Archive for Hybrid Cars

Map of Hybrid/Electric vehicle sales across the US

NPR is doing a series looking at automakers’ push to meet the new CAFE standards. Included is this map of hybrid/electric vehicle sales across the US by market:

http://api.tiles.mapbox.com/v2/npr.basemap-world,npr.hybrid-sales/mm/zoompan,tooltips,legend,share.html#4/36.65000000000001/-96.96999999999997

I thought it would be interesting to compare it to gasoline prices across the US. Here’s one from Gasbuddy.

I’m having trouble getting the frames to work, so you need to open two separate windows to view them side by side.

The correlation looks near perfect with the exception of the most rural parts of the mountain west and (MT, UT) and norther Great Plains (ND,SD). These states buy fewer hybrids than you would expect given their gas prices. My guess is that they see it as unmanly: at least that was the case with one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends, a farmer from Montana living in Wyoming.

The flip side is the desert southwest: Tucson and Albuquerque buy more hybrids than I would expect based solely on gas prices. Perhaps the fragile ecosystem makes them more environmentally conscious?

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Another Reason to Drive a Hybrid: Never Replace Your Brake Pads

I took my 2002 Prius in to the shop today to have the brakes looked at because they were squeaking when I back up. It has 78,000 miles on it, and I’ve never changed the brake pads: most of the braking is done by the electric motor during regenerate breaking , but after 78K miles, the squeaking made me think they’d finally been worn down enough to be replaced. The reason I only heard squeaking when I back up is because the electric motor does the breaking almost all the time (unless I’m stomping on it) under normal
driving conditions.

Wrong! The garage just called me and told me it by back pads were about 1/2 worn down, and the fronts looked like they’d been recently replaced, but not resurfaced. The surface was glazed, which is what was causing the squeaking.  Or maybe it was the rear pads.

At this rate, it looks like I’m <em>never</em> going to have to replace the brake pads on the front, while I might have to replace the rears once before I hit 200,000 miles. 

I’ll have them checked again in another 5 years, just to be safe. ūüėČ

My Prius in front of a bank with Living roof (you can barely see the grass on the left.) Click through for better picture of the roof.

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The Evidence of my Obsession with EVs

I’ve been obsessing about the best way to replace petroleum for transit fuels. Unlike venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, I think electricity will win the day over biofuels.. the cellulosic material can be put to better use.

This has lead to a series of articles over the last few months, and I thought I’d gather them all in one place, here:

1. Why Automakers may be blindsided by updtart EV makers.

2. How much are people really willing to pay for extra range?

3. How much is range worth, updated with new poll.

4. Why Cellulosic Electricity may Beat Cellulosic Ethanol

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October Investing Articles Index

I’ve been writing a lot about how we’ll get around in the face of much higher oil prices. Several articles this month deal with how we can best invest in the eventual solutions.

October 2nd: Efficienct Transit and Transmission Stocks from Fortune Magazine.

October 7th: Alternative Energy Mutual Funds and ETFs

October 14th: Better Ways to Invest in Peak Oil: Bikes and Public Transport

October 21st: An In-depth look at Geothermal Technology

October 24th: Presentations from Montrose and the Keiretsu Forum Academy

October 25th: What we can learn from the Arizona Renewable Energy Assesment

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Desperation, but Good Desperation in Local Housing Market

Want to roll a Prius into your mortgage?

The fallout from the subprime mess has come to my neighborhood. This ad appeared in the community paper put out by the developer:

desperation.jpg

Now, you can get a free Prius with the standard solar you get on Harvard Communities’ (massively overpriced) Architect Collection homes. From an economic perspective, it makes a lot of sense for the builder to install solar; it costs them a lot less to do it than people who have to retrofit. But what’s the logic in having the builder fill your garage?

See the solar panels

These developers (especially the high end ones- these’ll set you back $800K) will do anything to avoid having to lower their price. Personally, I think they’re smart, people are more interested in buying things for status than practicality.

The world is crazy, but I shouldn’t complain. It may just get some people out of SUVs and into Hybrids.

But it does bother me that the most important energy efficiency things Harvard Communities is doing are quite cheap (good insulation, sealing the house well, using efficienct appliances) but it’s the splashy expensive stuff like a free car and PV that gets all the press. It makes people think that you have to spend a lot of money to be energy efficient. You don’t, but it’s a belief that is liable to keep coming back to haunt us for a long time.

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How to Sell Energy Efficiency

In my Alt Energy Stocks column this week, I take a look at what business needs to do to sell energy efficiency to the consumer. I look at the examples of the Prius’s sucess, despite only marginally imporved economics over non-hybrid vehicles, the CFL’s slow path to acceptance, and difficulties in selling geothermal heat pumps. I conclude that the economics of an energy efficiency measure have very little to do about how well it sells. To find out what does, you can read more here.

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Vehicle to Grid, without the Vehicle

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how plug-in hybrids will change the economics of wind.¬† The idea is that they con be programmed to charge when there is surplus capacity on the electric grid (at night, and especially when the wind is blowing), and even act to do a little peak shaving by providing back up power during peak times, a technology referred to as Vehicle-to-Grid or V2G.¬†¬† Hybrids-Plus of Boulder has even teamed up¬†¬†with Colorado’s Office of Energy Management and Conservationand others to build a demonstration Prius+ with V2G capability.

 This is a great idea, and it is likely to both speed the adoption of plug-in hybrids (because the energy management services a car with V2G capability can offer are valuable to a utility, and so some utilities will probably be persuaded to provide a rebate to buyers in their service area) and the adoption of wind power (because the intermittent power from can be used more effectively by plug-in-hybrids than it can by the current gird.

Unfortunately, it will be at least 5 years and probably a lot more before we see mass production plug-in-hybrid or electric vehicles with V2G, given the long lead times needed to introduce new models and technology in the automotive industry.¬† This got me thinking: why does the V2G concept have to be limited to cars?¬† Don’t we have lots of electronic equipment that has internal batteries for portable use, but which we often leave plugged in to the grid?¬†

The answer, of course, is right in front of me: my laptop.¬† There are lots of them, they all have batteries, and they’re usually plugged in (mine is, at least.)

Uninterruptible power supplies(UPS) are less common,¬†but perhaps even better candidates, because there is no weight constraint imposed by the fact that we often lug our laptops around with us, and are always plugged in.¬† If an electric utility were to offer¬†relatively large rebates¬†(through a¬†Demand Side Management program) to customers who bought a special UPS that the could signal to only charge when there was surplus power was available on the grid, and to supply high-value power to the grid at peak, many businesses and individuals for whom a battery backup was only a matter of convenience rather than necessity might buy them.¬† Such an upgraded UPS would likely extensive additions to the electronics, because they already have electronics to regulate voltage drops and spikes for the devices plugged into them.¬† I’m no electrical engineer, but it seems to be that it would not be too difficult to reconfigure a UPS to provide regulation and virtual spinning reserves for the grid as a whole.

The great advantage of this approach is that a V2G UPS could be available to the public much sooner than a V2G plug-in hybrid.  This would allow utilities the opportunity to evaluate the effects of fairly large scale deployment of V2G plug-in hybrids, without nearly as much expense, and years sooner than could happen with cars.

Is there an investment opportunity which would benefit from this idea?  A lot of the same companies that are likely to benefit from the grid upgrades we need anyway.  The extra demand for batteries will help battery makers, as well as makers of other electricity storage devices such as ultracapacitors and flywheels.  Other industries that might benefit are makers of UPS systems and laptop power supplies; power electronics in general, but especially companies that build small scale and consumer power supplies and regulation devices.  The whole point of the idea is that the cost is spread out to lots of consumers who are buying these devices for reasons unrelated to making the grid function better, but that they are much cheaper because of this added benefit to the utility.

Alone, this is not a good reason to buy power electronics companies, so the thing to do is to research the industry, and find companies you think are worth buying anyway.  The possibility of widespread Laptop-2-Grid, UPS-2-Grid, rechargeable flashlight-2-Grid, and so on are just an added possible benefit on the upside, and perhaps some incentive to look at the industry in the first place.

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