Posted by: jmtoriel | June 3, 2016

Open Letter to a Mentor on EVs

NOTE: Rex Weyler is a respected journalist and a co-founder of Greenpeace. I truly respect and admire him as a person, activist and journalist. This is in response to his opinion piece I saw in The Observer today: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016/06/03/opinion/rex-weyler-will-electric-cars-slow-global-warming

 

Hi Rex,

First and foremost, I deeply respect you and your work and acknowledge the importance of life-cycle analysis for any product we consume.
As a driver, and father of two young children, I have done the careful analysis and have been researching EVs for a number of years now (regarded an “expert”) and started a business in the industry of EV charging infrastructure based on this analysis.
Personal mobility and transportation are in need of a massive shift and it is proving to be difficult to educate and de-mystify entrenched values. This applies to the progressive community to which I consider myself a part of. Many considerations must be scrutinized for any cleaner technological breakthroughs that claim to positively impact and reduce our emissions.
Your opinion piece, I just read in the Observer, questions the validity to the important shift happening in car manufacturing and is missing some very important factors to get the complete picture:
1) Efficiency – the MPG equivalent (or MPGe) of a fully electric Nissan LEAF or BMW i3 or Tesla Model S is about 114 and 124 and 100 respectively. To compare with the top 2 selling vehicles in Canada last year, the Ford F series and Ram pick-ups (really unfortunate). A lot more steel and weight comparatively — especially since i3s are made mostly from carbon fibre and aluminum (which you should have mentioned). Apples and oranges.
2) Mining – there was a meme comparing the, apparently, atrocious appearance of lithium mining (which was actually a copper mine) to a subtle-looking SAGD facility in the tar sands. Here’s a great response. Much like your article outlines, mining isn’t a pretty business and manufacturing batteries do require the prevalent 3rd element to make high-efficiency batteries to store electricity in vehicles. But what is neglected is that this only needs to be done once for the partial life-cycle of the car (8 to 10 years is standard warranty period for EV batteries from car manufacturers) and the batteries can then be reused and recycled for storage. Comparatively, every time one “fills up” a gas tank, more oil is needed from dirtier and farther-reaching sources for most vehicles on the road today. Electricity is much more localized and does not require transportation (through pipelines and tankers, etc) beyond transmission lines. Of course, the more decentralized the grid, the better and the more revenues we keep at home instead of lining the pockets of Big Oil…
3) Re-fueling vs re-charging – Because of the efficiency and energy mix of the grids, battery powered electric vehicles come out on top even when the energy comes from a dirtier mix of coal and natural gas (like in most of US and China for example). The Union of concerned scientists did an excellent analysis recently to set the records straight on this: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean-vehicles/electric-vehicles/life-cycle-ev-emissions#.V1HToJMrKAw
All this to say that unless something incredibly drastic occurs, cars will be with us for the next 5, 10, 20 years. Given the increasing sales of them, wouldn’t we prefer them to be electric?…. That’s my focus and hope that more Canadians and BCers make the important switch.
With love and respect,
J-M Toriel
Posted by: jmtoriel | May 12, 2016

Adding fuel to the fire of #fossilfoolishness

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Many sources and eye-witness accounts lay blame to the ongoing extreme forest fires in northern Alberta as an unfortunate natural disaster, an “Act of God” or simply making Mother Nature the villain. We cannot lay blame on Mother Nature for our own inaction or inability to reduce carbon emissions at a pace needed to reverse climactic trends in order to effectively tackle the fates of those directly or indirectly impacted by these disasters.

The mounting evidence of “un”natural disasters in the last decades linked to what climate scientists have associated as more regular extreme occurrances (floods where rainfall becomes extreme, forest fires, droughts and prolonged dry periods) are indeed happening more frequently and  with greater ferocity. Climate scientists indicate that the dryness from a lack of rainfall and snow-melt in the soil, this early in the forest fire season, are “likely to have contributed to the Fort McMurray wildfire”. So why is it unreasonable to  link the very activity of extracting and burning fossil fuels in the oil sands region, where these fires are taking place, considered provocative and untimely?.. Doubting human-causality from the burning of carbon in our atmosphere is only skirting the issue at hand and anyone responding by cautiously tip-toeing around that connection is simply contradicting the new reality — a hard pill to swallow.

The Fort McMurray fire has tragically forced more than 80,000 people to literally pack up and escape for their lives and is already being described as one of the most devastating — and certainly most expensive — in Alberta’s history. Marc-André Parisien, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service in Edmonton, even indicates that the boreal region of Alberta, where Fort McMurray is located, can expect even more intense fires in the coming years.

“We know from looking at weather records from the last 100 years that the fire season is lengthening, and intense fires like this are increasingly common,” says Parisien.

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We cannot blame the fleeing victims whose livelihood depend on working in the oil patch nor can we really blame the industry that brought them there to earn money, but we have to come to the realization that we cannot foreseeably carry on back to “normal” and spend billions to rebuild under the same conditions that helped elevate the risk of unnatural disasters in the first place.

Slave Lake, another forest fire in northern Alberta, in 2011, ravaged the township. The fire destroyed roughly one-third of Slave Lake; nearly 400 properties were destroyed and 732 people were left homeless as a result.

Green Party of Canada leader, Ms Elizabeth May, got a taste of public wrath — and even a comment from PM Justin Trudeau — when she stated “Of course” to the question from the media asking if the Fort Mac fires were linked to climate change.”Pointing at any one incident and saying, ‘Well this is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate,” he said. Well, not making the association is even less helpful.

There are those that want to keep undermining the urgency of acting proactively calling environmentalists “carbon nazis” and that attitude to lash out is really unhelpful.

There is a societal need to respond to the victims now — and rightly so, but to really prevent these disasters from happening again and again, we need to reduce our emissions more than just a little, and the sooner, the better.

Ironically, the movement to “keep it in the ground” may have just got what they asked for as a result of the overarching devastation the fires have caused to the already economically crippled oil industry and its infrastructure, but they will undoubtedly expect money from all levels to kick into the rebuilding — an exercise in futility given the lack of money that has gone into public coffers  over the years creating the massive debt loads to Albertans in particular. Pure fossilfoolishness.

The oil patch has invested heavily on manipulated information and PR to lessen the focus on their massive emissions and chicken has come home to roost. Oil industry execs and supporting politicians have relentlessly talked about “the social licence to operate”—the general public’s willingness to permit them to cut down then plough under virgin boreal wetlands to spew great clouds of carbon for an ostensibly “greater good” — while avoiding or downplaying the rational science.

For perspective, Fort McMurray was a small speck of a population of barely 1000 in the 1950s.Essential and profitable as it might have been, the oil business has been the black smear on Canada’s international record abroad over the past decade as it became the poster child for Canada’s laggard efforts to combat climate change. In 2008, one environmental group called the oil sands “the most destructive project on earth,”

Perhaps it was, but history will not be kind in a world more focussed on proactively reducing impacts associated with climate change and a scorched industry neck-deep in its own negligence.

Posted by: jmtoriel | March 18, 2016

Open Letter to BC Government’s Climate Leadership Plan

IMG_5586As an EV driver and advocate, a father of two, owner of a BC business and home owner, I see the value of shifting our province away from extraction and burning of fossil fuels towards a low carbon economy.

I am supportive of the package of recommendations proposed by the Climate Action Team and encourage government to implement all of them. Doing so will re-establish B.C. as a climate leader, ensure that carbon pollution starts dropping again and maintain a strong and diverse provincial economy. In particular:

I agree with the team’s findings that B.C. should move ahead with strong climate policies to help address the climate crisis, and that in doing so the province can continue building a strong and diverse economy. B.C.’s positive economic performance under the Climate Action Plan provides solid evidence in support of this conclusion.

BC should build on the climate policy framework already in place. Policies such as the carbon tax, the clean electricity standard, the energy-efficient building code and the low-carbon fuel standard have proven successful environmentally and economically, and it makes sense to build on that foundation of success. Moving forward in a timely manner will help get B.C. back on track, and it is also a critical opportunity to support global momentum following the positive agreement in Paris.

Given emissions in the transportation sector are the largest portion of our overall emissions, I strongly encourage the BC Government focus more heavily on significantly reducing these emissions.

I am concerned that the stall in B.C.’s climate policy development since 2012 left the Climate Leadership Team in the position of being unable to produce recommendations that would get B.C. on track to its legislated 2020 target. I don’t want to see delayed action and missed targets become the dominant climate narrative in B.C.

Regarding policy development, I agree with the Energy Forum in highlighting the following areas of interest:

Filling in gaps in the transportation and buildings recommendations to ensure that the policy package in the final Climate Leadership Plan is adequate to meet the 2030 targets identified in the Climate Leadership Team’s recommendations.

Providing further detail on how the province can successfully implement the recommendations to increase the use of renewable energy in remote communities and on the integrated grid.

Providing government with specific solutions on how competitiveness for emissions- intensive, trade-exposed sectors can be maintained while increasing and expanding the carbon tax, and how to assess when such measures are necessary.

Recommending approaches to minimize the local environmental impacts from the new renewable energy sources that will be needed as a result of the policies in the Climate Leadership Plan.

Supporting opportunities to increase and expand the carbon tax sooner than recommended by the Climate Leadership Team (2018 and 2021 respectively).

Ensuring that LNG and natural gas development do not undermine the province’s ability to meet medium and long-term climate targets.

Providing further detail on the direct investment that the provincial government should be making in transportation choices that help British Columbians and B.C. businesses reduce their carbon pollution (e.g. transit, walking/cycling infrastructure, rapid electric vehicle charging, etc.). A strong focus in electric vehicle adoption for fleets and light duty cars and trucks would have a tremendously positive impact in reducing emissions quickly with better emissions standards on vehicles. Successes in other jurisdictions have shown zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandated standards have been highly effective in ensuring supply of on-road ZEVs. Providing investment in DC fast charging infrastructure would also further increase adoption quickly.

Recommending approaches to reduce B.C.’s reliance on imported electricity from coal and other fossil fuels.

Recommending approaches to account for, and reduce, the carbon pollution associated with imported electricity.

Thank you again for continuing to advance the Climate Leadership Plan and for considering these perspectives. The plan offers a huge opportunity for the province to help contribute to global progress in the fight against climate change by demonstrating economic and environmental success stories close to home. We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you and/or members of the cabinet working group on climate leadership during the consultation currently underway.

Respectfully,

J-M Toriel

Posted by: jmtoriel | January 15, 2016

Rising Shift Away from Fossilfoolishness

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The bite is being felt across Canada. The 20th century approach to boosting our coffers in our boom-bust-raw-material-export-driven economy has brought little stability and comfort to Canadians this winter. By placing too much emphasis on extracting natural resources with plenty of subsidies and acting as a lobbying force with public money (Canada and the World has witnessed under the Harper Government over the last decade) has not served Canadians well and plenty of families are packing out of Fort Mackenzie without much hope of an economic turn-around and good employment numbers. The dirty dust is settling and it ain’t pretty.
Canada is a minor player in the global economy with the dirtiest and least viable source of oil from bitumen that the world wants less of (made obvious with the latest in pipeline politics). Canada is learning this lesson the hard way as OPEC (of which we are non-members) decided to undercut “us” (and shale oil extraction or fracking) with greater crude exports — literally flooding the market with cheap oil.
A quote I like to use: “If you’re not at the table — you’re on the menu.”
The good news here is that EV drivers are a part of the transition to a cleaner, renewable economy that will have far greater results for jobs, health and stability (economic and environmental).
Canada can take its place as a renewable energy super power — and benefit. Phasing out ICEs and supporting electrifying transportation is a big part of the puzzle moving forward.
Many of us have been waiting patiently for this shift. Embrace it!
Posted by: jmtoriel | November 5, 2015

Shifting Up the Gears Towards More Electrification in BC

Earlier this year, I purchased my first electric vehicle. No, not a golf cart nor a Tesla Model S (though it’s a wonderful luxury sedan that I’ve been fortunate to test drive on a number of occasions) but a BMW i3. It’s fully electric, has no tailpipe and a range of about 130km on a full charge. It is redefining urban mobility as I thought we knew it.

As far back as 2006, I bought my wife a Motorino electric scooter that we share and love for short trips around town, going to business meetings (as we both mostly work from home) when we don’t have to shuttle the kids around. As my wife doesn’t have a driver’s licence (not required in British Columbia to operate and max speed is 42km) it has been highly useful — and helped significantly in our car upgrade decision as we were already accustomed to charging habits, range, etc. I say upgrade because the common notion people have towards EVs is that the limited range makes it a lesser car.

The reality is that the i3 is FAR better than any car I’ve ever owned and I can now experience driving without the guilt.

Solutions for a Smarter Commute

Solutions for a Smarter Commute

But beyond the car itself, let’s focus on the merits from a systems perspective:

  • Clean and getting cleaner: as our power grids support more renewables and less coal and power generation from dirtier fossil fuels, the small footprint will get smaller. EV owners are much more likely to put PV solar on their rooftops to further reduce their reliance on fossil fuels as well.
  • No tailpipe means 0 GHG emissions and better air quality. As no internal combustion engine (ICE) vibrates under the hood, these cars have an unrivalled smoothness – and they are incapable of idling. Emissions reductions can be reduced by approximately 60% with potential reductions of 8.8Mt with aggressive penetration of EVs (or about 10% of new on-road vehicles) by 2025. Similarly the City of Vancouver has just published its
  • EVs and PHEVs are much more efficient than ICE vehicles: Electric vehicles convert about 59%–62% of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheels—conventional gasoline vehicles only convert about 17%–21% of the energy stored in gasoline to power at the wheels.
  • No pipelines required – nor tankers or railcars or trucks transporting oil and gas products from refined crude. All infrastructure needed to bring tar sands bitumen to tide water will not be required to run this vehicle or any EV.
  • 1/3 cost of maintenance – not only does EVs not run on gas (thought Plug-in hybrids or PHEVs have a back-up ICE when the battery is expended), they do not require oil changes or lube maintenance reducing maintenance costs significantly.
  • Silence is a virtue — noise is pollution too

As for the drawbacks, I can’t dismiss range anxiety but will settle any judgements dismissing this with the forging of a change in behaviour to generate range confidence that occurs over a relatively short span of time. EV owners quickly get used to plugging in overnight (which meets about 80% of charging needs) at home — much like most of us already do with our smart phones. Wherever there is charging while on-the-road, EV drivers will be drawn like moths to a flame. It’s so easy to navigate to a destination that will get you a free charge while you run errands, shop, eat, etc. Of course, if your place of work has charging, your commute is breeze — and if you have access to HOV lanes like in California, Norway (the Mecca of EVs), Georgia and other jurisdictions, you can literally pass around the poor ICE vehicles locked in traffic mayhem. This will likely happen in BC shortly, so fingers are crossed.

Basically, the general rule of thumb is that the more powerful/faster the charger, the better — as it gives you more freedom and flexibility to drive without the wait. So, it’s a relief to many EV newbies to know that BC now has over 650 public chargers and an increasing amount of DCFC (Direct Current Fast Chargers) throughout the province linking major HWY networks and servicing densely populated urban areas to a total of 50 with the implementation of the next phase of installations.

The biggest factor to consider once you’ve chosen your preferred EV or PHEV is how well-suited your desired location for a 240V charger is (over simply plugging into a regular 110V plug outlet) and some important considerations that need to be mentioned:

  1. How much space do you have in your current electrical panel? A 240V charger will need at least a 30A breaker.
  2. How close are you to the panel? The closer, the less the installation will be on materials and labour.
  3. Do you rent or are you in a strata? If you are in a single detached home, you’re in great shape to move quickly without having to ask for approval from anybody. In the other 2 scenarios, you’ll likely have to contend with a strata or landlord that likely need to be educated on what your consumption will be.
    1. If you are in a strata without charging facilities, there are a few ways to convince the board on getting approval: pay a flat rate of approx. $20/month for your contribution to BC Hydro rate
    2. Put a non-revenue meter on the plug to measure within about 5% accuracy the consumption so the strata can provide a flat rate for the service (they are legally not allowed to collect money for kWh consumption — ONLY BC Hydro has that privilege)
    3. Convince the strata/landlord to provide a networked charger (like Chargepoint or AddEnergie) that track consumption via a network and provide customers with billing and collect data like emissions reductions, etc.

Friends, it is becoming easier to join in the rEVolution and it starts with a test drive. I suggest you get into your dealer of choice and go on the guilt-free ride of your life!

Enjoy the ride!

Posted by: jmtoriel | June 17, 2015

The All-Electric Family

Yes, it’s true. My city — Vancouver — has announced that it will go 100% Renewable by 2050.

Now, our fossil fuelled PM Harper has joined in the G7 chorus (kicking and screaming) in weening ourselves off burning fossils or ‘decarbonizing’ by 2100.

Having just passed the 5k mark on the odometer of the i3 the CO2 calculator on the BMW app indicates a total savings of 795kg of CO2 on a 100% renewable grid. You can’t get those savings changing your lightbulbs.

Our other vehicle is a Motorino e-scooter that is also fully electric and we still love our bikes.

I happily drive by gas stations with a big grin knowing that I am reducing the carbon footprint of my family tremendously. I’ve done the math. It’s quite simple:

Removal of tailpipe = lower emissions and better air quality.

In reports I’ve seen trying to do accurate comparisons, the conclusion is often misleading (and sometimes deceptive). They compare EVs as apples and not oranges (as they should because their efficiency is literally in a different league — the US EPA has calculated a MPG equivelant of 124 combined. they don’t measure the emissions of conventional vehicles effectively because the source is so vast and so globally complex (and there is such lack of transparency from Big Oil) that the best guesses are probably severely low balling the actual amount.

In the context of the Canada and the Tar Sands, the emissions associated with extraction, refining, transportation, storage and leaks/waste along the way to your local gas station are enormous. The waste of subsides from the public purse to support this is even more consequential. As Canadians, our emissions in transportation are dire and given the Harper Gov’ts focus to send it to be consumed south or elsewhere would greater impact our negative impact on Climate Change.

On the other hand, Canada’s electrical energy mix is quite clean and getting cleaner (many thanks to ON, not so much to AB). Here in BC emissions from electricity production are largely associated with our sourcing from Alberta’s grid while dam reservoirs get replenished overnight. BC Hydro states that we have a 95% clean grid.

My kids understand this association (aged 3 and 6) and are huge EVangelists already. They also love the instant torque at acceleration — as do I…

The issues of cost, range and charging speed are getting easier to deal with given battery improvements on all accounts. Despite this they offer enormous hope for reducing carbon emissions, improving local air quality and limiting noise pollution as well as supporting your local utilities over Big Oil.

Electric cars are far from perfect, and there are plenty of valid ways to critique them. But let’s not pretend that a gasoline vehicle can compete with an electric car in terms of carbon emissions. It’s just not a contest. Their efficiency far outweighs any additional emissions from manufacturing. Given my vehicle was produced primarily from wind in Germany (sourced at 100% renewable), even that argument falls flat and is already outdated.

Give an EV the right juice and it crushes internal combustion engines — even hybrids. There will be plenty more all-electric families in BC. The more, the merrier, healthier and quieter!

“You’re better off filling up at the pump,” Kennedy replied. “Or if you really want to go for something greener, you should be buying a conventional hybrid car.” — Professor Kennedy on March 24, 2015 The Current Interview
Hello Professor Kennedy,
 
Thank you for providing an informative report and participating in the recent interview with CBC Radio’s The Current.
 
As president of a company that consults and provides installation services for plug-in customers, and co-director of the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association (VEVA), I have done extensive research on the benefits and advantages of plug-in vehicles. I am also a proud owner of a BMW i3.
I wanted to clarify a few items from your report.
 

In your report, you concluded that EVs will not significantly reduce emissions in provinces that produce more than 600 tons of greenhouse gases(GHGs) per gigawatt-hour of electricity. According to similar calculations and analysis in the US, the Union of Concerned Scientists report, “State of Charge” (2012), calculated the efficiency of the vehicles themselves as a key distinction in that they only require about about 25% of the energy to go an equal distance than a conventional internal combustion engineand use regenerative breaking to make up much of the used up energy for greater efficiency. 

1) Given recent calculations in the State of Charge report and the overall improvements on plug-in vehicles from the original report, there was little to no negative impact by plug-in vehicles in a more carbon intensive grid scenario using similar averages from the US. I do not know how your conclusion is seemingly different and I require clarification so I can base my own analysis comparatively in a Canadian context.

2) Does the report account for the emissions in extraction, production, transportation and refining of the heavy oil and/or refined crude to the gas pumps and the waste losses in efficiency due mostly to heat in the pistons propelling the conventional vehicles? This seems only fair when such strong emphasis is placed on analysis for plug-in vehicles accounting for the energy needed to produce batteries.

3) Lastly, does it account for the other emissions in our urban and suburban areas, such as particulates, that negatively impact respiratory illnesses and deaths relating to smog and poor air quality? The costs associated with health care costs from tailpipe emissions is equally if not more important when making the comparison.

I ask these because it appears that the resulting conversations and blogs from your report and the Current interview with Anna-Maria Tremonti, have led to an unfair comparison of vehicles on par as if they required the same amount of energy to achieve the same distances and do not put equal context on tailpipe emissions. I’m hoping you can correct me if I’m incorrect that this was not calculated accordingly to come to your conclusion.

2013 study from Natural Resources Canada indicated that 95 per cent of plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) sales were in the six “clean power” provinces—the provinces that emit fewer than 200 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour. This is a very good thing despite the tone and headline granted by the CBC to provoke greater controversy and readership. 

I agree that decarbonizing the transportation system is crucial step in reducing Canada’s GHG emissions and we should be winding down our reliance of fossil fuels for energy and transportation given the science you outline in your report. According to a 2012 WWF-Canada study, road transportation accounts for around 19 per cent of GHGs, making it the “greatest contributor” and “second-highest growth source of emissions in the country.” It is in our regional and national (as well as global) interests to reduce our carbon footprints and GHG emissions,but stating that one is better off fuelling at the pump in some parts of Canada seem counter-intuitive. 

Respectfully,
J-M Toriel
I’ll post a response when I receive one.
Posted by: jmtoriel | March 25, 2015

Shifting Back To Green at Vancouver’s 2015 Auto Show

If you ever needed proof that incentives can engage the local auto industry in offering more green vehicles, go visit the 95th Vancouver International Auto Show this week.

It’s already been a great week for those seeking a cleaner, quieter and more efficient mode of travel to curb BC’s largest GHG emitting sector footprint — transportation.

Firstly, the Scrap-It Program announced plans to give B.C. residents a rebate when they trade in a car made on or before 2000 for one of 11 different kinds of electric vehicles. This was shortly followed by the reinstating of the CEV for BC (Clean Energy Vehicles) Program for rebates of $5000 on the purchase of plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicles beginning April 1st.

When combined with new SCRAP-IT program incentives, total savings could be up to $8,250 for an electric vehicle.

For those with range anxiety anxiety (not a typo), an additional $1.59 million is also being invested in charging infrastructure. Additionally, there is a $1 million for incentives for commercial fleet purchases of clean energy vehicles and $500,000 for research, training, and public outreach on clean energy transportation technology.

EVs typically cost about 1/4 more than conventional vehicles but can save drivers about 3/4 on their fuel and maintenance costs, which adds up to over $1,600 per year in our 95% renewable and electricity cheap grid. The incentives will narrow the price gap and encourage more BCers to purchase these cars.

Now, back to the car show.

The king-maker

The king-maker

The Media Preview Day started with an endorsement of green cars by Blair Qualey, President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC, who announced Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s first Green Car of the Year award (the winner was prominently featured as a teaser at Kia’s display in last year’s VIAS). It went to the new kid on the block of EVs, the Kia Soul EV (shown in the featured image above).

Toyota kicked things off with a blast from the past on their legacy of conventional hybrids, with the latest Camry Hybrid and Prius Plug-in featured with high rigeur. But the greatest pomp and ceremony went to their acclaimed fuel cell 2016 prototype, the Mirai. An error of judgement by the upper management or a bit of naval gazing to a regrettable lack of technological advancement in league with the big all-electric players, I’d say please exit stage left…

Mirai or Mirage?...

Mirai or Mirage?…

Honda is still focussed on fuel efficiency with their ever-popular FIT, Pilot and HR-V. The FIT that does come in a leasable electric powertrain in compliance-friendly California, but haven’t made the regional investment elsewhere — a shame as this would be a token towards greater affordability in the plug-in offerings.

GM has improved their impressive “next-generation” Chevy VOLT with an extended extended range of 80km, a lighter (and more powerful) battery pack and a more curvy design. Kudos to these improvements, but where’s the Spark EV?? Cadillac’s ELR has a similar plug-in powertrain for the luxury compact coupe market.

The German manufacturers were well-tuned and in-step with BMW and Mini impressively featured as top contenders in the field of design and engineering with the i3 and i8 series which will soon expand to the 5 and throughout the fleet.

BMW i8 and i3

BMW i8 and i3

Perhaps my favourite new addition to the plug-ins available was the Audi A3 Sportsback e-Tron — a welcome new model that will surely impress the sporty driver types. 

A3 Sportsback e-Tron

A3 Sportsback e-Tron

Mercedes-Benz proudly showed off their smart EV with some clever display graphics of charging maps in Vancouver. They touted the smart as being the most affordable plug-in option available on the market — true that.

Notice the EV charging maps on display

Notice the EV charging maps on display

Most likeable of the German cars award goes to VW which got the “2015 North American Car of the Year” for the Golf and have a new Beetle Classic and the Golf Sportswagon 2.0 TDI,BUT NO eGolf!!!! This is a most anticipated vehicle that would do very well in BC — perhaps next year…

The Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus are ever present and deserve recognition as top contenders for the upcoming rebate program.

Ford Focus EV

Ford Focus EV

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The Infinity Q50 Hybrid deserves a mention with its 50kW electric motor AWD drivetrain for 360 HP.

The insides of a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The insides of a Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV

The EVs' EV

The EVs’ EV

Mitsubishi‘s  Outlander is a great PHEV with a cool display of its inner workings. The iMiEV is a pure electric classic that offers a great entry vehicle for the all-electric seeker — not much improvements to the original though. 

Subaru is aiming high with a very cool concept that looks more realistic than most and given great prominence at their display. Here’s hoping it becomes an addition to BC’s roads.

Subaru VIZIV 2 Concept

Subaru VIZIV 2 Concept

Besides the above mentioned “Green Car of the Year”Kia Soul EV, the Optima Hybrid will surely make some sales given the more affordable price tags and sensible designs. Not sure why Hyundai is investing in fuel cell technology, but the Tuscon blué drive is a nice looking car.

Lastly, we all know what’s under this cover, right?..

Mystery TESLA

Mystery TESLA

The most desirable EV on the market — if you can afford it. The P85D. All accounts say it’s INSANE!

Speaking of insane, here’s an all electric monster truck!! Enjoy the show car lovers.

Yep, it's electric!

Yep, it’s electric!

Posted by: jmtoriel | January 15, 2015

Hate ’em or Love ’em, Cars are Here to Stay

The “less cars, the better” argument only goes so far…
no-cars_1
We have spent trillions of dollars over the past century to now on roads and infrastructure and any significant shift away from that will be sluggish at best. It’s really not an either or situation — as in bike or car — realistically. Nor will everyone wake up tomorrow sell their ICE because of some blog piece they read.
It’s easy to slag the problems associated with cars and trucks: pipelines, tar sands, climate, spills, air pollution, loss of arable land.., the list is long and you’ve heard it before.  The real work is on shifting away from the real problem: the internal combustion engine or ICE. Plug-ins (which include electric vehicles [EVs] and plug-in hybrids [PHEVs]) should not be
Let’s look at the facts:
  1.  Record new car purchases from 2014 indicate an increase in reliance to cars as the primary source of personal mobility in Canada despite higher gas prices for the year over previous years.
  2. Expect that trend to continue and increase with significantly lower gas prices.
  3. Efficiency is the key — this translates into better propulsion or more distance for same amount of energy.
  4. Electricity is STILL cheaper than gas, remains stable and is about 94% renewable in BC, so a much cleaner source.
  5. In the context of BC and Metro Vancouver, our public transit is already insufficient to meet current demand, inefficient and in dire need of an upgrade. Having lived in a number of cities in North Am, Europe and Asia, it pales in comparison…
  6. Car sharing demand has increased significantly — this is positive and indicates that younger demographics cannot afford buying a new car as young as they did in the past for a variety of reasons — higher debt, lower incomes/wages, affordability challenges, etc The cleaner these vehicles, the better.
  7. Environmental groups have long advocated for getting cars off the roads — here in Vancouver we are fortunate that this was a well-fought battle that discouraged HWY expansion at a time where most metropolises in North America were clamouring to to carbon copy the L.A. model — resulting in smog and EPA regs that helped bring the EV into fruition. Tailpipe emissions can be eliminated (with EVs) and most of these groups recognize the advantages of cars without tailpipes — especially when mounting climate warming is considered. Let’s also not forget the billions spent on health care due to respiratory illnesses.
  8. HOV access would lessen congestion — especially while we await construction of more and better transit. With a Yes result in the upcoming referendum, we’re still about a decade away.
  9. In the near future, plug-in vehicles will have the ability to provide power back to the grid at peak demand in the same way that PV solar can lessen the demand with grid-tied installations. Instead of building Site C dam to enable natural gas companies to liquify and send somewhere else (though I doubt the industry has a chance at this point), we should be focussed on decentralizing our grid with small-scale projects. Either way, plug-ins are not the problem, but part of the solution.
  10. Most importantly, if the car remains a significant part of our lives with regards to transportation, what cars would we rather see on the roads?… If you answer more F150 pick-ups, then keep with the status quo. This must change and supporting plug-ins has never been more important.

So the next time, you hear someone dis the car, set them straight. It’s not so much the car itself, but what’s propelling it. The longer we burn fossil fuels to meet our transportation needs, the longer the problems associated will exist and worsen. Now is the time to divest from fossilfuelishness and invest in a stabler and cleaner future.

Posted by: jmtoriel | December 27, 2014

The Great Shift Forward

2015 is the year to release addiction to oil and embrace a low carbon life.

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The world is on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution, and Canadians are participating. The 10,000th electric car is about to be purchased in Canada this month. Despite the recent elimination of a $5000 rebate for electric powered vehicles (EVs) in the last provincial budget, plenty are plugging into a cleaner future while our governments remain idle.

 

It’s time to take part in the Great Shift Forward — a critical time in our collective history where we abandon “fossilfuelishness” for a cleaner energy future. As long as we stay tethered to our internal combustion engines, Big Oil pundits and lobbyists have a point in expressing that we all “need” them.  Many people remain uncertain, but here’s why switching to an EV makes sense.

 

There’s a quiet revolution happening in the world of transportation — not just in emergence of EVs like the Tesla Model S, BMW i3, Nissan Leaf or plug-in hybrids like the GM Volt. Electricity is being used not only to provide propulsion for cars and Skytrains but access to charging is taking away range anxiety with greater accessibility throughout BC — there are now about 1000 240V public chargers (See plugshare.com).

 

Canada is a laggard in green policies for transportation which accounts for 31% of our energy use and 37% of greenhouse gas emissions. The true cost of conventional gas vehicles is heavily externalized. Electric Mobility Canada states that at $25 per tonne, EVs would save society around $2,500 per vehicle per year thanks to the difference in emissions between internal combustion engines (ICE) and their electric counterparts.

 

By examining the entire energy value chain from “well to wheels,” a captivating fact comes into view…

Typical internal combustion vehicles convert 30% of the energy into traction and the rest of the energy is lost as heat. In contrast, electric motors convert 90%. On the basis of efficiency alone, EVs are in a category of their own — with most achieving MPG equivalence surpassing 100 — about three times the average and 1/10th the cost to operate and maintain.

 

Besides opposing pipeline projects and driving less, another way to stand against fossilfuelishness is to stop driving ICE cars.

 

Here are five reasons why you should set the intent to buy an electric vehicle as your next car:

 

  1. Efficiency: EVs use about 1/10th of a “fuel efficient” internal combustion car. Electric motors transfer 90% of their battery power to the wheels, losing very little energy as waste heat and have no tailpipes.
  2. Clean Grid: Here in B.C. electricity comes from renewable sources, so electric vehicles release 97% less greenhouse gas emissions than their ICE counterparts.
  3. Charging on-the-go: Most EV drivers charge conveniently at home, but with 1000 charging stations throughout the province and high-speed (80% in 20 minutes) DC chargers, you can drive electric with greater confidence.
  4. Stick it to Big Oil: They’re down but not out. You can help further reduce demand.
  5. Greater Peace & Security: –  Hostilities in the Middle East, expansion of the tar sands,  infrastructure (like pipelines), rail accidents (like the Lac Mégantique disaster), air pollution and lung conditions like asthma associated with tailpipe emissions, increased numbers of tankers along our coastlines, potential colossal oil spills and staggering price fluctuations.


Start off the new year with a test drive.

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