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Sunday, September 26, 2010

Establishing a sustainable model for Electrically operated transports

Bumping an old post - watch.
Shai Agassi, ex-President of SAP AG (PTG) spoke at a lecture series organized by NDN in his capacity as the founder and CEO of his company Better Place. He spoke about Project Better Place, a developmental initiative of Technologies that would make the use of Electric vehicles a viable solution for everyday transportation needs.
Highlights of his speech:

  • Setting up a grid of charging stations across the region, where electric car owners can drive in and plug their cars to electric receptacles to charge-up their batteries and then drive off.
  • Separating the ownership of the cars from the ownership of the batteries it uses, making it possible to swap these batteries at designated location in case one is unable to wait long enough for the batteries to charge up.
  • Shifting to a completely electricity driven mode of transportation will need just an additional 6% increase in a country’s electricity production that could be generated through clean practices.
  • Convenient methods of billing user for the charging sessions, quite akin to that currently being used by cellphone services.
Better Place has tied up with Israel to setup the required infrastructure and run a pilot project to test the feasibility of the project. The cars to be used for this project will be built by the Renault-Nissan alliance company. Israel aims to rid itself of its dependence on oil by 2019.
You may view his speech here [approx 25 minutes long]
Update: Better Place, on Wednesday, announced a tie-up with GE, whereby its initiative would be incorporated into GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid campaign and will make use of its Wattstation docking stations.
Undoubtedly a noble & interesting imitative that must be taken to its logical conclusion. However, one thought that gnaws my mind every time I read about an electric this or an electric that, that promises to save Earth from ecological Armageddon is the fact that the issue of power generation that is needed to power these electric gizmos remain largely unaddressed.
Any significant amount of electricity, if needed to be generated still has to go through the polluting hydrocarbon burning route. So, instead of burning the fossil fuels in the middle of the city, you burn it in the power plant located slightly out of the city. Since you cannot achieve a 100 per cent conversion of energy, you will probably need to burn more of the Hydrocarbon to obtain an equivalent amount of electrical energy. Since the electricity is generated out of the city limits, you also need to take into account transmission cost & also the invariable transmission & distribution losses that are bound to take place when the electivity travels from the generating station to the docking stations in the city, thereby generating more electricity than will be finally available to the end-user.
Though the front-end [the cars] look all nice, dandy & eco-friendly, unless the issues concerning the back-end [generating stations] are not addressed, making them equally eco-friendly & efficient, the feasibility of such last-mile solutions to clean up the Earth remain, IMHO, a little dodgy.
Godspeed
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