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this author thinks "maybe":

The Next Generation of Cars: Gas-Free

By Morgan Housel July 8, 2008

Sick of paying for gasoline? You might be in luck.

For years, car manufacturers have thrown around ideas for gas-free cars, but most have gone nowhere quickly. General Motors introduced a fully electric car in 1996 that was scrapped a few years later, Honda recently unveiled a hydrogen-powered vehicle that cost a mere, oh, $1 million apiece to build, and Toyota's next-generation Prius has a fully electric mode with enough juice to carry you all of seven miles (no zeroes omitted). For big auto companies, the thought of a gas-free vehicle that actually resembles a car seems worlds away.

Henry Ford, meet Elon Musk
But for one high-profile start-up, fully electric cars are hardly a dream. Elon Musk -- the same guy who co-founded PayPal and later sold it to eBay -- has built a car that is likely making Detroit sweat bullets by the gallon.

Tesla Motors, based in Silicon Valley, recently began selling its first production car, the Roadster. Beyond its stylish looks, Tesla's top selling points are downright revolutionary:

• There's absolutely no gasoline. The car is 100% electric. This isn't a hybrid, folks.

• It can go roughly 221 miles on a single 3.5-hour charge.

• Zero to 60 MPH in 3.9 seconds, enough to put many Ferraris to shame.

• Top speed is 125 MPH.

• The base price -- $109,000 -- isn't for the squeamish, but cheaper models are on the way (more on that below).

I recently made a trip to Tesla's first store in Los Angeles to catch a peek, and picked a representative's brain about the future of the company. My first inquiry might come as a blow to big auto makers: I wanted to know how tiny Tesla been able to create a car that has eluded gigantic car companies for years.

The representative was frank: "Same reason why it's easier to turn around a speedboat than a freighter. When you're as large and bureaucratic as the major auto companies like Ford, it's almost impossible to reinvent the car as its known."

Sure enough, Tesla was able to create the Roadster for just $140 million; compared to the billions of dollars it costs some car companies to design a standard gasoline model. And if there's ever been a team that knows how to turn out innovation in a spectacular way, it might be Tesla; Besides PayPal co-founder Musk, Tesla's investors include Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Google's co-founders.

Great, but I can't afford gas, let alone a $100,000 car
Next question on my list: When will a cheaper, sedan-style car make its way to the streets? After all, $109,000 is a bit steep for most ordinary Joes.

No need to worry. Tesla's Model S is due to start production in 2010. The car, which will sport a similar fully electric, 200-plus-mile-range battery, is expected to cost around $60,000. While we're still short on pictures and further details about the Model S, a Tesla representative suggested it'll be roughly the size of a BMW 5 Series -- a roomy, 4-door sedan. Further down the road, Tesla plans on rolling out cars for less than $30,000.

Besides, even if the prices still seem a bit steep, the amount you'll save on gas is staggering. A Tesla brochure I picked up claims the car uses roughly 36 kilowatt-hours of electricity for every 100 miles driven. Energy prices vary throughout the nation, but using an average $0.102 per kilowatt hour, Tesla's efficiency compared to a car getting 20 MPG is equivalent to paying about $0.73 for a gallon of gas -- not to mention it's completely emissions-free.

This might be the start of something big
Why is Tesla such a groundbreaking company? It was not only able to create an extraordinarily efficient car, but also did so without compromising any of the good ol' car elements we've become so attached to. If the next generation of vehicles were slower than a Flintstone car, had to be constantly recharged, and looked like something straight out of Star Trek, people would be hesitant to make the plunge. Tesla's car might rival almost any other in looks and performance, even before you see what's under the hood. That will allow people to hold on to their drive-happy lives, while sticking a knife in the gas crisis and looking out for the environment at the same time.

Are you as amped about Tesla as I am? Stay tuned. Rumor has it we may see a Tesla IPO sometime in 2009.


http://www.fool.com/investing/high-growth/2008/07/08/the-next-generation-of-cars-gas-free.aspx
Sparky???:
 

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Any updates on Sparky's production?
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
jpark said:
Any updates on Sparky's production?
The big recent news was Arnie's press conference at Tesla last week where it was announced that they're building the plant in CA for the Model-S, to be delivered in 2009/2010. They also said they're "up to" 5 per week on the roadster and hope to get up to 150/month by the end of the year. Afterwards, they said that there should be a townhall meeting soon - I'll let you know the new news.

-Sparky
 

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There's a lot of things up for discussion here. I think the main one is that Detroit is already moving on electric drivetrains. Both GM and Ford have reasonably affordable plug-in vehicles scheduled for 2010.

The biggest obstacle here is going to be the power distribution infrastructure. You're talking about a huge new drain on the grid should these vehicles gain popularity. We're talking on a scale that goes beyond what the grid can supply, to how much electricity we can actually produce with existing plants. In California, in particular, the grid is already taxed to its limits.

This is why I think that Detroit's (and Japan's) plans for the next 5 years make more sense. Vehicles that incorporate the benefits of a fully electric drivetrain, while still including gasoline (or ethanol/hydrogen) power plants that can supplement the current battery technology.
 

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jimmyv said:
There's a lot of things up for discussion here. I think the main one is that Detroit is already moving on electric drivetrains. Both GM and Ford have reasonably affordable plug-in vehicles scheduled for 2010.

The biggest obstacle here is going to be the power distribution infrastructure. You're talking about a huge new drain on the grid should these vehicles gain popularity. We're talking on a scale that goes beyond what the grid can supply, to how much electricity we can actually produce with existing plants. In California, in particular, the grid is already taxed to its limits.

This is why I think that Detroit's (and Japan's) plans for the next 5 years make more sense. Vehicles that incorporate the benefits of a fully electric drivetrain, while still including gasoline (or ethanol/hydrogen) power plants that can supplement the current battery technology.
That is exactly the issue. No more juice is available. It is a nationwide problem. And it will take at least a decade to amp up the power grid with generation stations. Nevermind the power cables that carry the load to the nieghborhoods. Tesla is a lot of pie in the sky right now. But they are all moving in the right direction. It will just take California and other states that don't want power stations in their back yards to accept having them in their backyards. Then find the money, they aren't cheap. And building allot of power plants isn't cheap to do. The hidden problem is the existing power stations are already amortized and so the cost of the electricity is low. It's been decades since any power stations have been built. So, it seems as if electricity is inexpensive. It isn't.

Bottom line: Once they get all the necessitary infrastructure built out, the savings of electric cars will become negligible. You can take that to the bank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
There's two factors that make generating capacity a non-issue (other than the general issue of aging infrastructure, but that's not related to this discussion).

1. Mass-quantities of electric cars aren't going to happen overnight. Assuming Tesla succeeds in their stated goals, we're talking 1500 roadsters a year plus 20,000 Model-S in 2 years and then mass-production of a sub-$30,000 car in 4 years. Considering that GM dropped the Firebird because production "was only 20,000 units/year", this is a true drop in the bucket. The infrastructure will have plenty of time to catch up.

2. The power grid "capacity problem" is not a capacity issue, but an availability issue. The "grid" has no storage, what is produced must be used immediately. What this means is that there's plenty of excess capacity at night for the foreseeable future. If and when this becomes a problem, there are already tools available to deal with it: a) load-shedding, as is common for electric hot-water heaters, where the power company can cycle the power off as needed for a certain percentage of the time b) day/night rates to incentivize night charging c) required night charging, such as tamper-proof timers

3. Electric cars may actually BE THE SOLUTION to the above problem. Google "V2G" (vehicle to grid) to see where this may be going. When there are enough electric cars sitting on the grid, that will represent massive storage capacity that the grid is currently lacking. The same way that your solar installation can "sell back" to the power company, your fully-charged grid-connected electric car can "sell back" excess charge when the power company needs it the most. This is possibly the most exciting possibility for electric cars that hasn't yet hit the mainstream press (well, maybe supercar performance is more exciting).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
jimmyv said:
This is why I think that Detroit's (and Japan's) plans for the next 5 years make more sense. Vehicles that incorporate the benefits of a fully electric drivetrain, while still including gasoline (or ethanol/hydrogen) power plants that can supplement the current battery technology.
Actually, using your argument, this makes less sense since it will have more of an impact on the grid faster(which, again, I don't agree with, but let's continue your argument). When GM (finally) produces the VOLT (which they wouldn't have if not for Tesla), or when Toyota beats them to the punch, or when ANY major manufacturer comes out with an electric with alternative backup, they have the ramp-up capacity to produce hundreds-of-thousands quickly, which is a much more massive hit on the network than full electric. Since 80% of the population would be fully served by the 40-mile full-electric daily range, you're essentially putting hundreds-of-thousands of virtually-all-electric (that never need the alternate backup) on the roads/grid. It's going to happen. Here's the $10,400 Prius conversion that's available this year, with Escape to follow:
https://www.a123systems.com/hymotion/pr ... erve_yours
Drop the price 50-75% as the batteries come down in price, competition heats up and economies of scale take hold, and I'd say that plug-in hybrids are here (no need to worry about the small percentage of pure electrics, for now).
BTW, Tesla model #2, will have a "range extender" option - pure electric for approx. 200 miles, generator to extend to 600 miles before plug-in is required.
 

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prowler said:
2. The power grid "capacity problem" is not a capacity issue, but an availability issue. The "grid" has no storage, what is produced must be used immediately. What this means is that there's plenty of excess capacity at night for the foreseeable future. If and when this becomes a problem, there are already tools available to deal with it: a) load-shedding, as is common for electric hot-water heaters, where the power company can cycle the power off as needed for a certain percentage of the time b) day/night rates to incentivize night charging c) required night charging, such as tamper-proof timers
Power generation stations don't appear overnight either but they are getting closer. For example, the newest generation of nuclear power plants are designed to go from first concrete pour to fuel load in 4 years. That is much quicker than the second generation of nuclear plants presently generating electricity in this country.

:lightning:
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
cbramsey said:
prowler said:
2. The power grid "capacity problem" is not a capacity issue, but an availability issue. The "grid" has no storage, what is produced must be used immediately. What this means is that there's plenty of excess capacity at night for the foreseeable future. If and when this becomes a problem, there are already tools available to deal with it: a) load-shedding, as is common for electric hot-water heaters, where the power company can cycle the power off as needed for a certain percentage of the time b) day/night rates to incentivize night charging c) required night charging, such as tamper-proof timers
Power generation stations don't appear overnight either but they are getting closer. For example, the newest generation of nuclear power plants are designed to go from first concrete pour to fuel load in 4 years. That is much quicker than the second generation of nuclear plants presently generating electricity in this country.

:lightning:
I agree completely. Although not politically correct, it's intuitively obvious to the most casual observer that this country's future is dependent upon third-generation nuclear and coal. When the politicians get out of it and let economics take it's course (yes, impose pollution controls on the stack emissions, but what is this @#$%^&*sh!t about grandfathering old, polluting plants by BUYING AND SELLING POLLUTION CREDITS???). Personally, I'm still trying to go solar for the Tesla to avoid ALL this discussion.
 

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Holy S***! I could have written this (I think I just did). From MIT:

Technology Review
Published by MIT

Thursday, December 21, 2006
How Plug-in Hybrids Will Save the Grid
The use of vehicles that run on electricity could be a boon to the ailing electrical grid.
By Kevin Bullis

Major automakers and the Department of Energy are pouring money into research on plug-in hybrid vehicles. These cars promise to cut petroleum consumption by allowing commuters to drive to work using primarily electricity--stored on board in batteries--rather than gas. Although critics have warned that the vehicles could put too much pressure on an already strained electrical grid, experts are now arguing that rather than being a strain on the grid, plug-in hybrids may actually help prevent brownouts, cut the cost of electricity, and increase the use of renewable energy.

Plug-in hybrids, like today's hybrid cars, can run on either an electric motor or an internal combustion engine. But plug-ins have much larger battery packs and can be recharged by being plugged into the wall, making it possible to rely much more on the electric motor. Although a handful of companies sell conversion kits to change conventional hybrids into plug-ins, the kits add thousands of dollars to the cost of the car (see "Plug-In Hybrids Are on the Way"). This additional cost, which is primarily from the batteries, is one of the reasons the major automakers haven't yet mass produced such vehicles, although they are now developing them. GM, for example, recently committed to making a plug-in version of a Saturn SUV (see "GM's Plug-In Hybrid").

The concern is that plug-ins are not a good way to reduce gasoline consumption, because if they become popular, and millions of car owners recharged their cars at three in the afternoon on a hot day, it would crash the grid. But plug-in hybrids could actually help stabilize the grid if owners charged their cars at times of low demand, and if the vehicles could return excess energy to the grid when it's needed--say while parked in the company lot at work during peak demand.

Since utilities have built enough power plants to provide electricity when people are operating their air conditioners at full blast, they have excess generating capacity during off-peak hours. As a result, according to an upcoming report from the Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory (PNNL), a Department of Energy lab, there is enough excess generating capacity during the night and morning to allow more than 80 percent of today's vehicles to make the average daily commute solely using this electricity. If plug-in-hybrid or all-electric-car owners charge their vehicles at these times, the power needed for about 180 million cars could be provided simply by running these plants at full capacity.

This could be a boon to utilities, because they'd be able to sell more power without the added cost of building more plants. Ideally, this will translate into lower electricity prices, says Robert Pratt, a scientist at PNNL. It might also help utilities justify the added capital costs of building cleaner coal-burning plants, because they'll be able to recover their investment faster by "selling more electricity with the same set of iron, steel, and concrete," Pratt says.

Such a system could be further optimized by using smart chargers and other electronics. This system would include a charger that runs on a timer, charging cars only during off-peak hours. Researchers at PNNL are taking this a step further with smart chargers that use the Internet to gather information about electricity demand. Utilities could then temporarily turn off chargers in thousands of homes or businesses to keep the grid from crashing after a spike in demand.

The next step would be to add smart meters that would track electricity use in real time and allow utilities to charge more for power used during times of peak demand, and less at off-peak hours. Coupled with such a system, the PNNL smart charger could ensure that the plug-in batteries are charged only when the electricity is at its cheapest, saving consumers money.

But what many experts are excited about now is a concept called "vehicle-to-grid," often abbreviated V2G. In such a system, plug-in hybrids, rather than being merely an extra burden to the grid, become a much needed way for grid managers to balance the amount of energy generated at any given time to match the amount of energy being consumed. Millions of cars, each with several kilowatt hours of storage capacity, would act as an enormous buffer, taking on charge when the system temporarily generates too much power, and giving it back when there are short peaks in demand.

In a V2G system, the batteries of millions of plug-ins would be used as a buffer to even out supply and demand and to help keep the grid stable, says Karl Lewis, chief operating officer of GridPoint, a startup based in Washington, D.C., that has developed technology that could help make such a system work. In this kind of system, each vehicle would have its own IP address so that wherever it is plugged in, the cost of the energy it uses to recharge would be billed to the owner. With the right equipment, the car could also return energy to the grid, giving the owner credit. Mock-ups of such systems have already been tested by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in Golden, CO, and by a company called AC Propulsion, based in San Dimas, CA.

Plug-ins could also serve as backup sources of power. In extreme cases, such as a blackout from a hurricane, the cars could keep essential systems up and running in homes and businesses. Even in this case, when the batteries could be drawn down considerably, the owner could rely on the internal combustion engine in a plug-in hybrid for transportation.

As an added benefit, "if millions of these [plug-in hybrids] were produced, it would enable some of the renewable technologies to really take off," say Terry Penney, a technology manager for advanced vehicle technologies at NREL. The challenge of using a renewable source such as wind is that wind is intermittent, varying day by day and minute by minute. A network of plug-in hybrids could smooth out these fluctuations by storing extra energy and sending it to the grid when the wind dies down. Such a network would also improve the economics of wind power by making it possible to capture more of the excess power generated on windy days, says Willett Kempton, senior policy scientist in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Delaware.

Such systems are many years off, as it will take time to install the needed infrastructure. Once plug-in cars are widely available, however, they could help relieve some of the pressure on the grid today.

Copyright Technology Review 2006.


http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/17930/

Also, Wikipedia has a good primer, but MIT is more reliable.
 

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Good stuff prowlie!! Good to see this is starting to be a huge insight!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Scooter Scott said:
Good stuff prowlie!! Good to see this is starting to be a huge insight!
Thank you.

I accidentally came across this article, which is the equivalent for buildings of "Charging the air conditioning" at off-times (night) when the rates are lower and the grid has excess capacity. It's from "How Stuff Works" . . . .

Are ice blocks better than air conditioning?

by Jacob Silverman

Silverman, Jacob. "Are ice blocks better than air conditioning?." 26 July 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/ice-block-ac.htm> 10 July 2008.

A novel method of air conditioning is taking root among some of the world's most powerful corporations, and it uses the simple power of ice. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse now use massive ice blocks instead of traditional air-conditioning systems in some of their offices. Credit Suisse is considering expanding the system beyond its 1.9-million-square-foot Manhattan office to its other locations around the world, but they won't be alone. An estimated 3,000 facilities around the world use ice-based cooling systems [Source: Discovery].

The system is not only more environmentally friendly but also saves big companies like Goldman Sachs, which put an ice cooling system in its new flagship office, millions of dollars in utility bills.

The system works by making ice at night, when lower power usage means energy is cheaper and lower temperatures mean less power is required to freeze water. The larger the difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures is, the greater the energy savings. In Credit Suisse's system, the ice forms overnight, and as it melts during the day, fans blow cold air into the cooling system and throughout the building. At the end of the day, the 51,200 gallons of water -- spread across three rooms in 64 tanks -- is ready to be frozen again. The ice-block system can also be combined with traditional air conditioning, which is the case in Credit Suisse's New York office.

The ice system essentially acts like an ultra-efficient battery, storing energy that's gathered cheaply at night and releasing it during the day. Ice makes a convenient and efficient medium for the job. By volume, it has up to triple the energy-holding capacity of water. The system also has less potential for breakdown compared to more traditional systems.

The ice cooling system is intriguing and energy efficient, but it's not entirely original. In the 19th century, a hospital in Florida used ice to cool hospital rooms and many a home chemist has used ice to cool himself on a hot day. Still, you're unlikely to find an ice-based cooling system in someone's home. The cooling equipment requires a lot of space and a significant upfront investment -- Credit Suisse paid $3 million for theirs -- though the investment presumably pays for itself over time.

The state of New York, along with other state and municipal governments, is encouraging companies to make environmentally-friendly infrastructure investments, in some cases offering tax breaks or grants. The pollution and waste caused by skyscrapers constitutes a major problem for large systems. Ice-cooling systems do more than save on electricity bills; by using power at night, they ease strain on already overtaxed electrical grids -- a process known as "load shifting" -- using energy during non-peak hours.
 

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prowler said:
<snip> Also, Wikipedia has a good primer, but MIT is more reliable.
... and any Wikipedia page can be changed by anyone with a computer and internet access, whether they have facts or not.

Wikipedia is a good place to start, but unless facts are footnoted, take anything as possibly true and go from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
jpark said:
prowler said:
<snip> Also, Wikipedia has a good primer, but MIT is more reliable.
... and any Wikipedia page can be changed by anyone with a computer and internet access, whether they have facts or not.

Wikipedia is a good place to start, but unless facts are footnoted, take anything as possibly true and go from there.
yes, we're in VIOLENT agreement - that's why I recommended Wikipedia as a primer rather than as a reference.

-Sparkles
 

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:D
 

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prowler said:
Scooter Scott said:
Good stuff prowlie!! Good to see this is starting to be a huge insight!
Thank you.

I accidentally came across this article, which is the equivalent for buildings of "Charging the air conditioning" at off-times (night) when the rates are lower and the grid has excess capacity. It's from "How Stuff Works" . . . .

Are ice blocks better than air conditioning?

by Jacob Silverman

Silverman, Jacob. "Are ice blocks better than air conditioning?." 26 July 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/ice-block-ac.htm> 10 July 2008.

A novel method of air conditioning is taking root among some of the world's most powerful corporations, and it uses the simple power of ice. Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse now use massive ice blocks instead of traditional air-conditioning systems in some of their offices. Credit Suisse is considering expanding the system beyond its 1.9-million-square-foot Manhattan office to its other locations around the world, but they won't be alone. An estimated 3,000 facilities around the world use ice-based cooling systems [Source: Discovery].

The system is not only more environmentally friendly but also saves big companies like Goldman Sachs, which put an ice cooling system in its new flagship office, millions of dollars in utility bills.

The system works by making ice at night, when lower power usage means energy is cheaper and lower temperatures mean less power is required to freeze water. The larger the difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures is, the greater the energy savings. In Credit Suisse's system, the ice forms overnight, and as it melts during the day, fans blow cold air into the cooling system and throughout the building. At the end of the day, the 51,200 gallons of water -- spread across three rooms in 64 tanks -- is ready to be frozen again. The ice-block system can also be combined with traditional air conditioning, which is the case in Credit Suisse's New York office.

The ice system essentially acts like an ultra-efficient battery, storing energy that's gathered cheaply at night and releasing it during the day. Ice makes a convenient and efficient medium for the job. By volume, it has up to triple the energy-holding capacity of water. The system also has less potential for breakdown compared to more traditional systems.

The ice cooling system is intriguing and energy efficient, but it's not entirely original. In the 19th century, a hospital in Florida used ice to cool hospital rooms and many a home chemist has used ice to cool himself on a hot day. Still, you're unlikely to find an ice-based cooling system in someone's home. The cooling equipment requires a lot of space and a significant upfront investment -- Credit Suisse paid $3 million for theirs -- though the investment presumably pays for itself over time.

The state of New York, along with other state and municipal governments, is encouraging companies to make environmentally-friendly infrastructure investments, in some cases offering tax breaks or grants. The pollution and waste caused by skyscrapers constitutes a major problem for large systems. Ice-cooling systems do more than save on electricity bills; by using power at night, they ease strain on already overtaxed electrical grids -- a process known as "load shifting" -- using energy during non-peak hours.
My church installed this type of ice system when we built our new facility in 1988. It's is still in operation, although we have replaced the freezer section year before last. It is a novel idea, and does cost less to buy and operate. It does take someone to maintain it on a regular basis, and that eats up some, but not all the savings. It also requires chemicals in the system, and the water flow valves do suffer wear. Still, it is energy effecient compared to chillers, and other methods.
 

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New York State definitely offers tax credits for energy conservation. My office complex recently installed LED-retrofits for fluorescent tubes in hallway locations, and they passed the NYS tax credit onto us in the form of office space rent reduction.

Even though some newer fluorescent tubes, sodium lamps, and metal-halide lamps now contain little or no mercury, the US alone disposes of over 500,000,000 fluorescent tubes each year. Most of them are filled with mercury vapor, and most of them are not properly recycled.

Did I ever mention that LED technology is just too cool (no pun intended)?
 

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the end of detroit eh... good thing. i used to live across the bridge from it and it stinks HAHAHAHA... to all of you who like it there, i was being a bit sarcastic.

my wife and i discussed electric cars the other day. and have debated when replacing my escape (im gonna get a flex fuel 4x4 4dr silverado) and when we replace her cobalt to get an electric car or mostly electric for her to use for her in town commute. i am still a bit curious how well the battery pack will hold up to a -40 winter though.
 

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CrashNburn said:
the end of detroit eh... good thing. i used to live across the bridge from it and it stinks HAHAHAHA... to all of you who like it there, i was being a bit sarcastic.

my wife and i discussed electric cars the other day. and have debated when replacing my escape (im gonna get a flex fuel 4x4 4dr silverado) and when we replace her cobalt to get an electric car or mostly electric for her to use for her in town commute. i am still a bit curious how well the battery pack will hold up to a -40 winter though.
From what I have read on the BON, and Ford-Forum (s?) I would say that most folks post a shortened range, longer charging times (?), and reduced service of the battery discharge cycle. What ever all that means. Bottom line, it cuts over to gasoline engine service much quicker. So the fuel mileage drops, but isn't catastrophic by any means. :) Imo, if you want it, buy it. The performance change isn't worth worrying about.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
came across a summary article on V2G with a link to a pretty good .pdf reference on a pilot project:

http://www.riverwired.com/blog/vehicle-grid-tech-smart-garage

Jul 28, 2008
Vehicle to Grid Tech in the Smart Garage
Say you take the plunge and buy an electric vehicle, be it a neighborhood EV like the Zap Xebra or a supercar like the Tesla Roadster. You tool around all day, and you plug your car in at night to recharge. It only takes a couple hours to fully top up the batteries, though, even when they're nearly depleted. Soon, you and your electric car can put those idle cycles to work while you sleep.

The Rocky Mountain Institute has published its first "Solutions" journal [ http://www.rmi.org/images/PDFs/Newsletter/RMI_Solutions_Journal-July_2008.pdf ], which is available as a PDF. In it, they discuss the research conducted by RMI on vehicle-to-grid technology. Electric cars, with their built-in, onboard electricity storage devices (batteries, to you and me) can smooth out the power flow and provide emergency backup power:

The real benefit of electric vehicles is that they bring a new level of stability and control to the grid-including giving power back when it's needed most (in blackouts or at times of peak demand). By some estimates, a battery-electric vehicle, with about 40 kilowatt-hours of usable energy, could power an entire residential block for over an hour if necessary.

During the 17 years that RMI conducted its V2G research, the grid in the U.S. became robust enough to handle this kind of power exchange. But RMI went further and imagined what they call a "smart grid" that can communicate with homeowners about, say, when electricity is in high demand and therefore more expensive.

There are also serious benefits, both economic and ecological, to getting more solar and wind power onto a smart grid - the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions alone would be significant. To see how all this plays out in the real world, keep an eye on the pilot project in Boulder, Colorado.
 
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