California Enacts Pro EV Measures

USflagIMAGE200
USflagIMAGE200

In a new measure, the California State Assembly has paved the way to make electric vehicles more affordable, as well as practical, for the ordinary car user. Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield filed a bill allowing for easier access to these vehicles of the future.

Assembly bill 2502 passed the California Lower House by a unanimous 75 to none vote and with that the measure was forwarded to the California State Senate for further review and consideration.

According to Blumenfield, “Electric vehicles must become a more affordable and practical choice for Californians. Getting past ‘range anxiety’ is essential for this technology to be embraced by commuters. Accelerated vehicle recharging can help and we must make it more affordable.”

This bill is just part of the Blumenfield’s overall Clean Car Package. Other aspects of the bill include allowing car dealers to include the cost of accelerated charging systems for the electric vehicle, such as installation costs in the purchaser’s home or the vehicle’s financing charges. The fast charging equipment would allow the homeowner to fully recharge the vehicle through a 220 volt outlet overnight.

Blumenfield adds, “We can encourage more Californians to buy zero-emission cars. A few thousand dollars out of pocket is a barrier we can overcome with this bill.”

New car consumers in the state make downpayments for vehicles ranging from 17.8% or U.S.$5,139 for a U.S.$28,870 priced car in 2011. While this figure is below the threshold level of 20% recommended by car market buying authorities, making additional financing available is important to improve the market acceptance of the electric vehicle platform.

Another bill authored by Blumenfield is AB 2045 and it provides clean car drives with free access to carpool lanes and converted toll lanes. Before this measure, clean cars have never been allowed free access in these specific lanes. This said bill was passed last month and has been forwarded to the California State Senate.

Over and above the current state and federal incentives provided to purchasers, these new measures would help the car market gear more towards the purchase of clean and green technologies for their transportation needs. These new incentives would help tip the scales in favor of the electric vehicle for a cleaner and greener future for all.

Company To Change Lithium Market

New Electric Car
New Electric Car

A company out of California last Wednesday announced that it would undertake commercial operations to capture lithium from geothermal energy plants. This, according to them, would most likely make the United States the top exporter of lithium in the world.

The company is Simbol Materials and would locate their lithium extraction facility near the Salton Sea in the Imperial Valley of California. Aside from lithium, the facility also would extract manganese and zinc. None of the planned extracted material would include rare earth elements, which have only be found in large quantities in China. Despite such limitations, lithium ranks as one of the energy critical elements that are deemed crucial for the energy needs of the future.

Lithium is an important element in the creation of electric car batteries. Manganese is also used as battery material as well as important in steel and metal production. Currently, the United States imports most of its lithium needs and all of its manganese requirements.

The company’s design for the process is through attachment with an existing geothermal plant. When the plant generates electricity through steam generated from pumped hot water from drilled holes in the ground. The steam drives turbines and the hot water is pumped back into the ground hole. This underground water is essentially a strong composite of brine with around thirty percent are dissolved salts.

These dissolved salts, according to Luka Erceg, Simbol’s Chief Executive Officer, are rich in these energy critical elements. He said, ““When we looked into the brine resource, what we found was not only lithium, but manganese, zinc and about half the periodic table of the elements.” At this point though, the economically viable elements are lithium, manganese and zinc.

The Simbol plant would process 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water per minute, and through a filtration process, would be able to extract about 10 to 20 gallons of salt. These salts would then be refined through an extraction process that is 93 percent efficient. This cost effective way can produce much of the lithium requirements of the United States and even allow for production to export to other countries.

Currently, Chile, Australia, China and Argentina are the major producers of lithium. This element is used in metallurgy, pharmaceuticals and now with the increased focus on electric vehicle production, in lithium ion batteries. Be it for cellular phones or the latest electric vehicle model, the lithium contained in their batteries may soon come from the Salton Sea Brine through the efforts of Simbol Materials, Inc.

Electric Car Sales Rising in UK and US

Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Volt

This new product, the electric vehicle, is still in its infancy and data that has been made available by automakers are still scarce. While large automakers such as GM and Nissan have readily provided sales information, smaller electric car manufacturers such as Tesla, Smart, Wheego and GEM have not provided information to complete the sales picture for this revolutionary vehicle.

The top sellers of electric vehicles are the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf. The design of the Volt is still basically hybrid in nature, as there is an internal combustion engine in the unit, connected to the drive train that extends the range of the vehicle. On the other hand, the Nissan Leaf is a fully automated electric vehicle powered solely by lithium ion batteries.

In June 2011, there have been 1,708 Nissan Leaf units have been sold. For May 2011, Nissan was able to sell 1,142 units. As for the Chevy Volt, there were 561 units sold in June 2011 while in May, there were 480 units sold. These numbers were the units sold over a two-month period in the United States. In total, over 3,894 units of Nissan Leaf have been sold since it was made available to the US market in December 2010.

Across the pond, UK electric car sales have been dominated by the Nissan Leaf. Once made available to the UK market in March 2011, an average of one hundred units have been sold per month totaling 338 individual units until June 2011. The smaller numbers is not due to the non-acceptance of Europeans of the new car design but rather attributed to the lack of supply available of the cars in the UK market.

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg and is a precursor to a much larger demand in the future. The waiting list for electric cars now number in five hundred in the UK alone and the numbers are rising. While the numbers for electric cars seem to be a trickle compared to the thousands of internal combustion engines being bought off showrooms in both the U.S. and the UK, this is a good sign that the market for electric cars and hybrids is healthy and kicking.

Soon enough, the numbers would change.