Charging Up(time)

Time is on my side.  Yes it is.  Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke

Time is on my side. Yes it is. Credit: Dirk Ingo Franke

Let’s see… we’re on Myth #5: ‘You’ll be stranded in the next blackout.’  Wanna bet me?  In an outage, I have Plans B, C, D, and E, and more:

Plan B is to do… nothing at all different, since a charge is good for days of my usage.  Not only can I skip a night’s charging, I can skip two, and a third if I feel lucky.  In my area, power outages are from lines knocked out by tree limbs; repairing these is a day or two.  I win.  There are also multiple groceries along the way, so I need no extra power to grab some old frozen food.  And my commute is average; I hear of Nissan Leaf owners who realize they, too can skip a night, once they settle into a routine and become comfortable with the pack’s capabilities.  Tesla owners obviously become comfortable with their enormous packs.

Plan C is to charge the EV at my employer’s in a prolonged blackout.  Tom Moloughney used this strategy to run his BMW ActiveE and others after Hurricane Sandy; he had installed multiple J1772s at his restaurant, which was still running after his house connection was knocked out.  Continue reading

Receptacle Roundup XI: Renault Caméléon

…and then, Renault snuck in its “Caméléon” system.  This one came in under the radar because 1) it uses existing plugs and sockets, and 2) Renault originally intended to extend EV range via battery swapping (Better Place™), but ended up with Caméléon instead.

Credit: Mennekes GmbH

Photo Credit: Mennekes GmbH

In Europe, EV groups settled on Mennekes Type 2 (IEC62196-2) with shutter.  It’s their equivalent of the SAE J1772 connector, and also SAE-backed.  It is intended for Level 1 and Level 2 charging (slow and medium), like ours.  The Mennekes has one more pin, for three-phase circuits, more common in Europe.  That lets Renault charge their ZOE at up to 43 kilowatts- i. e., in as little as half an hour.  Yup, one plug does trickle-charging from standard home outlets, medium-speed at dedicated wall boxes, and fast charging at road stops (Level 3).  Fast charging just happens to be AC, instead of other solutions’ DC.

If that sounds like the Tesla Model S connector, it’s no accident.  Both groups, tackling the EV question, came to some similar conclusions.  And yet, Caméléon is the opposite of Tesla’s solution in some ways.  Veeery interesting… Continue reading

4 Light Bulbs, plus (5th + 6th Bulb)

See also: “Four Light Bulbs”

I’ve installed incandescent-replacement bulbs (actually halogens in an A19 form factor) to wipe out my riding electricity with “nega-watts.”  Halogen “incandescents” work well for stairs, attics, closets, bathrooms, etc. where compact fluorescents don’t really make sense.  CFLs don’t like frequent on/off cycles, nor extreme temperatures, nor are most of them dimmable.  So… where do they make sense?

A surprising number of places, it turns out (for many people).  People complain that CFLs don’t last as long as claimed.  It’s often stated that CFLs may last 10,000 hrs- over a year of continuous operation, or a few years in most people’s daily habit.  But here’s the funny thing: even if a CFL only lasts as short as an incandescent (barely a thousand hours), you still make your money back.  In electricity savings alone, the CFL efficiency gain (a factor of 4) already makes up for its higher purchase price.  People who complain about that one-time cost apparently won’t (or can’t) do the math on total cost of ownership (TCO).  If a CFL, then, lasts any bit longer than an incandescent, that becomes pure profit.

Let’s run through it: Continue reading

The Shells Fell From His Eyes

Former Shell President John Hofmeister is off the reservation.  The former oil head is now on the board of the Fuel Freedom Foundation.  He joins others like James Woolsey, former CIA chief, then energy/security analyst for Booz Allen Hamilton.  The money quote- or anti-money quote, in this case- is: “Fuel Freedom’s approach to opening the fuels market by breaking the oil monopoly is America’s next giant leap forward.”  When an oil man tells you we must shift from oil, I think he knows a thing or two.

Since my retirement from Shell, I have focused a large portion of my time and efforts on educating the public regarding our nation’s dire situation as it relates to oil and the future of energy, specifically transportation fuels. We can’t sustain our transportation needs in the current situation, demand is growing on a global scale, while supply is becoming more and more expensive, and this trend will not stop.

Hofmeister, though, is leaning toward the easy way out.  He seems to favor converting natural gas into methanol, which can then be burned in flex-fuel piston engines, or existing piston engines with minor modifications.  I certainly applaud anyone looking for a better way, but I think he’s aiming low here.  Natural gas is better than oil, but in the same sense that meth is better than heroin.  And piston engines on methanol still convert less than 20% of fuel energy into vehicle motion, just like any other Otto-cycle internal-combustion engine.  (And Diesels are still just at 20%.) Continue reading

Receptacle Roundup IXc: Tesla Networks (Superchargers etc.)

So, how’s this supposedly amazing Tesla going to do road trips?  The network optimization problem looks like every other car’s problem, but >3 different network nodes for a different “packet” mean different net topologies:

Tesla Superchargers- CA, DE, CT

Tesla Superchargers- CA, DE, CT

1.  Your home… and then some.  Occasionally I hear about people who think the “electric station” metaphor is like using gas stations, but with no gas.  MYTH.  The clear majority of EV charging will take place at your own home, the exact opposite of the gasoline model now.  Tesla’s Roadster and S, with 160-260 miles of range, need public top-ups even less (if at all most days).  Really, what does your typical day look like?  Your home circuits, as built, deliver “only” 1.4-10 kilowatts (via NEMA 5-15 up to 14-50 outlets), but that’s fine for overnight.  The Tesla S ports can take all these, via the appropriate cord/adapters.  If you splurge, Tesla will sell you a home unit capable of about 80 amps (~20 kW).  Home, then, is the first and most-important tier of the travel network, yet one not on the maps.  Without a decent initial charge, #2 and #3 below start to break down.
Continue reading