163: Friday 15th October 2010

Nothing much happening with the Probatron recently. It has been behaving itself.
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There has been, and will continue to be an accelerated amount of news surrounding the introduction of the various large brand offerings of electric cars.
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The Chevy Volt has taken a beating in the press for keeping some of the details about the drive system quiet while they get their patents sorted out. Nissan are soaking up all the press they can get for their battery only electric vehicle the Leaf. Mitsubishi with the iMiev battery car, Peugeot's ion (iMiev with different calibrations and paint job), the Renault Fluence and the relationship with Better Place for battery swapping stations etc.
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I am confident we will start seeing lots of pretentious adverts on TV soon, if they haven't already started. I have seen some on-line. My wife loves the Nissan Leaf polar bear advert, but was only interested in how cuddly the bear was, no interest in the car at all.
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There has been much talk about how China wants to control the technology that is allowed to be sold there.
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As you may know I work for Ford, and initially they had others build retro-fit prototypes in the form of Smiths for the Transit Connect and Magna for the Ford Focus and then taken them on to develop it further in the Ford factories. The Transit connect now being kitted out by Azure Dynamics and the Focus still by Magna. Fairly well proven systems in both cases and Ford are not making so much noise about the electrification as some of the other brands and in my opinion appear to be offering the customer electric options if they want them rather than thrusting a position or standpoint on the public. There has been some publicity, but not too much boasting.
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Then to continue my rant, there is all the hoo-har about charging points. I know that in the U.K. I could plug in just about anywhere there is a 240v 3 pin plug. It seems that every utility company has a fancy looking post with a socket on it that costs thousands of $s or £s. It cost me less than £20 to set up a 240v 16A socket alongside my garage door. I find it frustrating that the authorities can't just find a local electrician to put in 10 ordinary electric points that are suitable for car charging in every large car park and pay the car wash guy to paint them spaces green with some floor paint and write "Electric Car Parking" alongside all for about £2000. That would be about 2 days work for me on my own and would make me fairly well-off if I could get a couple of gigs each week. Apart from everything else it could all be done in just a few months and cost just a few millions for the whole country. It seems that we are seeing this sort of money being spent just on consultations with not a damn thing being installed anywhere. Then when some fancy posts do appear one or two at-a-time in some obscure places and then cost 10s of thousands of pounds or dollars.
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I read regularly about people arguing that coal fired power stations producing CO2 when generating electric that would be used to charge cars. No matter who does the calculating, this still pollutes less than the millions of petrol cars on the road, but the figures now show that truly electric cars are not completely clean. I watched a program on TV that had the American government in for about 1.5 trillion dollars worth of coal fired power stations before 2050 with a life expectancy of about 50 years, but using sequestration to clean the emissions into porous rock beds. I am not totally convinced that this egg basket is the right place to put all your solutions either. So another idea to come out was closed nuclear power stations where the waste is re-used over and over. Wind power and solar power don't have enough coverage for the outlay to provide for all.
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For all the things that are starting now, the next 5 years are going to be really interesting. I would be surprised if there was another war somehow related to the introduction of electric cars and at least one major environmental disaster. I am sure that in 2015 we will still be trying to understand what is the winning solution set, whether this is right or wrong, and by 2020 we will be wondering what all the fuss was about.
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I will be really interested to get some comments going on these subjects since I have only got my amp gauge and matrix display to build now for the Probatron. Plus adding Lambo door hinges and a blingy paint job.

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