Posts Tagged ‘electric cars’
The conventional view on electric cars is that US and China will lead. Certainly, media reports on Tesla and BYD support this conventional view. But a recent post in Tim Jones’ blog poses the question whether these will be the locations for the early breakthroughs or if other regions may well have a higher chance of delivering the vision. For him, there are two issues which may mean that this US / China leadership should be questioned.
The first issue is the fact that other countries have already made the decisions and are acting on them. Electric car recharging networks are already being built in Denmark, Israel and, most significantly, France. It is in France that government, the car industry and the energy sector appear to be most aligned. Renault is launching (not just talking about) electric vehicles in 2012; Renault and EDF are building a nationwide electric car recharging network in France in 2011; and €400m of initial state backing was personally guaranteed by President Sarkozy in October 2008. So, it looks like the alignment of significant market potential, technology, regulation and finance required to establish the environment for a breakthrough change seems to be coming together pretty well in France with its EU neighbours as candidates for roll-out.
The second issue concerns the CO2 impacts being claimed vs. those being delivered. In many countries the switch from hydrocarbons to electrons for transport is a bit of a red herring as they will be largely relying on oil, gas and coal to generate the electricity in the first place. Yes the point of CO2 production shifts from the vehicle to the power station, but significant breakthroughs are still required before effective and economic carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies are retro-fitted to the existing energy base. If electric mobility is going to have significant impact within the next decade, some see that it needs to be aligned to major sources of renewable, clean energy. So looking at the current leaders in this field, it is no surprise that Denmark (wind), Israel (solar) and France (nuclear) are seen as front-runners: These locations have high renewable supplies of electricity already installed or being installed. As such, they will gain most from the associated carbon credits from the introduction of electric mobility. The participation of China and the US in electric mobility will definitely have a major impact – not just because of the size of the domestic markets, but also because of the catalytic effect they have on the rest of the world. But, right now based on current actions, over a 10 rather than 20 year timescale, one can see other countries leading the way, proving the technologies, establishing leadership positions and gaining the most in terms of both economic impact and carbon reduction.
Where do you start to wean yourself from oil? Here’s Shai Agassi and Better Place, building an electric car battery charging infrastructure to support the transition.
Day Two/ Three/ Four of 2009 O’Reilly Etech Conference in San Jose
It is interesting to note that wherever you look, you will definitely spot someone using either a Macbook or Iphone…
Anyway, day two kicks off with a presentation by Alex Steffen on the topic of Sustaining the American Family. In what was related to as a “Massive Inter-generational Ponzi Scheme”, we are in danger of reaching the tipping point in peak population, peak carbon emission (No prize for guessing who is the greatest Ponzi of all time!). He reckoned that the world would be in ruins if the developing countries (poor) followed the path to richness as experienced by the Western developed countries. While America is in no position to stop the poor from seeking a better life, there is a need to educate them on the risk, else it would be difficult or impossible for anyone to sustain their current way of life. Hence there were talks on 1) energy efficiency and CO2 admission – by introducing electric cars, and how we can measure our energy footprint/ consumption, so as to better improve and optimize usage; 2) Design and Density – moving toward closed loops design, so as to have 100% recyablity (e.g. Crocs shoes) as well as urban homesteading/ clustering to share common resources as well as eliminate unnecessary traveling. There were further discussion in the session by Gavin Starks (founder and CEO for AMEE) on Energy Identity – Interesting to note that 2½ Kg Mac laptop has a 460 Kg CO2 emission footprint (Yap! Guilty faces of all the geeks/ techies in the room!). Energy identity is best describe as a digital embodiment of a user’s physical consumption. With 20 largest cities consuming up to 75% of the world’s energy, and more than 600 million people moving into cities over the next five years, we need rapid innovation in energy efficiency technology, service transformation (high carbon prices/ tax would result in business shift from products to services, i.e. having more efficient public transportation system, reducing car ownership, etc), as well as redefining how our communities’ perception to understand and enjoy quality of life through simplicity rather than money.
Elizabeth Goodman’s topic on Urban Green Space Planning had a different twist, in which people from the same community can register to form a working group to grow and maintain their neighborhood plants (Landshare) as well as reap the benefits/ fruits of their labor. This is no easy task, especially when most of us will have no prior knowledge in the art of farming, and you may need one to have good project management skills to schedule and plan resources to ensure the that plots are well maintained. Then there is the talk on Urban Homesteading by Mark Frauenfelder (Make Magazine) on the seven guiding principals leading to a successful urban farming: 1. Grow only useful things; 2. Region matters (understanding your surrounding environment); 3. Build your soil; 4. Water deeply and less frequently; 5. Work makes work (i.e. work with nature, not against it); 6. Failure is part of the game; and 7. Pay attention and keep notes. Mark also taught about rearing chickens, which I reckon it makes no sense to talk about it here…
In a slighter different light on urban planning, Brad Templeton shared how Robot Cars may be able to solve everything. Well, almost… He wanted a robotic car that parks, delivers and refuels itself, and would definitely be a great hit in countries such as Japan, Singapore, etc… Went on to share video of the DARPA grand Challenge, where competitors compete against each other through a series of test runs, both through urban as well as country-side driving. In addition to the fundamental issue of battery lifespan clouding the development of electric cars today, Robotic cars will bring about a different set of problems such as reliability/ safety, political, national security (terrorism).
Mary Lou Jepsen (recently named as one of the hundred most influential people in the world by Time Magazine – May 2008 for her work in creating Pixel Qi) speaks of Low-Cost, Low-Power Computing in order to reach out the billions of youth in developing countries, deprived of proper education, in her “one laptop per child” project. Though her project fell short of achieving the production target of 8 million laptops last year (actual production figures not disclosed), Mary is still hopefully that the recent downturn would help to drive material/ production cost down in her bid to produce small inexpensive laptops. On the technology front, she claimed that the war for more powerful CPUs are over, laptops are now being widely used as a medium for reading. Hence the development lies in having a low power, sun-light readable, high resolution screen.
We also get the opportunity to see Carl Taussig (HP Lab) introduce flexible paper-like screen, and the technology behind how roll-to-roll manufacturing. In time to come, we will be holding such flexible screens to read our news…
And the theme of Networking with Smart Sensors, which create quite a stir w.r.t. data ownership/ IP and the invasion of personal space. On Wednesday, Tony Jebara (Sense Network) talk about how Mobile Phones Reveal the Behavior of Places and People. With social network portal such as Facebook, Flickr, Gmail or mobile phone with wireless capability (Iphone, blackberry, etc), laptops/ desktop with IP addresses, tons of data are being transmitted and collected at any given time. On one project, they monitored people working in San Francisco financial district, using mobile signals to track their activities (such as working hours) and the correlation to stock market (Though there were questions raised as to how to determine if those monitored are actually bankers, clerks, janitors, etc); on the other project, they tried to map out and cluster group of individuals with similar interest who frequent certain type of restaurants, bars, etc (flow analysis). The latter was deemed to be useful as companies can use these data for their advertising, marketing, strategy planning/ churning (if a few members from the clustered groups start switching to a different network, they would promote themselves to the remaining individuals of similar group to retain their service); demographics; collaborative filtering.
In another session – Real Time City by Andrea Vaccari (Senseable City Lab), he showcased the visualization of mobile traffic between New York and other countries, which gives us a pretty good picture as to how New York is connected to other parts of the world, and social network portals like facebook, flickr, which will reveal the location of the users (I posted in my facebook that I will be in ETech this week!), and then Nick Brachet educated us on how we are being “tracked” daily (sounds like some James Bond movie…) – three nodes to identify location and a fourth to synchronize timing (based on the theory of six degree of freedom).
Though we now know how our digital footprint is revealing information of us at all time, it seems that the application of such data sounds rather trivial and non-conclusive. It would take a lot more (Political, regulations, signal networking, etc) before we establish more use for such technology.
Lastly a special mentioned on the session with Lisa Katayama (blog: TokyoMango.com) and Fumi Yamazaki on Japanese Tech Culture. Interesting to note that just this week, Hatsune Miku music software created a digital song (i.e. sang by computer) that tops their music chart (#2) – Makes you wonder what’s installed for the future of artists…
Oh, I forgot to mentioned that we are treated to the music of Zoë Keating on Wednesday night. Cool!
MM Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore Energy Lecture on 4 Nov (see transcript) spoke of nuclear as “the real alternative that can produce the electricity generation to match oil and gas”. He had categorically gone through energy options such as renewables (wind, tide, solar), hydrocarbons, biofuel, hydrogen before sharing this view with some 400 delegates comprising policy makers, academics, energy experts and company executives. The main challenge would be the location to site it, given that nuclear plants need a 30km safety zone. Given Singapore’s size, perhaps it could be located on an island, such as Pedra Branca, or on a floating platform at sea. A nuclear plant would then provide all the electric power we need, including environmental friendly technology such as electric cars, which he had test-driven whilst overseas.
This is so exciting! Transport is a major contributor of pollution in many countries. If Singapore can develop a clean and green transport solution with plug-in hybrids, coupled with nuclear power, we take a major step towards a better future for our children.
One future step: “Safe” nuclear power, such as Helium-3? Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron, rare on Earth, sought for use in nuclear fusion research. Apparently Helium-3 is in abundance in the moon.
Anyone visiting the moon soon?
Why Portable Power?
Personally, I want to be empowered – to be faster, stronger and live forever. I have my weakness and I want to have the choice and freedom to do more. I want independent power that enables me.
Think Iron Man. Think Six-Million Dollar Man. Also think less futuristic stuff – think walkmans, laptops, cellphones, etc.
Batteries. Long lasting, continuous electric power supply.
So, with high oil price and environmental concerns, why not use electricity in our cars. What a great new lease of life!! I see renewed interest for entire spectrum of electric cars – different capacities of plug-in hybrids to 100% electric. Operational cost is cheap – at a small fraction of what gasoline is costing me.
Here’s a wordle of the research on portable power and what it has thrown up
Many many electric cars running around can create a massive discrete battery storage for grid power under the Vehicle-to Grid concept.
But personally, I am just waiting for the day to have my own electric car.