Category Archives: Drive Oregon

Time to Join the Party: Early Data on Plug in Adoption and Industry Investment

By choosing to employ regulatory streamlining and supportive policies and incentives on consumer deployment and in-state industry development, Oregon and California now have evidence that those dollars leverage high economic value.

In late 2009 in Oregon, a few EV oriented businesses, manufacturers and professionals created an industry cluster in a third floor conference room of the Portland Development Commission, and concocted a strategy to harness state funds to promote its development.   Now called Drive Oregon, the group convinced the Oregon Innovation Council of its value and successfully lobbied state legislators to invest $1.2m of state funding at a time when the state’s budget left many lawmakers on the retreat, cutting public safety measures and teacher salaries.  The pitch, that Oregon needed to have a means of fueling its EV industry cluster’s growth and have a conduit for federal and private grants funding alternative fuel technologies, was persuasive but not without great uncertainty.  Should Oregon gamble on using state funds to fuel development in a sector that many, even today, dismiss as doomed to fail?  Recently the Northwest Economic Research Center (“NERC”) released the results of its first study designed to define what companies constitute Oregon’s EV cluster and measure its strength and economic impacts.

Tom Potiowsky, director of NERC and former Oregon state economist, concluded that: “Our research indicates that the electric vehicle industry generates gross economic activity of $266.56 million, total value added of nearly $148 million and provides more than $89 million in total employee compensation.  The industry continued to grow during the Great Recession, while other transportation industries suffered enormous losses.”

NERC estimated that EV economic activity created a ripple effect, adding 1169 jobs to the economy in addition to the 411 full-time EV jobs.  Tax revenue to the state amounted to $11.9m and $20.8m to the federal authorities.   More importantly, in a little over a year DriveOregon has gotten over forty businesses to join the cluster and leveraged over $2.5 million dollars to date through its matching grants program.

Why has the EV industry taken root in Oregon?  Sophisticated local demand may explain some of this phenomena, a population given to a willingness to try new things for the benefit of themselves and the planet.    Oregon’s skilled workforce, supportive legislative and regulatory policy atmosphere, and a diffuse EV industry structure involved in manufacturing of different types of EVs, parts and components all contribute to its health. But it is more.  It took impassioned individuals and courageous political leadership.

What of the other side of the coin- deployment? What benefits might be achieved through a state’s aggressive measures to foster consumer purchasing of PEVs?

In the UCal-Berkeley study released in September 2012, titled, “Plug-In Electric Vehicle Deployment in California: An Economic Assessment”, focused on providing an economic assessment of the state’s accelerated deployment of PEVs.   Its author, David Roland-Holst, who employs a long-term economic forecasting model, concludes that:

-Light duty vehicle electrification can be a catalyst for economic growth, contributing up to 100,000 additional jobs [in California] by 2030.

-On average, a dollar saved at the gas pump and spent on other goods and services that households want creates 16 times more jobs. (Yes, read that again).

-The majority of the new demand financed by PEV fuel cost savings goes to in-state services.

Individual Californians gain from economic growth associated with fuel cost savings due to EVs, whether they buy a new car or not. Average real wages and employment increase across the economy and incomes grow faster for low-income groups than for higher-income groups.

(Emphasis added.)

In essence the type of savings achieved through PEV adoption are quite different than those expenditures on the fossil fuel supply chain, creating stronger multiplier effects on state product and job creation and providing a positive net value to those states that adopt them.  PEV-related transportation efficiency also stimulates job creation across all economic activities, not just in the  “green collar” sector, through this expenditure shifting phenomenon.  Quite simply, “a dollar saved on traditional energy is a dollar earned by 10-100 times as many new workers.” (p.17)

The importance of these studies should not be underestimated.  They add yet another analytic block to the foundation supporting the business case for society’s investment in PEV technology and adoption and, perhaps most importantly, for the ongoing political support of policies designed to assist its rapid ascent.  When read in conjunction, these studies make clear that we have ever more to gain by the acceptance of EVs then “just” GHG reduction, balancing the grid, and a better driving experience.   We have local jobs to gain and, with them, hope for a sustainable energy future.  For California and Oregon, the gamble appears to be paying off.  Can other parts of the country afford to not to invest in a technology sector whose odds get more favorable all the time?

 

Los Angeles Hosts 26th Electric Vehicle Symposium- Lessons Learned

 

I recently returned from the EVS26 Conference sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association.  My goal was to see how Oregon compares to other regions and introduce myself to a plethora of charging station providers as a resource to help them in their business development and sales in the Pacific Northwest.  The quick profile might read like this- 47 Countries, 200 Exhibitors, Plenary Session speakers like Bob Lutz and Brian Wynne, ride and drive opportunities for twenty PHEV/BEV vehicles and  thousands of delegates from every continent.  Its easy to get jazzed from that degree of energy and stay jazzed for months.

My lessons learned:

For the first time the auto manufacturers share the same customer with the electric utility and charging station provider; the customer experience crosses all these business boundaries and one bad experience with one translates into a bad experience with all of them- in legal terms we call this joint and several liability.

Auto manufacturers are playing defensively with the EVSE/EVSP folks and each other by delaying and re-doing the charging connector standard for the DCQC.  While CHAdeMO is the current installed connector, the resistance to it by all the other major auto manufacturers  except Nissan And Mitsubishi seems designed to slow the roll-out and stay ahead of the infrastructure in order to control it.  It also signals market share in-fighting as GM tries to prevent Nissan from a commanding early market lead.  I am not pleased with the double connector aka combo plug because it is cumbersome, unwieldy, and women will not be able to handle it easily.  I also see the outcome of this defensive play as not promoting the value of standardization but rather the value of one product over the industry.  Can we afford to derail progress in infrastructure?  The real question is -What’s wrong with the CHAdeMO standard?  Has GM really answered that?

Oregon is well positioned relative to the other states- it will have 80 DCQC along its I-5 travel corridor by the end of the summer and be in a position to jumpstart other EVSPs besides ECOtality when the ARRA funding runs out.  It will create sufficient backbone to allow gap-filling by L2 Public chargers along its more heavily traveled spur roads.   Its regulatory streamlining continues to offer quick, cheap infrastructure permitting.  PSU’s Electric Avenue project shows how clustering creates buzz and an opportunity to learn about everything from signage to EVSE/Car communication issues.  Oregon is in a leadership position relative to other states and can begin sharing lessons.  Governor Kitzhaber is due to release his Future Energy Plan on June 1st, which is anticipated to further buttress state political support for transportation electrification.

EVSP have not yet demonstrated what the successful business plan will be for charging.  Many of them have overly aggressive hourly or monthly subscription rates relative to the amount of kWh to be purchased.  People will pay for fast charging and convenience, but the EV Project data shows many are relying on level one charging much more commonly then was originally forecast.  In fact, according to Britta Gross of GM, the Chevy Volt owners are charging their vehicles more than Leaf owners, perhaps reflecting their desire to avoid initiating the gas generator on board.  Will vehicles onboard technology continue to increase charging speed such that L2 become almost as fast as DCQC?  Do consumers want to just keep billing simple and pay as they go?  Do they want networks and subscription based plans? When the public funding ends for infrastructure, who will be left standing?

Nissan sold 27,000 Leafs worldwide last year, and projects another 40,000 this year.  Thereafter, it will reach capacity of 150,000 units per year when its plant in Tennessee opens in a few months, all of which should eliminate the supply issue for dealers and really test consumer interest and dealer marketing.  At the same time there will be 45 PHEV/BEV models released over the next two years, including the all electric Ford Focus, Audi e-tron and BMW.  With the range of choices, consumers can feel confident that this technology is road worthy and here to stay.

Battery costs/efficiencies will improve by 7-8% per year.  Battery technology remains the biggest hurdle to cost-effective pricing, although the new MSRP sticker will show fuel savings equivalents for the first five years of use.  This means you will see that the Leaf can save you thousands of dollars in gas over the short-term and help you to see how the upfront costs pencil.

European countries are pulling away.  Norway has 1000 leafs in circulation and they comprise 2% of all new vehicle sales.  Lisbon, Portugal has over 500 public charging stations.  Amsterdam’s new Car2Go fleet has over 300 BEVs and wants to see its EV reputation eclipse its reputation for hash bars and prostitution(!)

And lastly, I want to attend the next EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain in November 2013!

 

Fred Meyer Debuts the Fastest Electric Vehicle Charger in the West (and the U.S.)

Today was a momentous day in many respects.  ECOtality sponsored a ceremony at the Hollywood Fred Meyer  in Northeast Portland which is now hosting the first DC fast charging unit installed as part of the EV Project, nationally.  No other state received this distinction.  Considering the scale of the EV Project and the fact that it is rolling out a large number of level two units across the country, this was indeed a historic event.

Among those in attendance were Governor John Kitzhaber, Sen. Jeff Merkeley, Multnomah County Commissioner Chair Jeff Cogen, Fred Meyer’s President Michael Ellis and ECOtality’s President Don Karner.   Pacific Power’s Pat Egan also spoke about the importance of teamwork in getting these units installed within all utility’s service territories.  I got the chance to thank ECOtality’s president for his efforts in helping make Oregon a central figure in the national movement toward vehicle electrification.  We are indebted to private and public figures who see that the future of transportation lies in electrifying vehicles.

The DC fast charger  (Level 3) enables EVs to charge to close to full capacity within the time it takes to fill a normal gas tank; they have been likened to a attaching a firehose of electrons to your car.  These are beefy 440 v (125 amp) chargers using the Chademo charging connection imported from Japan and invented by TEPCO. The unit has a large flat screen which will be used for advertising and providing information to consumers while charging.  The number of Nissan LEAFs on hand was also impressive (I counted twenty) and I witnessed one of the first to plug in at the unit.

Sen Jeff Merkeley is to be congratulated particularly for his national leadership, along with Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in promoting vehicle electrification.  Oregon ships out $6 billion every year to fossil fuel companies, much of it going offshore.  If we can capture even half of that, we will be keeping money in the local economy and making Oregon a better place to live.

Governor Kitzhaber and Sen. Merkeley were also kind enough to speak of Drive Oregon and reference that forty companies in Oregon are currently operating in the EV space.  Drive Oregon is one of the first non-profits, nationally, to be empowered with the mission of promoting a state-based EV industry .  We plan on promoting economic growth, job creation, and commercialization of new EV-related technologies as our long-term strategy.

The sun shone brightly at Freddie’s throughout the ceremony making us all wince involuntarily.  Perhaps a sign that DC fast chargers are a ray of hope in an otherwise cloudy world of combustion.