Fuel Economy Increases 9 Percent in United States

By John Addison (updated 12/3/09, original 11/24/09)

For the fifth consecutive year, EPA is reporting an increase in fuel efficiency with a corresponding decrease in average carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for new cars and light duty trucks. Average CO2 emissions have decreased by 39 grams per mile, or 8 percent, and average fuel economy has increased by 1.8 mpg, or 9 percent, since 2004.

“American drivers are increasingly looking for cars that burn cleaner, burn less gas and won’t burn a hole in their wallets,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re working to help accelerate this trend with strong investments in clean energy technology – particularly for the cars and trucks that account for almost 60 percent of greenhouse gases from transportation sources. Cleaner, more efficient vehicles can help reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, cut harmful pollution, and save people money — and it’s clear that’s what the American car buyer wants.”

Progress surprisingly slowed during the recession. For 2008, the last year for which EPA has final data from automakers, the average fuel economy value was 21.0 miles per gallon (mpg). EPA projects a small improvement in 2009, based on pre-model year sales estimates provided to EPA by automakers, to 21.1 mpg. When the tax payers handed GM and Chrysler $70 billion weren’t we promised more progress than that?

The 10 Best 2010 Hybrids achieve 30 to 50 miles per gallon.

The EPA report confirms that average CO2 emissions have decreased and fuel economy has increased each year beginning in 2005. This positive trend beginning in 2005 reverses a long period of increasing CO2 emissions and decreasing fuel economy from 1987 through 2004, and returns CO2 emissions and fuel economy to levels of the early 1980s.

While the Senate debates if it is possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 17 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level, Americans already have us half the way there when it comes to transportation. Americans are cutting car use with flexwork, car pooling, and transit. Gas guzzlers are being replaced with fuel misers and even electric cars.

In addition, new buildings use much less electricity and heat due to better insulation, HVAC systems, and even LED lighting. Emissions will really dip if we stop subsidizing oil and coal, and put a price on carbon emissions.

$620 Million for Smart Grid and Energy Storage Projects will spur Renewables

$620 Million for Smart Grid and Energy Storage Projects will spur Renewables

Grid Energy Storage for Wind PowerBy John Addison (11/24/09)

The Department of Energy awarded today $620 million for projects around the country to demonstrate Smart Grid technologies and integrated systems that will help build a smarter, more efficient, and more resilient electrical grid. Electric cars will be smart charged and lithium batteries reused in some grid demonstrations. Secretary Chu today announced the 32 projects which include large-scale energy storage which will enable wind and solar power to be delivered when needed.

The projects also include smart meters, distribution and transmission system monitoring devices, and a range of other smart technologies that facilitate deploying integrated Smart Grid systems on a broader scale. Smart Grids will allow electric vehicles to be charged at lower rates when energy demand is down; charging will match car owner preferences, independent of when they are connected for smart charging.

The funding awards are divided into two topic areas.  In the first group, 16 awards totaling $435 million will support fully integrated, regional Smart Grid demonstrations in 21 states, representing over 50 utilities and electricity organizations with a combined customer base of almost 100 million consumers.  The projects include streamlined communication technologies that will allow different parts of the grid to “talk” to each other in real time; sensing and control devices that help grid operators monitor and control the flow of electricity to avoid disruptions and outages; and on-site and renewable energy sources that can be integrated onto the electrical grid. For example:

  • Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project – Spanning five states and affecting more than 60,000 consumers, demonstrate and validate new smart grid technologies; provide two-way communication between distributed generation, storage, and demand assets and the existing grid infrastructure; and advance interoperability standards and cyber security approaches.
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Smart Grid Regional Demonstration – deploy smart grid systems at partners’ university campus properties and technology transfer laboratories. The projects will also include gathering data on how consumers use energy in a variety of systems, testing on the next generation of cyber security technologies, and how to integrate a significant number of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles onto the grid.
  • Irvine Smart Grid Demonstration – With Southern California Edison as the lead, this will demonstrate an integrated, scalable system that includes all of the interlocking pieces of an end-to-end Smart Grid – from the transmission and distribution systems to consumer applications like smart appliances and electric vehicles.

In the second group, an additional 16 awards for a total of $185 million will help fund utility-scale energy storage projects that will enhance the reliability and efficiency of the grid, while reducing the need for new electricity plants. Improved energy storage technologies will allow for expanded integration of renewable energy resources like wind and photovoltaic systems and will improve frequency regulation and peak energy management.  The selected projects include advanced battery systems (including flow batteries), flywheels, and compressed air energy systems. For example:

  • Detroit Edison’s Advanced Implementation of A123s Community Energy Storage Systems for Grid Support – Demonstrate the use and benefits of Community Energy Storage (CES) systems for utilities and test the ability to integrate secondary-use electric vehicle batteries as part of the CES demonstration. Success of this demonstration could extend the lifecycle use of electric car batteries, and lead to lower lease and purchase costs of plug-in vehicles. This project will install 20 CES units, 25kW/2hr each, into a system that includes a 1 MW storage device integrated into a solar system.
  • Energy East Advanced CAES Demonstration Plant – New York State Electric & Gas Corporation will lead in using an Existing Salt Storage Cavern with lower cost 150 MW Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) technology plant using an existing salt cavern. The project will be designed with an innovative smart grid control system to improve grid reliability and enable the integration of wind and other intermittent renewable energy sources.
  • Wind Firming EnergyFarm™- Deploy a 25 MW – 75 MWh EnergyFarm for the Modesto Irrigation District in California’s Central Valley, replacing a planned $78M / 50 MW fossil fuel plant to compensate for the variable nature of wind energy providing the District with the ability to shift on-peak energy use to off-peak periods.

This funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will be leveraged with $1 billion in funds from the private sector to support more than $1.6 billion in total Smart Grid projects nationally.

Secretary Chu said, “This funding will be used to show how Smart Grid technologies can be applied to whole systems to promote energy savings for consumers, increase energy efficiency, and foster the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.”

Applicants say this investment will create thousands of new job opportunities that will include manufacturing workers, engineers, electricians, equipment installers, IT system designers, cyber security specialists, and business and power system analysts.

Description of all 32 Projects

Electric Cars Facilitate Smart Grid 2.0

Electric Cars Facilitate Smart Grid 2.0

Smart Charging Electric Cars

The electric car will facilitate the smart grid and a renewable energy charging infrastructure. The electric car will help make the smart grid relevant to consumers. Right now most cars use inefficient engines fueled with gasoline or diesel. In the coming decades, many cars will use electricity. With a smart grid, renewable energy will do much of the charging.

New electric cars from Nissan, Toyota, GM, Ford and others will use a charging standard J1772. The new charging units at home and work will include a smart meter chip. When a driver plugs-in, charging will follow preferences pre-established by the car owner. Many will prefer to save money and charge at night when rates are cheaper.

States with the earliest adopters of electric cars are also states where utilities face big renewable portfolio standards (RPS). The lowest cost renewable per megawatt is wind, but much of the wind turbine power is delivered at night when winds are most constant. With a smart grid and price incentives, electric cars will be charged off-peak using renewables.

The promise of smart grid electric vehicle charging was discussed at the GreenBeat 2009 conference last week by technology leaders such as Google and Cisco, and utility leaders such as Duke Energy and Southern California Edison. Al Gore presented smart grid and super grid findings from his comprehensive new book about climate solutions – Our Choice.

The current Smart Grid 1.0 is frankly boring. Smart Grid 2.0 promises to make our life better with less use of damaging coal power emissions.

With Smart Grid 1.0, new electric meters are being installed. Utilities save because they no longer need to send people out to read meters. Services can start and stop without rolling trucks to make manual connects and disconnects. Utilities are saving while the consumers pay for the new meters with rate hikes.

As the smart grid conference unfolded, a class action suit unfolded against PG&E, the leader in installing smart meters. The suit filed last week in Kern County Superior Court claims that Pete Flores’s electric bill jumped from $200 per month to over $500 per month after his smart meter was installed. Is it possible that those old mechanical meters sometimes underreported actual electricity use? Are we running more AC with hotter temperatures? We will find out as the suit unfolds. In California higher use can push people into higher pricing tiers.

My wife and I keep our PG&E electric bill under $25 per month by living in a well insulated condo, where I replaced all lights with CFL. Marcia also patiently tolerates living with an environmental journalist that turns off anything not used in the past 30 seconds. Our rate is only 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour. Bigger users in top tiers can pay three times that rate. Pricing works. California has kept electricity use per capita flat, while it has stored in most states.

Electric utility industry has shifted from years of falling costs to rising costs. Utilities need to shift energy use and vehicle charging off-peak to avoid unnecessary investments in expensive peaking power plants. A smart grid is needed to fully utilize renewable energy and moderate fossil fuel emissions.

Energy efficiency and demand management is already saving some enterprises millions per year. Most state public utility commissions (PUC) are afraid of implementing consumer time-of-use (TOU) pricing to give people the incentive to use energy when it is plentiful not scarce. The latest class action lawsuit hardly encourages PUCs to act more boldly.

Public utility commissions are more willing to allow pricing incentives for vehicle charging. Electric cars will help move us to Smart Grid 2.0. Through web browsers, smartphones, and vehicle displays, drivers will select smart charging preferences and get feedback on how to use less electricity and save money. Early electric cars will cost more than their gasoline counterparts, but their electric charging will cost a fraction of the cost of gasoline fill-ups.

Currently, there are only 40,000 electric cars running in the United States. As exciting new offerings are being tested and sold, 1.5 million electric cars are expected in the U.S. by 2015 presented Sharon Allan, the Senior Executive, North American Smart Grid Practice, for Accenture.

Charging these electric cars will help transform the promise of a smart grid into a convenient cost-saving reality.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers

Toyota Expands Hybrid Car Models

Toyota Expands Hybrid Car Models

Toyota Pruis Plug-inBy John Addison (11/17/09)

Over 1,000,000 Hybrids in U.S.

Toyota Motor Corporation continues to dominate the global market for hybrid cars with its Toyota and Lexus brands. Last March, Toyota became the only car maker to have sold over one million hybrids in the United States. Hybrid sales are pushing 10 percent in Japan and even higher in some U.S. cities.

In our recent survey, Toyota captured four of the Top 10 Hybrids with Best MPG.

Toyota Prius continues to lead hybrid cars in fuel economy and lowest lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This perennial favorite midsize 4-door hatchback delivers 50 miles per gallon (mpg) and is lowest on the list with 3.7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent for the EPA annual driving cycle. Yes, 3.7 tons of CO2e is a lot; but many cars, light trucks, and SUVs create three times that emission; to get lower emissions you would need a plug-in car. The hatchback design allows for more cargo, especially if you drop part or all of the 60/40 back bench seat.

Lexus HS 250h is a stylish compact 4-seat sedan that delivers 35 mpg and 5.3 tons of CO2e per year. The Lexus brand lets your friends know that are using less petroleum by choice; you can afford a bit of luxury.

Toyota Camry Hybrid delivers good mileage for a midsize with an automatic transmission. The EPA rating is 5.4 tons of CO2e for the EPA annual driving cycle and a combined 34 mpg.

Lexus RX 450h with more acceleration and room than the others, costs more, starting at over $42,000. For a powerful SUV, it still conserves with 30 mpg and 6.1 tons of CO2e. Haul 5 people and lots of stuff without sacrificing quality and styling in the RX450h. The all wheel drive version has slightly better mileage than the Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD.

Some Toyota offerings are more about performance or image, than about great mileage. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid also sells well with those who want a midsized SUV with either 2WD or 4WD. LS 600h L luxury hybrid sedan, is the world’s first vehicle to feature a full-hybrid V8 powertrain.
What is Next?

Jim Lentz, TMS president, said, “Toyota’s hybrid leadership will continue to expand in the U.S. and around the globe. With 10 new hybrid models between now and 2012 in various global markets, we plan to sell one million gas-electric hybrids per year, worldwide, sometime early in the next decade.”

Toyota has announced that it wants all of its cars to have a hybrid option by 2020. Ford wants the hybrid option for 90 percent of its cars much sooner. Competition will force Toyota to keep moving forward.

The Toyota Auris will be offered next year in Japan with better mileage than the Prius. It is expected to be a compact hybrid.

A Toyota Yaris with better mileage than the larger Prius has been long rumored for the U.S.

We continue to hear rumors of a larger Prius in the form of a crossover, wagon, or SUV. Behind this rumor may be a debate within Toyota to establish Prius as an independent brand, as Toyota Motor Corporation has done with Lexus and Scion.

In demonstrating what might be in our future, LF-Ch concept hybrid vehicle from Lexus offers dramatic style and premium features. If you have multiple drivers in your household, one could drive the LF-Ch for fuel economy while the other could be out playing Grand Prix with this sporty five-door. A drive mode-switch allows the driver to select between four modes: Normal, Eco, EV, plus a Sport mode that amplifies throttle response for the most enthusiastic drivers.

Toyota Plug-in Prius Sales will Jump in 2012

Toyota will start volume manufacturing of the Plug-in Prius in 2012 according to Reuters. 2012 manufacturing of 20,000 to 30,000 Toyota Prius PHEV are expected. Toyota has not yet finalized 2012 pricing. Full featured models may be priced from $40,000 to $50,000 and be competitive with the Chevy Volt in the U.S., Ford’s PHEV offerings, and the Mitsubishi EV in Japan. The added lithium batteries in the plug-in version of the Prius will make it priced much higher than the hybrid Prius.

Toyota is currently leasing 500 plug-in Priuses in Japan and the United States in fleet demonstrations. Smart grid charging will be an important part of U.S. demonstrations. The plug-in is a cautious step forward, with a freeway-speed electric range of only 12 miles before the engine is engaged.

Dr. Andy Frank, the father of plug-in hybrids, had lunch with me this week at GreenBeat 2009. He thinks that Toyota is smart to lower the cost of the Plug-in Prius by only using 5 kWh of lithium batteries, even though it limits the EV range. GM may have an added $10,000 per vehicle cost over Toyota by using 16kWh in the Chevy Volt, although that cost differential is moderated with a $7,500 tax credit for using 16kWh.

Toyota will place ten Prius plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with Xcel Energy’s SmartGridCity™ project in Boulder, Colorado. The vehicles will be the focus of an interdisciplinary research project coordinated by the University of Colorado at Boulder Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI), a new joint venture between the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The vehicle’s first-generation lithium-ion battery will be built on a dedicated PEVE (Panasonic EV Energy Company, LTD) assembly line. PEVE is a joint-venture in which Toyota owns 60 percent equity. The first generation lithium-ion batteries were developed in-house by Toyota Research and Development, and a dedicated battery development team is already working on the next battery “beyond lithium.”

Panasonic is in the process of buying Sanyo, subject to anti-trust scrutiny, which will extend its market share leadership and add auto OEM customers such as Ford.

In 2012, Toyota will also start selling the less expensive 2-door FT-EV, a pure battery electric car. This little car will probably be similar to the IQ concept car that it has shown for a few years. In the U.S. in 2012 Toyota will face intense EV competition with Nissan, Ford, and dozens of innovative younger companies such as Tesla.

Because hybrids cost more, some take years to make up for the added cost in fuel savings. Some of the performance and luxury models are never bought to save money. Rising oil prices and an improving economy will bring more people to hybrid cars. Toyota is determined to lead. It is auto show season. Look for more announcements in the months ahead.

PG&E to Smart Charge 219,000 Electric Cars

PG&E to Smart Charge 219,000 Electric Cars

Customers Control Smart Charging

Customers Control Smart Charging

By John Addison (11/11/09)

Smart Grid EV Charge

By 2020, 219,000 customers of PG&E may say goodbye to those trips to the gas station. No more spinning dials at the pump – $20.00, $40.00, $80.00, etc. Instead drivers will conveniently plug-in their electric cars at home or work. The fill-up will be electrons, not gasoline.

Across the country, electric utilities are preparing to offer smart charging boxes for the garage and charging stations for work and downtown locations. For a fraction of gasoline cost, you will be able to charge plug-in vehicles.

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), for example, is a utility that is planning to service between 219,000 and 845,000 battery electric cars and plug-in hybrids by 2020, under three different planning scenarios presented at Greentech’s The Networked Grid Conference. PG&E currently provides electricity to 5 million customers, including a few thousand that currently drive electric cars. Currently, most of these electric cars are 25-mile per hour neighborhood vehicles that are popular in college and university towns. A few hundred can zoom past you on a freeway, such as the Tesla Roadster.

This year, Newsweek ranked PG&E as the greenest utility in the country due to its strong commitment to customer energy efficiency programs and renewable energy (RE) programs. PG&E serves 15 million people in northern and central California with 123,054 miles electric distribution lines needed to cover 70,000 square miles of its service area. Natural gas is 46 percent of PG&E’s source for electricity, nuclear 20 percent, hydro 16 percent, and out-of-state coal only 2 percent.

Renewable Energy > Coal + Natural Gas by 2020

Renewable energy is 14 percent of PG&E’s total delivered electricity today. It will miss its legal requirement to be at 20 percent by the end of 2010 due to NIMBY roadblocks to large solar thermal plants in the desert. PG&E needs approvals to install the high-voltage lines necessary to bring utility-scale RE to PG&E customers, thereby adding to its current 18,610 circuit miles of interconnected transmission lines.

Hal LaFlash, PG&E Director of Emerging Clean Technologies, outlined how the utility will have 34.8 TWh of RE in 2010 and 77.6TWh of RE in 2020, the year when California utilities must generate 33 percent of their electricity from RE. By 2020, renewable energy may be the utility’s #1 source of energy. The RE mix will be (1) solar thermal, (2) photovoltaics, (3) wind, (4) geothermal, with bioenergy and ocean adding to the total.

With terawatts of nighttime wind power, PG&E may have more electricity at night than it needs. One million electric vehicles could easily be supported provided that they charge off-peak, preferably at night. Smart charging allows customers to plug-in; yet not have charging begin until a preferred time, such as when excess electricity is available to the grid. PG&E hopes to secure regulatory approval for time-of-use pricing so that customers have an incentive to charge at night.

Utility executives worry that people will charge whenever they feel like it. Since charging an electric car is like powering an entire home, the concern is valid. People are still buying gas guzzlers as pump prices rise, so they many may ignore price incentives to charge at night. So far, early customers of plug-in vehicles have been environmentally concerned, and have shown a preference for charging with renewables including their own solar rooftops. Automakers, utilities, and regulators are working to make it easy for new electric car customers to select night time and even renewable energy charging through web browsers, smart phones, and even vehicle dash displays.

Smart Charging and Renewable Energy

Between the electric cars and renewable energy will be a smart grid. Every vehicle charging device will include a smart meter. PG&E is leading the nation with 1.6 million smart meters now installed. It is installing an average of 13,000 per day, and will have 10 million smart meters installed by 2012.

Andrew Tang, PG&E Senior Director of the Smart Energy Web, expects 35 different models of plug-in vehicles to be available within the next two years. PG&E actively meets with auto makers to make sure that smart charging networking is compatible and in place. Only some homes and communities are now ready with dedicated 240V/30A circuits for the 4-hour charging that electric car leaders, such as Nissan recommend.

Although smart charging provides for two-way communication, electricity will only be delivered one-way from the grid to the vehicle. Mr. Tang expressed skepticism about vehicle-to-grid (V2G) being cost-effective and acceptable to customers and automakers, even though PG&E has done V2G demonstrations within its own fleet, with Tesla, with Google, and elsewhere. PG&E is looking at MW grid storage alternatives such as pumped hydro and compressed air, such as the 300MW compressed air storage in Kern Country that PG&E has applied for a federal grant. Sulfur Sodium batteries that could scale to hundreds of MW were also presented at the conference.

Infrastructure issues may be greatest in communities that are now adopting hybrid cars at fast rates. For example, in Berkeley, 18 percent of new car sales are hybrids. As electric cars sell briskly in some communities, PG&E will likely need to upgrade substations to handle the increased distribution of electricity.

With the advanced planning outlined in PG&E’s presentations and with regulatory support for time-of-use pricing, renewable energy, and high-voltage lines, PG&E will be ready to power a new generation of vehicles for a fraction of the cost of gasoline. Increasingly, these electric cars will be powered by solar, wind, and other renewables.

Top 10 Electric Car Makers