Category Archives: Electric Vehicles

Gigafactory Proves that Tesla is Ahead of the Clean Energy Curve, But Does Texas Stand to Benefit?

Source: Texas Public Radio

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, speaking to Texas Legislature in 2013. Source: Texas Public Radio.

Disruptive technologies tend to follow a certain trajectory. First, they are outliers, often ignored, and typically on the cusp of never entering the market. But, for the successful ones, a tipping point is ultimately reached, after which the technology goes viral and changes the status quo it was designed to replace. In the new energy revolution, Tesla is one such company that has surpassed the tipping point and threatens to change the way we produce, distribute, and consume electricity.

It isn't just Tesla's sleek and beautiful electric vehicles that will be key to disrupting the status quo. At a current price point of around $80,000, most people en masse won’t be able to afford a Tesla, even though the company has plans to develop more affordable models. But what makes Tesla unique, besides the strange genius of CEO Elon Musk, is the potential diversification of its offerings, highlighted recently by the company's announcement to build the GigaFactory, a $5-billion battery factory that will employ 6,500 workers.

Set to open in about three years, the new GigaFactory will be large enough to manufacture more lithium-ion batteries than the entire industry produces now, and due to its sheer scale, is expected to reduce the cost of batteries by almost one-third. Read More »

Also posted in Energy Storage, Smart Grid | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Final Order from NYPSC on Con Edison Rate Case Reveals Especially Encouraging Language on Climate Change Directives

By: Elizabeth B. Stein, Attorney and Adam Peltz, Attorney

Source: Iwan Baan

Source: Iwan Baan

In Tuesday’s blog post, we discussed the recently concluded Con Edison rate case, its context, and its significance in advancing clean energy and grid resilience in New York. Today, we take a closer look at the final Order posted last Friday by the New York State Public Service Commission (the Commission) to uncover some of the more encouraging outcomes buried in this 300+ page document:

  • Con Edison agreed to various measures that allow for more distributed generation, i.e. on-site power generation, such as combined heat and power, rather than relying solely on power generation and distribution from the traditional, centralized grid. For example, Con Edison agreed to pay for some fault current mitigation, which enables distributed generation to be connected to portions of Con Edison’s grid where it would otherwise be prohibited, and agreed to develop an implementation plan for a microgrid pilot. Additionally, Con Edison agreed to treat customer-sited projects, including distributed generation, as integral parts of its system by considering them in its 24-month planning horizon. Because some distributed generation can operate in an ‘islanded’ mode, or separate from the main grid, and can thus continue operating in a power outage, distributed generation can play a critical role in improving resilience. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Clean Energy, Dynamic Pricing, Methane, Natural Gas, New York, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models | Comments closed

How Electric Vehicles are Strengthening the Texas Power Grid and Improving Air Quality

Marita Mirzatuny

This commentary originally appeared on our Texas Clean Air Matters Blog.

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.

In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Demand Response, Energy Storage, Smart Grid | Comments closed

Pecan Street’s Study Shows Electric Vehicles Won’t Overload the Electric Grid

Source: Pecan Street Inc.

Source: Pecan Street Inc.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some of the world’s largest automakers release their first mass-market electric vehicles.  Models like the Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S are popular with consumers looking to reduce their carbon footprint and spend less at the pump.  But the vehicles’ rising popularity has raised concerns about the effect they might have on the electric grid, particularly during the hot summer months in Texas.

Electric vehicles are the largest new home electric load in decades.  Some suspected that drivers, upon returning home from work, would charge their vehicles during the evening hours (a ‘rush-hour’ time for the wires that carry our energy, which strains the electric grid).  They thought that the increased need for energy would overwhelm the electric system, possibly force utilities to fire up more dirty fossil fuel power plants and offset any potential environmental benefits of the gasoline-free car.  Thankfully, this line of thinking is now an idea of the past.

A recent report from Pecan Street proves that electric vehicles have less of an impact on the electric grid than anticipated. Read More »

Also posted in Smart Grid, Texas | Tagged | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Seeing Green: Emission Reducing Fuel Policies Help Lower Gas Prices

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.

By: Tim O'Connor and Shira Silver

Californians struggling with high gas prices should feel optimistic about the future.  A new memo by economists from EDF and Chuck Mason, a prominent economist at the University of Wyoming, demonstrates that policies established to reduce emissions and help the state reach its climate change goals also help to arm consumers at the pump.

The Low Carbon Fuel Standardcap and trade, and other complementary policies such as Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicle program and national Renewable Portfolio Standards seek to integrate lower or zero-carbon fuels into the energy market in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.

As our memo explains, in California these efforts also help to increase the market share for alternative, lower-carbon fuels. Between now and 2020, alternatives may grow to occupy between 15 and 24 percent of the market, creating new jobs and addressing the large market share that oil companies have in California.

Currently six oil companies control 94 percent of the fuels market in California. Through a set of mergers and other factors they have developed a strong lock on fuel in the state, and more specifically on consumers’ pocketbooks at the pump.

Read More »

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Auto dealers vs. Tesla: Why the market will decide

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.

Source: jurvetson/Flickr

The European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia and the State of California have all set ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Given that a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from transportation (including 29% of U.S. emissions), it will be very tough to meet this goal without “decarbonizing” our cars and trucks.

The most obvious solution is electric vehicles (EVs) charged by clean energy sources like solar or wind. While several startup EV companies – including Fisker, Coda and Better Place – have struggled, the Tesla car company seems to be succeeding. At least that’s the current view of the markets: Tesla shares have more than tripled since March and in May the company raised almost $1 billion in new capital.

Read More »

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EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature #17: Electric Vehicle Charging From Evatran

Throughout 2012, EDF's Energy Innovation Series will highlight around 20 innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This series will demonstrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here.

In the last few years, the first wave of electric vehicles (EVs) has been introduced in the U.S., marking the most significant technology shift in the auto industry's 100-plus year history.  The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have received the most attention, but Ford and Toyota also have models on the market and nearly every major auto manufacturer has at least one partial- or all-electric model in the works. In other words, EVs have arrived.

Source: Evatran

All EVs can plug directly into a regular 120-volt outlet. But for faster charges, a crop of 240-volt (240v) charging stations are available at Lowe's, Home Depot and other retailers.  Some companies, like Virginia-based Evatran, are taking charging to a whole new level, introducing technologies pioneered in the consumer electronic industry into the garage. The company’s Plugless Power EV charging system takes the plug out of EVs, making the "refueling" process as easy as parking your car.

"Our philosophy is based on ease and simplicity," said Kevin Beck, vice president of business development and sales at Evatran.  "EVs are very simple to own and maintain.  Developing the plugging habit is one of the only hassles, and wireless charging is a game changing technology that will make the EV transition even easier."

The Plugless Power system consists of two parts: a floor sensor connected to a wall-mounted 240v charger and hardware installed under the EV.  When the car parks over the sensor, the system uses inductive charging to refuel the car battery – no plugs necessary. The charging time varies by car model, but the Plugless Power system will provide a full charge in the same amount of time as plugging it in.

Wireless, or inductive, charging is already available for some consumer electronic products.  Several companies make smart phone cases that allow users to simply place their phones on a "charging mat" instead of searching for a charging cable.  EV batteries are a lot bigger, but the technology for Plugless Power is similar.

Inductive charging has its tradeoffs. The process isn't as efficient as wired charging, meaning that not all the energy that makes it to the wall charger makes it into the car battery. Evatran executives acknowledge that the process isn't perfect, but the company has already made significant improvements in efficiency and has made it a focal point of their research and development.

EVs provide a remarkable carbon benefit over gasoline.  Even an inefficient charging system using 100 percent coal-fired electricity is better for the environment than an inefficient gasoline engine.

Currently, the Plugless Power system will be installed after market by local and certified service centers, but true to its mission of simplicity, Evatran is working with EV manufacturers to provide the feature as an option when customers buy the car, like a navigation system, leather seats or tinted windows.  "The goal is to install our system into EVs before customers drive them off the lot."

Also posted in Energy Innovation Series | Comments closed

EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature #11: Battery Switch Model For Electric Vehicles From Better Place

Throughout 2012, EDF's Energy Innovation Series will highlight around 20 innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing, and progressive utilities, to name a few. This series will demonstrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

For more information on this featured innovation, please view this video on Better Place’s battery switch model for electric vehicles.

When it comes to refueling gas-powered cars, drivers around the world have about 100 years of practice:  when you run low on fuel, you look for a gas station.  With electric vehicles (EVs) beginning to enter the market, auto manufacturers, grid operators and customers are searching for ways to ease the transition from gas to electricity.

Better Place, a venture-backed company founded in Silicon Valley, is building charging stations in several countries to serve EV customers, and has designed an innovative approach that may well become the “gas station” of the future.  Rather than refill your battery, Better Place’s automated service stations swap it out.

Better Place’s battery switch stations – which could be described as a mixture of a drive-through car wash and a Jiffy Lube service station – can extract and replace an electric car’s battery in a matter of minutes, without requiring the driver to get out of the car.  To complement the switch stations, Better Place also builds a network of standard charging stations to regularly “top off” the battery when the car is parked.

Source: Better Place

“The switching concept makes sense for several reasons,” said John Proctor, Director of Global communications at Better Place.  “Battery switch enables us to address the relatively high cost and limited driving range of EVs.  Better Place buys the battery, removing that burden and worry for drivers, and enables them to quickly switch a battery for a fully charged one to overcome concerns about EVs having enough charge for longer trips.”

Some plug-in models, like the Chevy Volt, have gas powered range extenders that give the car the per-charge range of most gas-powered cars.  But many models are powered purely by electricity.  Enabling those cars to compete with comparable gas-powered models on cost and convenience is the aim of Better Place around the globe. Read More »

Also posted in California, Energy Innovation Series, Smart Grid | Tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

General Motors Reposts EDF, Revokes The Heartland Institute


Did EDF’s own Jamie Fine and Colin Meehan have a little influence on General Motors (GM)? Perhaps? Just a few days after GM reposted on their website a blog written by Jamie and Colin on the EDF Energy Exchange explaining the Chevy Volt’s brief production suspension and emphasizing it is not a reason to worry about the future of electric vehicles (EVs), GM decides to change course on climate change. Whereas once they were a denier by proxy, they have now seen the light. On Friday, GM announced they are pulling funding from the climate-denial group the Heartland Institute, an industry front group with contributors like Charles Koch and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

This announcement came after GM’s CEO Dan Akerson gave a speech last month stating that they are operating under the assumption that climate change is happening. This new messaging for GM is now consistent with their advances in alternative auto technologies such as the Volt. It would be difficult for many consumers to choose the Volt while wondering why GM takes those dollars – $45,000 over the last 3 years including 2012 – and funds active climate deniers like the Heartland Institute.

As we told you a few weeks ago, the recent pause in production of the Volt is not a reason to worry. Despite not reaching their rather optimistic sales projections, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf are actually beating the sales history of their hybrid cousins. When the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were offered as the first commercially available hybrids in 2000, only 9,350 cars were sold. The Prius is now among the best selling cars in the U.S. with over 2 million vehicles on the road. Meanwhile just last Friday, GM announced that record Volt sales in March are reportedly leading them to consider ramping up production. Change takes time and if the Volt is already outpacing its hybrid competitors, we can potentially expect millions of Volts on the road in the next decade. But you wouldn’t believe that if you listened to the naysayers.

Maybe after being on the receiving end of faux alarmists – who are all too excited to write the obituary for “Government Motors” and a fossil free future – GM is rethinking its support for groups that ignore the truth and distort facts just the same.

Also posted in Climate | Comments closed