Transportation: Do electric fire trucks make sense today?

Electrified fire trucks:

It can drive for up to 30 minutes on pure electric power, with a diesel generator for backup power.

Source: Fire Truck – Electric Fire Truck – Electric Vehicles

On the plus side, most fire trucks travel limited distances from their station to an emergency scene (by design) making them ideal for EV platforms with limited range. Of course they occasionally travel longer distances for out of district support and training.

During a fire, the truck must also power large water pumps. However, the majority of fire engine responses are not for fighting fires. When I was a volunteer firefighter, about 2% of calls were for fires, about 10%+ for vehicle accidents, and almost 90% for medical aid. Each department will have different ratios, of course.

On the negative side, the typical city fire truck averages about 5,000 miles per year:  converting to EV platforms has little impact on overall CO2 emissions compared to other options. They just don’t drive very far (by design!). By comparison, a typical large diesel semi truck used in transportation travels almost 70,000 miles per year.  Which EV conversion would have a larger impact on CO2 emissions?

(Click on image for larger view)

New ICE fire trucks appear to now cost about $500,000 and up; prices have risen rapidly in recent years due to new  safety requirements from the NFPA and that new trucks are generally larger than the vehicles they are replacing. Paying $1 million and more for a fire truck has become routine –  which seems pretty obscene but no one bats an eye because public safety.

Transportation: EV battery life

Tesla does not say how many times its batteries can be re-charged.  Since the number of charge cycles is dependent on many variable factors, that is understandable for Tesla not to provide a number. They do provide an 8-year, 90% capacity guarantee option, however.

Panasonic, which makes the batteries, citing laboratory tests (which may be very different than real world conditions) says about 6,000 cycles. An EV that drove 200 miles between charges would then see 200 x 6,000 or 1.2 million miles; the vehicle and various components would give out before that, if true.

Let’s assume half that rating or 3,000 cycles – then we’d see 600,000 miles, possibly in line with the maximum real world life of other components, and  way ahead of most vehicles on the road today. Amortizing your vehicle costs over 600,000 miles with minor maintenance (EVs need less maintenance than ICE[1]), tire replacement and so on, would provide a surprisingly low cost per mile. As noted below, this could be a very important factor in applications such as taxis which may drive 200 miles per day, every day. (And note that newer Teslas can get well over 300 miles on a full charge.)

At 200 miles/day, a car would rack up a million miles in just over 13 years. A taxi with a more normal 250,000 mile life (which is how long New York taxis last) is worn out in 4 to 5 years. If you can make the vehicle last that long, you seriously reduce the depreciation part of the robotaxi economics model and thus reduce the cost of a ride, since today depreciation is the largest cost factor in operating a car. Depreciation of the battery has been one of the largest costs of operating (and fast charging) an electric car. In fact, you can reduce depreciation so far that it becomes secondary to other costs like energy, risk, maintenance and logistics.

Source: Tesla’s Battery Guru Describes A New Cell With Massive Lifetime

Related: What causes batteries to lose capacity or fail more quickly?

From that web page leading factors in reducing capacity are:

  1. High temperatures.
  2. Overcharging or high voltage.
  3. Deep discharges or low voltage.
  4. High discharges or charge current.

Not shown, but cold temperatures reduce the operating range which can then, in turn, lead to deep discharging the battery.

There isn’t a one size fits all answer then to how many charge cycles are available in a battery. Some real world users have reported significant degradation at 50,000 miles while others have said they see minor degradation as they have passed through 100,000 or 200,000 miles. The number of cycles varies based on which EV vehicle you have, battery capacity and chemistry, whether the vehicle does effective pack and thermal management, and how the vehicle is used and how the battery is re-charged.

Nissan claims 8+ year battery life for their smaller 30 kwh pack in the Leaf. In fact, their real world data suggests much longer life, resulting in batteries being usable well beyond the life of the vehicle. This had led to suggestions that “old” EV batteries might be repurposed in a second life after the car wears out, such as in solar PV installations.

VW, meanwhile, expects its batteries will have 70% of capacity after about 100,000 miles.

[1] Tesla maintenance, which generally can only be done at a Tesla authorized dealer, is said to average about $500 per year, which is considerably less than ICE vehicles, serviced at dealers (over time). That, however, includes routine items like changing wipe blades, some fluids, light bulbs and what not, which are presumably items that the end user could elect to do themselves, saving money.

EVs, however, do depreciate faster than ICE vehicles, at least for now.

Installing a home charger can cost $1,000 and up, depending on availability of a 220 circuit and/or the need to run a long line and install a subpanel.

Transportation: 56% of Norway’s new cars are EV-based – but geesh, crappy journalism

42% of Norway’s car sales were pure battery electric, and almost 14% were plug-in hybrid. Tesla Model 3 was the best-selling car, with 11% of the market.

Source: 56% of Norway’s new cars had a plug in 2019, Tesla Model 3 overall best-seller – Electrek

In other words, the government pays consumers massive subsidies to purchase EVs today.

The reporter says EVs are a success in Norway and if they can be so successful in Norway, EVs can be successful anywhere!

The reporter does mention  oil subsidies (exaggerated by converting ordinary business tax credits that apply to all businesses into “oil subsidies”) but does not mention anything about Norway’s EV subsidies. The result is a fake news article by a dufus reporter.

So yes, EVs can be successful in any country with pre-existing cheap, non CO2-producing power and where 50% or more of the EVs’ purchase price is subsidized by the government. This model  surely works in all countries! Not.

What a crappy piece of journalism.

Transportation: Tesla produced 367,500 EVs in 2019

Tesla said Friday that it delivered 367,500 electric vehicles in 2019 — 50% more than the previous year — a record-breaking figure largely supported by sales of the cheaper Model 3.

More than one-third of those deliveries — about 112,000 vehicles — occurred in the fourth quarter.

Source: Tesla surpasses 2019 goal and delivers 367,500 electric vehicles | TechCrunch

And as 2020 gets underway, Tesla has ramped up to 3,000 vehicles per week in their new China factory.

Transportation: New battery promises for EVs

Nikola, a start-up that has focused on hydrogen and battery-powered heavy-duty trucks, isn’t offering many details about the new technology and, considering that other promised breakthroughs have failed to prove production ready, there are plenty of skeptics. Even if it does pan out, tech consultancy ABI Research warns it would likely take several years, at the soonest, to begin manufacturing.

Source: Could this new battery slash the cost of an electric car?

They claim – indirectly – that their battery would extend the range of EVs to 750 miles . Specifically, they say that with 2,000 charge/discharge cycles, their battery is good for 1.5 million miles. 1.5 million divided by 2,000 is 750 miles.

As a practical matter, while ICE vehicles do exceed 500,000 miles life, at times, I wonder what the typical max lifetime mileage of an EV will be? Keep in mind that besides motors and batteries, there are other things that fail over time, including interior finishing,  steering wheel covers, controls, window seals, etc. Still, if their claims are true, this implies excellent range and long lifetime battery banks.

Similarly, IBM recently announced a claimed breakthrough in battery tech made from common materials and enabling extremely fast charging. But as with Nikola, no details have been provided.

IBM Reveals staggering new battery tech – withholds details

Hopefully one of these breakthroughs works! And soon!

Longer ranges – or faster charging – is important for EV success. We could take a year round/4 season range of 300+ miles if charging could be completed in perhaps 15-20 minutes, or a 4 season range of 600 + miles (looking at the routes we travel). One or both of the two options would improve EV practicality by a lot. Of course, affordability will be a key factor. Current EVs with a 200+ mile range are priced and marketed as luxury vehicles and are not yet for the masses.

Price and range anxiety are the two largest impediments to purchasing an EV.

FAA plans to regulate home built model aircraft out of existence – you need to file comments now

The FAA’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making for Remote ID goes well beyond just remote ID. I have not had time – yet – to read the entire proposal, but it does include a requirement that all model aircraft be tracked in real time, once per second. Where “Internet is available” (which they mean 3G to 5G cell service), the position information must be relayed through a phone app to an Internet cloud database for real time tracking. They propose that third parties will run this air traffic management system and everyone will be charged an annual subscription fee. They’ve pulled a number out of a hat and say this might cost $30 per year (presumably PER aircraft); if this estimate is as accurate as the Affordable Care Act estimates were, then it will probably cost more like $100 per year. They will also change pilot registration to per aircraft registration, charging $5 per aircraft to be registered.

This is contrary to the recommendation of their own consensus of stakeholders advisory committee which recommend EITHER Internet tracking OR broadcast remote ID depending on the use and application. The FAA instead said it wants BOTH to be mandated. It is not entirely clear what happens when Internet is not available, and how they define that. If you have TMobile and no service, but Verizon has coverage are you required to also have Verizon service? While you can fly without Internet service such as in remote lands, there may be enforced restrictions such as a 400 foot horizontal limit (enforced by the certified quadcopter controller).

When the rule takes effect, they say all existing drones will be prohibited from flight after a grace period. Only new drones with certified real time tracking will be permitted. Only certain manufactured drones that can be updated by the manufacturer could be updated with transponder remote ID support. All others must be trashed.

The proposal would limited home built model aircraft to selected FAA approved sites only. This part of the rule is written in away that it gradually eliminates the sites over time and eventually, it will be illegal to fly any home built model aircraft. Only manufactured aircraft with certified remote IDs would be permitted.

Start here

We have 60 days to file public comments. Do that here

While it is easy to post a rant comment, it will be more effective to write logical, fact and evidence based comments. It is likely that in the next days to weeks that we will see recommended talking points from the AMA, and FPV organizations. If you are not following discussions on social media, you may wish to look for FPV groups, drone groups and model aircraft groups on such places as Facebook. Several of them are or soon will be posting guides to help with comments.

It will be helpful for the sheer number of comments to be large, even if you only say little. With the FAA saying there are low millions of quadcopters, there needs to be more than 100,000 comments filed in opposition.

It is clear that the FAA’s intent is to raise very high hurdles for recreational use of the low altitude airspace – effectively, the FAA is attempting to privatize and sanitize the low level airspace for the de facto exclusive use of corporations such as Amazon and UPS. They are not even hiding that this is the goal.

Reminder: Quadcopters have killed zero people.

In the 4 days after the FAA released their preliminary proposal, there were 3 light plane crashes in Hawaii, Louisiana and Maryland, taking 13 lives. In late 2018 and early 2019, 346 people lost their lives in the crash of the FAA certified 737 MAX. In that case, the FAA had sold itself to Boeing, and the FAA has now sold itself to Amazon and UPS.

There were 14,400 aircraft collisions with birds at just 700 of the 15,000 airports in the U.S. in 2017. 285 people have died since 1988 due to bird strikes. From 1990 to 2017, there were 311 human injuries attributed to wildlife strikes with US civil aircraft.

0 people died due to drones.


Adds perspective to the hysterical mania regarding the public use of model aircraft and their alleged danger to aircraft.

Again, there have been zero deaths due to model aircraft. The FAA is intent on regulating them out of existence while the FAA’s own malfeasance on the 737 MAX contributed to the death of 346 people in the past 16 months.

Transportation: Vehicle miles driven per capita are dropping

“For decades, the country’s driving pattern moved in sync with the economy. Now, we’re driving less even though the economy has been expanding for more than a decade.”

Source: America’s Love Affair With Driving Takes a Back Seat – WSJ

This trend is important and is apparently invisible. Oregon and Utah have launched optional vehicle gas or license fees based on miles traveled rather than a fixed annual fee. (A problem with this method is they charge you for miles traveled out of state too.)

Some news reports suggest a per mile charge is needed because of better gas mileage vehicles but miss that people are driving driving less.

“The program emerges after states saw gas tax revenues fall continually in recent years, largely because cars are getting better mileage — and because a growing number of electric and hybrid vehicles escape that tax.”

Cars are getting better gas mileage. EVs, though, represent about 1% (or less) of cars on the road and are an insignificant factor at this time.

The real reason is people may be driving less than in the past while vehicles achieve better gas mileage.

Energy: Lifecycle GHG emissions from a hybrid, plug in hybrid and an EV are about the same

This graphic, from the International Energy Agency, illustrates the lifetime CO2 equivalent emissions from different types of vehicles. “BEV” is a battery electric vehicle with a 400 km range, HEV is a hybrid (like Prius), PHEV is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle.  This chart assumes the GHG emissions from electricity generation plants are in line with the global average. (FCEV is a fuel cell/hydrogen based system.)

Notably, BEVs are NOT zero emission vehicles and are, in general, on par with PHEVs and Prius-like hybrids when viewing their overall lifecycle emissions.


Source: Global EV Outlook 2019 – Analysis – IEA

The IEA’s model assumes similar sized vehicles in each category, that the EVs have a 400 km range (this determines the battery size), and that local electrical generation emits the global average CO2-equivalent for electricity generation. If the EV range were to be extended by 200 km more, add in the gray zone box above the EV column.

Energy: In many countries, hybrid gas/EVs emit lower emissions than pure electric vehicles

An average battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars using electricity characterised by the current global average carbon intensity (518 grammes of carbon-dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour [g CO2-eq/kWh]) emit less GHGs than a global average ICE vehicle using gasoline over their life cycle. But the extent ultimately depends on the power mix: CO2 emissions savings are significantly higher for electric cars used in countries where the power generation mix is dominated by low-carbon sources. In countries where the power generation mix is dominated by coal, hybrid vehicles exhibit lower emissions than EVs.

Source: Global EV Outlook 2019 – Analysis – IEA

Says the International Energy Agency.

Energy: Unplugging your cell phone charger does nearly nothing for the environment

Few people have any idea about the lifetime energy usage of popular consumer products.  50-75% of the energy and green house gas emissions for many cars occurs during manufacturing. Switching to an EV (for which much of its lifetime energy/GHGs is during manufacturing) may have little benefit to the earth.

When it comes to unplugging your cell phone charger:

Moreover, charging accounts for less than 1% of a phone’s energy needs; the other 99% is required to manufacture the handset and operate data centers and cell towers.

Source: Empty Gestures on Climate Change by Bjørn Lomborg – Project Syndicate

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