California’s Electric Transit Ride

California’s Electric Transit Ride

By John Addison (9/23/10)

People take hundreds of million electric rides each year in California. The big news is not the electric car drivers or those happily screaming on Disneyland rides; the larger story is network of connected electric rail, buses with cutting edge electric drive systems, and electric cars.

No LA and SF are not yet NY or Paris, but they are showing off a future of low-carbon and zero-emission transportation solutions. A couple of weeks ago, I went to the highly informative CAPCOA Climate Change Forum which included a couple of hundred leaders from California government, industry, and non-profit. Many of these people have decades of success in improving the health of our air, water, and environment. Now they are taking on the tough challenge of reducing the greenhouse gas emissions of a state that emits more than entire nations such as Spain, or Saudi Arabia, or hundreds of smaller countries. The number one GHG emitter in California is vehicles. Add the emissions of its oil refineries and you have the majority of greenhouse gas emissions in California.

Electric Light-Rail and Electric Trolley Buses

To the rescue are major public transportation operators who are electrifying their rail and bus fleets. These transit operators are unclogging the roads for those who really need cars, reducing air pollution, and reducing California’s carbon footprint.

In fact, I got to the Climate Change Forum on an electrically powered bus. I walked two blocks and boarded a trolley bus connected to special overhead power lines. The electricity is from hydropower. San Francisco has over 300 electric trolley buses, 40 cable cars that use under-street cables powered by electric-motors, an extensive electric light-rail system, and 460 diesel buses which are increasingly hybrid-electric. Like most cities, no one mode is best for the 235 million rides taken in SF each year; what’s best is a portfolio of solutions.

Electric light-rail is popular in many cities. Sleek cars on rail invite people to hop on and off. On their dedicated rail lines they are often the fastest way to get to a city’s major destinations. The rail cars often last 40 years compared to diesel and trolley buses which may only last 12.

Only a handful of transit operators still use the electric trolley buses with rubber-tired vehicles powered by electricity collected from fixed overhead wires. San Francisco and Seattle actively use trolley buses; cities like Boston and Dayton have a few. These buses, connected to overhead electric lines, fight through the car traffic, stop at every red light and stop sign, and require slower boarding than light rail. Transit operators no longer like electric trolley buses. They like the long life, speed, and ridership appeal of electric light-rail. Trolley buses cost more to buy and maintain than diesel hybrid-electrics. Unfortunately, adding a light-rail line can cost $20 million per mile; in a city like SF, $60 million.

A good combination for public transportation is light-rail corridors for the most heavily traveled segments that is well integrated with bus service, bicycling, walking, car sharing, electric car parking, and other modes.

Hydrogen Fuel Cells Extend Electric Range

My wife and I are planning to buy an electric car with 100 mile charge range. That more than meets our daily needs. If you’re driving a 40-foot bus full of people for 12 to 16 hours daily, however, you probably need more than batteries to extend the range to 300 to 400 miles. Hydrogen fuel cells compliment lithium batteries by freeing electrons from hydrogen to feed electric motors and batteries added electricity. Finish the long day with a 10 to 15 minute fill-up of hydrogen and your ready for another day.

AC Transit is currently servicing some Berkeley and Oakland routes with 4 hydrogen fuel cell buses with pure electric drive systems with 8 more on order for the Bay Area. These workhorses go for hours on end, even taking battery draining steep grades. These Van Hool buses use Siemens electric motors, EnerDel lithium batteries, and UTC fuel cells. AC Transit Director Jaimie Levin reports that their UTC fuel cells have worked so well, that they will redeploy several of the older fuel cells in the new buses, even though they have in excess of 7,000 hours of continuous operation on each system, without any failures or repairs, or loss of power.

The AC Transit fuel cell buses provided an inspiration for the Winter Olympics. At CAPCOA, I talked with Dr. Paul Scott, ISE Chief Scientists about the 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses that were used in Whistler for the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Dr. Scott told me that those BC Transit buses have successfully logged 500,000 km in a few months. I estimate that they provided over 100,000 rides during the Olympics. The Vancouver New Flyer buses use Ballard fuel cells, Siemens electric motors, and ISE drive systems and software.

LA Metro subway, light-rail, CNG buses, 40% electric, candidates 300kW pilot

Metro serves a vast geography that extends to the far reaches of the Los Angeles basin. I rode their system for a week, traveling from remote Pasadena to the LA Convention Center faster than I could drive.

At the heart of Metro is an electrically powered subway and light-rail system. From those main arteries, 2,500 CNG buses reach streets and neighborhoods that could never be covered with electric rail. In the long term, up to 40 percent of these CNG buses could be replaced with battery-electric buses for rush hour coverage. Although CNG buses have a range of at least 300 miles and can stay on road for 16 hours daily; battery electric buses are well suited for six to 8 hours of daily use during peak service periods. LA Metro plans to pilot test an electric bus with 300kW lithium battery pack, giving it 100-plua mile range appropriate for peak hours.

Foothill Transit Goes Electric

The Ecoliner silently glides along the streets in San Gabriel Valley giving passengers a break from the famous grid-lock traffic that extends east from Los Angeles for a hundred miles. The Ecoliner is Foothill Transit’s new pure battery-electric 35-foot bus built by Proterra, which is headquartered in Golden, Colorado. The Proterra BE35 is propelled with UQM electric motor using innovative lithium batteries that keep the big bus moving for 3 hours and are then quick-charged in ten minutes. The buses range is extended because the Proterra is aerodynamic made with lightweight composite material.

Proterra’s system allows a battery electric bus to pull into a transit center terminal or on-route stop and automatically connect to an overhead system that links the bus to a high capacity charger without driver involvement, even while passengers load and unload. The charging station technology includes advanced wireless controls that facilitate the docking process and eliminate any intervention from the driver. Proterra’s FastFill™ charge system is comprised of the software and hardware to rapidly charge the TerraVoltTM Energy Storage System from 0% to 92% energy charge efficiency in as little as 6 minutes.

Under California’s zero-emission bus program, 1,000 zero-emission (fuel supply to wheels) buses will be in service by 2020.

Commuter Rail and HSR

Metrolink rail and the Subway link some major Southern California light-rail and bus systems and BART and Caltrain link some Northern California systems. As a rider of these systems, I can testify that navigating through multiple systems is often slow and confusing. Using Google Maps on my smartphone makes the navigation possible.

In the future, California’s 25 major transit systems will be linked with an 800-mile high-speed rail network. Voters approved the system because it is a less expensive solution than widening highways and expanding airports. Because it depends on local and public-private partnership funding, as well as state and federal funding, it will be built in sections. First online are likely to be areas that are currently overwhelmed with passenger vehicles crawling on freeways that should be renamed “slowways.” Likely to be among the first in service are the Orange County – Los Angeles section.

Big Oil Fights Back

California is electrifying cars, transit, and high-speed rail at the same time that it expands its use of renewable energy including wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, agricultural waste, and even ocean power. The transition may reduce the state’s overwhelming dependency on petroleum for over 97 percent of all transportation. By comparison to other nations, California is the third largest market for petroleum. Only the USA as a whole and China use more. California uses more petroleum than Japan, Germany, India, and other nations.

Reducing the use of petroleum, of course, would cost oil companies billions. Texas oil companies are spending million to encourage Californians to vote “yes” for Proposition 23 this November. The proposition would require the State to abandon implementation of a comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted.”

Prop 23’s biggest backers, Valero and Tesoro, are responsible for 16.7% of California’s emissions, according to the California League of Conservation Voters. Prop 23 will allow California oil refineries to avoid paying over one billion dollars for carbon emissions, so they are attacking California Global Warming Solutions Act supported by the majority and California’s Republican Governor. Prop 23 is promoted as a jobs creation proposal, but a recent UC study reported that California’s successful efforts to become cleaner and more efficient have saved us money and grown the economy, resulting in the creation of 1.5 million jobs with a total payroll of over $45 billion. Opposition to Prop 23 fears that the law would open a Pandora’s Box of lawsuits against anything that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. CLCV Prop 23 Details

Currently California leads the nation with 25,000 electric cars on the road and thousands of new electric charge stations are scheduled for installation. Hundreds of millions of rides are taken on electrified light-rail and commuter rail. Zero emission buses are on the roads. Renewable energy is growing by gigawatts. In a few weeks, we will learn if California moves ahead with efficient and electrified transportation, or if its initiatives are derailed.

Best 2011 Electric Cars at LA Auto Show this November

Best 2011 Electric Cars at LA Auto Show this November

2012-Toyota-RAV4 EVBy John Addison (9/21/10)

The best electric cars for 2011 will be on display at the Los Angeles Auto Show starting this November 17.  Featured will be plug-in cars that can be ordered and delivered in 2011 including the Nissan LEAF, the Chevrolet Volt, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, Coda, and Fisker. Also displayed will be hot electric cars and concepts for 2012 and beyond.

SUV drivers that want to go electric will be excited to see the new aerodynamic 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV, the result of Toyota’s partnership with Tesla. The popular SUV will use Tesla’s lithium-ion battery packs. Toyota has been testing prototypes of the car. At last year’s show I also saw the Toyota’s new Prius Plug-in and electric concept cars from Honda and VW. I expect a few new surprises at this year’s show including one or several plug-ins from Ford.

California Leads Nation in Electric Cars

Most major automakers have announced plans for an electric car in the next few years and Los Angeles will receive the first arrivals in the next several months. There are over 40,000 electric cars on the U.S. roads now, although the vast majority does not exceed 25 mph. There are over 25,000 electric cars in California, and California leads the nation in hybrid cars, so this auto show is a natural for an electric showcase for 2011.

“After years of anticipation, electric vehicles are finally here,” said Andy Fuzesi, LA Auto Show general manager. “It may take years for electric vehicles to be accepted broadly, but it’s undeniable that an electric era has officially begun.”

For the first time ever, the coveted Green Car of the Year® award nominees will feature electric vehicles. The focus of the Green Car of the Year® award is to recognize significant environmental achievement in a production vehicle. Having electric vehicles qualify for the prestigious award is further evidence that the modern electric car era is finally beginning in earnest.  The winner will be unveiled at an LA Auto Show press conference on Nov. 18.

Significant announcements about infrastructure are also expected at the show. Specifically, one of the region’s major utility providers, Southern California Edison, will have experts on hand to answer questions. Several charging stations will be on display at the show.

See You at the Los Angeles Auto Show

The 2010 LA Auto Show will feature at least 20 world debuts and more than 20 North American debuts. Press Days, Nov. 17 and 18, will feature more than 25 press conferences from manufacturers around the globe. To receive the latest show news and information visit LAautoshow.com.

I will be reporting from the LA Auto Show about the best new electric and hybrid cars. I will give you my impressions after taking a few test drives.

Best Electric Cars including Plug-in Hybrids 2011

Ford Wins EcoGlobe Award for Technology in Fiesta ECOnetic

Ford Wins EcoGlobe Award for Technology in Fiesta ECOnetic

Ford FiestaPress Announcement (9/14/10)

Ford wins a major environmental award for its new technology that makes engines more efficient and uses some hybrid technology, such as auto-start-stop and braking regen energy without the cost of a true hybrid electric. Ford has received a prestigious EcoGlobe award in recognition of its achievements in introducing environmentally-advanced, yet affordable technical solutions under the Ford ECOnetic Technologies programme.

The award – one of ten presented annually by an independent jury for what they consider are outstanding environmentally-friendly vehicle solutions – was presented to the Ford Fiesta ECOnetic as a representative model from the Ford ECOnetic Technologies range. With CO2 emissions of just 98 g/km, the Fiesta ECOnetic is one of Europe’s most fuel efficient, low CO2 passenger cars.

The Ford’s ECOnetic Technologies programme was launched earlier in 2010. It is a customer-driven initiative bringing together a range of vehicle features and technologies specifically targeting better fuel economy, reduced emissions and overall lower cost of ownership, including:

  • Ford EcoBoost – all-new petrol engines featuring turbocharging and direct injection technology to provide the performance of a larger displacement engine with the fuel economy and CO2 benefits of a smaller unit.
  • Ford Duratorq TDCi – a range of high-efficiency common-rail diesel engines which have been further improved to deliver even better fuel economy and lower CO2.
  • Ford PowerShift transmission – an advanced dual-clutch design, combining the efficiency, optimised gear ratios and driving enjoyment of a manual gearbox with the smoothness and ease-of-use of a conventional automatic.
  • Ford Auto-Start-Stop – automatically cuts the engine when at a standstill and restarts it as required by the driver to avoid unnecessary fuel use.
  • Smart Regenerative Charging (SRC) – creates electrical energy from braking movements to enhance existing power sources.
  • Active Grille Shutter – variable grille opening which reduces when the vehicle is at speed to improve air flow efficiency and lower fuel consumption.
  • Ford ECO Mode – an driver information system that helps educate the driver to achieve improved real-world fuel economy.
  • Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) – a more efficient steering system which reduces the drain on power reserves and thereby supports more efficient operation.
  • Gear Shift Indicator – advises the driver of the most efficient point for gear changes.

In addition to ECOnetic Technologies, Ford also continues to offer dedicated ultra-low emission ECOnetic models, including the EcoGlobe-winning Fiesta, the Focus, Mondeo and Transit. These Ford fuel economy hero vehicles feature unique technologies including longer gearing, specific engine calibrations, special aerodynamic packages, and ultra-low rolling resistance tires, in different combinations according to model.

Longer term, Ford ECOnetic Technologies will expand to include a range of other hi-tech features under development, including further weight reduction and aerodynamic improvements, electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, biofuel-capable vehicles, and hydrogen-powered vehicles.

“Ford is committed to achieving class-leading fuel economy and CO2 levels through affordable technological innovation, yet without compromising design or driving fun,” said Wolfgang Schneider, Vice President Legal, Governmental and Environmental Affairs, Ford of Europe.

EcoGlobe was founded by a consortium comprised of the DEVK insurance company based in Cologne; the German automobile club, ACV; the Öko-Globe Institute of the University of Duisburg; and the environmental artist HA Schult.

9/11 – Americans Respond to Energy Security Challenge

9/11 – Americans Respond to Energy Security Challenge

911 Plane Hits_Twin_TowersBy John Addison (updated 9/11/11)

Book excerpt from Save Gas, Save the Planet

My ninth trip to teach a workshop at Two World Trade Center never happened because of the great tragedy 9/11. For years Sun Microsystems, my former employer and now part of Oracle, had invited me to conduct a series of workshops about technology and strategy. Much of the Wall Street ran on Sun servers, Java applications, and Sun network technology. Reliability, performance, and the ability to recover from disaster were reasons that New York continued to run after the disaster.  Sun’s tagline was reality – “The Network is the Computer.”

On September 11, 2001, thanks to heroes like Avel Villanueva the hundreds of people working for Sun Microsystems in Two World Trade Center all quickly evacuated the building and survived. When Avel saw the damage and fire at One World Trade Center, he paged everyone at Sun to leave Two World Trade Center as quickly, “Please, with calmness, go to the nearest exit. This is not a drill. Get out.” He repeated this from the reception area several times. Only after several pages and inspecting the vast 25th and 26th floors did Avel personally leave. Three minutes later the second plane hit Two World Trade Center.

Although it must have been difficult to continue working after such a tragedy, the people at Sun understood that New York depended on their ability to keep working. Within 24 hours almost all Sun employees were doing their jobs at other Sun locations, homes, even nearby cafes. Sun effectively used its own networking technology with an iWork program that enables employees to work at home, at an office near their home, or be highly productive anywhere with a mobile device and wireless network connection.

Flexwork is one way that we are now more secure. The vital work of millions can continue even if a building cannot be accessed or part of a city is closed. Wireless and Web 2 enable collaboration, communication, and knowledge work to continue anytime and anywhere. People are most effective working some days at one location, other times at home, others at a customer or supplier location. We can take advantage of the new flexible workplace solutions to annually save millions of wasted hours and billions of dollars of fuel. Flexible Work Report

Energy Security Action

Both 9/11 and the massive oil spill destruction of our oceans and coastal cities remind us that we need to be less dependent on oil. Ninety-five percent of our transportation fuel is from oil that is refined into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. We pay for that oil by transferring trillions of our dollars to countries hostile to the United States.

Americans are taking action to reduce our dependency on oil. They are driving less by taking advantage of employer programs such as flexwork, ride sharing, and public transportation. Last year, Americans removed 3.5 million cars from the road for the 10 reasons in this report.

Over 60,000 Americans drive electric cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt that use little or no gasoline. Millions drive more fuel efficient cars.

Electric cars, electric transit, and electric high-speed rail are fueled by electricity produced in America. Electric cars will primarily be smart charged at night and take advantage of our high growth of wind, solar, and other renewable energy.  We have enough wind to power the nation including transportation. We have enough solar. Yes, it will take time, money, high-voltage lines to major markets, and added jobs. Green is producing green. While many areas of our economy are currently suffering, renewable energy and energy efficiency are growing and creating jobs and corporate profits.

Real security requires more than airport checks, less foreign oil, and cleaner transportation. Real security starts with the commitment to give our children a better world. Future generations deserve nourishing food, clean water, and protection from disease. Global warming has now put over one billion at risk of not getting enough water and food. Glaciers are disappearing. Water systems are stressed as oceans rise and water tables deplete. Hurricanes attack our coastal cities with increased intensity. Draughts, heat waves, and wild fires weaken our ability to grow food at affordable prices.

Yes, there are those in Congress who are chanting “drill, drill, drill,” but we cannot end our addiction to oil with more oil. Elected to represent their people, not special interests, these legislators threaten to stop funding renewable energy unless Big Oil can drill anywhere it pleases.

In Mr. Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded he recalls a Chinese proverb, “When the wind changes direction, there are those who build walls and those who build windmills.” America can renew its world leadership with innovative solutions to our energy crisis. We can lead in wind power, solar, geothermal, building efficiency, materials that are lighter and stronger, zero emission cars, and zero emission cities. From information technology to clean technology, from flexwork to sustainable communities, let’s build windmills not walls.

We can be inspired by heroes like Avel Villanueva who got everyone to safety. We can also celebrate the millions of ordinary heroes who are building a more secure future for our children by living a more sustainable life.

Copyright 2010 © John Addison. Permission to reproduce with preservation of this copyright notice and link to original article. John Addison is the author of Save Gas, Save the Planet.

Electric Car Charging and Sustainable Parking with integrated Wind Power

Electric Car Charging and Sustainable Parking with integrated Wind Power

Greenway-Self-Park-12 windBy John Addison (9/9/10)

Greenway Self-Park is Chicago’s new 11-story parking structure is the world’s first to combine integrated wind power, electric car charging, and two car sharing services with plans to offer electric cars. The green parking structure was designed by HOK, a leading global architectural firm. Beautifully integrated into the structure is a 12-paired array of vertical turbines made by Helix Wind, located on the southwest corner of the garage, designed to harvest energy 24/7 in this famous “Windy City.”

Building integrated wind and solar power is sometimes questioned as being more for asthetics than for cost-effective energy. Rachel Arndt raises valid questions about Greenway Self-Park in her article in Fast Company. The purchase of renewable energy credits can be a more cost-effective way to secure renewable energy for many structures.

Greenway car sharing partners include iGo and Zipcar which offers members the ability to pay for plug-in cars by the hour in select markets. Car sharing is a perfect fit for millions who live in the city, primarily use transit, but at times need a car for a few hours. Both iGo and Zipcar plan to expand their offerings of electric cars and plug-in hybrids.

Friedman Properties’ new energy-efficient parking structure is currently pursuing LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Sustainable design initiatives for Greenway Self-Park include a cistern rain water collection system, electric car plug-in stations, and a way-finding system at each elevator lobby that educates Chicagoans on how to live more sustainably and better protect the environment. The 11-story structure is a beautiful and compact contrast to the vast sprawl of uncovered parking lots.

In May, I was in Chicago to give a speech about sustainable transportation at the headquarters of the American Planning Association. View my APA webinar “More Smiles, Less Miles.” I was very impressed with Chicago’s leadership in green LEED buildings, green roofs, and transit oriented development. Chicago is ranked #4 in Sustainlane’s green ranking of U.S. cities.

Chicago again demonstrates its leadership with building-integrated wind power, electric car charging, innovative car sharing, and sustainable design.