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Charging in Vancouver

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Sunday and there appears to be no-one charging at Kits Beach this morning. If something is too good to be true then it probably isn’t. The Flo app maintains this idea and when we arrive all the spaces are empty. But when we plug in no electricity flows. So I hit the help button on the app. This turns out not be a Good Idea at all. The number it dials is different to that on the machine, and it adds an extension which answers in French. Then plays music. So I end that call and dial the number on the charger, which gives me a chance to pick English from the menu, and gets answered by a human straightaway. He tells me that all four chargers will need the attention of the City of Vancouver. That doesn’t explain why the Flo app shows non-functional chargers as available. But then we find that the two chargers on Beach at Broughton, also shown as available, are in a car park that is currently closed. The chargers on 7th Ave are not available on Sunday. We end up back at Kerrisdale paying for parking and power as by the time we get there we are literally out stored power.

I get the feeling that this post may be the start of something. For now here is a picture of the free charger at the free parking out at Pacific Spirit Park. Which shuts off charging after 2 hours, no matter what.

The charger story starts getting more interesting thanks to a comment thread on this post. It turns out that the new building on the other side of Yew Street does have EV charging options. These show up on the PlugShare app but not on the FLO app or ChargePoint.

This Hyundai is parked on a space marked CAR SHARE on the corner of building A that houses Safeway. This is the north west corner just off Yew Street. There is nothing on the vehicle to suggests it belongs to a car share.

Zut alors! That is a long period of charging but then the Hyundai is an EV, not a plug-in hybrid. Since it does not appear on their app, it must require a RFID card, like I use at Oakridge when I am having tests at LifeLabs. Those FLO charges are listed on the app but not their status. So it is a bit of a crap shoot if you can get one of the two chargers there. You can’t use the phone to start charging either so I imagine they are beyond cell phone data use or nearby wifi.

The street behind the Tesla has not been named as it is really just a lane access for trucks and so on. The charger on the other side of the post is not functional – and according to PlugShare hasn’t been for some time. I imagine the Tesla’s owner will use the other one once the Hyundai is fully charged.

PlugShare also now says that the underground parking provided for Safeway also has outlets for car charging along the wall. Since I usually walk to Safeway and take the trolley for heavy loads I haven’t been down there much, but there are “multiple wall plugs available” for “trickle charging” while shopping my transportation mode may change! Apparently both parking and charging are free while shopping.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 22, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Posted in electric cars

The road to 1.5C is paved with auto retrofits

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This showed up in my email today. I have been hearing about people who wanted to hang on to their classic cars but retrofitted them to be electric vehicles. The prices that were quoted were eye watering.

This one is new to me. BC is already one of most electrified car provinces on the country. But this company is on our doorstep. And is worth checking out – or at least watching the short video.

Blue Dot Motorworks, a Seattle-based start-up developing universal retrofit kits that can convert virtually any conventional vehicle into a plug-in hybrid, is positioned to address this challenge with the most scalable, cost effective, and resource-efficient solution for the largest end-use contributor to climate change — road transportation. 

“Despite the recent growth in EV manufacturing, we will not have put a significant dent in the number of conventional vehicles currently on the road by 2050, due to the size and growth of the global fleet. 

“Moreover, at $66k for the average EV, the current market leaves behind many people, and excludes them from the benefits of electrification.  Blue Dot’s innovations will unlock the mainstream retrofit market in the same way that Ford’s manufacturing innovations with the Model T unlocked the mainstream automobile market: by making the solution affordable to the middle class through mass-production.

“Over the last 6 years, MIT-educated mechanical engineer Tom Gurski has developed, patented, and prototyped (literally from his garage!) the system you can see in action in this two minute video.

We will be piloting our product in BC for a couple of school districts. We are 18 months from commercially available kits, but we intend to make them available in Canada.”

Written by Stephen Rees

November 28, 2022 at 3:00 pm

Posted in electric cars

My new plug-in hybrid

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Toyota Prius Prime

A month ago I took delivery of a new Toyota Prius Prime. This blog post is about my experience of becoming an EV driver. I can say that since although this car does have an internal combustion engine it has hardly burned any fossil fuel at all since I acquired it. I would have liked to buy an electric car, but the condo where I live is not allowing new EV owners to charge their vehicles. Some people have been using the existing receptacles in the garage – originally intended for owners to be able to plug in a vacuum cleaner now and then. There are very few of these 110v outlets and only a few could be used without either employing long extension “cords” or blocking someone else’s car in. These people are now paying a monthly fee, but the strata council is not allowing any additional users stating that they need to have a plan, since the building went up in 1974 and was never designed to accommodate EVs. The threat is that somehow these cars will overload the system. Actually the threat is very low if you consider that most people would be charging overnight – the cars are smart enough to be programmed that way – at times when everyone is fast asleep and not using much power.

My New Prius Prime

The reason I could afford to buy a new car is the impact of the pandemic on my budget. We have not been anywhere or done anything very much for the last three years. So the money we would have spent on travel, eating out or other entertainments like the theatre stayed in the bank account. I have been trying to find ways of putting that to good use, but since the beginning of this year the markets have been negative, and investing has mostly been at a loss. My Yaris wasn’t costing me very much, as we tend to walk, use transit or EVO for local trips, but attempts to get comfortable with Modo (who now have a Prius parked near our place) did not work out very well.

There is a BC Hydro EV charging station on Arbutus Street near 41st Avenue. Unfortunately this high powered rapid charger (DC Fast 50KW) does not have the connector my car needs (J1772 30km/hr 6.2kW). The nearest one is at the EasyPark lot on Yew at 41st – where there is a parking fee to be paid while charging. Down in Kits there are 3 public charging points on Arbutus next to the Kits Beach park. Another is restricted to Modo. While parking there is free it is mostly fully occupied during the day.

To get to use these points you need a smartphone (or member card) from Flo or Chargepoint. Their apps also provide information about availability, and the use of power while charging. The car itself tends of overestimate how long a charge will take. For example, most recently it had only 10% charge available and expected the full charge to take over 6 hours. It actually managed it in two.

The Prius also has its own app which tells me I have 460 km on the odometer. So far I have spent $31.40 on 50.3 kWh. It came with a full charge of course as well as a full tank of gas. The best value was a parking lot at White Rock which is 45km from where we live and at the edge of the EV range. The electricity was free: the parking wasn’t. We were able to use electricity for the round trip – which included the A/C. The Yaris used to get around 7 litres per 100km so at current pump rates that would be $77.60 – but mostly I am pleased that some significant amount of CO2 was not emitted ( 1 L of gasoline produces 2.3 kg of CO2) .

The one thing I find disappointing – and this is a feature of every hybrid I have driven – is that when you take your foot off the accelerator, the car slows down as if it were an internal combustion engine dragging. This is not necessary in an EV. I was very pleased to note that this maker is going to take coasting seriously as a way to save energy. Good.

A couple of points I think are worth noting. The map that Flo and Chargepoint uses includes charging stations that are not actually available publicly. I have taken this up with them and should have been corrected by now. We spent some time trying to figure out how to access stations which were inside locked private garages at condos. They both tried to blame the map providers, but of course they can only rely on the data given them. I have also had an issue with the EV station at Oakridge Mall. It is available publicly and was working when I tried to use it but my phone was out of cell tower range (inside a concrete reinforced parking structure) or WiFi. In theory the chargepoint should have treated my phone as a credit card – but in case I have a similar problem in future I have ordered a Flo card as a back up. I have also had an issue at Kits Beach but then I was not running late on an appointment and spoke to a representative on the phone – and they started the charge for me remotely.

It is also not actually necessary for condos to spend money on installing charge point machines. The car comes with a suitable cable with a standard three pin plug on on end and a J1772 on the other. It includes a fairly hefty intermediate device which means that if the receptacle is old and loose that charging may not work when unattended. The rate for use can be calculated and agreed as an addition to the other strata fees.

Perhaps next time we go to Richmond we will be able to use this new charge point at Garry Point

EV Charging station
Explanation

Written by Stephen Rees

October 10, 2022 at 3:19 pm

Posted in electric cars

Consumer EV Charging Experience in Canada

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The Press Release below arrived at lunchtime today, just when we were talking about cars, again. Now that Modo has a car close to us, I have started to use it for pre-booked trips. The car is a Toyota Prius, and the traffic was so congested this morning, coming back from Oakridge along 49th that I was easily able to keep the car in EV mode all the time. We live in a condo with underground parking, and people using EVs have become something of an issue. Initially because they weren’t paying for those charges. That has been changed to a flat fee for people with EVs. I have an older, conventional IC car but I have been seriously considering replacing it, in part because there seems to be very little opportunity to find investments in renewables – although I have found at least one. There is also some doubt in our building if our old infrastructure can actually cope with EV charging as nothing much has changed here since the building went up in 1974. There are three transformers in the basement, which turn out to be the property of BC Hydro, which have literally not even seen any maintenance let alone upgrading in that time.

There is also of course a current disruption in new vehicle deliveries, due to the pandemic, and a six month wait for a new car. While I have a Prius Prime on order, I still don’t know if I will be able to charge it overnight here – which would meet most of my needs. In the meantime I am using both Modo and Evo more often to see if there is any real need for car ownership at all.

The report cited below found

 Over 40% of respondents in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBs) stated that more than half of all their charging needs are met using public infrastructure. The needs of MURB residents are critical to address as they represent 33% of Canada’s population and are often constrained in terms of their ability to charge at home.

which pretty much backs up my experience. We are supposed to be examining the need for more in house charging but we do not have a good track record in terms of getting agreements with enough residents to change anything at all.

Squamish EV charging

My nearest public charging station West Boulevard @ 40th Ave

EV Fast Chargers
Fast DC charger



Pollution Probe Releases Groundbreaking Report on the Consumer EV Charging Experience in Canada

TORONTO – June 23, 2022 – Pollution Probe is pleased to release the results from a first-of-its-kind national survey of electric vehicle (EV) owners. The survey captured the real-world charging experiences of Canadian EV owners from coast-to-coast to identify gaps and weaknesses in existing charging networks, as well as strengths that can be used to maximize the benefits of future charging station deployments. This work was made possible through the generous support of the Office of Consumer Affairs at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED).

The comprehensive survey received responses from more than 1,600 EV owners drawn from every province. Results were categorized into four key areas: charging behaviour, network coverage satisfaction, network service satisfaction, and network payment systems.

An adequate public charging network is frequently cited as one of the most important factors in accelerating EV adoption. Not only does public charging make long-distance travel in EVs more convenient, but it makes the prospect of EV ownership more feasible for Canadians who live in high-rise buildings or homes that lack a dedicated parking space that can accommodate a charging station. Not surprisingly, one of the key findings of the study is that EV owners residing in high-rises rely much more on public charging than those in single family homes. Over 40% of respondents in high-rise buildings indicated that more than half of their charging needs are addressed using public charging stations.

While the installation of public EV chargers continues to accelerate thanks to the efforts of both government and industry, right now most Canadian EV owners think that the existing number of public chargers is insufficient. While Canadian EV owners’ location preference for the slower level 2 charging stations is varied, preference for DC fast chargers is more concentrated at highway rest stops and urban retail centres. Another key finding is that EV owners are very interested in demand management methods, such as smart charging and vehicle-to-grid charging, that could reduce their charging costs. These methods can be leveraged by utilities to avoid stressing local grids as more EVs come online.

As of 2021 EVs comprised almost 6% of new passenger car sales in Canada – but the EV market is just getting warmed up. Canada has set mandatory ZEV sales targets of at least 20% of new passenger vehicle sales by 2026, 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. Regular assessments similar to this onewill need to be led in the coming years so government policy and industry practice can efficiently address the needs and expectations of the next generation of Canadian drivers.

“Findings highlight mixed attitudes and behaviours from Canadian EV owners depending on the type and age of EV owned, their location in Canada, household type, travel patterns, and charging networks used. This pioneering work is an important start in terms of aligning consumer expectations around the convenience of EV use with public charging infrastructure availability across Canada.”

–  Christopher Hilkene, CEO, Pollution Probe

Read the report at the links below to see the full results as well as a summary of key findings and recommendations for next steps. Our transportation team is available to respond to questions and comments.

ENGLISH & FRENCH REPORT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE

— 30 –

About Pollution Probe
Pollution Probe is a national, not-for-profit, charitable organization that pursues environmental gains by productively working with governments, industry and the public. With a steadfast commitment to clean air, clean water and a healthy planet, Pollution Probe has been at the forefront of environmental issues and action since its inception in 1969. www.pollutionprobe.org

Written by Stephen Rees

June 23, 2022 at 1:37 pm

Updates

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Quite a lot happening recently, some of which relates to issues that have been dealt with in blog posts on here. So I thought that I should do a single post to bring you up to date. I will also add the links to the previous posts on the topic just in case there are some readers who missed them first time around.

Arbutus Mall Redevelopment

The second stage of the project is now getting started in earnest. This week the excavators arrived and started tearing down the remains of the Mall Building. This used to accommodate the Safeway Pharmacy, BC Liquor Store, Bank of Montreal and Dance Company. They all have now moved across the Yew Street extension. I have tried to update Google maps with the new locations as the old ones keep appearing elsewhere. That has certainly added a lot more views to the photos I attached to those posts.

Pedalheads, who used to run swimming lessons in the old community centre pool (located in the basement) are now in the Jericho Hill Centre.

Arbutus Mall Redevelopment
Yew Street at Lahb Avenue

Modo Car Share

I was doing a Leo survey into travel in the region, and one of the questions was why I was not using Modo car share. The answer was going to be that they did not have a car based nearby – but I checked the map to see how far it was. And discovered a new Modo parking spot is on Yew at Eddington. So I have revived my membership. My suspicion is that it is the new development of rental apartments that has spurred Modo’s interest in this location.

Welcome to the neighbourhood
Toyota Prius Hybrid

This car is brand new! If you were in the market to buy one of these there is currently a six month wait! I know that because that is what I did this week when I decided to end the experiments I had made investing through WealthSimple and VanCity. The downturn in the stock market means that they are now both worth less than I started with, so I thought that it would be a good idea to get into an electric car and trade-in my 2007 Yaris. I also have over $500 in Open Road points by having my car serviced every six months but much to my surprise even though these points can only be used to help pay for servicing or buying a new car, apparently that did not include the $500 that I was asked to put down as a deposit for a new Prius Prime – which is a plug-in hybrid rather than a pure EV. My concern has been that the Strata Council was not being very proactive in installing charge points in the garage, but apparently that may be changing too. Given that I have at least a six months wait, I will be using the Modo when I can to see if I even need to own a car at all. Especially after reading this article today which states that tire wear particulates are much worse than tailpipe emissions – and this is directly tied to vehicle weight. Batteries are much heavier than fuel tanks – and in North America the car makers are promoting ever larger, heavier vehicles. Not only do EVs not help at all with traffic congestion, they may make local air quality worse than ICE vehicles.

Broadway Subway Construction

Broadway Subway Construction
Arbutus Station: looking west from Maple St

Traffic deck installation begins today
www.broadwaysubway.ca/app/uploads/sites/626/2022/05/2022_…

Broadway Subway Project traffic deck installation
Traffic deck installation at the future Arbutus Station site BCTran photo

and the boring machines have arrived and are being installed at the eastern end of the new tunnel. That link gives you a PDF file of what is happening here at the other end of the new line but that website, run by the province, is by far the best source for detailed information on the project as a whole. In due course I hope to be able to make a video of the pictures that are collected now as a Flickr album to show the transformation.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 3, 2022 at 4:57 pm

Book Review

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This review has been removed.

The representative of the PR firm pushing the publicity campaign for its publication  has a different view of the meaning of “Fair Use” which, if followed, would have made this review incoherent. I am not willing to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 27, 2018 at 1:23 pm

What Vancouver Streets will look like

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A powerpoint presentation by Dale Bracewell (Manager of Transportation Planning, City of Vancouver) via Twitter

Three sample slides

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Download the complete presentation

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2018 at 2:38 pm

BC CLIMATE RESEARCHERS TACKLE LNG, ENERGY EFFICIENCY, TRANSPORT AND MORE

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Sorry about the shouty headline: the UVic Press Release uses all caps and my WP editor lacks a ‘change case’ key. This actually came to me from a tweet. You do follow me on twitter don’t you? There’s now a handy widget over there on the top right if you need it. Some of the tweets do get repeated by facebook, but not many of the retweets. And quite a lot of stuff that I see does not get blogged these days, especially since Twitter changed the way retweets are done that now can include commentary. Today, for the first time, I was able to retweet something with the terse comment “Horseshit!” – something, I now realize, I have wanted to do for a long time.

Climate research – and the long list of projects – is all very worthy, but I am afraid I am very much unimpressed. And I am also a bit inspired by a post in the Tyee which sets out the progressive manifesto 0f what needs to be done once we have got rid of Stephen Harper. So while the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) is doing its five year research project here are some things that we need to be doing right away. That is because action on climate change is now urgent. Like The Man said “We don’t have time for a meeting with the Flat Earth Society“. We do actually know what needs to be done and, sadly, these things seem to have slipped through the PICS net.

First note that they are hung up on gee whiz technology. We don’t actually need any of that. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we know about, familiar technologies and techniques that are held back simply by a combination of out of date policies and inertia. BC Transit was forced to waste money on hydrogen buses (whatever happened to them? I asked BCT but they have yet to reply) when we knew plenty about trolleybuses and extended range hybrid dual powered buses too. Nothing was learned from that five year demonstration project other than it is possible to truck hydrogen across the continent and convince yourself that you are helping the environment.

Transportation and the Built Environment are treated in the research list as two separate programmes. I wonder if the researchers will talk to each other over lunch sometimes? Because we all know that land use and transportation are two sides of the same coin. The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. The best way to save energy from transportation is to cut the need to make motorised trips. Community Energy Planning should have become mandatory fifteen years ago, but Glen Clark shut down the Energy Efficiency Branch of MEMPR – and forgot all about the BC Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program. Most of the advances that we are going to see in the field of transportation will come from a combination of information technology and deregulation. (See Bridj below) There’s a great deal we can do to make better use of what we have but the rules and regs get in the way. Like bike helmets, for instance. By the way did you know that the researchers who did the study that supports BC’s current helmet law have themselves repudiated that study? Protected bike lanes work better to both save lives and encourage bike use – and they are amazingly simple to introduce. As The Lady said, if you want to see change, do it quickly. The Burrard Bridge case is as convincing as any that chaos will not ensue.

Most of the change we need will start happening once we stop subsidizing fossil fuels. Indeed it is quite remarkable how much change is already under way, despite billions of dollars propping up what will soon be a dying industry. The tar sands are already uneconomic, and unnecessary, just as LNG export is a really stupid proposition in the present market. So stop throwing money at oil and gas, and you not only free up some fiscal headroom for sensible policies, but you also give the market the sort of signals it would have got if you had stuck to your guns over carbon tax. Ditch revenue neutral as a policy objective there, keep jacking up the carbon price and spend the proceeds on public transportation – local transit and high speed electric trains for longer distances. Electrify the main corridors straight away (Toronto – Ottawa – Montreal, Edmonton – Calgary) and then start building new high speed railways as cancelling freeway expansions permit. Maybe by then the Americans will have started to catch up with the rest of the world, and we can talk about Vancouver – Seattle – Portland.

What I do see as problematic is that we will probably be better at civilizing the suburbs than getting real change in urban areas, where many more people live in multifamily buildings. It’s pretty easy to put up your own solar panel, and put both a Tesla car and a home battery in your own garage. If you can afford it. It is going to be much harder to get equivalent changes in condos, though co-ops seem to be doing better with things like bike storage. Public housing, of course, has to go back on the agenda. It is not enough to make the existing housing stock more efficient when so much of it is out of range of the middle class, let alone the people who struggle on unlivable wages and such welfare assistance as survives. I do not see any work being done by PICS on environmental justice. But make no mistake, we do have to tackle the issue of the lack of jobs in range of affordable housing in transit deprived areas. We do need to think about how our energy policies can be used to create better employment prospects for our own population rather than simply looking to exploit export markets for barely transformed raw materials. “Researchers will also identify opportunities to substitute timber products for carbon-intensive steel, concrete or plastics used in many sectors, including the building industry.” Start first by banning the export of raw logs to ensure that there will be some local industry to produce these wonderful things.

I am really against spending so much on building technologies – where the potential savings in fossil fuels in BC are limited – when you have no plan to tackle the major user of liquid fuels – personal transportation. Again, we know that old fashioned ideas like trolleybuses, trams and interurbans – even diesel buses, for goodness sake – produce far less ghg per passenger kilometre than single occupant internal combustion engine cars and trucks. So we really do not need any more research on  “the distribution potential of alternative fuels including compressed (CNG), liquefied (LNG) and renewable (RNG) natural gas.” Even if every car could be electric, zero emission at a wave of a magic wand we would still have all the present problems of traffic, road deaths and urban sprawl. There is even less saving in ghg in having a carbon zero or even positive reduction in CO2 building if it is stuck out in the middle of nowhere – and everybody is driving to and from it! On the other hand, increasing bus service frequency and reliability – mostly by paint on the streets – is a well established technique for increasing transit use – and it doesn’t all come from cannibalising walking and cycling. Much of it comes from unpaid chauffeuring.

The article on Bridj really got me thinking. First note that this service is actually delivering something slower in downtown DC than can be achieved on a bike. But then this guy is also wasting time “20 minutes to shower and change” after his ride. Imagine someone from Copenhagen or Amsterdam writing that. Bridj could be a serious challenge to transit – much more than Uber and Lyft which are aimed at the taxi market. Or it could be a very useful supplement, and work much better than Community Shuttle service does in the suburbs. Indeed, when you look at how it works, isn’t that a good description of what HandyDART was supposed to do? And how about we simply abandon (once again) the old “separate but equal” philosophy, and instead of having a segregated service for people with disabilities – which actually does not work very well at all – but have a service which anyone can use. But is cheaper to deliver because you separate out the paying for it from using it. $5 for a ride on a profit making service? If the math is right, that is cheaper than most Community Shuttles, and much less than HandyDART. The driver, of course, would continue to help those who need assistance for door to door movement. As I have always said, in the low density areas (which includes most of Vancouver south of 12th Avenue) we need something better than a bus but cheaper than a taxi. Bridj isn’t going to attract people who can use really good transit. But then we don’t actually have that in much of the region, and it is not at all clear that we will turn out to be ready to pay for more of that yet. Oh, and before I forget, we would also need to sort out a much more equitable transit tariff, based on ability to pay, but that is a subject for another day.

Study: ‘It’s hard to beat gasoline’ on Air Quality

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I saw this on Planetizen and couldn’t resist the video

Now, we don’t have much ethanol around here, and the electricity we use is mostly  from existing hydro. So some of these results from the US don’t exactly translate here. So if you can afford a Tesla, go right ahead and don’t worry about those “electric cars are not so green” articles. The only time we use dirty, coal fired electricity is when our generating capacity is stretched at peak periods. Charge up your car overnight with a clear conscience.

The ethanol they refer to is E85 (85% of the fuel is ethanol): the most we use is 5 to 10%. At one time this was only true of so called premium fuels. Now it is not unusual to see ethanol in regular fuel and you may have to buy premium to avoid it. Most cars, of course, do not need premium fuel.

While hybrid cars do cut fuel consumption, this gets negated pretty quickly if you drive with a lead foot, or use a vehicle much bigger than you need. A smart car is going to use less gas than a giant SUV or truck, even if they are hybrids. And simple precautions like checking your tire pressures and not hauling a load of junk in your trunk will also cut your fuel consumption. Walking, cycling and transit (even if it is a diesel bus) are all better for the environment – and your own health.

Published on 15 Dec 2014

Life cycle air quality impacts of conventional and alternative light-duty transportation in the United States

Authors: Christopher W. Tessum, Jason D. Hill, and Julian D. Marshall

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A.

Full text is openly available at: www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.140685­3111

 

Electric Cars Won’t Save the Planet

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Tesla Model S

There is a lively debate going on first as a result of some research at North Carolina State and then some rebuttals at web sites like Slate. I was going to join in there but there are already 197 comments there – and anyway I am going to drag this off. It is not about the emissions – or lack of them. As I have said here before, the problem is that they are still cars. Cars are the problem. An electric car is a little bit better than an internal combustion engine car – but then a Smart car is better than an SUV or a Car2Go smart car is better than either. And in actual experience the emissions performance is better than expected.

Smart EV front off

But cars are still a leading cause of death and ill health. They take up far too much space in cities – moving and parked. We can easily accommodate the next million people who are coming to this region, but not if they insist on driving everywhere. Even the President of the Ford Motor Co recognizes that. It is bad enough what cars do to us – as the result of collisions and the inevitable congestion – but even worse is what it does to the places we live in. The interconnectedness of society is irreparably damaged by infrastructure designed simply to get cars through urban areas as quickly as possible.

We can easily electrify our transportation systems using existing technologies. We could build streetcar systems within towns and interurbans between them – and still live like they did in the 1920s. We could add electric high speed trains to cover longer distances, and reduce not just car travel but jet aircraft too – and that really does make a significant difference to emissions.

But the greatest benefit would be the ability to live without owning a car and getting everything we need within walking distance. We would abandon the ideas that have been so bad for us – like separating out land uses, and building single family home subdivisions which waste so much valuable farm land (which we do not value properly). We could protect much more of the wilderness and watersheds as a result. The reduced need for fossil fuels may be what drives this progress but the benefits in terms of health and quality of life are going to be the unique selling proposition that gets people on board. The sort of places which keep cars under control and make them largely unnecessary are going to be the ones that are most successful. While we now think that being “Green” is good, I think that “livable” may have been a more accurate term for what we want from urban regions.

But as long as there are lots of  “thought leaders” being seen in their Leafs or Teslas, we will continue to think that we can continue to live as though it was still the 1960s.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 5, 2014 at 10:31 am