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Friday, January 7, 2011

IS THE PLUG-IN EV A HOAX?

I've worked in sustainable energy resources all my life, initially with C. Brewer on biomass processing (also known as the sugar industry--and, in fact, there is an article this morning in the Honolulu Star Advertiser reporting that a long-time colleague, Mel Chigioji (left), is leading Aina Koa Pono to produce biofuels for HECO in Kau, where I started working just about half a century ago), but, in particular, helped manage a program on electrical vehicles at the University of Hawaii in the 80's.  I have also felt that academia is where next generation technologies should be developed and tested.  Still do.  Thus, if the UH is today involved with hydrogen vehicles (such as the GM Equinox fuel cell car below), as much as I don't think there is any hope for early commercialization (unless oil suddenly jumps to $150/barrel and stays there or goes up), it is now that we need to check out these opportunities, for all signs point toward Peak Oil anytime soon, and certainly by 2020.  [I should note that Dr. Chiogioji is NOT involved with plug-in electric cars.]

The notion of replacing gasoline powered internal combustion engines with anything clean and sustainable makes sense.  Thus, a competitive electric vehicle can only be good.  True?  Maybe not!  With Peak Oil is something called Global Warming.  If you consider the total system, including true economics and the environment, plug-ins have a problem.

I have a personal interest in another technology called the direct methanol fuel cell, so my views are skewed by this attitude.  So much so that a little more than two years ago I felt compelled to write an article for the Huffington Post entitled, Is There An Option More Promising Than The Plug-In Electric Vehicle?  Except for one particular individual who, I later found, was advocating another type of fuel cell, the comments were surprisingly supportive. 

However, when I kept reading how Governor Linda Lingle (former governor of Hawaii) and leading citizens from Hawaii touted the plug-in EV, plus President Obama and the U.S. Department of Energy selecting this option for high priority, I thought it best to keep silent, for at least they were doing something that appeared to be good for Planet Earth and Humanity.  Yet, I was troubled, for it seemed irresponsible  to keep quiet while our State and Nation again (ethanol, etc.) headed down a dead-end pathway. 

There were, of course, scattered alarms about the wisdom of plug-ins from others, as for example, about a year ago, Plug-in Vehicles Are A Luxury No-Nation Can Afford.   It turns out the individual who wrote this article began to make an actual difference.  First, yesterday, RenewableEnergyWorld.com published his:  Plug-ins and Their Dirty Little Secret.  Mind you, this is a renewable energy newsletter!  

Today, Seeking Alpha, an investment blog, had:

Plug-In Vehicles: Unconscionable Waste and Pollution Masquerading as Conservation

At last count, there were more than 200 comments and the author intelligently responds to most of them.

Who is he?  All the above were written by John Petersen (left), a U.S. lawyer based in Switzerland, who is a former director of Axion Power International, a battery company.  One of his articles starts with:

I'm going to apologize up front for revisiting a topic that inevitably draws furious comment from readers who just don't get it, or who refuse to get it. I understand that it's painful to learn that politicians, environmental advocates and the mainstream media have been lying about critical issues, but that doesn't make exposing the lies less important. So I'm going to endure the slings and arrows of the eco-religious one more time and use a new example to show that plug-in vehicles are a luxury no nation can afford.

He provides various visuals:



You can zoom in to actually read these numbers.  I could summarize what he said, but if you are sincerely interested in his point of view, click on his postings.  Certainly, if you are a committed supporter of PIEVs, then you especially should read those articles, and, perhaps, lob in your rebuttle.  In a nutshell, he says:

On a micro-scale, fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are feel good eco-bling for the emotionally committed and the mathematically challenged. On a macro-scale they use more gasoline, emit more CO2 and are more expensive than established HEV technology. At this point I have to wonder, does anybody in Washington DC have a calculator?

He is especially harsh on the Chevy Volt (right).  I might have been wanting to address this issue for some time now, but here is an individual who possibly has a bone to pick (though I don't know what this might be), says it in your face, and, to me, makes sense.  Those comments following his contributions, however, as would be expected, are uniformly negative and critical.  Therefore, read them too to gain some balance.  This not a religion/faith issue, for pure economics and sound science can be utilized to form a rational framework of comparison.  By the way, Petersen likes electric hybrids like the Prius.

So are plug-in EVs a hoax?  No, I think not.  Many proponents are sincerely supportive, and I grudgingly wish them well.  Are they misguided?  Probably, for I am of the opinion that the State of Hawaii and Nation at large, have bought into this romanticized and insidiously deceptive concept that appears green on the outside but is in reality bleak and black.  My discomfort with this future pathway for plug-in EVs is well stated by John Petersen.  ANY COMMENTS?

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The Dow Jones Industrials dropped 23 to 11,674, with world markets also mostly down.  Gold went up a buck to $1369/toz and oil is at $88/barrel.

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