Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Aug 13

Five Things To Be Aware Of Concerning Plug-in Hybrids


This is an overview for people who wish to begin learning about these kinds of vehicles.


Plug-in hybrids were first introduced in late 2010, and several automakers have said we will be seeing several more over the next few years.

To date the selection for sale in the U.S. tallies to nine but reasons why they are on the rise include they’re an excellent way for automakers to meet increasingly tough emissions and mpg regulations.

If you are just learning about them, following are some highlights and insights to get you started.

A Couple Different Types

As vehicles that build upon technology already developed for regular gas-electric hybrids, there are a couple of general categories of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).


These are the 1) “extended-range electric vehicles” (EREV) and 2) parallel or blended hybrids.

SEE ALSO: Glossary of Electrified Vehicle Terms – Part One

Within the EREV category for now is only the Chevy Volt, Cadillac ELR and range-extended version of the BMW i3. The now-extinct Fisker Karma had been one, and it was actually a pure “series hybrid” never allowing the engine to drive the wheels but using it to only to generate electricity. The range-extended BMW’s i3 REx operates in series. The GM products are similar and operate in series mode much of the time.

All other plug-in hybrids are the blended variety. Here the engine and electric motor both are connected mechanically to the wheels. Like the EREVs, they also have lithium-ion batteries to provide a certain electric range and then when that is depleted, they go back to regular hybrid operation.

Some PHEVs Are Greener Than Others

There is a bit of a dichotomy going on in the marketplace. Cars targeted at ordinary work-a-day driving like the Volt, Ford C-Max and Fusion Energi siblings, Toyota Prius PHV, and pending Hyundai Sonata PHEV are the greenest.

Green speaks to greenhouse gas emissions, and the flip side of that coin is fuel efficiency, or in other words potential fuel savings.


Beyond that you have the new breed of powerful and luxurious plug-in hybrids. Hybridization is a marvelous way for automakers to do what they used to when they turbocharged or supercharged an internal combustion engine. The net result is more power – but electric motors instead of cramming more fuel use zero fuel, so voila, more power and “green” factor all in one stroke.

Note several supercars pushing upwards of 800-1,000-plus horsepower are PHEVs and it’s like having an ace in the hole to satisfy regulators and consumers who both want more of mutually contradictory objectives – mpg and mph.

The same thinking is trickling into luxury offerings by German brands, Japanese like Lexus which will wow us with more next spring, and others. These high-end PHEVs can still beat the efficiency and emissions of comparable luxurious and powerful conventional models, but they have a potential dark side to their green factor.

Namely, if packed with upwards of 400-plus horsepower, green cred comes from just enough electric energy storage to nurse them through government test cycles, give them a modicum of pure EV range, and make them look like heros. And they are heros as long as you don’t call on all that horsepower.

Mercedes-Benz S 500 PLUG-IN HYBRID (W 222) 2013, Lack: Magnetitschwarz metallic

Mercedes-Benz S 500 PLUG-IN HYBRID (W 222) 2013, Lack: Magnetitschwarz metallic

Horses – even hybrid horses – like to be fed and cars set up to rely mainly on potent gas engines will drink that fuel. There is no free lunch, but then this is even true to a certain point for all-electric Teslas if you use all they have also. The difference is the electric motor in a Tesla is more than twice as efficient as gas. However, a 700-horsepower-plus Tesla will still eat range and electrons too if you want to post a video of it out-sprinting a Lamborghini.

But, coming back to high-power PHEVs, they can use fuel and emit from the tailpipe within the spectrum of conventional gas cars when pushed harder.

So, if the plan is not to use the power frequently you’re fine, they can beat conventional cars, this is true. But if your thought is to slash emissions, there can be a large difference between official EPA ratings and what the vehicle does when on the boil.

In short, the relatively less-powerful PHEVs intended as more-sensible transportation have less potential to burn fuel even if you do drive like you stole them. Energy costs to produce, it does emit, and the laws of physics can’t be violated, just worked around to a point.

There’s the Volt and Everything Else

Plug-in hybrids are a step above regular hybrids because they work like part-time EVs. Electricity is your friend, and even in the dirtiest coal-intensive grid in the country, all-electric drive edges out an average modern internal combustion car.

That said, the Volt has more all-electric range than any PHEV on the market – more than double. The Cadillac ELR is second-highest too, but it costs more, is a luxury purchase, and the new 2016 Volt offers 13-miles more range at 53 miles combined.

(Sssh! Don’t tell anyone GM’s double-priced Cadillac is soundly beaten by a humble Chevy).


The nearest competitor to the Volt in its general price and demographic range would be the pending Hyundai Sonata PHEV which may offer 24 miles, and beyond that are the 19-mile C-Max and Fusion Energi by Ford.

Looking at EPA ratings for annual greenhouse gases, there is not as huge of a grams-CO2-per-mile difference, but these numbers can be misleading. The real game is staying in the e-drive zone because that is where a plug-in hybrid is much-more efficient and emissions at the tailpipe are zero, though upstream emissions at the grid need to be factored.

This assumes you are not using solar to recharge. If you are, then solar dovetails beautifully with an electric plug-in car – be it hybrid or all-electric.


As it is, the Volt runs like an EV for 35-38 miles for gen one, and 53 miles for gen two, and General Motors OnStar telematics data suggests on average 2016 Volt drivers will go 1,000 miles between fillups. If they fill up the tank every eight gallons, GM is effectively saying it’s good for 125 mpg given all the electric miles you’ll get.

Opportunity charging along the way or at your destination, if available, increases the potential. The Volt is so good at being used like a pure EV with only part time gas use, it’s become a sport for some hard-core fans, and the present record on is 118,000 mpg.

If you drive within the e-zone every day, accounting for some miles range lost during winter where applicable, the Volt can go long intervals without turning on the engine. Exceptions are 1) Cold temperatures may induce it to kick on to augment HVAC, and 2), Engine Maintenance Mode. EMM ensures the range extender starts up at least once every six weeks to run long enough to heat the engine up to full operating temperature and lubricate all the internal parts; 3 the engine computer monitors gas and will burn off gas before it goes past its freshness date

Anecdotes of ordinary Volt drivers going months between fillups were common when the car got 35-38 miles, and the new 53 miles will help.

But beyond the Volt, all PHEVs are potentially capable of running electrically, so it depends on your actual distance.

Unfortunately for some, the Volt is smaller inside than midsized competitors, so it is not a clear win in that category.

PHEVs Could Become A Gateway Drug To A Pure EV

Once you get a taste of driving all-electric in whatever PHEV you get, you may find yourself wanting more e-range.

All-electric driving can feel preferable 1) because it’s quiet, smooth, and novel, especially in the beginning, and 2) because it is cleaner and more energy efficient as mentioned.


As soon as next year we may see the Chevy Bolt EV ready for sale and this is supposed to be around $38,000 before federal or state incentives, net at $30,000 or upper 20s, and get 200 miles range.


That could eliminate range anxiety, and already people have jumped out of cars like the Volt and into ones like the Tesla Model S, or even the Leaf or other sub-100-mile EVs.

Range anxiety can be a valid fear – or an irrational fear – of the unknown. For the latter, once the ins and outs are experienced, peoples’ comfort levels can go up. Some may decide an 84-mile Leaf will work for them.

Price And Value Is A More Complex Question

PHEVs are all eligible for a varying federal tax credit based on their battery size in kilowatt-hours with the cap being $7,500. States may offer something too.

But PHEVs do cost more, maybe $4,000-$8,000 more for the mainstream varieties. Costs are higher because they are really combining two relatively sophisticated powertrains into one vehicle. This can scare some people off or attract them depending on their view.

SEE ALSO: Should You Buy a Plug-in Hybrid?

In their favor, the less the gas engine is used, the less maintenenace it needs compared to a conventional car running it all the time. The electric powertrain needs no normal maintenance. Brake pads are used less because regenerative braking spares them, and oil changes can come very infrequently.

But they are complex machines and it would be fiction to say there is nothing to ever be concerned over. Same could be said of any of today’s complicated, computer-packed cars though, but remarkably, reliability keeps getting better overall.

A total cost of ownership comparo such as by Edmunds’ online True Cost to Own calculator may show some 2015 PHEVs – latest year available – either doing well, or not as well as regular hybrid siblings or other comparable cars.

This latter possibility is the case in Southern California zip code selected for the C-Max Energi which Edmunds pegs at $36,169 cash, and its five-year total ownership cost is $55,076. By comparison, the C-Max Hybrid selling for $29,129 costs $48,469 over five years according to Edmunds.


A Prius Plug-in Hybrid about matches the regular Prius however. The base PHV’s sales price is $30,959 and TCO is just $36,544. By contrast the Prius trim level III costs $26,759 and in five years costs $36,676.

The outgoing 2015 Volt however, eligible for max credits has the strongest TCO. Sales price of $34,933 and five-year TCO is $37,278.

Compare that to a $22,675 Cruze Eco, which costs $42,339 in five years by Edmunds’ reckoning.

Ever hear of “pay me now or pay me later?”

Variables to consider can be several, including depreciation, taxes and fees, finance charges, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs and potential tax credit or other incentives.

Beyond these, personal preference, vehicle design and style and play in, as does whether you have access to solar, or otherwise comped charging. Also, if you charge intraday, that reduces cost, as does your actual mileage, driving style, and many factors besides.

The short answer is from a cost perspective, PHEVs may not be a no-brainer, but they can make good sense depending on your needs and values.

This article also appears at


Aug 12

Will the 2016 Volt Be Worth It?



As orders are being taken now in California, Chevrolet hopes its 2016 Volt due in a couple months will prove to be a superior fuel and money saver for more people.

Since the first-generation model was launched in December 2010, the Volt has had a polarizing effect on people – or ducked under the radar – for too-many nuanced reasons to elaborate here, but those who “get it” mainly love it.

The outgoing 2015 Volt had an electric range of 38 rated miles and the new one is pegged at 53. Less-well known is the EPA rates it for 57 all-electric miles in the city, and 49 all-electric miles highway.

SEE ALSO: Complete Chevy Volt Award List

Efficiency on electricity has now been bumped from 98 MPGe combined to 106 MPGe. Fuel economy on gas only has increased from 37 mpg to 42 combined – 43 city, 42 highway – and the new range-extending engine runs on cheaper regular fuel.

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt can run on pure electricity for 53 miles

The compact Volt still will catch criticism by some for having a tight-ish back seat but where it is like the super genius in the classroom is in the efficiency spectrum.

“The 2016 Volt is engineered to offer customers more of what they want: range, range and more range,” says Chevrolet, and this is not exaggeration.

The next-closest plug-in hybrid competitor is the Ford Fusion Energi EPA-rated at 19 miles all-electric miles. Hyundai’s 2016 Sonata plug-in hybrid is expected to deliver 24 miles all-electric miles – so the 2016 Volt more than doubles that.

How important is just 29-more electric miles per charge that the 2016 Volt affords? This message may be lost on people who hear of EVs going 80-270 miles, but for daily driving, this is enough to put lots of people over the top and stay in pure electric mode.

The average daily drive is under 40 miles says government data, and electricity in most parts of the country is far-less to pay for than gasoline, even at presently low prices.

2015 Volt Total Cost of Ownership. Data for the 2016 and 2016 Prius and Fusion Energi following is not yet available. Source: Edmunds

2015 Volt Total Cost of Ownership. Data for the 2016 and 2016 Prius and Fusion Energi following is not yet available. Source: Edmunds

Given the Volt – which starts at $33,995 – is eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit, and in California and other states further money back from governments encouraging low-emitting cars, the value proposition looks like it could be good-to-great.

According to’s Total Cost To Own calculator, the present 2015 Volt, though priced higher, already compares favorably to the most-efficient hybrid sold in the U.S., the Toyota Prius Liftback.

2015 Prius trim level IV. Note cash price less, but TCO is more than Volt. Source: Edmunds.

2015 Prius trim level IV. Note cash price is less, but TCO is more than Volt. Source: Edmunds.

Next to the Fusion Energi, the Volt comes in around $12,000 less to own over five years based on the averaged numbers and algorthms Edmunds applies.

When the Volt was first launched GM wanted to say it was good for 230 mpg, but facts get confusing when mixing potential gas savings by turning the engine off and running on battery power for a span.

As it is, Volt fans for the past four years have been raving that they do indeed exceed the EPA’s conservative estimates and net crazy high “mpg” – but of course this is augmented by electricity, which is not free but still less.

In Detroit this year at the generation two’s launch, the two top General Motors engineers responsible for the Volt’s development separately told us the main thing Volt owners wanted was to not have to turn on the gas.

Why? A few reasons, but one is once people get used to the Volt’s gas-free operation, it makes them want more. Frankly, the noise, vibration and harshness of engine-on versus engine-off spoils them for the all-electric drive experience. GM says the NVH is superior for the new 1.5-liter Ecotec replacing the 1.4 in the gen-one Volt, but the real goal is it not be used more than absolutely necessary.

2015 Fusion Energi SE TCO. Source: Edmunds.

2015 Fusion Energi SE TCO. Source: Edmunds.

Beyond those considerations, saving gas of course means less money spent, and fewer greenhouse gases emitted.

With its hands tied by liabilities and higher accountability, Chevrolet says conservatively the improved 2016 Volt will do well.

“Chevrolet expects many next-generation Volt owners will use power solely from their batteries for more than 90 percent of trips,” the automaker says based on OnStar telematics data. “Today, Volt owners use battery power on 80 percent of their trips.”

The carmaker hinted around the edges the vehicle may over-deliver with people who drive it sensibly and take advantage of recharging.

SEE ALSO: 6 Ways the 2016 Chevy Volt Has Been Improved

“Data shows that drivers of the first-generation Volt achieved, and often exceeded, the published EPA-estimated mileage,” says the automaker. “Chevrolet expects the same label-exceeding result with the next-generation Volt.”

In cold weather, the estimates will go down to one degree or another and the Volt does still need to run the engine due to cold temperature in frigid conditions.

But while the TCO compares available 2015 data, progress continues for everyone.

Unknown is how the new Volt will fare against the fourth-generation 2016 Prius due to be revealed later this year.

With regards to the Volt’s ability to run on battery only, that is a slam dunk – 53 miles versus maybe 1. How it may do later against a Prius plug-in hybrid is also an open question and rumors have it more EV range will be provided than the present car’s 11.


What Toyota has going for it is a long track record back to 2000 in the U.S., and superior gas-only mpg. Daily drives will still see the Volt averaging better but longer trips will see its edge diminish as the new Prius may get close to 55 mpg versus 42.

Of course a buying decision is based on far more than these narrow factors so other criteria even beyond those weighed in TCO estimates will need to be considered.

But within the other set of criteria – average-length daily driving – the Volt offers advantages of a pure EV with a built-in gas engine to go farther and stands heads above.

This article also appears at


Aug 11

Will GM Over-Deliver on the Gen 2 Performance?


By BillR

Last week we saw that GM had under-promised and over-delivered on the Gen 2 Volt efficiency ratings.

The EPA rated the Gen 2 Volt for 53 miles of AER (50 miles promised), 106 mpge (102 mpge promised), and in CS mode, 42 mpg (41 mpg promised).


Now, where will the performance numbers fall? GM has stated a 0 – 30 mph time of 2.6 seconds and a 0 – 60 time of 8.4 seconds. Will they over-deliver?

With the available information from GM, I have calculated some projected performance data for the Gen 2 Volt.

But first, let’s look at the Gen 1 performance numbers. The following link from Edmunds provides test data for a 2011 Chevy Volt.

In summary (electric-only propulsion)
0 – 30 mph 3.4 sec
0 – 60 mph 9.2 sec
0 – 90 mph* 20.1 sec
Skidpad 0.77 g

Similar acceleration numbers can be found for the 2014 Cadillac ELR. *The 0 – 90 mph data was taken from the following ELR test data.

So let’s examine some of the published information on the Gen 1 Volt. Figure 1 provides a comparison of the acceleration levels between Gen 1 and Gen 2.


Reference: SAE Paper 2015-01-1152: “The Next Generation Voltec Extended Range EV Propulsion System”, Conlon, Blohm et all General Motors dated 4/15/2015

There are several points to note from this graph. The Gen 2 Volt has greater acceleration at lower speeds, however, at higher speeds, Gen 1 actually has greater acceleration. We know the Gen 2 is faster from 0 – 30 mph, but from 30 to 60, Gen 2 still has greater acceleration.
Also, these Gen 2 numbers may likely be preliminary.

So with the Gen 1 data, we can use the following equation;

V = a * t
where V is velocity, a is acceleration, and t is time.

Gravitational acceleration (g) is 32.17 ft/sec2. Therefore, at 10 mph, the Gen 1 acceleration rate is 0.4g or 0.4 * 32.17 = 12.87 ft/sec2.

Since 60 mph is 88 ft/sec, 10 mph is 14.67 ft/sec. Therefore, to increase speed by 10 mph, the equation becomes;
14.67 = 12.87 * t
Therefore, t = 1.14 sec

Thus, with 0.4g of acceleration, the Gen 1 Volt can increase speed by 10 mph in 1.14 sec. However, this acceleration rate is not constant, and decreases with increasing speed. Therefore, a spreadsheet was created that utilizes the acceleration rates from Figure 1, and then finds an average acceleration rate for each 10 mph speed increment (i.e., 0 – 10 mph, 10 – 20 mph, 20 – 30 mph, etc.).

Figure 2 below provides the calculated full power EV acceleration for the Gen 1 Volt.


As seen in Figure 2, 0 – 30 mph calculates to 3.45 sec, 0 – 60 is 9.12 sec, and 0 – 90 is 20.87 sec. These results provide good agreement with the road test numbers.

So what can we expect from Gen 2? We can first note this comment from a recent press release, “We listened to our customers,” said Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer, “They were very clear when they told us that they wanted more range, and a fun driving experience behind the wheel. We are confident that the 2016 Volt delivers both.”

So the next step in this analysis was to look in more detail at the Gen 2 Volt acceleration. However, rather than utilize the preliminary numbers from Figure 1, the torque numbers from the motor A and motor B curves were used. The motor curves can be found in this article.

In short, the peak motor torques at the motor speeds corresponding to each distinct vehicle speed (every 10 mph) were tabulated. Each motor drives through its own planetary gear set, then through a final drive system. The overall gear reduction is 7.577 for motor A and 8.123 for motor B. The total axle torque at each speed was calculated.

From these values, the load required to drive the Gen 1 Volt at each speed was subtracted (this is the load to maintain speed and overcome losses; this load cannot contribute to any acceleration). Thanks to George S. Bower for the steady speed running losses.

The corrected axle torque values now equate to the forces that can accelerate the Gen 2 Volt.

Data from Michelin indicates that the tires on the Gen 2 Volt are 25.5 inches in diameter. Using this data, the torque value can be used to calculate the force transmitted by the tire to the road. This force value is divided by the weight of the Gen 2 Volt to arrive at an acceleration rate in g’s. Then, like the analysis in Figure 2, acceleration rates for the Gen 2 Volt can be determined. This data is shown in Figure 3.

Here we see good correlation with GM’s stated 0 – 30 time of 2.6 sec. But notice the 0 – 60 time; 7.33 seconds! This is a substantial increase in acceleration over the preliminary 8.4 seconds provided by GM. Also, the calculated 0 – 90 time is ~ 20 seconds, which is not much different than Gen 1. This illustrates that the EV performance in the Gen 2 Volt is optimized for the lower speed range.

The final performance parameter to discuss is skidpad performance. The new Michelin tires are an energy saver design, but are probably slightly more conventional. In this video, Mark Reuss comments on the improvements to the tires.

In addition, the Michelin tires have a lower aspect ratio, 50 versus 55 for Gen 1.

The Gen 2 Volt is approximately 250 lbs lighter than Gen 1 and most of that weight has likely been removed from the front wheels, since 100 lbs was removed from the drive unit. The Edmunds data indicates that the Gen 1 Volt had 61.4% of its weight on the front wheels, so reducing the weight on the front wheels will provide a more even weight distribution, which should improve handling.

Given the improved tires, lowered weight, improved weight distribution, suspension calibrations, and other improvements, the Gen 2 Volt skidpad numbers could come in near 0.84g (similar to 2014 ELR).
In summary, GM under-promised and over-delivered on the Gen 2 Volt efficiency ratings. It appears that they may do the same with the performance ratings.

The 0 – 30 mph acceleration time has been stated by GM to be 2.6 seconds. Calculations verify this number. However, instead of reaching 0 – 60 mph in the promised 8.4 seconds, calculations indicate this number may be closer to 7.5 seconds. Weight, tire, and suspension improvements could yield a skidpad rating of 0.84g.

So the “fun-to-drive” factor may be much more pronounced in the Gen 2 Volt.


Aug 10

Coal-powered electric plants are in crosshairs of EPA and Obama with new regulations


Is this good news in your view, or not?

coal plant

One of the chief criticisms against electric cars is coal-powered electric grids can mar their net results, but last week something fairly radical was done to curtail this scenario.

In a “historic” move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the first federal limits on state carbon emissions from the nation’s grids was introduced by the Clean Power Plan.

SEE ALSO: Why An Electric Car Is Greener Cradle to Grave

Hosted by President Barack Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the plan’s “moral” priority is founded on grave concerns over climate change, and these are being said to justify a speeding up an already underway shift toward renewable energy.

Under the rule, consumption of coal would be cut 23 percent by 2020 which has the coal industry and its supporters expressing dismay. Legal challenges are predicted to follow, though observers say the EPA has done what it can do stave off opponents in court.

Overall, the rule mandates a 32 percent reduction in powerplant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 compared to levels from 2005 levels. This is an increase from a target of 30 percent proposed last year.

The rule requires states to submit plans for cutting carbon output by 2018 and their first targets for reductions must be met by 2022.

Critical Action

Over the coming weeks as the massive document is analyzed further, it is expected to polarize opposition, including along the lines of Republican and Democratic presidential lines.

Ironically, some of the voices that are quick to lambaste electric cars and their “dirty little secret” of coal-fired grids may also oppose the aggressive timeline to clean up the grid.

Immediately op-eds began springing up, but the Obama administration justifies the action as best for the country, the environment, and even the economy.

Today only China pollutes more than the U.S., and the U.S. is responsible for double the carbon dioxide compared to all other large economies.

Coal is the largest contributor today of electricity at around 38 percent. It has been dwindling as old powerplants have been shuttered, but remains responsible for 77 percent of carbon emissions according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Climate Action Legacy

Political commentators are viewing this largely also as the president wishing to leave a legacy of having done something major to combat climate change. He will be meeting with Pope Francis in September who has written an encyclical on a moral obligation the Obama administration says it recognizes.

Actually, the message from the White House is more dire than that saying this is the first generation to notice changes predicted to be potentially cataclysmic and the last generation that can do anything about them.

We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital. Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country.

In a speech, the president said carbon levels are higher today than they have been in 800,000 years. He said 2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record planet, and 14 of 15 warmest years on record were in first 15 years of this century.


Meanwhile coal industry stakeholders, and other state leaders are warning of major costs that will cost jobs, hurt the mining industry, and more.

If this is true, one might surmise it comes down to whether the emergency of climate change justifies strong action to preserve the interests of many more in the global population versus constituencies within the United States.

But the Obama administration does not put things in these terms, and instead warrants an accelerated shift to renewable energy.

According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the estimated annual cost of the rule would be $8.4 billion by 2030 but would pay off to the tune of $34 billion to $54 billion per year by then.

These include all benefits, including to public-health, and are outlined below:

• Provide significant public health benefits – The Clean Power Plan, and other policies put in place to drive a cleaner energy sector, will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. The Clean Power Plan will also avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.

• Create tens of thousands of jobs while ensuring grid reliability;

• Drive more aggressive investment in clean energy technologies than the proposed rule, resulting in 30 percent more renewable energy generation in 2030 and continuing to lower the costs of renewable energy.

• Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy bill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020-2030;

• Give a head start to wind and solar deployment and prioritize the deployment of energy efficiency improvements in low-income communities that need it most early in the program through a Clean Energy Incentive Program; and Continue American leadership on climate change by keeping us on track to meet the economy-wide emissions targets we have set, including the goal of reducing emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and to 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Key Features

The final Clean Power Plan takes into account the unprecedented input EPA received through extensive outreach, including the 4 million comments that were submitted to the agency during the public comment period. The result is a fair, flexible program that will strengthen the fast-growing trend toward cleaner and lower-polluting American energy. The Clean Power Plan significantly reduces carbon pollution from the electric power sector while advancing clean energy innovation, development, and deployment. It ensures the U.S. will stay on a path of long-term clean energy investments that will maintain the reliability of our electric grid, promote affordable and clean energy for all Americans, and continue United States leadership on climate action. The Clean Power Plan:

• Provides Flexibility to States to Choose How to Meet Carbon Standards: EPA’s Clean Power Plan establishes carbon pollution standards for power plants, called carbon dioxide (CO2) emission performance rates. States develop and implement tailored plans to ensure that the power plants in their state meet these standards– either individually, together, or in combination with other measures like improvements in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The final rule provides more flexibility in how state plans can be designed and implemented, including: streamlined opportunities for states to include proven strategies like trading and demand-side energy efficiency in their plans, and allows states to develop “trading ready” plans to participate in “opt in” to an emission credit trading market with other states taking parallel approaches without the need for interstate agreements. All low-carbon electricity generation technologies, including renewables, energy efficiency, natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, can play a role in state plans.

• More Time for States Paired With Strong Incentives for Early Deployment of Clean Energy: State plans are due in September of 2016, but states that need more time can make an initial submission and request extensions of up to two years for final plan submission. The compliance averaging period begins in 2022 instead of 2020, and emission reductions are phased in on a gradual “glide path” to 2030. These provisions to give states and companies more time to prepare for compliance are paired with a new Clean Energy Incentive Program to drive deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency before 2022.

• Creates Jobs and Saves Money for Families and Businesses: The Clean Power Plan builds on the progress states, cities, and businesses and have been making for years. Since the beginning of 2010, the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by half and wind is increasingly competitive nationwide. The Clean Power Plan will drive significant new investment in cleaner, more modern and more efficient technologies, creating tens of thousands of jobs. Under the Clean Power Plan, by 2030, renewables will account for 28 percent of our capacity, up from 22 percent in the proposed rule. Due to these improvements, the Clean Power Plan will save the average American nearly $85 on their energy bill in 2030, and save consumers a total of $155 billion through 2020-2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes.


• Rewards States for Early Investment in Clean Energy, Focusing on Low-Income Communities: The Clean Power Plan establishes a Clean Energy Incentive Program that will drive additional early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency. Under the program, credits for electricity generated from renewables in 2020 and 2021 will be awarded to projects that begin construction after participating states submit their final implementation plans. The program also prioritizes early investment in energy efficiency projects in low-income communities by the Federal government awarding these projects double the number of credits in 2020 and 2021. Taken together, these incentives will drive faster renewable energy deployment, further reduce technology costs, and lay the foundation for deep long-term cuts in carbon pollution. In addition, the Clean Energy Incentive Plan provides additional flexibility for states, and will increase the overall net benefits of the Clean Power Plan.

SEE ALSO: Here’s Why Electric Cars Are Always Greener Than Gas

• Ensures Grid Reliability: The Clean Power Plan contains several important features to ensure grid reliability as we move to cleaner sources of power. In addition to giving states more time to develop implementation plans, starting compliance in 2022, and phasing in the targets over the decade, the rule requires states to address reliability in their state plans. The final rule also provides a “reliability safety valve” to address any reliability challenges that arise on a case-by-case basis. These measures are built on a framework that is inherently flexible in that it does not impose plant-specific requirements and provides states flexibility to smooth out their emission reductions over the period of the plan and across sources.

• Continues U.S. Leadership on Climate Change: The Clean Power Plan continues United States leadership on climate change. By driving emission reductions from power plants, the largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean Power Plan builds on prior Administration steps to reduce emissions, including historic investments to deploy clean energy technologies, standards to double the fuel economy of our cars and light trucks, and steps to reduce methane pollution. Taken together these measures put the United States on track to achieve the President’s near-term target to reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and lay a strong foundation to deliver against our long-term target to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The release of the Clean Power Plan continues momentum towards international climate talks in Paris in December, building on announcements to-date of post-2020 targets by countries representing 70 percent of global energy based carbon emissions.

• Sets State Targets in a Way That Is Fair and Is Directly Responsive to Input from States, Utilities, and Stakeholders: In response to input from stakeholders, the final Clean Power Plan modifies the way that state targets are set by using an approach that better reflects the way the electricity grid operates, using updated information about the cost and availability of clean generation technologies, and establishing separate emission performance rates for all coal plants and all gas plants.

• Maintains Energy Efficiency as Key Compliance Tool: In addition to on-site efficiency and greater are reliance on low and zero carbon generation, the Clean Power Plan provides states with broad flexibility to design carbon reduction plans that include energy efficiency and other emission reduction strategies. EPA’s analysis shows that energy efficiency is expected to play a major role in meeting the state targets as a cost-effective and widely-available carbon reduction tool, saving enough energy to power 30 million homes and putting money back in ratepayers’ pockets.

• Requires States to Engage with Vulnerable Populations: The Clean Power Plan includes provisions that require states to meaningfully engage with low-income, minority, and tribal communities, as the states develop their plans. EPA also encourages states to engage with workers and their representatives in the utility and related sectors in developing their state plans.

• Includes a Proposed Federal Implementation Plan: EPA is also releasing a proposed federal plan. This proposed plan will provide a model states can use in designing their plans, and when finalized, will be a backstop to ensure that the Clean Power Plan standards are met in every state.

This article also appears at


Aug 07

One millionth global plug-in car will be sold in September


plug-in car

If plug-in electrified vehicle fans need a good reason to throw a party, how about the fact that the one-millionth PEV worldwide is expected to be sold by mid next month?

This is based on 910,000 cumulative sales through June 2015 of plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars since these vehicles first came on the scene. Global sales are now cooking along at a rate of 40,000 per month and climbing, but it’s been a long time coming.

What began with dinky little cars purchased only in the hundreds annually by forward-thinking adopters two decades ago up-shifted to greater volumes last decade when Tesla and others came along, then took off starting in 2010.

A global sales spike of 729 percent in 2011 over a handful in 2010 saw annual sales volume rise to around 50,000, then in 2012 over 110,000 or 150 percent more were sold. In 2013 a 70-percent increase witnessed around 200,000 annual units, and 2014 saw over 300,000 or 53 percent growth.

At the present rate 2015 could have over 400,000 sales, and positive pressures outweighing negative continue, as does now innovation and increasing serious efforts by numerous automakers.

U.S. Still A Leader

For the first half of this year, just about 200,000 PEVs were bought in the 20 top countries, with the lion’s share being by less half that many nations.

The U.S. remains the largest consumer of plug-in vehicles but its lead is slipping, as is Japan’s. Meanwhile Europe for the first time as a whole topped the U.S. market.


In December the U.S. held down 41 percent of the world’s total PEV sales but by June 2015 it had declined to 38 percent. With 53,944 PEVs sold in the first half of the year, its cumulative total grew to 345,276 and this has actually now crossed 350,000 in July. This means the U.S. is responsible for more than one-third of the global total.

On a percentage basis however, the U.S. is not as impressive as other nations. Annually, the U.S. buys 16.5 million passenger cars and trucks and its PEV market share fell from 0.71 percent in the first half of 2014 to 0.64 percent in 2015.

SEE ALSO: European Plug-in Sales Leap Ahead of US For The First Time

Battery electric vehicles increased U.S. market share while plug-in hybrids declined significantly from 0.36 percent to 0.22 percent.

Analysts have offered several reasons among a mish-mash of variables trying to account for what is going on in U.S. sales. The headline news is gas prices dropped, and so consumers making long-term vehicle purchases changed back to more SUVs and trucks based on short-term news of cheap fuel.

If gas prices spike back up, it’s predicted the reactive public may shift back to fuel misers of one form or another.


Beyond this, the market is still new, and models like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf have done relatively well but not been a home run success to break out of a limited sales volume range. And now new models pending including 200-mile range EVs replacing 80-some mile EVs for the same price may also have a chilling effect for some.

Incentives and positive news mixed with dire reports that electrified cars are not as green as claimed by certain publications have also seeded the public with conflicting messages. Surveys show mainstream buyers may entertain misconceptions and have only fuzzy comprehension of the actual value proposition and benefits afforded by a PEV, and contradicting stories have thus had a stalling effect among some.

SEE ALSO: Are Consumers Being Manipulated By Anti-Electric Car Propaganda?

The strongest push for the U.S. and all global markets is generally agreed to be mpg and emission regulations. These are forcing automakers to develop and market new vehicles, and respective government agencies are also actively promoting them.

This, say advocates, is not without reason with concerns over energy security, and climate change, but meanwhile other countries are accepting plug-in vehicles on a higher percentage basis.

According to global sales tracker Mario R. Duran, who compiled data used in this report, five nations now have over one-percent market share.

These are: Norway (22.8 percent ), the Netherlands (5.90 percent), Sweden (2.01 percent ), UK (1.03 percent ), and France (1.00 percent).


In 2014 only three countries – Norway, Netherlands and Sweden – were over one percent, so we see a shift.

Further, five nations had sales growth over 50 percent. These are the UK (247.2 percent), China (185.8 percent), France (86.7 percent ), Germany (67.3 percent ) and Norway (66.4 percent).

Europe and China are growing fast this year, observes Duran, and the U.S. and Japan have continued “in the red” relative to previous performance.

Not counted, but worth a mention are heavy duty PEVs being pushed in China.

“China is the absolute king in heavy-duty PEV sales, with over 22,000 during the first half of 2015, and 53.7K cumulative sales,” observed Duran of mainly all-electric buses.

And, the big picture worldwide is PEVs are on the rise, and the real growth has been this decade.

So, if you want to have a Million PEV Party, sometime in the first or second week of September ought to be a safe guess to schedule it.

This article also appears at


Aug 06

Why Wrightspeed is getting it right with hybrid trucks


Most of you probably already have heard of Wrightspeed. And, you know the opportunities are there. This article is submitted by an advocate who sees synergies in the making.


By Daniel Matthews

Ian in Shop

Sometimes the stars align for a tech innovator. Here in the world of the automobile, the “stars” aren’t gigantic burning spheres of helium and hydrogen in the cosmos—they’re the market conditions that, if they continue on their trajectory, will determine the fate of an entity.

Tesla co-founder Ian Wright broke off from Tesla in 2005 to start his own company, Wrightspeed. With his Wrightspeed Route electric powertrains, Wright is betting the commercial trucking industry’s bottom line will cripple combustion engines in trucks. Wright is wagering mail trucks, garbage trucks, freight trucks—commercial trucks of all kinds will take to hybrid-electric technology over alternatives.

Those of us who aren’t huge fans of the fossil fuel industry can only hope he’s right. But will the market stars align for Wrightspeed? The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, and one of the big ones is whether Wrightspeed can gain traction in the gigantic freight industry.

Disrupting freight

The freight industry is an extremely important niche, especially if Wright intends to help in the fight against climate change.

According to Popular Mechanics, semis travel about 42 percent of all miles American commercial trucks travel. The EPA estimates that 70 percent of freight in the U.S. is hauled by trucks. That works out to about 60,000 pounds a year of food, hardware, cars, etc. per person; to accomplish this feat of distribution, class 7 and 8 semi-trucks account for roughly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions trucks spew on the road today. And with the 2014 gas-mileage standard of 7.2 mpg on a flat road, they’re consuming the most fuel and using it at the lowest efficiency level.

In order to disrupt the freight industry, Wright has to convince fleet operators his product will save more money than a new truck.

A new semi-truck costs between $130,000 and $180,000 without the trailer and the whole rig can cost up to $260,000 (or more) depending on customizations. According to, to retrofit a truck with one of Wright’s powertrains, it’ll run about $200,000.

Beyond these baseline numbers, freight industry fleet buyers need to take into account climate change regulations that will force them to get fuel efficient, and start to put the kibosh on the old way of doing things.

Regulating emissions

New federal fuel economy regulations for commercial trucks are kicking in this year. “Phase 1” requires semi-trucks, pickup trucks, and every kind of bus and work truck to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. The Phase 2 regulations on class 7 and 8 semis will get even steeper in 2021. According to the Phase Two Regulatory Announcement, by the year 2027 these trucks will have to cut emissions up to 24 percent.

Wrightspeed Back axle 1

Wrightspeed is primed to take advantage of regulations in an industry that is typically a hard sell. But the regulations aren’t calculated to revolutionize how these trucks run. Regulators have looked into the industry and they’re not saying the changes will force freight to go hybrid, or electric. That type of move would give an unfair advantage to companies like Wrightspeed.

In the Regulatory Announcement, the EPA suggests that the freight industry can employ technologies such as “aerodynamic devices, lower rolling resistance tires, automatic tire inflation systems, and weight reduction” to meet the new standards. For Wrightspeed, this sets up a Battle of the Tech. Here again it has to convince fleet operators its system is more beneficial than the alternatives in the tech arena.

Comparing Technologies

Wright’s electric powertrain uses plug-in lithium-ion phosphate battery power for about 30 miles. During that stretch, regenerative braking power also feeds up to 730 kw of power to the battery. Then a microturbine generator kicks in and allows for unlimited range by recharging the battery completely; Wright claims the powertrains will double fuel efficiency and lower maintenance costs.

A standard stop-and-start delivery truck, the diesel-fed Isuzu NPR averaged 12 mpg before installing the powertrain. After the Isuzu was retrofitted with a Wrightspeed powertrain, which includes an electric plug-in engine and an electric transmission, the same Isuzu got 44 mpg around the city, a 300-percent improvement. And that was using the old Capstone microturbine generator, for which Wright didn’t own the intellectual property (IP) rights.

Wrightspeed  suzii

Recently, Wright unveiled the new Fulcrum microturbine, for which he owns the IP rights. Like the Capstone before it, the Fulcrum range extender can run on a host of fuel alternatives, including diesel, compressed and liquid natural gases, landfill gases, biodiesel, kerosene, propane, and heating oil. A=nd better than the Capstone before it, it has a power-to-weight ratio of 750 W/kg compared to the Capstone’s 478 W/kg. Through fuel combustion and gas compression the turbines generate electricity and send juice to the battery pack, creating 325 horsepower.

The Fulcrum’s 30-percent improvement in efficiency compared to existing turbine tech is due to a recuperator that recovers exhaust heat that would otherwise be lost. The exhaust heat is fed back in with gases created by a combination of combustion and compressed, heated atmospheric air. These gases power the expansion turbines, which drive the inlet compressor and drive shaft.

Combined with an intercooler system, the Fulcrum setup is lighter, and therefore more efficient, than piston generators, which have to use catalytic converters to meet emissions standards . The microturbine is so clean, it needs no “after treatment” such as a catayltci converter or other technologies.

As good as this may sound, big names such as Freightliner, Navistar, PACCAR, and Volvo are competing with Wrightspeed by implementing various structural changes to trucks, as suggested by the EPA.

Wrightspeed screenshot 2

According to Wired, some of the most basic improvements include streamlining truck bodies with a more aerodynamic, rounded design, adding skirts and a custom tail to the trailer, replacing mirrors with cameras, widening tires—generally engineering these things to work better with the wind and road. One strategy involves “platooning,” or follow-the-leader for the long haul, where trucks closely mimic the movements of a truck in front, cutting down on wind resistance and saving up to 6 percent on fuel.

Other more high-tech solutions include using heat generated by brakes to create power, which the onboard computer feeds into the battery. Wrightspeed is harnessing that idea already. Or, the hydraulic hybrid model, as tested by UPS, takes power generated by brakes and stores it in a high-pressure accumulator. Using the accumulated power, a truck can run for up to 90 minutes with the engine off. This works especially well for delivery trucks that have to make a lot of stops.

Wrightspeed’s niche

So far, delivery trucks and garbage trucks—the trucks that make a lot of stops—are the niche where Wright is generating the most interest. A new garbage truck costs about half a million dollars, over which Wrightspeed’s Route powertrains have the monetary advantage, and Wright has already secured a deal with Ratto Group waste management company to run Route powertrains in 17 of their trucks. Ratto is hoping to convert all 200 of their garbage trucks moving forward. In the delivery niche, Wright also has a deal with FedEx to try out his electric powertrains on 25 trucks.

The long run

One can only speculate on how Wrightspeed will fair with the freight industry. Wrightspeed is backed up with orders currently, and initial interest from garbage and delivery concerns will help fund continued advancement. Down the line, it’s not unreasonable to expect at least some interest from the freight industry, and Wrightspeed will hit gold if it can partner with a major manufacturer. Ian Wright doesn’t wish to comment on where he is with that yet.

Whatever the case is for the future, what we’re seeing right now looks promising because Wrightspeed’s technology is continually progressing, and emissions regulations are sure to help Wright’s focus on trucks continue to build up steam.

Daniel Matthews is a freelance writer and green car enthusiast from Boise, Idaho. You can find him on Twitter @danielmatthews0.

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