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Palo Alto moves to make new buildings electric-vehicle friendly

Original post made on May 14, 2014

Seeking to get ahead of an expected and desired electric-vehicle revolution, Palo Alto officials on Tuesday endorsed a new law that requires builders of new developments to go along for the ride.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 12:21 AM

Comments (17)

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Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside
on May 14, 2014 at 11:30 am

I really appreciate Palo Alto's leadership in helping support the build out of electric car charging infrastructure.... although I believe requiring free charging is too good a deal for those of us driving electric cars. It would be a very favorable deal if all we have to pay is the actual cost of electricity that the infrastructure provider has to pay plus ~ 10 per cent. Those who provide us with charging options should not see a car parked at their charging station as an expensive ongoing burden that they wish would go away. They will have every incentive to not maintain the station, creating an enforcement burden. I'd much rather pay something for the privilege and see stations kept in great shape.


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Posted by Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Why isn't this online newspaper reporting that last Monday night, the PA City Council voted to endorse a proposal to explore overturning part of Proposition 13???


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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on May 14, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Want to help the EV community? Require every gas station in Palo Alto to install 2 level 3 chargers. The rest of this is all hand waving. They don't have to be free, just a fair return on investment.


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Posted by Palo Alto Greene
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 14, 2014 at 12:32 pm

All for making a statement about the importance of clean energy, but... providing the electricity for FREE is essentially the same as levying a tax on all Palo Altans. I guess the City Council took its cue from the lawmakers who brought us "Cash for Clunkers."


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on May 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm

Electric vehicles seem great at the point of use. They give the illusion of clean transportation.

In terms of their global impact, however, EVs are the dirtiest transportation option available. Like, what other form of contemporary transportation derives some of its motive energy from burning coal?

Pollution dumped in somebody else's backyard is still pollution.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 14, 2014 at 8:11 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Electricity does not grow on trees.
High capacity Batteries are TOXIC.
All a EV does is dump the dirt elsewhere.
Lets agree that EV's are not lily Green

EV's are quiet
EV's don't idle and leave a local cloud of pollutants in stop and go traffic.

Those are good, but quit waving the pure GREEN flag


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Posted by anon
a resident of another community
on May 14, 2014 at 10:36 pm

To the two posters above:

@iconoclast: Palo Alto actually generates a fair amount of its electricity from renewable sources, and you're able to purchase (for a small extra fee) energy that comes from 100% renewable resources (source: Web Link). Even with dirty electricity production techniques, the efficiency of those power plants is higher than that of a gasoline engine, since they're able to have the generator constantly operating at its peak efficiency RPM, whereas a car's engine needs to deal with constant stopping and acceleration (that's why a car's city mileage is worse than its highway mileage). Obviously, using non-renewable resources to power your electric car slightly defeats the purpose, but it's a step in the right direction.

@SteveU: the only thing I want to add is that I hope battery recycling technology advances to meet the growing supply of electric vehicles, since as you mentioned, the batteries used within them are incredibly toxic. It's a non-ideal situation, and people should realize that as things stand, electric vehicles aren't all sunshine and rainbows, as some imagine.

Finally, it's interesting to think about whether the Palo Alto will pay attention to this when they're buying their next car. Teslas are all over the road, but when the next model is released, how many current owners will upgrade to that? That's the real crux of the issue - the consumerism. Palo Altans are performing a service by becoming early adopters of EV technology, helping fund future research and development, and I believe electric vehicles *are* the way of the future, but how many people will stop to consider where the hundreds of lithium ion batteries from their old model are going to go?


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on May 15, 2014 at 8:24 am

SteveU is a registered user.

Thanks anon

I am not holding my breath that a battery recycle solution will be found.

Nuclear fuel pellets were supposed to be reprocessed (poisons removed and more Uranium added to the blend). Somewhere that part got derailed and we have those huge holding ponds that were never planed to be used for any other than transient operation.

I imagine huge stacks of dangerous batteries in the not so distant future as all those older vehicles batteries reach EOL


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2014 at 12:56 pm

"@iconoclast: Palo Alto actually generates a fair amount of its electricity from renewable sources, and you're able to purchase (for a small extra fee) energy that comes from 100% renewable resources..."

Another convenient illusion. (1) "Renewable" energy comes from rivers dammed for hydropower and windfarms that kill birds and visually blight the countryside. There's no free ride there. (2) Once generated, that "renewable" energy is put on the grid, which distributes a perfectly mixed menage of power generated by every method that is connected to it. It's that grid mix that powers your toaster and EV; only a very tiny fraction is the "renewable" energy you are promised and pay extra for. Experiment: pour a cup of fresh drinking water into the ocean, then dip a cup of water from that spot. How's it taste?

"a car's engine needs to deal with constant stopping and acceleration (that's why a car's city mileage is worse than its highway mileage)..."

Sorry, wrong again. A car's city mileage is worse because its kinetic energy is being irrecoverably dissipated in the brakes every time it has to stop, which is often. That's why the brakes get so hot. Hybrids recover some of that energy, which makes them the truly greenest transportation option.

BTW, the generators powering the grid operate at constant RPM so they generate the correct AC frequency. They are of course designed for peak efficiency at that speed, but that is secondary. The net power plant efficiency is actually determined by the motors powering the generators.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2014 at 2:42 pm

iconoclast,

The western grid has a very low coal percentage. Cal ISO where we get most of our electricity is even lower still. I suspect you want to think of the grid just ebbs and flows like water, but it doesn't. Lines have capacity, so there are limits to what moves about. Also gasoline generation is not clean, so when you are making your comparisons keep that in mind most energy generation has its issues. Gasoline production requires 5Kwh of electricity per gallon. Most electric cars can go just as far as a gas car can on that 5KWH and it can do it cheaper since 5KWH of electric will always be cheaper . Than 1 gallon of gas and all that unclean (according to you) electricity generation is a component of that gallon of gas, so gas will always be dirtier. Electric cars aren't perfect they don't solve all our transportation needs, but for a commuter car, most people would be better off financially with one over gas. As a final note, my car travels 122 miles on the equivalent energy in a gallon of gas.

There are also economic reasons and security for buying domestic electric vs off shore oil. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2014 at 3:41 pm

"my car travels 122 miles on the equivalent energy in a gallon of gas"

Another instance of neglecting the hidden costs.

What matters is the total "well to wheel" efficiency. You didn't account for the approximately 33% efficiency of the electrical generation process -- 67% of the energy in the fuel the generator burned to make your kilowatt went goes up the stack or out the cooling system. If you account for that, you'll find that your energy-equivalent mileage is 0.33*122 = 40 MPG, not accounting for ISO transmission losses.

My hybrid easily tops that.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Actually my car gets 122 MPGe, your math is wrong.
and my gallon of energy costs less that yours. ;-)

Now for grins, lets assume your math is right for the moment.
That same loss is in the electric used to make your gas.

I am glad you are happy with your car though.


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on May 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm

"That same loss is in the electric used to make your gas."

Sorry again. Refineries are not powered by electrical energy. It would be far too expensive. Your number for kilowatthourage is simply the energy invested in gasoline production, expressed in metric energy units. People unfamiliar with the metric system often get confused that way, largely because they don't realize that all electrical quantities are metric.

Like, when was the last time you bought a 1/30 horsepower light bulb, or a 1/30 hp-equivalent bulb? Stumped? Well, it was when you bought your newest 25-W or 25-We bulb.

But I digress. Since your 5 kWh is not electrical energy, "That same loss is" not "in the electric used to make your gas."



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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Here even simpler

1 gallon of gas $4.05
I'll give you an MPG of 50
8.1 cents per mile

My car costs 2.8 cents per mile

Anyway I can be done here.


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Posted by iconoclast
a resident of University South
on May 16, 2014 at 9:48 am

"Here even simpler"

But no closer. Here's how it all works.

Driving an electric vehicle around Palo Alto will almost certainly put you on the Tier3 rate schedule: $0.174/kWh. Gasoline's energy content is about 33 kWh/gallon, so you are effectively paying $5.57 per gallon. At 40 MPG equivalent mileage (including the generator overhead discussed above, which is a component of the electricity pricing), that's $5.57/40 = 13.9 cents per mile.

General principle: The laws of thermodynamics favor nobody. The net "Well To Wheel" energy utilization efficiency is around 25-30% for all forms of transportation.

Thanks for helping lead our readers through this short course in energy and efficiency. Let's do it again sometime.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on May 16, 2014 at 10:28 am


EVs make some sense. Electric motors are highly efficient, no need to idle at stop signs, regenerative braking. The main problem, as already mentioned is the electricity generation. Coal is dirty, and displacement of pollution, or large hydro projects, should not be something that is celebrated. However, modular nuclear (aka nuclear batteries)seems to make sense, since it is local generation, and is not dependent on active cooling backup systems.

Lithium ion batteries are likely to be the motive force for the foreseeable future, although other technologies are being discussed. Panasonic appears to have Tesla's attention to build a mega-plant to produce lithium ion batteries. Not too sure about the recycle issues, although I would think that Tesla is forced to think about them.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 16, 2014 at 11:04 am

iconclast,

I pay for the energy that goes across my meter.
Using your figure of .174, which is more than I pay for electric but I'll use it just the same, and your figure of 33kwh,
I agree that I would pay 5.74 to drive my 122 miles,
(sorry its the mileage I get, you dont get to tell me what mileage I get).
If your car gets 50 MPG, you would take 2.44 gallons to go 122 miles
2.44 gallons x 4.05 (arco regular gas) cost you $9.88

I really pay about 3.42 for 122 miles given my electric tier, you really need to check your energy consumption if your in the top tier, turn some lights off once in a while.


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