Posted by: jmtoriel | July 7, 2014

It’s the drivetrain, stupid

Efficiency is the ultimate goal to a cleaner and more stable future in transportation and EVs are indeed the best way to go.

I’ve been researching and collecting data regarding plug-in vehicles (and previously biofuels) as a cleaner form of transportation for the past years and am often puzzled as to how “Well-to-Wheel” analyses are calculated without proper comparisons to upstream conventional and unconventional oil sources. Some data is so misconstrued that I often wonder where funding came from and what the motives are to present such unfair comparisons. Alas, the data usually does not account for the superior efficiency of the electric drivetrain. Instead of trying to find a cleaner source of fuel for a inefficient ICE (internal combustion engines), why not focus on the efficiency of the drivetrain itself?

I’d argue that plug-in vehicles are the only real alternative to gas/diesel ICE vehicles presently –for the simple fact that they are both available for purchase, affordable and do not require a new source of fuel (this will only get better with advances in battery technologies and greater leaps in manufacturing). Prices are coming down and more EVs are becoming available to suit more drivers.

While some early well-to-wheel data has emerged over the last few years with the (re)emergence of EV technology (remember that electric cars were on the road before ICEs and even outnumbered them for a few years!) to the mainstream, a more accurate analysis is the Tank-to-wheel measure. In the case of BC, with our exceptionally clean grid (sourced from 93%+ renewable sources), there is no comparison to just how much cleaner plug-in vehicles really and truly are because of how much more efficient the drivetrains are.
“Tank to wheel efficiency” tells us how efficiently engines turn fuel into moving a vehicle, and the “well to wheel efficiency” which adds the energy it took to get that fuel to your gas tank. So if we want to do a straight up comparison, we want to develop similar numbers for EVs.

One of the nice things about electric motors is that they operate efficiently over a wide range of speeds. Not quite wide enough for use in a car, but it’s possible to make very practical designs with two gears, or one like the clever design work GM did in the Chevy Volt.

In an electric car there’s no major transmission system, driveshaft components, and in some designs you don’t even have axles or differentials. A modern electric drivetrain is much simpler than a modern gasoline one, with parts counts that are tens or hundreds of times smaller. In a nutshell — extremely efficient.

In a typical car, the drivetrain eats up about 5 to 6% of the energy from the engine, in an electric design it’s close to 0%.

The motor itself is fantastically efficient, varying between 85 and 95% efficient across the entire range of speeds. But that’s in terms of the electricity being delivered to it from the batteries. That conversion is not direct – the batteries provide DC power but the motor uses AC, so you need to use an “inverter” to change it from one to the other. Modern inverters are about 95% efficient.

In a gasoline car the fuel that’s pumped into your tank is used directly in the engine. That’s not the case in an electric car, where the “fuel” is AC power from your home or building, and the tank is a battery full of DC power. So we have to convert from AC to DC using a charger which is also about 95% efficient.

In short, we start with AC, turn it into DC, back into AC, and motion results.

Technically, fast speed “DC chargers” — of which BC Hydro is currently installing across the province — can remove the AC conversion by charging your battery directly for vehicles that have the plugs (and I highly recommend anyone considering getting an EV to ensure that your vehicle has this).

And finally, we need to consider leakage. When the battery is charged, not all of the power ends up stored, some of it is used up pushing the electrons through the battery. Typical numbers here are about 85 to 90% efficient.

So, a rough estimate of the total round-trip tank to wheel efficiency is:

0.90 (motor and drivetrain) x 0.95 (inverter) x 0.90 (battery) x 0.95 (charger) = 73%

This number jives quite well with the claims of Tesla, which quotes a 75% round-trip efficiency. Tesla and Leaf owners report slightly lower real-world charging numbers, with the charger and battery portions of the cycle on the order of 80 to 85%. If we use those numbers we get:

0.90 (motor and drivetrain) x 0.95 (inverter) x 0.8 (battery and charger) = 68%

This isn’t a huge difference, so we’ll call it 70%.

How does this compare to a conventional ICE car? Quite well in fact. A normal gas powered ICE car has a tank-to-wheel efficiency of 16%.

That’s right, an electric car is over four times as efficient at turning energy into motion. For us efficiency lovers, it’s a non-starter to even compare “fuel-efficient vehicles” with EVs.

Back to well to wheel:
This comparison is not apples to apples because it doesn’t account for where that electricity comes from.

In a perverse world, we could take the engine out of your car, put it in a field somewhere and connect it to a generator, and then ship that power to your electric car over some wires. At that point you’d have the same basic power generation efficiency, but then drop 25% of it in the electric drivetrain. No gain there!

On the macro level, the grid in North America is undergoing a massive switch from coal to natural gas — which will be accelerated further with the latest Obama climate announcement. There’s still a lot of coal out there — here’s looking at you, Alberta. But then there’s also a lot of hydro and some nuclear. RE is growing, but if you’re on this list, you’ll agree that that it is not happening fast enough. Up here in Canuckistan we get over half our power from hydro, so the power mix is considerably cleaner than the US. BC, QC, Manitoba get cleanest grid awards.

NG is burned in large turbines which spin generators. A turbine is about the same overall efficiency as a gas engine running at its peak, turning about 30% of the energy in the fuel into rotating shaft power. The rest, 70% of the energy, is lost as heat. Why anyone claims this to be a “clean” or “efficient” energy source is beyond me — especially considering the rising methane levels and the leaks in its production, storage and transportation. Still, it’s “cleaner” than “clean coal”…

But turbines have one additional trick… in your car that extra heat blows away through your radiator. But in a power plant, it’s captured and heats up water to boil into steam, and then use the steam to drive another turbine. These “combined cycle” generators can be up to 60% efficient. When you factor in things like throttling and load following these numbers go down, but average numbers on the order of 40% are very common, and most modern plants are closer to 50%.

The electrical grid is very efficient. The total losses in the US grid are only about 7%. This number keeps going down as we improve the systems.

So that means the real tank to wheel comparison is:

0.5 (generator) x 0.93 (line losses) x 0.7 (entire car side) = 33%

Now we also have to get that gas to the NG power plant. The drilling and extraction requires energy equivalent to about 9% of the fuel, and shipping it in a pipeline is efficient, accounting for about 1.5% of the energy. It’s hard to nail down leakage, but for the sake of argument, we’ll leave that out. So that means the total cycle end-to-end is:
0.91 (extraction) x 0.985 (shipping) x 0.33 = 29%

Now we have a number that we really can compare to a gasoline car – we’re accounting for everything from the well to the wheel, and that number is around 30%.

For BC’s grid we can assume hydroelectric dams generate at about 90% efficiency so,

0.90 (generation) x 0.93 (line losses) x 0.7 (entire car side) = 60%

So what’s a typical number for well-to-wheel for a conventional car? About 14%.

So, even if we were running primarily on natural gas, if we took the gasoline you put into your ICE car and burned that in a turbine, then sent that power to your electric car, the overall efficiency of the system would double.


The beauty of an “electric economy” is that batteries can be charged up at any time and stored in your vehicle. They’re charging up at night when the reservoirs get a refill and wind is at its best.

The holy grail of energy is storage, which our hydro dams do so very well, but a smart grid will allow the utilities to access the stored energy in our car batteries when they need it most — peak. This is called vehicle to grid technology and it’s getting closer to becoming a reality. Again, minimizing waste and reducing grid demand while benefiting the consumer is an all-around win.

As more and more cleaner sources of energy come into the mix, invariably more efficient and less polluting than existing ones, EVs get better and better while existing ICE car’s efficiency and emissions are fixed at the moment it was built.

Electric cars burn anything or ultimately nothing. No matter what new fuel we invent in the future, your car will burn it, without changing a thing.Even better, encouraging more decentralized production from rooftop PV solar and battery storage will mean less burning altogether!

While we wait for the inevitable conversion to EVs, there are problems we’d like to solve in the shorter term. And the mid-range solution is plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs. This gets us all of the advantages of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on the vast majority of trips, and gives you a fail-safe option for longer trips. Of course the Model S has a range of 300km+ without a backup ICE already and over 650 Level 2 (240V) public chargers available in BC, so range anxiety will become a thing of the past.

The difference between a PHEV and a fully electric vehicle is that you’re hauling around a back-up ICE engine everywhere you go, even when you don’t need it (which is most likely most of the time). But if you pull that out you need more batteries, so the difference isn’t as much as you might think. PHEVs have less battery, say 1/4 that of a fully electric vehicle, so as long as batteries remain as expensive as they are now, this is a much lower cost option.

Still, I figure if you’re going to reduce your carbon footprint in BC, there is no better way than to tackle the largest contributor — transportation. If you drive, make it electric and the sooner, the better for all of us.

Here’s a really great report on the topic from the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Posted by: jmtoriel | March 1, 2013

Credibility to Counter Big Oil spin Required

Much more emphasis needs to be placed on Kinder Morgan’s proposed new Trans Mountain Pipeline project as Northern Gateway continues to take headlines. A brilliantly layed-out report was just released by Conversations for Responsible Economic Development (CRED) that clearly reasons why it should and must be opposed.
Of course my take is to always have a solid counter to the usual industry response, “Well, let’s be clear, everyone needs oil and we are providing for the needs of an expanding global market blah, blah…” 
I’d like us to counter with, no, we don’t need your dirty, stinking oil because it is clearly not serving us and, in fact, harming us and our children” We have to provide a realistic response to the over-emphasis of a falling demand that hasn’t lived up to their speculative gorwth model (eg deficits in oil-rich Alberta, massive natural gas price shortfalls in BC etc.). We are raping and pillaging now — or worse letting “foreign”-owned multi-nationals in to do the job on the notion that it will increase job numbers in the future at home and balance our budgets on unrealistic targets that we cannot control. Absolute bogus claims, and this must resonate loud and clear to people basing assumptions on these claims.
In addition, having tax payers expected to pay for any spills that will affect the value of their properties and public spaces (including recreational areas) resonates very sharply as well (surprised to see West Vancouver Council on board here and not North Van/District of). Emissions increasing as a result of greater access is the other obvious response and any targets suggesting reductions with this in mind become hot air.
Here’s the reality in BC:
A simple cost analysis of how much we will lose (water contamination and GHG emissions, toxicity, energy use — (Site C dam being built to support processing nat gas for export is a good one) vs how much we will really gain (according to the known facts) is what the public needs to hear to get behind. Govt and industry have been discrediting any ENGO risk analysis (or participation in decision-making) while speculating on a global market we have so little to do with (eg we are not the energy super power Harper & co. claim) and the market is deciding that for us whatever we do or don’t do. Opposing the projects is the easy part. Preventing and reversing them is much more difficult and where I’d like to see more strategic minds get together to provide a non-politically driven solution scenario for (as opposed to clarifying and exposing the problems).
Rupture in Enbridge pipeline in Michigan that caused a 877,000 US gallons (3,320  m3) spill of heavy crude oil originating from Canada 
We all know (or pretend not to) that problems persist and the climate crisis is very, very real.
We must go one step further than expose and oppose to promote an end to subsidies and advance the adoption of viable and cleaner alternatives that are not bound to government revenues at all levels of government. Here’s a breakdown:
  1. We are spending far too much of our collective tax resources subsidizing some of the wealthiest companies and gov’t-owned oil companies (Big Oil) — to the tune of $1.3 billion annually at last estimate (IISD-International Institute for Sustainable Development). We must really ask ourselves… WHY and how much money is being spent on renewables, clean transportation like EV infrastructure, etc comparatively?
  2. The lack of royalty payments do not benefit the mid-to long-term economic value of the oil and gas sector in Canada as it has in places like Norway. The fact that market-driven commodity pricing and over-enthusiastic (and highly unrealistic) forecasts lead to massive shortfalls in government revenues demonstrates a failure to emphasize the need to shift our reliance on the extraction of fossil fuels to support our economy and the govt coffers through taxation at the pump. 
  3. Carbon taxes do work as a penalty mechanism by increasing costs, but the revenues gained must be put towards cleaner alternatives (not tax breaks for these same companies). This is clearly evident in jurisdictions like Alberta which is coming to terms with a glut and a growing budget deficit. This is a shift that must happen.
  4. Canada is not a member of OPEC – we can’t pretend that what we — (more accurately, “they”) extract and what is internationally recognized as “dirty oil” is going to save the world. It will do quite the opposite.
  5. Meeting international safety standards does not make us “world-class” or a global “gateway” and the risk is simply too high for our coastline, climate cannot be ignored in any credible review process (Keystone XL, Northern Gateway Project)
In a jurisdiction like BC that does not need to rely on oil, gas and coal to meet most energy needs while subsidising the companies that create most emissions can instead harness cleaner energy (as attached graph shows — transportation is the key here) in order to mitigate emissions by reducing our reliance while creating many, many more jobs and spur innovation. Norway has done it and they are the have the highest percent of EVs on the road/pop in the world, a carbon tax, healthy revenues with a declining supply that they are prepared for. 
It can be done and it must be done.
Posted by: jmtoriel | October 17, 2012

Like oil and water — Enbridge Sours a Good Cause

Read my response below this important piece.

Oil, Cancer and Bicycles: Enbridge Ride Sparks Emotional Debate Featured

Written by Damien Gillis Tuesday, 16 October 2012 16:01


It’s October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – which means, the fundraising drive for the annual “Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer” is revving up.

first raised my concerns about this event in several articles last year, questioning the ethics of the alliance between the fundraising arm of the province’s BC Cancer Agency – a.k.a. the BC Cancer Foundation – and controversial oil and gas pipeline titan Enbridge.

Reading the comments on my stories, I gained a new appreciation for how sensitive the topic of cancer philanthropy is. Critiques ranged from hypocrisy for using petrochemical products myself to the fact that Enbridge, being only a pipeline company, doesn’t actually make oil products, to the following heartfelt comment from someone identifying herself as Anne:

…till you have sat at the bedside of a loved one and seen them die you have no clue as to my heartache, and by tarnishing the Ride you are possibly prolonging finding a cure.

While I believe we need to be able to engage in a rational, principled debate about this event, I appreciate Anne’s point, to whatever degree I can, given I have not walked in her shoes. Since last year’s event I’ve had time to reflect further on the issue and even come up with some positive alternatives.

On that note, I offer to Anne and others who wish to keep raising funds for caner through a cycling event, an alternative to the Enbridge Ride. The “Ride2Survive” is described on the organization’s website as “a one-day cycling event from Kelowna to Delta BC to raise funds for cancer research through as an Independent Fundraising Event for the Canadian Cancer Society.” The organization also boasts that 100% of the funds raised from the ride go directly to cancer research, something few cancer research initiatives can claim.

Back to the “Enbridge Ride” – a two-day trek from BC to Washington State – which is ramping up toward its fifth year next summer. The event in BC is joined by similar ones in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Enbridge, which began as the BC event sponsor, became the national sponsor for all four events in 2010. The proceeds from the BC fundraiser go to the BC Cancer Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of the BC Cancer Agency, a department of Ministry of Health. In my first story on the subject, I pointed to the confusion caused by the event’s brand – its graphics and signage are all in the colours of the better known and highly respected Canadian Cancer Society, which has nothing to do with this event.

A commenter on my story who identified himself as Steve Merker, wrote, “As someone intimately involved in developing the Ride to Conquer Cancer concept and branding, i can assure you in no way did we ever try to confuse the public. Yellow and cycling and cancer have strong associations via Lance Armstrong / Tour de France. The blue is similar to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre’s blue.”

If the yellow is for Lance Armstrong, they may want to change colours right about now. 

In any event, I do believe it’s important for donors to be clear on where their money’s going.

The real issue here, though, is the matter of allowing Enbridge to greenwash its sullied image in the midst of a highly contentious battle over a proposed pipeline through BC, and the hypocrisy of a Cancer-fighting organization taking money from a company who deals in products that cause cancer. (More on that in a moment).

The website for the ride boasts the following: “…2879 participants across British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest raised $11.1 million in the third annual Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer. Since its inception in 2009, the Ride has raised $27.2 million, making it the most successful cancer-related fundraising event in B.C. history.” 

Yet amidst all this success, the Cancer Foundation clearly grew concerned when I started asking questions and writing critically about the event. My columns provoked significant interest and lively debate online and the first of these prompted the BC Cancer Foundation to develop an internal PR strategy to better defend the program to the press and public, largely based on my initial questions to them. The document was leaked to reporter Stephen Hui of the Georgia Straight. I detailed the key questions and canned answers in a subsequent story

One of my biggest beefs with the ride remains the connection between cancer and petroleum products – for which Enbridge is a central conduit throughout North America. 

I asked BC Cancer Foundation representative Alison Colina, “Is it hypocritical for your organization to accept sponsorship from a company who deals in a known cancer-causing product?” 

Her reply: “With regards to petroleum products causing cancer, we turn to the research and clinical experts at the BC Cancer Agency to determine what are cancer-causing substances…According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer.”

That’s gross distortion at best. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer – the WHO subsidiary group that produces the list of known and probable human carcinogens Ms. Colina referred to – “‘Petroleum refining (workplace exposures in)’ is a probable carcinogen.” Moreover, Benzene, a byproduct of petroleum, is listed as aknown carcinogen (that’s pretty conclusive to me).  

I also contacted Dr. Karen Bartlett of the UBC School of Environmental Health at the time, posing to her the same question: “To what extent can petroleum products be considered carcinogenic?” Here’s what she told me by phone: 

There are two major petroleum products that we know are associated with carcinogenicity. One is in the distillation process of petroleum products, which produces Benzene. Benezene is carcinogenic. The other is in the combustion of diesel. Diesel particulate is carcinogenic.

A commenter on my story, Rob Baxter, added that, according to the American Lung Association, “Air pollution contributes to … lung cancer….In 1996, transportation sources were responsible for 47% of pollutant emissions.” Also according to the same organization, “The production of particulate matter (PM) less than 10_m is associated particularly with the combustion of carbon-based and sulphur-based chemicals such as gasoline and diesel. Exposure has been linked with… serious health effects including cancer.”

Ms. Colina and her organization are misleading the public when they say, “According to the World Health Organization, there is no conclusive research at this time that indicates that petroleum products cause cancer.” All that’s left is the defense raised by some that Enbridge doesn’t make or burn the oil products, so they’re okay. I think that’s nonsensical, but I should also note that Enbridge recently bought a controlling stake in what will soon be the largest and most carbon-emitting natural gas plant in North America, the Cabin Gas Plant in northeast BC.

They also continue to wreak ecological devastation with oil spills across the continent. 

The fact that Enbridge is in no way suitable to be the title sponsor of a cancer research fundraiser should be as plain as day to anyone, especially the BC Cancer Foundation.

The other big issue I have with this event is the way it enables a highly controversial company which is aggressively targeting environmental groups and First Nations as we speak for opposing their highly unpopular proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline from the Alberta Tar Sands to BC’s coast.

If the Ride in any way helps Enbridge burnish its reputation in order to advance this pipeline and oil tankers on our coast, then I have a problem with that. And make no mistake, corporate social responsibility pledges aside, no corporation, including Enbridge, spends one dollar sheerly out of goodwill.  Enbridge is sponsoring this event for business reasons and none other. 

Moreover, I particularly have a problem with the connection between this event and the provincial government, which is the recipient of these research funds.

It is this point which resonated for readers when I first wrote about the issue. 

Noelle wrote: “I too am a cancer survivor and have participated in the ride for the last two years. I also had signed up for the 2011 ride before Enbridge came on board and was appalled when I discovered this.”

This from one Sonya McCarthy: “I have watched Enbridge’s tactics and seen the undermining of local communities the right to say “no” whith the possible environmental damage by crossing hundreds of Salmon bearing rivers and streams. Where a spill from the increase tankers could cause an ecological disaster and there is no plan to clean up the mess.”

And a David Munro had this to say: “Given that my father died of cancer, it’s natural that I would want to support an event such as this. On the other hand, his particular cancer was hairy cell leukaemia, caused by long-term exposure to petroleum products.”

The Enbridge Ride controversy falls within a larger conversation that is only just beginning, catalyzed by films like Pink Ribbons, Inc. and books like Selling Sickness by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels, which contend that cancer treatment has become an industry driven by drug companies, while prevention takes a back seat because it’s less profitable. They also raise questions about the bureaucratic waste of large cancer charities and more and more funds being diverted to overhead and salaries.

This conversation – also covered by Miranda Holmes in these pages recently – is long overdue, and yet, I now understand why it has been so slow and difficult to foment.

I suggest we can no longer muzzle debate about cancer research and prevention with taboos designed to protect the status quo. The discussion must certainly be imbued with compassion and sensitivity to the pain of losing a loved one to this disease. But we need to be able to ask questions about the ethics of any fundraising initiative and debate the merits of different approaches to taking on cancer. Prevention, through healthy lifestyles and the restriction of environmental toxins, must play a far more prominent role in this discussion.

Moreover, Enbridge, a company whose products cause cancer, should not be able to shroud itself in a bullet-proof PR shield by linking itself with cancer research. This is a company that does not have the support of the public or First Nations in BC and threatens to destroy the things we hold dear – our rivers, salmon, coastline, communities, cultures and ways of life. As I write this, thousands of citizens are preparing to gather in our capital in one of the largest environmental demonstrations on record, to speak out against oil on BC’s coast.

The heavy-handed tactics of Enbridge and its supporters in the Harper Government have rubbed British Columbians and First Nations the wrong way for a long time now and Enbridge should not be getting any help from cancer philanthropies to repair its image.

To those who wish to ride for cancer – and I applaud them for their heartfelt commitment and sincere efforts for a noble cause – I suggest the alternative of the Ride2Survive

To the BC Cancer Foundation, I suggest you can do better than Enbridge.



This one hits close to home… I have sat at the bedside of a loved one and seen them die (like Anne in Gillis piece) — my father, of lung cancer from air pollution as a non-smoker. I have also ridden in the Ride to Conquer Cancer and nearly pulled out when I found Enbridge to be funding it 2 yrs ago and before it had become such a contentious issue as it is today. I found out that this is BC Cancer Foundation’s biggest yearly donation drive and figured that money spent on research was better than on the actual pipeline despite their hypocritical greenwashing stance… as, I, for one understand the connection between cancer and oil products and is one of the primary reasons that I started my company, Big Green Island Transportation, to encourage cleaner adoption of cleaner, non-carcinogenic vehicles (with no tailpipes). The other reason is climate change which is also linked to CO2 emissions from production, transportation and refining before actually being burned by billions of internal combustable engines every day.
It comes down to responsibility. Is Enbridge more responsible as a company by linking itself to cancer research. ABSOLUTELY NOT! Then perhaps Ride2Survive is the ethical alternative to raising funds for cancer research to the Canadian Cancer Society as Gillis suggests.

Posted by: jmtoriel | March 26, 2012

Electricity is the Thing

“Electricity is the thing.  There is no whirring and grinding gears with their numerous levers to confuse.  There is not that almost terrifying uncertain throb and whirr of the powerful combustion engine.  There is no water-circulating system to get out of order- no dangerous and evil-smelling gasoline and no noise.”

-Thomas Edison

Businesses, municipalities and other jurisdictions (like First Nations communities and universities) are starting to realize the same thing Thomas Edison did over 100 years ago — electricity is indeed the thing. 


As finitie resources used to produce fuels for transportation become more problematic and expensive, communities are striving to llessen their reliance on oil. Although batteries are more expensive than convetional internal combustion engines (ICEs), they are significantly more efficient, non-toxic, nearly maintenance free and silent. Had issues of global warming and climate change been an issue, Thomas Edison would have surely mentioned the benefit of that as well. We are particularly fortunate, in B.C., to have a grid that runs almost exclusively on a clean, renewable resource — water. However, even in jurisdictions that use dirtier forms of energy — like coal in Alberta — the efficiency of the engine requires less energy to go the same distance and costs significantly less to run and to maintain over time. In fact, it requires more energy from non-renwable fossil fuels to produce the oil that is needed to keep our conventional transportation running. The energy needed is far greater with fuel from unconventional oil sources like the tar sands and deep sea oil rigs, so electric vehicles (EVs) have an added advantage of requiring less (and cheaper) energy to run.

Here are some benefits of EVs as outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy:

  • Energy efficient. Electric motors convert 75% of the chemical energy from the batteries to power the wheels—internal combustion engines (ICEs) only convert 20% of the energy stored in gasoline.
  • Environmentally friendly. EVs emit no tailpipe pollutants, although the power plant producing the electricity may emit them. Electricity from nuclear-, hydro-, solar-, or wind-powered plants causes no air pollutants.
  • Performance benefits. Electric motors provide quiet, smooth operation and stronger acceleration and require less maintenance than ICEs.
  • Reduce energy dependence. Electricity is a domestic energy source.

Let’s focus on efficiency: EVs are very efficient at turning nearly 80% of the required energy into torque whereas ICEs waste up to 80% of the energy to friction, heat and idling (not to mention weight) overheads.

In fact, it takes more electricity to refine, store, transport and pump gasoline than what an electric car would take to drive the same distance.
It has been well documented that 4 Litres (or approx. 1 US gallon) of gasoline takes 7kWh of electricity to refine (Oil Refineries are the 2nd largest consumer of electricity in California, for instance). Add an estimated 2kWh for the balance of gasoline handling and distribution, and you have a total of8kWh for that same 4 Litres of gasoline. Now, add in the energy required for unconventional separating of bitumen from the Tar Sands by burning copious amounts of steam fired from natural gas and you are easily pushing 10kWh of energy.  At CAFE fuel economy of 21MPG (11.20 L/100km), that gallon would take the average car 21 miles.  Electric cars are typically 300Wh per mile (1.6km) or 6.3kWh for the same distance.

So, the net impact of driving EVs over gasoline powered ICEs is that there would be a NET REDUCTION of total electricity consumed by the grid
through savings of electricity required for gasoline production and distribution. 
Slap on a few PV solar panels on your roof and you’re potentially producing and storing (in your EV battery) more energy to pump back to the grid than consuming at the pump.

That is something we need to work towards.

So, next time you hear someone carrying on about how much more energy EVs would require on the grid (or that it would require more dirty coal plants, etc)… set ’em striaght!

Posted by: jmtoriel | January 10, 2012

More and less?…

Its in times like these when we must ask ourselves if we truly want more or less.

The facts on the consequences of more oil and less pristine wilderness inhabited and governed by First Nations while a continent sits thirsty for fossil fuel consumption to live as we westerners have lived for a century without knowing the consequences of burning a limited resource that is changing climate and the planet we evolved and coexisted on. Now we know better — or taking the irresponsible route of denial.

This is the global reality. Everything else is a sideshow.

The leadership in this country has proven to be a global advocate for MORE and a laggard for protecting what the next generations will have less and less of — a truly radical position.

There is a beacon of pragmatic sense that is underwhelmed by all the PR spinning of message entaglement of the public debate between conventional right and left ideological camps creating enemies of the state of people that are simply connecting the dots of the larger issues at stake.

I think Ms Elizabeth May deserves credit for being more than a symbolic representative for what is right and true in times like these — or as Joe Oliver or Stephen Harper would call it, “RADICAL”.

An Open Letter to Joe Oliver

“Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this opportunity to diversify our trade. Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.

“No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. No more hydro-electric dams.

“These groups threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda. They seek to exploit any loophole they can find, stacking public hearings with bodies to ensure that delays kill good projects. They use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”

– From your open letter of today’s date, January 9, 2012.


Dear Joe,

Your letter caught my attention.  I respect you and like you a lot as a colleague in the House.  Unfortunately, I think your role as Minister of Natural Resources has been hijacked by the PMO spin machine.  The PMO is, in turn, hijacked by the foreign oil lobby. You are, as Minister of Natural Resources, in a decision-making, judge-like role.  You should not have signed such a hyperbolic rant.

I have reproduced a short section of your letter. The idea that First Nations, conservation groups, and individuals opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline are opposed to all forestry, mining, hydro-electric and gas is not supported by the facts.  I am one of those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline.  I do not oppose all development; neither does the Green Party; neither do environmental NGOS; neither do First Nations.

I oppose the Northern Gateway pipeline for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that the project requires over-turning the current moratorium on oil tanker traffic on the British Columbia coastline. The federal-provincial oil tanker moratorium has been in place for decades.  As former Industry Canada deputy minister Harry Swain pointed out in today’s Globe and Mail, moving oil tankers through 300 km of perilous navigation in highly energetic tidal conditions is a bad choice. In December 2010, the government’s own Commissioner for the Environment, within the Office of the Auditor General, reported that Canada lacked the tools to respond to an oil spill.  These are legitimate concerns.

Furthermore, running a pipeline through British Columbia’s northern wilderness, particularly globally significant areas such as the Great Bear Rainforest, is a bad idea.  Nearly 1,200 kilometers of pipeline through wilderness and First Nations territory is not something that can be fast-tracked.

Most fundamentally, shipping unprocessed bitumen crude out of Canada has been attacked by the biggest of Canada’s energy labour unions, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, as a bad idea. The CEP estimates it means exporting 40,000 jobs out of Canada (figure based on jobs lost through the Keystone Pipeline). They prefer refining the crude here in Canada.  (The CEP is also not a group to which your allegation that opponents of Gateway also oppose all forestry, mining, oil, gas, etc is anything but absurd.)

The repeated attacks on environmental review by your government merit mention.  The federal law for environmental review was first introduced under the Mulroney government.  Your government has dealt repeated blows to the process, both through legislative changes, shoved through in the 2010 omnibus budget bill, and through budget cuts.  In today’s letter, you essentially ridicule the process through a misleading example.  Your citation of “a temporary ice arena on a frozen pond in Banff” requiring federal review was clearly intended to create the impression that the scope of federal review had reached absurd levels.  You neglected to mention that the arena was within the National Park. That is the only reason the federal government was involved.  It was required by the National Parks Act. The fact that the arena approval took only two months shows the system works quite well.

Perhaps most disturbing in the letter is the description of opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline as coming from “environmental and other radical groups.”  Nowhere in your letter do you mention First Nations.  (I notice you mention “Aboriginal communities,” but First Nations require the appropriate respect that they represent a level of government, not merely individuals within communities.)

The federal government has a constitutional responsibility to respect First Nations sovereignty and protect their interests.  It is a nation to nation relationship.  To denigrate their opposition to the project by lumping it in with what you describe (twice) as “radical” groups is as unhelpful to those relationships as it is inaccurate.

“Radical” is defined as “relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough.”  (Merriam Webster).

By that definition, it is not First Nations, conservation groups or individual opponents that are radical.  They seek to protect the fundamental nature of the wilderness of northern British Columbia, the ecological health of British Columbia coastal eco-systems, and the integrity of impartial environmental review.  It is your government that is radical by proposing quite radical alteration of those values.

Your government has failed to present an energy strategy to Canada.  We have no energy policy.  We are still importing more than half of the oil we use.  Further, we have no plan to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, even as we sign on to global statements about the need to keep greenhouse gases from rising above 450 ppm in the atmosphere to keep global average temperatures from exceeding a growth of 2 degrees C.  The climate crisis imperils our future – including our economic future – in fundamental ways which your government ignores.

By characterizing this issue as environmental radicals versus Canada’s future prosperity you have done a grave disservice to the development of sensible public policy.  There are other ways to diversify Canada’s energy markets.  There are other routes, other projects, and most fundamentally other forms of energy.

I urge you to protect your good name and refuse to sign such unworthy and inaccurate missives in the future.


Elizabeth May, O.C.
Member of Parliament
Saanich-Gulf Islands

Green Party of CanadaImage


Here are some ways I see British Columbians positioned well to take positive climate action:

Our leaders are too busy clearing debtloads obtained in an era of growth and focussed on massively subsidized exploitation of resources in fossil fuel-based industries (like the tarsands) to realize and acknowledge the additional expense inaction on climate legislation will have in the future. The lack of leadership is most discouraging and irresponsible… especially given the scientific clarity on the issue.

Realizing that there are no single silver bullets out there, and the apparant inability to rely on robust international binding treaties from UN COP 17 Conference talks in Durban this week, we can only be empowered by the limited responsible options we have available to us at the local level. A realistic assumption is that the vast majority of individuals thriving/surviving under the status quo will not make any major lifestyle changes without lifting barriers and providing incentives. However, we should not overlook some very critical factors that put BC in a favourable position to become a global leader in reducing global GHG emissions:

– BC has a relatively moderate, temperate climate whose population lives predominantly in low, coastal areas which will be significantly impacted by rising sea levels and increased storm activity. High tides and storms already threaten communities near dykes in Delta (See case study). the interior is already increasingly affected by forest fires and beetle kill), so there is further motivation to do something about what will impact ourselves and the following generations.

– As nearly 85% of BC’s population is urban, and approximately 93% of our energy is sourced from renewable sources with a mandate to be carbon neutral by 2016, we must focus on reducing the sector that makes up the largest segment of our emissions: transportation (36% of all GHG emissions in BC using LiveSmart BC data from 2008). So, household, municipal and regional actions can produce real reductions in GHG emissions — a luxury many other jurisdictions cannot provide with an over-reliance to coal generation and less densely populated areas.

– At the per hosehold level, cars & trucks also make up the largest portion of GHG emissions at over 45%. A family that walks, bikes or carpools more often, takes public tansit and/or uses a vehicle that does not rely heavily on burning fossil fuels (gas, diesel or even natural gas) will have the most impact in reducing GHG emissions. Despite living in a car-dominated culture, there has been a marginal increase in use of cleaner modes of transportation, but not enough to deflect the rising emissions in the production of oil in the tarsands and natural gas in notheastern BC. This makes taking advantage of newly announced provincial incentives (available Dec 1) for scrapping older vehicles and purchasing battery electric vehicles (EVs without tailpipes or plug-in hybrids) even more attractive. Given an anticipated 20,000 plug-in electric vehicles to be on the road by 2020 in Metro Vancouver, or approx. 1% of registered vehicles,

– We have the ability to prevent the expansion of tar sands extraction in neighbouring Alberta by preventing the building of new pipelines (Enbridge Gateway) and increased use of existing pipelines (Kinder Morgan) which have higher risks to negative outcomes that will affect BCers outside of the realm of climate change.Image
Posted by: jmtoriel | November 29, 2011

Should society decide to …

Should society decide to address the issue of global warming, then instead of fixating on how the actions of others affect us as individuals, we will be compelled to focus on how our actions as individuals affect others. This will require us to move away from a culture of fear and denial to one of excitement and empowerment.

Andrew Weaver – Professor and Canada Research Chair, University of Victoria and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Electric vehicles drive Vancouver's green future - Georgia Straight

By Emily Elias, October 19, 2011

Don Chandler made the switch to an electric vehicle nearly three years ago and hasn’t looked back.

“I know when I drive my electric vehicle I am not contributing to climate change,” Chandler told the Georgia Straight over the phone. “I am not producing any emissions. So, the impact is, for every vehicle you convert, you are reducing your carbon footprint by about four tonnes a year.”

What began as a hobby for Chandler has become a passion for electric vehicles that has taken over his retirement. Chandler admitted he spends many hours working with the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association, researching the latest developments in electric transportation.

“I’ve talked to thousands of people about electric cars, and now it’s viewed as a real positive thing,” Chandler said. “People don’t criticize you, they don’t complain, they don’t say you are a weirdo. They say, ‘This is the way it is and my next car will be electric.’ ”

Chandler noted he’s seen a surge of electric vehicles on Vancouver streets. But he said the city and province need to step up and make sure there is enough infrastructure, such as charging stations, in place to continue the trend.

“Without places to charge your electric car, you can’t drive an electric car. It’s essential,” Chandler said. “We invested in gas stations years ago and now we need to invest in electrical charge locations.”

Electric vehicles are a key element of the City of Vancouver’s goal of making this the greenest city in the world by 2020. A report by the city about its strategy projects the addition of electric vehicles to Vancouver’s roadways would result in an eight-percent reduction in greenhouse gasses.

“Generally, electric vehicles haven’t been made available to the public yet. What we are looking at is making sure the city has the infrastructure in place for when they do come into broad use,” Peter Judd, the city’s general manager of engineering services, told the Straightby phone.

The City of Vancouver has installed eight charging stations and created a bylaw requiring all newly built single-family homes and apartment buildings to have dedicated electric-vehicle plug-in outlets.

According to Judd, the city does not track how many people use the charging stations. “We have had to put in chargers for our own electric vehicles,” Judd said. “Right now it’s not about them being well used; it’s about providing an alternative, because it is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation.”

Judd pointed out that municipal investments in charging stations can only go so far toward changing the driving habits of Vancouverites. While the city has committed to encouraging 15 percent of all new-vehicle purchases to be electric, the province must also offer incentives, he said.

In the 2011 B.C. throne speech, there was no mention of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, the province of Quebec has devised a rebate program to give buyers an $8,000 refundable tax credit for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and Ontario offers rebates worth between $5,000 and $8,500.

Researcher Jonathan Ford coauthored a study looking at the future of the electric vehicle. He says it’s very difficult to predict how many people will make the switch from gasoline-powered to electric vehicles.

“As far as market penetration, looking at the year 2050, we had anywhere from zero to 90 percent of plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles in the market, so it’s quite a broad range,” Ford told the Straight by phone from Knoxville, Tennessee.

Ford’s consulting company, Sentech, carried out the study for the U.S. Department of Energy, trying to determine how electric vehicles will impact oil consumption, greenhouse-gas emissions, and the traditional auto market. Starting in July 2010, Ford and his team compared 31 existing studies to try to find similarities in the data.

“We thought we were going to have an easy time to make an apples-to-apples comparison of all these reports,” Ford explained. “But once we got into it, we found that there is a vast difference in all of the assumptions used by each group to get to their results. We found a few trends but overall a very broad range of what people predict will happen overall in the near future and the long term.”

He said cities, such as Vancouver, that are adopting fleets of electric vehicles and adding electric charging stations will reduce their oil consumption and emissions; however, it’s impossible to determine by how much.

“Are they going to have an impact? Yes. How big or how little remains to be seen,” Ford said. “As time goes on and a lot of this future data becomes apparent to scientists and the groups…I believe that broad range is going to narrow and point to a very distinct future. But we are only going to find that out in time.”

Chandler applauds the City of Vancouver’s moves, but knows it will take a while before electric vehicles appear in every garage.

“It’s kind of like the era of computers and cellphones. When you introduce the new technology, it will cost a little bit more initially in its infancy,” Chandler said. “I would like to see no combustion engines on the road, but that will take time. We have got to build all the cars, make them available, get people educated, and build the infrastructure—like wiring into the garage to provide a plug that is adequate for charging.”

Posted by: jmtoriel | October 20, 2011

Why we should not dumb down the smart meters in BC

The impression that the installations are “being rammed down our throats” (much like the HST was) is what has created the pushback — not the fact that it is a better technology that will allow residential and commercial power consumers to better monitor their consumption and/or apply it to power generating mechanisms, like PV solar, small wind turbines down the road.

Perhaps most promising is the application of plug-in vehicles (battery electric vehicles or BEV and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs) with smart meters and a smart grid.

There is much talk about the impacts smart meters will have on us and how the roll-out has been conducted. Fair enough, but I ask you to consider the emissions side of the equation for 1 moment. Given the BC government is legislated to reduce its overall emissions by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020 (and most municipalities in BC have signed onto this or more far-reaching targets), much has to be done to achieve significant reductions. While our grid is predominantly “clean” by national and international standards (>90% renewable sources most of which is hydro), it restricts the mechanisms to achieving this wothout looking at the breakdown of emissions by sectors — the largest contributor being TRANSPORTATION (37%).

How does this link to smart meters?… Well, much research is being done on what is called Vehicle to Grid or V2G technologies that would allow utilities, like BC Hydro, to access stored power during peak periods. Essentially, it would allow consumers to sell power back to the grid because smart meters are functionally bi-directional.

Now, say you have a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) that is fully charged in your garage and you have installed PV solar panels on your roof and it is a peak period for power. You would, in principle, be able to sell your stored power (that is currently not in use) back to the grid that would, in turn, go towards reducing your electricity bill. Keep in mind that 80% of EV/PHEV charging will be at night during off-peak and so capacity will not be greatly affected. In fact, some have argued that it encourages renewable forms of energy, like wind, that are more conducive to windier periods that occur at night — a particularly important factor for less densely inhabited and isolated communities like Haida Gwaii that often rely on dirty (and expensive) diesel generators for power.

Now, imagine a large commercial delivery fleet as a business that is looking to reduce costs, be taxed less (think no carbon tax!) and further reduce emissions or a municipal fleet striving to reach emissions targets and save from not having to pay so much in offsets…. Electrification is that much more attractive and measurable thanks to the smart meters. It also provides businesses and consumers alike to have a viable alternative to the climate altering, market unstable, international security destablizing, dirty, and unhealthy reliance to fossil fuels for energy use in electricity and transportation.

The opportunities really open up when you look at the full picture. We can have our cake and eat it too.

So, while the means to bring new policies forward has been less desireable and the perceived negative impacts to civil liberties and wireless interference effects on our health should not be overlooked (however unproven as the case may be), the rational merits (generally neglected by the conflict-oriented mainstream media and outspoken nay-sayers) are perhaps the most significant to the actual “sustainable” energy of our province.

Bring in the smart meters, keep the carbon tax, bring in incentives to electric vehicles and charging equipment (as Ontario and Quebec have done) and the lower the costs to the consumer — emissions will follow.

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