Plugging in the Cars of the Caymans
EV World’s Bill Moore interviewed Wheego dealer John Felder of Cayman Automotive, and featured him on the EV World website with the following story and video interview.
Islands are a near perfect venue for electric cars. Distances are usually short, speed limits typically low, and the cost of energy nearly exorbitant; both petrol and electricity. On top of that, temperatures, especially in the Caribbean, are moderate and the terrain can be relatively flat on many of the islands.
One of those 'ideal' islands is Grand Cayman, a fishhook of land 90 miles off the southern coast of Cuba, whose biggest claim to fame in the modern world is the electronic banking equivalent of Switzerland. Its strong British heritage - yes they drive on the right-side of the road - has made it one of the top choices for sheltering corporate fortunes from inconvenient national taxes.
by the U.S. PIRG and Citizens for Tax Justice found that 64 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a subsidiary in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands as of 2013. In 2011, it was estimated that US firms were sheltering in the neighborhood of US$1.4 trillion in the Cayman Islands alone [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_haven]. This has generated a per capita GDP comparable to the USA of $43,800 compared to nearby Jamaica where its $9,300 per person.
Given this favorable climate economically, politically, and weather-wise, it would be only natural for electric cars to establish a beachhead on this centrally located spit of land in the middle of the blue Caribbean; and the 'beachmaster' of the EV invasion is former Chrysler executive John Felder.
After 25 years with the Auburn Hills carmaker, Felder 'retired' to Grand Cayman in the early 2000s, starting Cayman Automotive in 2005. The company imports and leases conventional gasoline cars, but almost from the beginning, Felder wanted to import electric cars. The first EVs, he points out, were GEM neighborhood electric vehicles, which around this time was owned by Chrysler Corporation. It was in 2007 that he began negotiations with Wheego, an Atlanta-based importer/modifier of small, two-person cars similar to the Smart car, but built in China and upgraded in the USA.
At the time, the import duty on electric cars, as well as gasoline models, was a whopping 42%. So, besides working with Wheego while they went through NHTSA crash testing, Felder also began lobbying the Cayman government to update his motor vehicle codes and reduce the tariff on EVs. That effort took seven years, but resulted in the third lowest import duty for EVs in the Caribbean basin behind Bermuda (0%) and Aruba (2%). The duty is now just 10%. John is also working on developing an eight-island dealer network for electric vehicles. As a result of his efforts you can now rent electric cars from Budget Rental Cars on Grand Cayman and charge them with solar energy or from a growing network of public chargers around the island.
Our interview, conducted via Skype, lasts some 35+ minutes and is divided into two segments:
Video Interview Segment 1
Video Interview Segment 2
Fleet of Plug-in Cars Rolls out to Bay Area Governments
The following is excerpted from an article by Matt O’Brien in the San Jose Mercury News. Read the full article here.
A government fleet of 90 electric vehicles is rolling onto Bay Area streets from San Jose to Santa Rosa, completing a $5 million regional initiative that took four years to get off the ground. The plug-in sedans and vans will carry building inspectors, health workers, park maintenance crews and other municipal employees working for 10 local agencies.
Alameda County is leading the way with 26 new vehicles, doubling its electric fleet. An additional 27 battery-powered vehicles are being delivered to Sonoma County and its water agency, 14 to San Francisco and 10 to the city of Concord.
Oakland and San Jose are each acquiring three new vehicles, and Fremont two, in what proponents call the largest government deployment of electric vehicles in the United States.
The cars will bring "immediate fuel savings for the agencies," reduce emissions and require low maintenance, said Rafael Reyes, director of the Bay Area Climate Collaborative, a nonprofit initiative of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group established in 2009 by the mayors of San Jose, San Francisco and Oakland to accelerate clean energy initiatives around the bay. The fleet is part of a broader $33 million environmental project authorized by the nine-county Metropolitan Transportation Commission in 2010. The commission awarded local governments $2.8 million in federal money for the cars, and the local agencies that acquired the vehicles paid the balance.
Electric Cars Will Change the Way You Power Your Home
The following is excerpted from an article by Michael Grunwald in Time Magazine. Read the full article here.
How the homes of the future will generate and store their own electricity, turning your house into a mini-power plant.
Electric vehicles are our fastest-growing alternative to oil-derived gasoline. Solar panels are our fastest-growing alternative to coal-powered electricity. They’re both getting less expensive and more effective, driving our clean energy revolution. And there’s new evidence that these two great tastes can taste particularly great together, transforming how we consume and produce power in ways that will accelerate that green revolution.
The evidence comes from Opower, a firm that uses software and behavioral science to help utilities promote energy conservation—and has amassed the world’s largest storehouse of household energy data along the way. Opower studied the power consumption habits of about 2,000 plug-in electric vehicle owners enrolled in “time-of-use” pricing programs. That means they got discounted electricity rates from midnight to 7 a.m., when demand is typically low, but paid a surcharge during peak.
Grid managers have to balance supply and demand every second, so big gaps between peak and off-peak demand can create big inefficiencies by forcing them to turn power plants on and off to adjust supply. In theory, the combination of electric vehicles (which can be charged any time) and time-of-use pricing (which encourages charging after midnight) could help reduce those gaps. It could also help prevent electric vehicles (which alleviate the problem of carbon emissions) from exacerbating the problem of overloaded daytime grids. And that’s basically what the data showed—with a twist.
Opower found that EV owners did respond to the incentives to charge during off-peak hours, using three times as much power as the typical household between midnight and 7 a.m. It’s notoriously tough to get consumers to adjust their behavior, even when it’s in their financial interest, so that’s good news. At first glance, the data from the rest of the day looks like bad news: From 7 a.m. until midnight, EV owners still used 21 percent more power than the typical household. But this was mainly because they’re richer than the typical household; their houses were bigger and more likely to have a swimming pool. They clearly did the bulk of their vehicle charging after midnight when power was cheap.
The most striking data was from EV owners who also had solar panels. From 7 a.m. and midnight, they used about one-fourth as much power from the grid as the typical household, because they were getting power from their rooftops and often selling power back to the grid. In other words, they took very little from the grid when demand was high—at times even helping to increase supply—and took much more from the grid when demand was low. They helped smooth out demand.
That’s very good news, not only because smoothing out demand is a kind of Holy Grail for utilities, but because EV owners were 6.6 times more likely to have solar panels than the typical household. Nancy Pfund, a venture capitalist who invested early in Tesla Motors, the hottest EV firm, and Solar City, the leading solar installer, calls EV’s “the gateway drug to solar.” Once you stop using hydrocarbons to fuel your car, she says, you want to stop using hydrocarbons, period. “Together, they can be a huge tool for managing our energy load,” Pfund says. “And they’re both taking off.”
EV’s are still less than 1 percent of the U.S. auto fleet, and solar still provides less than 1 percent of U.S. electricity. In terms of reducing emissions, they are still less significant than hybrid vehicles or wind power or energy-efficient appliances. But they are what the Silicon Valley types like to call “disruptive.” When you put a solar panel on your roof, your home becomes a mini-power plant. When you buy an electric vehicle, you suddenly control an automobile-shaped energy storage device. It won’t be long before homeowners with both can be mini-utilities, buying power from the grid when it’s cheap and selling power to the grid when it’s expensive. Willett Kempton, a University of Delaware professor, has created electric vehicles that communicate and interact with the grid in real time; they earn about $150 per car per month by storing excess power when the grid gets temporarily overloaded.
That would make the economics of EVs more attractive, accelerating the route to mass adoption. “Net metering” will be similarly important for solar, allowing homeowners to sell power to the grid at attractive prices; as the Opower study demonstrated, time-of-use pricing can also help shape electricity demand. All of this will help create a more flexible, less centralized energy system, incorporating more renewable power without sacrificing reliability when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, adapting instantaneously to changes in demand and supply with the help of modern information technology and Opower-style Big Data. Our cars (as well as other smart appliances) will optimize their power needs with our utilities, and we can intervene at anytime over our iPhones.
You could imagine a future where solar panels and EV’s (perhaps with additional backup storage, like the wall-mounted batteries Solar City and Tesla recently launched) help Americans declare independence from the grid, the way mobile phones have set us free from landlines. More likely, though, the clean energy revolution will just change our relationship to the grid. Our utilities will be as dependent on us as we are dependent on them. And we’ll have power over our power.
A Wheego Whip gathers its energy at the San Diego zoo
1. EVs are growing steadily
About 3.8% of all sales of automobiles in 2013 were electrified products, which includes hybrids. To put that in perspective, said Mike Tinskey, the global director of vehicle electrification and infrastructure for Ford, we were at 0.8% three years ago. Of course, electric vehicles weren't widely available then, but it is still significant growth. We've seen a plateau in the last eight months, he added, but that's expected as people are waiting for electric vehicles become cheaper. "We are expecting it to go up -- what's happening here is a lot of people are buying electrified products and manufacturers are adjusting their pricing to see what the market wants," Tinskey said.
2. There are two types of EVs
The two primary types of electric vehicles are:
- Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) run entirely on electricity stored in a battery and are recharged at stations at home, work, or on the road.
- Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) run on both electricity and gasoline and can be plugged in for a charge. The ranges of these cars vary, but usually run between 10 to 40 miles before the vehicle operates like a hybrid.
3. Companies are working together to make standards
Making the charging process seamless will be a huge enabler of electrification. That means the plugs, the charging stations, and the networks need to all work together, which is why the players in the auto industry -- especially their clean technology teams -- have to communicate. As Tinskey put it: "Having four different plugs, that's a bad thing. Or let's put it this way -- it's a really good thing when we agree."
There are a few types of chargers out there:
Level 2 (240V)
can charge models like the Nissan Leaf, takes about eight hours. You can have one installed in your garage and they are relatively easy to purchase.
Level 3 or DC Power (480V)
can charge faster, but few homes can support it.
provides adapters so users can plug-in to Level 2 plugs as well. But the company also has special charging stations that only work with their models.
4. Efficiency of electric motors
According to Tesla, converting chemical energy is up to (or sometimes even more than) 90% efficient. The Tesla Roadster is 88% efficient, which is almost three times more efficient than a gasoline engine. Those run at about 35% efficiency because most of the energy stored is lost through the heating process. EVs emit no pollutants from the tailpipe, although they do take some energy from the grid if you are plugging in, so the pollutants from those resources are there. However, the batteries can also take power from solar, wind, or hydro plants, which would give you a net zero usage.
5. Electric cars can offer a better driving experience
Ads for electric vehicles often focus on the good environmental and social benefits they have, or even the terrific gas mileage you get compared to gas vehicles. But, there's one more important aspect: they're much nicer to drive. Electric motors reach their peak torque (or "turning force") from 0 rpm, meaning they have strong acceleration from a stop. They're also quiet, almost silent, and offer a smooth, vibration-free ride.
6. The distance EVs can travel
Most battery electric vehicles can go 60 to 120 miles before they need a charge, which is a good range for day-to-day driving.
7. There are more than 20,000 charging stations in the US
That doesn't sound like a lot, but the number has been quickly growing. In 2012, it was just over 6,000, and in 2011, it was just under 2,000. So the charging infrastructure in the US is accelerating quickly. The easiest way to find a station is with Plugshare
, a map of charging stations around the US. The map shows where the stations are, what they offer, and whether or not they are in use in real time.
8. But, infrastructure is still holding EVs back
It takes a long time to charge an electric car right now, and a lot of volts to speed up the process. Currently, most chargers are Level 2 and can be found with Plugshare. Some are free, some cost money for the electricity used, and others cost per hour. Many are run by a charging system network such as ChargePoint
.There's a movement to get an Open Charge Point Protocol
for communication between EV charging stations and a central management network, much like our mobile phone networks. Though the concept began in the Netherlands and is widely adopted in Europe and Asia, it is not in the US because the market here came into being through the Department of Energy. The network providers in the US manufactured the charging stations, so there wasn't a huge incentive to be a part of OCPP. The open standard could increase innovation and be more economically beneficial in the long-term.
9. Prices are decreasing, slowly
Prices are deflating as the technology for electrification becomes cheaper, but EVs are no small investment.
10. There are tax credits and other incentives