Thursday, December 31, 2009

Give Till It Feels Good!

Happy EV Owner
Seven years and 77,700 miles - all on sunlight.

Hey Everybody,

When I started writing this blog, some three years ago, it was an email list sent to our Electric Vehicle Association of Southern California members, and to many of my Plug In America friends. We were all trying to spread the word about these new era plug-in electric cars that were coming soon, and how great they were going to be. Back then, there were few stories to report on, but now, it's a torrent of news. The momentum of money, and the growing understanding of the technology, is evident.

There are now over 1200 of you on this list with new ones added every day. Friends tell friends to start paying attention since buying a car is not something you do every year. The next purchase needs to be the right one. Buying a dirty oil burner just as the electrics are coming on line would be a huge mistake. The next time the oil companies, and those wonderful sheiks of Saudi Arabia, decide to charge $4.50 a gallon, what are you going to do? The trick is, do you wait till 300 million other Americans want an EV, or do you get one now?

We're witnessing history in fast forward. In a few short years, maybe 2014 or 2015, it'll be obvious to everybody that batteries will take over. As the early adapters drive their shiny new EVs home, show them to the neighbors and describe the benefits - and the incredible feeling of driving a quiet, powerful, non-polluting car - word will spread fast. I know Nissan and GM are nervous about how many will sell, but trust me, this is going to be fun.

Having said all that, there is still work to be done. Plug In America has been THE leading organization providing the education of legislators, regulators and the general public on the idea of using cleaner, cheaper, domestic electricity instead of dirty, expensive, foreign oil as the energy that drives our cars.

I've never made an ask like this with my blog, but now's as good a time as any.

We are sending two of our best speakers to the Austin Climate Protection Conference & Expo. We'll have our booth and be speaking on at least one panel, maybe two. We are cutting costs as much as possible, but there are expenses totaling one thousand dollars.

If you feel that having the choice to drive a car that never pollutes is worth anything, if you feel that never giving the oil companies another dime has value to you, then please send what you can to Plug In America (we're a 501 c-3) and help us with this gig. I promise, Marc Geller and I will spread the word to a lot of good Texans!

To contribute, go to

Just for fun: This is our friend and neighbor, Russell, an artist with flair (who also has EV & PV). He painted this mural at our house as a gift to us for our efforts to the cause (can you spot the kitties?). After completing the job, he was so happy he levitated. Never saw that before, but was happy to have a camera at the ready. Thanks Russell!

Thanks everybody, and have a great New Year!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Plug In America’s Top 12 EV Myths

Holidays are great for the extra reading time they provide, right? So if you haven’t read Plug In America’s Top 12 EV Myths, now’s the moment. These Myths, and the Facts that debunk them, have been picked up by media coast to coast including in Jim Motavalli's blog on the Mother Nature Network. You’ll find them on our homepage, too.

Thanks for a great year. I really appreciate any and all who want to learn about EVs and who read my blog. I’m looking forward to the next decade—starting with EVs in showrooms by late 2010—and keeping you up to date on the latest news.

Happy New Year,


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why Solstice Is Special To Me

Winter solstice has always been special to me given it's the shortest day of the year. Even with the short hours, our 3 kW PV system will generate many clean kilowatt hours today, and every day from now till June's summer solstice, we'll generate more as the sun reaches higher in the sky and more photons slam into the panels at 300,000 kilometers per second knocking electrons free from the silicon so they can travel through the copper wires and do the work we need done.

But in addition to the extreme astronomical position, winter solstice just happened to be the day that Zan and I took possession of our EV. Our planet has traveled around the sun 7 times since 2002 and we've driven our EV more than 77,000 miles on the solar-generated kilowatt hours made on our roof. There's a bit of a back story here that many of you on my list might find interesting. I asked Zan to help write this post, given her part in making it all happen.

She said: Seven years ago today Paul and I took delivery of our Toyota RAV4 EV and everything changed. Paul was still somewhat bald from the chemo he’d recently completed to wash away any possible return of the bladder cancer he’d been diagnosed with several months before—and which was the impetus for our going electric. We’d installed solar on our roof shortly after the oncologist had told Paul that there would be nothing to do, no treatment options if the cancer returned. Hearing that, Paul decided not to postpone his life-dreams any longer. A lifelong enviro, his bucket list had photovoltaics at the top. We learned about EVs and the people who love them while searching online for a solar installer.

He said: We bought the system in the fall and the installation just happened to be on my 50th birthday. What a wonderful present! Since it was a small system, the job was completed in a single day. We awoke the next morning to see our electric meter's disk gradually slowing down as the sun crept higher. We watched with glee when the disk stopped spinning and then slowly began spinning backwards. We were, for the first time, generating more energy than we were using and our utility was buying our clean energy to sell to our neighbors. And this was on the shortest day of the year!

As good as that was, we were about to experience better.

She said: Paul connected with a couple of people in our neighborhood who had purchased RAV4 EVs and took one for a test drive. He was immediately sold but now had to sell the wife….He didn’t have much convincing to do and I’ll never forget my first moments in an EV. For starters, I’d never realized how reliant we are on the sound of an engine firing up to know when to step on the gas. But the moment I pulled from the curb—without hearing a sound—I was overwhelmed with joy at the notion that I was finally, finally making a real contribution to the planet. Nothing I’d ever done before had felt sufficient—no recycling, no reusing, no reducing. But driving a car, one of the most environmentally destructive instruments in existence, that didn’t even have a tailpipe? Driving a gas-free, zero-emission mini-SUV fueled with sunshine? That felt like enough and then some. Knowing that if I could buy one now, they’d be available in all makes and models one day - that felt fantastic. That felt hopeful.

He said: Alas, the future we both envisioned for our country, and for the planet, was delayed. The carmakers and oil companies had other plans that didn't involve switching from filthy, dirty oil to clean, renewable electricity. Their considerable financial heft thrown at state and federal government regulators resulted in the near death of the electric car, accurately depicted in Chris Paine's "Who Killed the Electric Car?" But the unrelenting efforts of Plug In America (then known as Don' and its supporters kept the flame alive, and the pressure we continue to apply to the car companies and regulators, combined with a worldwide increase in oil prices, has resulted in an EV resurgence. Every car company in the world is now racing to get their respective plug-in cars to market.

She said: This is truly something to cheer, but the ability to manufacture enough clean cars fast enough to head off the worst of the coming environmental deluge is not looking good. For me, it was never about the car anyway. When the new EVs and plug-in hybrid electric cars come out, I won’t care if they look like rockets or rhinoceroses. What matters to me is whether they can be fueled with renewable electricity generated by sunshine or wind. What matters to me is that scientists are saying that climate change is happening faster than anyone had predicted. What matters to me is that polar bears are drowning because they have to swim longer distances to reach the ice they can rest on.

However, today is not the day to despair, but to celebrate what we can. For starters, Paul’s also been cancer free for well over seven years and the docs say he’s out of the woods. Meanwhile, the work that Plug In America has done, in concert with so many others, has resulted in massive change in a very short time.

He said: So, as the light dims on our seventh solstice, we celebrate what we've achieved and steel ourselves for the fight that continues. Knowing we gain supporters with every day keeps the light shining bright inside our hearts.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fleet Purchases by States Could Kick Start Plug-ins

This is a remarkably well written op-ed by Denis Hayes and Steve Marshall on a little discussed aspect of the economic case for EVs. I strongly recommend you read and pass it along.

This post is essentially an open letter to Washington Gov., Chris Gregoire, asking her to enact a simple plan that will hasten the adoption of plug-in cars. I want you to forward this to your respective governors since the concept is relevant to all 50 states.

Essentially, Hayes and Marshall propose that Gov. Gregoire enact a moratorium on the purchase of new fleet vehicles. Just keep the three-year-old cars a bit longer. This would save several million dollars the first year alone. Then, when the Leaf and Volt enter the market, Hayes and Marshall want the state to buy as many as possible for their fleets with the saved funds, ensuring a strong demand from the start. In other words, "No Plug, No Deal" on a statewide scale!

How to pay for it?

The Washington State Transportation Commission estimates $16 billion leaves the state each year for foreign oil. Every person who fills a tank with gas or diesel sends over 60% of his or her money out of the country. Additionally, the Washington taxpayers spend tens of millions of their money to fuel the state fleet.

This is important because, for every EV that replaces a gas burner, the money spent for the energy to move it stays local - $16 billion dollars in the case of Washington. Imagine what it is for California? For the whole country?

With each plug-in car that's sold, the spigot of money that's going full blast to the oil companies right now, will gradually close, until decades from now, it's shut off entirely. All those billions of dollars that had been lining the pockets and robes of the most evil people on earth - and I don't make that statement lightly - will instead be staying in our own pockets, with a little going to the utilities.

And if you buy or lease a solar system, you can even pay yourself the profit you would be giving the utilities.

What Gov. Gregoire could do on a state level could easily be done across the country. Make no mistake, the economic benefits to us as individuals, and to us as a nation, are massive.


BTW, as I write this, I'm listening to a great promo for the Nissan Leaf on one of my local NPR stations, KPCC. I've been reading and hearing promos for the Volt, too. The media hits for EVs are coming faster and faster. Pretty soon, they'll be all over television.

"Steve Marshall is one of the co-authors of “Plug-in Electric Vehicles” (Brookings Institution Press) and a senior fellow at the Cascadia Center. Denis Hayes, longtime environmental leader and the national coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970, is President of the Bullitt Foundation."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Friendly Fight on the Left Coast

Over the past few months, we've seen a surge of announcements from the mayors of the four largest west coast cities over which city will be the leader in plug-in cars.

In August, Portland's Sam Adams said:

“This is exactly the kind of clean tech investment that Portland, and Oregon, have fought for, “said Mayor Sam Adams. “I have committed to making Portland a national leader in the EV industry, and with Nissan and eTec, we’re able to move our agenda forward.”

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has challenged Sam Adams over which of their cities will be the nation’s EV capitol.

He also said,

“Electric vehicles have the possibility to transform our economy, revive our car industry, and improve our environment. To make sure electric vehicles succeed this time around we need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in battery technology and [charging] infrastructure.”

In Seattle, Mayor Greg Nickels, who is arguably the best of the lot when it comes to the environment said,

"I extend an invitation to my fellow mayors to join us. I congratulate Portland and San Francisco for taking major steps to green up their grid while preparing for the electric car revolution. This is an exciting time, and the coming clean energy economy will open up plenty of opportunities for all of our cities to win jobs and investment."

And Mr. "better late than never" Los Angeles Mayor, Villaraigosa, finally joined the group last week at a Bloomberg conference near UCLA saying LA would install 500 charging stations. While this is a good start, it is coming a bit late to the game. Since much of the modern EV movement was birthed from LA companies like AC Propulsion and Aerovironment. you'd think our Mayor would be more engaged. They need to put a team of people together and get busy. There's a lot of work to do.

Which brings me to BYD, the Chinese battery company-turned-EV company. You may recall that Warren Buffett bought 10% of BYD about a year ago. He wants to make Los Angeles the U.S. headquarters for the fast growing EV/PHEV maker. He also sees our city as the most logical starting point to sell his cars.

"BYD Co., the Chinese auto maker part-owned by one of Warren Buffett's companies, is likely to choose the Los Angeles area as the lead market for the electric car it plans to start selling in the U.S. late next year, a senior executive said.
BYD is also leaning toward choosing the West Coast metropolis as home to its U.S. headquarters for the auto business, Henry Li, a BYD senior director in charge of its auto business outside China, said in an interview Wednesday."

All the more reason to get our city ready.


Monday, December 7, 2009

CO2enhagen Daze

As we slide into Nordic overdrive in Copenhagen, my mind bounces like a ping pong ball between cautious optimism and deep despair.

On the one hand, the solutions for reducing CO2 are going to be reasonably easy to do. In the U.S., the waste alone will pay for most of the CO2 reduction. Conservative estimates are that 30% of energy used in the U.S. is wasted. It's probably closer to 50%. From homes and buildings built in the era of cheap energy that bleed heat and cooling, to cars, trucks and SUVs designed to be big and powerful without any regard to aerodynamics, mass or the gross inefficiencies of internal combustion.

It's very easy to downsize vehicles while keeping them safe. And as the bloated ICE age vehicles are gradually replaced by the smaller, nimble electrics, our personal contribution to climate change will diminish to a small fraction of today.

Add to that the enormous gains to be had retrofitting buildings. The millions of retrofitting jobs will be funded, for the most part, by the savings in energy.

The best approach seems to be the one described by James Hansen in an op-ed in today's NY Times.

"Under this approach, a gradually rising carbon fee would be collected at the mine or port of entry for each fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas). The fee would be uniform, a certain number of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public would not directly pay any fee, but the price of goods would rise in proportion to how much carbon-emitting fuel is used in their production."

And the coolest part of the idea:

"All of the collected fees would then be distributed to the public. Prudent people would use their dividend wisely, adjusting their lifestyle, choice of vehicle and so on. Those who do better than average in choosing less-polluting goods would receive more in the dividend than they pay in added costs."

This is perfect! You add costs to the dirty fuels that have brought us wars and global pollution, sick and dying people, and despotic regimes run by the most evil people on Earth. You then distribute that money to everyone equally. That way, if you are efficient and use cleaner energy, you will make money. If you are wasteful and use dirty energy, you'll pay money to those treehuggers you hate so much.


It'll work great, too, "if" we get it passed.

I praise James Hansen for writing "Cap and Fade", especially in light of Paul Krugman's column, "An Affordable Truth". Friedman makes the inevitable "practical" case for cap and trade. If all we can get is a watered down C&T, I'll take it, but we'd be once again accepting less from our leaders than we as a society need to progress.

Which bounces me back to deep despair.

Our population is growing fast. When I was a kid in elementary school, we had about 3 billion people on the planet. By the time I graduated high school, it was 4 billion. Well, time stands still for no one and we now find ourselves pushing 7 billion people! And it's growing faster than ever, mostly in countries that cannot begin to care for the millions who will soon die from war, lack of food, or just global indifference.

There's so little time and all our Congress can do is dither.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hansen wants Copenhagen to fail

One of my heroes is climate scientist, James Hansen. He's been the most effective activist advocating for reduced emissions of CO2 in the world.

I'm not going to give you my take on this other than to say - read it.

"This is analagous to the issue of slavery faced by Abraham Lincoln or the issue of Nazism faced by Winston Churchill," he said. "On those kind of issues you cannot compromise. You can't say let's reduce slavery, let's find a compromise and reduce it 50% or reduce it 40%."