Civilizations New Pony Ride

If you haven’t driven an electric car, you are missing out on civilizations latest pony ride. The end of the internal combustion engine is near at hand, the greasy mess is headed into the history books before it triggers the mother of all mass extinction events─ you know like wiping all of life from the face of the earth. Sorry to be so cheery.

Freight trains are pulled with diesel powered engines that spin huge alternators that power electric turbine motors, it is how these beasts put the power down on the rails to move the cargo. Bean counters, scientists and engineers from Lawrence Livermore Labs have penciled out spinning the locomotives turbine motors by replacing the alternators power and instead using lithium batteries. The retrofit doesn’t require the diesel motors or alternators to be removed, then one way or another the locomotives can move the freight regardless of whether the sun shines or the wind blows.

Locomotive pulling coal from Wyoming to Pueblo, Colorado

The Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles ship over 12,000 cargo containers to downtown LA every day. The dedicated railway is known as the Alameda Corridor. Running non-diesel trains is going to be a huge win for the LA air basin. When the entire fleet of locomotives is retrofitted with lithium batteries and recharged off-peak hours the savings enjoyed by not having to purchase diesel comes close to offsetting the entire price of the retrofit. This is huge!

Leave it to the Livermore Lab bean counters they calculate there is even more they can do with battery powered locomotives. Let’s say there is an earthquake or wildfire, and power is knocked out, Santa Barbara has gone dark, long distance power lines have failed, there is an emergency, and as we have all been realizing we live in the era of emergencies. Battery powered locomotives could be deployed to the region hook into the nearby switching yard and instead of using the charging station to add more electricity to their batteries they could discharge their stored energy and supply electricity to the stricken community. Locomotives are no longer one trick pony’s, instead they are strategic assets, cleaning the air, their mobility in an emergency, their enormous storage capacity able to back up the grid, distribution of assets such as this are the stuff of dreams.

What I’m talking about here isn’t pie in the sky or an imitation alligator wallet sold on the boulevards by some sidewalk showman with a fake Rolex you just have to see to believe. This is the real deal, and you know how I like the Isley Brothers.

Not Much Has Changed in the Last 100 years

Just over the horizon, just beyond what you can see from where you sit right now are a host of energy opportunities that are going to revolutionize how we distribute electricity. On my block I count maybe 50 vehicles, four are Tesla’s. My charger isn’t a dumb lump of coal, it is a communication hub, the charger mediates between the grid and the car. Setting the time, I charge my batteries for off-peak hours charging saves money, in the near future we’ll be able to opt in and allow the power company to discharge the car’s batteries (for a fee or credit) with the promise to fill them back up in time for the vehicles next scheduled trip. That feature is near at hand. A fleet of electric vehicles is a fully distributed storage system that is spread across our residential neighborhoods. Every 60-kWh battery pack is an opportunity, this will revolutionize the design and functionality of our energy system.  

Driving a Big Boat with Fins

Thirty-six months from now this one street will see 10-15 electric cars parked on this block, that would be a whopping 750-1000 kWh (kilowatt hours) available for the grid operator to deploy as is needed. You add another 100 to 1000 blocks with similar potential power and you are talking about some serious stored energy reserves.

I drove into San Francisco yesterday. Dave, my lifelong wild and wonderful man of a thousand clowns and one drop dead serious sailboat racer friend had a few parts to give me and a Ducati to show. Roundtrip there and back I did 60 miles. The 2003 Volvo burning regular unleaded fuel used about 3 gallons plus. Rounding up the trip it cost about $20.00. Same trip in the electric vehicle works out like this…

 We average about $52 per month for electricity for both our home and car here in Northern California. Charging the electric vehicle at night has been averaging not even $1.00, more like .83 cents per day, or about half our monthly electricity bill… figure $25.

Sweet Dreams until they’re Not

Locomotives are a different kind of beast but figure the same trip to the City would have cost $350 using diesel, but if the train had made the run on its batteries that same distance would have cost $20-$30. That kind of savings is impossible to ignore.  

All the smart meters on the sides of our home are also two-way communication devices, grid operators can identify an electric car and the state of charge of its batteries once it is plugged in. Using software grid operators can borrow or store energy from the batteries, flow is everything, they might use the power to run another home, then return the borrowed power back to the EV in time for the owner’s next scheduled trip. This will add resiliency to our energy system and lower costs.

Gas powered vehicles are a pay as you go operation. I’ve been running about 18,000 miles per year. The Volvo takes about $3000-$4000 in gas to go that far. The electric vehicle if plugged in from home will run somewhere between $300-$400 per…

Monthly Bill

Do your homework. In 2022 there is going to be more money available from the government to subsidize electric vehicle purchases. A $12,500 subsidy will make a great many models affordable, figure you could pick one up for less than $30,000. Without a fat gas bill on your credit card, it might just pencil out, and like that you’ve liberated yourself from the tyranny of fluctuating gas prices.

If you are a carpenter, plumber or electrician and drive a truck the new electric Ford pickup truck could be a gamechanger. Plus, besides the subsidy you might also write off your business expenses, besides getting rid of high fuel bills, and plus if you get to a job site and there hasn’t been power lines hooked up, you’ve got a ready to use source of electricity in your truck that you can use for your power tools.

A Day in the Life

If we can get a few million work trucks on the road, electrify locomotives, school buses, United States Postal Service delivery vehicles, everything UPS, FedEx and Amazon use we will be able to turn our attention to pieces of our energy system that are going to be more difficult to resolve as we fight to hold down the rising temperatures. OPEC knows this all too well, this tipping point is just ahead, it’s here now.

This is the fight we are in, some of it is hard, operating an electric vehicle, it isn’t hard, it is easy, its fun, and as they say the biggest no-brainer in the history of mankind. Let’s go

2 thoughts on “Civilizations New Pony Ride”

  1. Looking forward to the change, even though I don’t drive much these days, mileage wise. Some rewiring of the garage will be necessary, I bet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s