Archive for the transportation Category

Spark-EV Closed Down – A Torrid Tale of Broken Promises and Vaporware

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on April 11, 2008 by theseep

Edit:  It seems that Spark-EV has shut it’s doors, the owner replacing the former website with a description of events that led to Spark’s downfall.  I’m sorry for posting without researching the company better, but the posted letter is interesting reading!

Previous Post:

I had thought that I was keeping up on the development of this generation of electric vehicles, being completely disappointed by the lack of commitment from American carmakers and the plethora of vaporware from the likes of Zap!, and anxiously awaiting a “new” EV1 that is affordable, practical, and has a decent range. While Tesla has finally started production of their legendary electric roadster, at 100,000 clams, this is still far out of reach of the average eco-conscious consumer. However, I recently came across Spark-EV, a U.S. company that supposedly already has 3 models in production and 2 more pending certification for 75+mph highway operation and over 100 miles to a charge. All that plus a few neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), 2 electric scooters, and a futuristic 3 wheel EV in the works as well!

The largest option currently available is the Qilin, a 5-seater mini-SUV akin to a Honda CRV with a range of 100+ miles/charge, top speed of 80mph, and a price tag of $27,950. Next is the Zotye (pictured) with a range of 110+ miles, top speed of 75mph, and goes for $24,900. The smallest current full-speed option is the Dragon, a compact similar to a VW Golf or Toyota Matrix with a range of 125+ miles, top speed of 80mph, and sells for $24,950. They also have a micro-compact dubbed the Panda, that is pending full-speed certification, but is a 2-seater similar to a SmartCar that will get you 80mph and 125+ miles per charge for $21,950. These all run on LiFePO4 batteries that charge fully in 10 hours, but can get 75% charge in 5 hours.
Let’s do some simple calculations: The average commuter drives 15,000 miles/year, estimate fuel efficiency at a generous 30mpg, and you’re using 500 gallons of fuel per year. Over the next 10 years, with fuel prices climbing, let’s estimate a lowball average cost of $5/gallon. If you add in solar panels for “free” charging at home (the solar installation will pay itself off in 10-15 years as well in savings), by this calculation, your fuel savings alone in the next 10 years will pay for the price of the entire car! If you’re still a skeptic, you can refer to The S.E.E.P.’s New Car Buyer’s Guide, which basically says – don’t buy a new car! Over the next 10 years peak oil, emissions restrictions, and rising fuel prices will force a significant change in our transportation infrastructure. Combine that with the upfront cost of a new vehicle and the incredibly fast depreciation, you’re much better off either buying a used vehicle, preferably one capable of using biofuels, so you can wait for the next generation of electrics and new technology, or buy an all-electric now, which will save you more and more money as fuel prices increase.  For the DIY’er, you can build your own EV with a kit from Electro-Auto, EV USA, or pick up kit plans from Riley Enterprises.  In addition, battery technology will continue to improve at a rapid pace, so by the time your new EV needs new batteries, it is probable that you’ll be able to extend your range by upgrading to an ultracapacitor, hydrogen, or other type of next-generation battery.
We need to stop fearing new technology and think outside of our fossil-fuel box. We still have a chance to change what we have set in motion and preserve much of the planet for our children, but we all need to make some sacrifices and take some risks.

New Renewable Oil Source: Bio-crude Could Be Big

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on February 18, 2008 by theseep

Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), along with Monash University have taken cellulosic ethanol to another level. Using agricultural waste, forest thinnings, waste paper, and anything else with lignocellulose, they are able to make bio-crude, similar to a renewable “light and sweet” crude petroleum which can then be further refined into ethanol, bioplastics, and other uses. They smartly propose local processing plants to use regional waste, thereby closing the loop on a good deal of what would otherwise go to landfill.

OK U.S.A., while we’re still half-ignoring the issue being the ONLY industrialized nation not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (Australia and Iraq recently caved), other nations are using public funds to research and develop innovative, clean technologies to take them into the fossil fuel free, sustainable future. This is what we could be doing with the billions of dollars of subsidies going to the oil companies that are making record profits by exploiting us both as taxpayers and consumers. Write your congresspeople to kill oil subsidies and support renewable energy research!

via Treehugger

Major Auto Makers Ignore Automotive X-Prize

Posted in alternative fuel, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, transportation on February 4, 2008 by theseep

The X-Prize foundation, the same folks who organized the competition for consumer spaceflight technology, is ponying up another multi-million dollar prize for the team that can produce the best consumer car that gets more than 100mpg. Although this isn’t new news, it is interesting to see that every single major U.S. automaker, those with the most R & D money, the most to gain, and the most to lose, are conspicuously absent from the competition. Exciting startups like Aptera, with their 300+mpg plug-in hybrid, and both Tesla and Zap! Automotive, with their 250 miles per charge electric cars, have thrown their hats in the ring along with 30 or so other competitors. Not only do consumers want more efficient cars, but with peak oil just around the corner and the current state of climate change, we NEED more efficient modes of transportation that use minimal or no fossil fuels.

The U.S. carmakers have shown their loyalty to the oil companies time and time again by fighting improved efficiency standards and continuing to make cars bigger and less efficient. It is indeed sad that the once great American auto industry has fallen so far, but they have and continue to dig their own graves. We can only hope that our government and our people will have the foresight to support these burgeoning clean energy and clean vehicle industries. We can rebuild some of the lost American manufacturing empire, stimulate the economy, and keep jobs in our country.

via Engadget

Shell Oil CEO Informs Employees That Peak Oil is an Estimated 7 Years Out!

Posted in alternative fuel, biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, sustainability, transportation on January 28, 2008 by theseep

In a move that defies the stance of other petrochemical giants, the Shell CEO, Jeroen van der Veer, sent a letter to employees stating in no uncertain terms that peak oil is about 7 years out. (bold type for emphasis by treehugger)”Regardless of which route we choose, the world’s current predicament limits our maneuvering room. We are experiencing a step-change in the growth rate of energy demand due to population growth and economic development, and Shell estimates that after 2015 supplies of easy-to-access oil and gas will no longer keep up with demand.”

Van der Veer goes on to briefly and reasonably discuss the shortfalls of current public energy policy and renewables. Do you think they meant for this to become general knowledge? It’s time to ramp up our battery/hydrogen/cellulosic ethanol/wind/solar research, according to Shell, we’ll see a sharp increase in oil prices ($500/barrel?) by 2015!

via treehugger

The Ethanol Scam: One of America’s Political Boondoggles, via Rolling Stone

Posted in alternative fuel, clean energy, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on January 23, 2008 by theseep
 Although this article came out last June in Rolling Stone magazine, it is an excellent discussion of the scam that is corn ethanol. As you know, I’m all for eco-friendliness, but through political manipulation, lobbying (ie: bribery), and as Rolling Stone puts it, boondoggling, corn ethanol has become the country’s fastest growing biofuel, while at the same time being the least efficient and most fossil-fuel intensive to produce. For every 1 gallon of fossil fuel you put in, you only get 1.3 gallons of ethanol out. Add in the chemical pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, and the fact that ethanol provides up to 20% less energy than petrol, ethanol efficiency drops into negative numbers. (previous seep post)

If the numbers for corn-based ethanol are so bad, why are we subsidizing this horrific waste of food when there are starving people around the world?  It’s an environmental and social catastrophe.  It seems that for many Americans, filling your SUV is more important than feeding a hungry family.  I know that may sound harsh and unreasonable, but when you lay it all out, that is really the choice that we’re making. 
Who has the political guts to stop allowing corporate interests to dictate national energy policy and start making rational, well-thought out decisions that will provide us with energy security into the next century?  Obama?  Hillary?
Nobody yet. 

EPA (aka Oil Cronies) Keeps 17 States From Setting Their Own MPG Standards

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on December 26, 2007 by theseep
 So over the past few months we’ve seen both the House and the Senate pass weakened fuel economy standards and poor excuses for energy policies. After wasting hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars debating the standards, they passed a humiliatingly flaccid plan requiring manufacturers to meet a 35 mpg average by 2020. The original bill also contained minimum future requirements for renewable energy from power companies and various clean energy tax incentives, but these were all slashed when Bush threatened to veto. This unto itself shows the utter lack of power or fight in our legislators regarding the environment. The actions of the EPA, however, are even more disgusting, as Stephen L. Johnson, the EPA administrator (clearly a “loyal Bushie”), turned down California’s request to impose it’s own, more strict standards of approximately 43 mpg by 2016, a much more reasonable commitment considering the state of our planet. Oddly, the EPA has pretty much always allowed California to impose it’s own standards, but it is now balking. Now, when 16 other states, including NY, NJ, and CT, comprising over 50% of all U.S. vehicle sales, also want to pass tougher efficiency requirements. The debacle is discussed further in this NYTimes article, and thankfully the Governator is standing strong and, along with many of the other states in question and some environmental groups, they are vowing to sue the EPA and fight this judgement.

Nice work Arnold. Although I generally recommend buying locally and buying U.S. made products to help our own economy and rebuild our country’s production capability, when it comes to cars, we have to refuse to buy from the big American manufacturers until they give us the fuel-efficient and alternative energy cars and trucks that we need. They have fallen miserably behind the leaders, Toyota and Honda, and rather than actually stepping up and giving us an environmental option, they stoop to political shell games to keep selling their gas-guzzling monstrosities.

photo from

via Gavin

Low-Carbon Holidays Through Skype

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, sustainability, transportation on December 25, 2007 by theseep
 My wife Laura and I are in the same holiday predicament as many – how can we visit all of our extended family in one short holiday season when everyone lives so far away? We could fly here and there, spend a thousand dollars on airfare and blow a few thousand extra tons of carbon into the atmosphere, or we could use free technology to have a “virtual x-mas.” Since Laura’s dad lives in Salt Lake and she has other family in Ft. Collins, CO, we decided to attempt a winter-time Fossil-Fuel-Free-Roadtrip in the Vegfalia. My parents and grandmother, however, live in Maryland and we can’t make it out there for x-mas, so we set up our Skype video call for 9am Mountain Time. Some sound issues aside, we were able to open presents from each other across the country using this fantastic free technology. My sister and her husband came up from Mexico to see my parents as well and although we couldn’t give holiday hugs, but we were able to laugh and talk and appreciate being “together” as best we could.  We managed to see more family, save time, money, and CO2 – it was certainly a special holiday despite the distance.
Although a full report will be coming for the Vegfalia trip itself, I winterized the biodiesel system with a 110V fuel filter heater and a magnetic block heater, plumbed up our Roadside Filtration System to filter WVO on the fly, and headed out with 2 full tanks and an extra 30 gallons of filtered oil. Unfortunately along the way, we’ve run into cold weather issues with the lower quality oil, and although we found B20 at the pump in Ft. Collins and SLC, the Cardwell Distributing’s B100/B50 pumps were gelled up and not functioning at all. The Roadside Filtration System we’ve discovered is also not able to filter at these temps. So, we’ve been using what fuel we brought, a little petrol diesel, mostly B20, and we hope to fill up with B100 and some virgin VO from Costco before we leave SLC. Not as fossil-fuel-free as we’d hoped, but still better than flying or driving on all petrol, plus we got to bring our dog Marley and our eco-friendly presents for the families.

Peace and goodwill to all!