Sierra Club Releases EV Finder Tool

Consumers interested in electric vehicles (EVs) now have a way to do their research. A new ‘pick-a-plug‘ web tool has been released by the Sierra Club. The app asks the user a few questions about driving habits and vehicle needs, and then generates a list of Pick a Plug In AppEVs that fit the bill. Sierra Club said there is no overall best EV – the best EV for any given driver depends on how many miles a day the person drives, whether the person takes frequent long trips, whether there is a place to plug in the car, and how much money the person is prepared to spend.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons why more than a quarter million Americans have already bought EVs since they first came on the mass market a few years ago,” said Gina Coplon-Newfield, director of the Sierra Club’s Future Fleet & Electric Vehicles Initiative. “They are cool high-tech wonders, there is little or no need to ever visit a gas station, they are much cheaper to fuel -the equivalent of about $1 a gallon, and they are much better for the environment -even when considering the emissions from the electricity to charge them up.”

Today there is a $2,500-7,500 federal tax credit that comes with the purchase of an EV, and many cities and states offer additional incentives, like a purchase/lease rebate, carpool lane access, and special utility rates for EV drivers. Linked to the new ‘pick-a-plug-in’ web tool is Sierra Club’s online EV Guide where all of this information is available by zip code, as well as a tool that calculates how much carbon emissions and fueling costs the EV will save compared to the average conventional car.

Currently, less than 1 percent of U.S. households have an EV, but according to a poll conducted last year by the Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists, nearly half of American households could purchase an EV for their next car based on driving needs and access to electrical outlets or EV charging stations.

Panasonic to Install 68 EV Charging Stations

Panasonic is providing engineering, construction and procurement services to Powertree Services Inc. (Powertree) to build 68 electric vehicle charging stations at several multi-unit residential properties in San Francisco, California. The EV charging stations will be powered by solar energy a battery storage component. When complete the EV charging stations will have the ability to supply high power charging to vehicles, ancillary services provided to the utility to support the grid, solar power to tenants and supplemental power to the buildings. The stations are scheduled to be completed by Earth Day 2015.

Powertree EV charging station“Panasonic is committed to driving new technologies and collaborating with entrepreneurs to help bring about renewable energy options and a sustainable future. Our work now will pay off in terms of future economic and other benefits for building owners, and a reduction in greenhouse gases,” said Panasonic Enterprise Solutions’ Jamie Evans, Eco Solutions Managing Director.

When complete, the 68 stations will result in a total installed capacity of 6.1 megawatts of power and 2.5 megawatts of EV charging capacity. Each station is configured to support up to 70 amps or 18 kilowatts. This is roughly equivalent to 60 to 70 miles of range for every hour of charging. The exact rate of charging depends on vehicle models. The stations will be powered by on site photovoltaic panels, and can generate clean energy for building use, or have the ability to provide backup generation, in the event of a grid outage.

Stacey Reineccius, founder and CEO of Powertree, added, “Owners of multi-tenant apartment and mixed use buildings face a rising demand from tenants, drivers and new regulations that combine to require them to install, manage, upgrade electric charging facilities and support electric vehicles. With Powertree Services owners can turn this potentially burdensome situation into new value and offer attractive new amenities for their tenants even in medium to small urban properties with no capital outlay by the property owner.”

BYD Motors Debuts Largest Battery Powered EV

The world has been introduced to the largest batter powered vehicle developed by BYD Motors. The company unveiled the double barreled EV bus during the 2014 American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Expo in Houston, Texas this week. During a ceremony, attendees were invited by VP Michael Austin to, “throw off the shackles of a single-fueled system – an electric platform is ‘adaptable’ – it becomes cleaner as you do, through the use of renewable wind, water and solar renewable power generation.

60-foot BYD transit busAustin challenged the status-quo of those promoting fossil fuels as a clean alternative. “The consequences of our choices today will leave a legacy that our children will live with, both environmentally and economically, for decades into the future.”

The Lancaster eBus, a 60-foot, articulated battery-electric bus, can drive 170+ miles with a passenger load of up to 120 people. “BYD’s mission is to create safer and more environmentally-friendly battery technologies. This has resulted in the BYD Iron-Phosphate Battery, a fire-safe, completely recyclable, and incredibly long-cycle technology — the foundation of BYD’s Electric buses,” BYD Motors Fleet Sales Vice President, Brendan Riley. “These buses run entirely off battery power lasting up to 24 hours on a single charge, with single off-peak charging time of 2-4 hours. No additional generation capacity is needed to be built to charge our buses at night since the grid is only 40% utilized.

Also on display at the BYD Exhibit was a 40-foot, Battery-electric Transit bus from Antelope Valley Transit Authority. AVTA Board Chairman Norm Hickling boasted that the 40-foot bus on the Expo show floor was the only bus, “that drove over 1500 zero-emission miles from Los Angeles all the way to Houston for the Expo under its own power.”

AVTA tested BYD buses in the hottest part of the Lancaster, California summer in August with full air-conditioning running and with 5250 pounds of sand bags to simulate a full passenger load. Hickling added, “We drove nearly 100 miles more than BYD advertises — up to 250 miles per bus charge and we covered almost 750 miles in 24 hours! We are very impressed with BYD technology and quality. The most interesting news about this 1500 mile journey to Texas is that it was completed for $200 in electricity–the lowest cost trip to the show of all buses.”

“PUMP” Coming to a Theater Near You

There is a new documentary coming to a theater near you: PUMP. The film tells the story of America’s addiction to oil. Stories told range from Standard Oil’s illegal tactics to the dominance of oil companies. The goal of the film is to explain why and how consumers can end Big Oil’s monopoly and “win choice at the pump”.

According to the movie’s website, gasoline is our only option of transportation fuel today. With global demand rising and the continued dependence on gas our wallets are thinning. In addition, air pollution is getting worse and Americans are fighting wars in oil-rich countries.

PUMP shows consumers how making a variety of replacement fuels widely available will reduce fuel prices across the board. Diversifying the market with replacement fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and American made will also create jobs, strengthening the economy at home and promoting stability abroad.

The movie features experts including John Hofmeister, former President of Shell Oil Co.; Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, Inc.; Peter Goldmark, former president of the Rockefeller Foundation; our colleague Jim Lane and other noteworthy figures.

To see where the movie is headed and to buy tickets, visit the PUMP website.

Charged by Biodiesel, Electric Bike Sets Record

killajoule1The world’s fastest electric motorcycle gets its power from a biodiesel-fueled generator. This article from Torque News says Eva Hakansson made a 270 mph run at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the KillaJoule electric streamliner motorcycle, making it the the fastest electric motorcycle in the world, and its pilot the fastest woman on a motorcycle.

Making its runs and then returning for a recharge from a biodiesel generator as the chutes got repacked and the ice water cooling system was flushed and refilled, the KillaJoule needs little attention outside of these maintenance items between runs. Yet this motorcycle, one of the simplest machines on the raceway, beats all but the smallest handful in speed.

The Shootout had the KillaJoule smashing its own 240 mph record with a phenomenal 270.224 mph average. The team believes that this speed is as fast as the motorcycle can go in its current configuration. The team plans to call this a race year and return to the garage for more tinkering to see if they can’t improve aerodynamics, push a little more juice out of the batteries, and otherwise work towards a 300 mph goal for 2015.

Hakansson says she might shoot to break that 300 mph barrier as early as next year.

Volvo Releases All Electic Hybrid Bus

Volvo will be introducing its new 7900 Electric Hybrid during the International IAA Commercial Vehicles show in September 25-October 22 in Hannover. The EV bus is silent, cleaner and with significantly lower fuel consumption and Volvo has already signed contracts with several European cities for the first deliveries.

Volvo Electric Vehicle Hybrid Bus“I am very proud to launch this ground-breaking bus system. Electric-hybrid buses and full-electric buses are tomorrow’s solution for urban public transport. They will allow us to reduce energy consumption, air pollution, climate impact and noise, which are some of the biggest challenges facing large cities worldwide,” said Håkan Agnevall, President Volvo Bus Corporation.

Noise is a growing problem in many cities. The noise level beside an Electric Hybrid is 65 decibels, that is to say normal conversation level. The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid runs in electric mode on average 70 percent of the route, silent and emission-free.

The Volvo 7900 Electric Hybrid offers flexibility in operation; it can run as an electric bus in selected areas, but performs as a hybrid on any route. Charging at end stations takes 6 minutes. A number of European cities are showing a keen interest in Volvo’s Electric Hybrids. Hamburg, Luxembourg and Stockholm will implement the new bus system in 2014 and 2015. Series production is scheduled to start in early 2016.

ChargePoint Shows Increase in Campus EV Charging

College and university students are back in school around the country and this fall, more students, professors and employees than ever before have access to electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. ChargePoint, an open EV charging network, has released new data showing an increase in on-campus EV charging.

ChargePoint DashboardToday there are 1,134 charging spots at colleges and universities on the ChargePoint network. That’s up nearly 35 percent, with just 838 at this time last year. On-campus EV charging is still relatively new, with the first ChargePoint station installed at the end of 2010 at Pasadena City College.

“American universities are often our hubs of innovation and technology,” said Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO. “It is no wonder adoption of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure has prospered on college campuses. Our data demonstrates which colleges and universities are leading the way when it comes to supporting low and zero emission vehicles. We hope this helps spur friendly competition between campuses to be the greenest institutions in the world.”

With 38 on-campus charging spots, the University of California at Davis has the most of any university on the ChargePoint network.

Here are the top 5 colleges and universities with the most ChargePoint EV charging spots:

  • University of California at Davis: 38
  • Towson University, Maryland: 36
  • Santa Clara University, California: 26
  • Western Michigan University: 22
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: 21

Click here to see the full list of on-campus EV charging stations.

National EV Sales Exceed Quarter Million Mark

Electric vehicle (EVs) sales have reached the quarter-million mark in the U.S. this week, just ahead of the fourth annual National Drive Electric Week taking place September 15-21, 2014.

Nissan Leaf“Clean energy prosperity is on the way and there’s no turning back,” said Sierra Club director Michael Brune. “National Drive Electric Week and the dramatic increase in the number of plug-in electric vehicles on the road are just the latest examples of how American consumers are demanding 21st-century solutions to energy and the climate crisis, and given the choice would leave dirty fossil fuels in the ground.”

The global event is designed to highlight the fun, convenience, cost-savings and clean-air benefits of EVs, National Drive Electric Week is organized nationally by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and the Electric Auto Association. These organizations team up with other local groups and volunteers staging local events from Hawaii to Vermont, where EV sales continue to be robust.

“Plug-in vehicles have had a good year,” said John O’Dell, senior editor, fuel efficiency and Green Vehicles at “Despite a slowdown in the conventional hybrid segment, battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are up about 39 percent over last year. They remain a tiny part of the market–less than a one-percent share–but more and more people seem to be considering them as they shop for fuel efficient transportation.”

Sharing the message abroad, at least one city in the Netherlands, five in Italy and 10 in Canada will take part in National Drive Electric Week (formerly National Plug In Day). Events are collectively expected to draw at least 35,000 attendees, including elected officials. Proclamations will be plentiful.

But the main point, according to National Drive Electric Week is to have a good time, with seasoned EV drivers taking those new to the cars for a spin.

Book Review: Build Your Own PHEV

This week I went techie and read “Build Your Own Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle,” by Seth Leitman. I chose this book because I drive an EV – the Ford C-Max, and when I purchased my vehicle, I opted against the plug-in component because I didn’t have a place to charge my car (I live in an apartment complex). In the back of my mind I always wondered if I shouldn’t have planned for the future and purchased the PHEV version. Well now, I’ve discovered with Leitman’s help, it didn’t matter – I can covert my EV to  PHEV.

Build Your Own PHEVLeitman is a quite an expert. He writes for several publications including Mother Earth News and Huffington Post and is a consulting editor for the McGraw-Hill Green Guru Guides. He also runs the blog Green Living Guy.

For those that may be new to the terminology, an electric vehicle consists of a battery that provides energy, an electric motor that drives the wheels and a controller that regulates energy flow to the motor. The only difference between an EV and a PHEV is that the EV battery is recharged through regenerative energy (apply the brakes) while the battery in a PHEV can also be recharged by plugging it in to an outlet.

So the goal of the book is both to educate people on converting their gasoline cars to PHEVs – this is where the real fuel efficiency gains come – as well as to show people that the country can move to PHEVs quickly.

One area that Leitman explains well is how much it costs, or doesn’t cost to drive an PHEV. When using the average U.S. electricity rate of 9 cents per kilowatt (using 2009 numbers) 30 miles of electric driving will cost 81 cents. Assuming that the average fuel economy in the United States is 25 miles per gallon, at $3.00 per gallon, this equates to 75 cents a gallon for the equivalent electricity. Other factors he accounts for: the environmental cost of electricity production.

I don’t have any mechanical skills, but this book is so well-written and easy to use I could actually figure out how to convert my hybrid (or a friend’s car). Granted, I would probably need some professional help but it is amazing how relatively simple and inexpensive this is especially when you factor in higher gas prices and more renewable energy being produced by utilities. My only suggestion is to update the book based on 2014 technologies because with the billions of gas cars on the road, this book will be valuable for years to come. You can purchase the book here.

California Surpasses 100K Plug-In Car Sales

California is leading the country on plug-in electric vehicle sales and has surpassed the 100,000 sales mark since the market started in 2010 according to the California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative. California Governor Brown has set a goal to have 1.5 million EVs on state roads by 2025.

“California’s plug-in electric vehicle market is ramping up, and we expect to see significant growth over the next ten years as customers realize how economical and convenient they are,” said California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative Executive Director Christine Kehoe.

P90138766_lowResAccording to data collected by the California Air Resources Board, new sales figures released this week from and Baum & Associates, a Michigan-based market research firm, Californians bought 102,440 PEVs from December 2010 through August 2014 accounting for nearly 40 percent of all PEVs sold in the U.S.

In addition to automakers rolling out dozens of plug-in electric vehicle models for consumers over the next couple of years, utilities are working to provide a clean, reliable and affordable fuel source for plug-in car owners. Drivers also have increasing options to refuel at home overnight or charge at workplaces across the state.

“Electric vehicles are an integral part of California’s cleaner future. With more than 10,000 electric vehicles on the road in the San Diego Gas & Electric service territory today, it is evident that our customers are embracing the benefits of clean electric transportation,” said James P. Avery, SDG&E senior vice president of power supply. “SDG&E is committed to providing our customers with the clean energy, attractive electric rates and resources needed to support their electric vehicle needs.”

According to California Plug-In Electric Vehicle Collaborative driving on electricity is the equivalent of driving for $1 per gallon of gasoline while a gallon of gasoline hovers around the $4 mark in some areas.

Richard Lowenthal, founder and chief technical officer of ChargePoint, a leading company installing EV charging stations at a myriad of public locations throughout the state said of the announcement, “We’re pleased to be providing clean, affordable fuel for a growing number of drivers across the country. Gasoline is 4 dollars a gallon in California and rising. Consumers want alternatives and we’re here to help make the best alternative – electricity — more accessible, and to make electric vehicles more appealing.”