sound like a patient on Oxygen who is smoking a cigarette.  I think that description will do.  When they quit their anti-innovative technology-scuttling habits, and when they roll out an EV widely for-sale without all the bogus excuses (never mind whether it is the old GM or a bankrupted-and-resuscitated GM 2.0), then maybe we can say they have made a last-ditch desperate-patient effort to quit their form of cigarettes.


In the meantime, there is one EV Corporate story that particularly bothers me, and it is the fact that Think Global AS, makers of the wonderful 62 mph top-speed THINK CITY electric vehicle, are seeming to struggle to get the loans they need to continue to survive.  While billions of US Taxpayer dollars have been funneled to the grey or black hole of GM's anti-innovative top management, just 25 or 50 million in Venture Capital or similar dollars would seemingly be of help to the struggling Norwegian carmaker.


I have not had time to do a proper look at Think Global's latest situation, and with the amount of time the company is spending touting their possible or probable US production ramp-up, it is perhaps not right of me to mention Think Global's financial struggles in the same breath as the GM bankruptcy. Nonetheless, there have been reports of halted production in Norway over the last six months, and some bridge financing just to keep them going.  Some of my information is coming from a discussion forum, from posts such as this:


http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/think_ev/message/3487

I think what they need is a new funding round of at least $40M or so, so that they can pay employees, pay suppliers, and buy more parts for new cars.  This whole planning to open a factory in the USA has been exciting, but it seems Th!nk is still stuck in debt consolidation, has not raised the needed funds to get the factory in Norway running, and is will only move forward on their USA factory plans if they receive low interest loans from the US government. :-/

 

When I post to this blog, I usually like to do a better job of investigating than some discussion forum post, but unfortunately I simply haven't had time to keep up with the Think Global AS situation.  What bothers me, and prevents me from quite shutting up about this, is this:


Ever since GM put off the pressure by claiming they would build a plug-in but not until 2010, there has also been this race to see which small EV companies would come through while the big companies were messing around.  Tesla is nice to hear about, but they make expensive luxury cars for people with lots of money.  I'd like also to see what we all know would be possible which is a highway-capable well-made durable reliable EV that can be used by a family for something resembling a reasonable price and with decent support from the manufacturer.  Think Global already showed us nine years ago (or so) that they were to some extent the makers of one of those cars (unfortunately only going 62 mph, so not really a highway-capable vehicle).  So, instead of just following the glamor cars (Tesla, Fisker) I think we should also keep track of the workhorse lesser-priced vehicles and see how it's going.


Think Global AS has been a mystery over the last year, seeming to start up production last summer to some limited extent (yea!), then seeming to stop production and fall into some sort of semi-bankrupt state last fall (boo!), then seeming to get bridge financing to move out a few remaining cars (ok) and then making a big push to talk about US production (ok).  Normally, if you're financially in bad shape in Norway, then you're going to have a hard time becoming a successful US automaker, but I guess if the company can win some of the Obama-dollars, then good for them.  If only it will lead to mass-production.  When do we get mass-production and the real-world chance to buy.


In the meantime, I think their cessation (if it is still stopped) of Norwegian production is incredibly frustrating to those of us who are rooting for them. So, they are presenting us with a paradox.  Here's hoping that their decisions are made with a greater sense of urgency and less complacency than the verge-of-bankruptcy decisions made by GM over the last few years.


jl
18 April 2009

 


Originally published: April 18, 2009 | Total Page Views: 900


 

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d sakarya:

a country that is supposedly at "war" LOL ! That "War" was waged so Americans could go on pissing away gasoline in their fat-ass SUVs.
22/Apr/2009
[66577]

 

 


 

Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

Pollution & War Taxes On Gasoline & Other Fossil Fuels

 

Wednesday | March 25, 2009

I read this week that Smart Car sales have for the moment tailed off (some who placed orders have chosen to cancel). This has taken place in part

Cheaper fuel prices blunt the appeal of Smart's 36 mile-per-gallon rating, and the recession has scared off some who ordered.

I take this as a warning sign.  Never mind that we have more-or-less reached peak oil; this does not mean that fuel pricing is guaranteed to remain firm, since demand cannot be counted upon to remain firm .  In fact, according to some theories, oil and refined fuel pricing may oscillate rather than massively going up, since demand also may go a bit back and forth.

So, we cannot count on steady high fuel pricing being a steady inducement to purchase of vehicles and alternative transportation systems that offer energy conservation and alternative fuels.  We were “lucky” in a way when fuel prices went up last year, because at least this gave us a needed wake-up call, and finally allowed consumers to see price signals that would help motivate them to buy energy-conserving vehicles, but those market forces which finally brought about that fuel price rise cannot (apparently) be counted upon to provide a steady incentive to purchase of energy-conserving vehicles.

I have previously suggested that we should arrange, via increased oil-derived-fuel taxation, to have a base on the price of fuel.  I reiterate this suggestion. 

Taxes on gasoline, diesel, propane and the like fall under the heading of both war and pollution taxes. 

They are war taxes because some of our enemies are funded in part by our oil and other energy expenditures.  So, if we really mean business and are really fighting a war, we should do what nations do in wartime and do everything in our power to reduce the flow of funding to our enemies.

They are pollution taxes because the products of burning oil-derived fuels are polluting and it will cost our government a great deal to mitigate (clean up) that pollution.  It is appropriate to fund this cleanup by taxing the fuels causing the pollution problems.

The Obama Administration  has offered up a steady-stream of progressive legislation oriented toward purchasing EVs and better transportation systems.  It has been impossible for me to follow, and it is great.  Nonetheless, they clearly have a funding issue, with overall government deficits soaring into the stratosphere.  If it has taken them a form of courage and initiative to propose paying for bold clean energy alternate paths, why have they not exercised the courage and initiative to propose an improved funding of these paths, via taxation of the problem-causing old-technology fuels, so that we can have a steady inducement toward purchase of clean energy alternatives?  It will cost US taxpayers a great deal over the next decade if so many tax breaks are given for the purchase of EVs and other clean energy solutions.  Why not offset some of the inadequate funding of tax breaks by taxing fossil-derived fuels?

As I’ve previously written, the idea is to provide a steady price in fuel, not an egregiously high one.  So, I think a subtlety here is that fossil-derived motor fuels should be taxed sufficiently at the low end of their pricing to provide a price floor, but not enough to singlehandedly cause unnecessarily high prices.

The issue here, it seems to me, is in part that the Obama administration is not taking the opportunity to press for appropriate partial funding of their clean energy proposals.  I call it “appropriate” because if we are to collect taxes on fossil-derived fuels, then let those taxes go to remediate the problems caused by fossil-derived fuels.  In an actual free-market-oriented economy, this I think is an appropriate use of the mechanism of taxation.  Fossil-derived fuels are causing US Taxpayers a large amount of presently-unfunded expense, both in pollution cleanup and in increased war risks and expenses.  If we provide a price floor for fossil-derived fuels, via a no-apologies direct taxation mechanism, this will I think finally repair our system to more of a true free-market situation where property-damaging pollution and exceptional national security (war) situations are addressed with no apologies.   By insufficiently taxing and addressing these matters, to the point where the price of fuel still sometimes drops to the point of consumers going back to choosing vehicles that needlessly waste fuel, I think we are refusing to put a proper market system in place.  I think we need to put a system in place that is appropriate to our war situation and that is appropriate to our pollution cleanup situation.

 

 


Originally published: March 25, 2009 | Total Page Views: 1025


 

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Oil Price Gyrations And Peak Oil

 

Thursday | March 05, 2009

I was discussing with a colleague the question of to what extent some folks have lost focus on or forgotten last year's high oil prices.  Will we see high prices again, going forward?  How soon?

Then I remembered that last quarter Charles Whalen came up with some pretty interesting math to try to figure out what is going on with Oil Prices.  I asked, and he gave me permission to pass along his comments.

Charles is the one who had come up with some very helpful-seeming ideas and information that helped me and others to try understand what happened with the confidential ECD-Chevron-Toyota-Matsushita agreements that appeared to contribute strongly to delays in global progress toward plug-ins.

I am a bit skeptical that it's as simple as saying we're going to see oil go to $200 (or whatever) per barrel and stay very high.    What if demand is quashed by an economic downturn or other global events?  Won't this be a damper on prices?  Of course, a certain amount of demand is in place for the near future because (by and large) global consumers have not been allowed to purchase and use vehicles that use anything other than fossil fuels.  Yet, if I am looking at both supply and demand and asking about pricing, and if supply is somewhat constrained going forward in my peak-oil-believer point of view, then I am still left with some variables as far as demand, and gauging global reaction to constrained supply.

Charles's views appear to try to claim, with some mathematical backing, that we are seeing gyrations in Oil prices, and that these gyrations were and are to some extent predictable.  I'm not sure I buy everything he has said, and at the time I specifically disagreed with the somewhat narrow point as to whether we had reached peak oil.  I didn't t think that was clear yet.  It didn't seem like a large matter though.... if we are not there, I think we are all-but-there.  I guess to some extent this depends on where one gets one's oil production data. 

As to any other points where I thought I might voice agreement or disagreement, it's hard to do that on mathematical points if I am acknowledging a lack of proper or full understanding.

Anyway, for those who follow energy pricing and supply, I thought I would put it out there to a wider audience in case there are those who wish to take it much further, and in mathematical terms.  I can't keep up, but it might be worth it for others to chew over these ideas.

Here are Charles's views on this:

---------------Begin Quotation Of Others' work----------------------

----- Original Message -----
From: Charles Whalen

whalenc@bellsouth.net
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 7:05 PM

Very complex subject.  Peak Oil is not about running out of oil; it's about having reached maximum supply and production.  There's a big difference.  Basically what Peak Oil does is that it puts a cap on GDP, where the only way GDP can grow any further is through efficiency gains.  The practical effect of this is that we will see repeated cycles of rolling recessions (or worse, depressions) and recoveries, but without a longer term trendline of growth.  The longer term trendline will be flat.  This is exactly what we are seeing.  Global oil extraction and production peaked in 2005 and has fallen slightly since then.  We are now on a very slightly decreasing plateau and will likely not see larger declines in oil output for a few years, possibly until 2012-15, when the declines will get steeper.  There can be, and will be, lots of oil price volatility within this paradigm, with price basically determined by demand.  What we now have is a demand-destruction dynamic, where price will moderate demand and vice-versa, but where total supply is limited and capped by the global peak that is now clearly visible behind us in the rear-view mirror back in 2005.  Peak Oil is only visible in hindsight, and we've now got that hindsight to clearly see it.

There are mathematical models which explain the extreme price volatility we are seeing and will continue to see in the oil market.  In the absence of any widely developed and available, competing substitute for oil and with the supply of oil constrained and limited to the peak we have already seen behind us and unable to expand any further, I see mathematical queueing models as a good proxy and theoretical construct for explaining this price volatility.  In a queueing model, you have a demand rate and a supply rate, just as in the case of the oil market.  Mathematical queueing models do not directly incorporate price into them, but this can be done by proxy, as the length of the queue -- or equivalently, the waiting time in the queue (which is proportional to the length of the queue) -- can be thought of as a proxy for price, since price will likely be directly proportional to the length of the queue (or equivalently, waiting time in the queue).  This may be somewhat counter-intuitive to those without mathematical training, at least on first thought, but the length of the queue (and waiting time in it), and hence, by proxy, the price of oil, takes off exponentially and skyrockets as the demand rate approaches the limited, constrained, fixed supply rate.  In fact, the length of the queue, and hence price of oil, actually goes to infinity (in the mathematical model) as slack capacity completely disappears and the demand rate reaches 100% of supply, bumping up against the fixed supply constraint.  This can be seen mathematically, for the simplest M/M/1 queue, with the formula:

L(t) = 1/[µ(t)-?(t)]

where

L(t) = length of the queue (as a proxy for price) at time t

?(t) = demand rate at time t

µ(t) = supply rate at time t

This mathematical model is a good proxy in explaining the demand-destruction dynamic in a supply-constrained environment, as we now have with the oil market having reached maximum global ouput, and the resulting repeated cycles of rolling recessions and recoveries that we are seeing and will continue to see, with a flat longer-term GDP trendline, where demand continues to bump up against this fixed ceiling at the height of each recovery, causing the price of oil to skyrocket, which then results in demand destruction, leading to another recession and then subsequent recovery, and so on and so on.

As demand backs off of the fixed, constrained supply going into each recession, the mathematical model explains and demonstrates how the price of oil will drop precipitously with the more slack capacity that is freed up through demand destruction.  Basically what will happen is that with sufficient slack capacity (of supply over demand) in the global oil market, the price of oil will start to drop back down towards its cost of extraction and production, which is exactly what we are now seeing.

The only way we can get out of the vicious cycle of this paradigm (explained reasonably well by mathematical queueing models), which has stalled and flatlined long-term economic growth, is to develop a widely available competitive substitute for oil, which of course would be electrically-powered transportation, i.e. EVs.  That would remove the constraint and ceiling on economic growth and allow the global economy to once again expand.

Charles

[Someone responded]:

"...The problem with this analysis is it assumes that the price of oil is demand-driven. 

"Unfortunately, it's not.  Oil is a "managed market", the price seems set by a cabal analogous to DeBeers, which runs the diamond trade.

"But we'll find out, so no need to belabor the point."

[Charles responded]:

[...] I don't disagree with you. In fact I agree with you on this point you make below.  We are both right.  What you are saying is not inconsistent with my analysis nor the model I have used.  Your point is really just a specific elaboration into the details of my model, ... a point which in fact I had already considered and implicitly allowed for but did not specifically elaborate and expand upon in my original post.

That I had indeed considered what you are saying and implicitly allowed for that is demonstrated by the fact that I did not use a fixed supply rate, µ , but rather considered the supply rate as one that can and does change with time, µ(t), which clearly implies that the supply rate is managed -- or manipulated, if you prefer -- as you suggest.

The only addition to the model that is required to specifically address and incorporate this point is to add the condition that:
µ(t) <  µmax
where µmax = 85 million barrels per day.

What you are saying below is something that is very obviously to me, you, and all observers, which is that OPEC is clearly not going to leave the current global production and supply rate, µ(t), pegged at its absolute maximum, µmax , of 85 million barrels per day, simply because the enormous slack capacity that leaves over the current (recession-induced) greatly reduced demand rate, ?(t), results in such a huge decrease in the market price of oil, as the mathematical queueing model explains, which indeed is confirmed by what we are seeing in the market.  Therefore, there is no question that the OPEC cartel will want to take a good deal of this excess slack capacity (aka "slop") out of the market by shutting in capacity to bring the global production and supply rate, µ(t), down closer to the current global demand rate, ?(t), in order to provide a higher floor of support underneath the global market price of oil.

So all of that is entirely consistent with the model.  The most salient point here is that although OPEC can actively manage and manipulate the global production and supply rate, µ(t), it cannot, however, increase µ(t) beyond its absolute maximum, µmax , of 85 millions barrels per day, which was the all-time global peak in oil extraction and production achieved back in 2005, from which we have fallen and are now starting down the backside downslope of the curve.

In fact, in order to be mathematically correct, one really needs to expand the variables and parameters of the model a bit further by realizing that µmax itself is not a constant but rather is a function of time, call it µmax(t) , which follows a bell-shaped curve (similar to a Normal, log-Normal, or Gamma distribution curve), where µmax(t) reached its all-time maximum, µmax´ , called "Peak Oil", back in 2005 at 85 million barrels per day.

So, the fully-elaborated, mathematically-correct addition to the model, allowing for a variable (managed or "manipulated") global production and supply rate, would add the following conditions:

µ(t) <  µmax(t)
µmax(t) <  µmax´

where µmax´ = 85 million barrels per day.

What this analysis and mathematical model explains and demonstrates is that the price of oil is *both* supply-driven *and* demand-driven.  That is something which I would obviously completely agree with.  But if you are trying to suggest that the price of oil is *only* supply-driven and not a function of both supply *and* demand, then I would clearly disagree with you.

Didn't mean to belabor the point, but sometimes the devil is indeed in the details.

Charles

-------- [end quotation] ------------

 


Originally published: March 05, 2009 | Total Page Views: 1001


 

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Hunan Corun New Energy Seeks To Produce NiMH Propulsion Batteries (Yay!)

 

Sunday | March 01, 2009

Will they succeed?  Will Chevron and its business partners find a way to stall them?  Has the battery chemistry been rendered less-than-competitive, and arguably moot by advances advances and development of other battery chemistries including various types of Lithium Ion?

[Note: I do not, as of the publication of this blog, have a vested interest in the companies below, except a very minor indirect interest in ECD.]

This Chinese company, Hunan Corun New Energy, has been making signs for some time that they intend to make Nickel Hydrogen batteries for vehicles.

For some years they appeared to be a Nickel producer with an unusual angle of gearing their production toward batteries (under the present global economy, the leading use of Nickel is I believe stainless steel).  In 2006, they obtained a license from Ovonic Battery that appeared to restrict them to non-propulsion batteries:

"[...] Under the consumer battery license grant, Hunan Corun has a royalty-bearing, nonexclusive right to make, use and sell NiMH batteries for consumer, nonpropulsion applications."

Indeed, if we look at their web page, they appear even now 2 or 3 years later to offer NiMH batteries under 10 amp-Hours.  This under-10-amp-hours is a number that I have seen put around as a guideline for the sort of restriction placed on companies (by the Chevron-Cobasys-Ovonic-Battery-Energy-Conversion-Devices Unholy Alliance) so they do not get into making NIMH for propulsion purposes.  I don't know if it's really true or not\, but the Hunan Corun offerings do seem to fit the pattern.

Something is odd though because Hunan Corun's mission statements, particularly over the last year as they have changed their name and made their goals quite clear, seem to indicate a direct intent of getting into the business of batteries for EVs.  For example, in their "about us" page, here is what they emphasize:

"...provide complete power solutions for all types of batteries tools and electric vehicles..."

If they observe their agreements with the Unholy Alliance, then do they have the legal right to get into Nickel Hydrogen Battery-Making for Electric Vehicles?

The catch seems to be, all or in part, a co-venture that they entered into last year with GP Batteries, a company traded on the Singapore exchange which already makes NiMh batteries for the Vectrix (side note that I've heard Vectrix is talking about moving on to LiOn but I don't know how far that has progressed).  GP has an old license to make NiMH for propulsion purposes (is it even legal for anyone to restrict the purposes to which licensed products are put?) that they signed with Ovonic Battery (or one of the related entities) years ago, before the oil companies seemed to get ovetly involved, and before the global agreements signed for NiMH battery production seemed to tighten up in a way that was more restrictive of making batteries for vehicles.  So, even though the technology might be a bit long in the tooth, it would appear that Hunan Corun has found a way to get some NiMH batteries for electric vehicles into production. 

This is potentially excellent news not only for EVs but specifically for Chinese EVs.  Many of us do not focus on hoping for companies to deliver vehicles to the US so much as rooting for companies to bypass the anti-EV machinations of some US and other companies.  If Hunan Corun can help build EVs for the Chinese consumers who will then burn less oil, isn't that great?  Check out this press release:

Corun signed with GP company on 18th, July, 2008 when Corun changed company name from Changsha Lyrun New Material CO., LTD. to Hunan Corun New Energy Co., LTD. at the same time. New company name is Hunan Copower EV Battery CO., LTD  which is a venture company. It is a symbol of Corun entering automobile new energy industrial. The venture company produce and plan to achieve our sale goal is 0.8 billion RMB in firstly project and rapid realization of electric vehicle battery power industrialization.

[...]

They have also made clear that they are seeking to address some of the much-discussed (particularly by Lifton) Rare Earth Metal materials requirements for NiMh battery production.

2008-8-12

Nickel and molybdenum mineral resources exporting agreement was signed by Hunan Corun new materials company and Zhang Jiajie government at the Lantian Hotel on 12th, August, 2008.

Meanwhile, all is still a bit too quiet on the Western Front.  We are through about 1 out of 48 months of the Obama Administration.  Despite the excellence and smartness of some of their green legislation (for example, finally finding a way to get solar energy installations credited into home valuations, I'm told), there has as yet not been any word (so far as I know) from the Obama administration as to finding a way to rescue the jobs in Ohio's Cobasys plant and rescue NiMH plug-in-vehicle battery technology from its two seemingly uncaring parents.  ECD and Chevron continue to bicker and fight, seeking some sort of divorce, while Cobasys loses money and a customer (possibly GM) supports them. 

Here is news concerning the job losses.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

(Springboro, Ohio) – Cobasys, which manufactures batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, says it has indefinitely laid off 119 workers from its plant here just south of Dayton.  [...]

Here is a quarterly report which contains information as to the joint venture parents bickering while the company plods along.  "CTV" is "Chevron Technology Ventures".  "OBC" is "Ovonic Battery Company", a 91% or so subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices.

[...]  Cobasys had losses of approximately $74 million and obtained funding of approximately $84 million in 2007, and in January 2008 Cobasys management forecast losses of approximately $82-86 million and funding requirements of approximately $92-94 million for 2008.  Cobasys management has not provided CTV and OBC with a forecast for 2009.  Until September 2007, CTV historically funded Cobasys’ loss-generating operations through the purchase of preferred interests. From October 2007 through January 2008, CTV declined to purchase preferred interests and funded Cobasys in a manner that in OBC’s view violated the Operating Agreement and applicable Michigan law. Since February 2008, Cobasys has received funding support from a customer in the form of a loan for capital equipment purchases and a price increase on products sold to the customer. While Cobasys has been receiving this funding support from its customer, Cobasys management has not sought any funding from the members of Cobasys. There is no assurance that this customer funding support will continue on these or other terms or otherwise be sufficient to permit Cobasys to continue as a going concern.

During the years when we were all searching for battery solutions, on through today, has anyone at Cobasys been trying to make NiMH sales into the plug-in EV market while this fighting is going on?  This is not a rhetorical question on my part.  I don't know the answer.

How often does it happen that a customer is so desperate to take delivery of a product that they will in effect fund the producer?  And not get an ownership stake?  And continue to tolerate the apparently neglectful business postures of the producer's owners?  While someone (possibly GM) supports Cobasys, others (Daimler and ITS) have filed suit.... bringing some attention to the idea that in practice something has gone awry with how ECD-Cobasys-CTV-etc. have delivered or not delivered.

If GM is the customer that is propping up Cobasys, and if we taxpayers are now propping up GM, then we taxpayers have a right to demand more say-so in the resolution of the Cobasys situation.  Cobasys should be divested from its neglectful parents and placed into foster care with an ambitious profit-oriented company that wants to make batteries for EVs.  Also, an investigation should be made to determine if global NiMH licensing has been done in order to maintain a profitable situation for American patent holders or in order to restrict and stop all progress in NIMH technology.

Sure, it's probable that LiOn batteries will likely soon render all or much of this discussion moot.  That will be great.  In the meantime, my hat is off to Hunan Corun.  I hope they bend or break every rule in sight and succeed in making many batteries, of all types, for plug-in vehicles. 

There is a school of thought that unless EV Batteries and vehicles are exported to the US, then from the standpoint of a US EV fan we must be disappointed.  I do not subscribe to this school of thought.  If Hunan Corun makes many great batteries and vehicles for the Chinese markets, then that will be fantastic.

 


Originally published: March 01, 2009 | Total Page Views: 937


 

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jim stack:

this NiMH company seems to be doing ok. http://www.nilar.com/index.php?pageID=33&languageID=1
02/Mar/2009
[65978]

 


 

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Reducing and eliminating some energy expenditure related to transportation.

 

Thursday | February 12, 2009

What causes us to need (or want, or choose) to use transportation?  We use transportation when we need or want to transport ourselves or goods to some location other than the one presently occupied by ourselves or the goods to be moved.

 

A lot of the writing and reporting at EVWorld.com is focused on improving individual transportation vehicles and their energy use, but this focus is not always to the exclusion of focusing on improving other aspects of transportation (safety, comfort), and on improving (in energy use and otherwise) other aspects of our present global transportation system.   

 

Once a transportation system of roads and paths and refueling stations is in place, a variable that is easier (in energy, money and effort) to change than the larger infrastructure and fuel type is simply to change the vehicles.  Individual consumers have purchasing power to change which vehicles they use, but do not have quite as much power readily to change the overall system of roads and such.  Sure, you can change which fuel you use, but it takes some doing.   So, it is perhaps understandable in some ways that we look first at individual vehicles and how we use them when we want to figure out some energy-saving ideas.

 

Still, in addition to focusing on the energy efficiency of individual vehicles, let’s also take a look at a few of the other big-picture high-ticket global transportation items and considerations that we will write about and change over the coming decades:

 

  1. Mass-Transit:  The vehicles themselves may use more energy, per mile, per vehicle, but when they are loaded with passengers, then overall less energy is used per passenger-mile-traveled.   

 

A web page which does a good job of bringing out the energy savings to be discovered by using mass transit is this one, by netizen James Strickland, M.Sc.  

 

http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html  

 

This page stands out in that it presents us not just with miles-per-megajoule figures but some in-depth passenger-miles-per-megajoule figures.  It takes into account the “extreme carpooling” that is inherent to the taking of buses, trains, planes and other forms of mass transit.  Mr. Strickland has done the legwork to research the different mass-passenger type vehicles and provide credible estimates that help us to understand their passenger loads.  

 

Nearly a decade ago, I posted some calculations here for vehicular energy efficiency:  

 

http://www.herecomesmongo.com/ae/comptab.html  

 

However, I did not actively maintain my page and I did not really focus on taking into account the varying number of passengers per vehicle.  So, James Strickland’s research helps us more today, in terms of widening our focus away from the same-old vehicular energy efficiency calculation.  

 

Also, I have recently tried to expand my own page to include cycling and walking, and, like it or not, these are activities that are going to remain in the mix for our transportation options, particularly if we go through a period of constrained global energy and resource supply.

 

  1. Location of our homes and businesses: A building can be said to have a “transportation energy efficiency” that is co-dependent on the transportation needs and wants of the denizens.   

 

If I move to a highly energy efficient home, that’s wonderful, but if many of my typical daily and weekly destination points (places of food shopping, work, worship, education, entertainment, transportation refueling, other shopping, etc.) are dozens of miles away, and if I have few or no mass transit options, then I have chosen to locate to a home that has a comparatively high transportation energy use for me.  It might have a comparatively lower use for someone who found that the same building was closer to their own destination points than it is for me. 

 

In my own case, I may live in a home that is comparatively energy efficient, but it is far away from some of my destination points.  Sometimes this makes me want to consider living in a structure that, for me, would be closer to my destination points and that, in general, would allow me to use my car less (such as if I could live closer to mass transit, bicycling and walking options). 

 

Purchase options for more transportation-energy-efficient homes and business buildings would be also affected by different and better planning, and I think this is an inherently much-discussed topic amongst Green Planners, but it could take some years or decades to bring about strong change of the US and Ex-US infrastructures and directions, away from conventional car-oriented suburb-oriented planning and toward reduced transportation energy use.  (If people simply move to the cities as part of our economic upheaval, to get away from some car expenses, needs and energy use, it won't necessarily take decades in that sense, but will result in the old less-useful infrastructure and planned communities being partly abandoned, I guess).

 

Another offbeat policy angle here is this:

 

We have heard much in the news recently about Congress’s role in dealing with the mortgage companies, yet I have heard nothing about whether our (taxpayer) involvement in the mortgage business has been done with an eye toward resource conservation.   Why not require that energy efficient mortgages be emphasized, if we are to be in the mortgage business?  Why not start to incorporate transportation options into the calculation of whether a mortgage is energy efficient.  Well, I don’t know enough about this, but am hopeful these considerations can be be taken into account by bankers and policy-makers.

 

  1. Advances in the internet and telecommunications allow us to save transportation energy.

 

-- In some cases, we should consider that it is possible to have the complete elimination of the need for transportation at all.  We can telecommute and have teleconferences and phone calls rather than traveling long distances. 

 

-- Also, in some instances we can even eliminate the need for the existence of goods that need transporting.  We can replace those goods with files and telecommunication (electronic transportation, as it were) of those files.  This principle applies to such obvious candidates as hardcopies of CDs, DVDs and Books.  In the old days, we could go to such stores as amazon.com and order conventional delivery (via UPS and the like) of those hardcopies.  These days we can arrange for transfer or streaming of files.  Sure, there are some energy costs that are negative to this (such as the energy to maintain an MP3 file on one’s hard drive for some years, if one chooses to take delivery of a file rather than deal with streaming it) but I think in the final analysis the transportation energy costs, and perhaps the overall energy and resource use, is reduced by a societal transition away from hardcopies and toward purchase of rights to files and streams.

 

Investment and culture closing comment:

 

Some years ago I started following alternative energy investments.  In some ways, I was too early.  To be sure, I never thought that the full batch of all investments at the time would come into their own, but in the end, like some investors in internet and telecommunications, I had to wait for the inevitable weeding out of early investments and for the maturation of some of the other investments.

 

The tie-in here for me is that as we watch Amazon.com and other internet companies taking on more strongly some of the competitive aspects first discussed by original investment enthusiasts 10 or 15 years ago, we can more firmly appreciate that while investment riches may not be consistently at the end of the discussion for all those internet .com investments, we can see that eventually some of the far-sighted visions do bear out for shoppers and businessmen.  In the end, many customers are saving dollars and time and energy by shopping online instead of by going to the store.  Lately, some retailers are adding to the energy savings by offering downloading or streaming rather than just selling a disc or book to be delivered by a gasoline-burning freight-hauling organization like USPS or UPS.

 

In the face of a global economy suffering many different blows from different angles, I don’t think it’s possible to be too broad and say that a company like Amazon is doing better than many conventional retailer becauses of the reduced transportation energy footprint that might be ascribed to a transaction.  Yet, we can say I think that some of their success is attributable to the basics pointed out by investors years ago… increased convenience, quick access to what you want, reduced shopping energy expenditure and now in some cases the elimination of the need for transportation energy expenditure.

 


Originally published: February 12, 2009 | Total Page Views: 1092


 

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A Criticism Of Nuclear Energy On Economic Grounds

 

Friday | February 06, 2009

This particular blog of mine will not contain my own direct commentary.  I spotted a post highly critical of Nuclear Energy on Economic (not directly Environmental) grounds, and I thought this post would be worth memorializing and bringing to a wider audience, via blog, so to get straight to the point, here it is:

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/SustainableTucson/message/2677

I am copying and pasting only the portion claimed to be from Russell Lowes [russ3lowes@netscape.net] of SafeEnergyAnalyst.ORG.

--------------begin copy & paste--------------

To: SustainableTucson@yahoogroups.com
From: russ3lowes@netscape.net
Re: [SustainableTucson] Rethinking Nuclear Power
Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2009 00:24:20 -0500


Hi [...],

I will put it bluntly, I was amazed that someone who is interested in sustainability issues has been so bamboozled by the misinformation spread by the government/nuclear industry complex.

I have been giving talks on nuclear energy and alternatives in Pima and Maricopa (Phoenix area) Counties. Over the last year, I have spoken before hundreds of people. A bit about me:

My most specialized background is in nuclear energy and its alternatives, mostly from an economic perspective. I am the key author on a book on the Palo Verde plant, published in 1979, "Energy Options for the Southwest, Nuclear and Coal Power." In our book, we projected the three reactors at Palo Verde to be $6.1 billion, and Arizona Public Service Co., the plant manager, projected $2.8 billion. We were within 4% off of the final cost, having used statistical regression analysis combined with other modeling. APS was 111% off the mark. They used sales pitches. Our book was used as the main document in successful municipal campaigns in California to kill Units 4&5 at Palo Verde. Our book was part of the strategy that killed those two projects. Other things I have done include financial management, general management, accounting and financial turnarounds for companies in distress, with a turnaround success rate of 6 out of 6 companies. I love to analyze the future. Crazy as it may sound, I even have projected both of the last presidential races with less than a 2%=2 0error margin.

You say you have a friend that says nuclear energy is viable. In what way is it viable. I would hope that you equate viable with sustainable. How is it sustainable? You say that reprocessing is "recycling," when it clearly is not like the recycling of glass or aluminum cans or other metals. It is not recycling at all in reality. Nuclear spent fuel is separated mechanically, with chemicals, and with electricity. Reprocessing of spent fuel creates 10-20 times the volume of nuclear waste that you begin with. It creates a huge opportunity for terrorist  and accidental diversion of materials for nuclear weapons and ecological nightmares, and reprocessing has been illegal in this country for about 30 year because of that. (See nirs.org and look at their reprocessing reports.)

You refer to eia.doe.gov which is a general clearinghouse of information on energy. The EIA unscrupulously promotes nuclear power. For example, look at this little tidbit of information they put out, from http://www.eia.doe.gov/basics/energybasics101.html
Fuel Cost: nuclear vs. fossil steam 0.49 cents/kwh vs. 2.32 cents/kwh
Note that nowhere near this information is the capital cost of the plant in cents/kwh. The CAPITAL COSTS OF NUCLEAR POWER ARE ABOUT 80% -- THAT'S 80% -- OF THE COST OF NUCLEAR POWER. (Capital costs are those costs associated with the construction cost of the plant.) That means that they are ignoring the vast majority of the cost with this consumer information tidbit. Nuclear power, which was estimated at $1500/kilowatt of installed capacity in 2006, is now estimated to cost well over $5000/KW. My estimate is currently $9400/KW for a plant completed in 2019. Seattle Power & Light estimated $10,000. No nuclear plant has ever come in on budget in the U.S. (See "Power Plant Cost Escalation," Charles Komanoff.)

That brings me to the next issue, 2019. American Electric Power said it won't invest in nukes because they estimate the court rulings about nuclear power will go on until the early 2020s. There are a lot of unresolved problems with nukes -- many things to sue over, before the industry hits any kind of stride in construction. Nukes take about 10 years to license and build, if they are lucky (some have taken over 15 years). There is a 250 megawatt windfarm in Mexico recently begun that will be done by the end of 2009, they say. Energy efficiency is already growing at a high rate, and we have barely put any money into it in a concerted way. (See “Carbon Free and Nuclear Free,� ieer.org.)

Water at Palo Verde's three 1270 MW reactors evaporate 63,000 acre-feet of water a year, 45% of Tucson Water's total use of 140,000 a.f. That does not count the water for mining or the other 18 steps of the total 20 steps of the nuclear energy cycle.

GHG, or as most on this listserve will know also as greenhouse gases, are emitted by many steps of the fuel cycle for nuclear energy. At least 103 lifecycle anlayses (LCA) of nuclear energy have been done. Sovac ool put out a study that pared the list down due to some studies using unverifiable information, some being too old, and others just referring to other studies. When he averaged the remaining studies, the nuclear energy cycle was projected as spewing over 60 grams of CO2 into the atmosphere per kilowatt-hour. Now that figure is much higher than for wind, solar, energy efficiency, but much lower than coal's 960 and combined cycle natural gas at about 400. But take a closer look at the future. Uranium ore has gone down in quality, and is plummeting in ore content. In 1979, ore quality was 0.3% uranium typically. Today it is 0.15%. It is expected to go down to about 0.014% by 2045 or so. The CO2 from mining and milling so much more ore will skyrocket. At some point, around 2045, nuclear will pass CO2 of combined cycle natural gas and shoot toward coal.

Economics is a big part of sustainability. Estimates for nuclear electricity have been increasing radically. A 2007 study, by the Keystone Center, of which the nuclear industry was a part, put the cost per kilowatt-hour at about 10 cents for generation (plus transmission and distribution). This was before the true-up in nuclear quintupled construction costs. A more recent study estimates 25-30 cents per kilowatt-hour (at http://climateprogress.org/2009/01/05/study-cost-risks-new-nuclear-power-plants/). With wind averaging 3-10 cents (depending on siting) and with energy efficiency costing less than and average of 3 cents per kilowatt, and with photovoltaics for industry a t 15 cents (including T&D), nuclear has already become economically obsolete. My estimate of nuclear is at 24 cents production cost, currently. Nuclear costs have been rising, while the other options mentioned are coming down in cost.

Nuclear energy is not sustainable, economically, in regards to water waste, in regards to nuclear proliferation, nor in regards to greenhouse gas emissions. I don't blame you for not getting the facts straight. The industry is not making it easy, with their multi-million dollar PR blitzes. However, the information is there. You have to dig for it, but it is there. All of my information comes from government and industry sources, either directly, or through well-documented studies that I spend a great deal of time with, analyzing the validity.

I would be happy to make a presentation to S.T. There is a lot at stake here in making the best energy choices. Best of luck to us all!
Russell Lowes
Research Director
www.SafeEnergyAnalyst.org

---------end copy & paste-----------

 


Originally published: February 06, 2009 | Total Page Views: 825


 

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Larry Agee:

Interesting article, but not very realistic in comparing solar, wind and nuclear costs. I don't know if reprocessing using modern methods would produce as huge a volume of waste as it would have 20 years ago. The amount of land put out of comission for nuclear waste would be a miniscule amount compared to the destructive forces of solar and wind farms for the same amount of power.When you get a solar plant producing enough electricity to power a city 24 hours a day continuously for 18 months without shutdowns, then the comparison will be more valid.
06/Feb/2009
[65737]


John Hurt:

No one could argue against these facts except a very unrational person.
09/Feb/2009
[65761]


jim stack:

Excellent facts on the real cost of nuclear. I totally agree with Russ. The G8 summit agreed with an estimate of 50 cents a KwH. The water use alone should stop their use. Not to mention safety, storing waste and capitol cost of building and fueling. These are the facts people need to hear everyday. Thanks for providing this data.
10/Feb/2009
[65768]

 

 


 

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The 198+ MPGE ElectricMotorCycle Solution, For Sale Right Now

 

Friday | January 30, 2009

Last year I authored a blog asking if the Vectrix really gets 340 MPGE.

The company itself, while struggling with difficult global market conditions and a stock price under 5 pence per share (!), and struggling against the markets and probably the petroleum-powers-that-be to get their product out there, unfortunately has done a very poor job of getting their proper mileage data out there. 

(They seem to be doing a good job in some other ways, but on the issue of getting their mileage data out there via a simple statement on their web page, I wish that we had more help from the company itself.  I just took another quick glance at their page, and there is updated information about new models, but at a glance I still can't seem to find a clear miles-per-kWh statement).

As owner and tester reports have trickled in, it has been possible to piece together a bit more.  We have this data from a review last summer that gives us a sort of "valuable conservative estimate".  I like the fact that this data is apparently from someone who generally reviews gasoline 2-wheelers but who was apparently trying to be clear in their measurements.... perhaps not the usual EV-reviewer-person.

 

 

I ran several tests and found that it takes about 4.67 KwH to recharge the Vectrix from a very low battery condition.

[...]

In my riding, the Vectrix showed a range of capabilities that was directly tied to the average constant speed. At low speeds, say about 35 MPH, the Vectrix should give you about 50 miles before needing a charge. At higher speeds, like 55 MPH, it falls off to 28 miles before needing juice.

 

Going by this review, the Vectrix is getting something like:

28/4.67-50/4.67
= about 6.00-10.71 mpkWh range

Estimating mpge, using a round number estimate of about 33 kWh in a gallon of gasoline (in reality, this varies):

197.86-353.32 mpge (pump or socket to wheel).

So, we have a low-end estimate.  We can get a high end estimate by using the usual published estimate of 35-55 miles range.  The 4.67 recharge statement is just one data point from one reviewer, and I'm not sure what to do about that.  Battery capacity for the NiMh version is 3.7 kWh, but we know there will be charging losses.  For purposes just of this article, I guess I will use 4.67.  So, if we go 55 on 4.67 kWh, that is about 388.65 mpge.

So: I estimate somewhere between 198 and 389 MPGE, with a caveat that we need more data for real-world charging and associated range.

The number of dealers carrying this vehicle seems to have gone up as the company has changed their buiness approach, and the asking price seems to have fallen, though it is still very high.  One review I read recently quoted something like just under $10k USD.

Still: it's available.  Even if you carpool a 50 mpg hybrid with one or two passengers, you will still use more energy than if you drive a Vectrix.  Many of us cannot realistically consider buying the vehicle, either for reasons of cost or practicality.  In my case, the cost is prohibitive, but also I foolilshly chose to live so far from most of my destination points that it is best for me to maintain ownership of a more conventional vehicle.  This separate issue (distance from destination points and expenditure of energy to get from a given building) is one that I hope to discuss in other blogs).

I wish Vectirx would do a bit more to get the information out there that during a global financial tightening and amidst global energy concerns they may be selling the world's highest-mileage vehicle in its speed class, but at the same time, we can help them get this information out by discussing it, and by striving to maintain credibility by not exaggerating the data, but simply assimilating it properly, as more data comes in.  We can also continue to bring attention to it, as to the owners of these vehicles and whether and to what extent they are satisfied.

 


Originally published: January 30, 2009 | Total Page Views: 737


 

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Jim Stack:

try adding a little human power. Bicycling 0.4 L/100 p·km (653 p·MPGeUS) 0.4 L/100 p·km (653 p·MPGeUS) 0.4 L/100 p·km (653 p·MPGeUS) Electric bicycle (single test)[11] 0.5 L/100 p·km (496 p·MPGeUS) 0.4 L/100 p·km (631 p·MPGeUS)
02/Feb/2009
[65695]


Josh Landess:

Hi Jim:

My following of a high-mileage vehicle like the Vectrix should definitely not be construed as any denial that there are even more efficient ways to transport people and goods. I have updated a page this week on this topic that I originally posted approximately 2000-2002:

http://www.herecomesmongo.com/ae/comptab.html

I have tried to insert miles-per-megajoule data for walking, biking some mass-transit vehicles, and so-on. A good link for mass-transit (in particular) is here:

http://strickland.ca/efficiency.html

When you build your spreadsheets on this sort of data, it requires additional research to take into account number of passengers, so as to have a true passenger-miles-per-megajoule figure, and that's one reason that page is good.

The author of that page makes many good points, including this obscure gem:

"My Plea

[...]

"# shifting spending on infrastructure. Diverting even as little as 1% of the road budget to support cycling would make it possible for cycling to be much safer and more comfortable. Imagine covered, completely grade-separated weather-protected cross-town bicycle "highways"!

"[...]"

I could have sworn there was a decent wikipedia or other page which gets more to the point of taking into account the very low energy use of walking and biking in its table, but I can't find it just this moment. My page does a poor job for now of taking passenger miles into account, but I am getting walking and cycling in there and eventually there will be a page that will try to bring all of this together. As I say, I think that Strickland.CA page is excellent, reflecting decent upkeep, and I wonder if she or he will do this, or may have already.

There are a number of inter-related issues that have been coming up recently in my reading and work as to transportation energy efficiency, business, policy, and the importance of realizing very clearly that getting a bunch of non-pluggable HEVs (NPHEVs) out there is not in any way sufficient to meet our needs for dramatic change in the energy and emissions profile of all global transportation activities.

I will try to blog more on some of this, and since you're a regular EVWorld.com blogger also, we can generally make a note to work more in this general area of thinking and writing and advocacy, to bring attention to even more radical energy savings possible in transportation.
12/Feb/2009
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Josh Landess's FUTURE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS

 

 

The Ratio Of Air To Fuel

 

Tuesday | January 27, 2009

One of the less prominent issues in trying to engineer more energy-efficient automobiles is (I'm told) that the US Federal Government requires, by law, that all vehicles have an air-to-fuel ratio of 14.7 to 1.  Apparently the reason(s) for this include control over emissions and safety.

So, apparently, if some innovator wants to come along and try other ratios, then they are out of luck.  This has the gas-vaporization crowd very unhappy.

I have not found the name of this law itself.  But it is often referenced by mentioning "OBD II" rules ('OBD =  Onboard Diagnostics" I believe) and is discussed in yahoo's alternative energy politics discussion group by an innovator named on the group as Gary Kirkland.  Gary writes, for example (I did some minor editing for layout & punctuation clarity.):

[...] I'm sure that the EPA-OBD II Rules will remain in effect for the foreseeable future. This Rule mandates that all Gasoline powered Vehicles from 1996 to the present must operate at 14.7 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel. Any change whatsoever, even if Fuel Economy is improved, and Emissions are lowered, will result in a failed Annual Vehicle Emissions Inspection. The point is, it's entirely possible to safely convert Gasoline into a clear, dry Vapor that is 100 parts of Air to 1 part of Fuel.Even the largest SUV could easily get 50+ MPG, and emit a fraction of the Emissions of a 14.7 / 1 Fuel System, with an increase in Power, and much longer Engine Life.I'm not the first to realize this. Far from it ! For proof, do a search on [the late] Tom Ogle, and Charles Nelson Pogue.Then, go to http://energy21.freeservers.com/bookrep.html.    

But, even if it is not to be believed that Fuel Vaporization is entirely possible, the Fact remains that it's illegal to even attempt to do so. When a Vehicle is given it's Annual Emissions Inspection, it's connected to an OBD II Emissions Analyzer.All such Vehicles have on board Oxygen [O2] Exhaust Sensors.If a Vehicle is running too Rich, and emitting a great deal of Polluting Exhaust Emissions, it will fail it's Emissions Inspection, as well it should.But, with a 100 / 1 Vapor Fuel Mixture, O2 Sensors will detect nothing, since they must detect a 14.7 / 1 Air / Fuel Mixture, in order to function, according to established Original Equipment Manufacturer's Specifications, which are input into the OBD II Emissions Analyzer, that all such Vehicles must be connected to, for inspection. Vaporized Fuel will result in an O2 Sensor Failure Code during Emissions Inspections.O2 Sensor Waivers are granted for Vehicles that have legally been converted to operate on Natural Gas, Propane, or Hydrogen. But not for Vaporized Gasoline.Thus, it is entirely possible for a Gasoline powered Vehicle, 13 Years old, or newer, to fail an Emissions Test, for not emitting enough Polluting Exhaust Emissions! As long as this insane Law, that only benefits Big Oil, remains in effect, the only way to legally make a Gasoline Powered Vehicle "more efficient" is to make it more compact, and lighter.And I am confident that the new Administration will do nothing to "Rock the Boat", as long as Big Oil remains in firm control!

I have never really known if Gary is exactly on the money with this issue, but have always thought that he might be onto something.  Sure, he is trying to get his own gas vaporization engineering out there and make a buck, but that isn't the only thing of interest here.  If he is right, then there is some low hanging fruit here for policymakers to change.  They could call into question whether US emissions and related laws, particularly those that apparently result in a de facto legal number for air-to-fuel-ratio, are resulting in over-use of fuel in the US.

If we try to google around on this issue, we can see that part of the discussions are focused on engineering and on the policy side.

Part of the discussions are occupied by an inventor named Tom Ogle who claimed to have developed a 100 mpg vehicle.  Mr. Ogle descended into personal problems and died a few years later.  It is hard to say if he was really onto something or not.  Here is one link that comes up.

Also, perhaps part of the reason for any laws in this area is not just engineering rules (or hubris) in setting the ratio at the claimed stochiometric ideal.  It is also perhaps (in one or two of the things I've read) that vaporization of some fuels might have safety issues?  If so, I question whether it would be enough to warrant holding up significant progress in global efforts to save energy in the form of fuel.  Safety concerns in energy and transportation should always be taken seriously, but arguably sometimes result in being used as an excuse to hold up all effort at progress.

If Gary is correct about US auto emissions laws getting in the way of energy-efficiency innovation and progress, then this would seem to beg the question of why cars manufactured in and for other countries are not engineered to sidestep these claimed-nonsensical US laws.

Last point for now, on a scientific note: in most (if not all) of the discussions I have read about saving conventional gasoline and diesel fuel, I have not seen a point made that the air, as well as the gasoline, is in a sense used up.  We do not pay for air nor sequester it in any sort of economic sense and yet from an engineering standpoint perhaps we should be careful not to forget about it.  It is part of the process and is needed for propulsion to take place if the power for propulsion comes from combustion.  I've always thought that a side-note for plug-in power was that since it did not require air for combustion (but only for cooling) then it would allow for some interesting overall vehicle design changes.  A vehicle that does not have to breathe air may be perhaps optimized in a way that an air-breathing vehicle does not need to be optimized.

It's difficult to get on top of this obscure issue of air-to-fuel-ratio policy and engineering, and collect all the links, and lay out where I stand on it.  I just wanted to bring a bit more atention to it.  To my knowledge, to this day, there is still not even any good summary web page about the policy side of this.  Now there is at least a blog or two.  Maybe at some point someone in the Obama administration (i.e.: the administration that does not put the interests of the American Petroleum Institute above the interests of American Taxpayers) can examine the issue in a solid and persevering way.

 


Originally published: January 27, 2009 | Total Page Views: 466


 

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Gary Kirkland:

Mr. Josh Landess ; Thanks for the commentary on my vaporizer.How can I go about sending a Photo to you ? Thanks again ! Gary
04/Jul/2009
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Josh Landess:

Hello Gary. You're welcome for the commentary. I look forward to verifying the laws in question. Feel free to post a link to your photo. If you need help finding free services on which to post the photo, I've heard the flickr.com is a leading such service.
07/Jul/2009
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Thomas Dodd:

I think Gary is a bit off. He doesn't seam to understand what the O2 sensor measures.Also, is he talking about a wide band sensor or a narrow band sensor? As for lean mixtures, too lean, and you get lots of nitrogen oxides in the exhaust. The whole EGR system was originally developed to reduce NOx emissions which cause smog. If one can show, using an gas analyze that a vapor fuel vehicle can meet the limits on emissions of other gases than I'm sure the EPA would make an allowance.
24/Aug/2009
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The comparisons of Microsoft to Detroit Automakers always seemed to have some validity, didn't they?

 

Thursday | January 08, 2009

I see this wonderfully to-the-point headline on pcworld.com:

Windows 7 Is Less of a Resource-Hog than Vista

James Niccolai, IDG News Service

Jan 8, 2009 1:30 am

Great news!  It is humorous that such good news comes in the form of such a blunt comparison, but for those of us who have used Microsoft operating systems for so many years, is it possible that they have FINALLY realized even 20% of what they needed to realize as to the horrible bloatware tendencies?  Why does "Microsoft Operating System Upgrade" seem to be a prominent (if debatable) oxymoron in our culture? Mr. Miccolai writes:

When Vista shipped it was seen as too resource hungry for the systems some customers were trying to run it on, resulting in sluggish performance. [...]

Microsoft has now learned its lesson for Windows 7.

So, it took Microsoft 10 or 20 years to learn that lesson, and they have probably only learned it enough to survive, and not as much as they should have, but at least they have half-learned something.

Wouldn't it be great if GM, Ford and Chrysler had learned the same thing?  If they would stop selling us bloatware and then spending millions to change our tax policies to induce us to buy more bloatware, and then begging for our tax dollars or they will die?  Wouldn't it be great if they would stop promising that the building of non-bloated vehicles was just around the corner while Asian companies are selling them NOW in other parts of the world?  (Our wealthiest investor, Warren Buffett, has chosen to invest in one of the gutsy Asian manufacturers rather than the unworthy on-life-support Detroit Band-of-Three). 

Wouldn't it be great if the Detroit Mediocre-3 would stop using taxpayer funding to research less-bloated vehicles, and promising their engineers that "this time" the technologies would see the light of day, and then scuttling the most energy-saving parts of the technologies for another decade, or two, or more?

Wouldn't it be great if taxpayers would, once and for all, provide a price floor for fuel so that one of the last lame dishonest excuses of the Detroit Band-Of-Three would be removed (that consumers do not voice consistent demand for less-bloated vehicles)?

Ok, so fewer people will agree with me on this last point.

There used to be a funny joke that made the rounds that at one point a Microsoft person was on the line to a Detroit automaker and said something as to comparing their products.  The automaker person is said to have replied that if the automakers made their cars the same way Microsoft made their operating systems, then the cars would crash several times per day.

I think we are at the point where a common theme between Detroit and Microsoft is taking both their customers and their engineers for-granted, particularly in the area of Efficiency.  Some customers have long-demanded improved efficiency in both vehicles and in computers (although many other customers have made demand for effiicency either a low or non-existent priority), and some engineers have long labored from within these companies to make effiiciency improvements. 

To some extent, some of the top management at the companies appears to have long labored to blow off their customers' strongest efficiency wishes and their engineers' best efficiency suggestions. 

The companies have put other goals ahead of efficiency, whether for some deep dark possilble reasons (fealty to the Oil & Gas industries?) and-or through good-old-fashioned mediocre grossly-overcompensated MBA-Manager Decision-Making Poor-Judgment.  For examples, Microsoft has added resource-hog features to Windows rather than finally getting a handle on operating system bloat, and automakers have prioritized near-term SUV profits rather than implementing step-change drivetrain innovations like plug-in hybridization.

Microsoft has taken several computer-company-lifetimes to realize that, when it comes to efficiency, some of their operating systems do not reflect the best their engineers can do, nor do they reflect everything that their customers have always wanted.  The Detroit Anti-Efficient-Automakers have worked for many decades, sometimes against the ideas of their own engineers, to ensure that their customers continue to be tethered to using gasoline, diesel, propane, natural gas and other fossil fuels.  In the case of Microsoft, I've always thought their bloatware-oriented decisions have been partly a natural result of a large quickly-powerful organization concerned with maximizing its position but unconcerned with some of the important nuances of profit-making, such as long-term customer satisfaction.  In the case of the automakers, their anti-efficiency-innovation labors have in my view been deliberate, have been anti-customer and anti-worker, and have entailed a good helping of management dishonesty.

It would be great if the Detroit automakers, right now, would stop their utterly shameful anti-customer anti-efficiency anti-good-product approach to vehicle-making, and it would be great if Washington policy-makers, instead of (or in addition to) throwing billions at the automakers, would throw some energy into creating policies that would encourage autobuyers to purchase the best most efficient and more-safe vehicles, and would encourate all automakers to change.

 


Originally published: January 08, 2009 | Total Page Views: 829


 

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Reducing Motor-Vehicle-Related Deaths, Injuries and Property Damage

 

Saturday | January 03, 2009

I have been wondering if last year's rise in the price of fuel at the pump in the U.S. would result in Americans not only perhaps driving fewer passenger miles here and there, but also perhaps result in fewer deaths.

One of the only decent things to come from the Bush Administration in the area of Transportation Policy was a bit of honesty from Secretary of Transportation Mineta, in calling Highway Deaths an Epidemic:

While the fatality rate dropped and alcohol-related crashes are down from 2003, 42,800 died on the nation’s highways in 2004, up slightly from 42,643 in 2003, according to projected 2004 data compiled by the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in a preliminary report.

“We are in the midst of a national epidemic,” said Secretary Mineta. “If this many people were to die from any one disease in a single year, Americans would demand a vaccine. The irony is we already have the best vaccine available to reduce the death toll on our highways – safety belts.”

I call this "a bit of" honesty in part because I am not sure quite what Mr. Mineta meant in focusing on safety belts.  Did he mean they are "the" answer to this horrific problem?  Or, a "majority" part of the answer?  I have to doubt this.  There are many safety problems with our transportation system and I doubt that all of us wearing our safety belts will, by itself, cure a really huge percentage of those problems.  I would be curious to see a well-considered estimate of fatality and injury reduction that would result from 100% compliance with safety belt laws.

From NHTSA's 2006 Final Report we can see some broader numbers:

Total Police Reported Crashes: 5,973,000

Breakdown of the Police Crash Reports:

Total Police Reported Property-Damage-Only-Crashes: 4,189,000

Total Police Reported Crashes With Injury As The Worst Problem: 1,746,000

Total Police Reported Fatal Crashes: 38,588

At other places in the report it provides higher numbers.  I cannot determine where the NHTSA is getting these higher numbers that are inconsistent with the Police-Crash-Report numbers, but the higher numbers are the ones that make it to the final press big numbers that we all seem to pay attention to:

Injuries: 2,575,000

Deaths: 42,642

Estimated costs of Traffic Crashes in 2000: $230.6bn USD.

It is not clear to me why there is this disparity between the police crash reports and the other statistics presented by NHTSA and why NHTSA does not seem to make an appropriate transparent effort within all of their reports to clarify this matter.

They comment:

"NHTSA’s mission is to reduce deaths, injuries, and economic losses from motor vehicle crashes. This past year we made major strides toward reaching these goals. In 2006, the Nation’s crash fatality rate of 1.41 per 100 million vehicle miles of travel was the lowest since record keeping began more than 30 years ago, and it remained below 1.50 for the fourth consecutive year. The number of police-reported motor vehicle crashes occurring on our highways dropped to less than 6 million, also for the first time since record keeping began. Persons injured dropped significantly to an estimated 2,575,000 from 2,699,000 in 2005. Although motorcycle rider fatalities increased for the ninth year in a row to 4,810, passenger vehicle occupant fatalities continue to decline. [...]"

I think we can see why the NHTSA would draw our attention to some progress, but I also think we can take a more critical view, depending on our immediate goals.  Why are any traffic deaths or injuries or loss of property or work-time acceptable?  Don't we need an overhaul of how we view traffic safety?

The 2007 statistics also showed this nice progress in lower fatalities per vehicle miles driven.  I am wondering what the 2008 statistics will show, once the numbers are in.  Will they show that, in response to sustained gas price spikes, we drove fewer miles?  Fewer passenger miles?  Vehicle Miles?  Did we sometimes drive more slowly in order to conserve fuel?  If we did drive fewer passenger miles, did we crash less often per passenger mile?  Were the roads less crowded?  More civil?  I haven't yet seen numbers which could help us try to see if there is some good safety news that might ceome from the bleak driving and car sales news we have been reading.

Driving is the most dangerous thing that each of us do in our normal daily lives, that I can see.  We are licensed to operate comparatively heavy equipment at speeds sometimes exceeding 70 mph, and with closing speeds on 2 lane roads sometimes exceeding something like 130 mph.  We trust our fellow citizens to engage in an act of good faith by doing the best they can to drive safely and with a respectful attitude toward all on the road.  We place this trust in people out of practical necessity to allow our transportation system to work.  We know that many of us would not trust each other with other matters, but we trust each other to drive as safely as possible and that traffic safety officers and bureaucrats are conscientious about their jobs in watching all of us.

Driving and engaging with our transportation system is also very costly.  Our car insurance bills alone are a major semi-annual expense throughout our lives (for those of us who choose to locate (somewhat foolishly?) where we must own a car).

All of this is on top of the global economic reality that U.S. Citizens have been needlessly exporting wealth and jobs for energy that they could easily harvest from sunlight and wind found at home, and they have been uncritically sending some of the wealth and jobs to a variety of countries including some that are even arguably a bit semi-fascist or theological-dictatorial.  I don't believe that good U.S. foreign policy is for those the U.S. to run around demanding that other countries follow its recommended forms of government, but it seems pretty clearly irrational for the U.S. indiscriminately to send Roman-Empire-sized wealth abroad for motor vehicle fuel when there are so many people without jobs at home and when some of that exported weath it is probably transferred to those combatting our soldiers. 

It is not the responsibility of the citizens of other countries, but ours (for those of us in the U.S.), to change all of this... every single bit of it.  We can do that only in part by changing out the vehicles we drive for cleaner and more efficient vehicles.  In addition, we also need to fix our transportation system, as a whole, so that it not only uses less energy and allows for local harvesting, but also so that it is safe and, if possible, less costly.

 


Originally published: January 03, 2009 | Total Page Views: 697


 

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jim stack:

I think we will see a reduction because of reduced driving from the recession. Too bad but Arizona just raised the speed limit in some areas of the city from 55 to 65. They don't seem to understand raising the speed raises the fatalities and gas use along with pollution.

I'd like to see the nations speed limit reduced to 55 until we stop importing oil and eaths are at a low level.
04/Jan/2009
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I Think America Needs A Price Floor For Fossil Fuels, Via Taxation

 

Monday | December 22, 2008

Many here seems afraid to say it. Why? Would it make us statist? Sometimes if you are "at war" or facing economic calamity, it is arguably a very appropriate thing to do to use taxes as a policy tool to move to a more sound footing. As far as statism goes, the Bush administration has already moved us well into that territory with their many other policies.

Additional taxes on gasoline and diesel would help us establish some sort of floor for the prices of the fuels. Ideally, we could curtail the extra taxes as the fuels rise in price. That is, the idea here would be to establish a floor, but not tax as much as the price rose.

One of the policy reasons that we need a retail fuel price floor is that we keep pendulum-swinging from demand for fuel-efficient vehicles to demand for fuel-inefficient vehicles. I have heard President-Elect Obama discuss this phenomena somewhat on TV, though I don't recall too many of the specifics of his views.

Another reason we could use a fuel price floor is that we are sending too many dollars overseas that could be kept here at home. This is both an economic issue and a military security issue. At the very least there are Americans who don't have jobs because we have gone so long being willing to engage in such needless export of wealth and jobs. If we increase the percent of a gallon that goes to taxation, I think this would increase the percent of a gallon of fuel that would stay here at home.

Additionally, some of the exported dollars dollars are arguably helping financially to support those whom our soldiers are fighting.

It is up to Americans to curtail this flow of money immediately and not wait for some claimed part of supposed free market economics to perform the feat, maybe now, maybe in a decade, maybe never.

If it is just a price floor and not a straight tax then maybe it could help us to address both the low end and the high end. On the low end, it is arguable that it doesn't help consumers "that much" when fuel goes below a certain price. On the high end, when fuel goes to $4, $5 per gallon or more and stays there, this seems to be an economy killer.

In short, we need a fuel taxation policy that will help us belatedly perform the overdue task of transitioning to new forms of fuel without doing more damage to our economy than needs to be done. It is a difficult task, but in the context of reportedly progressive Obama administration policies, such as support for plug-in-vehicles, it might be possible to implement a fuel price floor to some good effect.

 


Originally published: December 22, 2008 | Total Page Views: 710


 

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A First Few Energy Policy Suggestions To The Obama Administration

 

Saturday | December 13, 2008

If many of us are making lists of energy policy ideas for the Obama Administration to consider, (now that we will be having an Administration which does not subordinate protection and defense of the Constitution to a few higher-ranked causes like the financial well-being of American Petroleum Institute members), then there is so much low-hanging fruit around that it is tempting to get a little befuddled. After all, we have been through the worst eight years imaginable in energy policy and concomitant foreign and domestic policy, and so some of us have been holding our breath waiting for this new situation.

In trying to enumerate just a bit of the low-hanging fruit, I could ask things like:

- How did Wind get left out in the cold, when Solar energy recently got its eight years or so of Investment Tax Credit? Wind got something like one added on to the Production Tax Credit. Is that supposed to be some sort of joke? Is a mature proper industrial profit-seeking effort (in an industry that has already proven its promise) supposed to be founded on that sort of policy uncertainty? The renewable energy policy advances only occurred as part of the $700bn USD TARP. It will go down in history that the Bush Administration, and its supporters in the legislature and the media, was so hostile to sustainable energy efforts that they would not approve even some basic sustainable energy policy measures until the 8th year and in the midst of (in return for?) a giant bailout. Even then, they didn't properly support the Wind Power business.

- Why do US Federal regulations apparently require a gasoline air-to-fuel ratio of 14.7 to 1 even when some imaginative researchers question whether less fuel might be used to achieve good transportation goals? Sure, the scientists tell us that this is some sort of unquestionable ideal, and some safety advocates seem to imply that we need this ratio for safety, but it would be worth looking into, I think.

- How did we taxpayers recently go into the mortgage business (taking over Fannie and Freddie, for example, and propping up various banks?) without making it much easier to stem foreclosures of our fellow taxpayers, and without much being said about demanding more energy efficient mortgages?

Still, the first suggestion I'd like to make, or come back to (since I and others have been saying this for years) is that we see government intervention to completely get rid of all involvement of Chevron and Energy Conversion Devices in NiMH battery technology. There are I think at least a few dozen (if not more than a couple hundred) Ohio jobs at stake (Cobasys has been running into the ground for some time now) and there is an enormous amount of pluggable and non-pluggable vehicle progress to make that would be helped by wider availability of the product that ECD and Chevron are struggling so hard to give the appearance of trying to sell. (Or, are they really trying that hard to sell NiMH for traction battery purposes? Hard to say.)

Bill Moore this week did a fine article trying to bring out how a shortage in American-made plug-in-suitable batteries has already affected the business. I'd have to say that to some extent the shortage has been global, and is partly attributable to the lack of NiMH batteries in the running. Why didn't Th!nk Nordic ever feature them? Where were the batteries? Well, I won't try to make all the arguments here. I'll say that from an immediate Policy Analysis standpoint, there are some jobs at stake and it is questionable at best whether Chevron has overcome their obvious conflict of interest in owning a stake in the technology and production of plug-in-suitable NiMH batteries.

Cobasys has been on the block for awhile now, co-owned by two owners that don't seem to care very much to try to make a profit making plug-in-suitable batteries, while all the world asks: "Where are the plug-in-suitable batteries?" Advanced battery maker BYD of Hong Kong (in which I disclaim an indirect interest) has moved into making vehicles (the only advanced battery maker I recall having seen move into making vehicles) and awhile ago indicated they planned to have PHEVs for sale on a limited basis I think to Chinese consumers THIS calendar year (!). I don't know if they will make their deadline, but it's better to come close to that deadline than to have set GM's whiny "no-can-do" 2010 deadline for the Volt. We see BYD getting investment from Warren Buffett and GM saying they will die without massive US Taxpayer investment in the next few weeks. I think the contrast is sort of interesting.

I keep telling people that the World War II Generation from the US would not, in theory, ever have put up with this "no can do" approach of the American carmakers, particularly during a war where one's enemies are being funded partly through one's oil-related expenditures.

I have added that ECD (not just Chevron) should be removed from their interest in NiMH batteries only because I think the evidence may suggest that ECD has in effect chosen to drop their earnest and clear pursuit of profits from such batteries, perhaps in return for the good financial health they have experienced as a result of the solar PV revolution. Over the last few years they have not souned to me like they care that much about trying to make money via HEV and plug-in-suitable batteries. How could a company not care that much about that sort of thing? Many companies, in ECD's position, would be aggressively seeking to make billions, but instead ECD seems quietly to be biding their time. Well, if I'm wrong about them, so be it. Maybe they don't need to be removed from the situation. (I disclaim having an indirect financial interest in them, but regardless of that, I'd say their role here needs to be questioned, and if they also need to be removed, let it happen).

The world is increasingly clamoring for batteries for efficient 100 mpge plug-in vehicles, and while the promise and reality of lithium batteries are just about here, we are still at a point where in some ways NiMH batteries are competitive and important, and it is therefore possible that some progress could be had by getting certain extraordinarily powerful anti-progressive parties away from any and all involvement in the business of making batteries for plug-in vehicles.

 


Originally published: December 13, 2008 | Total Page Views: 665


 

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A Ford Dealership Lets Down A Ford EV Customer

 

Sunday | October 19, 2008

Anthony Cimino of Whitehall, NY (located on Lake Champlain) owns a Ford Ranger EV.

A Ford Ranger EV is a rare beast. Ford was intent on getting all of them OUT of circulation and according to the Wikipedia entry on the model, there were only 1500 produced. In late-2004/early-2005 some lessees in California protested the forced "repatriation" of these vehicles back to the lessor, and finally Ford relented and took measures to sell a few of the vehicles (though many had already been turned back in to Ford).

I don't know how many were left unscathed from Ford's anti-EV attempt to delete them from the planet.

Here is a New York Times article from January 24, 2005 detailing when Ford relented.

Anthony's EV owner reports to the world at large are valued in part because they come from upstate NY, far from many of the owner-reports we often get from California. I have followed Anthony's public comments over the last couple of years and I have seen how he has enjoyed his vehicle and has been able to tell others in his area of its selling points. Of course, when he gets questions along the lines of "I love it. Where can I buy one?" he is forced into the usual explanation (I imagine something along the lines of "Ford refuses to make any more."). Anthony has been reporting some of his experiences in the "Electric Vehicles For Sale" group on yahoo.

Recently Anthony crashed his vehicle, apparently avoiding a driver who missed a stop sign. From what Anthony has related, this has led to a nasty repair-shop experience. Of the two qualified Ford repair shops he was able to find in the state, the one he chose (Vision Ford in Rochester, NY) gave him bad service that seems to have left his vehicle in very poor condition. Anthony has chronicled his difficulties in various posts.

He wrote a letter to Bill Ford, for example, seeking some action and listing how the repairs were botched.

He also discussed some of the incorrect lecturing type of reaction he got from the Ford repair shop as a reward for daring to be an owner of such a wonderful rare Ford vehicle that uses no oil-based fuel.

Anthony has, I think, been an excellent owner of a plug-in vehicle and has really championed the idea that all the major automakers, including Ford, should stop fighting the production of these vehicles and start making them. He has taken the time to make his vehicle and experiences available to many of the people in his area. In a way, he has been an excellent ambassador for Ford, though Ford is not able to cash in on the good PR Anthony is able to bring, since they don't make any more of these vehicles. So, it is important that Anthony's vehicle be in top shape so that he can continue not only being a satisfied Ford customer but also so he can continue to spread the word of the selling points of these vehicles. So, I urge Ford corporate to get on top of this matter and help Anthony in the project of restoring this Ford vehicle to its previously good condition.

With every day that passes, the major automakers refuse to make affordable highway-capable plug-in vehicles. Never mind their promises of vehicles to be made available to us in a few years. We do not have time for that. While soldiers are dying in the desert fighting oil-funded opponents and fighting over oil itself, and while the economy collapses partly under the strain of botched global transportation design and mediocre auto company management, and while the glaciers and poles melt (perhaps the ears of the Earth are burning from listening to the inane vestigial debates over global warming)... while all these things are happening, the auto companies are slogging along, complaining of whatever batteries they are able to get, and claiming they need more time to put highway-capable EVs on the road (having had 100 years or more to work on the matter).

 


Originally published: October 19, 2008 | Total Page Views: 729


 

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Someone Asked: 'Is Valence A Good Company?'

 

Monday | June 30, 2008

I conducted an interview with a Valence representative 4.5 years ago, and I recently received a question in email as to my view of the company. The question caused me to do some thinking. Here is my response:

...

Hello:

You asked whether I think Valence is a good company.

My answer depends on what you mean by "good company".

If you mean what is my opinion as to whether it is a good investment, I must make clear that I will not offer an opinion. I'm now an index manager in alternative energy, so I simply cannot. Nothing I say should be construed in any way as any sort of indication of what I think of the company, as an investment.

I do think that I can speak to trying to follow global EV efforts without speaking to investment analysis. I will offer a few thoughts as to where Valence seems to be going in their efforts to bring plug-in-suitable Lithium Ion Batteries to market in the time since I conducted my interview with Marc Kohler of Valence 4.5 years ago. That is, we can ask whether we think Valence is a "good company" in the sense of whether they will be one of the winners in the race to bring plug-in-suitable batteries to market. I must say that I have not had the chance to check back with the company to see how things are going for them, except for one conversation with a contact last year. I have also not recently talked to users of their products, to get their views. So, my answer is not as informed as it would be if I were publishing another article about the company. Instead I will post this as a blog and let others follow up with their own articles and illuminating research.

- I believe Valence has announced, relatively recently, discontinuing some products. These products were not in the vehicular battery area, so I take that as a slight indication of them moving more toward vehicular batteries.

- To my knowledge they have not announced a deal directly with a major auto manufacturer. I have not followed them closely enough, recently, to know if my knowledge is accurate and up-to-date in this area. This apparent lack of contract with a major manufacturer has been a bit of a surprise given how loud such manufacturers have been about trying to find batteries suitable for plug-ins. Possible explanations include that maybe the auto manufacturers are not ingenuous in their claimed desire for such batteries, maybe the Valence batteries fall short, or maybe the amounts of time needed to work out such arrangements are longer than we have so far allotted. There is a slight indication of a non-direct connection with Ford (see below).

- With all of the Lithium Ion Vehicular batteries, cycle and calendar life are big question marks. Some years ago I heard a couple of different anecdotal concerns about Valence batteries, in this area. More recently, one or two sources seemed to contradict those concerns. More than anything else, this left me confused. So, to me, this area is very murky, .... a not-fully-answered question-mark-area, with respect to all LiOn batteries and specifically with respect to Valence batteries.

I think we will know more as we get increased numbers of vehicles on the road and in the hands of users who make much use of them. This is not ideal because it means that early adopters may be part of providing answers. We will know more if we can find EV Journalists who will poll both users of the batteries and the company itself so we can understand more about this issue.

Since Valence has announced a large up-to-$70m contract with EV Maker Tanfield/Smith Electric, this would seem to indicate that at least one credible experienced EV maker is satisfied that Valence's approach to LiOn is satisfactory in the areas of cycle and calendar life.

- Valence did have some quality-control issues as they transitioned some production to Asia. I believe these issues came up in the one or two years after I interviewed their representative. The company seems to say that those issues have been addressed, and for some time.

- They announced only a few months ago a contract to supply up to $70m of batteries to Tanfield subsidiary Smith Electric for EVs (trucks). I note that both Valence and Tanfield are quoted companies, and progress (or lack thereof) on this EV effort can be somewhat followed by reading through both companies' filings and statements.

With respect to the Tanfield effort, I note also that Tanfield has some tie-ins with Ford. They use some body shells from Ford and the effort is somewhat collaborative. I see it as Euro- centric for now. For example:

http://www.nebusiness.co.uk/business-news/latest-business-news/2008/04/16/tanfield-and-ford-unveil-the-ampere-51140-20769080/

Tanfield and Ford unveil the Ampere Apr 16 2008 by Karen Dent, The Journal

[...]

The Amp is part of a wider link up between Tanfield and Ford. The two groups have reached a broad agreement to collaborate on zero emission vehicles and further sales, marketing and product development opportunities in Europe and the US.

Mr Kell said: “The link up with Ford started in January 07 but it was really only formalised very recently. It’s very important – it gives us a strong level of credibility. Ford controls and dominates the commercial vehicle sector. We’re very excited about the whole joint venture.” [...]

If everything falls into place, I think this might mean that Valence batteries could appear in vehicles made in a collaborative effort that involves the world's #3 auto maker. I am excited about this report of collaboration, but am wary of ascribing over-much importance to this as we analyze Valence. This is a claimed collaboration approach between Ford and Tanfield, not Ford and Valence.

- I think the patent infringement lawsuit against Valence, NTT, A123 and others by University of Texas, Hydroquebec and Professor Goodenough may yet be unresolved.

- As I indicated in my interview with Marc, two areas where I saw Valence as a good company, back then, were in the fact that they offered batteries are not prone to Thermal Runaway, and in that they were relatively transparent and open in offering their batteries for sale, even to the little guy. So far as I know, both good qualities still remain true, and have borne out in some respects over the years. We saw Sony's problems with Lithium Ion battery fires awhile ago. This drew some attention to the fact that some Lithium Ion Batteries are not prone to thermal runaway.

Also, as far as I know, in the time after the interview, some reported that Valence indeed was responsive to requests for pricing and availability information, and some people were able to buy and take delivery of batteries. The prices were steep for the little guy, but the company was up-front about providing them, and about selling the batteries to those who might wish to purchase them, and that's perhaps more than we can say for some other battery makers. I'm a believer that Valence's willingness to sell what they were making was somewhat important to their efforts to have their batteries designed-in to some PHEV and other efforts. I suppose it's also possible that in their willingness to sell batteries to smaller outfits, Valence may also have put themselves in a position to have their batteries used in non-recommended ways, used with BMS that is not set up optimally for the batteries, or used in ways that might bring about anecdotal negative reports. I guess that's the trade-off they risk when they are up-front in making their batteries available.

Overall, I'd say that there are two or three dozen battery manufacturers, large and small, that we plug-in advocates try to monitor, and two or three dozen vehicle-makers, large and small, that we try to monitor, and that Valence and Tanfield are in those groups. I am rooting for Valence to be one of the interim imperfect but usable answers to the big question ("When will we have batteries which enable mass-production and sale of city and highway-capable plug-in vehicles?").

To summarize my answer, as far as I am willing to take it:

Overall, so far as I know, Valence continues to seem to be a good battery for plug-in vehicles with the caveat that I still need to see answers and more robust data and reports as to how they will do in areas of quality, cost, calendar and cycle life. (I'd add that I don't know what other questions and answers I might be missing... I have learned that sometimes it is hard to know all the right questions to ask in discussing new technologies and their many complicated potential pros and cons).

After I conducted my interview, it seemed to me for awhile that their star rose and then fell and I was concerned that their battery might not get a good hearing in the marketplace. Lately it seems as though at least one or two good EV outfits are really giving their batteries a good try.

I don't think it will be long before we see much more anecdotal evidence and commentary from the company and others as to the longevity of their batteries, and so I am hoping that the big questions will be answered somewhat soon.

Again, I will not comment as to whether Valence is any sort of decent investment, and I reiterate that nothing I have said should be taken, in any way, as an indication of an investment opinion. I will only say what I think the issues are as they pertain to plug-in-vehicle advocacy. I hope this is of some value to you.

Josh

Addendum, 30 June: Valence was added today to the WilderHill Clean Energy Index. As I am co-creator of that index and serve on the board, my authorship of a blog about the company might be seen as in some way promotional of the investment.

At the same time, I think there are important things to be said, entirely separate from Valence-as-investment,in follow-up to the article I did on the company years ago, and about Valence's ongoing efforts in Clean Energy.

I hope it is clear from the disclaimers I made in the above blog that my goal in this blog is not to discuss Valence as an investment, but to focus on discussing Valence's efforts in Clean Energy (i.e.: to discuss whether or not their battery technology and production is proving useful and viable for global plug-in vehicle efforts.)

 


Originally published: June 30, 2008 | Total Page Views: 793


 

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jim stack:

So he isn't allowed to say yes or no. Well I think valence is a great investment. The battery market is huge, lithium batteries are the fastest growing segment and valence has very safe battereis that are American made. What more could you hope for?

I'll use them in my next EV if some local dealers start carrying them. So far they are not available to the home EV owner. Invest and save the world while you make some profits.

VALENCE TECHNOLOGY LITHIUM BATTERIES VLNC
04/Jul/2008
[62538]

 

 


 

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Have we reached an energy pricing threshold?

 

Sunday | April 27, 2008

Is the per-Megajoule retail gasoline US average price approaching or exceeding the per-Megajoule retail electricity price?

1. US National Average price for 87 Octane gasoline per US gallon = about $3.56 USD. Here is a recent story on the matter:

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5i5TtajgUpSm7KY5jf-lCJGHBB- tAD908E0C80

[April 25, 2008]

[...]
At the pump, the average national price of a gallon of regular gas jumped 2.3 cents overnight to $3.556 a gallon, according to a survey of stations by AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Prices have risen nearly 14 cents in one week.
[...]


There are something like 34 kWh or 122.4 Megajoule of energy released in combusting a gallon of gasoline. Also, I use a conversion factor that 1 kWh = 3,599,999.71 J or about 3.6 MJ.

So, gasoline is presently selling for about:

$0.0290 per MJ released during combustion
$0.1047 per kWh energy released during combustion

2. It is harder to come by up-to-date retail pricing information for electricity than for gasoline, but digging around, this link seems to hit the mark for December of 2007.:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/tablees1a.html

This data appears to differ amongst residential, commercial, industrial and transportation customers. (I later found this link for average pricing for all of 2007, rather than just for Dec. 2007, but I have worked this blog around the Dec. 2007 data, identified as such, so I'll stay with that for these purposes.).

I note that in discussions with various US residential customers, we each seem to report a variety of pricing that we see, so if I use my pricing or national average pricing, it may seem somewhat not in-line with pricing personally experienced by some other readers in the US.

It would be good to get an idea of the extent to which US average retail electricity prices have fluctuated since December of 2007, but this is difficult.

The DOE provides this guidance on the matter, from April 8, 2008:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/steo

[...]
Prices. Spot prices for coal, especially in the Appalachian region, have rapidly increased in recent months. However, due to the lagged effect of purchase contracts and rate regulation, these fuel cost increases are not expected to have a significant impact on retail electricity prices in the near-term. Residential electricity prices are projected to increase at a rate of 2.7 percent in 2008 and a slightly higher rate of 3.1 percent in 2009. [...]
[...]

DOE provides a handy chart of past and projected future average electricity prices.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/steo/pub/gifs/Fig21.gif

So, in a nutshell, since the electricity generation industry does not historically or presently have the same ability to pass on costs to the retail level with the same pace, we can make a fallible assumption (pending better data coming in to us in the future) that retail electricity pricing has not changed with as great a percentage as the pricing for the fuels used in electricity generation.

So, in the here-and-now, we electricity buyers are likely paying a few percentage points more than December 2007's $0.0891 per kWh. Those of us who are residential electricity buyers are likely paying a few percentage points more than December 2007's $0.1031 per kWh. Going by the chart of forecasts we can see that historically national average retail electricity prices tend to rise during the summer and fall later on.

Let's take two numbers and trust that if a professional economist with access to data with better credibility were to take up our discussion, they might be able to help us do a better job with this data.

- We can say that nationally, on average, electricity costs an estimated $0.11 for a retail residential customer. In estimating, I am going by the chart of projections and by Dec. 2007 pricing, and I am choosing a somewhat round number. This works out to about 6.7% more than Dec. 2007.

- If we expand our analysis from residential to all retail customers, then it costs a bit more than the $0.891 charged in Dec. 2007, or approximately (again: choosing a somewhat round number) $0.095 per kWh (this works out to about 6.6% more than a few months ago). These are just my estimates until we are able to get better data.

So:

April 25 2008:

My estimated US Average Retail Residential Electricity Price:
$0.11 per kWh
$0.0306 per MJ

My estimated US Average Retail Electricity Price overall:
$0.095 per kWh
$0.026388 per MJ

3. Conclusions:

A) Depending on our exact definition of retail pricing, and depending on the validity of my estimates (which can be narrowed down later by data from more credible sources), we may have recently reached an energy pricing threshold where a Megajoule of combusted gasoline at retail prices is as expensive at the pump as a Megajoule of retail electricity at the socket.

B) If we include all electricity customers (not just residential customers), then retail gasoline is more expensive per MJ. If we include only residential electricity customers, then gasoline is still slightly less expensive per MJ.

I think it is ok to include all retail customers, but I am just a bit wary as to why the Electricity industry is making these strong distinctions in classification and pricing amongst residential, commercial, industrial and transportation customers. Also, I am wary as to whether there is any such similar distinction made in the gasoline industry that may not be reflected properly in the latest $3.56 price per retail gallon figure I am using.

If we take only the most basic numbers (national average retail gasoline vs. national average retail electricity) then it would appear that gasoline has crossed the threshold and is now more expensive per MJ than Electricity.

C) Having done these calculations to try to determine if we have reached an interesting economic point, I must admit that I haven't done research to verify whether historically we have been at this point before. I also do not know whether Economists have generally regarded this number (cost per MJ for energy in various forms) as significant. Since we plug-in advocates attempt to assess the pros and cons of switching to electricity-as-fuel, I think for us clearly it has some importance. It is not, however, the same as determining cost-of-fuel-per-mile. That is a different matter which must take into account the very large differences in energy efficiency of plug-ins and gasoline-burners.

D) If we do then turn to the question of whether a good-mileage gasoline car costs more in fuel to operate per mile than its plug-in cousin, the answer has seemed clear for some time.... the plug-in costs less in fuel per mile.

Examples:

2002 RAV4 EV mileage gets about 1.0212 miles per MJ (going by this EPA Estimate):

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/FEG/noframes/18290.shtml

This would cost $0.02996 per mile in electricity-as-fuel, if one paid my estimated national retail residential average of $0.0306 per MJ. It would cost $0.02584 per mile if one paid my estimated national retail average of $0.026388 per MJ.

If we compare this to a decent-mileage gasoline car getting, say, 30 mpg (such as my '97 Escort), then this translates to 0.245 miles per MJ or about $0.1183 per mile.

So, in terms of cost per mile just for fuel, we can see there is no comparison. Even if we choose a very-high-mileage gasoline car as a basis for comparison against our advanced-battery EV, the EV still wins. If we choose a 70 mpg gasoline car, that would still cost us about $0.050857 per mile just in fuel. So, this is still about twice the cost per mile for fuel of a decent advanced-battery 4 wheel highway-capable EV.

As to the good BEV that I used as a basis for comparison, many of us know that Toyota simply refuses to produce any more RAV4 EVs (or a modern updated equivalent) and make them widely available for purchase, but that is a matter for another blog, and we can hope to continue to contend that they are failing to honor the global demand being expressed by some of their customers for these types of affordable-to-operate vehicles.

4. Note:

Some would say that it is not "right" for the electricity generation industry that they have regulatory hurdles which make it a problem for the sustainability of their businesses, since they may be experiencing very high costs but may be unable to pass those costs along expeditiously... However, in order to try to answer the question I have asked, I am trying to stay focused on what prices we are actually paying in the near-term. I do not dispute that it will certainly be very difficult for some electricity generators to stay in business unless they can find some answer to the very steep rise in the price for their fuels, and the apparently lack of ability to pass along some of their cost increases expeditiously. I would also say it's probably complex, and I don't know which party(ies) are left holding the bag of difficulty in passing along costs.

Just look at the percentage change in prices they are paying for natural gas (!):

http://futures.tradingcharts.com/chart/NG/M

(I can't readily find a similar chart for coal).

For additional perspective, here is historical annual nominal retail electricity pricing through 2006:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/txt/ptb0810.html

Also for perspective, we can get an indication from this chart on a commodities website that, indeed, electricity prices have risen over the last few months, as have gasoline prices. It seems difficult to use this chart to get an idea of retail pricing trends:

http://futures.tradingcharts.com/chart/JM/W

I guess my final thought for now, in light of these reminders of the very steep fuel prices faced by the electricity generation business, is that even in the event that we have reached some sort of threshold, there is no rule that says it has to be anything but temporary. In a few months or years, retail electricity prices could correct and take fully into account rises in underlying fuel prices. Sure, some electricity is generated using fuels that may cost little or nothing (technically) but on the balance much of our electricity still comes from fuels whose costs need to be passed on at some point to electricity buyers.

So, *maybe* we have reached this one threshold in the relative pricing ratio of Megajoules of Electricity and Oil. Even if that turns out to be the case, it remains to be seen where absolute and comparative prices for various forms of energy will go from there.

 


Originally published: April 27, 2008 | Total Page Views: 718


 

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Josh Landess:

This chart at the EIA government website gives us some long-term historical perspective on pricing of energy in the US in its various forms. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/figure_1.html What I am saying is that retail unleaded gasoline (not included in the chart) has inched up, along with petroleum, its raw feedstock (included in the chart) and has perhaps now surpassed electricity per Btu (or Megajoule, the unit choice is not critical).
07/May/2008
[61553]

 

 


 

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Does the Vectrix really get 340 miles per gallon-equivalent of energy?

 

Sunday | April 27, 2008

If we look at these specifications:

http://www.vectrix.com/corporate/US/tech-specs.php

then we see these figures, which help us to estimate mileage per kWh:

Range: 35-55 miles
Capacity: 3.7 kWh

(also of note:
Weight: 510 lbs)

If battery capacity is 3.7 kWh, I think we still need to know how much energy it would take actually to "fill-er-up". To choose a njumber, what if it takes 4.5 kWh?

If we then drive the vehicle 45 miles and deplete the entire battery charge, we will have gone 10 miles for each kWh that it took to fill up with the BEV equivalent of fuel. Translating kWh into the amount of energy released in combusting gasoline, this means that we are getting about 340 miles per the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.

I guess this is not out of the realm of possibility. After all, some motorcycles might, I suppose, get something like two or three times the mileage of a car, and so maybe an electric cycle could get two or three times the mileage of an electric car?

We need some real-world data in order to assess this and see if our mileage estimates should be changed. For one thing, in real-world day-to-day use, one would not necessarily fully deplete the battery nor fully fill it every time. So, it would be helpful to have data either from the company or from a user who could report the net amount of kWh he or she used to charge the Vectrix and how many miles they traveled, over a period of several charges.

If it gets something like the equivalent of 340 miles to the gallon, I'd like to get that information out there. If the Vectrix is a good option for consumers to consider in addressing the oil pricing crisis, then consumers might want to know that. Also, I am a fan of any vehicle which finally gets decent NiMH batteries (such as those from GP Batteries) into the hands of paying customers to drive their plug-in vehicles. On the basis of the batteries alone, we can root for Vectrix to help overcome Chevron's successful global policy.

Of course, the up-front price of the vehicle is high and this is partly due to the price of the batteries. It was around $11k USD last I checked. Another thing to consider in buying is that not all of us are fans of the safety issues that go with driving a two-wheel vehicle.

Nonetheless, a 340 mpg-equivalent vehicle would seem to be a find as we go through the global oil pricing trend of 2008.

 


Originally published: April 27, 2008 | Total Page Views: 849


 

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NiMH Is Apparently Not Being Used In the Fiat Palio For Brazil

 

Tuesday | April 15, 2008

Over the last couple of years, there have been reports that Fiat is making an EV for Brazil called the Palio, and that it is to use NiMH batteries supplied by KWO, a Swiss Hydroelectric Utility. Something sounded a bit odd about this. I had not heard of KWO being able to get around any of Chevron's apparent global blockade against producing and selling NiMH batteries for purposes of full-power 4-wheel highway-capable EVs. (Of course, it's possible that Chevron wants very badly to have Cobasys NiMH Batteries designed-in to EV efforts around the world, rather than "blockaded", but I'm not buying this argument... how can I? .... with Chevron as powerful and capable as they are, if they wanted to, they would help Cobasys make those design-wins and sales.)

I have not yet been able to confirm, but did manage, in asking around, to get an indication that the Palio will use batteries that incorporate some Nickel, but not NiMH,... rather the batteries are (I'm told) "Zebra" (Sodium Nickel Chloride formula... though I don't know that it would be represented specifically as NaNiCl, or not).

The Palio had been one of my last best hopes that a major auto manufacturer had decided to make a NiMH plug-in. Maybe "hope" is too strong a word, because I know better at this point... Chevron appears to have succeeded, lock-stock-and-barrel, for some years, in their apparent engineering of a global embargo of these batteries for 4-wheel full-power plug-in vehicle purposes. (I suppose there is some greying of the line here as Toyota and maybe a couple of others have maybe sorta turned to NiMH for some PHEV efforts as they wait to LiON? Hard to keep track of these things).

Still, it would have been great to see a real NiMH Italian Brazilian Swiss EV... an actual effort using some of the very best (and most-proven) battery technology.

Many EV companies seem to continue to have to rely on Lead-Acid (REVA in London for one example?).

Meanwhile some of the best-known most-credible somewhat-higher-speed EV efforts (such as Smart, Fiat Palio and Th!nk Nordic) have tried to turn to Zebras while they await wonderful LiON.

I have nothing against the Zebra Sodium Nickel Chloride technology. It is a warm battery technology that has both good and bad points. An example of a problem point might be that such a battery, in an idle EV sitting in a lot, may lose its charge over a relatively brief period of time (a week?).

Some years ago, on behalf of EVWorld.com readers I took a Zytek/Smart EV with Zebras for a 5 minute test drive. My notes from that ride indicate that while I no doubt would need more time to acquaint myself with both the good and the bad, it did seem quite promising as against many of its peers. This is a real highway-capable EV, and not some golf-cart. It is much faster tan many of its rivals (something like 75 mph top-speed as I recall), and a big part of why it stacks up well to lead-acid EVs seems to be its use of Zebra Battery technology.

At a glance, I found this link.

It looks promising for me to bring myself a bit more up to speed with that technology. I know I should do so very soon, given the promising EV projects that are turning to the battery technology, but I will have to set aside some time later on to re-acquaint myself. My goal today was to try to reflect, a little bit, on how we see, time after time, no use of NiMH technology in some of the more-promising-looking 4-wheel full-power EV efforts.

This use of Zebra batteries by some of the EV efforts, while certainly an indication that there is much we could perhaps hope for from that technology, is also (I would argue) further evidence to me that NiMH has not been truly and honestly and readily available for these good companies to consider as they have evaluated their choices. If I were designing an EV, I would have wanted to consider NiMH, along with LiON, Zebra/NaNiCl and the very best most-advanceed lead-acid, given the daily evidence that rolls in that NiMH was durable and reliable in the California ZEV Mandate EVs. Also, we have the daily evidence of the success of NiMH technology in can't-be-plugged-in hybrids.

I guess some may theorize an opposite point of view... that the seeming global shutout... the all-but-total lack of planning of NiMH into highway-capable plug-in non-hybrid EVs .... this shutout to some people is a coincidence of all the automakers choosing for various innocent reasons. In this theory, which I do not buy, there is no effort by Chevron to slow (but not fully stop) the use of NIMH batteries.

My view is that I doubt that the better global EV efforts have really been able to give full consideration to NiMH. I think they have been at least partially blocked from doing so.

 


Originally published: April 15, 2008 | Total Page Views: 922


 

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WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? RELEASE SCHEDULE

 

Friday | June 02, 2006

WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? RELEASE SCHEDULE
THEATRE NAME CITY STATE RELEASE DATE
ARCLIGHT HOLLYWOOD 15 HOLLYWOOD CA 6/28/2006
ONTARIO MILLS 30 ONTARIO CA 6/28/2006
NUWILSHIRE TWIN THEATRE SANTA MONICA CA 6/28/2006
ANGELIKA FILM CENTER 6 NEW YORK NY 6/28/2006

EDW SO COAST VILLAGE 3 COSTA MESA CA 6/30/2006
TOWN CENTER 5 ENCINO CA 6/30/2006
LAEMMLE'S PLAYHOUSE 7 PASADENA CA 6/30/2006

SHATTUCK 8 BERKELEY CA 7/7/2006
SEQUOIA TWIN MILL VALLEY CA 7/7/2006
AQUARIUS TWIN PALO ALTO CA 7/7/2006
CENTURY FIVE PLEASANT HILL CA 7/7/2006
EMBARCADERO CENTER CIN. 5 SAN FRANCISCO CA 7/7/2006
EMPIRE THREE CINEMAS SAN FRANCISCO CA 7/7/2006
CINEARTS AT SANTANA ROW SAN JOSE CA 7/7/2006
LOEWS PIPERS ALLEY 4 CHICAGO IL 7/7/2006
CINEARTS 6 EVANSTON IL 7/7/2006
RENAISSANCE PLACE CINEMA HIGHLAND PARK IL 7/7/2006
KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA 9 CAMBRIDGE MA 7/7/2006
EMBASSY CINEMA 6 WALTHAM MA 7/7/2006
MAIN ART THEATRE 3 ROYAL OAK MI 7/7/2006

BURBANK 16 BURBANK CA 7/14/2006
AMC COVINA 30 COVINA CA 7/14/2006
CENTURY 20 HUNTINGTON BEACH HUNTINGTON BEACH CA 7/14/2006
AMC 30 AT THE BLOCK ORANGE CA 7/14/2006
CENTURY STADIUM 25 ORANGE CA 7/14/2006
CINEMAS PALME D'OR PALM DESERT CA 7/14/2006
THE AVENUES 13 ROLLING HILLS ESTATES CA 7/14/2006
HILLCREST CINEMA FIVE SAN DIEGO CA 7/14/2006
PLAZA DE ORO TWIN SANTA BARBARA CA 7/14/2006
ROLLING HILLS 20 TORRANCE CA 7/14/2006
CENTURY DOWNTOWN 10 VENTURA CA 7/14/2006
MAYAN THREE DENVER CO 7/14/2006
LAGOON THEATRE 5 MINNEAPOLIS MN 7/14/2006
PORT CHESTER 14 PORT CHESTER NY 7/14/2006
LOEWS PALISADES CENTER 21 WEST NYACK NY 7/14/2006
LOEWS ROOSEVELT RACEWAY 10 WESTBURY NY 7/14/2006
THE MAGNOLIA THEATRE DALLAS TX 7/14/2006
RIVER OAKS THEATRE 3 HOUSTON TX 7/14/2006
ANGELIKA FILM CENTER & CAFE PLANO TX 7/14/2006
METRO TEN CINEMAS SEATTLE WA 7/14/2006
UPTOWN THREE CINEMAS SEATTLE WA 7/14/2006

CROSSROADS 6 CINEMAS BOULDER CO 7/21/2006
E-STREET CINEMA WASHINGTON DC 7/21/2006
LOEWS ESQUIRE 6 CHICAGO IL 7/21/2006
RIVER EAST 21 CHICAGO IL 7/21/2006
YORKTOWN CINEMA 18 LOMBARD IL 7/21/2006
STREETS OF WOODFIELD 20 SCHAUMBURG IL 7/21/2006
AMC CANTERA 30 WARRENVILLE IL 7/21/2006
LOEWS LIBERTY TREE MALL 20 DANVERS MA 7/21/2006
FRAMINGHAM 14 FRAMINGHAM MA 7/21/2006
BETHESDA ROW CINEMA BETHESDA MD 7/21/2006
RITZ SIXTEEN VOORHEES NJ 7/21/2006
FOX 10 THEATRE PORTLAND OR 7/21/2006
RITZ AT THE BOURSE 5 PHILADELPHIA PA 7/21/2006
SHIRLINGTON 7 THEATRES ARLINGTON VA 7/21/2006
ORIENTAL 3 MILWAUKEE WI 7/21/2006

TOWER ANGELIKA FILM CTR. 3 SACRAMENTO CA 7/28/2006
SHADOWOOD SQUARE 16 BOCA RATON FL 7/28/2006
SOUTH BEACH 18 MIAMI BEACH FL 7/28/2006
UA TARA CINEMA 4 ATLANTA GA 7/28/2006
AMC STUDIO 30 OLATHE KS 7/28/2006
NICKELODEON 5 NORTH FALMOUTH MA 7/28/2006
STAR GREAT LAKES X-ING 25 AUBURN HILLS MI 7/28/2006
AMC LAUREL PARK PLACE 10 LIVONIA MI 7/28/2006
AMC FORUM 30 STERLING HEIGHTS MI 7/28/2006
TIVOLI THEATRE 3 ST LOUIS MO 7/28/2006
CENTURY 14 ALBUQUERQUE NM 7/28/2006
VILLAGE SQUARE 18 LAS VEGAS NV 7/28/2006
GREEN HILLS COMMONS 16 NASHVILLE TN 7/28/2006
ARBOR CINEMAS @ GREAT HILLS AUSTIN TX 7/28/2006
UA HULEN MALL TEN FT WORTH TX 7/28/2006
REDMOND THEATRE 8 REDMOND WA 7/28/2006

DIMOND CENTER 9 ANCHORAGE AK 8/4/2006
AMC DESERT RIDGE 18 PHOENIX AZ 8/4/2006
CENTURY ELCON 20 TUCSON AZ 8/4/2006
WESTMINSTER PROMENADE 24 WESTMINSTER CO 8/4/2006
BARRINGTON SQUARE SIX HOFFMAN ESTATES IL 8/4/2006
KEYSTONE ART CINEMA INDIANAPOLIS IN 8/4/2006
CANAL PLACE CINEMA 4 NEW ORLEANS LA 8/4/2006
RIO 14 THEATRE GAITHERSBURG MD 8/4/2006
BALLANTYNE VILLAGE THEATRE CHARLOTTE NC 8/4/2006
CAMEO ART HOUSE THEATRE FAYETTEVILLE NC 8/4/2006
RIVERSIDE 12 RENO NV 8/4/2006
AMC QUAIL SPRINGS 24 OKLAHOMA CITY OK 8/4/2006
REGAL DOWNTOWN WEST EIGHT KNOXVILLE TN 8/4/2006
AMC STONEBRIAR 24 FRISCO TX 8/4/2006
AMC GRAPEVINE MILLS 30 GRAPEVINE TX 8/4/2006
AMC STUDIO 30 HOUSTON TX 8/4/2006
FIESTA 16 SAN ANTONIO TX 8/4/2006
AMC FIRST COLONY 24 SUGARLAND TX 8/4/2006
WESTHAMPTON THEATRE 2 RICHMOND VA 8/4/2006
SEHOME THREE CINEMAS BELLINGHAM WA 8/4/2006
CITY CENTER CINEMA 12 VANCOUVER WA 8/4/2006

BONITA SPRINGS 12 BONITA SPRINGS FL 8/11/2006
BELL TOWER 20 FT MYERS FL 8/11/2006
MIRACLE FIVE TALLAHASSEE FL 8/11/2006
WINTER PARK VILLAGE 20 WINTER PARK FL 8/11/2006
AMC MANSELL CROSSING 14 ALPHARETTA GA 8/11/2006
UA SIEGEN VILLAGE TEN BATON ROUGE LA 8/11/2006
AMC OAKVIEW 24 OMAHA NE 8/11/2006
AMC HAMILTON 24 HAMILTON NJ 8/11/2006
AMC SOUTHROADS 20 TULSA OK 8/11/2006
PILOT BUTTE 6 PLEX BEND OR 8/11/2006
AMC NESHAMINY BENSALEM PA 8/11/2006
RIVER PARK SQUARE 20 SPOKANE WA 8/11/2006

DELRAY 18 CINEMA DELRAY BEACH FL 8/18/2006
GAINESVILLE 14 GAINESVILLE FL 8/18/2006
AMC REGENCY SQUARE 24 JACKSONVILLE FL 8/18/2006
BEACH BLVD CINEMA 12 JACKSONVILLE FL 8/18/2006
JUPITER MALL 18 JUPITER FL 8/18/2006
AMC INDIAN RIVER 24 VERO BEACH FL 8/18/2006
KENTUCKY THEATRE 2 LEXINGTON KY 8/18/2006
AMC CONCORD MILLS CONCORD NC 8/18/2006

MADISON SQUARE TWELVE HUNTSVILLE AL 8/25/2006

AMC HIGHLANDS RANCH 24 HIGHLANDS RANCH CO 8/28/2006

 


Originally published: June 02, 2006 | Total Page Views: 6825


 

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The Japanese Government Appears To Be Laying The Groundwork To Back Battery Blectric Vehicles

 

Wednesday | April 19, 2006

In this Asahi article dated January 20th, the author states:

The [Japanese] government appears to be laying the groundwork to back [battery] electric vehicles.

This is based in part on the Prime Minister's experience in trying a Battery Electric:

In December, Koizumi made a test drive in the Eliica, an eight-wheel electric car developed by a group of researchers at Keio University.

He called the technology an "energy revolution."

The vehicle, which runs on lithium-ion batteries, can travel about 300 kilometers on a single charge. It boasts a maximum speed of 370 kilometers per hour.

"The acceleration was great," Koizumi said. "It's perfect for Japan as we don't produce oil."

Although it was four months ago that the Prime Minister Koizumi tested the Battery EV that helped him to formulate his views, there are some comments I would like to make.

We see some evidence in this article of auto manufacturer opposition to the Prime Minister's advocacy of Battery Electrics. The reasoning they give is important. They do not claim or at least emphasize as they have done elsewhere that there is insufficient consumer demand or insufficient battery technology or insufficient liability protection. They emphasize a different rationale that many of us theorize is a primary reason for their anti-consumer foot-dragging on BEVs:

A senior official at one automaker said the industry pyramid, from carmakers at the top down to parts suppliers, has been structured on vehicles that run on internal combustion engines.

"We can't push for a rapid technological advancement that would eliminate engines," the official said.

Electric vehicles do not use engines.

While about 30 companies are taking part in the Eliica project, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. is the only automaker among them.

Toyota, Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. are staying away from the project.

This quoted view jibes with the focus that prominent activist Dave Goldstein and others have put on making certain everyone understands that the auto companies have acted strenuously to forestall Battery electric vehicles.

While I and others disagree with Dave's estimate of the level of role that the Oil companies have also played in stalling BEVs and Batteries, I think it is worth noting the common ground here: we are seeing some evidence here of the role that the auto manufacturers (even the 'good' ones like Toyota) appear to be playing in stalling Battery Electric Vehicle technology.

The quotes we have from auto manufacturers are arguably gold that we should preserve. I only wish I could have saved that one I saw from a Honda exec years ago essentially saying the same thing... they had too much money invested in their IC engine research, he said, for them to move quickly away from it.

If a major and primary reason that the auto manufacturers are refusing to make BEVs is that they do not wish to experience the costs of changing away from an established technology and infrastructure, then let them be honest about it, and stop playing this insulting anti-customer anti-worker game of being confused about their customers' needs and interests and their engineers' capabilities.

I should not make overly much out of one or two quotes from one or two executives in a single article, so I will label my own conclusions here to be more hypothesizing, based on years of trying to read the tea leaves of what is really going on within the vehicle and fuel industries, and why they appear to assume anti-customer and anti-engineer stances, on some progressive-transportation issues, such as BEVs.

If the American President had made such strong supportive Pro-Batter-Electric-Vehicle comments (he should do so, if he is interested to be an advocate for fighting the battle on many different fronts to end oil addiction), such a development would be much more prominent in our discussions. (To his credit, President Bush does seem to have given a 2-wheel battery electric vehicle, the Segway, as a gift to the Japanese Prime Minister in Fall of 2005, so maybe that played a role in the Prime Minister's thinking.)

Even if Japan is far away from many of us in the US in geography and culture and Language, it sure seems to be taking a long time for it to sink into our American consciousness that the Head of State of what may be the world's top (by quality and volume) automaking country has strong enthusiasm for Battery Electrics. This points up the disconnect we in the US seem to have with some significant events in Japan. I noted this, on a somewhat separate issue, as to stock market following of Japanese alternative energy companies, in a blog here:

Apparently, Japanese Companies Are Not Very Important

In any event, Bravo to the Prime Minister of Japan for doing his homework and finding some of the bold new valuable transporation technology that will play a role in our global future. To be sure, I can't say "whether some of the auto manufacturer executives like it or not" because they are quite capable, using their worldwide oligopoly, of continuing at least to stall the onset of full plug-in vehicles. Yet, I don't think they can fully stop the advance of battery electric vehicles, and maybe we as consumers and government-participants can find an incentive to make it easier for the auto companies to move away from Internal Combustion Engine Technology and non-renewable fuels.

 


Originally published: April 19, 2006 | Total Page Views: 2631


 

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90 Day Countdown to Wednesday June 28 Film: 'Who Killed the Electric Car?'

 

Friday | March 31, 2006

May 7 Update:

1. Apparently the June 28 release date is only for New York and LA, while those anxious to see this documentary in other cities will have to wait in the ensuing weeks for it to be show in their local art-houses. This is a major pain, I think, because it means that anyone (including myself) anticipating a June 28 release date in their area will have to wait some extra weeks.

I have called a theater in Tucson, near where I live, and they confirmed that they were very enthusiastic about getting this film, but that I could not expect to see it on or about June 28, but rather it would be some weeks following. Nor could they guarantee that they would be the theater to get the film from Sony Classics, for our area.

So, I am adjusting my own schedule to assume it will probably be early-to-mid-July before I get a good chance to see this, and I will have to keep an eye out, as to which local place gets it.

2. Here is a link to a small-screen version of the Trailer for the film (This is the first chance many of us activists have had to see this, for those who did not go to Sundance). For those with a wide-band connection, here is a link to the larger-screen version of the Trailer.

3. Since I set up this blog as a countdown to a specific event that folks maybe could link, I post these updates, to get the word out. In particular, it is not "90 days" to "June 28", but rather the latest word seems to be that many of us will have to wait some extra weeks, on into July, before we get a chance to see this documentary.

---------------------------------

Original Blog:

31 March 2006

In 90 days, this documentary will be coming out. As we lead up to the theaterical release, I am passing along some information about the film that has accumulated.

We (activists for consumer access to simply better vehicles, particularly EVs and PHEVs) are trying to network with the broader community of environmentalists, alternative fuel advocates and energy-independence advocates to make sure that the film is widely seen and discussed as much as possible.

I have not seen the movie yet, because as yet it was shown only at its World Premiere at Sundance (I wasn't quite able to get to get there). I'm told that many friends and colleagues are depicted in their efforts to shed light on the shenanigans that went on in causing the (hopefully not permanent) turning-away of California and much of our society from the best highway-capable longer-range Battery Electric Vehicles.

I'm also told that it is a winner of a documentary, with good solid footage and credible journalistic approach. If this is true, then it will make it an important documentary indeed. I will anticipate seeing it for myself on June 28.

We're also told that three months later, September 25-27, is the CARB technical review in Sacramento, wherein (apparently) they will review California's policy of having turned away, three years ago, from Battery Electric Vehicles in favor of Fuel Cell Vehicles.

The movie's home website:

http://www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com/

Here is the movie distributor's website entry (Sony Classics)

http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/comingsoon.php?filmid=305&page=1

Selected review comments on the film, other information, and contact information, from Paul Scott, a leading activist in this cause:

January 25, 2006

Subject: "Who Killed the Electric Car?" kills at Sundance!
From: "Paul Scott"

Just who did kill the electric car? As many of you know, for the past two years, Chris Paine has been directing a documentary asking that very question. The premiere of the film was held at the Sundance Film Festival this past Monday night to a packed house.

[...]

Folks, we have a winner! This film will be a huge help in our efforts to get electric vehicles back on the front burner. Chris and company tell the story of what happened to the EV from "our" perspective. All the CARB shenanigans are well documented. The lies from the car companies and the oil companies are laid bare in an easily understandable and very entertaining manner.

And when you see how Chris weaves the testimony of the likes of Alec Brooks, Chelsea Sexton, Greg Hanssen, Joe Romm, Paul Roberts, Stan Ovshinski, Wally Rippel, Alexandra Paul and a very entertaining David Freeman, you will know what I mean. And the two beautiful actresses, J. Karen and Collette steal the show with their delightful and comedic comments.

Some of the best scenes come from the industry spokesmen and Alan Lloyd. You will relish these parts, trust me. I don't want to spoil anything for you, so I'll keep the details to myself.

Once the release date is set, we will be conducting a major effort to get the word out to all of our respective email lists to drive folks to the theaters. The Sony people tell us the opening weekend is crucial, but just as important are the 2nd and 3rd weekends to show the film has good word of mouth.

Stay tuned.

Paul Scott

Plug In America

paul@pluginamerica.com

March 31:

We are gathering lists from all groups we think would be interested in this film in preparation of a concerted campaign to drive folks to the theaters on the opening weekend as well as the following two weekends. Theaters like to see a growing demand for films in order to justify keeping it in the theaters.

Sony purposely avoided publicity at Sundance since the media will only cover a film once and Sony wanted the coverage for the opening. We will want everyone to write their local papers, call their local radio and TV stations with comments about the film after it opens. The more we make a ruckus, the more likely people will be curious to see what the fuss is all about.

I would appreciate it if all of you would send to me any lists you think would be interested in the film. We are obviously wanting any enviro groups, but also include evangelical and national security groups as they are coming >around to this issue pretty strongly now. Send any list you think would be remotely interested.

Thanks,

Paul Scott
Plug In America
310-399-5997
paul@pluginamerica.com

March 30th:

[...] One thing we have on our side is the CARB ZEV Technical Review scheduled for September 25th -27th in Sacramento. The purpose is to revisit the decisions of three years ago and determine if that was the correct direction to take (FCVs instead of BEVs) and see if they should make adjustments to the ZEV mandate again. Plug In America received an invitation to present a panel on the state of the BEV fleet in California and we intend to emphasize some of the film's points. Having a seat at this table will give our side the clout we lacked in 2003.

In addition, the staff members we are talking to at CARB are giving us strong indications that there is a shift in thinking at CARB away from H2 and toward batteries. The expert panel they have invited is a pretty good indication of that. They include: Michael Walsh, Fritz Kalhammer, Vernon Roan, David Swan and Bruce Kopf. More importantly, they want Alec Brooks to talk. He wrote the definitive paper showing how the H2 road CARB envisioned is horribly inefficient when compared to BEVs.

CARB states that they are particularly interested in energy batteries, PHEVs and city BEVs.[...]

4-7-2006 Addendum:

If you are in the Bay Area, you might be able to catch this film before its broader Theatrical release, by getting tickets to it at the San Francisco Film Festival.

Here is a link to the film as the Film Festival displays it:
http://fest06.sffs.org/films/film_details.php?id=100

We can see that it is scheduled for showing Friday and Saturday, April 21 and April 22, but I think for someone who wishes to attend, they will need to contact the festival directly to verify ticket availability and information. I saw one indication that tickets went on sale April 4.

 


Originally published: March 31, 2006 | Total Page Views: 2675


 

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Peak Oil Again

 

Thursday | March 16, 2006

About a month ago I published a blog pointing out that Peak Oil appeared to have been "declared as reached" by Ken Deffeyes. I am not enough of a peak oil buff to be strongly knowledgeable about each of the names in the field, but Mr. Deffeyes appeared (and still appears) to me to be a committed theorist in this area.

I took the blog down (deleted it, but saved it to my drive) a day or two later, in that there seemed to be some criticism to which I did not have time to respond, and I didn't want to risk that maybe I had put up something entirely misleading.

Overall, I doubt that Mr. Deffeyes was joking around that much in his declaration of peak oil, although I have yet to speak with him.

My own immediate question to him would not be about the date, but that I do not understand his employment of peak oil theory. I thought that peak oil was about peak oil production, not peak of oil amounts left... it appeared to me at first glance that he might be referring to the latter.

In any event, it was and interesting to see the exact-timing debate play out in our society, although in another way I think many of us accept that it hardly matters when the exact date is... we have grabbed most of the low-hanging oil-fruit, whether we like it or not.

I am interested to watch this much: Mr. Hubbert's famous more-or-less good-call on American Peak Oil was done on a country that had other sources of oil to turn to. However, we are now talking about world peak oil production, and on that score I wonder if the scenario will play out differently... if the reaction to peaking or near-peaking will be a stronger world effort, and in what direction, since there appears to be no oil safety net left, of other countries to which we can turn.

Here is the original blog and the responses that were made:

------------------

Tuesday | 14 February 2006 Did We Already Pass Peak Oil On December 16, 2005? Ken Deffeyes, an apparently well-known Geologist and Peak Oil Theoretician, has posted on his website that we passed Peak Oil on December 16, 2005. I'm not sure that his reasoning is sound or that this seemingly-a-bit-premature-statement will hold up, but it seemed at least worth noting. Here is the website and the statement, dated on the site as being from 3 days ago, February 11, 2006:

http://www.princeton.edu/hubbert/current-events.html

>>February 11, 2006
[begin quotation]
>>In the January 2004 Current Events on this web site, I
>>predicted that world oil production would peak on
>>Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2005. In hindsight,
that prediction was in error by three weeks. An update using
>>the 2005 data shows that we passed the peak on December
>>16, 2005.
[end quotation]

I can find almost no mention of this anywhere on the net (did I read a link to this at EVWorld.com? I have lost track).
So, it is conceivable that we have passed the big day, and yet that possibility has not yet become a more prominent part of the ongoing Peak Oil discussion and debate. Of course, he could be wrong, and the projections for "soon, but not quite yet" may be correct. Nonetheless, it's plausible that we might pass Peak Oil and not even know it, and few news agencies would cover it. Even the peak oil websites generally do not yet seem to be covering Ken's statement as news... This does seem quite remarkable. Maybe EVWorld.com should be the place to participate in breaking this news and opening the floor to more discussion of it. [update] I have had a chance to ponder Mr. Deffeyes's reasoning a bit further, and the responses to this morning's blog. I doubt that Ken is speaking tongue-in-cheek, as one respondent suggested. I just don't quite get that from his extensive background in predicting around-about that time period for hitting the peak. The respondent had read Ken's books and I haven't though.... What did make me a bit skeptical is that Ken's reasoning seems based on measuring total production and total reserves and measuring a halfway point. While this may be surprisingly useful, it is not quite the same thing as declaring a peak in actual production. I'm not schooled enough in peak oil theories to argue all the finer points here, so I will see what comes out of this. Hopefully over the next few days I will get more feedback that will help me put Mr. Deffeyes's seemingly early-election-call into perspective.
Even if his call is early, I think that in the end, most of the Peak Oil mainstream thinkers are making a call for "within the next few years" and so that, to me, is the main thing.
Originally published: February 14, 2006 | Total Page Views: 257

Reader Comments
Tim Campbell:
I think these statements on Deffeyes' website are tongue-in-cheek. In his books, Deffeyes likes to use humor to make his points. It will be years - probably decades - before anyone knows when world oil production actually peaked. Deffeyes' point is that the peak is coming sooner than the USGS or others think, and may be here right now. 14/Feb/2006 [12845]

Donald Sorum: Everybody seems to have thier collective head in the sand when it comes to peak oil including the peak oil establishment. If peak oil has happened why aren't the oil prices reflecting it? Why hasn't the stock market crumbled? This is a biggest story that has come along in generations because it means our 1st world country will become a 3rd world. Is it really economic inertia propelling us on and on even though the fundamental underpinnings are gone? I keep waiting to really see the consequences of Peak Oil and haven't seen them yet. This is huge so why isn't it in our faces constantly. This is a dream story for the mass media and they have not picked up on it. You would think everyone would be talking about this because it makes the bird flu look like a bad sneeze. More questions than answers but I would love to see proof. 14/Feb/2006 [12851]

Bob the Builder: Even if we have hit peak oil, we will not automatically become a 3rd world country. During the World Wars, all manufacturing moved from what they were doing to building parts/material for the war. If there were some crisis to come up so fast that we couldn't handle it, the American populous would force everything to turn around and start up something else. This to me, reminds me of the cryers of wolf....Y2K bug. ouch. 14/Feb/2006 [12852]

Jim Stack: The USA passed Peak Oil in 1970. We have been importing more and more EVer since. In 2006 we import more than 60% of our oil with no slow down in site. We also subsidize fossil fuel companies like Exxon and Mobile, shell etc. The 2006 Energy bill had an 18% increase for fossil fuel. We are so dumb, we don't EVen see the real cost of a gallon of gas. It's about $10-15 today but not at the pump. If only we could see the real cost we would have changed 20 years ago. Start your changes today. Drive less, take mass transit, car pool, ride a bicycle, join the eaaev.org and convert/build your own EV. 14/Feb/2006 [12854]

Tim Campbell: Josh, Deffeyes is clearly using humor when he says that the world oil production peak was on Dec 16 rather than Nov 24. No one will ever know the actual day on which peak oil occurred; it's foolish to speculate on such a thing, and he is having some fun with that. Deffeyes uses this comical gimmick to draw attention to his serious warning, which is that peak oil is not decades away. 14/Feb/2006 [12855]

steve erlsten: The biggest point I got from Twilight in the Desert was that we won't know for years afterwards, and that is largely because real production numbers are completely fabricated. We don't know how much is being produced, so as the peak occurs, OPEC could just continue to report rising nubers even as they fall. We wouldn't know it for years. Twilight in the Desert was a great book. It's a must-read for anyone who writes about energy policy. The part about Petrologistics was particularly disturbing. 14/Feb/2006 [12859]

Steve Erlsten: Sorry, I'm mixing authors. Deffeys wrote Beyond Oil, which is also a great book. Twilight in the Desert was Matthew Simmons. 14/Feb/2006 [12860]

 


Originally published: March 16, 2006 | Total Page Views: 5924


 

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Apparently, Japanese Companies Are Not Very Important

 

Saturday | January 28, 2006

For what seems like an eternity, quotes on the Tokyo Exchange for Japanese stocks have not been available on yahoo. We have been able to look up some dollar-denominated US-Exchange quotes for some Japanese companies, if they have an American Depository Receipt. Yet, I wonder if the availability of ADRs on some foreign stocks sometimes serves to obscure the question of why we are unable to see quotes on their native exchange trading? In the case of the Tokyo Exchange, we are talking about one of the world's most important stock-trading venues, and some of the world's most important companies. Some of us follow these companies for reasons of alternative-energy interest, and some of us follow them for a variety of other reasons.

Here is yahoo's present list of exchanges....

I work researching publicly quoted alternative energy companies. While there certainly are all manner of interesting internet-based for-pay research tools that one can use in this work, an old stand-by, for many years, has been to build portfolio lists in one's free yahoo account. Yet, this method has led to a significant hole in my thinking, since it is not possible to follow Japanese companies properly and comprehensively in this way. I have also found that some of my colleagues reflect some of the same ignorance of some important Japanese alternative-energy-relevant companies.

Yahoo's stock quote service, while pretty comprehensive in the number of countries' quotes that it does bring in, apparently cannot arrive at an agreement with the Tokyo stock exchange to bring in quotes of Japanese publicly-traded companies. I don't know the background to why this is so... Perhaps the folks at finance.yahoo.com have decided that Japanese stocks just aren't that important? Maybe, for all I know, the Tokyo exchange is being exceptionally difficult or insisting on what seems to some like a very high fee. Perhaps Yahoo for some reason is resting on its laurels and figuring that since they have become the poor-man's standby in portfolio-building, and since they bring in so many other countries' stock quotes, that it's ok to continue to blow off solving the whole Tokyo thing. I just don't know what's going on... so I am not claiming that I've been able to uncover the background here... just spelling out the problem, as I haven't run across anyone else doing so.

This situation has persisted for many years (at least five?). At times it has appeared that it would be solved, but it has not been.

To be sure, there are imperfect solutions to following some publicly traded Japanese investments on yahoo. For some companies there are good solid liquid US-listed ADRs (Honda or Kyocera for example). For others, there are ADRs that trade on one of the lesser exchanges. However, for many Japanese companies, there are no real ways to list them in a yahoo stock portfolio, and one is left flying a bit blind, particularly if one tries to follow sectors where Japanese companies do so many exciting good things, such as the alt-fuel-vehicle sector or the Solar sector. One is left building a sort of imperfect smorgasbord of quotations, many of them pinksheet symbols, some of them quotations from the Frankfurt or other exchanges, in order to follow the important goings-on of Japanese alternative energy companies.

There seem to be many viable alternatives to yahoo's finance area for this basic free research, and one can bring up some Tokyo exchange quotes just fine on services that compete with yahoo. These services are both free and for-pay, and I have not researched every single one of them for this article. If we look at bloomberg.com or bigcharts.com, for example, both areas have much to be said for how they can be an aid in a bit of research, and there is no difficulty in researching Tokyo-traded companies.

I can't think of one of these tools where I couldn't list an area that needs improvement, so it is not at all the case that yahoo's finance research area is the only one with some glaring deficiency. In the case of the yahoo-Tokyo-quote problem, though, this bothers me enough so that I thought I'd blog a bit about it. One reason is that I have run into an ignorance in myself and in colleagues of important longstanding real alternative energy efforts by significant Japanese companies. Secondly, it bothers me to see a successful exciting business venture not seek to improve and continue to offer better service.

One might say this of yahoo... that while they have worked hard and made themselves very useful and part of our lives during the first decade of World-Wide-Web, it would be nice if they would continue the improvement... a bit of Kaizen engineering idea for yahoo? If they don't watch out, google will really eat their lunch, identifying longstanding deficiencies and offering superior alternatives. Perhaps this is sort of parallel to how some Japanese companies have performed in solar energy and better-energy-efficiency vehicles. They have identified markets and customers taken for-granted by American and other companies and they seem to have moved to offer superior alternatives in those markets. That's something of which I am a bit ignorant though.... I'll have to find a better way to follow some of those Japanese companies and their efforts.

Disclaimer: I work researching quoted companies, and I may have some vested interest in some of the companies mentioned here.

 

 


Originally published: January 28, 2006 | Total Page Views: 3481


 

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Maybe New York State Will Not Wait For Detroit

 

Monday | January 16, 2006

1-16-06

To Quote From The New York Times: January 7, 2006, pp. B1-B2:

"New York Governor Encouraging Shift to Biofuels "

"[...]The governor's plan comes after the oil price shocks of the last year and frustration with automakers for suing New York for adopting California's greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars.

"The plan also includes incentives to help the state modify its hybrid-electric vehicles so that the cars can be plugged into stationary outlets to enable them to use even more electricity than fuel, a practice discouraged by the auto industry.

"'Are we supposed to sit around and wait for Detroit to do these things?' said Charles G. Fox, a deputy secretary to Mr. Pataki who oversees energy issues, in an interview on Friday. Part of the plan, he said, was aimed at promoting the use of alternative fuels that can be used right away, as opposed to more futuristic fuels like hydrogen. Biodiesel can run in any diesel engine, and several million cars and trucks on the road nationwide can use E85."

---------------

So, my comments:

1. I applaud the effort to bring more biofuel pumps to the State. It has been obvious for years that there is a problem with the idea of just waiting for biofuel pumps to be installed around the country, since the fossil fuel industry has a de facto lock on fuel distribution. Governor Ventura and others faced down this problem in Minnesota, and I think it's good that New Yorkers are addressing the issue.

2. It's unusual (or perhaps in the past it was unusual, and now it will be more common?) to see such an excellent and enlightened attitude toward Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles from a Governor's office. Mr. Fox seems to be doing his job.

3. New York State residents have as much cause and motive as anyone on Earth to kick as much of their Oil-addicted habit as possible, considering the destruction that has been wrought by citizens of one of their Oil suppliers (Saudi Arabia). We in the United States, and residents of New York State in particular, might (if possible) want to look at reducing oil imports. One way to reduce such imports is for us to reduce our general oil comsumption. It is overdue, in my view, that New York State residents would look to reduce oil consumption, but it is done better late than never.

4. Where are the batteries going to come from, to power these planned State PHEVs? Will New York State have any more success than anyone else in prying appropriate safe long-lasting high-quality batteries from the hands of producers, at some reasonable price? Maybe Governor Pataki will have to go out of his way to encourage local battery production, if he gets the runaround from Detroit and the world's battery producers, as has happened to others who have sought to buy Battery Powered Vehicles?

 


Originally published: January 16, 2006 | Total Page Views: 2046


 

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Cobasys Research

 

Tuesday | January 03, 2006

In response to some private email discussions, I put together some research on the Cobasys situation. I originally blogged this with some of my own views added, but I have removed those views for now (January 3, 2006).

Disclaimer: Although I do not own any ECD stock directly, I do work with companies whose interests will be affected depending on the fortunes of ECD stock, and in the end, I will benefit if ECD's stock benefits. I have completely avoided any discussion as to my opinion of the financial fortunes of ECD. My interest here is to understand the NiMH battery situation a bit better.

(I):

A timeline of the Matsushita lawsuit situation:

March 6, 2001
ECD Announces Ovonic Battery Is Filing A Lawsuit Against Matsushita Battery
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20010306.htm

January 22, 2002
Energy Conversion Devices and Matsushita agree to stay pending litigation
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20020122.htm

March 28, 2002
Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems LLC announces president and new management team
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20020328.htm

November 15, 2002
Energy Conversion Devices To Arbitrate Disputes With Matsushita
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20021115.htm

December 6, 2002
Energy Conversion Devices Enters Arbitration Agreement with Matsushita to Arbitrate Dispute in New York City
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20021206.htm

January 27, 2004
Arbitration Hearings Completed in Patent Infringement Claims by Energy Conversion Devices against Matsushita Battery
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040127.htm

May 17, 2004
ECD Ovonics and Other Parties to the Arbitration Request ICC to Extend Date for Issuance of Decision
(No Link Available To Press Release)

July 7, 2004
ECD Ovonics Announces Settlement in Patent Infringement Dispute
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040707.htm

December 3, 2004
ECD Announces Expansion of NiMH Battery License to Cobasys and Restructuring of Relationship with ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures
http://www.cobasys.com/news/20041203.htm

July 6, 2005
Cobasys and Panasonic EV Energy Extend Cooperation and Agree to Expanded License Terms
http://www.cobasys.com/news/20050706.htm

2. ECD Annual Reports:
http://www.ovonic.com/our_company/1_4_investor_relations/10k_filing.htm

3. Excerpts of interest from ECD's most recent (2005) annual report:

http://www.ovonic.com/PDFs/Financial_Reports/AnnualReports/form_10K-2005_13sept05.pdf

Cobasys

In July 2001, Ovonic Battery and ChevronTexaco (now Chevron) formed a strategic alliance (Cobasys LLC). Chevron invested $160,000,000 to match the Company's technological contribution in the venture. Cobasys is owned 50% by Ovonic Battery and 50% by Chevron.

On December 2, 2004, as part of its focus on its core businesses, ECD entered into a series of agreements with Chevron and Cobasys to expand the scope of licenses granted to Cobasys at the time of the restructuring of the joint venture in July 2001. In consideration of the expanded licenses, ECD received an option to purchase the 4,376,633 shares exercisable at $4.55 per share of ECD Common Stock then owned by Chevron. The transaction increased ECD's revenue and decreased additional paid-in capital in the year ended June 30, 2005 by $79,532,000 based upon the value of this option using the Black Scholes valuation model.

In July 2004, ECD and Cobasys entered into a settlement agreement with MEI, PEVE, and Toyota with respect to patent infringement disputes and counterclaims involving NiMH batteries before the International Chamber of Commerce, International Court of Arbitration. Under the terms of the settlement, no party admitted any liability.

As part of the settlement, ECD and its subsidiary, Ovonic Battery, received a $10 million license fee from MEI and PEVE. This fee was recorded as a deferred patent license fee in July 2004 and is being amortized to income over 10.5 years. The Company recognized $952,000 as revenues from license and other agreements in the year ended June 30, 2005 in connection with the amortization of this fee. In addition, Cobasys received a $20 million license fee from MEI, PEVE and Toyota, of which $4 million was placed in escrow for a next-generation NiMH battery development project plan. Upon receipt of the license fee, Cobasys made an $8 million distribution each to Ovonic Battery and Chevron representing a partial reimbursement of legal expenses. The Company recorded this $8 million as a distribution from joint venture in the year ended June 30, 2005.

-------------------

Ovonic Battery Company. Ovonic Battery licenses manufacturers of NiMH batteries throughout the world for consumer, vehicle propulsion and other battery applications.

Our royalty-bearing NiMH battery licenses provide for upfront nonrefundable license fees and, depending on factors such as geographical scope and fields of application, require licensees to pay us a royalty of 0.5% (for consumer applications) or 3.0% (for transportation applications) of the selling price of NiMH batteries. Certain licensees, particularly our Chinese licensees, have paid modest upfront, nonrefundable license fees, but are required to pay royalty rates considerably higher than 0.5% and to pay additional license fees as their sales of NiMH batteries increase, or have been granted substantially narrower rights to geographical areas in which licensed products can be made or sold. Most of Ovonic Battery's licensees have the right to make and sell cylindrical NiMH batteries for consumer applications under royalty-bearing non-exclusive licenses.

Our joint ventures established to manufacture NiMH batteries are licensees of Ovonic Battery. Typically, we acquired our ownership interest in the NiMH battery joint ventures by the contribution of licensed patents or technology, or both. These licenses to our NiMH battery joint ventures generally do not require the payment of royalties.

Generally, the term of the license agreements extends for so long as the patents being licensed are in force. Some licenses have fixed terms but provide for extensions of additional one- to five-year periods. Based upon our NiMH battery patent portfolio (provided a market for NiMH batteries remains for the next nine years), we believe that patents applicable to NiMH batteries can provide us with royalty revenues through 2014.

Ovonic Battery also produces high performance proprietary nickel hydroxide materials for use in the positive electrodes of NiMH batteries and sell these materials to some of its licensees. The Ovonic nickel hydroxide materials offer NiMH battery manufacturers advantages with such features as higher capacity and power, greater cycle life, high temperature performance, and lower costs. Ovonic Battery manufactures its nickel hydroxide materials at an automated facility capable of operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Ovonic Battery has established three joint ventures in China with Rare Earth High-Tech Co., Ltd., which are licensed to make and sell NiMH batteries and battery materials for consumer applications and has entered into royalty-bearing consumer battery license agreements with 13 other Chinese companies. Most of Ovonic Battery's licensees have the right to make and sell cylindrical NiMH batteries for consumer applications under royalty-bearing non-exclusive licenses.

In addition to its Cobasys joint venture, Ovonic Battery has entered into royalty-bearing, nonexclusive license agreements granting limited rights for the manufacture of Ovonic NiMH four-wheeled vehicle propulsion batteries and related products outside of the United States with Sanyo, Toshiba, Hyundai Motor Company, Nan Ya and GP Batteries. Sanyo, Toshiba and Hyundai have restricted rights to sell batteries in vehicles imported into North America. GP Batteries and the Rare Earth Ovonic joint ventures have limited rights to sell vehicle propulsion batteries in North America by and through Ovonic Battery. Saft Group and the United States Advanced Battery Consortium are licensed under a royalty-bearing, nonexclusive license agreement for the manufacture and sale of vehicle propulsion batteries in the United States. Among our licensees of Ovonic NiMH batteries for four-wheel vehicle propulsion applications, Sanyo and GP Batteries are engaged in manufacturing batteries for such applications.

For two-and three-wheeled vehicle applications, Ovonic Battery has entered into royalty-bearing license agreements for the manufacture and sale of Ovonic NiMH batteries with Sanyo, Walsin, Sanoh Industrial Co., Ltd., Nan Ya, GP Batteries and our Rare Earth Ovonic joint ventures. Subject to these agreements and subject to rights retained by Ovonic Battery in China and India with respect to NiMH batteries for two- and three-wheeled vehicles, Cobasys has been granted an exclusive royalty-free license for the manufacture and sale of batteries for two- and three-wheeled vehicles.

4. Quote of interest from 2001 Annual report (p. 9):

http://www.ovonic.com/PDFs/Financial_Reports/AnnualReports/Form_10K_2001.pdf

[...]

At the 2000 Tour de Sol Road Rally, the Ovonic NiMH batteries powered a General Motors production EV1 to a range of 224 miles. This was the seventh consecutive year that Ovonic batteries have powered electric vehicles beyond the 200-mile threshold.

To illustrate the lower cost operation of battery-powered electric vehicles, a four-door Chevrolet Geo Metro with a gasoline engine was matched against a Solectria Force (the electric version of the Geo Metro) to measure the operating efficiencies of the two vehicles over a 23.5-mile route through mid-town Manhattan (New York City) at the 1998 Tour de Sol. Based upon a central power plant efficiency rate of 51%, a power transmission efficiency rate of 92%, a battery charger efficiency rate of 90% and a battery energy efficiency rate of 90%, the electric car’s use of 2.87 kWh of electricity was the equivalent of 0.27 gallons of gasoline. The gasoline-fueled car used 2.28 gallons of gasoline. The gasoline Geo Metro achieved 10.3 miles per gallon, while the Solectria Force returned an 87 miles-per-gallon equivalent. At $1.50 per gallon, it cost $3.42 for the Geo Metro’s gasoline and the equivalent of $.41 to power the Solectria. Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems. In June 1994, Ovonic Battery and General Motors Corporation formed a joint venture, GM Ovonic, of which we owned 40% interest and General Motors owned a 60% interest, to manufacture and sell Ovonic Battery's proprietary NiMH batteries for four-wheeled electric propulsion applications. In July 2001, Texaco Energy Systems Inc. (TESI) completed the purchase from GM of its stake in GM Ovonic and we and TESI announced the formation of Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems, a 50-50 joint venture between Ovonic Battery and TESI, for the purpose of bringing advanced NiMH batteries into widespread commercial production for automotive applications as well as to further develop them for non-automotive applications. Ovonic Battery has contributed intellectual property, licenses, production processes, know-how, personnel and engineering services pertaining to Ovonic NiMH battery technology to the joint venture. TESI’s contribution to the joint venture for NiMH-battery-related activities will total more than $150 million over the next few years. The joint venture will significantly increase its existing manufacturing facilities in Kettering, Ohio, and its development facilities in Troy, Michigan.

Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems is also investing in the development of production-ready prototypes of the new Ovonic NiMH monoblock battery, a compact design for high-voltage (36-42 volt) automotive electrical systems for future gasoline-powered automobiles.

[...]

2000 annual report provides basic info as to GM relationship that was part of the 90s, although it seems to have given way to the Texaco relationship that was part of the 2000s:

http://www.ovonic.com/PDFs/Financial_Reports/AnnualReports/Form_10K_2000_A1.pdf

5. Other Ovonic Press releases (but leaving in Matsushita lawsuit links from point I above).

October 24, 1997
Ovonic NiMH Batteries Power EV From Boston To New York On A Single Charge
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19971024.htm

[...]

All significant manufacturers of NiMH batteries operate under agreements with ECD and Ovonic Battery, which originated the NiMH battery technology. Proprietary rechargeable Ovonic NiMH batteries are based on new hydrogen storage principles and materials invented and developed by ECD and Ovonic Battery. They were initially developed and commercialized in small cell sizes for notebook computers, cellular phones and other portable electronic devices. Ovonic batteries are ideal in these applications since they store more than twice as much energy per unit weight as lead-acid or nickel-cadmium batteries. Ovonic NiMH batteries have high power, long cycle life, no memory effect, are environmentally friendly and are ideally suited for EV and Hybrid electric vehicles.

November 13, 1997
General Motors Introduces Nickel Metal Hydride Batteries In Chevrolet S-10 Electric Pickup Trucks
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19971113.htm

January 4, 1998
Ovonic NiMH Batteries Featured At General Motors Advanced Technology Vehicles Exhibit
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19980104.htm

September 28, 1998
Energy Conversion Devices Announces Year-End Operating Results
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19980928.htm

[...]

In August 1998, Ovonic Energy Products, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of GM Ovonic, opened a plant in Kettering (Dayton), Ohio to produce advanced batteries commercially for sale to the EV industry. Mr. Ovshinsky also noted that the NiMH battery has been received well in the booming bicycle and scooter markets of Asia and Europe.

[...]

October 5, 1998
Ovonic NiMH Batteries Featured At Paris Motor Show And Brussels Electric Vehicle Symposium
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19981005.htm

January 4, 1999 1999 EV-1 With Ovonic NiMH Batteries Enthusiastically Received
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/press_releases_1999.htm

A "Revolution in Range" for EV Vehicles

January 4, 1999 -- One month after General Motors Corporation (GM) introduced the 1999 model EV-1 electric car with GM Ovonic nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries in Los Angeles, Calif., Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) (NASDAQ:ENER) continues to receive high praise from EV-1 owners and test drivers who are amazed by the vehicle's driving range on a single charge. Consider the following customer testimonials: [etc.]

November 29, 1999
Energy Conversion Devices Announces Further Agreement With Toshiba Battery Company
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/19991129.htm

May 2, 2000
Texaco Purchases a 20 Percent Interest in Energy Conversion Devices, Inc.

http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20000502.htm

July 11, 2000
ECD Grants Patent License to Chinese Company
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20001005.htm

TROY, Mich., July 11, 2000 - Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (?ECD?) (NASDAQ:ENER) announced today that its subsidiary, Ovonic Battery Company, Inc. (?Ovonic Battery?), has entered into a patent license agreement under its proprietary nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery technology with BYD Battery Co., Ltd. of the People's Republic of China. Under the consumer battery license grant, BYD has a nonexclusive, royalty-bearing right to make, use and sell consumer nickel metal hydride batteries for non-propulsion applications.

October 31, 2000
Texaco & ECD Form Hydrogen Storage Joint Venture
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20001031.htm

March 6, 2001
ECD Announces Ovonic Battery Is Filing A Lawsuit Against Matsushita Battery
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20010306.htm

November 1, 2001
Judge Issues Scheduling Order in Ovonic Battery / Matsushita Battery Lawsuit
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20011101.htm

Rochester Hills, Mich., Nov. 1, 2001 - Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD) (NASDAQ:ENER) announced today that Judge Marianne O. Battani of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, has issued an order scheduling the preliminary injunction hearing in the lawsuit by Ovonic Battery Company, Inc. against Matsushita Battery Industrial Co., Ltd. (MBI) and related companies to commence on Monday, February 18, 2002. Judge Battani also granted Ovonic Battery's motion for leave to amend the complaint to join its affiliate, Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems LLC, as a plaintiff in the lawsuit and the preliminary injunction action.

[...]

Dec. 20, 2001:
ChevronTexaco, Energy Conversion Devices Team to Commercialize Solar, Hydrogen Technologies
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20011220.htm

Jan. 22, 2002:
Energy Conversion Devices and Matsushita Agree to Stay Pending Litigation
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20020122.htm

January 27, 2004
Arbitration Hearings Completed in Patent Infringement Claims by Energy Conversion Devices against Matsushita Battery
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040127.htm http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040127.htm

March 17, 2004
Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems Changes Name to COBASYS
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040317a.htm

Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems Changes Name to COBASYS

Name change reflects focus on the expanding fields for NiMH storage solutions

Troy, Mich., March. 17, 2004 — Texaco Ovonic Battery Systems LLC announced today it has changed its name to COBASYS. The name change to COBASYS reflects the company's focus in the expanding fields for Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) storage solutions in both the transportation and stationary power markets. COBASYS is a joint venture between Texaco Energy Systems L.L.C., a unit of ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures LLC, and a unit of Energy Conversion Devices, Inc., the pioneer in the development of high power, high energy NiMH batteries.

May 17, 2004
ECD Ovonics and Other Parties to the Arbitration Request ICC to Extend Date for Issuance of Decision
(No Link Available To Press Release)

July 7, 2004
ECD Ovonics Announces Settlement in Patent Infringement Dispute http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040707.htm

August 12, 2004 ECD Ovonics Announces Strategic Business Restructuring http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040812.htm

To Focus on Accelerating the Commercialization of Its Products

Rochester Hills, Mich., Aug. 12, 2004 — Energy Conversion Devices, Inc. (ECD Ovonics) (NASDAQ:ENER) announced today that its Board of Directors has unanimously approved Management's business restructuring plan to take full advantage of the favorable battery settlement agreement announced on July 7, 2004 and the increasing market interest in solar energy systems and hybrid electric vehicles. The restructuring plan accelerates the company's transition to an organization focused on commercializing its products and technologies by concentrating on the activities of its joint venture companies and its subsidiary United Solar Ovonic with the goal to move the company into a position of having sustained profitability by July 2006.

August 31, 2004
Cobasys Introduces the NiMHax® Line of Advanced NiMH Battery Pack Solutions
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20040831.htm

November 1, 2004
Azure Dynamics Corporation Selects Cobasys' Ovonic Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) Battery Technology for HEVs
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20041101.htm

December 3, 2004
ECD Announces Expansion of NiMH Battery License to Cobasys and Restructuring of Relationship with ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures
http://www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20041203.htm

July 6, 2005
Cobasys and Panasonic EV Energy Extend Cooperation and Agree to Expanded License Terms
http://www.cobasys.com/news/20050706.htm

August 29, 2005
Cobasys Confirms Contracts for Hybrid Electric Vehicle Programs
http://www.cobasys.com/news/20050829.htm

 


Originally published: January 03, 2006 | Total Page Views: 4485


 

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The NiMH Battery Industry Pelican Brief... Of A Sort

 

Friday | November 18, 2005

A few weeks ago Charles Whalen circulated some thoughts on issues within the Large-Format NiMH Battery Industry. His thinking and hypothesizing focused on trying to surmise as to narrowing down some of the constraints of the Toyota-ECD confidential settlement, and he also was able to bring some background and knowledge to the question that I had not seen before. I thought his comments were worth passing on to others, but before I could get permission to reprint them, his life was turned upside down by Katrina. Bill Moore did manage to quote from Charles's comments in one of his blogs, but here now with permission is the full text of what Charles had to say. I think his comments at the very end, as to what might happen next in Electro Energy's efforts to bring PHEV-suitable NiMH batteries to the Prius+ project and maybe to market... I thought those were very timely and helpful, because if we're going to bring pluggable-hybrids to market in this world, we cannot have the project held up by back-door industry shennanigans designed to prevent rapid deployment of this technology which can help consumers gain access to non-oil-industry fuel.

From: Charles Whalen
To: Paul Scott
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 11:14 PM
Subject: Fw: Why Toyota won't produce PHEVs (was: CalCars new NiMH battery)

Hi Paul,

Although the following email inserted below is quite lengthy (as all my emails tend to be), I nevertheless thought you might be interested in reading this, as it is my explanation and analysis for why (I believe) Toyota will not -- and more importantly, cannot -- produce PHEVs, which is what your group, Plug in America, has been working so hard to do, i.e. to try to persuade Toyota to produce PHEVs. I could very well be wrong (and would actually love to be proven wrong by future events), but I don't believe this is going to happen for the reasons I state below. :-(

However I don't pretend to be omniscient nor to have all the answers. This is just the opinion and analysis of one man who is very far away from the center of gravity and nexus of activity where all of these issues are playing out there in California. Given your close working relationship with high-level executives at Toyota (including maybe Dave Hermance himself?), I would love to get your take on my analysis below and any comments or corrections you might have. (I would love to be corrected on any of this.)

Best regards,

Charles

OK, now onto the heart of the matter about Cobasys' long history of aggressively defending its comprehesive NiMH patent portfolio, which gives it exclusive control over worldwide NiMH battery production.

I have not actually read the legal judgement against Panasonic in favor of Cobasys by the international court of artibration because that decision was sealed and supposed to remain confidential by prior agreement of the parties, as you probably know. However numerous details of that judgement/settlement have emerged in the press, including some revealed by Cobasys itself. What we know is that the court levied a $30 million fine against Panasonic and Toyota which they had to pay to Cobasys for violation of Cobasys' NiMH patents and back-payment of royalties owed to Cobasys. Panasonic had apparently argued that it had significantly improved upon Cobasys' original NiMH electrochemistry (upon which Cobasys' NiMH patents are based) and in so doing altered it sufficiently to the point that it should not be covered by Cobasys' patents. (This was alluded to in a recent RAV4 list exchange between Dave Goldstein and Bill Korthoff where they pointed out that one of Panasonic's improvements to Cobasys' NiMH electrochemistry was to substantially reduce its exothermicity.) But the international court of arbitration apparently did not buy that argument and sided with Cobasys, upholding its dominant patent monopoly on basic NiMH electrochemistry.

The terms of the judgment against Panasonic further stipulated that it could only produce NiMH batteries under license from Cobasys and according to the terms and restrictions of such license. (Prior to this judgment against Panasonic, Panasonic had not previously been a Cobasys licensee, but it is now, as you can see at: www.ovonic.com/alliances/alliances-licensees.htm.) The terms of Panasonic's license deal worked out as part of the settlement approved by the international court of arbitration and subsequently amended by agreement between the two parties this year are that Panasonic must pay a royalty (believed to be around 3%, similar to Sanyo's NiMH license deal with Cobasys) to Cobasys on every NiMH battery it produces until 2015 and furthermore that Panasonic can only produce "certain types" of NiMH batteries for "certain transportation applications" for vehicles sold in North America.

[There are numerous (albeit oblique) media references to this. To take just one example, see www.powerpulse.net/news/story.php?storyID=13593: "Cobasys announced that it has granted additional royalty-bearing license rights to Panasonic EV Energy Co. The expanded rights will permit Panasonic to solicit and sell NiMH battery products for certain North American transportation applications. In return, Cobasys will receive royalties on Panasonic North American sales of NiMH battery products through 2014."]

Although, as I said, the specific terms are confidential, this stipulation in Panasonic's license restricting it to producing only "certain types" of NiMH batteries for "certain transportation applications" is widely interpreted and understood to mean that Panasonic can only produce HEV batteries (<10Ah) but not BEV batteries (>80Ah) for vehicles sold in North America until 2015. Where this line is specifically drawn in Panasonic's license, whether it's closer to 10Ah or closer to 80Ah, is an interesting question, which of course we don't know the answer to. But the answer to that question is indeed very important because it is in that middle ground that we find the capacity range for PHEVs. So if the line is drawn closer to 80Ah, let's say for instance that Panasonic is permitted to produce NiMH batteries not greater than 50Ah, then that would allow Toyota to manufacture PHEVs with, say, a 40Ah battery pack for sale in North America. But if, on the other hand, the line is drawn at 10Ah, which I believe is more likely the case, i.e. that Panasonic is only permitted to produce NiMH batteries with capacities less than 10Ah, then that would obviously preclude Toyota from offering any PHEVs in the US until 2015.

There are two compelling reasons why the latter is the most likely case, i.e. that Panasonic is only permitted to produce NiMH batteries with capacities less than 10Ah.

First, a quick glance at Panasonic's battery product catalog (www.peve.panasonic.co.jp/e_catalog1.html) shows that their current offerings only consist of NiMH batteries less than 10Ah, specifically 6Ah and 6.5Ah, where prior to losing the legal battle to Cobasys, Panasonic had had their 95Ah EV-95 BEV battery up on their website in their online catalog, but it has now been removed and there is no more trace of it despite the fact that it is still being used in several hundred RAV4-EVs, a few of which presently need, and many more of which will need in the future, new EV-95 replacement batteries.

Second, Toyota steadfastly refuses to produce a PHEV despite very heavy, intense public pressure from all quarters, including prominent lobbying and advocacy groups such as Plug in America, Set America Free, CalCars, the EAA, top political and public policy leaders such as former CIA director Jim Woolsey, former Reagan Defense Undersecretary and prominent Washington neo-conservative hawk Frank Gaffney, many leading Congressmen and Senators of both parties, many of Toyota's own customers, and from the competitive threat of commercial ventures like E-Drive who are going to do it to Toyota's cars for them (as an aftermarket conversion kit) if Toyota doesn't do it themself.

Now, why is this? Don't you think this is quite strange, incongruous, and out of character for a company that prides itself on being the most innovative technology leader and is well known to be the most responsive automaker -- the most responsive to public pressure and to its customers' wishes and demands -- that such a responsive company could be so steadfast in resisting all this overwhelming public pressure and stubbornly refusing to go down the PHEV path? Don't you think that deep down Toyota wants to do this and is actually quite eager to do so? (I, for one, do.)

Well, there is only one answer to these questions, and it is quite obvious. The answer is that Toyota does indeed want to do a PHEV but is effectively precluded from doing so by Panasonic's (now a 60% owned and controlled Toyota subsidiary) restriction in its Cobasys license prohibiting it from producing NiMH batteries with capacities greater than 10Ah. So as much as Toyota would like to do a PHEV and very much wants to do so, it has its hands tied behind its back by Cobasys and is even muzzled by Cobasys from explaining the true reasons due to the gag order that Cobasys imposed on Toyota, which Toyota was forced to agree to.

So that is exactly why Dave Hermance has come out and made public statements a few times in the last several months where instead of explaining the real reasons that Toyota can't do a PHEV, he rather obfuscates by denigrating what E-Drive/EnergyCS is doing with the development their PHEV aftermarket conversion kit for the Prius by calling it "stupid" and saying that "no one in his right mind would want to buy something like that." I've heard from credible sources (who know Dave personally) that in private, off the record, Dave does not believe that, deep down, but that is just what he has to say on the record for public consumption because that is the company's party line, which we now know they are forced to tow by Cobasys.

Toyota has announced that they intend for all of their models, every single vehicle they offer, to all be hybrids by 2010. That is quite an ambitious goal, and so they have staked their company's entire future on hybrids. But in so doing, they are completely at the mercy of Cobasys, which literally has them by the balls. It is for this reason that Toyota is experimenting with lithium-ion batteries in prototypes and concept cars in Japan. But as we all know, and Toyota knows only too well, li-ions won't be ready for mass-market production vehicles for at least another 5-8 years due to the many safety, reliability, and longevity problems they currently have which still have to be resolved through further development. So Toyota is stuck with NiMH in the near to medium term future, and that means it is completely beholden to Cobasys and has to kowtow to them. Therefore, since Toyota has bet its entire future on hybrids with NiMH batteries, it has to be extremely careful to honor both the letter and the spirit of its license agreement with Cobasys, with all of its onerous restrictions, including both the types of NiMH batteries its Panasonic subsidiary can produce and also what it can and cannot say publicly about the reasons for what types of vehicles it does and does not produce. In short, Toyota cannot afford to piss off Cobasys.

This whole situation was also explained very well in the following recent article in Electrifying Times (www.electrifyingtimes.com/goodtoyota-badtoyota.html):

------------------------------------------------------------------

One RAV owner said to me some of the RAV4 EV owners are getting nervous about the battery life of the Panasonic NiMH batteries. They might try to unload them at 50,000 miles, even though a lot of Southern California Edison meter readers using RAV4 EVs are getting over 100,000 miles per battery pack. Where are they going to get new NiMH batteries? Panasonic does not sell them in the US anymore.

[...]

So far as I know, no one has sat down to try to write out the role that Chevron-Texaco "may have played" in bringing about the present situation, which is that there do not seem to be any replacement NiMH batteries, nor NiMH batteries for much (if any) new manufacturing of BEVs or PHEVs.

I sometimes wonder what Toyota would have to say, given that Chevron-Texaco, via the Cobasys lawsuit, more or less seems to have "shut them up good" with respect to the terms under which they could make NiMH batteries.

A considerable portion of Toyota's future is now bet on having access to legally-made NiMH for their hybrids, and so I doubt they would again risk violating the terms of their agreements with Chevron-Texaco by, say, manufacturing the somewhat-different NiMH for any new RAV4 EVs. I am, of course, speculating, and very much in the dark.

We do know that even just in the last few months we have seen continued press releases (from Energy Conversion Devices of course) announcing further seemingly restrictive NiMH manufacturing licensing agreements, this time with at least two major Chinese battery manufacturers. The restriction, identified in the press releases, is that the licensing agreements only apply to non-propulsion batteries. Here is an example:

www.ovonic.com/news_events/5_2_press_releases/20050601.htm

Doubtless there is some seemingly-harmless rationale for this distinction that is being made between NiMH for propulsion purposes and NiMH for non-propulsion purposes. It may seem harmless, but in the meantime, it would appear that several Chinese manufacturers are not licensed to make NiMH for propulsion, and that we (in the US) are acting mystified that Chinese demand for oil is becoming so huge that they are trying to buy an American oil company. Perhaps their demand for oil would be somewhat abated if our American oil company Chevron-Texaco made an effort to cut them licensing terms for BEV and HEV battery manufacturing that were less restrictive?

In the meantime, is anyone licensed to make NiMH for propulsion purposes? Anywhere? ... outside of those under other restrictions, such as those imposed in the confidential Toyota/Cobasys settlement? I don't think we've been able to find any real mass-produced, genuinely-affordable, genuinely-available possibilities for a project that I am on ... where the specs are pretty restrictive.

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OK, now to answer your first question about how many NiMH patent infringement lawsuits Ovonics/Cobasys has brought and how extensive their legal action has been, having only done a cursory google search on that, I can tell you that in addition to the big one against Panasonic, Ovonics also brought earlier lawsuits against at least Sanyo, Toshiba, and Yuasa, and there may have been others as well. Like Panasonic, these other three NiMH battery manufacturers -- Sanyo, Toshiba, and Yuasa -- were also not Ovonics/Cobasys licensees prior to being sued by Ovonics, but Ovonics prevailed in all cases and now all three of these companies are Cobasys licensees. In fact, the outcome of numerous such legal actions has been to uphold Cobasys' exclusive patent monopoly on basic NiMH electrochemistry and its worldwide control over NiMH battery production with the result that any battery manufacturer that wants to produce NiMH batteries can only do under license from Cobasys and must be a Cobasys licenesee, as every single NiMH battery manufacturer in the world now is. See www.ovonic.com/alliances/alliances-licensees.htm for the entire list of Cobasys' NiMH licensees.

Here's another reference: "Ovonic Battery was founded by ECD in 1982 to develop and commercialize its basic proprietary NiMH rechargeable battery technology. All significant consumer battery manufacturers worldwide (28 NiMH manufacturers) are licensees of Ovonic Battery." (From www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3864/is_200105/ai_n8946316).

And another reference (from www.greencar.com/index.cfm?content=news&ArticleID=29&show=all):

"This is not the first time that Energy Conversion Devices has vigorously sought to defend its advanced battery patents, which are based on the pioneering work of ECD founder and president Stanford Ovshinsky in the 1950s. After warnings from ECD that Matsushita was infringing on its patents in early 1996, Matsushita filed suit against ECD in U.S. District Court in Delaware seeking to have some of ECD's NiMH patents declared invalid. ECD answered that action by filing for a preliminary injunction in federal district court in Detroit that sought to enjoin Toyota from fleet testing its Matsushita NiMH-equipped RAV4 electric vehicles. A year earlier, ECD filed an unrelated patent infringement suit against Sanyo Electric, Toshiba, and Yuasa Battery Co. that went before the Federal Trade Commission, resulting in the three companies settling with ECD."

Finally, here is an excerpt from Cobasys' 1997 letter to shareholders (www.ovonics.com/PDFs/LtrstoShldrs/ecd97ltr.pdf):

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Intellectual Property/Patents

ECD's most valuable asset is its extensive patent portfolio of 352 issued U.S. patents and 825 foreign counterparts. Covering all aspects of our core businesses, they have resulted from our more than 30 years of work in the advanced technologies described earlier in this letter.

During 1997, the Japanese Patent Office in Tokyo recognized and registered the important, basic Ovonic Battery patent for nickel metal-hydride batteries. In doing so, ECD prevailed over the opposition of major Japanese and foreign battery manufacturers. This patent is a counterpart to U.S. Patent No. 4,623,597 that specifies the fundamentals that make NiMH batteries possible and commercially feasible. Japan joins 14 other industrial nations that have recognized the patent. In addition to the basic patent, a continuing stream of significant patents assure that Ovonic Battery will continue its leadership in the NiMH battery field.

During this past year, ECD spent $3 million defending its patent rights, primarily against Matsushita Battery Industrial Co., Ltd. (MBI), with respect to certain Ovonic Battery U.S. patents covering proprietary technology for NiMH batteries.

The case was conducted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. On December 23, 1997, the judge issued the final order and opinion giving ECD and Ovonic Battery precisely the results we had sought, with the sole exception of denying our request for attorneys' fees. The decision effectively limits MBI and its joint venture with Toyota Motor Corporation, Panasonic EV Energy Co. of Osaka, Japan, to one low energy density model EV battery (MHI-BX) covered by prior agreement with MBI without the ability to further improve the battery by utilizing ECD's advanced NiMH technology. The MHI-BX battery has lower specific energy than the current production GM Ovonic EV battery and significantly less energy than our advanced family of batteries, which puts the GM Ovonic battery in a much stronger competitive position.

This very favorable court outcome, coupled with the issuance of the basic Japanese patent for our Ovonic NiMH battery, confirms our dominant position and enhances our future business transactions. Both actions illustrate the strength of our basic intellectual property rights worldwide.

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Well, I hope that answers your questions, at least from the small amount of google research I did, with my apologies once again for being so long-winded.

Best regards,

Charles

[quoting from a previous email, Charles's note continues]:

With regard to CalCars' new bipolar NiMH battery from Electro Energy, one thing that CalCars apparently doesn't realize is that as soon as Electro Energy goes into commercial production, they are going to get their asses sued by Cobasys for violating Cobasys' exclusive worldwide patents on NiMH electrochemistry (at the cell level). If Electro Energy wants to produce a NiMH battery of any type, shape, or form, no matter what sort of innovative structure they might use to assemble cells into a module, then they absolutely *MUST* be a Cobasys licensee, just as every major NiMH battery manufacturer in the world is, but which they (Electro Energy) are not. Electro Energy will lose and lose badly in the patent infringement lawsuit that is sure to be coming from Cobasys. Cobasys/Ovonics has been extremely aggressive in suing to protect its exclusive worldwide monopoly and control over NiMH battery production. They have prevailed and won every single case they've ever brought, including against Panasonic, Sanyo, Toshiba, and Yuasa, who had to pay hefty multi-million dollar fines for patent infringement and back-payment of royalties and who are all now Cobasys licensees, paying royalties to Cobasys of around 3% on each battery produced. I should add that Panasonic, Sanyo, Toshiba, and Yuasa all lost these patent infringement cases in national and international courts despite the fact that they had tweaked and altered the specific chemical compounds and NiMH electrochemistry to some degree, such as to change its thermal characteristics. That just goes to show how deep, broad, iron-clad, and all-encompassing Cobasys' patent portfolio is over NiMH batteries. The fact that Electro Energy has its own patent portfolio on bipolar battery construction at the module level isn't going to help it one iota at the cell level, where it has none; all of the NiMH electrochemistry patents at the cell level are held exclusively by Cobasys, which fact has been repeatedly adjudicated and upheld by numerous courts of law and artibration.

Charles

 


Originally published: November 18, 2005 | Total Page Views: 20434


 

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Light Dancing:

I only just today came across the "NiMH Battery Industry Pelican Brief..." article. It really put a lot of missing pieces together for me, and I have sent it as an attachment to several friends. I really admired the work of Stan Ovshinsky and his wife, so it breaks my heart to think that he felt he had little choice but to get into bed with big oil. I'd sure like to know what sort of coercion and deception, even extortion, was involved. The facts, if well known,would probably make a powerful movie... "Who Burried the EV Battery, and why?" I suspect it was even more important to GM to reposess the batteries than the cars themselves. After all, they sure wouldn't want the public to realize just how long those batteries could really last.
02/Feb/2007
[47144]


joe rosa:

Bernard Joseph Rosa, Jr., J.D. (Unemployed) Box 1122?Sebastopol, CA 95472 ?707-824-6902 Bjrosajr@yahoo.com November 25, 2008 Subject: Oil Sector bails out Auto Sector Dear Senator: Clearly the US Auto industry is a significant factor in the economy. An approach offered to remedy that sector of our economy must consider the following: Oil, as the major beneficiary of the Auto/Transportation industry, is best equipped To provide the funding of a revitalization, or re-birth of the Auto industry, because of the enormous profits extracted from the consumers of oil over the past 10 years. The taxpayers have already provided the funds necessary and they are in the Oil sectors Coffers, past or future earnings. Consider that only 4 of the Oil Giants have over $130Billion in Cash/investments as of last year, they can well afford to give something back to help America. More to the point, is the auto industries stifling of battery technology for electric vehicles, see more on Chevron’s ownership of battery patents acquired from GM in 2001, see this link for more http://www.evworld.com/blogs/index.cfm?page=blogentry&authorid=51&blogid=104 Oil industry is should be considered in the same light of public utility. An Auto oversight board is necessary to help guide the Auto industry into modern fuel efficiencies, as well as alternative fuel sources. In other words, the industry must delivery vehicles that are applicable to the needs of the consumer. Oil must pay! Sincerely, B. Joe Rosa Joe’s Resume: http://hotjobs.yahoo.com/resumes/bjrosajr/cfocontroller
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Demand Destruction For Oil Vs. Predictions Of Higher Prices

 

Saturday | October 29, 2005

[This is a copy of a post I made originally on the EVWorld.com yahoo discussion board on 10-28-05.]

I have run across this idea recently of "demand destruction" for oil. For example, in an article yesterday in a paper where I live, it was discussed that in the recent gasoline pricing crisis, many people did turn to arrangements for ridesharing and public transportation, and they have significantly turned away from low-mileage-vehicle purchases and toward other options..... and that these choices may persist going forward. Thus, it was said, while prices for fuel have fallen recently, and demand has fallen locally and nationally in some ways, there is some question as to how much the demand will recover.

My take is this:

I think we have persisted for a long time with a lot of "softness" at the top end of this demand... there has always been this area of "easily correctable" demand, where we could make adjustments and reduce our (here in the US particularly) demand for Oil in response to the first hint of "the big fuel pricing crisis", and so that has happened.

I find it instructive to mention the electricity and natural gas pricing crisis that plagued California and others in the time around 2000-2001. At that time, my recollection is that in the first few months folks tightened their belts and did succeed in reducing their own personal and business demands for those goods. Let's say that households, in response to the shock of higher bills, took a hard look around and on average were able to reduce their demand around 10%. They found the "low hanging fruit" problems and fixed them. However, these fixes, while helpful, did *not* fix the overall crisis. High prices persisted, the rest of the demand for the goods were relatively inelastic and harder to reduce, and so additional solutions were necessary (including but not limited to addressing the illegal gaming of the system that was occurring, addressing (if only temporarily) the problems that came with a failed attempt to go to deregulation, etc.).

So, now, as we look at the noticeable reduction in US demand for oil that has occurred, and the partly-resultant possibly-momentary drop in oil prices, and we ask whether this demand destruction is a major and permanent fix to the oil pricing problem (not to mention all the other problems such as global warming), my guess is "no way". Yes, we can adjust here in America, and abroad, to such challenges and price shocks, but it is going to take more than a few changed vehicle purchases and public transportation choices. We have been through "round 1" but we have a very long road to travel before we can put the entire planet on a better more sustainable (economically and environmentally) path in transportation and energy use.

As I see it, we are heading into rounds 2 and maybe 3, with the upcoming home heating oil and natural gas for heating demands, this winter, and then, on the other side of this winter, who knows what we will see?

Our war machine is still very dependent on a steady supply of oil.

Certain driving seasons may be counted as "sort of adjustable" by Americans looking to conserve fuel, if (say) next Memorial Day we find Oil at a high price per barrel.

We are ignoring (still) the catastrophic effects we are having on the global environment with our non-sustainable-fuel use, and those effects may continue to have some direct effect not only on our lives but even specifically (with some irony) on the fuel sourcing, with (say) continued bad Hurricane seasons hurting oil platforms, etc.

All of this may get drowned out (literally) by continued onset of global warming, and the waters of discussion may be muddied by our perverse global collective continued destructive behavior (to which there are many individual exceptions) in the face of what may be the worst man-made environmental damage problem we have ever created, but we'll see.

The pricing and scarcity and supply problems that are part of our alt-fuel discussions are only part of the important inter-twined issues (with other issues being global military conflict as it is funded and motivated by conflicts over energy sources and energy profits, and global environmental problems as they relate to energy harvesting and use) but to the extent that simple energy economics are worth discussing in some isolation, I think we are at a point where it would be wise to understand that a moment of relief in that whole supply-demand equation is just a brief moment. Yes, we've probably "destroyed some demand" for oil, with prices at $3.00 per gallon for a little while in the US, but we have a long way to go to reach a long-term sustainable equation.

 


Originally published: October 29, 2005 | Total Page Views: 1395


 

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