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Biofuel vs. PV – stop drinkin’ the ethanol! June 13, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in balonium.
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MacKay's biofuel graphic

MacKay’s biofuel graphic

David MacKay has made a name for himself as the green energy “reality man”, bringing what he suggests is a dose of reality to the new energy discussion.

For instance, in a recent TED Talk he suggested that biofuels are a hopeless alternative for transport. He uses a simple calculation to show you’d need a strip of land 8 kilometres wide beside the road to fuel the cars running on that road.

But we already knew biofuels are a bad solution. What happens when you consider a good solution? (more…)

EV battery prices falling rapidly April 5, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in electric cars.
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Price declines in large battery packs are faster than expected.

A recent paper in Nature Climate Change attempts to track the real costs of electric car batteries, and find they are already well below the most wild-eyed predictions for 2020 made only a few years ago. If the trends continue, batteries will fall below a critical threshold around 2020, meaning that electric car lifetime costs will be lower than gasoline cars, in spite of higher up-front costs.


Electric cars and carbon intensity April 1, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in electric cars.
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You evil car you, you're so... so... I gawd I want one.

You evil car you! You’re so… so… oh gawd I want one.

As the regular readers of Energy Matters -the world’s most beautiful supermodels- are no doubt aware, I have a thing about electric vehicles. So when a story on the topic came up on CBC Radio One the other day my ears perked up. And when it turned out the story in question starts right here in Toronto, well, I’m off to the races!


Lies, damb lies, and misleading graphs – electric car efficiency in the AAAS February 21, 2015

Posted by Maury Markowitz in balonium, electric cars.
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Map of energy use of electric cars from the AAAS

Shouldn’t they have a caption here?

So someone slashdoted this story in the AAAS. Along with it comes the fancy graphic on the right.

Looking at that graph, it seems that the energy use of electric cars anywhere outside the deep south is terrible! And it looks that way until you read the small-print caption under the graph…

The average energy consumption per mile for an electric vehicle fleet over a full year. South Florida and the Pacific Coast boasted the greenest rates (170 Wh/km), whereas the upper Midwest fared the worst in terms of energy efficiency (196 Wh/km; red).

That’s right, the difference from green-is-good to red-is-bad is 26 Wh/km, or 13%. Wow, nice graph, AAAS. What’s worse, they fail to mention that gas powered cars also suffer from the same sorts of milage degradation in the cold, only worse. My Civic Hybrid gets about 53 mpg (US gallons) in the summer and only 38 in the winter. That’s a 28% drop, over double the amount.

I suggest everyone take a bit of their time and read my previous article on the topic. Running an electric car in the red area is still twice as efficient as a gas car in the same region.

Future grid: energy and transport September 16, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in power grid.
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Do not open the door

I was watching the fairly silly Extant last night and saw a bit of tech that caught my eye; it was a burner cell-phone powered by a chemical reaction you started by twisting it like a glo-stick. It’s a little throwaway prop that I just love.

The reason I bring this up is that they also assume every car is electric. Nothing new there, but in this case they use an actual car instead of a made-for-TV model. Lots of Teslas and BMW i3’s.

And that got me thinking. What sort of overall effect is there on the grid if everyone starts driving electric? I know that electric cars use less power overall, but what sort of effect does that have on the big picture?

Well unless I’m doing the math seriously wrong, it looks like the answer is “bring it on!”


Phinergy’s battery: energy storage, problem solved? June 6, 2014

Posted by Maury Markowitz in electric cars.
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Image of the test vehicle, a small electric car


You hear stories of new battery tech all the time, and I’ve generally learned to tune them out.

A company makes grandiose claims long before they’re  bending metal, and then run into some sort of impossible problem and that’s it, they’re done. You know, like EEStor.

So why am I writing about one now? Because this is Alcoa, and they’re on the road.

If this pans out, and that’s always a big if in battery tech, then basically the storage problem is done, for cars. There are several serious limitations, but it does neatly solve the major problem of providing long-distance driving.

But is this for real? Read on! (more…)