Category Archives: Energy

California proposes to steer new homes from gas appliances

Gas appliances will still be permitted, for now.

The California Energy Commission released a draft building standards code on Thursday that would require new homes to be equipped with circuits and panels that support all-electric appliances for heating, cooking and drying clothes.

Source: California proposes to steer new homes from gas appliances

We are going to put some large demands on the electric grid – electric heating and water heating use a very large amount of electricity. So too does EV charging. Simultaneously, the Biden administration has proposed shutting down 12-13 fossil fuel power plants every month through 2035. It is not clear how that power generation capacity will be replaced – that would be building the equivalant of 3 alternative power plants every week for the next 14 years.

20% of EV owners end up switching back to gas powered vehicles

“Here, on the basis of results from five questionnaire surveys, we find that PEV discontinuance in California occurs at a rate of 20% for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle owners and 18% for battery electric vehicle owners. We show that discontinuance is related to dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging, having other vehicles in the household that are less efficient, not having level 2 (240-volt) charging at home, having fewer household vehicles and not being male.”

Source: New study explains why nearly 20 percent of electric car owners return to gas | TheHill

Charging seems to be a key issue. Survey also says Tesla owners are least likely to switch back to gas vehicles.

Biden proposes to close 12-13 coal or gas fired power plants every month for the next 14 years

Building on and benefiting from that foundation, America’s 2030 target picks up the pace of emissions reductions in the United States, compared to historical levels, while supporting President Biden’s existing goals to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050

Source: FACT SHEET: President Biden Sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Union Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies | The White House

That means in 14 years, we need to shut down and replace the power from existing coal and gas fired electrical power production plants.

According to Wikipedia, the U.S. had 1,900 natural gas power plants, 241 coal fired plants in 2019, and 1076 oil fired power plants (all very small, with less than 1% of electrical production).

Ignoring small oil fired plants, this means shutting down 1,900 and 241 or 2,141 power plants over the next 14 years – or 12 to 13 power plants EVERY MONTH over the next 14 years. Conversely, this means building replacements for 12 to 13 power plants every month, using as yet mostly unknown technologies (e.g. grid sized batteries which could include battery tech, water or mass storage systems).

Simultaneously, electrical usage is likely to increase due to EV charging and prohibition on natural gas furnaces in new homes, and some jurisdictions discussing mandatory future replacement of existing gas or oil home furnaces with electric heating.

This seems to be a difficult goal to achieve.

New battery chemistry said to provide 10x faster charging than Li-Ion batteries

Researchers in Russia have developed a new type of battery technology that they say can charge approximately 10 times faster than existing lithium-ion batteries – a speed-up that could offer huge time-saving advantages if it got rolled out in everyday devices.”

A battery manufactured using our polymer will charge in seconds – about 10 times faster than a traditional lithium-ion battery,” says electrochemistry researcher Oleg Levin from St Petersburg University. “This has already been demonstrated through a series of experiments.”

The key to the new batteries is a kind of nitroxyl-based redox polymer, a material that can undergo reversible oxidation (loss of electrons) and reduction (gain of electrons) when it discharges and charges.

Source: New Type of Battery Can Charge 10x Faster Than Lithium-Ion Models

Irrational Covid Fears – The New York Times

It’s a classic example of human irrationality about risk. We often underestimate large, chronic dangers, like car crashes or chemical pollution, and fixate on tiny but salient risks, like plane crashes or shark attacks.

One way for a risk to become salient is for it to be new. That’s a core idea behind Calabresi’s fable. He asks students to consider whether they would accept the cost of vehicle travel if it did not already exist. That they say no underscores the very different ways we treat new risks and enduring ones.

Source: Irrational Covid Fears – The New York Times

Years ago, John Stossel proposed a similar scenario to an audience. He was aware of a new energy system that could heat homes at cheaper cost and reduce green house gases too. But it came with a risk: they estimated about 450 people would die per year due to issues with the technology in the home setting.

Would you approve use of this system?

Almost all of the audience said no – but then when audience member asked, “Is this by chance natural gas?” Which it was. It illustrates how we take some risks for granted – but new risks not so much.

Federal government might de facto ban sale of most new gas powered cars as soon as 2026

The government is considering setting miles per gallon requirements so high that few gas vehicles could achieve those goals – and this could come as soon as 2026, just 5 years out.

While Regan did not mention any specific numbers, he did not rule out emissions limits that would force the phasing out of fossil-fuel vehicles. To achieve that, the number would probably be in the range of 60-70 miles per gallon combined, according to EPA methodology, which is what appears on new cars’ Monroney stickers. Today’s gas-powered cars struggle to crack 40 mpg combined, and hybrids have trouble getting more than 60 mpg combined. The least-efficient electric vehicle, on the other hand, the Porsche Taycan, gets the equivalent of 69 mpg.

Source: Biden admin could set emissions limits so high gas cars can’t meet them | Ars Technica

That would require a massive re-alignment of manufacturing and service sectors in a short period of time, and a phase out perhaps of many gas service stations.

Related: Yesterday I calculated the total electrical production of my solar PV system versus the power we use. As of the end of March, during the preceding 12 months, we produced almost 1.4 MWH of power we did not use. Since we are now in a sunnier part of the year, by the end of April, I suspect our excess power may be as much as 1.8 MWH.

Because we are intertied to the utility grid, that excess power production gets used elsewhere. Our power utility gifts the “Free power” (free to them) to charity. Our 12-month “production” counter is reset by the utility on May 1 and we then started banking power for the coming 12 months.

Our PV system is considered small – most homes, including the neighbor across the street, have PV systems 1.5 to 2x larger than ours. We are just very efficient with electricity consumption. The 1.8 MWH of excess power means we could charge an EV from the sun for our routine local driving (we do not own an EV at this time).

Electric vehicle fantasies

a 2015 study found the richest 20 percent of Americans received 90 percent of these generous EV subsidies.

Source: Electric vehicle fantasies

Likely a similar skewed ratio for solar PV on roof tops. Note – I have solar PV and so does my neighbor across the street, now.

Update: A bill is proposed in Congress to pay up to $1,500 tax credit for the purchase of an “e-bike”. This would supposedly be good for the environment (pedaling a bike would be better) and your health (no it would not).

Heck, let’s just subsidize everything!

Bill Gates: Nuclear power will ‘absolutely’ be politically acceptable

Agree:

Nuclear power has to overcome a baneful reputation garnered by association with the atomic bomb and radioactive disasters, but it’s a necessary, worthy and surmountable challenge to correct the naysayers, according to Gates.

That’s because the need for clean energy is dire, and the operation of nuclear power plants produces no greenhouse gas emissions. According to Gates, new innovations in nuclear technology (in which he is an investor) are making nuclear energy safer and more affordable, and countries around the world are starting to adopt nuclear power.

Source: Bill Gates: Nuclear power will ‘absolutely’ be politically acceptable

Hyundai to replace battery packs in 82,000 EVs

After many EVs caught fire, a defect was identified inside the individual battery cells. The company will not replace the entire battery packs in their EVs made between Nov 2017 and March 2020.

Source: Hyundai Announces Massive Battery Recall For Roughly 82,000 BEVs

From an environmental standpoint, this large recall likely negates environmental gains from all EV sales. Yuck.

The immediate need for 82,000 new battery packs in an industry currently constrained by battery supply will hinder sales of many EVs for some time. Literally, this is 2 1/2 years production from a single large EV manufacturer (Hyundai).

Meanwhile, GM indicates they will have a fix for the Chevy Bolt EV fires in earlier models. They indicate a software update will be able to detect future battery problems, alert the driver, and then repair or replace the battery bank before it catches fire. The underlying problem on the Chevy Bolt is not the same as that on the Hyundai cars although both resulted in fires.

Why did the Chevy Bolt and Hyundai Kona batteries catch fire?

This linked story has a good explanation of EV battery tech and how a component failure may have led to battery fires.

Koren news sources are citing anonymous sources claiming that Hyundai has found the cause of the battery fires causing both the Bolt and Hyundai recalls.

Source: Cause of LG’s battery fires rumored to be found (updated) – Electrek

Battery chemistry and technology is difficult, more than most of us realize.

The rumors are that the car makers will end up replacing individual cells or entire battery banks. GM acknowledged earlier this week that they are making progress towards resolving the battery problem and implied that battery replacement might be an option.