Electric Cars: Time to level the playing field

Electric cars inspire dreaming, not only on the part of some consumers, observers and enthusiasts but also vanguard citicar-2by public authorities who are trying hard to work their way out of the twin-headed hydra of finding the difficult path to sustainable transport in cities, and in many cases also having to deal with an auto industry in painful transition. As someone who drove a small ecar every day for ten years in Paris traffic (see attached pic), I personally found it a grand way to get around the city. But is that the crux of the issue here? I think not.

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Report. Policy Pathways: A Tale of Renewed Cities

report cover - IEA on Renewed CitiesToday the International Energy Agency has published a new report,  A Tale of Renewed Cities.   The report draws on examples from more than 30 cities across the globe to show how to improve transport efficiency through better urban planning and travel demand management. Extra benefits include lower greenhouse-gas emissions and higher quality of life.  According to the report, policies that improve the energy efficiency of urban transport systems could help save as much as USD 70 trillion in spending on vehicles, fuel and transportation infrastructure between now and 2050.

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Economic Growth Enigma: Money or Energy

robert ayres - 2Professor Robert Ayres will be joining The Sustainable Development, Economy and Society Master Class at the ISG in Paris this year as a guest speaker on Thursday at 14:00.  You will find a short bio note summarizing some of the high points of his career and prolific  output just below. In his presentation  and in  the following question period Ayres will be looking at some important aspects of the future of the planet, which holds out some interesting clues for the future career and expertise choices of young people looking at a future business career.  As he rakes through the smoldering coals of a world soon to be  saddled with post-peak oil prices that will never again come back to “normal”, he may have a few clues for your future.

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Due to lose? Well maybe not quite yet.

An article of April 26, 2013,” The Race of Our Lives”(GMO) by Jeremy World population densityGrantham, is a worthwhile read on your Tablet. Click here for article.)  .   In part because his basic thesis is that the white horse of hope for the future of our endangered species and planet just might turn out to be the triple whammy of (a) serious autopilot demographic downsizing, (b) deus ex machina help from our extended 21st century brains (think internet and/or Zetabytes) and (c) the bountiful near-term harvest of renewable energy. It’s a pretty good read for your spare time.

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Op-Ed. Italian Perspectives on Carsharing: Past Practices, Future Prospects

ICS Car sharing genova This report on carsharing history, practices and prospects in Italy is contributed by Carlo Iacovini who has been one of the most active figures in the development of the industry in Italy since he became actively involved in planning and developing new carsharing systems in 1996.

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Op-Ed: Where Does SLoCaT Stand in Realizing Sustainable Transport?

Three years ago the Partnership on Sustainable, Low Carbon Transport slocat logo(SLoCaT) was established to address the relative absence of sustainable transport in the global discussions on sustainable development and climate change. Rapid motorization in the developing world and its negative impacts motivated the organizations that came together in SLoCaT. There was agreement that SLoCaT should initially have a mandate for three years only and that by the end of 2012 a decision would be made whether to call it a day or to go on, possibly, with a revised mission. Those three years have gone by. So where is SLoCaT now and what is next; declare victory and move on, admit defeat and move on, or stay in the fight? Continue reading

Autolib’ to the starting line

This weekend saw the first public testing of the much bruited Autolib’ carshare project currently getting underway here in Paris. And as you wait for our in-depth coverage, on-the-spot  interviews and film  we thought you might find it handy to refresh your understanding of the basic objectives and challenges, with this reprint of our 10 December 2010 article in which we try to take a balanced view of this ambitious transportation project.  You will be hearing a lot more about Autolib’ in the coming months. If it works, it will be a major transformative project and will make a lot of people start to think in quite different terms about how they are going to get around in the city in the future. (For a quick print update try here and here.  And for a short video, here) Continue reading

Op-Ed, Cornie Huizenga: The transport sector as leader in the sustainability debate?

There are a lot of reasons which need to be investigated if we are to have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the sustainable transportation wars. The first step in this necessary process is to accept that by any reasonable measure, we are losing the war and losing it badly — in such a way that each day our sector in cities around the world is one that is in a state of increasing disruption and destruction, aggressing our most fundamental human and social values. It is that bad, and anyone who refuses to accept this is very definitely part of the problem. But then, once we have accepted the bad news, it is time to stop the weeping and figure out how can start to reverse this mounting tide of poor policies, unwise investments, and other abject indifference to all of those who are left worse off in the process. Let me stand aside here and give the word to Cornie Huizenga who has some thoughtful positive suggestions s to where we might go from here. Continue reading

More on Illich, energy and equity

This commentary, just in from reader John Verity writing from Sonoma County, north of San Francisco, takes Illich beyond his original point of departure in this essay written in 1974, discussing the flow of his thinking on energy and technology that appeared in other pages and books in the decade that followed.

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Energy and Equity, Ivan Illich.

Earlier this week I proposed the idea of a group read and commentary on Illich’s incisive and important 1974 book “Energy and Equity”, but as I thrashed through my personal library I was unable to lay my hands on what I remember as a small book with a yellow cover. Luckily Jane Voodikon, a Jason Chang Fellow and journalist from Chengdu, came to the rescue with a link to the full text which follows (thanks in turn to clevercycles.com and certainly with the full approval of Illich given the fact that Amazon’ best price for the hard cover edition today was $269.21). How do you think these remarks and views stand the test of time? We need to bear in mind the political (Vietnam, Cold War, Allende,  1968, etc.) currents of the time, along with the Oil Crisis, Club of Rome, The Limits of Growth,  etc., discussions, concerns and panics of the early seventies.  But none of this detracts from the singular vision that this exceptional observer and finest of men has given us.

So here you have it. The whole thing. Print it out. Mark it up. Share your thoughts. Let me take a single phrase from the book to get the ball rolling: “Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology. Only participatory democracy creates the conditions for rational technology.” (And this almost two decades before the phrase “sustainable development” first appeared on the radar screen.  So off we go with Illich as our guide!) Continue reading

Transport, Mobility and/or Access – Technologies, Management and/or Behavior?

Part I: Getting it wrong from the start.
One of the great, long-proven truths of policy and practice in the transport field is the we all to often start out by jumping right into the middle of the problem set – instead of taking the time to sit back and figure out what really is going on. This genuinely disturbing tendency to premature postulation more often than not leads us to weak answers to important problems. Worse yet, this brain-light process all too often brings us to do just about the opposite of what the full problem set actually calls for. Continue reading

Oil Spills, Environmentalism and lessons to be learned: Viewed from a Louisiana perspective

Outraged at BP are we? Disappointed that the United States government, the most powerful in the world, seems to be unable to handle the problems that are being created when one of some four thousand oil rigs currently operating in the Gulf of Mexico springs a leak? You’re an environmentalist, and it is only natural that you get mad. But before you start to chew the carpet in the full bloom of righteousness, what about a quick look in the mirror?
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Don’t count on "alternative fuels" to save the world? (Dark bet on a pessimistic, high tech future)

Here we have an unusually perceptive piece from a specialist in chaos theory who helps us make sense of the “alternative fuels” proposals and claims. It is good to have his hardheaded expert view on the potential of alternative fuels in our future transportation arrangements. But it is important too that we reflect on his dark bet on a pessimistic, high-technology future: in which he sees us as stumbling from crisis to crisis, in response to which we manage each time to come up with last-minute ad hoc “solutions” which leave us as still basically operational, but not all that much more. That I am afraid is the bleak face of the future, unless we are able to find the vision and leadership to do otherwise.

The Methadone Economy

– Tom Konrad, 27 April 2010.

Peak Oil Investments I’m Putting My Money On:
If the measure of success for alternative fuels is the ability to continue to live in suburbs and commute in multi-ton boxes of metal on congested freeways for hours each day, then alternative fuels will fail. No alternative fuel has the existing infrastructure, supply potential, energy density, and low environmental impact that we would need to replace oil without changing our unsustainable lifestyle.

Peak oil may mean the end of bigger and bigger cars driven farther and farther on more and more congested roads. Peak oil may mean the end of suburban life as we know it. Yet life as we don’t know it does need not be a vision out of Mad Max. Peak oil will mean changes, some for the better, some for the worse.

The surest change peak oil will bring is less driving, in fewer vehicles that are filled closer to capacity. Those vehicles will use less oil (or alternative fuels) per person-mile. We’ll also find ways to satisfy the desires and needs that we currently satisfy with travel without traveling.

Alternative Fuels

The first eight parts of this series looked into alternative fuels. I concluded that no alternative fuel listed could replace oil as we use it today fast enough to replace dwindling oil supplies. Conventional biofuels cannot be produced in enough quantity, and making hydrogen is an inefficient use of electricity or natural gas. Electric vehicles are too expensive or have too little range. There is not enough natural gas and there is too little fueling infrastructure to make natural gas vehicles practical on a large scale. Gas-to-liquids makes sense for stranded natural gas, but there are too many other high value uses for natural gas to make a large dent in declining oil supplies. Coal to liquids does too much environmental harm, and algae needs too much more technological development to achieve its promise in time.

The biggest problem with alternative fueled vehicles, however, is not the alternative fuels, the problem is the vehicles and how we use them.

Oil was a one-time bonanza of a readily available, easily transportable, durable, energy-dense liquid. With oil, humanity won a natural resources lottery ticket. Like a lottery winner who blows cash that could have lasted a lifetime in a few months, we now need to realize that we’ve spent most of our winnings. It’s unreasonable to expect that we’re going to win another such jackpot before we have to start watching our fuel budget again. The main question is how soon and how deliberately we will make the necessary adjustment. Will we act like the lottery winner who uses his last hundred thousand to tide him over while he looks for a job? Will we keep partying to the bitter end, until one day we wake up, hung over in the gutter? Will it be something in between?

The Methadone Economy

Switching to a drug analogy, most alternative fuels are the methadone to treat our petroleum / heroin addiction. Methadone is given to heroin addicts in treatment because it mitigates withdrawal symptoms and can block the euphoric effects of heroin, morphine, and similar drugs, reducing the urge to use.

Alternative fuels can be sufficient to allow our society to function, but we’re not going to feel the highs we felt when the oil was flowing freely. Alternative fuels cannot take us back to a “normal” pre-peak oil state because our use of petroleum over the last few decades as been far from “normal:” it has been one long, fossil-fueled high. We will eventually kick the petroleum habit with the help of alternative fuels not because alternative fuels are better than petroleum and can bring us something that petroleum cannot, but because our supplier will be getting smaller shipments over time, while the number of fellow junkies knocking on his door will keep going up with big increases in petroleum demand from emerging economies.

There are several competing visions of a future powered by alternative fuels, ranging from wildly optimistic to gloom-and-doom, with variations depending on how effectively the prognosticator thinks we can replace fossil fuels with alternatives.

A high-technology optimistic vision includes smoothly running efficient pods in mass transit systems powered by renewable energy. High speed bullet trains network the land, making overland air travel unnecessary. The low-technology optimistic vision involves a peaceful return to local economies where food is grown locally, and increasing local interdependence fosters strong local community ties, and people grow happier as they become more connected to the land and each other. The low-technology pessimistic vision is a free-for-all scramble for dwindling resources like the vision out of Mad Max referenced above.

I’m long on optimism about technology, but short on optimism about our will to make the necessary sacrifices to implement that technology quickly or efficiently. I’m betting on a pessimistic, high-technology future. In this future, we manage to cobble together a hodge-podge of last-minute, jerry-rigged solutions to keep the economy functioning at a basic level, but not at all smoothly or evenly. In it, we lurch from a crisis caused by financial melt-down, to a crisis caused by peak-oil to one caused by climate change. We’ll tackle each crisis with incredible ingenuity, staving off total chaos, but at the cost of mis-allocated resources and a deteriorating standard of living. We hold out in the belief that after just this one more fix, the world will be back to normal and we can stop worrying. But that day will never come.

Forward thinking planners in some municipalities and communities will work on implementing true, long-term solutions. But they will not have enough money or resources to do more than ameliorate the next crisis. The large-scale, system wide solutions of better mass transit, algae biofuels, and continent-wide electricity transmission of the high-technology optimistic vision will be implemented too slowly, on too small a scale to achieve the economic stability the techno-optimists hope for. But these half-built systems will still bring considerable benefit, and keep the succession of crises from being the complete disaster that would come with a complete lack of planning.

This is the Methadone Economy. Alternative-fuel oil replacement therapy is necessary because oil supply will not keep pace with demand; we must replace oil or do without. But alternative fuels are not oil, and will require more effort devoted to energy production to produce the same effect. The Methadone economy will function, but it won’t give us the highs we got from the cheap, concentrated, easily accessible energy of oil.

A future characterized by thoughtful, long-range planning seems unlikely to arise from the same political class and voting public that has not meaningfully prepared for anything but good times in decades. The first IPCC report was released in 1990, and it made clear that human activities were substantially increasing levels of greenhouse gasses which would warm the planet. Two decades later, greenhouse gas emissions are still rising. We had the first warnings about peak oil in the 1970s oil crises, but only now are we starting to put serious political and economic capital into searching for solutions. When the pre-2008 global debt bubble was on, NINJA (No Income No Job no Assets) loans were welcomed by politicians praising financial innovation and its ability to bring home ownership to people who could not previously afford it.

The Methadone Economy may sound gloomy, but I see it as the most optimistic vision possible given the political reality we see around us. More pessimistic visions abound, but if you expect them, you’re probably better off investing in guns and physical gold than you are investing in the stock market.


I see three major investment themes in the Methadone Economy.

First, there is the knowledge that long-term solutions will be implemented, although not completely and at insufficient scale. Investors in contractors who specialize in mass transit and high-speed rail should do well, as should the longer-term alternative fuel solutions discussed in earlier articles of this series. Vehicle efficiency improvements will find rapidly growing markets as fuel becomes more expensive.

Second, band-aid solutions will thrive. Bike lanes, electric scooters, buses, and any other transportation solution which can be implemented with only small changes to existing infrastructure. Road pricing schemes and the software technology to help people coordinate ride sharing. The clever use of a few resources will always win over grand schemes when there are few resources to spare.

Finally, the Methadone Economy is an economy where we cannot expect long term growth. More likely, we will see periods of anemic (and occasionally robust) growth punctuated by periodic crisis-driven declines. This will be mirrored in the stock market, and so investors in the above two solutions should do well to hedge their overall exposure to the market.

# # #
About the author:
Tom Konrad, PhD., CFA is a regulatory consultant and financial analyst specializing in renewable energy and energy efficiency. In his consulting role, he testifies on behalf of clients before public utilities commissions and state legislatures to promote clean energy. In addition to AltEnergyStocks.com, he writes about clean energy and economics as a freelancer. He has a Ph.D. in mathematics from Purdue University, where he wrote his thesis on Complex Dynamics, a branch of chaos theory. His study of chaos theory led to his conviction that knowing the limits of our ability to predict is much more important than predictions themselves.

This article originally appeared http://seekingalpha.com/ on 27 April 2010 and can be seen here. Kind thanks for the author for permission to reprint in these pages.

Musing: How far is World Streets willing to go to get sponsorship support for 2010?

How would you feel about World Streets if we organize a special edition on electric cars with the sponsorship of General Motors or any other a major automotive manufacturer or upstream supplier? I hope you would feel at least a bit puzzled or impatient. And hopefully actually disappointed that we tumbled into that  facile trap. Sure, electric vehicles are to be part of our future. No problem there. But they are not going to be the path for moving towards sustainable transportation, sustainable cities, or sustainable lives. Bottom line: in terms of sustainability electric cars are a sideshow. Don’t you forget it!

Against this background, here is an article that appears in today’s New York Times (hey New York Times are getting better all the time) in which GM pulls out all the stops to flaunt their sustainability credentials. And they get some highly distinguished help in this. Which I find very worrying. Do you?

A High-Minded Look at Electric Cars

- Jim Motavalli, New York Times. April 23, 2010. http://www.jimmotavalli.com/
Click here for original article -

The setting was the sun-dappled campus of Columbia University, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that today’s forum on “New York and the Electric Car,” sponsored by the university and General Motors, took on a somewhat elevated tone.

Instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of how the city’s many apartment-dwelling electric vehicle owners will plug in, the forum celebrated the prospective role of electric cars in changing the world. Several speakers compared the present period to the revolution from horses to horseless carriages more than a century ago.

John Gilbert, executive vice president of the real estate firm Rudin Management, invoked the transforming technology displayed at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. He challenged the audience to think of the modern building as a smart phone that will blossom when applications are created to aid car charging and efficiently manage the flow of electrons.

A highlight of the morning talk was the appearance of Lawrence Burns, the former longtime General Motors vice president, who functioned as the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell champion and big-picture guru of sustainability. Far from retiring, Mr. Burns is a corporate adviser and has academic appointments at both Columbia’s Earth Institute (as director of sustainable mobility) and the University of Michigan.

Mr. Burns said that 29 or 30 green cars of various types, including his former company’s Chevrolet Volt, would be on the market in the next few years. “The new DNA of the automobile is electrically driven,” he said.

He agreed with Mr. Gilbert that information technology would shape the car of the future, and invoked the “mobility Internet” to imagine a time when cars drive themselves and “don’t crash.”

“Texting won’t be an issue, and driving will be the distraction,” said Mr. Burns. “And because cars won’t crash we’ll be able to reduce their mass significantly.”

Among Mr. Burns’ last endeavors at G.M. was Project P.U.M.A., a collaboration with Segway that posits small pod-like 750-pound city cars that can drive autonomously. A second generation of G.M.’s city vehicles, called EN-V, are being put on display at Expo Shanghai in China.

Jeffrey Sachs, who heads Columbia’s Earth Institute, added a note of impatience to the proceedings. He invoked the specter of global warming and the auto tailpipe’s role in hastening it, and said the electrification of the automobile “will have to happen a lot faster than such a complex process would normally require.” Effective public policy, he said, can help accelerate E.V. adoption.

“We are on the cusp of an historic worldwide transformation in transportation that starts in the world’s biggest cities,” Mr. Sachs said in an interview. “It’s important from a resource point of view and an environmental point of view.”

A pre-production Chevy Volt was parked on College Walk for the event. Tony Posawatz, the Volt’s line director, said the company was “on a very good glide path to deliver the car.” The first retail cars will be delivered in November, he said. The Volt plugs in and will be home charged; Mr. Posawatz said he was looking forward to “having a gas station in my garage.”

So is New York ready to charge E.V.’s? Arthur Kressner, director of power supply research and development at Con Edison, cited the electric delivery trucks that plied the city’s streets 110 years ago and answered in the affirmative. Except for relatively rare peak demand times, he said, “the grid is more than capable of meeting the demands of electric vehicles.”

In an interview after the forum, Mr. Kressner said Con Ed has recently met with several charging companies, including the global player Better Place, and with the owners of city parking garages who are likely to add E.V. charging.

# # #

Editor’s note:
Since the issue of sustainability credentials of electric vehicles is one that comes up time and again, often with high profile and great help from the communications resources and excellent PR skills of the groups behind them, it is important that this journal provides a clear and consistent statement of our views on these issues. More on this in our recent article, “Honk? Green power for electric cars: Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time” at http://newmobilityagenda.blogspot.com/2010/03/honk-green-power-for-electric-cars-lets.html.

There is an interesting upside to EV story of which we are not hearing very much and which apparently was not a topic for discussion at the joint Columbia/GM high-profile event. And that is the concept of electric cars which behave as they should in a city, meaning that they should be slow enough to be safe on city streets and much smaller so as to take less precious urban real estate. And while this is by no means in itself a magic wand for sustainability, it can serve to offer certain number of improvements which are not to be sneezed at altogether. It is not a big deal really, and that perhaps is part of the problem.

The difficulty is that the automobile industry and there accolates are putting close to zero priority on these kinds of vehicles. Look at the one just your right here: that little lead acid powered electric car provided me with 10 years of reliable, affordable slow speed mobility for my day-to-day transport purposes in Paris which, while once again not the key to sustainable transport, nonetheless represents a kind of pattern break that might in turn create a new set of attitudes about what is really needed. (And the fact that these kinds of vehicles could also be put into a carshare operation (which in fact is she object of discussion and some modest demonstrations), is something which is also worth a thought. Sadly however the bulk of the money spent in this broad area aims to create something rather closer to an electrical Porsche. Pity!)

To conclude on this for now: Let’s not fool ourselves. We have to be very careful day after day to avoid being diverted from the fundamental and huge sustainability challenges that are before us. We need to remain rigorously focused, scrupulously ethical, and relentlessly consistent. Without these qualities, we will never get there. So please, let us not permit ourselves to get distracted. Next?

Eric Britton

Honk? Green power for electric cars Let’s think about it before hitting the road this time.

Here we go again. Green power? A nice little electric car is a great way to get around in a city. I should know since I drove one in Paris for the better part of a decade (eyes right). Whether or not it is a good idea to multiply the kinds of cars that the main players have in mind (definitely not the one you see here) by say one billion or even some notable fraction of that is another matter. Have a look at this good attempt from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment to make some sense out of this one, where often enthusiasm and self-interest way outpace solid information. And then let’s talk about it.

Green power for electric cars
Harvesting the climate potential of electric vehicles

- A study by CE Delft
– Commissioned by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment


Transport is the sector with the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Since 1990 its emissions have increased by 38%. (Including emissions from international shipping and aviation. Source: Statistical Pocketbook Energy and Transport 2009.)

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recognised this problem in September 2009 in his ‘political guidelines for the next Commission’. He said: “the next Commission needs to maintain the momentum towards decarbonising the transport sector as well as the development of clean and electric cars.”

A number of European countries have launched national programmes and promotion strategies for electric cars ranging from support for research and development to purchase incentives. But current EU policies offer no guarantee that more electric vehicles on Europe’s roads will lead to savings in carbon emissions over coming years.

Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe and Transport and Environment have commissioned a study that:

• Analyses the impact of electric vehicles on the European power sector and on CO2 emissions.

• Assesses how policies should be changed in order to maximise greenhouse gas emission savings from the introduction of electric vehicles.

The report is released as the EU begins to develop its electric vehicle initiative and action plan (announced for May 2010).

The study finds that electric vehicles can in principle substantially contribute to decarbonising road passenger transport. They compare favourably to (even advanced) internal combustion engine cars in that:

- They are substantially more efficient than conventional vehicles.

– They can be fuelled with electricity generated from a large range of energy sources, including renewable sources with virtually zero CO2 emissions.

- They have no direct emissions.

- They can charge up with energy generated by renewables when there is a surplus of supply.

However, increasing the number of electric vehicles without a change in current legislation could result in:

- An increase in oil consumption and CO2 emissions in the EU car sector, compared to a situation without electric vehicles.- An increase in coal- and nuclear-based electricity production, instead of an increase in energy production from renewable sources.

Below are the main findings of the report and its recommendations to ensure that electric vehicles become an effective tool to reduce CO2 emissions.

1. Ensuring that electric vehicles reduce CO2 emissions from the car sector

Existing EU legislation on car emissions allows manufacturers to use sales of electric vehicles to offset the continued production of gas-guzzling cars. So-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles allow carmakers to sell 3.5 high-emitting cars for every electric car they sell, without affecting the overall CO2 target for their fleet. The report shows that this has the effect of actually increasing oil consumption and associated CO2 emissions, compared to a situation without electric vehicles. It finds that increasing sales of electric cars to 10% of total car sales could lead to a 20% increase in both the oil consumption and CO2 emissions of the overall fleet (conventional and electric vehicles).

The so-called ‘super credits’ for electric vehicles also reduce the contribution of electric vehicles to reaching the transport target of the EU’s renewable energy directive. The directive requires that 10% of the energy supply for the transport sector in 2020 come from renewable sources (biofuels and renewable electricity). Biofuels and renewable electricity for vehicles are in direct competition to achieve this target. As long as biofuels remain largely unsustainable, renewable electricity is the greenest option.

Policy recommendations:
a) Abolish so-called super credits for electric vehicles granted under EU legislation on CO2 emissions from cars and under forthcoming legislation on CO2 emissions from vans.

b) Ensure binding and ambitious 2020 targets for CO2 emissions from cars and vans that will increase overall efficiency for both combustion and electric vehicles.

2. Ensuring that the additional electricity demand resulting from the uptake in electric vehicles is met by additional renewable electricity

Carbon emissions from electric vehicles depend on the type of electricity they consume. When charged on renewable electricity, electric vehicles have a greenhouse gas impact of nearly zero. Charging them on electricity produced with coal results in equal or higher emissions than for comparable conventional vehicles.

The additional power demand for electric vehicles is expected to be relatively low. Assuming an uptake of up to 30 million battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on EU roads, the increase would be less than 3% compared to current EU demand. But without demand management, any increase in energy consumption could simply increase fossil fuel and nuclear energy production. (Increasing electricity demand from transport is therefore likely to have an upward effect on the CO2 price in the EU’s emissions trading scheme. This effect has not been fully studied in this report, but is expected to remain small in the coming decade, as the additional electricity demand will be limited.)

In order to avoid these market distortions, EU member states should boost the supply of renewable electricity. They should also monitor and report estimates of the share of renewable electricity used in cars for the purpose of reaching their 10% renewable energy transport target. This would stimulate the deployment of smart charging technologies that favour renewables and create an attractive market for electric vehicles.

Policy recommendations:
c) Encourage member states to raise their renewable electricity targets in line with the additional demand for electric vehicles.

d) Encourage member states to report the estimated share of renewable electricity actually used in electric cars, and not simply the share of renewables in national electricity production.

3. Enabling the use of renewable electricity in electric vehicles
To enable a greater share of renewable electricity in the power mix and in electric vehicles, the electricity system should be made more flexible to allow for the integration of energy from variable renewable sources, such as wind and solar energy. Electric vehicles can play an important role in this development, as they combine long periods of connection to the grid with large storage capacity in their batteries. But they will only do so if they are equipped with on¬board metering systems. These would help them manage electricity input and primarily be charged when surplus electricity – mostly from renewables like wind and solar – is available on the power grid. Unless charging is properly managed, electric vehicles will not play a role in enabling the future renewable energy system.

To guarantee that car manufacturers apply the necessary technology for smart metering, the technology needs to be standardised and enforced through EU legislation. The standardisation and compatibility of such hardware and the ability of cars and electricity grids to exchange information would guarantee that drivers of electric vehicles could charge up anywhere.

Policy recommendations:
e) Develop smart cars and smart grids that are able to exchange data and that favour the use of renewable electricity.

f) Standardise charging technology to ensure that every driver can charge up anywhere in Europe.

# # #

Press release:
www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/green-electric-cars-08-02-10 Report: www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/reports/green-power-for-electric-cars-08-02-10

Greenpeace – Franziska Achterberg: Greenpeace EU transport policy advisor, +32 (0)498 362403 (mobile), franziska.achterberg@greenpeace.org.

Transport & Environment – Jos Dings: Director, Transport & Environment, +32 (0)498 51 53 19 (mobile), jos.dings@transportenvironment.org.

CE Delft – Bettina Kampman: Senior researcher/consultant,
+31 (0)15-2150171, +31 (0)6 21520939 (mobile), kampman@ce.nl.

Lester Brown: "International agreements take too long. We only have months, not years, to save civilisation"

World Streets is not the only one deeply apprehensive about the outcome of COP15. Lester Brown, Founder and President of the Earth Policy Institute, and a friend and colleague of many years, was interviewed by the Guardian yesterday, and since he cuts so close to the chase on the climate emergency issues which provide the metric for our high concern about immediate-term transportation reform, we reproduce it here in full.

Source: Countdown to Copenhagen. The Guardian. 3 Nov. 2009

We only have months, not years, to save civilisation from climate change

International agreements take too long, we need a swift mobilisation not seen since the second world war

For those concerned about global warming, all eyes are on December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. The stakes could not be higher. Almost every new report shows that the climate is changing even faster than the most dire projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their 2007 report.

Yet from my vantage point, internationally negotiated climate agreements are fast becoming obsolete for two reasons. First, since no government wants to concede too much compared with other governments, the negotiated goals for cutting carbon emissions will almost certainly be minimalist, not remotely approaching the bold cuts that are needed.

And second, since it takes years to negotiate and ratify these agreements, we may simply run out of time. This is not to say that we should not participate in the negotiations and work hard to get the best possible result. But we should not rely on these agreements to save civilisation.

Saving civilisation is going to require an enormous effort to cut carbon emissions. The good news is that we can do this with current technologies, which I detail in my book, Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.

Plan B aims to stabilise climate, stabilise population, eradicate poverty, and restore the economy’s natural support systems. It prescribes a worldwide cut in net carbon emissions of 80% by 2020, thus keeping atmospheric CO2 concentrations from exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm) in an attempt to hold temperature rise to a minimum. The eventual plan would be to return concentrations to 350 ppm, as agreed by the top US climate scientist at Nasa, James Hansen, and Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC.

In setting this goal we did not ask what would be politically popular, but rather what it would take to have a decent shot at saving the Greenland ice sheet and at least the larger glaciers in the mountains of Asia. By default, this is a question of food security for us all.

Fortunately for us, renewable energy is expanding at a rate and on a scale that we could not have imagined even a year ago. In the United States, a powerful grassroots movement opposing new coal-fired power plants has led to a de facto moratorium on their construction. This movement was not directly concerned with international negotiations. At no point did the leaders of this movement say that they wanted to ban new coal-fired power plants only if Europe does, if China does, or if the rest of the world does. They moved ahead unilaterally knowing that if the United States does not quickly cut carbon emissions, the world will be in trouble.

For clean and abundant wind power, the US state of Texas (long the country’s leading oil producer) now has 8,000MW of wind generating capacity in operation, 1,000MW under construction, and a huge amount in development that together will give it more than 50,000MWof wind generating capacity (think 50 coal-fired power plants). This will more than satisfy the residential needs of the state’s 24 million people.

And though many are quick to point a finger at China for building a new coal-fired power plant every week or so, it is working on six wind farm mega-complexes with a total generating capacity of 105,000 megawatts. This is in addition to the many average-sized wind farms already in operation and under construction.

Solar is now the fastest growing source of energy. A consortium of European corporations and investment banks has announced a proposal to develop a massive amount of solar thermal generating capacity in north Africa, much of it for export to Europe. In total, it could economically supply half of Europe’s electricity.

We could cite many more examples. The main point is that the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables is moving much faster than most people realise, and it can be accelerated.

The challenge is how to do it quickly. The answer is a wartime mobilisation, not unlike the US effort on the country’s entry into the second world war, when it restructured its industrial economy not in a matter of decades or years, but in a matter of months. We don’t know exactly how much time remains for such an effort, but we do know that time is running out. Nature is the timekeeper but we cannot see the clock.

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You may find some interest in the comments which follow his piece which you can call up at the end of the Guardian pieces at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/cif-green/2009/nov/03/lester-brown-copenhagen

Lester R Brown is president of Earth Policy Institute and author of Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. He can be contacted at epi@earthpolicy.org.

Editor’s note:

While the focus and approach of World Streets and the New Mobility/Climate Emergency Project behind it, is quite different from the views set out above, we certainly do share Mr. Brown’s sense of high urgency. And some considerable despondence concerning what is likely to come out of Copenhagen.

Not that there are not going to be many people and groups working very hard to secure come kind of reasonable outcomes, but as we tried to point out in our editorial on this of 26 October, “Winning the World Climate Game: Brainwork challenge“, this is clearly a situation in which the ball (that is our planetary problem) is bigger than the court (our problem-solving mechanism, frame). So somebody better get out there and start to redraw the lines. (Stay tuned.)

Saudis terrified we might actually reduce oil dependence (World Streets launches campaign for compassionate aid)

Thanks to environmental writer and columnist Jay Bookman for this heads-up, and right behind him the New York Times, World Streets now has a new thing that keeps us up at night. Any reduction on our part of oil consumption, say through some of the projects and measures being pushed by World Streets and others, is (do we have this right?) a form of theft. Fair is fair we would say, so let’s get together and work this one out. Get out your checkbooks. Compassionate capitalism.

From the New York Times of 14 October:

Saudis Seek Payments for Any Drop in Oil Revenues

- by Jad Mouawad and Andrew C. Revkin

Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.

The oil-rich kingdom has pushed this position for years in earlier climate-treaty negotiations. While it has not succeeded, its efforts have sometimes delayed or disrupted discussions. The kingdom is once again gearing up to take a hard line on the issue at international negotiations scheduled for Copenhagen in December.

The chief Saudi negotiator, Mohammad al-Sabban, described the position as a “make or break” provision for the Saudis, as nations stake out their stance before the global climate summit scheduled for the end of the year.

“Assisting us as oil-exporting countries in achieving economic diversification is very crucial for us through foreign direct investments, technology transfer, insurance and funding,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message.

This Saudi position has emerged periodically as a source of dispute since the earliest global climate talks, in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. It is surfacing again as Saudi Arabia tries to build a coalition of producers to extract concessions in Copenhagen.

Petroleum exporters have long used delaying tactics during climate talks. They view any attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by developed countries as a menace to their economies.

The original treaty meant to combat global warming, the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, contains provisions that in Saudi Arabia’s view require such compensation.

Mr. Sabban outlined his stance at climate talks in Bangkok this month.
Environmental advocates denounced the idea, saying the Saudi stance hampered progress to assist poor nations that are already suffering from the effect of climate change, and that genuinely need financial assistance.

“It is like the tobacco industry asking for compensation for lost revenues as a part of a settlement to address the health risks of smoking,” said Jake Schmidt, the international climate policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The worst of this racket is that they have held up progress on supporting adaptation funding for the most vulnerable for years because of this demand.”

Saudi Arabia is highly dependent on oil exports, which account for most of the government’s budget. Last year, when prices peaked, the kingdom’s oil revenue swelled by 37 percent, to $281 billion, according to Jadwa Investment, a Saudi bank. That was more than four times the 2002 level. At one point in 2008, the average gasoline price in the United States surpassed $4 a gallon.

Saudi exports are expected to drop to $115 billion this year, after oil prices fell. American gasoline prices are hovering around $2.50 a gallon.

The one-year swing in the kingdom’s revenues shows that oil prices are likely to be a bigger factor in Saudi Arabia’s future that any restrictions on greenhouse gases, said David G. Victor, an energy expert at the University of California, San Diego.

Mr. Victor dismissed the Saudi stance as a stunt, saying that the real threat for petroleum exporters came from improvements in fuel economy and rising mandates for alternative fuels in the transportation sector, both of which would reduce the need for petroleum products. “Oil exporters have always, in my view, far overblown the near-term effects of carbon limits on demand for their products,” Mr. Victor said. “For the Saudis this may be a deal-breaker, but the Saudis are not essential players. In some sense, one sign that a climate agreement is effective is that big hydrocarbon exporters hate it.”

A recent study by the International Energy Agency, which advises industrialized nations, found that the cumulative revenue of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries would drop by 16 percent from 2008 to 2030 if the world agreed to slash emissions, as opposed to the projection if there were no treaty.

But with oil projected to average $100 a barrel, the energy agency estimated that OPEC members would still earn $23 trillion over that period.

Mr. Sabban, however, cited an older study by Charles River, a consulting firm, which found that the losses in revenue for Saudi Arabia alone would be $19 billion a year starting in 2012.

The Copenhagen talks were a major point on the agenda of the last OPEC conference.

But not every oil-exporting country is falling in line with the Saudi position. Some have been trying a different approach that has earned the backing of environmental groups. For example, Ecuador, OPEC’s newest member, said last year that it was willing to freeze oil exploration in the Amazon forest if it got some financial rewards for doing so.

The Saudi negotiator said that the compensation mechanism was an integral part of the global climate regime that has been in place since the 1990s and that was not up for renegotiation.

“It is a very serious trend that we need to follow and influence if we want to minimize its adverse impacts on our economies and our people,” Mr. Sabban said in an e-mail message to other OPEC officials. “That does not mean we would like to obstruct any progress or that we do not want to join any international agreement. We will do that if the deal is fair and equitable and does not transfer the burden to us.”

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Thanks to Jay Bookman for his good heads-up on this important news. He maintains a very interesting blog specializing in foreign relations and environmental and technology-related issues. which you can check out at http://blogs.ajc.com/jay-bookman-blog\

And here you have our editor, overcome with emotion as he tries to figure out how World Streets is ever going to find the wherewithall to compensate for our actions leading to all those big number reductions in oil imports. (He really should have thought of that first.)

EVs: First clarification on impact in cities

It is hard to sort out if electric cars are or are not going to be a force in the move to sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. The media gives a lot of space to them, there is something admittedly attractive about them, but what is the real bottom line? We decided to ask the people closest to these issues to share their views here.

- Michael Glotz-Richter reporting from Bremen Germany

Thanks for asking Eric. We’ve studied the issue here in Bremen over some years and the following two images summarise our main findings. I’m pleased to share them with the readers of World Streets and invite comments and challenges.

Here is what one street looks like today, without any electric cars that I know of:

And in the second photograph, you see what the same street would look like with a 100% conversion to electric cars. Very edifying we think:

The point is, of course, that technology alone isn’t the answer. And in fact, there is a danger that with electric vehicles, we may even end up with more cars on our streets. That’s why it’s crucial that any new “clean” technology – electric or otherwise – be integrated with measures to preserve our precious urban space – like cycling, public transport, and especially Car-Sharing.

I’m not sure if that’s answered your question or just opened up yet other ones . . .

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From the editor: We welcome similar before/after EV photos of your city. And of course your comment.

- Michael Glotz-Richter, michael.glotz-richter@umwelt.bremen.de, is Senior Advisor Sustainable Mobility, Senate Department for Environment, Construction, Transport and European Affairs, Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, Germany

Common sense on "next generation" carsharing – Paris, London EV proposals

[The following piece of this date graciously shared with us by the author and the Climate Change Group ]

Could London follow Paris with electric car sharing?]

18 Mar 2009 | Author: Toby Procter | -

Boris Johnson’s electric cars will not be as green as those powered by the French, so why not just hop on a bus instead?

Aiming to make London the ‘electric capital of Europe’, London Mayor Boris Johnson told the London assembly on 25 February that a working group was considering a plan along the lines of the Autolib’ electric car rental scheme planned for Paris for 2010, and wanted to greatly expand support for charging points around London.

Johnson hoped for a “sizeable chunk” of the £250m government funding for electric vehicle initiatives, and added that he wanted to see at least half the 8,000-vehicle fleet owned by the Greater London Authority replaced by electric vehicles as soon as possible, while warning that considerable sums were necessary in order to invest in a technology that is “almost there … but not quite”.

Last October, the Paris authorities announced plans for an ‘Autolib’ electric car-sharing scheme to do on four wheels what the successful Vélib bicycle sharing scheme has done on two. Paris proposes 2,000 EVs to be available from 200 city centre underground car parks and 500 parking bays, and another 2,000 in the city’s suburbs. These vehicles could be booked online, picked up in one bay and left in another at the journey’s end.

Electric cars still have teething problems. Problem one is that these cars – some are not technically cars, but ‘quadricycles’ such as the REVA and Aixam Mega – are produced in small numbers and cost more than comparable ordinary cars, despite offering limited range, utility and space.

Problem two is the infrastructure EVs need, given their batteries’ present shortcomings. Most EVs’ batteries need recharging for 7-8 hours after around 100 miles. The 40 Elektrobay street-side recharging units already in place in London cost around £7,500 per unit installed – multiply that by 700 units as with the Paris scheme – and it adds up to a huge sum of cash.

Then there’s the cost of telematics and accounting systems and associated hardware to charge users for the ‘juice’ and the rentals. Elektromotive, the UK firm which has supplied London’s recharging points to date, recently signed an agreement with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, which hopes for global EV market leadership from the launch of its first electric cars in 2012, but solutions to large-scale recharging/parking infrastructure issues remain unproven.

London is likely to start, as have some other local authorities, by buying more electric vehicles for the GLA fleet, whose journeys start and end at depots where off-road recharging units can more easily be installed.

To date, car sharing clubs have remained small-scale, though in London, the City Car Club saw membership rise 109% last year, and rival Whizzgo’s rose 42%. One such company might take on the management of an EV sharing scheme. But it would provide electric car access only to the few, so might not deserve big subsidies.

The question of whether electric cars in London are the greenest option should also be asked. France relies on nuclear energy for around 80% of its electricity and therefore has a much lower carbon electricity supply than the Brits.

And according to estimates cited by the French EV maker Aixam, on average people only need cars in London for 4-mile journeys. Might they be better off taking a bus? Improving bus services might cut urban CO2 emissions more efficiently than a token fleet of electric cars available only to the few.

However London decides to pump-prime electric transport, the Mayor should reflect on the fact that some of the latest small diesel cars from European manufacturers emit CO2 emissions below 100gm/km, well below the 2012 limit proposed by the EU, and scarcely more than the average 87g/km calculated for electric cars by the UK’s King Review of Low Carbon Cars, factoring in the UK’s renewables-poor generation mix.