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Bill SeaveyWe hope you enjoy the articles on this site which could be greatly expanded since the domain really says it all!

As I write there are at least half a dozen or more companies planning to unveil electric vehicles in 2011-2012. We are somewhat skeptical how "green" vehicles can be if powered by a grid using nuclear and coal energy sources, but hopeful society eventually turns to a variation of our Garage Filling Station (see article at http://www.energybulletin.net/node/7985).

In the meantime, consider the benefits of conserving gas the usual way (less driving!) or hyper-miling. What's that?? Well some very clever technologists have discovered how to extend the range of gasoline-powered vehicles. We ourselves have figured out how to improve gas mileage up to 25% on a 1991 Honda Accord (normally gets 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway), but we're satisfied with a 9% improvement with very little effort (no mechanical modifications required). For a copy of the detailed instructions, send $3 to Bill Seavey, PO Box 1681, Cambria, CA 93428 (uncancelled stamps ok). See article introduction below, entire article is three single spaced typed pages with a variety of internet source materials.  Money back guarantee.

The Future is NOW!!

Secrets of 'Hyper-miling': How to Squeeze the Most Mileage From Your Car

$4 gallon gas prices are not news to this writer/researcher -- my California town's gasoline prices have been hovering close to $4 for nearly a year. (I live in a town of about 6,000 along Central California's coast).

Of course we don't buy gasoline here very often, because instead of saving mere PENNIES a gallon my wife can shop at a nearby Costco, where gasoline pump prices are regularly a HALF DOLLAR or less.

But now nearly everyone in the United States is facing close to $4 gallon, and panic is beginning to set in.

As a part of the Freedom from High Gas Prices Package (which includes my leading edge research on "green" fuel alternatives), I have promised to tell you how you can truly save money not only at the pump but in driving day-to-day.

Now, you have no doubt heard the "experts" from car automotive magazines and even car repair shops talk about how you can modify your car, or driving habits, to save money. Interestingly, they don't very often tell you HOW MUCH -- one mechanic's estimate was only in the dismal 2-3% range, clearly inaccurate.

If We Don’t Trust Car Batteries, Can We EVER Trust ‘Battery Electric’ Cars???

More and more venture capital is going into electric vehicle research and development.  Major media, including Fortune Magazine, Wired, Time, WSJ, Automobile Magazine and many others are touting the promising future of “EV’s.”  (Much of this “action” just in the last couple months!)

There is little question that by 2010 or so the first “pure” electrics will roll off the assembly lines of nearly a dozen companies–on their way to one day probably replacing the ICE (internal combustion engine)-powered car.

There’s only one hitch–and it ISN’T necessarily the lithium ion battery, so often discussed as the possible achilles heel of the whole EV marketing rollout. (For one thing, other battery technologies, such as NiMH and lead acid, can still power EV’s, although not as efficiently).

The hitch is really that most car buyers/consumers don’t trust car batteries in general–because they have had so much trouble with them.

In an ICE-powered car, the 12 volt lead acid house battery is truly problematic.  Probably no one who owns an older car hasn’t experienced what they at least thought was a battery failure that left them unable to start their vehicle.

It happened to me just the other day and I KNOW batteries better than most.  I was almost helpless with a dead car.  Jumps were unsuccessful and I did a lot of walking that day and next (being in a small town without extensive public transportation)–trying to arrange for towing and repair.

Turns out, it wasn’t even a battery issue, but it FELT like one when the car wouldn’t start. I knew the battery was near the end of its life and I was more than prepared to replace it.  But how can anyone really know this–and avoid a dead car in a possibly dangerous circumstance on the side of the road (or, worse, in the middle of it)?

Our experience with batteries are generally unsatisfactory, and it is–and ISN’T– our fault.  We don’t understand them so we don’t take care of them the way we should.  (Car batteries are nothing like throwaway batteries).  Many people are even afraid to check–or replace–the fluids, if they are accessible at all, much less keep active terminals clean and free of corrosion.  We subject car batteries to many stresses, including cold and hot temperatures, and yet expect them to perform flawlessly every time.  We probably wish they’d just work and recharge as dependably and simply as an electric shaver (mine has lasted years).

And because we often ignore our car battery, auto repair services are often tempted to take advantage of this naivete and neglect by insisting that a battery needs replacement–even when it may not.  (This probably costs the public many millions of dollars annually–maybe billions).

When DOES a battery need replacement?  Car indicator lights, if they exist, do not seem to be conclusive.  A battery clearly degrades over time, its plates encrusted with metallic and chemical gunk caused by constant recharging, lack of acid replenishment etc. I met a guy once who knew how to essentially recycle a battery from scratch, rather than replace it–but who wants to do that?

Long ago car makers could have done consumers a big favor by simply having a back up battery in vehicles so one could be changed out while the other was still able to start/run the car.  But penny wise, pound foolish…

So we don’t trust car batteries, and many of the electric vehicles that are actually on the road today are powered by the “old” lead acids. One example is the Toyota RAV 4 small suv–it uses DEEP CYCLE lead acids, but they are similar to car house batteries.  Gemcars, the Sparrow, and the old EV1’s used deep cycle lead acids.

And, I should add, these “EV” batteries (which are also store energy for off grid solar electric system applications), perform quite well for the money, and can have lifespans approaching five years or more–if properly taken care of.

But because of our distrust of/neglect for such batteries, when people hear about “battery electric” cars, they probably summon the ghosts of their experiences sitting next to dead cars on the side of the road.

So here is what I have done to reassure the battery-phobic public about “battery electric” cars.

Jeff Spevack is an auto mechanic (Continental Motors in San Luis Obispo, California) who also leases one of the last aforementioned Toyota Rav 4 small SUV’s that are electric.  The Rav 4 is really one of the best EV’s ever made, with an overnight chargeable range of up to 125 miles. Jeff swears by the car and commutes to work in it every day–where he works on ICE-powered cars!  (Another leased car, the EV1, was not too long ago taken from “owners” and crushed in the Arizona desert, the subject of the documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?)

I explained to Jeff  that I wanted to find out if his car had ever failed to START because of a battery problem.  (If it hadn’t that would confirm my suspicions that this is not an issue with “battery electric” cars.

Jeff said that starting an electric car motor (which is much smaller than an ICE) is no big deal, anymore than flipping a water pump switch, or turning on a vacuum cleaner (my examples).  If the car actually completely runs out of battery energy (and remember, there are 8-16 deep cycle batteries in an EV), then it will no longer move forward/reverse–and this happened to Jeff only ONCE (much as a gas powered car runs out of gas).  But an EV SHOULDN’T run out of battery power because meters clearly tell the driver how much “juice” is left–and also, it’s not a good idea to run the batteries completely down because it isn’t good for them.  (One last thing: an EV that has supposedly “run out” may still be able to go a few miles if you let the batteries rest for a period of time–try that with a gas car!).

In EV’s, some batteries within the system may occasionally fail, but they are not like a string of Christmas lights with all the power going out at once. Bad cells may affect the overall amount of “juice,” but not cripple the performance. This is something owners of EV’s with the “old” lead acids DO have to do–replace a couple batteries annually, along with the required maintenance we’ve talked about above.

But the newer EV’s, such as hybrids (if you can truly call them EV’s), have completely self-contained NiMH batteries that you never have to work on yourself, and the battery packs have 100,000 mile warranties. Some manufacturers, such as Think!,  say that they will actually lease the new lithium ion battery packs, and take full responsibility for replacing/servicing them. Imagine that, with newer EV’s you won’t have to even worry about the batteries, and the likelihood that a car WON’T START is practically nil.

So there you have it, American car buying public.  Though failing batteries have disabled millions of ICE-powered cars, the new battery-powered EV’s  will actually, in most cases, actually ELIMINATE this fear/possibility. (And the older EV’s are still quite viable).

Electric Cars = the Next Mass Market Technology

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of seven stories about how top executives at 30 public and private companies leading the “cleantech” revolution expect to make a lot of money. Each spoke at one of seven seminars held during the recent day-long Merriman Curhan Ford cleantech investor conference in New York.

Electrified transportation is the next mass market technology. The automotive industry will be turned completely upside down, with many of today’s small, unknown electric vehicle developers becoming the new global giants of car-making. Electric utilities are the oil companies of tomorrow. The new lithium-ion batteries that are the foundation of this new mass market technology likely will be leased separately from the vehicles, creating a vast new market for finance companies. OPEC member nations can see the future and are already investing in a world where oil’s role will be greatly diminished.

These are just some of the insights into the car world of tomorrow recently expressed by the CEOs of three of the world’s top electric vehicle developers – Albert Lam of Santa Rosa, CA-based Detroit Electric, Henrik Fisker of Irvine, CA-based Fisker Automotive, and Dan Elliott of Ontario, CA-based Phoenix Motorcars. While they disagreed on whether electrified transportation will be dominated by all-electric or plug-in electric vehicles (the latter capable of also running on gasoline), they agreed that most people will risk buying a green car, and that if their firms move quickly, they will seize the market from the likes of General Motors and Toyota, which they see as being years behind them in developing the new technology.

“I’ve never been part of something like this,” Fisker told an audience of fund managers and other investors. “If we move quickly enough, there’s an open market” just waiting for Fisker and other newcomers.

“We’re going to put pressure on the big boys,” Lam said, referring to oil marketing companies that have billions tied up in distribution networks for liquid transportation fuel. He added that he is already talking to two US. utilities, one of which has begun conducting trials on fueling electric vehicles.
While Big Oil could come under enormous pressure, Middle East oil-producing countries appear to be plugging in to the electric vehicle future. Lam said he’s got a “number of very interested investors” from Kuwait who are at a “mature stage” in their interest in Detroit Electric. Fisker said he was flying to Dubai after the conference because, “They want to be part of the future.”

Each CEO made it clear that it’s going to take five to seven years for the ultimate winner or winners to be crowned in the race to develop the best lithium-ion car battery. Elliott of Phoenix said his vehicles are getting a 130-mile range on a 10-minute charge, but that batteries offering greater range between “fill-ups” are coming.

Coming too, Lam said, will be batteries that can be fed a steady “trickle” charge from, for example, solar panels mounted on bus roofs. Fisker noted that while the world today is gaga over non-plug-in hybrid vehicles, they are only 10% to 15% more efficient than standard vehicles. “They’re not really doing a lot,” he said, explaining why the next big thing is going to be electric vehicles, and that they’ll be arriving shortly.

My Plan Complimentary with Gore’s Goal

If Al Gore can suggest what many (if not all) consider a somewhat implausible goal–ALL electricity produced from renewable fuels by 2018, I can suggest another:

–At least 25% of all cars running on (mostly) electricity (or an alternative fuel) by 2020–

With $4-$4.50 gallon gasoline shocking Americans into some kind of action–most, alas, just want to drill rather than truly make an effort to conserve–they need to know that they needn’t seek the cheap fuel they so badly desire (which, most estimates suggest, can’t arrive quicker than 10 years, anyway–and it still won’t be cheap).

How/why?

(1) Electric vehicles (EV’s) really are the future, with a dozen manufacturers (including GM, Tesla, Fisker, Think City, Phoenix etc.) rushing to get them into production no later than 2010. Even if they don’t, a few million compact cars could be successfully converted to electric battery power for $3000-$5000–when economies of scale kick in. (And hybrids will evolve into plug-ins very soon.) EV’s can travel for as little as 5 cents a mile, compared to 20-25 cents for even economy cars. 15% of all autos COULD be electric by 2020, and this is not pie-in-the-sky.

(2) 2.5 million flex fuel vehicles (FFV’s) are already on the road (50,000 in California alone); They are made by the big car makers and have been for some time–they can run on E85 ethanol/alcohol. Between 8% and 10% of our nation’s gas has ethanol as an additive already–we just need more pumps to supply the FFV’s. (Granted, making ethanol from corn is controversial, but Brazil is running nearly all its autos with alcohol fuel based on sugar cane.) We could see 20 million E85 fueled cars, or maybe up to 10% of our vehicle “fleet.”

(3) Other “fuels” in the immediate pipeline include biodiesel, natural gas and compressed air (really!) These are the wildcards and probably can’t exceed 5% of our vehicles by 2020, but who knows? The technologies are more than viable. Any diesel car can run with biodiesel–if only the fuel were more available. Honda manufactures a 200 mile range natural gas powered compact. The Air Car is being made by Tata Motors in India.

(4) Hydrogen fuel celled cars? Probably not enough to register, statistically, anytime soon. They currently cost around $1 million each, and are virtually no where to be seen.

The reason most polls show we want to drill for more oil is simply because there is too little attention being given to the alternatives.

With 200-300 million gasoline powered cars running around, it’s understandable that we can’t really imagine anything else anytime soon. But by 2020 at least 1/4 to 1/2 of those vehicles could be off the road and REPLACED by electric or ethanol, IF we don’t cave and revert to the old standby, GASOLINE. (My book, Power Your Car WITHOUT Gasoline!, analyzes why gasoline as a fuel really doesn’t compare favorably to the alternatives, especially now that EROEI–energy return on energy invested– is greatly diminished from decades ago).

As someone who has been espousing these alternatives for over five years, I have to say that it is terribly discouraging to hear that most people want to take the “easy” way out–which, time will tell, will prove to be the most DIFFICULT as oil supplies dry up (Peak Oil?) It is absolutely time to reverse course NOW, before it is simply too late.

Don’t forget that there is plenty of evidence (now) that a major reason we went into Iraq was to maintain “energy security”. (Read: get crude oil). The so-called war has been an unmitigated disaster, costing millions/billions a day/month. So who’s to say future oil-driven incursions won’t end the same way?

It’s time to wise up.

About Greenest Car site creator:  
 
I am a Renaissance type, versatile in the skills and challenges of living in our modern American society, who has authored numerous books particularly helpful to people struggling with such basic issues as housing affordability, intelligent investing, community livability, job search, small business start-ups, access to health care and the cost of living in general. I have been profiled by major print and electronic media (examples on request). My websites on the above and other topics can be found at thecoolestideas.com. I live along the Central California coast and also have part-time residences in Canada and Mexico. 
  
William L. SeaveyWilliam L. Seavey is an inventor, social visionary, entrepreneur, teacher/lecturer, and modern day Renaissance Man. He has made good things happen for himself, his family members and numerous others throughout his 64 plus years. His famous Greener Pastures Institute reached out to millions and was mentioned by such media as TIME, Fortune, New York Times, Mother Earth News, USA Today, Charles Osgood File, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping Magazine. He is the author or editor of nearly ten "self-help" books (most recently Crisis Investing and Entrepreneuring), and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles on a variety of useful subjects. 
He once worked for Newsweek and Popular Science Magazines as an editorial intern--for Newsweek he photographed the famous Woodstock Music Festival (see woodstock69anniversary.com). For six years he was a professional resume writer in Oregon and started the Professional Resume' Writers Association. He lives in an idyllic small town on the Central California Coast, where he runs a bed and breakfast with his wife, and continues to pursue his publishing and speaking interests (brochure available on lecture subjects). Seavey is a descendent of American pioneers (his namesake, a William Seavey, arrived in colonial New England in 1632--New Hampshire today).