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Chevy Volt

Nissan Leaf
Congress is also considering more tax credits for EVs and hybrids over vocal voices for and against such measures

In the wake of what some are calling the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history, many Americans are looking at energy alternatives to fossil fuels -- nuclear power, solar, wind, and geothermal -- with new eyes.  A critical part of that equation is developing vehicles that can tap those energy sources.  With the first EVs from the world's major auto companies set to launch later this year, the pressure -- and excitement -- is on for this new market.

One critical question is how to implement an EV friendly infrastructure.  Part of the charm of the gas or diesel engine is that you can fill up your tank virtually anywhere in the country within minutes.  Faster chargers could do almost that for EVs -- charging them within 15-30 minutes.  However, it will take a massive investment to deploy these chargers across the nation.

The Obama administration is pushing legislation in the Senate that would invest taxpayer money to create EV chargers and other infrastructure in 15 key areas, much like the government's investment in rail a century and a half ago.  Energy Department Assistant Secretary David Sandalow told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee states, "Starting with a smaller number (of communities) would allow us to focus resources and build a team of experts that can support a more widespread rollout.  We need to invest in 21st-century technologies."

The bill would come at a cost of $10B USD to taxpayers – many say that's a small cost, though.  Sandalow states, "The direction of the bill is a good one.  We think this moves in a very positive direction."

That direction would be towards President Obama's goal of having 1 million electric vehicles on America's streets by 2015.  The bill in the Senate, authored by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and two others, would put the $10B USD towards giving $250M USD to up to 15 communities.  A House version of the bill comes in at $6.6B USD and would give $800M USD to five "deployment communities" to put 700,000 EVs on the streets.  Both bills have been criticized for including two few communities, which critics say could slow adoption.

A separate bill is even more controversial.  The bill would give tax credits or direct government-funded rebates to buyers of efficient vehicles like hybrids or electric vehicles, while fining those who buy less fuel efficient vehicles like truck and large SUVs.  The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing Detroit's Big Three carmakers, Toyota Motor Corp. and seven other automakers, opposes the measure.  

Kathryn Clay, the group's research director, states, "We believe the legislation should allow manufacturers, fuel providers and communities the flexibility to invest in multiple electric drive pathways, including fuel cell electric vehicle and related hydrogen infrastructure.  We have significant concerns about an approach that would limit investments to a handful of communities, particularly at such an early stage of electric vehicle deployment. This creates a small number of communities that would 'win' and receive significant federal dollars while the rest of country loses out."

Recent surveys indicate growing interest in electric vehicles, though.  And Nissan's initial production run of 14,000 2011 Nissan Leaf EVs has already been sold out via pre-orders.  In total, 20,000+ pre-orders have been placed.  The launch of the 2011 Chevy Volt by General Motors is anticipated to draw similar excitement later this year.

Still the movement has some informed skeptics.  Jan Kreider, an engineering professor and the founder of the University of Colorado's Joint Center for Energy Management, states, "There are inherent chemical limits to what a battery can do."

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a think tank, adds, "All-electric cars are the next big thing, and they always will be."

With vocal voices on both sides, the ball is now in Congress's court to find a consensus between the House and Senate on what, if any EV-related measures are best for Americans, and how to be encourage the new industry.



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not such a new idea
By dgingeri on 6/23/2010 4:37:17 PM , Rating: 3
we need to take all this oil drilling technology and use it to drill tunnels deep under Yellowstone (around it, not in it, so the park stays pretty) and pump water down into them to generate steam from the heat of the caldera, then use that steam to generate electricity. It would generate huge amounts of electricity for fairly cheap, and keep the supervolcano from erupting, destroying the country. (Putting the heat pipes down into the middle of the caldera would probably accelerate the process, but cooling it from the sides should reduce the chance of eruption.)

I'm not a global warming enthusiast, but I would prefer to avoid giving our money to a bunch of guys dead set on annihilating us.




RE: not such a new idea
By billebersohl on 6/23/2010 4:49:08 PM , Rating: 5
How quickly do you think it would take environmentalists to block putting up huge power lines going through the park?

Sorry, but the enviro-wackos will oppose everything.


RE: not such a new idea
By ClownPuncher on 6/23/2010 5:00:23 PM , Rating: 3
I'm not an environmentalist and I oppose putting huge powerlines throughout Yellowstone. There is a reason National Parks exist, and eploiting them for resources is the opposite of that reason.


RE: not such a new idea
By ebakke on 6/23/2010 6:03:58 PM , Rating: 5
Agreed. Wholeheartedly. And there's absolutely no reason to destroy the park when you could simply build a nuclear power plant instead.


RE: not such a new idea
By dgingeri on 6/23/2010 6:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
who said there would be powerlines through the park? I didn't. putting that in the middle of the caldera would be a bad thing. pulling the heat off of the sides would be good. powerplants going all the way around the park, not in it.

They could also be fairly small and unobtrusive, because most of it would be underground in the form of a kind of giant heat pipe. Trees could be planted all around it and it would never be seen.


RE: not such a new idea
By asdf23fvas324rf on 6/24/2010 1:54:10 AM , Rating: 2
unfortunately theres no way to do that without destroying the park. the tunnels to pump water into the thing would be have to be placed by digging miles of trench throughout the park, in the process cutting down trees, filling in rivers and streams and killing and displacing thousands of animals. not to mention thep ower lines, utility boxes, service tunnels, etc would all have to be built on site to accommodate the entire operation as well.

and by the way, do you even have any idea how big yellowstone is? youd never be able to pull enough heat to generate enough electricity through hundreds of miles of pipes. the steam would have cooled drastically by the time it would get anywhere.

its a nice effort, but its not physically possible with no damage to the park or the environment.


RE: not such a new idea
By JediJeb on 6/24/2010 11:07:23 AM , Rating: 2
I think he is talking about angle drilling a mile or more deep from the border of the park in towards the center. There would be no need to dig trenches through the park. Also with the bore holes that deep, and with the steam being super heated, there would be plenty of heat left when it comes to the surface. These types of geothermal plants already exist, he is just thinking of putting them in a very volcanically active place to make the most of the available heat. I think it would possibly work, just need to iron out the details.


RE: not such a new idea
By zombiexl on 6/24/2010 10:39:26 AM , Rating: 3
I could argue that national parks exist because the federal government violated the states rights and seized land not belonging to them. Since this wasn't the point of your post I wont argue that as history speaks for itself.

I doubt anyone wants to see massive power lines through any park. However, the idea of harnessing the power of the caldera, and potentially keeping it from erupting is an intriguing thought.


RE: not such a new idea
By ClownPuncher on 6/24/10, Rating: 0
RE: not such a new idea
By guacamojo on 6/23/2010 5:13:40 PM , Rating: 2
Sure, we'd have cheap power, but then what would happen to "Old Faithful?"


RE: not such a new idea
By dgingeri on 6/23/2010 6:15:31 PM , Rating: 2
it would cool down and eventually stop spouting, in about 100,000 years.

There is enough energy in that caldera, in the form of molten rock, to serve the power needs of this country at the current 15% growth rate for the next 250,000 years. It also happens to be a direct molten "tap" directly to the mantle, unlike most volcanoes that are simply a bubble of molten rock surrounded by solid rock. So, it would take a very, very long time to cool it down.

The downside would be that as it cools, we'd have to redrill new holes closer to the center of the caldera about every 250 years or so.


RE: not such a new idea
By spread on 6/24/2010 12:00:11 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sure we can do a gas to electric conversion on it.


RE: not such a new idea
By fleabag on 6/28/2010 9:32:15 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with this idea. As for the environmentalists, just tell them that to prevent yellowstone from erupting, we need to take the energy out of it because a volcanic eruption of yellowstone would be devastating. Using yellowstone to generate electricity would be a way to "relieve" the pressure of this huge volcano.


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