Byline: Bill Moore
Now that's a click-worthy headline that immediately grabbed my attention early this morning! Wow! A few gallons of water could power my suburban home for days? Amazing. Sign me up!
Well...not really. Not yet. Not if you apply a bit of math (again) to the question, which, of course, I had to. The story attached to that headline references a Germany startup called Enapter, which is offering a residential scale electrolyzer to split hydrogen and oxygen, the two atomic elements of common water (H20), a process that has been known since 1789. When you apply a current to water, it "boils" off hydrogen and oxygen, the former that can be used similar to how we now use natural gas or methane (CH4). You can burn it in a water heater, gas stove, furnace. Car makers continue to experiment with it in fuel cells and even internal combustion engines.
All those are doable and releases zero carbon, unlike natural gas. What the Brighterside article fails to mention is the amount of energy (electricity) it takes to run the electrolyzer. The company's data sheet indicates "Nominal power consumption per Nm3 of H2 produced 4.8 kWh/Nm3, beginning of life.
Now how much hydrogen is Nm3? Google reveals it equals one cubic foot of gas compressed to 35 bar (507 psi). The Enapter unit consumers 4.8 kWh of electricity at 220/240V to generate that much hydrogen gas. What can you do with that hydrogen? Let's assume you heat water. The amount of energy consumed depends on the size of the heater and amount of water used. This is usually measured in "therms." One therm equals 2.83 cubic meters (2.83 Nm3) of gas. The typical American home purportedly uses 20-50 therms per month to heat water. Assuming an average of 35 therms/month to heat water only, the numbers work out to be: 4.8kWh x 2.83 x 35 = 475 kWh. The average American home uses a reported 30 kWh a day or 900 kWh a month, on average. So, just generating enough hydrogen to run the water heater will use more than half the electricity consumed by the "average household.
Curiously, Enapter's co-founder grew up on New Caledonia in the South Pacific. She explained "I wanted to replace all the diesel generators in New Caledonia and all the remote areas that didn't need to rely on dirty diesel. That's a laudable goal, for sure, especially on an island where 90% of the electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Effectively, an Enapter electrolyzer would have to use oil-generated electricity to create its hydrogen, with all the attendant efficiency losses.
It seems to me that there are two better approaches, at least to heat water: solar thermal and bio-digestion. The former uses sunlight directly to heat water. This is how millions of people in Asia heat water. I once visited a remote farm in China near the Great Wall. They had a simple, lost-cost solar thermal system to heat water, as did many of the homes we passed on our drive up from Beijing.
The second way - although admittedly a more regulatory-restrictive approach - would be to use a bio-digester to take that toilet water (fecal matter included) and let bacteria break it down into methane (natural gas). Such bio-digesters are can be found in rural areas of the developing world. It's used primarily for cooking. Cattle and hog operations in Europe and America use it to generate power and convert their livestock solids into sanitary and useful products like seedling cups for gardeners.
This is not to knock the idea or the product, but economics also need to be considered. Can some or all of that electricity come from renewable source? Certainly, but again, is that the best use of those electrons? If we want "green hydrogen", the ideal way would be finding a way to do it without the consumption of significant amounts of electricity, from whatever source: gray, blue or green. Work is being done in that promising area including solar catalysts and even types of soil bacteria.
Here are just 4 of the 663 current references to hydrogen in EVWorld.com's RSStream database.
Climate change: Hydrogen isn't the cleanest way to heat our homes
Is hydrogen really a clean enough fuel to tackle the climate crisis?
We need new tech like this to understand hydrogen's climate impact
Green hydrogen produced with near 100% efficiency using seawater
First Published: 2022-03-19
Byline: Bill Moore
Short answer: NO! That's been the responsibility of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for the past two decades and more.
This "rant" was prompted by an article in the far right-wing - "covering the enemies of freedom the way the mainstream media won't" - Washington Free Beacon whose headline read, "Another Buttigieg Scandal: Electric Bikes Keep Exploding on His Watch". For a publication supposedly published in the belly of the beast itself, you'd think they'd understand who in the federal government is responsible for consumer products like bicycles. A simple Google search for the role of the CSPC clearly states, " The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) protects the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under its jurisdiction, including products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children." That includes bicycles.
Last November (2022) the Commission issued an advisory on e-bikes, e-scooters (electric kickscooter) and hover boards regarding the possible danger of battery fires.You can read their recommendations here: recommendations that have been largely echoed by Consumer Reports and others.
I have owned electric bikes for more than two decades. I currently have several parked in my garage and one sits a few feet from my desk. I have never had an issue with their batteries, other than the expected gradual loss of range over time. I seldom charge them overnight and never leave them plugged into the charger, which I periodically check to make sure none of them are overheating.
So, why do I own four e-bikes? Two of them were acquired through advertising barter with the manufacturer: the oldest is 20 years old, the newest - and my current rider - is maybe 5. One is the original test bike for our Quikbyke rental venture, which sadly stalled through a combination of management disputes, an untimely death, and Covid-19. The fourth was an experiment in Kickstarter, which I billed at the time as world's lightest electric assist bicycle at under 16kg.
What has Transportation Secretary Buttigieg to do with those "electric bike and scooter batteries caused 216 fires that injured 147 people and killed six in New York City alone"? The Beacon adding that "[S]o far this year, the batteries have been blamed for 22 fires resulting in 36 injuries and two deaths in New York City." Apparently the Secretary bought an e-bike when he moved to Washington, D.C. and while the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he encouraged Lime Bikes to offer shared bike rentals in town. They have since ceased operations in that and some 11 other city markets. The reason? Capitalism - not socialism - at work, apparently.
To quote the Beacon, "This is also another scandal that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has failed to address since taking office."
Really? It's NOT the province of DOT to regulate bicycles, folks! Planes, trains and automobiles, yes! Bicycle, scooters, and hoverboads, categorically NO!
Do foreign (read cheap Asian) lithium-ion batteries and chargers need to be better regulated? Absolutely. That's why we have the CPSC - which, incidentally, is NOT under the purview of any Executive Office department. It is a separate public commission...and as noted above, they are very cognizant of the issue, as is the private Underwriters Lab (UL), who is taking a lead role in the technical evaluation and certification of e-bike batteries from established manufacturers like Panasonic and Samsung SDI, the latter which powers my Quikbykes. Controlling, much less stopping the importation of cheap batteries and chargers from Asia, in particular, is a daunting challenge. Counterfeiting of even common household AA and AAA batteries is problem.
So, word to the wise, buying a cheap e-bike or e-scooter opens you up to the very real and unpredictable risk of a runaway "thermal" event that can and does have disastrous, something deadly consequences. But until Congress decides to call bicycles "cars," don't expect DOT or Pete Buttigieg to take a serious regulatory interest in the problem. He's got much bigger problems to handle, like runway incursions and greedy railroads.
First Published: 2023-03-12
Byline: Bill Moore
I bought my 2016 Fiat 500e back in the Spring of 2019. It had just over 23,000 miles on it. It was fresh off a 36-month lease in California where the previous lessee had taken good care of it. Near as I can tell, the 24 kWh battery pack - good for EPA-estimate of 84 miles - still maintained pretty near 100% state of charge. I paid $10,000 for it and it cost me another $1000 to ship it to Omaha. I assumed that I would eventually install a Level 2 (240V 30 amp) charger in the garage, but first I wanted to run an experiment' one that lasted until a week ago when a little blueish-colored adapter (technically a NEMA 14-50P-to-5-15R) arrived from Amazon. Total cost: $27.39 (including shipping).
For that nearly 4 year period I had used the "emergency" charger that came with car, running 50-foot of fairly heavy-duty extension chord from a 110V outlet on the garage ceiling, the twin of which powered the garage door opener. The 15A circuit was enough to trickle charge the car back to 100%, usually 9-10 hours overnight. The aim of the "experiment" was to see if the little EV could be kept charged for the typical daily commute of most Americans of 40 miles. I was toying with the idea of creating a subscription service called S*Electric (similar in concept to the one now being rolled out by Hyundai) for a "fleet" of similar, fresh-off-lease EVs from California. These would be "loaned" on a month-by-month basis to local drivers who likely wouldn't have nightly access to a 240V outlet, or even a garage, for that matter.
My years-long experiment demonstrated it was feasible to recharge the car overnight and have a full battery by time to go to work. The subscriber would only need a handy 110V outlet and a good quality, weather-proof extension chord.
But in the back of my mind I still wanted to "level-up" - to use computer game parlance. Just on the other side of the garage wall was a 240V drier outlet. I contemplated finding a way to tap into it, but it would interfere with my wife's use of her drier. The only real solution was a separate circuit and a 240V outlet near where I park the car. So, although the electricians who originally wired the house back in 2008 put a 30 amp circuit and cable temptingly close, to do the job right would mean running a separate circuit and cable from the breaker box on the exact oppose end of the house: a proposition that would likely cost in the neighborhood of two grand...NOT including the Level II charger, another $600-1000+ expense. Needless to say I didn't want to make that investment, especially when the Level 1 (120V 15 amp) set-up was doing the job.
Two factors prompted the decision to dig into savings to make it happen. My wife had been militating for some time about getting rid of the old fluorescent twin-tube light in the kitchen and replacing it with new, strategically placed LED "can" lights. We agreed to contact a couple local electricians to get quotes: one for the kitchen project, one for the 240V EV charger outlet in the garage. The winning bid came in a just over $600 for the kitchen and $1700 (wiring, PVC conduit, circuit breakers, garage outlet, plus labor).
We went ahead with both, the kitchen project being finished the first morning. While two guys worked in the kitchen, another was running the line for the EV charger outlet. Since the weather was forecast to get really nasty that afternoon, they said they'd return next week to finish connecting the 240V to the panel.
In the meantime, I was shopping for Level 2 charger options, including asking for advice on a Fiat 550e owner's forum. This is when I learned that little "emergency" charger I'd been using all this time could, effectively, charge at Level II: that cinched the deal. After all, that's how they charge their cars in Europe. Instead of having to invest that $600-and-up on a dedicated Level II charger, I just needed to buy the right adapter: one end of which would plug into the 240V outlet and the opposite, female end accept the Fiat charger's 110V male plug.
Well, it took three tries before getting the right one. The first two short extensions only tapped one side of the 240 outlet resulting in only a 120V trickle charge rate. One of the guys on the Fiat owner's forum pointed out the Onetak NEMA 14-50P to 5-15R adapter. He explained that it's what he uses with no problems. So, while I waited to Amazon to send it, I checked with a friend of mine who is a retired utility company senior electrical engineer. He did some research and also concluded that the Fiat charger should be able to handle the 240 current, especially since that's what they use back home in Italy: actually all over Europe!
The electricians connected the outlet to the panel the following Tuesday, as promised. The blue adapter arrived late Saturday. I decided to wait until Sunday morning. Still besieged by troubling thoughts of burning out the charger or worse, starting a fire, it was better to test in daylight. So, bright and early Sunday morning in went the 14-50R end of the adapter. Then I plugged the charger's male tri-plug end into the 5-15R female side. The charger lights came on, ran their checks and it was "green" for go! Okay'no red lights, no popped circuits, no warming wires, no smoke! So far, so good. Now for the final test. Plug the J1772 end of the charger cable into the car!
You can probably appreciate my joy and delight when I discovered the readout (see above image) showed 240V and just over 4 hours charging time: half of what it would have been at 110V! Curiously, I now felt like a "real" EV owner!
Because the electricians ran the cable through the attic instead of the original plan to run it through conduit around the outside of the house, the final tab came in at $1630. Add the $27.39 for the adapter and the bill came out to around $1660. Amazon did a full refund on the previous two adapters. My wife got her way-better kitchen lighting and I finally got Level 2 charging for the Fiat. She also agrees that the EV aspect of the project will be a nice additional selling point for the house: it now is wired for an electric car.
Now about putting in solar, dear'. She's not quite ready for that one yet!
Postscript: If developers will start having their electricians pre-wire their new construction for EVs, it will not only help sell the house, but save the future owner the expense of rewiring it. Additionally, I don't know if the "emergency" charger for other EVs and PHEVs can use 240V, be sure to check with the manufacturer and your dealership.
First Published: 2023-02-14
Byline: Bill Moore
Today I came across an article entitled "Driving 100 Miles in an EV Is Now More Expensive Than in an ICE". It starts off with the following statement:
"...a recent report from the Anderson Economic Group (AEG) found that fueling costs from mid-priced ICE-powered vehicles are lower than similarly priced electric vehicles. Combustion drivers pay about $11.29 per 100 miles on the road. EV drivers who charge up at home spend about $11.60 per 100 miles."
Now that raised an eyebrow. Knowing the efficiency of your average electric car where you'll see mpg equivalents of 80-140 miles, how could that possibly be true when the average ICE car gets maybe 25 mpg. Even the best hybrids are 35-50 mpg. AEG apparently assumed 27 miles per gallon.
I don't know how AEG came up with their numbers, but as an EV driver, I am skeptical. Instead, I did my own quick calculations based on average electricity costs and miles per watt for an electric car, based on the results of Google searches, starting with the price on a kilowatt hour (kWh) basis. Google tells me that the US average cost for electricity is 16 cents per kilowatt hour. Next I asked how many kWh does it take for the "average" electric car to travel 100 miles. It returned 34.6 kWh. To travel 100 miles an electric car at .16¢/ kWh would cost $5.54. That is half the number reported by AEG.
Additionally, Google reports that the national average price for a gallon of gasoline in 2022 was $3.12. Assuming a highway mpg for the gasoline car, like a Honda Accord, is 30 miles a gallon, the gasoline burned to travel 100 miles would cost $10.39. And that's being generous. The Ford F-150, one of the most popular vehicles in America, is rated at at 24 mpg.
Last time I checked $5.54 is less than $11.29. Sorry, but the math doesn't lie.
First Published: 2023-01-26
Byline: Bill Moore
As I daily curate global news about the world of EVs for our RSStream, a daily RSS news feed, I occasionally come across stories that viscerally "trip my trigger." I have to look deeper. Such a story was this headline this morning from the UK's Express, "Motorists are being 'priced away' from car ownership as petrol and diesel ban looms". Now, I admit that EVs do seem expensive,at least in terms of their upfront costs. However, numerous studies have shown that over the lifetime of the vehicle, they will be less costly to own and operate, something one of the letter writers to the Express obviously doesn't understand when he/she commented (or was it a lament?), "My drive takes 45 to 50 minutes and costs £12.50 in fuel."
Now, I have lived in the UK as a undergrad exchange student just north of London in Hertfordshire. I know how crazy London traffic is. There's a reason why years ago the city instituted a congestion charge in an effort to not only reduce the number of polluting petrol and diesel vehicles, but discourage their use even further. That charge hits rich and poor alike, though I suspect it fiscally impacts the middle class more. But that reader's comment about it costing him the US equivalent of about $15USD clicked my mental calculator, the Sharp version of which I proceeded to whip out and start running the numbers. Now there are some assumptions here, like assuming the reader commutes daily into the greater London area, which means not only does he/she have to pay for fuel, but also the congestion charge if they have to enter one of those zones. Below is a description of the current charge rate:
"The Congestion Charge costs £15 if you pay in advance or on the same day. It costs £17.50 if you pay by midnight of the third day after you travel. You can pay the Congestion Charge online, by auto pay, app or telephone. If you do not pay the Congestion Charge, you will be fined £160."
To calculate the distance the writer drives, I took the average travel speed on the motorways around London, which is 24.1.mph. He/she writes that their commute takes 45-50 minutes, or average of 47.5 minutes. This means their commute is 23.75 miles; actually similar to the average commute on this side of the "pond." What's not clear from their comment is if their travel time is one-way or round-trip: home-to-office-back-home. I assumed its the latter.
Next I picked a nice, but not overly expensive (comparatively) EV for them: the MG 5 costing around £30K. It has a 61.1 kWh battery and reportedly gets up to 235 miles range. That means it could get upwards of 3.85 miles per kilowatt hour of charge. That 23.75 miles commute would consume right around 6 kWh, though in reality, it's likely to be a bit more.
Now admittedly the cost of electricity is high in the UK just now, really high: upwards of 34p/kWh. That's roughly 41¢/ kWh here in the USA! Let's assume the Express writer pays that and charges the MG 5 at home. 6 kWh times 34 pence equals 204 pence. There are 240 pence to the English pound!
So, in theory, the writer's daily commute would be less than £1 a day! AND he/she would not have to pay that exorbitant Congestion Zone charge!
You do the math and it seems pretty obvious that the electric car makes a whale of a lot more sense than burning £12.50 a day on imported petrol (and maybe another £15 on congestion zone charges). And as an added benefit, "Wind power generated about 25% of UK electricity, having surpassed coal in 2016 and nuclear in 2018." And even more promising on January 10, 2023, three days ago now, "Wind generated 21.6GW of electricity in the half-hour period between 6-6.30pm, providing 50.4% of the UK's power."
First Published: 2023-01-13
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