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Beth Stackpole
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One step at a time
Beth Stackpole   1/31/2012 6:43:04 AM
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I think this is a very interesting development, whether or not it ever bears fruit today or takes a while to do so. One of the things well noted at the end of Chuck's piece by Dotter is "this is just the beginning." The only way we are ever going to see any sustainable innovation around renewable energy and EV battery development is to try things out, refine them, work out the bugs, throw out what doesn't work, and move on to the next development.

Not everything will work, not everything will stick. But each little move is progress. So with that in mind, I think this is a great development, even if it just inches us a tiny bit closer down the path to harvesting renewable energy. Also a great example of the intersection of automotive technology and mainstream IT technology, but that's fodder for another comment!!

 

williamlweaver
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Platinum
Re: One step at a time
williamlweaver   1/31/2012 7:35:49 AM
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So I'm guessing that Renewable Energy generators will voluntarily spray paint their electrons blue while there will be additional regulations passed requiring dirty (Natural gas, Coal, Nuclear) Energy generators to paint their electrons red. And then the lithium-ion recharging station will preferentially utilize the "good" electrons according to color?

Charles Murray
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Re: One step at a time
Charles Murray   1/31/2012 6:48:52 PM
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You've got the right idea, William. But you can't spray paint electrons, as it might be a questionable environmental practice. It would be better, environmentally speaking, to put little hats on them.

williamlweaver
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Platinum
Re: One step at a time
williamlweaver   1/31/2012 8:56:21 PM
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Chuck, drat. I was hoping to use spray paint back pressured by CFCs. But I like the little hat idea....but only if the felt has been softened with mercury from shattered CFLs...

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: One step at a time
Ann R. Thryft   1/31/2012 1:18:24 PM
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I agree with Beth's first comment. Obviously we're not "there" yet, whether "there" means having enough energy in the smart grid to power up our electric cars, replacing all petro-based plastics with bio-based ones, recycling all plastics, or making all plastic items only out of recycled plastics (note those last two are not the same thing). But if we don't start we'll never get there, either. Many European countries, as well as Japan, started tackling some of these issues 20 years ago (*only* 20 years after the first Earth Day) and they are much more advanced than anything we've got going in the US after 40 years of dithering or ignoring the problems instead of working on their possible solutions.

 

Beth Stackpole
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Re: One step at a time
Beth Stackpole   1/31/2012 1:23:53 PM
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Well said, Ann. We've got to start somewhere.

Watashi
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Re: One step at a time
Watashi   2/1/2012 12:50:30 PM
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Be very cautious in touting Japanese advancement in grid technology.  Their grid is ridiculous considering that they are a developed country.  They have yet to standardize on 50 or 60 Hz distribution!  You can see parallel high tension lines side by side feeding two distrubution networks; one 110 VAC 60Hz (US standard), and the other 220VAC 50 HZ (Euro standard).

Hellmut Kohlsdorf
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Gold
Re: One step at a time
Hellmut Kohlsdorf   2/1/2012 10:14:26 AM
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As many of you might be aware of we in Germany already have a pretty high amount of renewable energies in our grid and have made the decision to stop using nuclear energy at all. This has led to a couple of issues with which we are dealing right now.

The infrastructure of our grid is not adequate to transport the energy as it is required when feeding substantial amounts of renewable energy. This is due to the fluctuation oin the availability of solar energy, weather and time of the day, wind to when there is wind and when not. Additionally great wind parks are being build off-shore and this energy needs to be transported i.e. to the south of the country, etcetera.

Here comes the point where a concept of intelligent recharging using the batteries in the cars as a depositorywhere to store energy when there is too much of it. Something similar is already being done with smartmeters in household devices like washing machine or heating. When energy is in surplus the smartmeter informs the household and starts running the machine. Imagine a car recharge, either during the stop at home overnight or during the day at work. You let the system know the car will be conected for a couple of hours, please make sure its charged by the time I pick it up again, but please do charge when energy is cheap.

hazydave
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Iron
Re: One step at a time
hazydave   2/1/2012 10:50:05 AM
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Hey, yeah, I used to work in Hildesheim, Lower Saxony... windmills all over the place in Northern Germany. We don't have so many in the USA, though there's a wind farm about 45 minutes East of where I live today, in Atlantic City, NJ. 

Primitive smart grid is already an option my area for control of large appliances during peak hours. But no one's currently set up to deal with the success of electric vehicles. Today, most EVs are charged by Level 1 (120V, 16A) or Level 2 (220V, 30A+) chargers... that's why they take all day or night to charge up. But once they start using Level 3 DC "Fast" charging (500V, 125A... over 60kW), smart grid is going to be critical. 

Alexander Wolfe
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Definition question
Alexander Wolfe   1/31/2012 12:06:00 PM
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For me this begs the question as to what's the definition and/or usage of the term "Renewable Electrons." Looking at it in an engineer sense, I would say that this is really a marketing term that refers to power sourced in a certain way --i.e., excess energy available from the grid, incrementally cost essentially zero (other than the adjudication of the delivery via apps, Onstar etc.) because on a pure technical basis the term doesn't on the face of it make any sense. Am I off base here? 

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Definition question
Beth Stackpole   1/31/2012 12:49:57 PM
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I would have to agree with you, Alex. I interpreted it as a fancy way of referring to the smart grid which we hear so much about, and more about apps that allow you tap into on-demand energy capabilities, not any real engineering innovation that had any to do with physical electrons.

Charles Murray
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Re: Definition question
Charles Murray   1/31/2012 6:45:50 PM
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No, you're not off base here, Alex. This is essentially a marketing effort. I think it's really targeted at those who want to feel that they're not using coal to power their Volt. They hope they're using renewables. But it's impossible to know where your particular energy is coming from and the chances that it's coming from renewables is very, very slim today.   

Tim
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Platinum
Re: Definition question
Tim   1/31/2012 8:53:50 PM
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I guess that some people are going to buy a Volt because it will make them feel good that they are theoretically doing a little bit to help the environment.  If the system tells that set of consumers that they are also pulling energy from renewable sources, it will make them feel better, and a happy consumer is someone that will buy from you again.

hazydave
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Iron
This is a gimmick, but the Volt itself is real
hazydave   2/1/2012 9:51:10 AM
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This really does seem like a gimmick. Yes, there's a small bit of renewable energy being put into the grid. There's also a small bit of renewable energy being pulled from the grid. The only way you can be sure that you're getting those "spraypainted green electrons" is to live in a place that allows you to contract with a 100% renewable energy company. Where I live, in South Jersey, there are a few such choices, including the Atlantic City Wind Farm. These also require parting with a little more green... the money kind. I pay about $25-30 more per month to buy energy from a renewable supplier than just take from the grid. 

And of course, what this means is that my money for power goes to the renewable supplier. In theory, they're putting as many of those green-colored electrons into the grid as I and other subscribers are pulling out, if not more. At best, Chevy's plan is counting on making you feel good about charging your Volt during one of those "more" periods. 

The Volt, on the other hand, is one possible first step toward being able to drive on renewable power. Most users won't until there's more renewable power. In fact, if every consumer in the USA switched to BEVs tomorrow, the capacity of the US power grid would have to double... and that's not going to happen with windmills and waterfalls, not that fast. So it's good this grows, but grows at the right pace. But the possibility of running on renewable power doesn't exist for most vehicles; even my 2003 Prius is simply managing fossil fuel better to give me 40-45mpg and lower emissions... it's still running on dino-juice. 

RNDDUDE
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Platinum
Re: This is a gimmick, but the Volt itself is real
RNDDUDE   2/1/2012 10:04:49 AM
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I have said it before here, the REAL issue that needs addressed is to move away from an "on demand" electric energy mentality to meaningful STORAGE technologies. Alternative energy sources, by their nature, need to be gathered whenever they are productive, and shunted into an efficient storage system. I favor kinetic myself, but other ways would work. Then you could reduce peak demand pressures on the utilities. There doesn't seem to be a high-level push to do the research on these...yet.

hazydave
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Iron
Re: This is a gimmick, but the Volt itself is real
hazydave   2/1/2012 10:26:06 AM
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Totally. The idea today is that the renewables are backed up by conventional grid power plants. But that fails as renewable energy becomes a significant part of the peak capacity. Or if the grid peak load and the renewable peak output don't align well. 

There are utiltity-scale flywheel farms going in to deal with this; one in New York last year and a new one being built in Pennsylvania. These are very efficient, and the modern flywheel units are designed to last 25+ years. And unlike most renewable sources, or other energy storage systems like water storage, these can be located just about anywhere, in particular, closer to the load than the energy collection/generation. 

RNDDUDE
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Platinum
Re: This is a gimmick, but the Volt itself is real
RNDDUDE   2/1/2012 12:29:35 PM
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hazydave
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Iron
Re: One step at a time
hazydave   2/1/2012 10:07:18 AM
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While true, it's not correct to compare renewable energy harvesting (wind, solar, hydroelectric) efficiency to fuel use efficiency. There's an effectively infinite supply of wind and solar energy; we're getting better at capturing it, but even if we're only 20% efficient, it's not as if that other 80% were going somewhere useful to mankind anyway.

On the other hand, if I had an actual 30% efficient ICE (engine, maybe, but who;e car, well to wheel? Not likely... about 15% for an ICE and 20% for a diesel, maybe 25% for a Prius-type full hybrid), I'd save real, in-hand energy going to a 45% efficient system. 3-phase AC electric motors themselves can hit 95%+ efficiency, but until the batteries can deliver more than 85% charge-cycle efficiency, the car itself looks improvable, even at 80% or so overall. And that's before you consider the efficiency of the grid, plus other aspects of power generation (pollution, global warming, etc).  The best fuel to plug efficiency is probably natural gas, at just over 50% efficiency.

Harpo-54
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Silver
Renewable Electrons
Harpo-54   2/1/2012 10:42:01 AM
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This is just more silliness coming out of Generous Motors to try and market their $250,000 taxpayer supported cars to the general public.

Like Solyndra and so many other Green Boondoggles government supplements will not get past that fact that a Kilowatt hour is a commodity as is a horsepower-hour.  These commodities provide necessary engagement with daily logistics (getting to work) and it is considered mostly on a cost bassis.

A reasonable gas sipping car may not have the MPG or Dollar per HP efficiency of a pure electric (depending on what your local utility rates are)  but when I need to get into traffic at 70mph and I want to drive 200 miles in one day on a whim or an emergency basis, I can do it.   All the E-glory in the world isn't going to make me feel good enough to get rid of these basic requirements.  Lets not get me started on collision safety..

This whole Green experiment would be a cute senior class project and would be forgivable under purely academic excercises at the collegiate level.  But when a very average engineer like myself can compute the cost logistics of Solar PVC, Electric cars,  Wind, et cetera in about 5 minutes and prove it's cost inefficiency, there is no excuse for corporate and government cronyism conspiring to burn taxpayers or stock holders money on projects that only wishful thinking green- apparatchiks or the vanity of elites with money to blow can afford.

There is no good old college try here...   When you are dealing with peoples lives, physical pretection and money, you'd better hit the mark without an "overcoat" of Marketing Shenanigans covering up the true economics.

Harpo-54
User Rank
Silver
Renewable Electrons
Harpo-54   2/1/2012 10:42:02 AM
This is just more silliness coming out of Generous Motors to try and market their $250,000 taxpayer supported cars to the general public.

Like Solyndra and so many other Green Boondoggles government supplements will not get past that fact that a Kilowatt hour is a commodity as is a horsepower-hour.  These commodities provide necessary engagement with daily logistics (getting to work) and it is considered mostly on a cost bassis.

A reasonable gas sipping car may not have the MPG or Dollar per HP efficiency of a pure electric (depending on what your local utility rates are)  but when I need to get into traffic at 70mph and I want to drive 200 miles in one day on a whim or an emergency basis, I can do it.   All the E-glory in the world isn't going to make me feel good enough to get rid of these basic requirements.  Lets not get me started on collision safety..

This whole Green experiment would be a cute senior class project and would be forgivable under purely academic excercises at the collegiate level.  But when a very average engineer like myself can compute the cost logistics of Solar PVC, Electric cars,  Wind, et cetera in about 5 minutes and prove it's cost inefficiency, there is no excuse for corporate and government cronyism conspiring to burn taxpayers or stock holders money on projects that only wishful thinking green- apparatchiks or the vanity of elites with money to blow can afford.

There is no good old college try here...   When you are dealing with peoples lives, physical pretection and money, you'd better hit the mark without an "overcoat" of Marketing Shenanigans covering up the true economics.

JoeS
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Bronze
Re: Renewable Electrons
JoeS   2/1/2012 11:20:01 AM
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I have some problems with your post.  

1) The Volt is not $250,000.  It's expensive enough at 1/8 of that.

2) you said you need a car that can go hundreds of miles.  The Volt can do that.  After its battery has run down it uses gasoline to power a generator.  It therefore can fill up at any gas station, and drive as many miles as you can possibly drive in any car.  That gas generator is the "range extender" GM talks about when the call the Volt an electric range-exented vehicle. The Volt is not a pure (ie, only ever) electric.   It's what makes the Volt a really good idea.

If you didn't know that, I'm surprised.

Watashi
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Platinum
Re: Renewable Electrons
Watashi   2/1/2012 1:51:46 PM
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You sound like someone who uses his brain and not his heart, but there are a few issues with your post:

1) The price is not really $250,000 because GM is going to pay some of that Gov't handout back (wink-wink)

2) You appear to have the Volt confused with an electric vehicle.  It is actually a plug-in hybrid.  GM has done what they are most known for; throw money into marketing instead of good engineering. But don't tell anyone that it is a plug in hybrid.  Just unplug that thinking cap and accept what you are told, citizen.   I have seen some people have a visceral reaction and start creating the most convoluted definitions for "hybrid" that you can imagine. Note all of the air time the Volt gets on these sites instead of the plug-in Prius.

If you just 'felt' more, you would go out a find a renewable energy company and pay a premium for the same electrons I am getting cheaper.  You may want to think that you are supporting the expansion of energy from wind, solar, etc... But the truth is that government set-asides and subsidies pay the lion share for construction of these green curiosities.  Your extra money goes to their maintenance. If they were actually feasible (i.e. competitive with other technologies) the utility companies would have constructed them a long time ago.

I find it funny how many "engineers" buy into the whole green thing.  You would think that as a group, engineers would be more critical thinkers.  We have the technology in energy sources and vehicles we have today because they are the best solutions to the needs in terms of efficiency, producability, and feasibility.  R&D has always been working the basics trying to come up with better, but nothing yet has proven to be a better solution.  Today we are entering a time when the government and others are trying to skew the feasibility portion of the equation through regulation and taxation, but unfortunately the alternatives just doesn't make in their current state of the art.  Some are close, but this isn't horseshoes.  Without the market interference, green does not work today.

But good post anywayJ

old_dog
User Rank
Iron
Renewable Electrons
old_dog   2/1/2012 1:17:56 PM
Well said, Harpo-54.
 
And what if owners DON'T get email indicating renewable energy is available?  Will they get red in the face and refuse to charge their batteries?  Won't hapen in either case.
 
Like money, energy is fungible.  A delicious irony to contemplate is the energy wasted in the dance between marketeers and rabid environmentalists.  Color me an amused cynic.


Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
Re: One step at a time
Alexander Wolfe   2/1/2012 4:25:47 PM
I think the Volt clearly was a worthwhile effort for GM, even if it gives way to a Gen2 product or goes away entirely. I.e., it was a pathsetter and gave some ummph to the idea that "GM is back." So the fact that its purchase is subsidized by tax credits, and/or it might not be profitable, or GM might not be selling as many as it would like us to think, is irrelevant. It's a technological milestone which has created something of an inflection point in the alternative vehicle space. As is, before the Volt, some activity in alternative-energy vehicles (hybrids, plug-ins, unique combos; the Volt is actually the latter). After the Volt, a torrent of activity. Maybe it's more that there's coverage of the activity that was already there, but we're certainly in the midst of the alternative-energy vehicle now.

Harpo-54
User Rank
Silver
Re: One step at a time
Harpo-54   2/1/2012 6:04:52 PM
It is fatuous to think that the average consumer wants to pay for a research product.   If the government wants to pay for research (Hi, I'm from the governemnt and I'm here to help you.)  it should pay for research, but don't subsidize a chosen market and reasearch experiment by "putting Gobernment money on the hood" of everything you ship.  That's crony capitalism pure and simple.

If you were a loudspeaker company like Fender or Marshall and you thought you'd found a class D amplifier that saved energy and worked on green twigs, but you knew nobody would pay for it because of it's price and relative performance, but you found out you could have it government subsidized to the tune of 10 times the cost of a regular Fender/Marshal Stack, would that be wise? 

- What happens when the unwanted subsidized product is no longer subsidized?

- If the unsubsidized product shows no popularity and therefore no sales after subsidization, isn't the initial subsidization like creating a bubble?

- Is coercing the taxpayers money out of the government and into your unpopular product even moral?

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: One step at a time
Charles Murray   2/1/2012 7:39:09 PM
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I agree, Alex. The publicity accorded the Volt has given the whole industry a bump in the area of electric cars. The downside of the publicity, however, can be seen in a story today, in which General Motors blames negative publicity about the Volt's car fires for poor sales late in 2011.  

http://www.mlive.com/auto/index.ssf/2012/02/gm_blames_lackluster_volt_sale.html

 

Alexander Wolfe
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Blogger
Re: One step at a time
Alexander Wolfe   2/2/2012 4:50:20 PM
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As you've written, Chuck, alternative-energy vehicle sales haven't reached manufacturers' publicly expressed estimates, nor will they be bought in large quantities simply because California wants to mandate purchase of electrics. Charing infrastructure development remains a chicken-and-egg issue as far as goosing the market. (Actually, I'm wrong. It's not chicken and egg. It's the major impediment.) Plus, we are still in the early generations of alt-energy vehicle technology. Let's see where we are in 10 years.

Charles Murray
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Blogger
Re: One step at a time
Charles Murray   2/2/2012 8:28:19 PM
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If I were to guess where we'll be in 10 years, I'd say hybrids and plug-in hybrids will have grown considerably. I think pure electrics will still struggle. It's intersting to note that in a forward-looking 1996 story for Design News' 50th anniversary, I wrote an article predicting the future of automobiles, called "Hybrids Grab the Wheel." Hybrids looked like the future back then, and it hasn't changed much since.

http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=225518

 

RNDDUDE
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Platinum
Re: One step at a time
RNDDUDE   2/1/2012 5:24:34 PM
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Architect, I concur completely. At least the Volt is the closest thing out to a totally serial hybrid (ICE used only to create electricity, not directly mechanically connected to the drivetrain). All locomotives currently use this approach. The auto industy has been stuck in the "electric motot as assist" mode until the Volt. I see design articles still about beefed up alternators and starters coming onto the market, able to actually act as electric assist devices in accelerating and restarting....shortsighted!

As engineers, we all know that as a propulsive means in autos the electric motor is absolutely the best answer, the only remaining variables should be: where is the electricity coming from....

1. the grid to batteries only.

2. from serial ICE's or turbines (alternative fuels still apply here)

3. from electricity producing fuel cells.

Harpo-54
User Rank
Silver
Re: One step at a time
Harpo-54   3/2/2012 5:42:02 PM
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How about from coal?  .... Oh yeah,  electricity is from coal  (mostly).

ckit1477
User Rank
Iron
Re: One step at a time
ckit1477   5/12/2012 6:27:59 AM
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GM says this is a short-term revocation, but the the main thing is customers just don't want to buy chevrolet parts now and they won't want to buy them later on either.



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