electric cars

EcoTality electric car charging company blows $100 million and eyes bankruptcy

Back in October, 2010, I attended a promotional meeting put on by Ecotality (see article here.)  At that time I wrote:

“Tucson is the guinea pig for a project run by ECOtality of North America to install chargers for electric vehicles in 16 cities throughout the country. Tucson will get 240 chargers. The company hopes, during the next few years, to install 14,650 level 2 (220V) chargers and 310 DC fast chargers. The level 2 chargers can replenish batteries in 4- to 6 hours, while the DC fast chargers can give at least half a charge in 30 minutes. The bulk of the money, some $114.8 million, comes from government grants, your tax dollars.”

Now, The Hill, is reporting that “Obama-backed electric car charging company eyes bankruptcy.”  “ECOtality Inc., an Energy Department-backed maker of electric car charging systems, is facing a major cash crunch and could file for bankruptcy.  The company, which has been awarded nearly $100 million in grant funding under the 2009 stimulus law, disclosed Monday that it’s weighing a restructuring or sale as it seeks more outside capital. “

In the past two years, Ecototality did manage to install 12,500 charging stations in 18 U.S. cities according to The Hill.

My 2010 story ended with this: “It remains to be seen whether or not arrays of charging stations will attract customers. It’s like the “Field of Dreams.” If they build it, will customers come?”  Apparently not.  It looks like Obama’s Energy Department blew $100 million for nothing.

It looks like Ecotality may join the long list of President Obama’s Taxpayer-Backed Green Energy Failures:

Evergreen Solar ($25 million)*

SpectraWatt ($500,000)*

Solyndra ($535 million)*

Beacon Power ($43 million)*

Nevada Geothermal ($98.5 million)

SunPower ($1.2 billion)

First Solar ($1.46 billion)

Babcock and Brown ($178 million)

EnerDel’s subsidiary Ener1 ($118.5 million)*

Amonix ($5.9 million)

Fisker Automotive ($529 million)

Abound Solar ($400 million)*

A123 Systems ($279 million)*

Willard and Kelsey Solar Group ($700,981)*

Johnson Controls ($299 million)

Brightsource ($1.6 billion)

ECOtality ($126.2 million)

Raser Technologies ($33 million)*

Energy Conversion Devices ($13.3 million)*

Mountain Plaza, Inc. ($2 million)*

Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsen’s Mills Acquisition Company ($10 million)*

Range Fuels ($80 million)*

Thompson River Power ($6.5 million)*

Stirling Energy Systems ($7 million)*

Azure Dynamics ($5.4 million)*

GreenVolts ($500,000)

Vestas ($50 million)

LG Chem’s subsidiary Compact Power ($151 million)

Nordic Windpower ($16 million)*

Navistar ($39 million)

Satcon ($3 million)*

Konarka Technologies Inc. ($20 million)*

Mascoma Corp. ($100 million)

*Denotes companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

A question for Tucson electric car owners: Do you use chargers around town?  Where are they?

See also:

Electric cars not doing well in Ireland

UPDATE: http://nlpc.org/stories/2013/09/02/obama-green-failure-train-rolls-ecotality

Electric cars not doing well in Ireland

I like Ireland. Since my most recent trip there several years ago, the Irish government has established a campaign to make at least 10% of the cars on the road electric vehicles by 2020, that’s a goal of about 230,000 electric cars. Their goal for the end of 2012 is to have 6,000 electric cars on the road.

To encourage use of electric cars, the Irish government has committed to installing 1,500 public charging points and making 2,000 home charging points available. So far, more than 700 charging points have been installed around the country, including public charging stations and installations in homes and businesses.

So how are they doing? In 2010, 48 electric cars were registered, in 2011, just 23 new electric cars were registered, but that number has exploded to 121 new electric cars registered this year so far, making a grand total of 192 electric cars on the road according to the Irish Examiner. This means that government installed charging stations greatly outnumber the government promoted electric cars. Hybrid cars are doing better with 559 registered this year. So far this year over 71,000 new gasoline or diesel powered cars have been registered.

These poor sales figures for electric cars are occurring even though the Irish government is offering grants of up to €5,000 ($6,459) for purchase of private electric cars and €3,800 ($4,909) for purchase of commercial electric vehicles, according to The Journal.

Perhaps these underwhelming results show that Irish consumers are smarter than the government.

And that’s the luck of the Irish.

See also:

Production of electric vehicles has twice the global warming potential of fossil fuel powered cars

Nissan Leaf battery degrades quickly in hot climates

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Obama’s Electric car experiment a failure so far

The administration’s rosy hope: If we build it, they will sell, hasn’t panned out. Sales of GM’s hybrid Volt and Nissan’s Leaf are much below expectations in spite of heavy U.S. government subsidies. In fact, GM is temporarily suspending Volt production – again. Even the liberal Washington Post is disenchanted:

“No matter how you slice it, the American taxpayer has gotten precious little for the administration’s investment in battery-powered vehicles, in terms of permanent jobs or lower carbon dioxide emissions. There is no market, or not much of one, for vehicles that are less convenient and cost thousands of dollars more than similar-sized gas-powered alternatives — but do not save enough fuel to compensate. The basic theory of the Obama push for electric vehicles — if you build them, customers will come — was a myth. And an expensive one, at that.”

Part of the problem is that electric cars are impractical due to their limited range given the current state of battery technology. We knew that 100 years ago. The vehicle in the photo is the 1911 Baker Electric which could go 50 miles on one battery charge. The GM Volt can go 40 miles on a charge. The Nissan Leaf claims 100 miles on a charge, but that varies from 47 to 138 miles depending on conditions. By the way, hybrid vehicles, first developed in 1916, just make automobiles unnecessarily complex.

Emphasizing the impracticality of electric cars, a story last year about driving a Leaf from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona, found that what is normally an 8-hour drive took a week in a Leaf.

GM is losing money on each Volt they make. They are selling the Volt for about $40,000 (much more expensive than comparable gasoline-power models), but it costs GM $89,000 to manufacture the vehicle according to Reuters.

Sales of the Volt have been weak even though federal agencies (i.e. taxpayers) have been buying or plan to buy them.

Another, related issue is The EPA’s Electric Vehicle Mileage Fraud. The EPA calculates a miles-per-gallon equivalent (MPGe) for electric cars that estimates the amount of fossil fuels which must be burned to create the electricity to charge the batteries of an electric car. In a Forbes article, Warren Meyers shows that “The EPA’s methodology is flawed because it assumes perfect conversion of the potential energy in fossil fuels to electricity, an assumption that violates the second law of thermodynamics. The Department of Energy has a better methodology that computes electric vehicle equivalent mileage based on real world power plant efficiencies and fuel mixes, while also taking into account energy used for refining gasoline for traditional cars. Using this better DOE methodology, we get MPGe’s for electric cars that are barely 1/3 of the EPA figures.”

It seems that the great green hype is more hope than reality. This exercise in crony capitalism and green dreaming demonstrates the incompetence of government in the marketplace.

See also:

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Tax Dollars to Build Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient?

Electric cars not selling

Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_01General Motors is boosting its production of the $41,000 hybrid Chevrolet Volt to 16,000 this year. But according to the Detroit News, they’ve sold only 1,700 Volts so far this year. So, where is all this production going? Again, according to Detroit News, “about 2,500 will go to dealer demonstration fleets, and another 3,500 will be built for export to China, Canada and Europe, GM officials said.” That leaves 10,000 Volts to take up space in GM parking lots. Even if GM manages to sell all 16,000 Volts, that would represent only 0.1% of the new car market. The Volt has a range of about 40 miles on one charge. By contrast, the 1911 Baker Electric from the Baker Motor Vehicle Company of Cleveland, Ohio, could go 50 miles on one battery charge.

Meanwhile, Nissan Motors has sold only 8,000 of its all electric Nissan Leafs worldwide since last December. Maybe that’s because all-electric vehicles are not practical outside an urban environment. Recall a recent story about driving a Leaf from San Diego, California, to Tucson, Arizona. The normally 8-hour drive took a week in a Leaf.

It seems that fuel efficient gasoline-powered cars are still the choice for most car buyers. When considering a new car, one should investigate total energy efficiency, not just gas mileage. For more details on which vehicles are really the most energy efficient, see my post:

Which Vehicles Are Most Energy Efficient. The results my surprise you.

For more background on electric vehicles, see:

The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Tax Dollars to Build Charging Stations for Electric Vehicles

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine

Chevy Volt might be less than claimed

Does the Chevy Volt produce more CO2 from its battery than from its gasoline engine?

The hybrid Chevy Volt is touted by General Motors as producing less carbon dioxide than purely gasoline-powered cars.  But that may not be true according to an analysis by Junkscience.com:

According to the EPA the 4-seat Volt is capable of driving 35 miles on its 16 kilowatt hours (kWh) of stored electric charge. The Volt’s gas-only fuel economy rating is 37 mpg.

Since two oxygen atoms from the atmosphere combine with each carbon atom when gasoline is burned, a gallon of gas produces about 19.6 lbs. of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. So when operating on gasoline, the Volt produces 0.53 lbs. of CO2 per mile (19.6 lbs. of CO2 per gallon divided by 37 miles per gallon).

Since we can’t quantify accurately just how much transmission loss there is between electricity generation and charging points, we’ll assume an impossible 100 percent efficiency at the charger to work out the CO2 emissions for the Volt’s 16 kWh stored charge.

In 2007, national “average” CO2 emissions were 2.16 lbs per kWh from coal-fired generation and 1.01 lbs per kW for gas-fired generation. according to Power Systems Analysis. Given that 44.46 percent of electricity in the U.S. is coal-fired and 23.31 percent is gas-fired, on a national basis, then, the mean emission of CO2 per kWh is 1.2 lbs/kWh. (2.16 lbs/kWh x 0.4446 = 0.96 lbs/kWh from coal, plus 1.01 lbs/kWh x 0.2331 = 0.24 lbs/kWh from gas).

The Volt’s “emissions mileage” from its stored charge is then 16 kWh x 1.2 lbs/kWh divided by 35 MPG = 0.55 lb CO2/mile.

So on an “average” basis, the Volt emits more CO2 from battery use than from gasoline use (0.55 lbs/mile vs. 0.53 lbs/mile).

Maybe you don’t think that’s a big difference, but the difference becomes more pronounced when the Volt is charged in states that rely more on coal-fired electricity.

When I first read this analysis I wondered how one gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6 pounds could produce almost 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.  Well according to a Department of Energy website, it works like this:

It seems impossible that a gallon of gasoline, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, could produce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) when burned. However, most of the weight of the CO2 doesn’t come from the gasoline itself, but the oxygen in the air.

When gasoline burns, the carbon and hydrogen separate. The hydrogen combines with oxygen to form water (H2O), and carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide (CO2).

A carbon atom has a weight of 12, and each oxygen atom has a weight of 16, giving each single molecule of CO2 an atomic weight of 44 (12 from carbon and 32 from oxygen).

Therefore, to calculate the amount of CO2 produced from a gallon of gasoline, the weight of the carbon in the gasoline is multiplied by 44/12 or 3.7.

Since gasoline is about 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen by weight, the carbon in a gallon of gasoline weighs 5.5 pounds (6.3 lbs. x .87).

We can then multiply the weight of the carbon (5.5 pounds) by 3.7, which equals 20 pounds of CO2!







The Chevy Volt, just the latest expensive toy

Baker_Electric_DV_06-AI_01The 2011 Chevy Volt from Government Motors is touted as the answer to carbon emissions and green jobs. The Volt, a hybrid vehicle, is said to be able to go 40 miles on one battery charge. The 1911 Baker Electric from the Baker Motor Vehicle Company of Cleveland, Ohio, could go 50 miles on one battery charge. The 1902 Baker Torpedo set a land speed record.

Electric cars have been around since the 1830s. First developed in Holland, then France and Britain, electric cars were first produced in America during the 1890s.

The turn of the 20th Century was a time of experimentation in transportation. For instance, in 1900, a total of 2,370 automobiles could be found in New York, Chicago and Boston. 800 of those cars were fully electric, 400 cars were powered by gasoline, and 1,170 were steam-powered automobiles.

The early electric vehicles, such as the 1902 Wood’s Phaeton, were little more than electrified horseless carriages and surreys. The Phaeton had a range of 18 miles, a top speed of 14 mph and cost $2,000. Later in 1916, Woods invented a hybrid car that had both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor.

Electric vehicles have always been the playthings of the well-to-do. Even the earliest models were expensive for their time. The 2008 Tesla Motors Darkstar Roadster has a net base price of US$101,500 and can go 200 miles on a battery charge. The Chevy Volt with its $41,000 price tag and 40-mile electric range, is also a plaything of the relatively wealthy. And if the government offers a $7,500 rebate, that just means the rest of us are subsidizing toys for the rich.

Advances in battery technology still have not found the solution to long range and quick recharge time. Purely electric vehicles may satisfy a niche market, but they are still impractical for general transportation. Hybrid vehicles, first developed in 1916, just make automobiles unnecessarily complex. It’s just physics. Gasoline has 80 times the energy density of the best lithium ion batteries.

Phaeton1The whole impetus behind electric or hybrid vehicles is they will lower our carbon footprint. But will they really do that?

According to the US Department of Energy, most electricity generation in the United States is from fossil sources, and half of that is from coal. Coal is more carbon-intensive than oil. Overall average efficiency from US power plants (33% efficient) to point of use (transmission loss 9.5%) is 30%. Accepting a 70% to 80% efficiency for the electric vehicle gives a figure of only around 20% overall efficiency when recharged from fossil fuels. That is comparable to the efficiency of an internal combustion engine running at variable load. The efficiency of a gasoline engine is about 16%, and 20% for a diesel engine.

Because of the relatively high price of electric/hybrid vehicles, German automakers say, Without government subsidies, electric cars are virtually unmarketable. If all that is true, we are spending much money on a fantasy. But, the electric car “has long been recognized as the ideal solution” because it “is cleaner and quieter” and “much more economical.” That statement was published by The New York Times on November 12, 1911. We have yet to see that rosy prediction come true, as noted by the Energy Tribune.