Happy New Year

Princess, Rose, and Kleopatra
o Princess, Rose, and Kleopatra

That’s what things looked like, in the run up to Christmas at our place. Princess got to avoid wearing a costume. She revolted after we made her wear a Santa hat five or six years ago, and told us never again.

As to Rose and Kleopatra, well, they are bribable. The two of them will do just about anything for peanut butter doggie training treats!

A Happy New Year to everyone. Let’s hope that 2014 will be wonderful.

Oh, and starting tomorrow, I’m going to be writing a series of articles on Global Warming. They won’t be the typical article you read though. I think different.

Regards

Wayne Borean

December 31, 2013

 

The Great White North

I’m on holiday this week, visiting my mother-in-law, the poet laureate of Temiskaming District. I’m also recuperating from fixing my computer, and other stuff. No, it didn’t include a hangover. I gave up drinking twenty-five years ago, and I have to admit I’m surprised that Molson’s Breweries didn’t go when I did.

Continue reading “The Great White North”

Climate Change Redux

It continually amazes me how intelligent people can be fooled.

Take Climate Change. I know a lot of people who don’t believe that humans can have any effect upon climate. Others think that there’s still question about the issue. It’s not that they are stupid. It’s that there are a lot of people with a vested interest in fooling the general public, mostly because if could hurt their profits.

Over  year ago I wrote Astroturf in the Climate Change discussion, which covered how industry has been using fake organizations to fool the general public. Things have only gotten worse since. So I thought it was time to visit the topic again.

Continue reading “Climate Change Redux”

The Death Of The Fossil Fuel Companys Part Deux

Back on May 30th I wrote an article titled ‘The Death Of The Fossil Fuel Companies – Sell Your Stock Now While It’s Still Worth Something‘, which caused a bit of an uproar. Those who are heavily invested in Fossil Fuel company stocks were less than happy with me. Many people were still willing to listen though, in part because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and in part because the economics make damned good sense. So I’ve been planning a follow up, and here it is.

First, let’s consider fourteen year old Ashton Stark. Ashton converted his father’s 1972 Volkswagen Beetle into an electric. The technology used is pretty primitive (in effect it’s a glorified golf cart), but it’s estimated to be able to travel 50 miles on $0.50 worth of electricity. Nicely done, Ashton!

Second, let’s consider the oil spill. It took three months to cap, and the cap may or may not hold. Exactly how much damage has been done to the environment of the Gulf of Mexico may not be known for decades. Pumping less oil is one way to limit oil spills…

Third, General Motors has announced that they plan to produce 45,000 Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicles in 2012, up from the original plans to produce 30,000 cars. However the number of cars General Motors plans to produce is small compared to Nissan’s plans, the Nissan plant in Smyrna Georgia will be capable of producing 150,000 cars per year, for only that one plant!

Fourth, the Automotive X-Prize is encouraging some really radical thinking about what an automobile needs to be. While some of these designs don’t look all that practical, the research and development can be reused on more practical designs. Or maybe more insane designs, Neil Young’s LincVolt combines excellent fuel economy with recycling, and retro style. Heck, watch the video, you’ll see.

So what does this all mean? Among other things, it means that the Conservative Government’s help in funding the tar sands project is probably a huge waste of taxpayer money. Also the Government of the Province of Alberta is spending a half million per year on lobbying in Washington, and is running a large deficit since the price of oil dropped from it’s high point. The Government of Alberta collects a fee for every barrel of oil pumped in the province, and the drop back to more rational pricing has hit the province really hard. Oh, yes, and an energy industry executive with strong ties to the Tar Sands is out Clean Energy Envoy to the USA. You really have to wonder about these folks in Ottawa – what are they smoking!

All of this means that political satire in Canada is doing quite well. Feel free to tar Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Opposition Leader Michael Ignatief in the game ‘Tar Nation‘ (Flash Required). My thanks to the Toronto Sun for writing about the game.

So we have the auto companies now realizing that there’s big money to be made out of electric cars, and the Governments of the Province of Alberta and the Dominion of Canada throwing away money developing the dirtiest energy source that they can.

Sheesh. I’m proud of my country, but we have some damned stupid politicians.

And on a final note, The Gates Foundation is investing in BP and Exxon Mobil. A charity that is supposed to be investing in the future, buys a stake in the companies that are ruining the planet? Good work Bill.

Regards

Wayne Borean

Friday August 27, 2010

The Death Of The Fossil Fuel Companies – Sell Your Stock Now While It's Still Worth Something

Am I serious? Yes. Very.

I spent a lot of time working with engine companies, in getting their engines certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board. I designed a range of 3-Way Catalytic Converters, worked to get a retrofit kit verified (you can read a copy of the interim verification here). I’ve worked with emission control systems for Diesel, Gasoline (Also called Petrol), Natural Gas, and Propane fueled internal combustion engines, used on a wide variety of machines. I’ve even done some work on automobiles. During this time I also worked with staff at both major U.S. agencies, and several of the minor ones (each state has it’s own environmental regulator) as well as Environment Canada.

The above is basic background. I know a lot about vehicle emissions, fuel costs, engine costs, vehicle operating costs, vehicle design, etc., from a sales point of view. While I’m not an engineer, to effectively sell this sort of product, you need to know more than the science and engineering basics. In fact many sales representatives in the business are engineers, because of the complexity of the systems.

So when I predict the death of the Fossil Fuel Companies, I have good solid reasons for doing so. Everyone has heard of Climate Change, and that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a major contributor. Some of you don’t believe that Climate Change is real, others do. Even those who don’t believe in Climate Change do understand basic economics though, so let’s look at some of them.

My 2003 model year Chrysler minivan has a 3.3L V6 gasoline engine, and with gasoline at about $1.00 Canadian per liter, costs about $80.00 per week to operate if I’m driving to work. Since there’s 52 weeks in a year, the cost of fuel would be about $4160.00. This assumes that I don’t go to visit my wife’s mother, who lives six hours north of us. If we do that, it costs us $160.00 for a round trip, so say we do that twice per year, and the fuel cost is now $4480.00. Add in oil changes, and other scheduled maintenance, and the total per year is about $5500.00.

Nissan is going to start shipping their Leaf compact car in December. The Leaf is an electric vehicle, with a round trip range of 160 kilometers (100 miles). It seats five, and has gotten excellent reviews from the automotive press. Here’s a review by the London Sun that was posted by the Sun on YouTube.

I hope you watched the video all of the way through – isn’t fueling simple? It’s no harder than putting gasoline into your current car, and you wouldn’t have to worry about fumes from the fill up igniting, since there aren’t any fumes. And yes, I saw the Mythbusters episode where they had a hard time igniting gasoline. I also know that gas stations have caught fire and exploded in the past, that’s why the current ones have all of the safety features that are installed on the pumps, and the warnings about smoking while you are filling up your car.

But let’s get back to the Leaf. First, instead of visiting a gas station, you plug it in every night at home. The cost in electricity will be about $2.25 per charge (information from Nissan Canada). This compares very favorably with a cost of $11.42 per day in gasoline with the Chrysler. Another issue is maintenance – the Leaf has electric drive, it doesn’t have an engine. There’s no need to change the engine lubricating oil. There’s no air filter, oil filter, or gasoline filter. In the calculations above I allowed $1020.00 for maintenance. Electric vehicles require very little maintenance, but to be fair we’ll cut the cost to $500.00 per year. So let’s add it up. $2.25 * 365 days =$821.25, plus $500.00 for maintenance, and the yearly total is $1321.25, for a $4178.75 saving per year. This is a huge saving – just think of what you could do with $4000.00 to spend!

While the range is limited, it would suffice for all of our needs, except our twice yearly trips to visit Mom. For most families, it would cover all of their needs, period. And if you do need to travel a longer distance on a weekend, rentals are available, and fast charge stations (25-30 minute charge) are going to be installed in many places. We could make the trip to Mom’s with three stops to charge. Since I never drive for five hours straight, three stops to recharge, and walk about an stretch is feasible.

Another thing to consider is that many jurisdictions have government rebate programs for electric car buyers, in Ontario a rebate of between $4000.00 to $10,000.00 is available starting july 1, 2010 (Government of Ontario Press Release).

How reliable will an electric car be? I don’t know about the ‘average electric car’, but Nissan has been building electric vehicles for over thirty years. You might have even driven one, if you are a forklift operator. While there are a lot of differences between an electric forklift and an electric car (forklifts for instance operate at slow speeds), the basic technologies are very similar, in fact Nissan’s gasoline powered forklifts use Nissan automotive engines, modified for off-road use.

Nissan hasn’t sold an electric car before this, because the technology that would work in a forklift, wasn’t practical in an automobile. Forklifts use cumbersome lead acid batteries. A standard 4000 pound capacity forklift has a battery that weighs between 3500 and 4000 pounds, more than many cars weigh. In a forklift the weight is an advantage, it is part of the counterbalance effect that keeps the rear wheels on the ground when you are lifting a load. In a car the extra weight would cause massive problems – the braking system, the frame, and the body of the car would need to be significantly strengthened. Lead Acid batteries use Sulfuric Acid, and it is nasty stuff. The small lead-acid battery that powers the starter motor in your car doesn’t hold a lot of it. A 4000 pound battery does. Cleaning up sulfuric acid spills isn’t fun. While Baking Soda will neutralize the acid, you’d need to carry a lot of it!

Also until recently forklifts used Direct Current (DC) motors, it’s only been recently that forklifts have switched to more efficient Alternating Current (AC) motors. AC Motors produce far more torque than DC motors due, which is useful, because when you need the most power is starting the car from a stop. Anyone who has learned to drive a car with a manual transmission has experienced this – you need to feed enough gas to the engine to get moving, but not enough to spin the tires. With an AC motor you don’t need to worry, it produces so much torque all you need to do is put it in gear.

So I expect this to be a real success for Nissan. While other companies are producing electric vehicles, Nissan is the only one that has long term electric vehicle experience, and a look at the Leaf shows the amount of work that they have done. This car is going to be the hottest car of 2011, with the Chevy Volt coming a close second (the Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid)

This car will really hit the fossil fuel companies hard. You don’t have to believe in Climate Change to see the advantages of a Leaf. The monetary savings are real, and huge. Nissan has hit a home run with it. The Premier of Ontario wants 5% of cars in Ontario to be electric by 2020. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that nearly 50% of cars will be electric by 2020. Yes, I expect electric car adoption to occur that quickly.

Oh, and as for Prime Minister Harper, and his government’s support of the Oil Sands project? He’s just wasted a whole pile of taxpayers money for nothing.

Wayne Borean

Sunday May 30, 2010

Disclosure: I used to work for a Nissan forklift dealership, and later called on Nissan when I was selling catalytic converters. I have worked with General Motors (Chevrolet) on several projects. My personal liking for those two companies may have affected my view. But I don’t think so. WB.

Further Links:

Nissan Leaf on WikipediaWired Article on the Leaf

The Eliica – a 230 MPH Electric Limosine

Currently Available Electric Cars (from Wikipedia)

Renault Fluence ZE – from Nissan’s sister company

Chevy Volt Plug In Hybrid – shorter range batteries, range extender gasoline engine

Wikipedia Category – Battery Electric Vehicles – lists a lot of other battery vehicles

Wikipedia Category – Plug In Hybrid Vehicles

Wikipedia – Electric Motorcycles and Scooters

Wikipedia – Electric Boats

Wikipedia – Electric Bus

Society for Sustainable Mobility

Electric Car Dreams from PBS