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Restructuring of relationship between TTXGP and Mavizen?

Last year there had been a bit of controversy concerning the business architecture set up by Azhar Hussain to run the TTXGP race series. The three organizations are the eGrandPrix/TTXGP to do race sponsorship, Mavizen as a supplier of motorcycles and parts and services, and a technical review board run by the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology); UPDATE: Rupal asked me to clarify that eGrandPrix/TTXGP does not own the IET, which of course they don't, I'm referring to the technical review board. Some worried that engineering and technical information gathered by IET in scrutineering the bikes before races would leak into Mavizen to give Mavizen an unfair advantage.

Azhar said to me several times that there was no cause for worry. He said the organizations were maintaining an arms length relationship, and that information was not leaking between the organizations owned by Azhar Hussain. The claim of "arms length relationship" was not enough for some, and rumblings continued all year long about the relationship.

This years announcement about sponsorship by A123 indicates a restructuring (See: TTXGP North America 2011, the A123 Infineon round... New Sponsor and team list.).

Rupal Patel, Director of New Business Development, is quoted saying "In addition, the distribution agreement between A123 and Mavizen, TTXGP's principal technology advisory and consulting arm, allows us to make best-of-breed technologies accessible to TTXGP teams, which improves the quality of their performance while increasing safety."

Mavizen, as "TTXGP's principal technology advisory and consulting arm" seems different than an arms length relationship.

At the same time Mavizen appears to be stepping back from supplying motorcycles, and intent on supplying parts and services to race teams. (see Mavizen signs battery distribution agreement with A123 Systems) The North American series does not have a team riding a Mavizen bike, and Azhar Hussain's email to me a couple weeks ago downplayed their role of supplying motorcycles. Further several manufacturers have stepped up to supply electric motorcycles, such as CRP Racing, Spa Francorchamps, Mission Motors, Brammo, Roehr and Lightning Motors. If Mavizen continues to not supply electric motorcycles then last years' worries will be rendered moot.

History

TTXGP booted from Isle of Man TT races, electric motorcycle racing split worsens?

Electric motorcycle racing soap opera between TTXGP and FIM

Announcements from SWIGZ.COM, CRP Racing, Zero Motorcycles demonstrate support for TTXGP

Is the FIM attempting to "steal" electric motorcycle racing from TTXGP?

FIM launching the E-Power electric motorcycle racing series, without TTXGP

Mavizen's all electric supermotorcycle for the TTXGP circuit is revealed

More info on the electric superbike coming soon from Mavizen

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Considering the twelve PR problems of EV's (according to EVCAST)

Last Christmas, the hijinks meisters at the EVCAST released a song detailing the 12 PR problems they see about EV's. With the exciting news this year about electric vehicles of all stripes, it's worth nitpick about and reflect on the issues they listed. (FWIW the song is funny - so take this nitpicking and enjoy it anyway)

1. Pretending that they're carbon free: The common complaint lobbed against electric vehicles is they're coal powered, and with enough handwaving this can sound to be really bad, worse even than gasoline cars. So if electric vehicles have worse total emissions than gasoline cars, then isn't it silly to even get an electric car in the first place?

Sorry Bo and Ryan, but that line of argument is just plain wrong.

First, their carbon, and other emissions, are zero. At the tailpipe. Obviously they're not zero emissions if you consider the system which brings electricity to the car. But, what yardstick are we using to compare electric car cleanliness against other cars?

It's funny how the people who demand a well-to-wheels analysis of the electric car footprint do not also demand a well-to-wheels analysis of gasoline cars. What about the horrendous impacts of the gasoline delivery chain? An egregious example of problems that delivery chain is the recent oil volcano created by BP, but that's really only the tip of the iceberg.

In any case all the studies analyzing the well-to-wheel cleanliness of electric vehicles conclude they're cleaner than gasoline cars. Even when the electricity comes from coal. The reason is that electric motors have very high efficiency (waste very little energy) while gasoline engines have very low efficiency (waste most of their energy as heat). If the electricity comes from coal, then the emissions story is pretty bad but that's because coal is simply a dirty fuel. If there were a switch to cleaner fuels like natural gas then electric cars would be effectively cleaner. Electric cars are as clean as the electric grid which supplies their fuel. Over time the electric grid gets cleaner.

2. Fake press releases: Yup, that's irritating but there's only a few companies who issue truly fake press releases. There are companies outside the EV industry that issue fake press releases. Why should fakery ever be tolerated?

3. Limited market rollouts: Sung over a picture of the Leaf. Nissan plans to deliver 5000 of these in 13 cities later this year. Yup, it's not a nationwide rollout but a limited rollout in a select few cities and a limited quantity. It seems most EV companies start with limited rollouts and the reasons given by Nissan seem pretty rational. Adequate recharging infrastructure is thought to be required for successful EV adoption, and Nissan says the rollout cities were chosen based on local readiness to build out the infrastructure.

Some companies like Aptera or Coda have given other reasons having to do with after-sales service and support. What if the vehicle breaks and the nearest service station is 2,000 miles away? This exact scenario happened with some Vectrix owners in Australia where it took a two weeks just to ship the bike to and from the service center. Remote owners be unhappier than owners with a local service shop.

(See Nissan announces choice of Aerovironment to provide home charging equipment with LEAF sales and The Nissan LEAF is touring America, and first deliveries are expected 1 year from now and Nissan supports electric vehicle & infrastructure deployment project and Renault (and Nissan) aiming to be leaders in electric cars)

4. Concept cars we won't see: Yup, that sure is irritating but the car companies build concept cars all the time, even gasoline powered ones. Why is this issue being slammed against EV's? Perhaps the issue really is that the car makers generally don't proceed from concept electric vehicles to delivering actual electric vehicles.

An example might be Audi's e-Tron (Audi's e-tron concept car expected to come to market in 2012). When first unveiled it had four motors, one for each wheel, and a promised 2012 delivery time. It was a way cool car whose specs spoke "Tesla Roadster Killer". So then why was the e-tron shown a couple months later so different? (Audi demonstrates a different e-tron concept EV at the National Auto Show)

5. Five years away: The story for years has been to promise EV's in a few years. This is especially bad in the fuel cell sub-market where fuel cell cars are always said to be 5-10 years in the future. It would be more honest if the companies made realistic promises ("we're studying the technology and cannot commit to any delivery time frame") than to promote vapor-ware promises. Vapor-ware is not unique to the electric vehicle industry, but is a problem of product marketing in general. Marketers like to make promises they never keep, for some reason, as if unkept promises will never bite them in the ass.

6. Out of business going: This was sung over the picture of a Vectrix. Vectrix went bankrupt as have many companies in the EV industry. Vectrix's bankruptcy was pretty egregious but I'm sure if Bo had bought a Sparrow in 1999, that Sparrow would have been featured in the song in place of the Vectrix. Companies go out of business in every industry all the time. It's sad that Vectrix was so badly run they were never going to become profitable and were doomed to failure. It's not the first time that businessmen created screwed up businesses, and it won't be the last.

Battery maker GP Batteries has bought New Vectrix and the Vectrix assets - while Vectrix did go out of business, they were rescued and a new Vectrix was born.

e.g. More, grim, revelations about the troubles at Aptera Motors Is about yet another electric vehicle company that's facing hard times.

7. Climate change confusing: The only confusion about climate change is the spewage of fake doubt emanating from the so-called conservative blow hards that infest the news media. There is no real doubt about the danger of climate change, there is only faux doubt meant to spread confusion and undermine efforts to reign in the horrid business practices that create the environmental mess we are living with. (The World Energy Outlook report on energy supplies, peak oil and climate change)

8. Deadline back a pushing: It would be way cool if businesses were to keep their promises and deliver what they say the product will be. Unfortunately as noted before, marketers have a habit of lying. Another issue is engineering teams often under-estimate the difficulty of getting a product to work. Experienced engineering managers know they have to double whatever estimate their engineer employee gives them.

To take an example (Roehr Motorcycles introducing a line of electric sport and racing motorcycles) the US motorcycle maker, Roehr, wasn't able to keep their promise made last winter. Oh well. They've promised the motorcycles will be available "soon" and unfortunately it'll be too late for teams wishing to race in the 2010 TTXGP season. Oh well. That's unfortunate. Wasn't the first time a product delivery schedule slipped, won't be the last.

9. Fox news a network: Yup, Fox News has plenty of liars and conservative blow hards infesting their so-called news programs. See the FoxHounds.us website for more information collated by a staff of Fox Watchers. But what does Fox have to do with electric vehicles? Maybe it's a reference to the propaganda spewed through Fox in 2009 that Al Gore pulled some strings with the Obama administration to help Fisker, a company that Al Gore is supposedly invested in. (Fisker, the vast rightwing conspiracy, and the $528 Mil DOE loan)

10. Crazies tree a hugging: Ah, that is an unfair impugnment of environmentalists. Trees are some of the best people to hug, you should try it some time.

11. Hydrogen a hating: Without hydrogen we wouldn't have sunlight, so I don't see what there is to hate about Hydrogen. Well, the so-called Hydrogen Economy seems to be full of hyped up promises. And there is an antagonism between battery electric vehicle advocates, and hydrogen fuel cell advocates.

The truth is that a fuel cell vehicle is an electric vehicle with an on-board fuel cell used to generate electricity. A better way of describing a fuel cell car is perhaps the "extended range EV" moniker that GM concocted for the Volt. Maybe us battery electric vehicle advocates should give hydrogen fuel cells a break.

On the other hand a lot of money is being poured into the fuel cell vehicle chimera, money which could be spent to develop battery EV's. There's jealousy here. A practical matter is the perennial promise that fuel cell cars will be available in 5-10 years. It doesn't matter what year it is, the promise has always been "5-10 years". When will they ever be ready?

Wait, a fuel cell car was leased earlier this year (Nissan announces first "commercial" lease of their X-Trail fuel cell vehicle) so that means fuel cell cars are ready now, yes? No, that was one vehicle. Later this year there will be thousands of battery electric vehciles delivered to customers. Thousands. Take that fuel cells.

12. Three wheel driving: What's wrong with three wheelers? Just because they're different doesn't make them bad. Every vehicle has its place of proper use, even three wheelers. It is curious that so many of the startup electric vehicle companies are making three wheelers. It wouldn't have to do with DOT regulations saying three wheelers are motorcycles, and that motorcycles have very little safety regulations, hence making it much easier to get the vehicle into production (no crash testing)? That'll be a problem if a typical average family buys a three wheeler, expects it to be as safe as a car because it looks like a car and all cars are crash tested, and then dies in a horrid accident. But there's nothing inherently wrong with three wheeled vehicles.

Like, Aptera, that's such a way cool wonderful looking car. Oh, wait, it's not a car, it's a motorcycle. Oh, wait, maybe Aptera will never make it to market (More, grim, revelations about the troubles at Aptera Motors)?

If Aptera dies there's always the Arcimoto (Arcimoto's Pulse, the electric motorcycle for those who want to drive a space ship) one hopes.

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Some electric "bicycles" make you scratch your head and say "that's a motorcycle"

I recently had the privilege to test and review a pair of bicycles including one that just makes me question "what's an electric bicycle." See - Head-head the A2B Metro and EMS Elite bicycles

EMS's Elite has a 1000 watt electric motor, top speed a bit over 30 miles/hr, on a road bike style frame. It's very fast and so easy to get up to speed ranges where the laws say it is supposed to be registered and the rider have a motorcycle license. But the manufacturer is selling it as a bicycle.

The laws about electric bicycles are murky to say the least. Some places ban electric bicycles outright for unknown mysterious reasons. Other places restrict the power to 250 watts. I think that some places must be unregulated, and anything goes. In the U.S. the general rule is 750 watts or less and 20 miles/hr or less, but every state and some cities have their own rules and it's a mixmaster of different regulations. At 1000 watts and a 30 miles/hr top speed the Elite is way beyond the majority of the legal definitions regulating electric bicycles.

Many times I've seen electric bicycle riders chafe at these rules. Limited to 20 miles/hr? Unpowered bicyclists can often go faster than that! Uh, yeah, the lycra clad types on racing bikes probably are. In my neighborhood the majority of unpowered bicyclists are riding in the 10-15 miles/hr range and sometimes slower than that.

I'm wondering about safety, about compatibility with other vehicles, and opening the eyes of the people around us to see value in electric bicycles. And I see a possible role for crossover vehicles that are recognized as being a grade above "bicycles", a grade below "motorcycles", and combine pedaling and a motor.

Safety: Would it be safe to take a cheap bicycle and put a 72 volt crystalyte system on it? Some people are doing this and I'm sure it's quite fun. But is it safe? Really? One of the legitimate roles for government is testing and validating product safety. What should government do in this case?

Compatibility: There's a continuum of transportation ranging from the pedestrians, to bicyclists, to scooters, to motorcycles, to cars, to mass transit, etc. Each tends to have their own place on the road. Bicyclists in many places have bicycle lanes giving a place where bicyclists can go bicycle speed. Bicyclists are generally not compatible with the traffic on the road, because they generally go much slower. In the bicycle lane the prevailing speed is bicycle speed while over there where the cars go the prevailing speed is faster. An electric bicycle needs to fit into one or the other, but a fast electric bicycle is going to be faster than the prevailing bicycle speed. That either will frustrate the electric bicyclist (I can go faster than the unpowered bicyclists let me go) or else be a danger as they continually pull out into car traffic to pass other bicyclists.

It is unusual for electric bicycle regulations to be based on motor power. Most vehicle definitions don't have motor power ... e.g. you can get a car with any power you want, one that can go insanely fast, much faster than the speed limit, and there's nothing to stop you so long as the car meets safety regulations. Why do electric bicycles have a limit?

Some guesswork ... I hear that one of the reasons behind banning electric bicycles is that by adding a motor the ebike falls into "motor vehicle" regulatory snafu's. If a given motor vehicle code doesn't have definitions allowing electric bicycles the authorities might say "well, it's not allowed". Also by limiting the power levels below which an electric bicycle can go unregulated it carves out an exception to the general rule that motor vehicles have to be regulated.

A hundred or so years ago when they were first developing motorcycles - they were essentially bicycles with a small gas motor. Some of the motorcycles back then even had usable pedals. Nowadays motorcycles are quite a lot hugely different (to say the least).

Riding the EMS Elite bicycle just had me thinking about this history and the gap between bicycles and motorcycles. I'm wondering whether "bicycle" is the best label for a this kind of vehicle. There is this "moped" label that for example in California's vehicle code the EMS Elite fits perfectly. A Moped in California's law has a speed up to 30 miles/hr and a motor less than 2 HP which would be 1500 watts. Mopeds have lesser regulation than motorcycles but have to meet higher regulation than bicycles. For example lighting and turn signals and rear view mirrors and horns must be up to snuff. I think they're expecting mopeds to be out in traffic rather than in the bicycle lane.

But there aren't many examples of "mopeds" being sold, today.

Some of the companies are selling scooter-bikes, which look like scooters but have a less-than-750-watts motor and speed limited to 20 miles/hr. On this forum Xtreme's XB5xx, XB6xx, XB7xx and other scooterbikes have been popular. But on those the pedals seem useless and I think many people just take the pedals off. There are also scooters with speeds up to 30 miles/hr like my EVT 4000 and those get classified as mopeds despite not having pedals.

I do think it would be quite fun having a "bike" that can combine pedaling and an electric motor and go higher speeds than the 20 miles/hr electric bicycles are limited to. It should be properly designed for the higher speed, it should have lights and horns and turn signals and such so it can be compatible with the car dominated traffic. It should be designed so that the pedals are actually useful, unlike the scooterbikes. And probably it should be regulated and licensed.

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FIM's e-Power race at Laguna Seca still not confirmed

The FIM in their infinite wisdom has created their own electric motorcycle race series, e-Power. The two races held so far have been pretty anemic with a small field and lackluster performances. Not to diss the individual team efforts because I haven't been at any of those races. However the race results indicate the overall performance levels weren't even competitive with the bikes who have raced in the US TTXGP. More importantly the small field of racers is the really lackluster thing. Some bloggers watching the scene have called the e-Power races 'lame' and called for FIM to give up on the e-Power plan. However, on FIM's e-Power schedule is a race at the Laguna Seca race track which might be a different show than the ones they've put on so far.

The reason is because Laguna Seca is in the back yard of the SF Bay Area, an area that is for some reason a hotbed of electric motorcycle development. Within easy distance of Laguna Seca are the majority of the teams racing in the US TTXGP (Lightning Motors, Electric Motorsport, ElectricRaceBikes.com, Volt Motorcycles, etc) as well as Mission Motors, Zero Motorcycles, Motoczysz, and Brammo. Those teams could be enticed by FIM to race in an e-Power race occurring in their back yard.

The puzzle however is that while FIM's e-Power site lists the event on the e-Power schedule, it is not listed on Laguna Seca's website. Is the race actually going to happen?

I sent an email to the Laguna Seca press office and they just confirmed a couple facts. First, yes indeed there is no set agreement yet that the e-Power race will be held that weekend at Laguna Seca. I suppose FIM is being overly hopeful by listing it in their e-Power schedule. In any case, Laguna Seca's press office says they are still in negotiations with FIM, AMA and Dorna over holding the e-Power race at Laguna Seca on that weekend.

That's all they would confirm. So if you will indulge me in some informed speculation ...

First issue is the business model of holding races. The race weekend organizers have a set period of time (a weekend) to fill with events sufficient to draw race fans to the race weekend. Race weekend organizers generally jam in as many hours of action packed racing excitement as they can, and obviously they want to know every event in the weekend will draw ticket sales. At the end of the day race weekend organizers are a business whose objective is to sell tickets.

Hence a proposal to add a race to a given weekend has to meet up with the business model of the race weekend organizers. Will that race draw ticket sales or will it sap interest away from the weekend? Further, if the weekend's schedule is already full, how does one accommodate a proposed addition to the schedule?

I'd imagine that if electric motorcycle racing was proven to draw ticket sales there would be little question about adding the e-Power race to the schedule. But the field of electric motorcycle racing is rather young and unknown. Given FIM's pathetic e-Power races I expect it would not give confidence to the organizers of the race weekend at Laguna Seca.

It's been learned that FIM is paying the 5 e-Power race teams to fly to the US for a Laguna Seca race. Further FIM has sent emails to the teams who have participated in US TTXGP inviting them to participate. This means that at the minimum FIM has the 5 teams who participated in prior e-Power races. Will there be any other teams join them? As I said Laguna Seca is in the back yard of the hotbed of electric motorcycle development, would any of those teams decide to race at e-Power?

That remains to be seen. Fortuitously that weekend (July 24, 25) is not on the US TTXGP schedule. However it is squeezed between two US TTXGP events, one at Mosport Canada (July 11), the other at Virginia International Raceway (August 15). Given that most of the US TTXGP teams are based in Northern California, to participate in the remaining US TTXGP races plus the FIM e-Power race means several cross country trips within 5 weeks. First is the trek to Mosport for a TTXGP race, then a trek back to Laguna Seca for a race, then another trek to Virgina for a TTXGP race. That sounds like a grueling five weeks. Especially for teams with little sponsorship funding themselves from their own money.

The question then is, what is FIM's purpose in pushing for the Laguna Seca race? Is it to build up e-Power's reputation or is it to throw a monkey wrench into the TTXGP race series?

See:

Lightning strikes second round of TTXGP 2010 with Lightning Motors win

With the TTXGP underway, what's happening with the e-Power and TTZERO races?

Zero/Agni wins at Infineon after battle royale with Lightning Motors

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Manufactured Motoczysz hype after TT Zero win?

In case you hadn't heard there are a lot of electric motorcycle races going on this summer. One of them, the TT Zero, just ran on Thursday on the Isle of Man. See: Mark Miller of Motoczysz wins 2010 TTZERO, Rob Barber of Agni Motors in 2nd One result of this is a lot of hype attention pointed at Motoczysz making them seem like the Second Coming of Christ or the best thing since sliced bread. e.g. The Motorcycle of the Future Has Arrived, MotoCzysz E1pc: The World’s Most Advanced Electric Motorcycle ... there's more out there including some claims this is the worlds fastest electric motorcycle.

To be clear the win is impressive and to hit a 135 miles/hr speed during a road race is very impressive. But at the same time I'm wondering just how much of this hype is manufactured and how much is honest hype. There are other impressive electric motorcycles in the electric racing scene, also deserving of attention. e.g. Lightning strikes second round of TTXGP 2010 with Lightning Motors win, namely the bikes racing in the TTXGP 2010 series.

motoczysztweets.jpg

In my twitter client (Nambu) I keep a search going for "electric motorcycles". Just prior to the start of the TT Zero race a slew of tweets started being sent about the Motoczysz bike. The flood has stopped now but just before, during, and for about 24 hours after the race, there were hundreds of tweets about the Motoczysz bike.

What you see in this picture is just a small sample but look at the time stamp. This screen shot records an identical tweet sent through a dozen different twitter accounts in the exact same minute. This isn't the natural course of twitterers sharing news with one another, this is an organized PR campaign using twitter to send out a message. That block of tweets was sent at 1:28 AM PDT on June 11, 2010 (see twitter.com/shayna57/status/15914279149).

Maybe the tweets in this screen shot weren't directed by Motoczysz. The link in them goes to a website that looks like a pseudospamblog, and it's plausible the owner of that blog saw a trending topic, put together a post, and sent out tweets through roboticized twitter accounts.

Going back in time this is where the flood of tweets appears to have started .. at 1:35 PM PST on June 9, 2010, the day before the TT Zero.

motoczysztweets2.jpg

I've tracked down some of these tweets and they all point to the same gizmodo.com article. ... twitter.com/Gadget_Sage/status/15800654745 ... twitter.com/techscreens/status/15800655733 ... twitter.com/WPL_Ping/status/15800658039 ... twitter.com/kahotep/status/15800659563 ... each of the twitter accounts appears to be a roboticized feed of random news articles fed with the RSS2Twitter or feedtweet services. That particular block of tweets appears to go on for a couple hundred individual tweets from individual accounts.

And that wasn't the only block of identical tweets. Another set had the same title but pointed to a URL on engadget's website and also got repeated by a zillion accounts.

Summary .. Yeah, Motoczysz is obviously deserving of some attention. But some of the attention and hype surrounding them is manufactured.

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EV Journalist spends beautiful holiday weekend holed up reviewing Tesla IPO documents, film at 11

(May 31, Mountain View, CA) - EV Journalist David Herron was found this Memorial Day weekend staring his computer and mumbling about how big Tesla Motors might become if their deals with Toyota and Daimler pan out. Or maybe the deals could go awry and Tesla would die. To David this seemed like a big story, one which needs to be told, despite the cost involved in missing the beautiful weather outside.

Tesla Motors and Daimler agreements revealed in IPO documents is a million boring details about Daimler's investment in and partnership with Tesla Motors. It appears that Daimler bought an amount of control over Tesla and might use that control to create electric vehicles, buy parts from Tesla, and help Tesla to build the Model S. Or that Daimler might use it to stall Tesla's development or prevent Tesla from partnering with other companies.

Tesla's IPO filings reveals details of the NUMMI plant purchase reveals another million boring details about the purchase of an auto assembly plant. Fremont CA maybe used to have manufacturing work but the rise of Silicon Valley remade the area into an R&D center, not manufacturing center, with the NUMMI plant being one of the last remnants of the manufacturing past. Tesla however needs a manufacturing plant and it appears that Tesla and Toyota may be entering into partnership agreements similar to the ones Tesla has with Daimler. However the agreements made with Daimler appear to require that Daimler sign off on any agreements with any other auto manufacturer.

Tesla, Toyota, Daimler, Elon Musk, and a messy divorce delves into how the divorce of Elon Musk and Justine Musk might affect Tesla. Agreements between Tesla, Daimler and the US Dept of Energy are making several requirements on Tesla, among which is that Elon Musk remain as CEO and retain at least a 65% ownership stake. But Justine Musk is demanding 10% of Elon's Tesla shares. Hurm. Very tricky.

How much of the NUMMI plant will Tesla use? The NUMMI plant is very big and has a capacity of perhaps 500,000 vehicles per year production. And Tesla is gonna buy the whole thing? Say what? What are they going to do with that big of a plant? How could Tesla possibly use any more than a corner of the place? It's possible that Tesla and Toyota will enter into agreements to develop several electric cars, some of which might be under Toyota brands. I wonder what Daimler thinks of this.

The New United Motor (NUMMI) plant, Fremont, CA And just for completeness, an overview of the NUMMI plant.

We now see David posting a final article and heading out the door to do something more interesting.

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The Toyota/Tesla/NUMMI deal appears to be pretty darn significant

I put together a set of articles on the Toyota/Tesla deal (links below) and it looks to me like a significant step. This is a summary ...

Background: An interesting factoid is that the NUMMI plant is the last U.S. auto assembly plant west of the mississippi river. That's either because the auto industry outsourced itself to other countries, or else concentrated itself in the eastern half of the country. In the past there were other plants in the SF Bay Area such as the Ford plant in Milpitas which is now a mall. This was originally a GM plant, opened in 1962, then in 1982 GM and Toyota started operating the plant together. The idea was that GM was to learn modern management techniques from Toyota and become a better company. GM failed to learn anything and the plant was primarily producing Toyota branded vehicles. A few GM branded vehicles were built there but the ratio was in the neighborhood of 90% Toyota branding. The plant produced over 400,000 vehicles in 2006ish and had a stated capacity of perhaps 500,000 vehicles per year. It employed over 5000 people at times, mostly UAW unionized workers. In the throes of GM's near death experience last year the GM/Toyota/NUMMI partnership was dissolved and shortly after that Toyota decided to shut down the plant. The official shutdown was on April 1, 2010.

Toyota has long resisted producing battery EV's and insisted that hybrid cars were sufficient. Toyota did produce the RAV4-EV and owners of that SUV are happy with them. I've driven in two of them and they are competently built EV's. For example as a passenger it feels very normal, even riding down the highway at highway speed feels like any gas powered SUV. Despite the praise they get for the RAV4-EV there's no plans to build any more, and the existing RAV4-EV's were in any case hand built conversions rather than produced on a regularized factory line.

This is the first head-scratcher - just what is Toyota after? There isn't much solid information and some articles say they're still hammering out details. But if Toyota isn't interested in EV's then what are they doing hooking up with Tesla?

Some articles make a claim that Tesla is falling behind Mitsubishi and Nissan. With the Prius, Toyota has had a lot of thought leadership credibility due to creating a very popular green car. But their runaway-Prius problem is one problem, and both Mitsubishi and Nissan are coming out with (or already have) credible EV's that stand to become popular. Mitsubishi and Nissan would appear to be taking thought leadership. I can't imagine though that sales of either the iMiev or Leaf will be approaching sales volume of the Prius any time soon.

Some articles claim the two companies are planning to develop a range of smaller affordable electric cars. That will be fun to see, if true.

Tesla's background strategy was to stay at a relatively small production level. In theory a smaller company could be profitable at a smaller production volume at which a large company would go bankrupt. The large automobile companies are modeled on hundreds of thousands of vehicles per year sold. Thus a large company has to develop car models which sell in huge volumes. Smaller companies can use smaller factories that cost less to run and be profitable at smaller volumes. Tesla's strategy was to stay in this realm, so it's a head scratcher why they're "buying" such a large plant as the NUMMI.

If Tesla is to remain at a 20,000 car/year production volume that's expected for the Tesla Model S, how can they possibly use a factory with a 500,000/yr capacity? Indeed the articles quote Tesla people saying that they're only going to use a corner of the factory.

See: How much of the NUMMI plant will Tesla use?, and In surprising move Tesla Motors and Toyota announce NUMMI partnership

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A preview of a future parking controversy - are hybrid cars allowed to use electric car parking?

6cfa3aa2.jpgHere in California there are electric vehicle charging stations in some parking lots or garages. Primarily these were installed in the period 10+ years ago when the EV Mandate was still strong. Obviously EV success is more assured when there is recharging infrastructure. Part of the success of gas cars is the existing gasoline recharging infrastructure that lets gas car owners to conveniently drive anywhere. It's so ubiquitous and ingrained in everybody's thinking that they don't even consider the inconvenience it is to stop at a gas station or the times they run out of gas before finding a gas station or the network of businesses that exist to assist recharging gas cars who inconveniently ran out of gas before their operator found a gasoline recharging station.

In any case later this year there will be several electric vehicles come onto the market. Occurring in parallel with these vehicles are projects to build new EV recharging infrastructure. A US Dept of Energy program is building EV charging networks in 13 cities around the US. Nissan specifically chose cities for their initial rollout based on willingness to build EV charging infrastructure. etc. It's widely understood there is a chicken-and-egg situation where prospective EV owners are less likely to buy if there's no charging infrastructure, and prospective owners of charging infrastructure are less likely to build if there are no electric vehicles.

The experience from the EV Mandate era is something from which we can learn lessons, and the need for infrastructure is one of those lessons. One of the lessons is what EV owners have called being ICE'd out. "ICE" means "Internal Combustion Engine" and the ICE'd Out is what happens when an ICE car uses the parking reserved for EV's. The EV parking spots were usually installed at "the front", most places put them near the front of the store perhaps next to the handicap parking. The enforcement of EV parking rules has been spotty especially considering that very few electric vehicles exist and the EV parking usually goes unused. It seems that, often, the EV parking spots have gas cars parked in them. The ICE car in EV parking prevents an EV car from using that parking spot.

Would gas car owners appreciate it if a contingent of EV owners parked their cars to block all access to gasoline stations? No. But that's the effect of an EV owner being ICE'd Out. An ICE'd Out EV owner is being prevented from recharging their car just as if a gas car owner would be if their gasoline stations were blocked.

fdb38010.jpgI've been experiencing a strange form this at my workplace. At the office there are EV charging spots in the parking garage that were installed 10+ years ago. What's shown in these pictures is the EV parking, and a hybrid car that blatantly is parked in the EV charging. What appears to have happened is over 10 years of disuse some especially blatant hybrid car owners have decided that their hybrid car qualifies them to use EV parking. While I appreciate that hybrid car owners have taken some step to decrease their environmental impact, they just don't get it. Maybe they're under a delusion that EV parking is a perk rather than a necessity. EV charging in parking lots is almost as much a necessity as handicapped access is in parking lots. Electric car owners have to recharge their cars and, unlike gasoline recharging infrastructure, electric recharging infrastructure is in parking lots. Hybrid car owners cannot use the electric recharging facilities, unless they are plug-in hybrids.

This is easily predictable.. As electric cars start being sold later this year, and as EV charging networks are improved or built, there will be some confusion over who can park in them. It will be like the competition over handicapped parking where some uncaring nonhandicapped people use the spots reserved for the handicapped. There will be signs clearly marking EV parking, just as there are signs clearly marking handicapped parking. But some simply won't care, or won't understand, etc. A lot will depend on how many EV's are bought and how well used the EV parking is. Maybe. For example it's kinda sorta understandable if you squint your eyes right that unused EV or handicap parking rubs people the wrong way ("the best parking spots are never used.. WTF").

Background:

Electric Vehicle infrastructure issues demonstrated by Shocking Barack ride

Infrastructure considerations for gasoline, ethanol, biodiesel, electricity, hydrogen, and...

Planning for the coming wave of electric vehicles

reikiman's picture

Review: The End of Suburbia

The End of Suburbia is a documentary concerning itself with predicting the effects of the coming peak of oil production. It consists of interviews with leading peak oil educators including Richard Heinberg, Colin Campbell, Michael Rupert, and James Howard Kunstler. The movie paints a very dark story, and calls on America to relocalize into walkable urban centers rather than continue the folly of suburban sprawl. Additionally it calls for relocalization of our economy, a reversal of globalization, ending the "3000 mile ceasar salad", and other practices which result from abundant cheap energy supplies.

The core of the story is Peak oil, which is the theoretical construct studied by some scientists which predicts production from oil fields as they age. What's been observed over decades of oil production is that once the easy oil is pumped out of a field it is harder and harder and harder to extract the oil. The United States went past its peak of oil production in 1971 and its thought that the world went past its peak of oil production a year or three ago.

Economics 101 "supply and demand" theory says that a commodity with rising demand and decreasing supply will see an increasing price. Right? The history of oil usage is an ever increasing rate of use. That is, except for a short period in the late 70's to early 80's, immediately after the oil crises of the 1970's (and the Carter Administration years). The last few years have seen a wide range of fuel prices leaving us with gasoline cost far higher than recent history. The higher price hasn't been adequately explained to us. It's my belief that the root cause is production peak issues as predicted by the peak oil theory.

This is the sort of problem that The End of Surburbia asks the viewer to ponder. The movie doesn't dwell on questioning whether the peak oil theory is right or wrong. Clearly the people behind this movie assume that it is a correct theory, and their job is to put viewers through a thinking process about the folly of suburbia, the vast amounts of energy wasted to fund the suburban lifestyle, the vast amounts of energy wasted in globalization, and to ponder how we might survive through the coming crisis spawned by less energy availability.

The issue with suburbia itself is the low population density and the unwalkable nature of modern suburbs. Low population density means mass transit is an uneconomic unprofitable business which cannot survive (in most cases). Part of the reason for this is a concerted effort by General Motors, Firestone and Standard Oil to destroy mass transit (street car) systems all over the country replacing them with cars on rubber tires fueled by gasoline.

A byproduct of unwalkable cities is that we as a people have gotten out of the habit of casual exercise. We can't walk to the store, we can't walk to work, etc, instead we drive everywhere. Lack of casual exercise is a likely culprit in obesity.

The "3000 mile ceasar salad" is a way of describing a key flaw in globalization. Globalization is about shipping goods all over the world to serve a global search for the lowest price. The "3000 mile ceasar salad" is when globalization means the ingredients for your ceasar salad at lunch are shipped from 3000 (or more) miles away. An example of globalization is availability of fresh fruit in grocery stores all year long even when the fruit is out of season. This is enabled by cheap shipping costs in turn enabled by cheap abundant energy (fossil oil) supplies. If fuel costs continue rising it will make global-wide shipping expensive, making it unprofitable to ship ceasar salad ingredients across the world.

These are the things discussed in The End of Suburbia. It is an excellent movie, very informative, and for some it was a life-changing experience to watch.

Reposted from: http://www.7gen.com/blog/david-herron/review-end-suburbia

reikiman's picture

Responsibly evangelizing electric bicycling

Bike-to-Work day is this week. In the past I barely recognized it because I bike to work so often it wasn't out of the ordinary for me. However there's a big deal made about it seemingly. At least here in Silicon Valley there is active promotion of the idea.

How to Live with Insufferable Cyclist Syndrome seems to be assuming a bike-to-work person might sway over to over-hyping or over-evangalising the idea of biking to work. Y'know, scraping their keys along the sides of the hummers in the parking lot, or blocking the hallways when they bring their bicycle inside etc.

Interesting thoughts.. As he said perhaps the best evangalism of bicycling to work (electric or otherwise) is to simply do it and demonstrate with actions rather than words.

Here's a few electric bicycling centered thoughts ...

Why oh why is it that bicycling advocates ignore electric bicycles? It's like the thought is only non-power-assist bicyclists are pure enough to be called bicyclists. In truth for me anyway the goal is transportation with a smaller power / energy / ecosystem impact, and any kind of bicycle is a huge improvement over driving a car to accomplish the same solo commute to work. Seems to me they should acknowledge that both non-power-assist and power-assist bicyclists are chasing the same rainbow, that we can get to work w/o driving a behemoth that stinks up the atmosphere.

An electric bicycle is more practical for commuting to work as it decreases the concern over being stinky when you get there.

Because an electric bicycle is more practical perhaps it's not required to wear the lycra and all that stuff. BUT, wear your helmet and who cares if it makes you look like a dork. The helmet can save your life, even the skimpy bicycle helmets.

Pay attention to the commute time required for the e-bicycle commute. In my experience my (former) commute took 10-15 mins by car, 20 mins by motorcycle, and 30-45 mins by e-bicycle. Your boss won't appreciate that you're saving the planet if you show up to work late or work less hours because of your longer commute. But you can balance the longer commute by knowing you're getting exercise and becoming healthier.

Pay attention to safety, as it's no good to be using a more wholesome commute process and get creamed by an SUV because you weren't practicing safe cycling. That finger points at me too, because I got knocked over by an SUV while e-bicycling to work one day. Fortunately the SUV was going low speed and I was able to immediately get up and start yelling at them. In any case there are bicycle safety training programs, motorcycle safety programs, and they can teach you about good bicycling safety etiquette.

It's such a shame that most businesses and stores have so few bicycle parking slots. That's part of the overbearing normalthink (prevailing consensus opinion) that the only valid way of transportation is using a car. It impedes the success of using a bicycle for transportation.

It seems most people think of a bicycle as a toy for recreation, and e.g. they'll strap the bicycle to an SUV and drive to a park to spend an afternoon bicycling around, then drive home. Uh? What a crazy picture that is in my mind. Anyway bicycles can be perfectly adequate for regular transportation, and electric bicycles are doubly so.

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