Drag from rooftop sensors makes Waymo’s self-driving minivan an energy hog. Photo: Wikimedia/Dllu
By driving smarter, autonomous cars have the potential to move people around and between cities with far greater efficiency. Estimates of their energy dividends, however, have largely ignored autonomous driving’s energy inputs, such as the electricity consumed by brawny on-board computers.
First-of-a-kind modeling published today by University of Michigan and Ford Motor researchers shows that autonomy’s energy pricetag is substantial — high enough to turn some autonomous cars into net energy losers.
A group of large corporations, including utilities and an international delivery company, launched a global campaign today to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles and away from gas- and diesel-powered transportation—which generates almost a quarter of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and has been the fastest growing emissions source.
Since more than half of the cars on the road belong to companies, the new EV100 coalition could have a major impact. It aims to do for EVs and electric car charging infrastructure what coalitions such as the RE100 are already doing to encourage corporate purchasing of clean energy (and thus motivating development of new solar and wind power).
EV100’s goal is to send a signal to automakers that there is mass demand for electric vehicles before 2030, when current forecasts suggest global uptake will start to really ramp up.
“We want to make electric transport the normal,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO for The Climate Group, the international nonprofit spearheading the effort…
After months of negotiation, the French government has unveiled a long-awaited energy plan that is remarkably true to its election promises. The legislation’s cornerstone is the one-third reduction in the role of nuclear power that President François Hollande proposed on the campaign trail in 2012.
Under the plan, nuclear’s share of the nation’s power generation is to drop from 75 percent to 50 percent by 2025, as renewable energy’s role rises from 15 percent today to 40 percent to make up the difference. That is a dramatic statement for France, which is the world’s second largest generator of nuclear energy, after the United States. France has a globally-competitive nuclear industry led by state-owned utility Electricité de France (EDF) and nuclear technology and services giant Areva. Continue reading →
Licensees of the much-hyped AirPOD minicar are pressing for results from Motor Development International, the Luxembourg-registered firm behind the compressed-air-powered vehicle. In recent postings to their websites and coverage by European news sources, some of MDI’s partners are now openly questioning the technology and MDI’s capacity to develop it — questions that Spectrum raised in November 2009 in the investigative feature, “Deflating the Air Car.”
When Spectrum’s feature went to print, MDI was guaranteeing mass-production of AirPODs within a few months at its development base on France’s Cote d’Azur. A year and a half later there is no sign of the promised minicars and their advertised 140-kilometer range, and outspoken licensees are blaming MDI. Continue reading →
Despite the high levels of excitement surrounding electric vehicles, there is reason to worry about this nascent market’s capacity to fizzle in a big way. Most of the buzz surrounds electric vehicle introductions from major automakers, such as the Nissan Leaf and the Chevy Volt, for which consumer demand remains to be demonstrated. Today I’ve got a piece running at MIT’s TechReview.com site raising doubts about the likelihood that corporate fleets will soak up EVs if consumers leave these pricey machines languishing on showroom floors.
The TechReview story, a ‘news-you-can-use’ piece aimed at managers, concludes that big price reductions and adjustments to fleet management practices will be needed to make a business case for replacing gasoline and diesel fleet vehicles with EVs. In short, lithium battery costs push the purchase price too high for most corporate buyers to recoup their investment through efficiencies — especially if they continue to replace vehicles every three-to-five years. AT&T predicts a return on electric Ford/Azure Dynamics service trucks they are phasing in, but only because the company bucks standard fleet practice and uses its fleet vehicles for 10-12 years. Continue reading →
Paris threw open nearly one thousand one-way streets to two-way traffic this week — that is, for travelers willing to pedal. Whereas other cities such as Boulder and London have created a handful of designated counterflow bike lanes, the new rules taking effect in Paris this week allow bicyclists to cycle upstream against automobile traffic within all of the city’s 30 kilometer-per-hour zones.
Generally speaking these 30-kph zones comprise knots of narrow streets serving primarily neighborhood traffic. But Paris city hall expects a big impact for cyclists. According to Paris planners the move will expand route options for cyclists and may also (seemingly against all odds) improve safety. The mayor’s office notes that on some streets cyclists heading upstream will be further from parked cars, minimizing their risk of ‘winning a door prize’ from innattentive automobile users stepping out onto the roadway. Continue reading →
Carmakers have been toying with a novel marketing strategy to take the sting off the electric vehicle’s punishing price premium: selling EVs batteries-not-included. The idea is to lease the lithium batteries separately, shaving a third or more of an EV’s $30,000-plus package cost. Nissan poured some cold water on the idea last week but EV observers think the idea is just getting started, even for Nissan.
Nissan thinks car buyers are ready for its LEAF EV (see teaser ad above) but not for battery leasing. It closed out a pre-sale national tour of the LEAF with news that the compact will be sold or leased as a complete package. As I blogged for Energywise last month, the package includes installation of a home battery charger. Now we know buyers will own the battery too. “Based on the data we have, consumers prefer to buy the full car with batteries,” Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares told the New York Times.
Greentech Media’s Michael Kanellos calls leasing a “conceptual leap” too far: “Imagine if you went to a car dealer today and they offered to sell you the car and lease the engine.” But his analogy may be missing a cog, if one considers the comparative cost of charging an EV versus fueling that internal combustion engine. Per mile, charging the EV will cost roughly a third the cost of gasing up. Imagine if you went to a car dealer and they proposed selling you five years’ worth of fuel up front! Continue reading →