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A Practical Way To Use Electric Vehicles: Commute/Reverse Commute Station Cars

July 21, 2010

Electric vehicles (EV) presently and will continue to suffer one crippling flaw for most applications: the lack of range. Note the words 'most applications' for there is an imaginative and practical means of using them that is discussed later on.

A recent National Post 'Motor Mouth' article by David Booth points out that the batteries required to move EVs generate electrical energy far less efficiently than do gasoline or other fuels.  Gasoline produces about 6,000 watt-hours/pound whereas the "most optimistic numbers" he has seen for advanced lithium-ion batteries is 110 watt-hours/pound. 

"That means good old- fashioned gasoline punches 54 times harder for the same amount of weight, the fundamental reason electric cars' ranges are so pitiful compared with those fossil fuelled," writes Booth.

Simply put: there is no way you can pack that much battery power to match what gasoline, or even less efficient fuels like compressed natural gas (used in fleet vehicles, like taxis) can produce for your typical trips.

What about the vaunted greater efficiency of electric motors?

"In the electric vehicles' defence, electric motors transmit that energy more efficiently to the road," says Booth. "Some electric motors boast 90% efficiency, while internal-combustion engines can transmit as little as 15% of their energy into vehicular motivation. However, even being generous, that means EVs face a nine- times deficit versus traditional cars."

And that doesn't take into account driving on hilly terrain.

Wealthy Biggest Driving Polluters? No, Really?

May 18, 2010

The wealthy have the means to become the earliest adopters of the latest and greatest home and office green tech devices, methods and solutions. Yet it appears that too many of them are acting otherwise when it comes to mobility, if Canada's elite are any indication.

A Canwest New Service article printed last Friday in The Province revealed, citing new Statistics Canada figures, that "wealthy Canadians were the worst polluting drivers in 2007. While the rich, defined as having annual incomes of $100,000+ were responsible for spewing out the most air pollution per person, at 5,737 kilograms or 12,621 lbs in 2007.

Commuting A Pain In More Ways Than One

August 21, 2009

Commuting is bad for the environment. Emissions from vehicles both directly and indirectly through fossil-fueled and river-befouling power plants, and from construction and maintenance combined with open space land grabs combine to form a toxic stew that is slowly killing us. Something to keep in mind as a reality check during the insane U.S. healthcare debate and the endless go-rounds what to do about the costs and doctor shortages in Canada.

Transportation typically accounts for 1/3 of emissions, and motor vehicles at 2/3rds of that.

Why EVs (etc.) are NG

January 15, 2009

I have long been skeptical about electric or other alternative-fueled vehicles as truly green technologies because they all consume vast amounts of life-giving open space to transport comparatively few people and goods, drives more sprawl, which does likewise, and incurs air-killing construction and upkeep and requires hydrocarbon-based paving materials.

Peter Foster, a columnist in Canada's National Post, along with associated commentators have come up with a few more points to consider, in his column Wednesday subtitled 'Today's alternative vehicles are all profit graveyards or subsidy pits'.

Mr. Foster correctly pointed out one of the fallacies behind assuming that people will buy electric vehicles (EVs) and that is it isn't the average amount of driving per day that matters but the farthest that one usually wants to go.

"Apparently, Americans on average drive their cars less than 35 miles a day, but to suggest that this supports the viability of short-range electric cars is like suggesting that a five-foot tall person should be in no trouble if forced to spend alternate one hour periods in water six feet deep and two feet deep.

Subaru: the truly green automaker

November 25, 2008

It is rare that I mention green and cars in a positive light given the huge amount of emissions private vehicles produce--and the planet-damaging sprawl the overplanning for them engenders--but in the case I will make the rare exception and praise.

That goes to Japanese-owned carmaker Subaru. Not because it is a leader in bleeding-edge technology like hybrids, or that it makes tiny gas-miserly vehicles like its larger competitors, though its vehicles are very fuel efficient through using advanced proven technology.

Instead Subaru gets the accolade because they have built a low-environmental-footprint plant in Indiana that it is proudly advertising on TV that is a far cry from the creaking and wheezing factories belonging to the dying Big 3.

Goodbye, GM, Chrysler, Hello Green Alternatives

November 17, 2008

I live in a part of North America that is dependent on the auto industry and I am seeing it break down around me. 

Every day it seems the local media has a story on another layoff, if not of the Big 3 but of the many hundreds of firms that supply them. Every day it appears that one more factory has a For Sale or For Lease sign up. Every day one more track in the local railroad yard is taken up by a string of empty auto-rack railcars.

So I am not without sympathy to the families, indeed neighbors who are being hurt by what is happening in that industry.

The Green Side of Ontario's Proposed Handheld Device Law

October 28, 2008

There is an interesting side to the Province of Ontario's just tabled legislation that would restrict using handheld devices while driving: a provision that would allow informal carpools.

The bill is actually called the 'Countering Distracted Driving and Promoting Green Transportation Act of 2008'. The Ministry of Transportation says it will, if passed (that's assured-the ruling Ontario Liberal party has a majority) update the Public Vehicles Act that will promote carpooling in Ontario by removing the barriers and red tape associated with forming carpools. This will include amending the definition of a carpool vehicle to recognize informal, irregular carpools that operate between municipalities for purposes other than just home-to-work and work-to-home trips. 

The big benefit here is that these informal carpools will be able to use the province's small but growing network of HOV lanes. Ontario also has many carpooling lots located just off its 400-series expressways.

Also, if you're in a carpool and you're driving you can ask someone else to take the calls for you...


Here's How To Make Airports Really Green...

September 23, 2008

I applaud the airports for taking steps to use less energy, generate fewer emissions, and recycle more, as reported in a USA Today story last week that I had perused while at ITEXPO West.

Yet if these facilities, and their airline masters truly want to go green they should:

* Invest in European-styled electric high-speed rail links to replace short-haul flights. 

A Hydro-Quebec report published in 2006 revealed that such air travel can release as much as 340 grams of CO2 per passenger-kilometre as compared with zero for a passenger in a high-speed electric train, powered from hydroelectric dams. In contrast, long-haul flights, for which there is no competition (other than the ultraclean choice of conferencing) release as little as 102 grams.

Short haul flights also eat up runway space, whose expansion chews up life-giving greenspace. More runway wear-and-tear also means more pollution-adding construction and maintenance.

*Shift access to mass transit and shared-ride away from private vehicles. Invest in rapid transit and subsidize off-site airport buses to transit centers, like existing commuter rail/bus stations near where users live.

Green Ideas Overheard At ITEXPO West

September 22, 2008

Several ideas/observations overheard at ITEXPO West last week in Los Angeles...

1. Get rid of the ethanol subsidy 

Ethanol production--from grains as opposed to biowaste--is being criticized for generating more pollution than it solves through processing and transportation.

Kind of like LEED buildings being erected in car-oriented office parks, gouged out of what had been environmentally-beneficial fields, wetlands, forests...

2. Go nuclear, like France has done. Get away from coal, heavy oil, natural gas, hydro...

There is some logic here.

Going Green To L-A...To ITEXPO West

September 10, 2008

The headline above sounds like an oxymoron, given that Los Angeles has for 60 years come to represent everything brown and ugly as opposed green and bright in the environment. For "L-A" was the first city--and far from the last--to buy into the 1930s urbanist vision of dispersed sprawling communities linked by car-occupied freeways, popularized at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City.   The car and the wide, fast roads to accommodate it represented individual freedom, the escape from dirty, fetid cities into fresh countryside and wide open spaces, once the province of farmers and the elite. Unfortunately like most visions it overlooked the consequences, like smog, which began to be inflicted by cars on Los Angeles as early as the late 1940s, and traffic congestion that has proven to be impossible to build out of.   There is a plaque in the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, (also known as Union Station used by Amtrak and the Metrolink commuter rail that discusses the deliberate freewayization of Los Angeles that destroyed what was the world's greatest mass transit network, the  Pacific Electric interurbans or 'Red Cars'. This figured as a subplot in the hit animated/real action comedy film 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit?'  The city also had an extensive narrow gauge urban streetcar system, which shared tracks with the Red Cars with inside rails for the trolleys.   Since the early 1990s "L-A" has been pouring money if by fits and starts into returning the 'Red Cars' now known as light rail transit or LRT, plus in subways, commuter rail, and bus rapid transit that have proven popular especially with high gas prices.
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