No Learning Curve Required with the Toyota’s Smallest Electric Car

No Learning Curve Required with the Toyota’s Smallest Electric Car

Scion IQ EV Side ViewGet in, buckle up, push the start button, put it in forward, push the right pedal, and go.  Driving the new Toyota Scion IQ EV the day before the official press release was a real treat, not an October Halloween promotion trick.  Feeling like a good dance shoe or ski boot, quick, positive, solid, no sloppy or delayed response in steering, acceleration, and braking, the IQ acted like an expensive sports car in the downtown Denver afternoon traffic. Watching for other vehicles, I could see all the way around, not having to guess or take second looks at a blind spot.  Sensing I was in a heavy smooth suspension, I was surprised by the short turn radius.  The battery weight under the floor had to be helping the low center of gravity with no lean while turning around on a dime in the width of a driveway.  Parking was easy, but I had to see the pictures to realize how short this car is.

The forward drive mode choices are D, S, and B, techy short cuts for Default, Sport, and Braking, Default for economy, Braking for the heaviest electromagnetic braking regeneration, and Sport for just plain fun. During an aggressive 3 ½ mile demo ride we took at least 5 miles off the expected remaining range.  Toyota specifications say 7 seconds from 30 to 50 mph in Sport mode, but the more exciting spec would be the time from 0 to 30 mph with the near wheel spin torque and no hesitation.

The small IQ cockpit, like my ’70 Corvette, has within easy reach, all the controls and displays2013 iQ EV13 Behind Wheel of an advanced technology car. All the energy performance and range information was easy to see without being a distraction.  The dashboard instrument displays and the flat panel information console were recessed and nicely tilted to minimize sun glare. The seats are race-car molded comfortable with the forward-back and tilt controls on the outside exactly where my hand expected them to be.  I had to move the seat up for my 31 inch legs and 5’10” frame, leading me to believe that there was plenty of room for over 6 foot long-legged drivers. Reminding me of my ’78 Honda Accord, I love the cargo space in the rear where the back seats fold down and the hatchback goes all the way down to the floor having no threshold to clear for loading or unloading.  Unless the occupants have really short legs or you’re counting the two lap dogs in the rear, the IQ is not for more than two people plus luggage.

The Toyota efficiency number has the IQ at an incredible 167Wh/mile, projecting a 50 mile range for the 12kWh battery.  According to my numbers, that means the vehicle control unit is only allowing the use of 70% of the battery capacity, providing plenty of margin for a long battery life.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that I could ever get to the 50 mile range because the IQ is too much fun to drive.  If the 50 mile range seems short, remember that the average daily commute is less than 40 miles and charging at home saves miles and waiting time at the gas station.

car2go San DiegoToyota’s target application for the IQ seems to be car sharing, where, like the battery electric Smart Car used by Car2Go in San Diego, a 50 mile range is acceptable.  Doing a little walking and saving the taxi fare, I grabbed one of these for my ride home from the airport.  I appreciate the Car2Go sharing choice, but the electric Smart Car is like a golf cart on steroids while the IQ is a real advanced technology car offering transportation and more fun than a go kart. The safety features and comfort accessories take advantage of many years of Toyota development, putting the IQ at the head of its technology class. Before I ask my eight year old grandson, I still want to take a week long class on the operation of any of these new navigation displays and find a user’s group.

I did not drive the IQ at highway speeds where the short wheel base suggests less stability, but I would consider taking the car on a road trip if I could pull a battery trailer to increase the range.

In short, I want one.  However, while I contemplate the unknown price, alas, I have to accept that there are only 90 in existence and they are all spoken for, for now.  I wonder if Car2Go would add some IQs to their fleet for a premium ride?  Maybe I could move to a city that has these in their car share fleet.

4 Gigawatts of Electric Energy Storage in California by 2020

4 Gigawatts of Electric Energy Storage in California by 2020

Grid Storage

AES installs Grid Storage

By Tom Bartley (6/1/11). An analysis by Megawatt Storage Farms set the 2020 statewide need at 4,000 Megawatts of energy storage. This 4 GW didn’t take into account the projected extra 10% grid energy load caused by forecasted charging of electric cars. To put this in perspective, 4,000 MW is almost the SDG&E peak demand on a hot summer day where 2,000 MW is the import transmission capacity. As an example, Sempra already recognizes the need for energy storage by adding 12 MW of energy storage to the 21 MW wind farm it recently purchased on Maui, HI.   If you are reading carefully you will have noticed that these numbers are power not energy. Typical projects call for sustaining the power level for 15 minutes to 4 hours depending on the primary purpose of the storage; with pumped-hydro energy storage, the time could be longer.

The 2020 target for renewable energy in California is 33%. Cal ISO (the California Interconnect System Operator) along with the three dominant IOUs (Investor Owned Utilities); PG&E, Southern California Edison, and SDG&E, have been having heartburn caused by high anxiety over grid stability at that high a level of intermittent non-dispatchable power. Traditional solutions of adding spinning reserve and peaker plants requires long lead times and is expensive both in the purchase price and the operation. These traditional approaches still lack the needed instantaneous response.

Government subsidies and regulation is already involved in the business of energy storage.  Last year, September 29, 2010, the governor signed into law AB2514 that requires the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to have hearings and set procurement targets for any load-serving entity to procure viable and cost effective energy storage systems. The first target is by the end of 2015 and the second is by the end of 2020.  The federal Storage 2010 Act of requested $1.5Billion in tax credits for energy storage added to the US Electric Grid. California Energy Commission (CEC) is spending $30million in grant funding for demonstration projects of renewable energy and energy storage.

For anybody who would like to sort out this business I highly recommend attending STORAGE WEEK 2011 by Infocast, July 11 -14, 2011, Rancho Bernardo Inn, San Diego, CA. This is the fourth edition of this annual event and the previous three were sold out. I was fortunate to attend the last two years. “Market rules are changing… Global markets are heating up… Storage costs are dropping.”

Fleet operators will soon look at the payback of a short-range electric vehicle fleet powered by their own renewable energy and energy storage system. On the vehicle side, no oil or oil filter changes and brakes last up to 8 times as long. On the fuel side, imagine a wind and/or solar system at a fleet facility that grabs the energy when and where it’s available with an energy storage system that gives it to you when you want it and does not restrict your time of recharging or hit you for middle of the summer day “demand” charges. If the utility accesses 10% of a fleet’s energy storage system for voltage and frequency regulation, they could wind up paying you for the service. A good understanding of the products, applications, players, and rules of engagement will provide a competitive edge to future electric vehicle fleets.

CEC Energy Storage Presentations

Electric Trucks, Hybrid Diesel Cars, Alt Fuel Vehicles

Electric Trucks, Hybrid Diesel Cars, Alt Fuel Vehicles

Ford Transit Connect ElectricBy Tom Bartley. The Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) EXPO, May 4-6, 2011, at the Long Beach Convention Center had 42 on display and 25 ride-n-drive alternative fuel vehicles running on natural gas, propane, biofuels, hydrogen, and electricity. This is the largest conference of its type in the US this year, taking over from the dropped AFVI/Clean Cities annual conferences.

The conference included tours of the Port of Long Beach, Republic Services in the City of Gardena, L.A. Unified School District, L.A. municipal fueling, and Ryder’s Natural Gas Truck Rental. Each tour highlighted a major fleet fueling facility for natural gas (CNG and LNG) or propane. There’s nothing like an increase in fuel prices to get people thinking about alternatives. And there’s nothing like public awareness to get manufacturers’ thinking.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Kathryn Clay, Executive Director of the Clean American Transportation  Alliance, set the theme for the breakout sessions. We need all the possible solutions because there is no golden spike or silver bullet that will do it all. Vehicles and fuel have to be:

  • Available
    • Refueling infrastructure
    • Locations to match the vehicles that need it
  • Affordable
    • Sustainable vehicles, fuel, and operations with cost models that do not hinder business activity and personal travel
    • Elimination of imports that threaten economic, energy, and national security
  • Clean
    • Management of Fuel production hazards
    • Continuing air quality improvement to prevent premature deaths (currently estimated at 5600 per year in the Los Angeles basin)
    • Minimize green house gases that may be affecting climate change

Alternative fuels technologies have been pushing hard to deliver all these characteristics and have pressured traditional petroleum fuels to do likewise. Hybrid-electric cars and buses are now over 10 years old. Propane and natural gas engines have significantly improved. Hydrogen is starting anew.

Cleaner Hybrid Diesel Cars and Trucks

Diesel now offers more clean bangs. After being introduced in Paris in 1897, diesel vehicles have over 50% of the market in Europe. Led by GM, diesel cars and light-trucks had 10% of the US market in the 80’s, but they a reputation for poor reliability, high maintenance, and dirty fuel. I hated the smell of the exhaust and, as a mechanic; I hated the smell of the fuel and the dirty oily engines. Today is different. Diesel engines are robust at all levels; the exhaust is clean; engine and fuel seals have moved forward a few generations.

In the US, the sale of diesel passenger cars and light-duty trucks is increasing. Why? First, diesel is widely available and it’s efficient. Because of it’s volumetric and weight energy density, diesel fuel is the best we have for transportation. In his presentation during a ACT Friday breakout session, Alex Freitag, Director of Bosch Diesel Systems Engineering for North America, said that, for comparable vehicles and engines, diesel now holds a 30% fuel economy advantage over gasoline. 10% of that comes from the amount of energy per gallon. On one chart Alex compared a gasoline hybrid at 50 mpg with a diesel hybrid at 72 mpg. (It must be a Prius on steroids.) Because of the higher fuel economy diesel had lower CO2 emissions per mile. Furthermore, Alex indicated that there are additional improvements that will widen the gap. For over 100 years the Bosch Group has been a leader in supplying technology and components to the automotive industry.

The diesel efficiency improvements are possible because the exhaust cleanup is left to the converters, filters and traps. All this comes at the cost of a higher purchase price, but results in a lower life cycle cost of ownership. The breakeven point for direct costs of operations can be measured in months rather than decades.

So, diesel is available, clean, and affordable. What about imports? Over 50% of the US transportation diesel is imported, but that leaves a little under 50% that is domestic and biodiesel already offers some price advantages while continuing to advance in availability. Using less diesel fuel per mile is another way to reduce those imports.

Natural Gas Vehicles

The EXPO had 27 natural gas vehicles in the hall and 6 more in the ride-n-drive. Through the development of horizontal drilling and fracking the US is now considered to have the largest reserves in the world. There is enough to replace imported transportation oil and still have enough for heating and power generation.

Fleet owners realize that the price of natural gas is now detached from oil and looks like it will be stable for a long time into the future. A 52 cent per gallon rebate (cash) sweetens the pot for both the non-profit and for-profit organizations. The biggest variable cost is the electrical energy cost of compression. But if the compressor engine burned CNG, hmmmmmmmmmm.

One notable CNG display vehicle on the EXPO floor was the world’s first CNG emergency reponse vehicle by HME. This a new approach to reduce the cost of fire protection.

What’s missing? Infrastructure – As a fleet operator, you need to be concerned about range and refueling. We could use more public stations across wider areas. This also means more regional and interstate pipelines. The Wednesday tours showed that the thinking of the big central fleets is already on board, but the smaller operators have a hard time covering the cost of a station.

The Honda Civic GX CNG passenger car, one of the cleanest in America, offers excellent fuel cost for a slight premium purchase price. PHILL offers the affordable home compressor/refueler option. The public could use some more choices in competition with the GX to excite the market.


15 million vehicles around the world burn propane for fuel, not just for the tailgate bar-b-ques. The US has the world’s largest storage and the good news is that 60% of it comes from natural gas, thus, offering price stability detached from gasoline and with the 52 cent per gallon IRS sweetener. The liquid injector technology was a significant clean improvement for the engine and storage tanks. There were 6 vehicles on the floor and 6 more in the ride-n-drive. Propane provides 25% less energy content per liquid gallon than gasoline at a 35% less price.

Electric Trucks and Buses

One Proterra bus, one heavy-duty Balqon truck, one Smith delivery truck, and two light-duty (FCCC and Ford Transit Connect) vans were displayed on the EXPO floor.  The bus, the delivery truck, and an ALTe pickup were at the ride-n-drive. Notable is the Proterra battery-electric transit bus in daily service for Foothill Transit in Pomona, California. The bus probably has the largest battery pack in mobile operation. Even at 28,000 lbs curb weight, it still manages on less than 2 kWh per mile and a 10 minute charge time. It’s an efficient operation, quiet, but not really sustainable in low quantities at over $1million per bus and probably more for the 1.2 MW charge station.  Unknown is what happens when they get hit for $1.00/kWh demand charges in the middle of the summer. They may need a rather large battery pack at the charge station.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles

There was a Honda FCX Clarity hydrogen sedan on the EXPO floor; another Clarity, Chevy Equinox, and Kia Borrego SUV at the ride-n-drive. Noticeably absent was one of the 100 Toyota prototypes. These vehicles are being pushed by the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CAFCP) along with the hydrogen highway concept.  The concept is now one of local clustering connected by one or two stations in between. It’s actually working better than E85 stations in California.

No E85 Ethanol Presence

E85 didn’t have a presence at this EXPO. Outside of Iowa the biggest advantage is replacing imported oil with domestic ethanol. The energy balance of production leaves a lot to be desired, but we are replacing 10% of the gasoline with the E10 we buy at the pump today. Actually, it’s a bit less because of the lower energy content of ethanol.

The EXPO had over 1300 attendees, 300 more than expected as high petroleum prices have fleet managers eager to use cleaner and less expensive alternatives. The show producers Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (gna) did a great job hosting the event.

Electric Car Public Charging Stations – Range Solution or Battle Ground?

By Tom Bartley (5/12/11). Electric cars were meant to be charged at home during the off peak night time hours. Depending on a public charging station is going to be a real crap shoot. As the number of plugin cars increase, the EV drivers could grow to hate each other because of competition for a charger.

To put this in prospective, even a very expensive fast charger costing in the tens of thousands of dollars may only fill at a nominal 50 kW rate at a public station. A typical gasoline pump delivers fuel at a 10 MW rate and reducing it 80% because of the inefficiency of the engine is still 2 MW, 40 times the speed of a public fast charger, if you can find one.

The EV driver will have a lot more time to interact with other EV drivers at the charging station.  There could be a new form of a club to hang out and study alt fuel vehicles, or just hang out.  In any case waiting could be the name of the game and idle time seems to be the stimulus for new entrepreneurs.

What will you do if you have plugged into a public charger and a short time later your cell phone notifies you that your charging circuit has been disconnected?  You return to your car and find:

  1. A celebrity of fame and fortune has just plugged your connection into their new PHEV or EV car. What do you do?
    1. Ask for their autograph;
    2. Smile politely and say go ahead because you will wait the hour or more for them to charge;
    3. Start a conversation and try to get a date;
    4. Call the police;
    5. Start a confrontation to get your name in the papers;
    6. Text a complaint to one or more of your elected representatives;
    7. Call your attorney and ask him to file a damages suit against everyone that remotely has anything to do with the chargers;
    8. Say “Whatever” and walk away;
    9. Say “Oh well” and drive your car to another charging location if you can find one in range or;
    10. Call your therapist and cry over the phone.
    11. How would your reaction change if it were an NFL defensive end, “Guido”, your neighbor, your sales competitor, another member of your family?

Remember the Corvette “wave” to other Corvette drivers? I think the EV wave has a chance of using only one finger on your hand.

How are public chargers going to be assigned and reserved? How is it enforced? What are the consequences? Innovators like Coulomb Technologies are addressing all these issues but they face a legal challenge.

In California it is legally questionable whether a charge station provider can charge for the kWh energy delivered.  Some electric utilities want charge station providers to be regulated like utilities, a move that is likely to kill innovative young companies.

Assemblywoman and Speaker pro Tempore, Fiona Ma introduced legislation to provide market certainty for the infrastructure that is needed to support California’s electric vehicle consumer fleet. The legislation, Assembly Bill 631, will place into law a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to not regulate electric vehicle charging stations as utilities. Assemblywoman Ma bill is strongly supported by organizations including the Environmental Defense Fund, Plug in America, the San Francisco California Apartment Association and the California Business Properties Association.

“Electric vehicles are the next generation of fuel for California’s green economy,” said Assemblywoman Ma. “AB 631 will provide the infrastructure to support President Obama’s goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.”

Even if AB 631 becomes law, what is the sustainable business proposition for the owner of the charger? How will if affect drivers’ behavior and the power grid operation?

Electric cars and plug-in hybrids are a great addition to alternative transportation choices, but dealing with the expectations of the availability of public chargers is going to be a bit dicey. Let’s all take a deep breath and figure out a way to make this work.

Low Cost Idle-off Alternative to Hybrid Truck

Low Cost Idle-off Alternative to Hybrid Truck

Heavy Duty Hybrid TruckBy Tom Bartley (52/11)

Do you have work trucks idling for power take offs? You don’t want to pay the price for a full hybrid truck? Add-on battery conversions for new and older work vehicles are available for a fraction of full hybrid cost. 4+ hours of work can be done without fear of killing your battery. The controls always maintain a minimum charge level and the engine can be run for short periods to charge the battery to finish the work.

At today’s clean vehicle add-on to SDG&E’s 6th Annual Energy Showcase there was the new SDG&E Nissan Leaf and several energy efficient trucks ranging from a Silverado plug-in hybrid, a Boulder BEV delivery truck, an Azure E450 HEV cutaway shuttle bus, an Odyne/International hybrid bucket truck, to a 57,000 lb GVWR CNG hydraulic hybrid refuse truck. The HEVs and BEVs can double the cost of the vehicle.

Fleets may not be able to justify the cost of a new hybrid truck. How about a plug-in battery pack for doing the work that is now done by an idling engine? It’s easy for a utility bucket truck to spend 40% of its fuel to support the power take-offs while parked. By using a plug-in battery pack you pay utility electric rates while charging during off peak hours. An idling truck can easily cost over $8 / hour.  The cost of the kWh used over the same period will probably be less than $1.

The real advantage to an idle-off utility bucket truck is that it’s quiet and the work crew can talk to each other much easier.

Energy Xtreme has an easy conversion battery pack to fit police cars up to a heavy-duty Altec or Terex bucket truck. While most of the HEVs are going to Li ion batteries, Energy Xtreme uses a type of “hybrid battery” that has enough charge/discharge cycles to last the life of the truck. The price is significantly less than a full hybrid, thus, offering a much quicker pay back period.

Terex had a bucket truck at the event with about 12 kWh of lead acid AGM batteries and Energy Xtreme had a small 4 kWh supply for both 110 VAC and 12 VDC mounted on a utility paint truck.