Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Shift?

OK, so I know there are lots of issues that still need to be solved. And I know the economic, geographic and political obstacles in the U.S. are huge, but I still find the following very interesting. Via a post on Chris Anderson’s blog, I came across this post on Shai Agassi’s blog:
Electric cars and windmills are the most complementary products in the green world. Windmills generate a lot more energy at night, as wind picks up when the air cools down. Unfortunately, when you get a lot of wind most people are asleep and the electricity needs to be rerouted elsewhere. Cars are parked at night waiting to get electricity into the batteries - which is a perfect match to the electricity profile of wind generation.

Photo Credit: Quin Garcia, Project Better Place

You can find out a lot more at Project Better Place (I’d recommend viewing the video on the main page, then poking around). Basically they appear to already be beginning implementation in Israel and are starting the process in Denmark.

As stated in this article in Technology Review, there are many more hurdles that have to be overcome in the U.S. as opposed to Israel or Denmark. But, assuming for a moment (and, yes, that’s a huge assumption) that this is actually viable in countries like Israel, Denmark, and many others around the world that have much higher gasoline costs than the U.S. and are much more geographically compact, what does that look like ten or twenty years from now when it’s built out? Is it possible that it’s another shift – that countries that take a longer view than the next election cycle might, just might, find themselves ahead of the game?

I don’t know enough to evaluate the science or the economics of this, but there are a lot of smart folks (and at least a couple of countries) putting a lot of money behind this, and Renault-Nissan already has a prototype car using the technology, so I think it’s perhaps not as far-fetched as it seems to be at first glance. And you gotta love a company that is talking about selling cars on a subscription model (you contract to pay for a set number of miles over a period of time) – conceivably with a six-year agreement the car could be free.

Yes, this is mostly off-topic for this blog, but sometimes you just need a little hope.

Update 4-1-08: Interesting, the main page of the Project Better Place website has a "latest news" feature that links to stories on the web about their project. I assumed that their webmaster chose articles of interest to place there, but as of this writing this post is linked from that page. That makes me think it's being automatically generated from a search set up to look for links to their site. If so, that's pretty gutsy, since there would be no control over whether the article was favorable or even interesting. If it's not automatic, then I guess I should say thanks. In either case (but particularly the first one), it raises my opinion of them that they are being that transparent.


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  2. Not too far off topic, as the components you describe are some of the key parts of a larger system known as "smart grids." As this grist article describes, they'll be coming to Boulder, CO, soon as well. Coupled with with micro-power generation, smart grids allow for social networking in the energy domain, many to many sharing instead of one/few to many in the current model. Hope indeed!

  3. Watching the way the big three and our federal government has bungled the opportunity to put the US at the forefront of green technology in the world over the past 10-20 years does not encourage me. There are many, many opportunities in this industry, but the old guard and industry lobbyists on Capitol Hill do a pretty effective job of maintaining the status quo.

    And the average American needs to wake up and demand a little more from our government representatives than cheap fuel prices...

    By now we should have a pure electric plug-in automobile available across the US (and world). We actually don't even need a renewable energy source to start this now...the grid could easily support a massive number of EV's plugged in each night--each night we have wasted electrons produced by mostly coal fired power plants that could be put to good use charing electric vehicles. This pure electric vehicle would be great for the commutes of 90% of Americans (90% of our commutes are less than 35 miles, and if the technology was allowed to mature, by now we would have EV's that could get 40 miles per charge).

    Unfortunately we're in a situation where solutions will either come from grass roots operations (like some of the small companies in the US building EVs) or abroad. Too bad we can't wake up and seize this wonderful opportunity...

  4. I was encouraged by what I read in the presentation. It's about time that educators get enthusiastic about empowering our young learners to see, analyze and sometimes change what they see around the world. Many committed educators are aware that the traditional exercises we ask students to participate in do not afford them opportunities to improve their lives. I am particularly encouraged by 'grass roots' movements around the world that are attempting to end poverty, hunger, genocide and other war crimes. I am also concerned about the women and girls in the Congo and other parts of Southern Africa. The violence against women during recent military conflicts is unacceptable, and threatens devastating loss for the entire continent. New modes of conceptualizing and responding to our problems are critically necessary. Let's contnue the work.

  5. You make some very interesting points in this post. I definitely agree with you that the United States needs to start thinking about what we are going to do about rising gas prices now. Why wait? What is America waiting for? Sooner or later the gasoline supply is in fact going to run out, and where will we be when it happens? How prepared will we be? Where will we stand economically? The things you mention above are fantastic ideas and I think we should begin using them immediately. As you also mention some of the other countries in the world have already begin to use those great ideas. The United States needs to get with the program and begin to use these ideas in order to pull away from the "rest of the crowd" like we do in so many other areas.