Monthly Archives: May 2016

Commercial Autonomous Car

In the race to develop driverless cars, several automakers and technology companies are already testing vehicles that pilot themselves on public roads. And others have outlined plans to expand their development fleets over the next few years.

But few have gone so far as to give a definitive date for the commercial debut of these cars of the future.

Now Ford Motor has done just that.

At a news conference on Tuesday at the company’s research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said the company planned to mass produce driverless cars and have them in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021.

Eliminating $4 billion of petroleum subsidies in the U.S. would have only a minor affect on oil production and demand and boost the country’s influence in advocating global climate change action, according to a report for the Council on Foreign Relations.

Withdrawing oil-drilling subsidies could cut domestic production by 5 percent by 2030, which could increase international oil prices by just 1 percent, Gilbert Metcalf, a professor of economics at Tufts University, said in the report. Local natural-gas prices could rise as much as 10 percent, while both production and consumption would probably fall as much as 4 percent, according to the report.

The Guardian: Why Aren’t Ships Using Wind Power to Cut Their Climate Footprint?

Shipping brings us 90% of everything we buy and consume, yet most of us remain blind to both its role in our lives and its contribution to global climate emissions: currently around 3%. The industry has no targets for reducing emissions; the climate talks in Paris last year were skillfully negotiated with warnings that a cap on emissions for shipping would be a cap on global trade and growth.

On current projections, the sector could be contributing upwards of 6% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Although the U.N. agency that regulates shipping puts out glowing press releases, its only two policies so far are achieving little. There is an agreement for ships to record and report data on fuel consumption, but not until 2018 at the earliest, and rules to ensure new ships being built are more efficient.

Forbes: Is Offshore Wind Finally Ready to Serve U.S. Power Needs?

Deepwater Wind is attaching blades this week to the last of five massive, 6 MWe peak capacity wind turbines that make up the 30 MWe Block Island Wind Farm. That is one of the final steps in the process of installing and commissioning the facility.

By the end of 2016, the developer expects that the project will enter commercial operation and begin providing the first electricity from offshore wind turbines to the U.S. electricity grid. It is a development with far-reaching implications and several lessons available to be learned.

Mainstream Adoption

According to market tracker EV Volumes, 180,500 electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) were sold in the first four months of this year, a 42 percent increase over 2015 levels.

Those sales figures were lower than the second half of 2015, but EV Volumes noted demand for EVs and PHEVs spiked in November and December last year as certain incentives came to an end in China, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The 2016 Global EV Outlook from the International Energy Agency (IEA) also said last year was a pivotal one for EV and PHEV sales. “The year 2015 saw the global threshold of 1 million electric cars on the road exceeded, closing at 1.26 million,” said the organization.

“This is a symbolic achievement highlighting significant efforts deployed jointly by governments and industry over the past 10 years. In 2014, only about half of today’s electric car stock existed. In 2005, electric cars were still measured in hundreds.”

Just as significantly, another report by the IEA noted that electric vehicles were the only class of carbon-reduction technology making enough progress to meet global goals to keep global warming below the level of 2º Celsius.

Nevertheless, there is still concern over whether the uptake of EVs and PHEVs is growing quickly enough to meet targets set by global policy organizations.

The Clean Energy Ministerial’s Electric Vehicles Initiative, for example, is looking to have 20 million EVs, PHEVs and fuel-cell vehicles on the road by 2020.

The Paris Declaration on Electro-Mobility and Climate Change, meanwhile, has a target of 100 million EVs (plus 400 million electric two- and three-wheelers) worldwide by 2030.

And to give climate change a 50 percent chance of staying within the 2º Celsius margin, the IEA thinks even greater levels of non-polluting transport will be needed. It says 150 million EVs are needed by 2030.

“Meeting these targets implies substantial market growth to develop further the current 1.26 million electric car stock, as well as the swift deployment of electric two-wheelers and buses beyond the Chinese market,” said the IEA in its Global EV Outlook 2016.

Elsewhere, the World Energy Council has said EVs will need to make up 16 percent of the total auto market by 2020 in order to achieve fuel economy improvement targets of approximately 30 percent set by China, the European Union and the U.S.

This level, up from around 1 percent of the auto market currently, will need 7.6 million EVs to be sold across the three territories by 2020.

China has the biggest shortfall, at 5.3 million, which means 22 percent of projected passenger car sales in the country will need to be electric. The country already has the world’s largest and fastest-growing EV market, with 34,000 new vehicles hitting the streets in July alone.

This was a 154 percent increase on the same month last year, according to EV Obsession, and more units than were sold in Canada, Europe and the U.S. together.

 Promoting EVs makes sense in pollution-heavy, petroleum-light China, but there are concerns that the current boom in sales is being propped up by government subsidies that cannot go on forever.