If you live here this is probably old news, but the LA Times is reporting today that the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in Los Angeles hit an all-time high for February - averaging $3.50/gallon.
From the article:
The price, which reached $3.99 in some parts of Los Angeles, was the highest since October 2008, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report. Some stations are charging more than $4.25 for premium and $4.69 for diesel.
Various factors are cited for the spike, including unrest in the Middle East as well as West Coast refineries running at 74% capacity, instead of the 90% capacity that is common in other parts of the country. Running at less than capacity limits inventories and drives up prices. Speculation exists that the lower capacity figures could be a deliberate attempt to manipulate prices, or simply the result of refineries needing to shift over production to the “summer-time blend” that is sold in California starting next month. Regardless of the reason for the current spike, experts believe that the February price bodes ill for the upcoming summer driving season when gas prices historically go up.
All of this has some consumers resigned to their fate - but are they?
Again from the article:
“You need to use your car, so you have no choice but to buy it…you’re helpless,” said small business owner Alonso Larita, 40, of Culver City, who found that $25 at the downtown Shell station would buy him just 6.4 gallons for his Ford Ranger.
Others seemed to chide themselves for still being dependent on fossil fuels after enduring so much pain at the pump.
Actor and downtown Los Angeles resident Keifer Grimm, 23, for example, said “I don’t even think of it anymore” as he spent $20 for 5.1 gallons for his midsize sedan. “That’s the shameful part of it. We continue to consume it without even thinking.”
Meanwhile, Nissan has received 20,000 paid reservations for its all-electric Leaf and GM has reported strong demand for its plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt. According to a CNN Money article, “sales of these cars are limited by how fast the automakers can produce them and get them to dealers” - certainly a nice problem to have. “Right now we’re selling every one we can make,” GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said, “so as shipments rise we expect sales to rise as well.”
Despite the naysayers, these are the cars of the future. They are the solution to our unsustainable dependence on foreign oil - indeed, to oil period - and when coupled with an appropriately sized solar power system, owners of these vehicles will sail past the pump while they Run on Sun.
What could be better than that?
This past Sunday, my Chief Electrician, Velvet, and I had the chance to test drive the new, all-electric Nissan Leaf. This was the very start of a semi-nationwide test drive event that Nissan is holding over the next six months. (I say semi-nationwide because the test drive event corresponds to those states in which the Leaf is being rolled out in the initial phase. Sadly, that excludes almost all of the middle portion of the country, focusing instead on California, the rest of the West coast, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas (Steph - don't miss out!) and then the East coast.) This past weekend in Santa Monica was the first opportunity for "regular" people to drive the much talked about Leaf. (About half of the folks in our driving group had reservations down on the Leaf.)
I have to say, I was not disappointed. The car has plenty of pep, has been intelligently designed and the appointments are acceptable, if not luxurious. (I presently drive an Acura TL six-speed, so I am accustomed to both performance and luxury. While the Leaf cannot equal the TL in either category, my TL averages under 20 MPG in my day-to-day driving. My Leaf will let me do all of my routine driving fueled by solar power - literally letting me Run on Sun - and I can fit a Little Giant ladder in the hatchback with the rear seats down so I can do solar site evaluations from the Leaf!) I will be writing a more elaborate review for our friends over at Solar Charged Driving and I encourage you to look for that article there in the next few days.
Above you see the charging port for the Leaf, concealed behind a tilt-up panel in the hood. On the right is the conventional charge connector where the standard 240VAC charger will be connected. For most Leaf owners, this is how they will charge their Leaf most of the time. On the left side is the rapid-charge connector and as you can see, the main charge connections are pretty beefy. They had better be. According to Nissan, the rapid charger will give you an 80% charge in 30 minutes. Let's do the math - the Leaf has a 24kWh battery pack - if you are charging 80% of that you will be pushing 19.2 kWh onto the Leaf in 0.5 hours. That means that the charger must be delivering 38.4 kW for those 30 minutes. At a nominal 240VAC, that means that the current will be equal to 38,400W/240V = 160 Amps! Big sparks!
At the end of the test drive, Velvet and I taped a short video as part of Nissan's win a free Leaf contest. Give their marketing folks credit, this is a great PR stunt - get folks to record videos describing why they should win a free car and encourage them to get their friends to vote for them. I am guessing that folks will get very elaborate in their prep for this as the word gets out (ah, such is the life of an early adopter!) Anyway, we like free as well as the next guy so please, check out the video we made - and vote for Run on Sun to get a free Leaf! (But don't give me grief for doing all the talking - Velvet is shy!)
The Nissan Leaf - the first in the next wave of electric vehicles (EVs) - has the potential to be a game changer. When combined with solar power to charge it, you get a Leaf EV that can Run on Sun - what could be better?
Well, maybe saving the planet and all its creatures. Or at least that is the theme of this very nicely done ad. But don't take my word for it, check it out:
One of the key concerns that EV advocates have to address is the need to recharge away from home. Given that a conventional household 120V outlet would require overnight to recharge and even a 240V outlet could require several hours, what is the poor EV owner going to do when their battery is headed to Empty?
The answer lies in the deployment of rapid-charge stations throughout metropolitan areas so that the car can be fully recharged in a matter of minutes, not hours. Nissan has just taken a major step forward in this area with the rollout of its first rapid-charge station in, of all places, Portland, Oregon. Although the details are limited, here is the video that Nissan released of the event:
The Leaf’s onboard navigation system will be able to inform the driver of the location of the nearest public charging stations and the distance to each. Of course, we hope that their home charging station will be solar powered and it is only a matter of time before you see public charging stations that are also solar powered. You can learn more about making your EV Run on Sun at our website.
We have all seen the horrific images coming from the Gulf of Mexico as an oil rig disaster morphs into an environmental catastrophe far exceeding the Exxon Valdez nightmare of 20 years ago. Millions and millions of gallons of crude oil are spilling into the Gulf, defying the best efforts of the oil company, BP, to stop it or the federal government to contain it.
News reports indicate that there will be more than enough blame to go around, but what is the root cause of this disaster?
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