Electric tuk-tuk from Terra Motors hopes to clean up in Southeast Asia

Auto rickshaws, also known as tuk-tuks, three-wheelers or by numerous other names, are a common sight on the streets of many Asian cities. An evolution of the traditional pulled or cycle rickshaw, the gasoline-powered vehicles, which are used as taxis, are a major source of pollution in many Asian cities. Japan’s Terra Motors hopes to capitalize on efforts to cut tuk-tuk pollution with its new electric three-wheeler aimed at emerging Southeast Asia markets.

Although they are generally powered by high polluting two-stroke engines, a number of governments in Southeast Asia are forcing changes in an effort to improve the air quality in major cities. Some are forcing a switch to CNG or LPG fuel, while others are banning two-stroke engines in favor of four-stroke engines. The Philippines government is embracing locally emission-free electric powered tuk-tuks, with plans to introduce some 100,000 such vehicles by 2016.

Terra Motors is aiming for a slice of this pie with its electric three-wheeler, alongside the wider goal of becoming the world’s biggest seller of electric tuk-tuks within the next two years. Likely strengthening the company’s bid, Terra Motors will produce the vehicles in the Philippines.

I want one.

Actually, the critter I want is designed to be an enclosed tandem for about the same price — $6300. Wouldn’t work as a cab; but, it would surely get me forth and back from town for a lot less than my old pickup truck.

Magnetic fields in electric cars are minimal

Researchers from seven countries have concluded that we can feel safe both in electric-powered cars and in those powered by hydrogen, petrol and diesel. None of them exposes passengers to higher electromagnetic fields than those recommended in international standards. In fact, field intensity is well below the recommended value. The study is currently the most comprehensive ever carried out in this field…

“There is a good deal of public concern about exposure to magnetic fields. The subject crops up regularly in the media. With the number of electric-powered vehicles increasing, this project is very relevant,” says Kari Schjølberg-Henriksen, a physicist at SINTEF…

The intensity of magnetic fields in seven different electric cars, one hydrogen car and one petrol car were measured in order to ascertain whether they approach the recommended limiting values for human exposure. The measurements were carried out using real cars in a laboratory and during road tests.

The highest values in electric cars were measured near the floor, close to the battery itself and when starting the cars. In all cases, exposure to magnetic fields is lower than 20 per cent of the limiting value recommended by the ICNIRP. Measurements taken at head-height are less than 2 per cent of the same limiting value.

In the case of petrol and diesel powered cars, exposure was measured at around 10 per cent of the limiting value. In other words, there is little difference between electric cars and petrol and diesel cars

“There is absolutely no cause for concern. The difference between this research and similar earlier work is that we have taken into account what contributes to the magnetic fields. The rotation of the wheels themselves generates considerable magnetic fields, irrespective of vehicle type,” Schjølberg-Henriksen points out.

He probably shouldn’t have added that last point. I can see conspiracy nutballs right now preparing talking points aimed at removing wheels from automobiles.

If the travois was good enough for Native Americans, it should be good enough for us.

Used Nissan Leaf batteries part of solar energy system

The spiritual among us will view Sumitomo and Nissan’s installation of its first-ever used-electric-vehicle-battery storage as a bit of divine reincarnation. But the idea is quite logical and practical. The two companies formed the 4R Energy Corporation in late 2010 and have now installed what they call the world’s first “large-scale power storage system” using exclusively used batteries from battery-electric vehicles in Osaka, Japan.

The system uses 16 electric-vehicle batteries to create what’s called a “smoothing effect” on the power output of a nearby solar farm by storing excess energy generated by the panels during sunnier times, then sending it back to the system when it is sun-constrained. Yes, that’s a fancy word for dark.

Spurred by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, Sumitomo and Nissan announced the collaboration, whose four Rs stand for “Reuse, Resell, Refabricate and Recycle,” in 2009 and launched it a year later. Nissan, which was obviously trying to boost resale value for its battery-electric Leaf at the time by finding a money-generating home for its used-up battery packs, estimated at the time that sales of the Leaf battery-electric would generate 50,000 battery packs available for the secondary market by 2020…

Toyota is also investing time and money towards similar low-carbon, recycling targets – from two different directions: selling disused Prius batteries for low-cost electricity storage and solar backup to their car dealers and a much grander project at Toyota City’s EcoFul Town in Japan. The latter a holistic solution involving home-building, transportation and solar-generated electricity.

Neither of which takes anything away from the Nissan-Sumitomo project.

GM releases more details about the 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV

General Motors has released details of its pending pure electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Spark EV.

The electric car will be based on the small gas-engine Spark already offered. Its propulsion will delivered by an oil-cooled, permanent magnet motor that produces at least 100 kilowatts (130 horsepower) and instantaneous torque of about 400 pound-feet with the coaxial drive unit.

GM says the resulting acceleration for the 0-60 mph sprint will take less than eight seconds.

The Spark EV will come with an industry-first, a SAE combo charger. This will allow DC fast charging of up to 80 percent of battery capacity in approximately 20 minutes.

That capability will be available shortly after market launch, GM says, adding it will assist with effective daily EV range…

The Spark EV’s more than 20-kwh lithium-ion battery pack will be protected by Chevrolet’s eight year/100,000 mile warranty, and is said by GM to be capable of handling multiple DC fast charges daily.

Charging will also be possible in less than seven hours using a dedicated 240-volt charger. A 120-volt charge cord set will be standard.

Owners will be able to manage and monitor charging remotely using the Spark EV’s smart phone application, provided by OnStar…

Price is the kicker. Typical range for any small [or smallish] EV is 60-70 miles. That’s almost 3 days worth of commuting for my wife. Our weekend grocery shopping/errands fits, too. If the critter comes in at or below $20K – we’re first in line for Santa Fe County.

3rd Generation electric car batteries promise 300-mile range and 70% less cost

I want one of these

Would you be interested in an electric car that travels 300 miles on a single charge but its battery costs about 70 percent less than today’s packs? It’s something to look forward to in the next few years, says lithium-ion battery research company CalBattery.

CalBattery has designed a new li-ion battery with a silicon-graphene anode promising a major improvement in battery energy density. The design is based on what the company calls its “GEN3” silicon-graphene composite anode material for li-ion batteries, the technology breakthrough for which was developed at Argonne National Labs. The company entered the li-ion battery cells into the Department of Energy’s 2012 Start UP America’s Next Top Energy Innovator challenge, and is a finalist in the competition.

Independent test results show that CalBattery’s cells have an energy density of 525 watt-hours per kilogram, and anode capacity of 1,250 mili-amp-hours per gram. Compare this to the typical commercial battery out there right now in the 100-180 watt-hours per kg range, and anode capacity in the 325 mili-amp-hours per gram range.

…”This equates to more than a 300 percent improvement in lithium-ion battery capacity, and an estimated 70 percent reduction in lifetime cost for batteries used in consumer electronics, EVs, and grid-scale energy storage,” CalBattery CEO Phil Roberts told Torque News.

Increased efforts to get EV tech into the marketplace have Nissan offering dramatically cut-price leases on their Leaf – and, now, some California Focus Electric dealers matching the rate. For as long as the cost of money is zilch, leases start to make as much sense as purchase.

The Ford EV’s aren’t yet available in my neck of the prairie; but, if they start to show up in the next year – at California lease rates – I’m beginning to think it worthwhile. Especially with consideration of rolling the deal over into a new purchase with Gen 3 batteries in a subsequent 3 or 4 years.

Study finds most EV drivers go 1,050 miles on $30/month

The average EV user drives 1,050 miles per month and spends around $30 dollars in charging costs, saves around $75 per month in fuel costs and sheds 360 pounds of CO2 emissions compared to “regular” drivers. Want to know the top three electric vehicle-ready cities in North America? Portland, Dallas, and Nashville.

This data comes from EV drivers who use PlugShare, a mobile and web application developed by Xatori, a technology company focused on building innovative software for connected cars. PlugShare has grown its nationwide charging network to more than 100,000 users and 11,000 charging stations across the U.S….

Ironically enough, the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle are behind Dallas and Nashville at numbers four and five, respectively. Los Angeles doesn’t even crack the top 10. The article doesn’t define the methodology for what city makes the EV-ready city cut, or what it actually means. As for Portland, that’s got to be the city in Oregon and not the one in Maine.


Wish I could crack the original cost for one of these critters for the going-to-town portion of our lives. Yes, I know none of the manufacturers are reaching anything like a small percentage of the scale required to begin lowering prices. Most of them are losing money as it is – though not as much as Republicans wish.

That number from PlugShare would save us about $45/month – and that’s not enough even for a couple of hermits who keep cars for decades at a time. 🙂

Just another Reagan Republican who wouldn’t be invited into a Romney administration


In the hyperbolic political atmosphere of America today, left-leaning liberals are seen as tofu-eating, Toyota Prius-driving communists, while right-leaning conservatives are depicted as gun-toting, pickup-driving patriots. Thankfully, the real world is a lot more diverse than those caricatures.

Take George Shultz, for example. He served as both Labor and Treasury secretary for Richard Nixon and went on to become Secretary of State for the majority of Ronald Reagan’s two terms. Pretty solid conservative bona fides, we think.

And yet, he drives an electric car. A Nissan Leaf to be precise. On top of that, he generates his own electricity with a tidy little solar array…

Now, one might imagine his motivation for choosing clean energy and transportation has something to do with a strong dislike of mid-east oil. They would be correct. “I’m driving on sunshine. Take that, Ahmadinejad!”, he states in the video…

However, he is also concerned about the disastrous environmental effects our fossil fuel habit is causing. He supports a (gasp!) carbon tax as a way to combat the problem and his car and solar panels are his way of walking the talk

A Republican principled enough, sufficiently objective to care about future generations. Instead of the greedy and grasping ideology completely dominating every waking moment of Congressional Republicans, Shultz steps back from crap phrase-mongering and lives his life by sensible standards.

Read the complete interview at the Stanford University site. Compare his analysis of life in America, life on Earth, today – with the craptastic PR regurgitated from the Republican Party nowadays.

Electric vehicle drivers save up to $1,200 a year

Drivers of electric vehicles such as General Motors Chevrolet Volt and Nissan’s Leaf may save as much as $1,200 a year compared with operating a new gasoline-powered compact car, scientists studying improved fuel economy found.

With gasoline at $3.50 a gallon, drivers who plug cars into electrical outlets would save $750 to $1,200 a year instead of buying gas for a new car that gets 27 miles a gallon when driving 11,000 miles a year, the Union of Concerned Scientists said in a study released today.

“While in this early electric vehicle market these products have higher up-front costs, knowing how much one can save by using electricity instead of gasoline is an important factor for consumers,” the study by the…group said.

The study, which also evaluated emissions benefits of electric vehicles based on owners’ locations, didn’t compare the total costs of ownership of electric and conventional vehicles…

Consumers need to make the decision about whether the higher upfront cost is worth the fuel savings, said Don Anair, the study’s author, on a conference call with reporters.

“The cost of the electric vehicles today vary pretty widely based on the models that are out there,” he said. “It’s important for consumers to understand what the potential savings are on fuel costs, and that can help them make a decision about buying a vehicle…”

The average U.S. gas price was $3.91 as of yesterday, according to U.S. motorist group AAA. That’s a 19 percent increase so far this year.

Electric is still our family preference; but, we can’t reasonably afford the upfront cost.

Frankly, our immediate plan – if one of our high-mileage rides dies – is to buy an econobox. Keep it for our minimum 10 years. See where the price of all-electric or extended range EV cars are at, then.

Car2go has 6,000 electric car sharers in San Diego in first 100 days

For some people, buying an electric car is a long-time dream. For others, the excitement comes simply from driving one and not having to worry about the hassles of vehicle ownership. Turns out, there are at least 6,000 such people in San Diego, CA, where Daimler’s easy-access car-sharing program, Car2go, reported that many users in the program’s first 100 days. Car2go is also happy to note that the 300 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive models that are in use there now means that, “for the first time in the history of North America, an entire city has access to emissions-free automobility.”

Car2go started operationg in San Diego in November of 2011 and more than 25,000 all-electric trips have been taken thus far. At the beginning, around 500 rentals were happening each week. Now, it’s up to 3,500

The press release is a little dry – but, it’s an interesting read on where the project is coming from and where it’s going.

IBM is developing an air battery for 500-mile range electric cars

One nagging issue with electric vehicles is range. While today’s lithium-ion batteries are much better than yesterday’s nickel-metal hydride batteries, they still don’t offer enough energy storage to take an EV much further than 100 miles without a lengthy recharge. Even if the Li-ion batteries were up to the challenge, there is still the awkward problem of where to pack 1,000 pounds (or more) of bulky storage cells into a vehicle’s chassis.

IBM thinks it has a solution with a promising new lithium-air battery. According to the technology giant, a typical Li-air battery cell has a theoretical energy density more than 1,000 times greater than today’s industry-standard Li-ion battery cell. Even better, Li-air batteries are one-fifth the size and they offer a lifespan at least five times as long.

So, what has been holding IBM back? It appears that there was a problem with the the original Li-air automotive application, as frequent recharging cycles compromised battery life. However, the engineers have recently found alternative electrolyte compounds that look very promising. The team’s goal is to have a full-scale prototype ready by 2013, with commercial batteries on sale by the end of the decade.

Bravo! I’m afraid we’ll have to replace my wife’s decades-old Volvo before an affordable EV is actually available on the car lots of New Mexico. But – I keep watch on projects like this, anyway. Maybe, we’ll get the opportunity to buy one, yet.