Tuesday, 31 May 2011

You thought the Nissan Leaf Polar Bear ad was clever? Think again!

I could hardly stop laughing after watching this ad for the third time. The ad team must have had a hey day making this one.

The laptop petrol filling station. Notice the sign above, "No Smoking, Flammable vapours"


Let's hope the next ad they come out with is not featuring "everything nuclear powered". Remember the post-9/11 in bad taste ads and movies that were scrapped or not released until years later?

Plug-in Hybrid Chevy Tahoe charges up in Burlington, ON?

A plug-in hybrid Chevy Tahoe?
Sorry folks this is just a teaser. The above vehicle that LOOKS like it is being charged, is my 08 Chevy Tahoe Hybrid parked at the Pioneer Gas Station at the corner of Mainway and Appleby Line in Burlington, ON. Unfortunately, nobody is making Tahoe Hybrid conversion kits to PHEV yet. If you hear of any companies that roll out such a kit please let me know. I have been searching high and low now for two years.

BTW I have 165,000 kms on this vehicle without a single problem. I get about 830 kms to a tank. I chose it because I have the 'Brady Bunch' fam, so it is both the most responsible and practical vehicle for me.

The Eaton level 1 charging station featured in the photo is one of the first ever EV charging stations in Canada. It was installed as a part of a pilot project called GridSmartCityTM which was developed in conjunction with Burlington Hydro, Pioneer Gas, Rapid Electric Vehicle Technologies Inc., of Vancouver, BC and other stakeholders.

Funny thing is, there is no signage at this EV charging station to educate passersby on what this strange looking device is used for. Having closely evaluated a number of EV charging stations from a breadth of companies on a past mission to become an EV charging station sales rep, I can say that this particular unit is unique. On the back side of the station there is the familliar looking electrical metering device like on the side of your home with the round glass cover telling me this is a one of a kind prototype station. Eaton Corp has an office just up the street from this Pioneer Station on Mainway also which I have visited, so I know they have newer generation stations on the way that look a little more styled up for prime time. Have a look at the GE Wattstation or the Aerovironment Fleet Stattion and you will see what I mean. 

"I had to add this photo to the blog! A a bunch of politicians and biz leaders hugging a EV charging station. The first thing that came to mind was, can you imagine the same happenging back in 1888 in  WieslochGermany where the first petrol filling station was installed? Who would have wanted to hug a stinky gas pump? I am sure they did anyways."
The GridSmartCityTM program is Burlington Hydro's efforts to transform today's electricity system into the smart grid of tomorrow. For more information on the GridSmartCityTM program visit www.gridsmartcity.com.

The only EV charging station in Canada listed on a Goggle search is Qualicum Beach, BC

"The first "drive-in" filling station, Gulf Refining Co.opened to the motoring public in Pittsburgh in 1913.[8]  Prior to this, automobile drivers pulled into almost any general or hardware store, or even blacksmith shops in order to fill up their tanks. On its first day, the station sold 30 gallons of gasoline at 27 cents per gallon." -- Wikipedia

Having toured around Ontario always keeping my eyes open for EV charging stations, I can tell you that there are a few stations installed out there, but not many, and clearly, nobody has tapped into the notion of getting them listed on Google Maps. A quick search for electric vehicle charging stations in Canada reveals 1 lousy station! In the US, almost 2,000. The truth of the matter is, Better Place alone has already installed 15 in the GTA and of course the Eaton/Burlington Hydro/Pioneer one in Burlington brings the total to at least 16 in Ontario.

No EV charging stations on Google Maps in Golden Horseshoe! The only EV related reference of all the bogus red search dots is me--Precept EV in lowly Stoney Creek, ON
Here is a short video of my first experience with a DC fast charging station at the Olympic Village in Vancouver.

I am building a list now of the known addresses for charge points so if you know of any other EV charging stations around the country please send me the physical address along with a photo and I will add it to Google Maps.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Is your glass half Tesla?

Having spent over 20 years in the electric vehicle industry including a stint with Zero

Motorcycles as Canadian Director of Sales and Marketing and Board Member with 
Electric Mobily Canada, I am not one to let a good EV thing pass. Do you agree that
EVs and sustainbility are a good thing? Not all the news is good, but it does depend 
a lot on if your glass is half empty or half full.

Cynics might say I am crazy for continuing to kick the EV and sustainability can as
there is just too much apathy out there and reason to choose an easier path towards
making a difference in this world. Today, I admit, when reading a post on Tesla stock
dropping $4.54, or 15% to $25.55, I felt a little bummed out.

But wait! Reading on, I discovered that the cause for the stock drop was a general 
sentiment that the Tesla team might be in over their heads because all the other auto
OEMs have embraced EVs stronger than expected and they just might run over Elon
Musk and his dreams of becoming the IT wunderkin gone auto exec that helped turn
the tide on saving the planet.

So worst case at this very preliminary juncture in the North American EV rollout, is
that Tesla's gorgeous hi-performance Roadster and Model S may or may not survive
at least according to some analysts and become the uber sexy EV brand that 
dominates the streets in ten years. We may just have to continue to listen to the 
naysayers and critics snicker at the round of "quirky looking EV nerd-mobiles" that are
coming to market a little longer. 

Range anxiety: an overcharged story

by Stephen Bieda on 01/03/11

I concur with the projection of the nation's leading EV advocacy group Electric
Mobility Canada, that 2.5% of vehicles on the road in Canada by 2018 will be
electric. That seems to be a reasonable target and in line with the original
Ontario government mandate of 1 in 20 by 2020 (5%).

What I have issue with, is so many EV cynics citing range anxiety as the 
Achilles heel of BEVs like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi iMiEV. Back
in November, I was in Toronto at an EV industry conference participating
in a EV infrastructure round table break out session with a host of EV stake-
holders when the tiring range anxiety question was raised once again.

I maintain whether you own a battery electric vehicle (BEV), a hybrid, a 

PHEV, a gas or a diesel vehicle, the issue of how far you can go before running
out of stored energy is always present and somewhere in the back of your 
mind. The range anxiety issue is so overblown because cynics need something 
to talk about and the fear of the unknown can always be relied on to strike a 
chord with the public.

The real difference between a Nissan Leaf and its ICE platform brethren 
the Nissan Versa, is the Leaf gets up to 160 km on a charge and the Versa up
to 620 km on a tank. So what! Most everyone by now has heard the much
quoted figure for the daily average commute is 64 kms round trip. How often
does anyone just hop in their car and drive aimlessly and not pay attention to
their instrumentation? How likely is it that while you are driving your car that
you will have sudden memory loss forgetting that you car can only go X kms
before it requires more juice? If anything, those with a EV will be less likely 
than ICE auto drivers to run out on the side of the road because they have the
benefit of advanced iPod interface instrumentation and a heightened sense
of what their vehicles capabilities are or are not. Range anxiety is a red herring

We would all love to be able to mindlessly drive forever without charging up
but a fully electrified wireless highway network is still decades away.

Better Place launches EV Resource Centre in Canada at Evergreen Brick Works

For Paolo Alto, CA based Better Place, the world is at the brink of a quantum-shift in transporation and at their LEED Platinium certified Evergreen Brick Works offices, Better Place has already begun to make their mark following the March 11, 2011 grand opening of their demonstration facility and Canadian office.
  Evergreen Brick Works Better Place Montage
Better Place is supported by the Ontario Government and has partnered with two of Ontario's largest municipally-owned electric utilities, PowerStream Inc. and Veridian Connections Inc., as well as the City of Toronto. The last piece to this miraculous social engineering puzzle is the national charity Evergreen. Better Place's mission at the Evergreen Brick Works, to put it succinctly, is to deploy an EV charging network, promote EV education, and lay groundwork for EVs in Canada's most populous province.
Better Place Dalton McGuinty Quote Better place theatre room
Having spent 20 years working with electric vehicles myself including a recent stint with Santa Cruz California's electric motorcycle company Zero Motorcycles, I know how hard it is for visionaries like Martin Rovers of Better Place to penetrate the minds of 'piston-heads'. I like to say, the internal combustion diehards kowtow to the lords of the oil sands in fossil fuel addicted Canada.
I was once a 'piston-head' myself, oblivious to the power and eco-possibilities of electrification until purchasing a Club Car electric golf cart back in 1990. We used the golf cart at my family dealership for use as a serene utility vehicle alternative for around the family farm. For many, technological advancements are hard pills to swallow requiring capital expenditures and fundamental shifts in thinking but for Better Place, it is really a matter of economic sense and environmental stewardship.
Martin Rovers, the Canadian-based Global Development Officer for Better Place, bares an impressive resume with a MSc in Physics from McMaster University, an MBA from the University of Toronto's Rottman School of Business and a career that began with the prestigious Boston Consulting Group (BCG).  BCG has even followed Rovers' lead by also setting up shop at the mind expanding Evergreen Brick Works location a formerly abandoned 120 year old brick factory revitalized into a centre for nature, culture and community as boldly indicated on the main lobby wall.
Stephen at Better Place charging demo Better Place EV charging sign
The Evergreen Brick Works is more broadly a centre for socio-economic innovation featuring nature walks, educational facilities for children, a farmer's market, a skating rink and some really hip urban graffiti art that graces the walls of the former industrial brick kiln factory. Amongst all this, there are many other companies involved in the green scene to act as economic engines at the Brick Works but I will let you delve into that on your own.
Having served on the Board with Electric Mobilty Canada (EMC), I myself have had the pleasure of meeting Rovers' a couple of times now and it is evident he is a man that lets his actions do the talking. Not one to jump in front of the camera unless required, as I discovered at my May 5, 2011 personal tour of the Better Place facility, I found Martin shooting the photos and me playing with the cool EV gadgetry at the Better Place interpretation centre. The fifth office floor of the Better Place Bayview Ave campus is just off the Don Valley Parkway in a neatly tucked away piece of the roughly 16 hectares (40 ares) of property. The campus is sheltered from the hustle and bustle of downtown, but convenient to get to. Once on site you can hardly believe you are in the heart of the city.
Upon arrival at the demonstration facility, I was asked by Rovers to engage with a touch screen interactive guest book and then sit down for an introductory video in the theatre room. The promotional piece showcases the incredible vision of Better Place founder Shai Agassi a man which has been recognized around the world and spoke at TED Talks, just to give you an idea of his level of pull. Pleasingly, the video featured Toronto specific content illustrating the 15 locations across southern Ontario that Better Place has already installed level II 40 amp charge stations in, including; Barrie, Vaughan, Bowmanville and Toronto.

EV converts admittedly will be disappointed by such stats since the US already has charging stations numbering in the thousands scattered about the country. This is by no means a dig against Rovers or Better Place in Canada, considering that there has been only limited support from the Province of Ontario and nothing Federally in Canada.
What eco-preneur Agassi has brought to the table in his Better Place model is nothing short of game changing because it addresses three fundamental hurdles that have plagued the acceptance of EVs. What Better Place has done is firstly removed the cost of a battery from the purchase price of the vehicle equation and re-distributed the capital cost of the battery into a monthly fee for use of the stored energy and recharging. This model has been juxtaposed to the nonsensical idea of buying a lifetime supply of gasoline at the time of purchasing your car. Imagine how much your car would cost if a lifetime of fuel cost was piled on at the time of initial purchase? What this new pricing model has effectively done is, make the electric vehicle cheaper to purchase than a gas car. You don't buy all the stored energy needed to propel the vehicle at the time of purchase, just the car itself. Yes you read correctly, this makes the EV cheaper to purchase than a gas car!
Secondly, what BP has done through the genius of their five minute battery switching station process, is remove the range anxiety issue from the equation for motorists. The BP switching station is somewhat similar to driving your car into a car wash where the battery is swapped out through a robotic assembly line type process with a fully recharged battery. Taking about the same time as a gas refill or a car wash, the switching system allows a driver to extend their range and get to where they want to go without the 30 minute to 8 hour wait normally associated with battery recharging depending on the level two or three charging technology used. Thirdly, with the surge in fuel prices versus electricity and the implementation of the Better Place fee for recharge, the daily operational costs of the EV has been made equal or lower to that of driving a gasoline car.

The switching station technology does not however eliminate the need for home-based charging. Since 90% of driving will be done by Canadians in the Southern Ontario area at least within the 160 km range limits of EVs such as a Nissan Leaf, the bulk of the recharging will take place at home overnight. The intent of the battery switching is for extended drives outside of a region, maybe to the cottage for the weekend for example.
The Better Place battery switching technology however is only available in Israel, Tokyo and in Northern Europe at this point, do in large part to lack of government support and North American auto manufacturers not buying into to the battery standardization and switching process as of yet. Rovers' is hopeful that the Better Place facility at the Evergreen Brick Works will one day be a battery switching station hub, but he is not able to indicate a timeline on the completion of such critical pieces to the puzzle at this early juncture.
Getting these 15 charging stations installed was not without a lot of heavy lifting as Rovers explains, due to the present lack of Canadian Standards Association (CSA) blanket safety coverage for charging stations in Canada. To get the 15 charging stations safety approved that are installed across the GTA now, involved more costly and time consuming 'one off' approvals. As the electric vehicle industry advocacy group Electric Mobilty Canada (EMC) explains in their "Driving the Rapid Adoption of Electric Vehicles" white paper, a $2 million investment is needed from the Federal government to permit the CSA to proceed with safety inspections and broadly certify the charging hardware.
Quick Charges
So far approximately 500 people have toured the new Better Place digs. Most of these being dignitaries, the media and EV greenies taking in the experience.
  • One of the lesser known reasons why folks escape the city to rural areas is because of noise and confusion of urban spaces caused by ICE transportation. With EVs there is none of the noise.
  • Presently there are 2 million hybrid cars on the roads and 500 million gas cars.
  • Better Place Toronto Consumer Research
  • www.evergreen.ca
Having myself been at the cutting edge of new EV technology product roll outs, I asked Martin Rovers to describe his experience in trudging forward against the tide of climate change denying government and head office demands for deliverables, metrics and ROI. His response was characteristically understated, but his smile spoke volumes. I took that to mean that being an eco-preneur and EV activist means you need thick skin, the patience of Jobe and a long-term vision of the future to guide your way to the promised land.