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By Russ Finley on Jul 3, 2014 with 5 responses

Nissan Leaf Replacement Battery for $5,500

LeafWithBattery

Provision of an after-market battery pack is another electric car first and an all important step for electric cars to gain greater market share. Leaf owners now have the option to upgrade to a new battery (with new, more heat resistant chemistry) when the old one wears out, or of selling their car and letting someone else put a new battery in it. An electric car with a worn out battery wouldn’t have much resale value if you couldn’t replace the battery. The existence of a reasonably priced battery replacement might stimulate sales by putting at ease any prospective customers concerned about how they would sell their electric car once its battery wore out.

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By Russ Finley on May 19, 2014 with 28 responses

Road Trip–Thoughts on the Satsop Nuclear Power Station

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One of the Two Cooling Towers at the Unfinished Satsop Nuclear Power plant

My wife and I recently took a weekend road trip to view the annual shore bird migration along the Washington coast. Because it was along our route, we made a short stop in the town of Satsop.

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By Russ Finley on Apr 21, 2014 with 10 responses

Lie To Me–Keystone XL Could Mean the End for Wolves

WolfPup

Photo courtesy Erin Eve via Flickr Creative Commons

I’ve gotten four email alerts related to the Keystone XL pipeline from my local chapter of the Sierra Club. They talk about wolves, water quality, and toxins, but other than one reference to the Boreal Forest storing 11 percent of the world’s carbon, they make no mention of climate change. Here’s a sampling:

Russell, can you help?‏ Wolf mothers and cubs are already cowering from helicopters dispatched to shoot them – all in the name of protecting tar sands mining sites.

The image has already been seared into my memory: wolves shot dead from helicopters to keep them away from the mines. I don’t want to see more of them dead, and I’m sure you don’t either.

Wolves are already at risk of being shot, but if Keystone XL is built, their quiet refuge in Canada will be all but decimated.

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By Russ Finley on Mar 22, 2014 with 39 responses

Will Government Mandated Corn Ethanol Consumption Ever End?

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This spring, the EPA will likely reduce the amount of corn ethanol that must be blended into our fuel supply by about 1.3 billion gallons (for a total of about 13 billion gallons) simply because our transportation system can’t absorb any more of it without exceeding a 10% blend, risking damage to cars. This is called the “10% blend wall.” Unlike beef, or chicken, gasoline, or smart phones, ethanol consumption isn’t consumer driven. In general, because consumers could care less about corn ethanol, fuel blenders also could care less about it except as an economically viable anti-knock additive in more modest quantities. They have to be forced to blend more of it by the government. Unless or until some unforeseen consumer demand arises, mandated blending will be necessary to keep the corn ethanol industry solvent.

And just as importantly, where is future growth going to come from? We can’t use all of our corn crop. This isn’t new technology. We’ve been making moonshine by distilling ethanol from fermented seeds and fruit for thousands of years. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Feb 4, 2014 with 11 responses

Maintaining the Grid as Residential Solar Power Increases

SolarFail

Photos courtesy of Activ Solar, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Avinash Kaushik, via Flickr Creative Commons

It makes little sense to be anti-solar energy in this day and age, although it does make sense to do it right. Even solar can be done wrong. Usurping farmland, forest, or pristine desert tortoise habitats for solar should be against the rules.

I was motivated to do this post by a rare, cloudless, 50 degree day in the dead of winter. CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Dec 30, 2013 with 14 responses

Volt’s 5-year ownership cost is much cheaper than Prius?

Five Year Ownership Costs for a Chevy Volt

Like a lot of headlines, the one I chose for this article isn’t true. I borrowed it from a website I found in a link in another article called True Cost Of Owning A Chevy Volt Might Surprise You.

When I went to the same Edmunds Cost To Own website used by the original article and plugged in my zip code and quotes from my own insurance company, I found the following out-of-pocket expenses including purchase price after five years at 15,000 miles per year: CONTINUE»

By Russ Finley on Nov 26, 2013 with 7 responses

Energy Use in the Galapagos Archipelagos

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I just spent two weeks on the Galapagos Islands. Their economies are driven almost entirely by Eco-tourism. Like the rest of us, the people of the Galapagos Islands are utterly dependent on affordable sources of energy for their existence.

As a result of a fuel tanker grounding and attendant oil spill in 2001, a consortium of energy companies from the G7, calling themselves e7 (created to bring renewable energy to developing nations), funded the installation of three wind turbines on San Cristobal, an island in the Galapagos archipelago, to minimize the amount of fuel that had to be delivered to run the generators. They also created a trust fund for maintenance and eventual removal of the turbines at the end of their twenty year life spans.

Turbines

My youngest daughter is studying in San Cristobal. Her class took a field trip to the power station shortly after my arrival. I sent along a list of questions.

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By Russ Finley on Oct 31, 2013 with 8 responses

Some Thoughts on the Second Tesla Model S Fire

Like the Hummer once was, the Tesla is a status symbol (but for a different crowd). Considering its outrageous price tag, one would be hard-pressed to argue that it is a practical car for the masses. But that’s OK with me, because the Tesla is an ambassador for all electric cars through a process called “status by association” (which is what name dropping is all about). We are social primates… like it or not, status seeking is built into our genes.

On the flip side, it could harm the image of electric cars if this latest trend of catching on fire continues, or accelerates. I’ve looked into the statistics and have concluded that, to date, a significantly smaller percentage of Tesla’s catch on fire than conventional cars. Although, that could change with time. Two spectacular fires in almost as many weeks is not a good thing. A lithium fire with exploding batteries is something to behold and makes good copy. It’s also dangerous if the driver should be incapacitated. To date, no Nissan Leaf has caught fire. 35,000 Leafs have been sold in the U.S. compared to 15,000 Tesla Model S sedans. But that might change as well.

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By Russ Finley on Oct 16, 2013 with no responses

Perspectives on the Tesla Fire

 

All conventional cars have the potential to catch on fire. A few years ago I ran over some bricks in the road that did $2,300 worth of damage to my car’s undercarriage and spilled gasoline all over the road. This Tesla caught fire a few weeks ago a few miles from my office. Just thought I’d share some differing perspectives I found on the subject:

From Tesla:

“… a Model S collided with a large metallic object in the middle of the road, causing significant damage to the vehicle. The car’s alert system signaled a problem and instructed the driver to pull over safely, which he did.”

From the Kent Regional Fire Authority crash report:

 ”Driver stated that he hit an object in the HOV lanes of SB 167. The car started to run poorly and he pulled off the freeway.”

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By Russ Finley on Sep 3, 2013 with 40 responses

Testing the Electric Car Battery Warranty Waters

Before the Chevy Volt (a plug-in hybrid) went on sale, Volt Chief Engineer Andrew Farah openly acknowledged that the extreme temperatures found in the Southwest have the potential to permanently reduce the battery pack’s capacity to store energy:

“The Volt may not be right for everyone. If you live in the Southwest, depending on how you use your car, the Volt might not be right for you.”

So what is a manufacturer to do if a given customer’s driving habits consistently exposes his or her battery pack to excessively high temperatures in a place like Tucson, or charges it five times a day, or maybe applies a blowtorch to it? As it turns out, the answer depends on what the warranty says, not so much on what the owner’s manual warns you not to do.

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