Renault-Nissan to Provide 200 Electric Vehicles for UN COP21 Paris Climate Conference

The Renault-Nissan Alliance announced today that they will provide a fleet of 200 all-electric vehicles as the official passenger-car provider for the United Nation’s COP21 climate conference in Paris later this year. The fleet of vehicles will include Renault’s ZOE and Kangoo Z.E. and Nissan’s LEAF and e-NV200. Here’s what a small part of it looks like:


According to the Alliance press release:

The partnership agreement was signed today between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and the General Secretary in charge of the preparation and organization of the 21st annual Conference of Parties (better known as COP21). The fully electric car fleet will shuttle delegates during the event from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

More than 20,000 U.N. participants from 195 countries are expected to attend the annual climate summit. It will be the first time the U.N. will use a zero-emission fleet for its entire passenger car shuttle at a COP event.

Laurent Fabius, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development and President of COP21, said that:

We are delighted to announce that the Renault-Nissan Alliance is an official partner of COP21 in Paris. Thanks to the Alliance’s fleet of 100% electric vehicles, it will contribute to our goal of achieving a carbon neutral event. The technology of electric vehicles helps reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector efficiently.

whilst Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said that:

Electric vehicle technology is an efficient solution for a practical and affordable mode of transportation. This solution has a positive impact on the climate and air quality in our cities. It’s time to accelerate the shift to zero-emission mobility by working together with all parties concerned.

At this point in time I cannot help but wonder what Amber Rudd and her new team at DECC will make of being ferried around Paris in 100% electric vehicles later this year? Maybe they’ll be so impressed that they will follow the lead of Paris and:

Set up network[s] of more than 50 quick and standard charging stations powered by 100% renewable energy in strategic locations. The quick charging stations will be able to charge the EVs from 0 to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes.

Tesla Energy Launches the Powerwall

In a much anticipated announcement last week Elon Musk told the world that Tesla Motors now had a sister business entitled “Tesla Energy” which would start delivering a new product called the Powerwall later this year. Here’s a video of Mr. Musk’s presentation:

Note that at around 2 minutes 25 seconds Elon points out that:

We have this handy fusion reactor in the sky called the Sun. You don’t have to do anything, it just works. It shows up every day and produces ridiculous amounts of power. Now a lot of people aren’t clear on how much surface area is needed to generate enough power to completely get the United States off of fossil fuels….

It’s really not much, and most of that area is going to be on rooftops. You won’t need to disturb land. You won’t need to find new areas. It’s mostly going to be on the roofs of existing homes and buildings.

Now the obvious problem with solar power is that the sun does not shine at night. This problem needs to be solved! we need to store the energy that is generated during the day so that we can use it at night.

I recommend watching the whole show, but if you’re the impatient sort then skip to 11 minutes 40 seconds and listen to this bit:

What about something that scales to much, much larger levels? For that we have something else. We have the Powerpack. The Tesla Powerpack is designed to scale infinitely. You can literally make this into a GWh solution. We already have one utility that wants to do a 250 MWh installation.

According to the Tesla Energy launch press pack:

Tesla is not just an automotive company, it’s an energy innovation company. Tesla Energy is a critical step in this mission to enable zero emission power generation.

With Tesla Energy, Tesla is amplifying its efforts to accelerate the move away from fossil fuels to a sustainable energy future with Tesla batteries, enabling homes, business, and utilities to store sustainable and renewable energy to manage power demand, provide backup power and increase grid resilience.

Tesla is already working with utilities and other renewable power partners around the world to deploy storage on the grid to improve resiliency and cleanliness of the grid as a whole.

Here’s a picture of the combination of Tesla’s two businesses:

Tesla Energy reveals a Model S in close proximity to a Powerwall

Tesla Energy reveals a Model S in close proximity to a Powerwall

and here’s their description of the Powerwall:

Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery designed to store energy at a residential level for load shifting, backup power and self-consumption of solar power generation. Powerwall consists of Tesla’s lithium-ion battery pack, liquid thermal control system and software that receives dispatch commands from a solar inverter. The unit mounts seamlessly on a wall and is integrated with the local grid to harness excess power and give customers the flexibility to draw energy from their own reserve.

The battery can provide a number of different benefits to the customer including:

  • Load shifting – The battery can provide financial savings to its owner by charging during low rate periods when demand for electricity is lower and discharging during more expensive rate periods when electricity demand is higher
  • Increasing self-consumption of solar power generation – The battery can store surplus solar energy not used at the time it is generated and use that energy later when the sun is not shining
  • Back-up power – Assures power in the event of an outage

Powerwall increases the capacity for a household’s solar consumption, while also offering backup functionality during grid outages.

Powerwall is available in 10kWh, optimized for backup applications or 7kWh optimized for daily use applications. Both can be connected with solar or grid and both can provide backup power. The 10kWh Powerwall is optimized to provide backup when the grid goes down, providing power for your home when you need it most. When paired with solar power, the 7kWh Powerwall can be used in daily cycling to extend the environmental and cost benefits of solar into the night when sunlight is unavailable.

Since we are big fans of distributed energy storage here at V2G UK this is all music to our ears, but some things are strangely lacking from Tesla’s publicity.  Apparently:

Tesla’s selling price to installers is $3500 for 10kWh and $3000 for 7kWh. (Price excludes inverter and installation.) Deliveries begin in late Summer.

It looks as though inverters to attach to Powerwalls will be supplied by third parties and the pretty picture above notwithstanding connecting a Tesla Model S to one or more Powerwalls and thence to the local electricity distribution grid is a problem that has yet to be addressed by Tesla themselves.

There have been some associated press releases, such as this one from SolarEdge:

SolarEdge Technologies, Inc., a global leader in PV inverters, power optimizers, and module-level monitoring services, announced its collaboration with Tesla Motors to provide an inverter solution that will allow for grid and photovoltaic integration with Tesla’s home battery solution, the Powerwall.

The joint development by SolarEdge and Tesla builds on SolarEdge’s DC optimized inverter solution and Tesla’s automotive-grade energy storage technology to enable more cost-effective residential solar generation, storage, and consumption for the global market.

Designed to manage both functions with just one SolarEdge DC optimized inverter, the solution will allow for outdoor installation and will include remote monitoring and troubleshooting to keep operations and maintenance costs low. The solution will also support upgrading existing SolarEdge systems with the storage solution.

The SolarEdge solution is expected to be available by the end of 2015.

Once again, however, whilst the phrase “grid integration” is mentioned “vehicle to grid” is not. I cannot help but wonder when (and how) it will become possible for a Model S to earn its proud owner a modest income by feeding some of the energy stored in its battery pack back into the local grid at its times of greatest need.

Utrecht Gets V2G Based Energy Storage

In a ceremony at the Parkschool in the Lombok district of Utrecht on March 4th deputy Remco van Lunteren, officially opened the first Vehicle to Grid (V2G) energy storage system in Europe. The event was recorded for posterity:


The solar energy storage system supplied by Nissan charges electric cars but can also discharge their batteries in order to power houses. It helps to provide a higher return on solar power, reduces peak current on the grid and helps promote electric vehicles.  The opening of the V2G system is a sequel to the opening by Councillor Lot van Hooijdonk of a smart charging station from General Electric in Lombok on December 2nd 2014. The first charging station was unique because it had some built-in intelligence, and the V2G system adds an energy storage capability to it. Together, these are the first building blocks of Lombok’s Smart Solar Charging pilot project.

As the “Storage4all” project page puts it:

To create a truly smart grid using renewable energy, it is necessary to find a solution to the existing time differentials between generation and demand. The storage of energy is one way of achieving that.

Electric cars have a large storage capacity and are a major consumer of  future electric power generation. By making use of the storage facility of electric cars the “Smart Grid” can be made more sustainable.

In order to utilize the battery of an electric car for energy storage, it is necessary for the car batteries to be able to be discharged. In many cases this is not possible and the majority of EVs have internal protection against this. Only the Nissan LEAF currently has this possibility because of the Japanese market demand for storage (to protect against disruptions and power failures caused by earthquakes). The pilot project therefore initiated discussions with Nissan Europe and the provider of such a bi-directional charging system to achieve this in ​​Lombok.

Simulations show that there is much potential for storage of renewable energy in Smart Grids. Economically, it is not yet possible under current market conditions. The pilot project has ensured international recognition for this initiative, the development of the first European bi-directional charging station and a possible big roll out of them in Utrecht in the coming years.

Unfortunately market conditions here in the UK are currently also not economically favourable to this type of initiative.

Nissan and Endesa Pledge to Promote V2G in Europe

Nissan and Spanish utility Endesa have announced in a press release that they

Signed a ground-breaking agreement at the 85th Geneva International Motor Show that paves the way for a mass-market vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system.

The two companies have pledged to work together to deliver a V2G system and an innovative business model designed to leverage this technology.

If that sounds a touch unlikely to you, here’s the proof:

The press release goes on to explain that:

The two companies have agreed to collaborate on the following activities:

  • Introduction of V2G services in the European market;
  • Exploring the use of ‘second life’ EV batteries for stationary applications (including households, buildings, grid);
  • Designing and evaluating potential affordable energy and mobility pack offers;

One of the main challenges for electricity management systems is to assure grid stability. This situation is especially relevant in countries with a high level of renewable energy generation, and this will only increase in the future. The longer term zero-emission vision is for EVs to be at the center of a fully integrated system whereby owners can participate in wholesale energy markets using the power stored in the batteries of their electric vehicles, and thus significantly reduce their cost of operation. In a not-so-distant scenario, the EV user not only decides when and where they want to charge their EV, but how best they spend and re-sell the energy stored in their EV; receiving tangible financial benefits in terms of energy savings, while at the same time maximizing the use of green energy.

As is customary on these occasions the press release quotes executives from the two companies. Paul Willcox, Chairman of Nissan Europe said that:

We believe this innovation represents a significant development for Nissan Leaf and e-NV200 customers. Every Nissan electric vehicle battery contains a power storage capability that will prove useful in contributing towards smarter and responsible management of the power demand & supply of local power grids, thus reducing our EV total cost of ownership. Not only does this represent an opportunity for Nissan’s EV private and fleet owners, it could also support grid stability and fully demonstrate that each Nissan EV represents a tangible social asset.

whereas Javier Uriarte, Head of Market Iberia at Endesa, pointed out that:

The flexibility offered by V2G implementation in terms of storing and releasing green energy into the grid will further enhance the already significant and tangible benefits of electric mobility. This is why Endesa, together with its parent company Enel and partner Nissan, have decided to join efforts in promoting this technology.

Moving on to the technology employed:

The Vehicle to Grid (V2G) system consists of the Endesa two-way charger and an energy management system that can also integrate such off-grid, and renewable, power generation as solar panels and wind turbines. Using this equipment, a Nissan LEAF or e-NV200 owner can connect to charge at low-demand, and cheap tariff periods, with an option to then use the electricity stored in the vehicle’s battery at home when costs are higher, or even feed back to the grid with a net financial benefit. Electricity generated by solar panels or wind turbines can be used to charge a vehicle, to power the home or business, or to feed back to the grid.

This unprecedented agreement between Nissan and Endesa means that European countries can now review their current energy management policies in order to respond to the technological innovation of the V2G system.

Endesa has developed the ultimate low-cost V2G technology ready for the mass market after years of real-life testing. The company first showcased its V2G technology in 2008 in Smartcity Malaga, the Enel Group testing ground for smart cities. Later on, in 2012, Endesa presented the evolution of such technology at the ZEM2ALL demonstrator.

On March 12, 2015, as the culmination of the V2G system development, together with Nissan as automotive partner, Endesa will host a full demonstration of the market-ready and low cost system in Madrid.

Of course we’re not content with merely reading press releases here at V2G UK, and we have conducted an in depth interview with Olivier Paturet, who is General Manager of Nissan Europe’s zero emission strategy. Here’s a 2013 recording of Olivier outlining the raison d’être of Nissan’s ZEV plans:


 

Watch this space!

Energy and Climate Change Committee Criticise Capacity Market

The UK’s House of Commons Energy & Climate Change Select Committee issued a report today on the implementation of Electricity Market Reform which is highly critical of the new electricity capacity market. This may strike you (as it does me!) as a severe case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but nonetheless the executive summary puts it this way:

The Government’s flagship Electricity Market Reform was designed to drive investment in our energy infrastructure and manage the transition towards generating low-carbon, secure and cost-effective electricity. After years of planning, the Government has successfully put in place the necessary framework for the first Capacity Market and Contract-for-Difference (CfD) auctions under EMR, and DECC, National Grid and the Low Carbon Contracts Company have been helpful in preparing industry in the run-up to the auctions.

However, the speed at which participants have had to assimilate the complex policies have made it a challenging environment for smaller companies, and DECC is still failing to ensure that demand-side response (DSR) providers are given a level playing field in the Capacity Market. In order to avoid paying for more expensive generation capacity that may not be needed in the future, the Government should consider means to further support DSR in the Capacity market, for instance by increasing the contract length of DSR capacity agreements.

There also remain strong concerns around National Grid’s potential conflicts of interest as EMR Delivery Body, and it is important that clear steps are taken to ensure that it does not have an unfair commercial advantage in future Capacity Market auctions.

Speaking as one of those “smaller companies” it seems from our perspective that the playing field is indeed located on a rather steep slope! Tim Yeo, chairperson of the committee, said that:

Every consumer in the country is currently subsidising spare electricity generating capacity that may only be used for a few hours each year. But smart technology has now made it possible to reduce unnecessary electricity demand at peak times, thereby reducing the number of polluting power stations that need to be switched on. This could mean we can reduce the total electricity generating capacity that has to be maintained in future, bringing down costs for consumers while enabling us to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

Yet this promising new demand-side response technology has been disadvantaged in the auctions under the Government’s Capacity Market – meaning costs and emissions could be higher than necessary. Only a fraction of the £1 billion pounds that will be spent keeping the lights on through the Capacity Market will actually provide new capacity and just 0.4% will go on demand-side response – with most of the rest going to existing fossil fuel power stations, paying some of them to stand idle for much of the year. Nearly a fifth of the capacity contracts already awarded are going to highly polluting coal power stations.

Which sums things up quite nicely for us. We would go even further than Tim Yeo. Not only should Demand Side Response be getting a better deal, so should distributed energy storage in general and V2x in particular. Tim does however also point out that:

The results of the first CfD auction for long term low-carbon contracts show that small companies or community energy projects are in danger of being shut out. The fact that the final strike prices were cheaper than the administrative price is a very positive result, but it casts further doubts over the value-for-money of the early contracts for renewables under the Levy Control Framework.

The committee’s concluding bullet points read as follows:

DECC’s upcoming review on EMR should focus hard on the issues voiced by stakeholders and raised in the Committee’s report. In particular, it should focus on:

  • The role of highly polluting coal and diesel fired power generation in the capacity market
  • How to facilitate cheaper and cleaner demand-side solutions to keep the lights on
  • How potential conflicts of interest with National Grid will be avoided or addressed
  • How engagement with small players can be improved

to which we would add one of our own:

How to design UK energy markets such that distributed storage and generation operate on a level playing field?

Red Hat 64 Bit ARM Program Hardware Enablement Complete

As regular readers here will realise we have a liking for running Linux on ARM processors. Hence we were delighted to recently receive our very own quad core Raspberry Pi 2 to experiment with. Here’s what it looks like:

However we’ve recently received even more interesting news, to us at least. In a press release earlier this week Red Hat announced that:

The Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program has expanded to include more than 35 member companies, ranging from silicon vendors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to independent software vendors (ISVs).

According to Mike Werner, who is Senior Director of Global Technology Ecosystems at Red Hat:

Since its launch just over six months ago, the Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program has achieved two critical goals, driving significant interest and participation from both hardware vendors and independent software vendors as well as the successful completion of the hardware enablement phase. The program is a perfect example of how Red Hat, along with our vast network of partners and ISVs, drives standardization within specific technology segments, with the ultimate goal of delivery of fully tested and certified solutions to the marketplace.

whilst Kumar Sankaran, who is an associate vice president at Applied Micro, said that:

As the only silicon vendor shipping an enterprise-hardened, ARMv8-A Server-on-a-ChipTM solution and an initial participant of the Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program, we are pleased to continue our work with Red Hat. The program is strengthening the entire ARM 64-bit ecosystem while allowing OEM and end-user partners the opportunity to work with fully operational software and hardware. We have had a great working relationship with Red Hat dating back to our X-Gene launch in 2011 and we are excited to provide a serious alternative to incumbent solutions.

and Susan Blocher, who is Hewlett Packard’s vice president of Product Management and Business Development for their Moonshot server range, said that:

Today, customers are already leveraging the industry-leading HP Moonshot servers with 64-bit ARM technology to improve application performance, drive business innovation and deliver breakthrough datacenter economics. We are committed to working with partners in the Red Hat Partner Early Access Program to extend the ARM ecosystem and deliver enterprise-ready solutions to address customer challenges.

The practical benefits to all concerned are summed up by Red Hat as follows:

Launched in July 2014 with nine participants, the program aims to deliver, via collaboration, a singular operating platform capable of supporting multiple partner-initiated system designs based on the 64-bit ARMv8-A architecture. As a part of that commitment, program participants have successfully completed the hardware enablement phase by incorporating necessary architectural requirements into the latest version of the development software. Based on that, Red Hat ARM Partner Early Access Program participants are now expected to contribute system-specific software and drivers to an open source upstream Linux community for incorporation into future commercial offerings.

Bear in mind that it costs rather more than the $35 that a Raspberry Pi 2 will set you back, but here’s what an HP 64 bit ARM Moonshot server cartridge looks like:

Bear in mind also that whether you’re considering a Raspberry Pi, a Moonshot or a data centre packed full of ARMv8s, an ARM CPU delivers rather more bang per Watt than the average microprocessor.

Is Apple Developing an Electric Vehicle?

According to Bloomberg the answer to the question posed in our title is a most definite yes! In a February 19th article Tim Higgins says that:

Apple Inc., which has been working secretly on a car, is pushing its team to begin production of an electric vehicle as early as 2020, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The timeframe — automakers typically spend five to seven years developing a car — underscores the project’s aggressive goals and could set the stage for a battle for customers with Tesla Motors Inc. and General Motors Co., both of which are targeting a 2017 release of an electric vehicle that can go more than 200 miles on a single charge and cost less than $40,000.

then adds that:

Apple representatives declined to comment for this story.

According to Bloomberg, however:

Apple began around June an “aggressive campaign to poach” employees from A123 Systems LLC, the Waltham, Massachusetts-based battery maker said in a lawsuit against Apple filed this month.

Apple hired five people from A123 and has tried to hire battery experts from LG Chem Ltd, Samsung Electronics Co., Panasonic Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Johnson Controls Inc., according to the lawsuit.

Bloomberg also talked to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who told them:

That Apple was seeking to hire away his workers, offering $250,000 signing bonuses and 60 percent salary increases.

It seems as though when it comes to EVs, there’s never any smoke without fire?

[Edit - Saturday February 21st 2015]

This morning’s edition of The Economist includes an article on the Apple EV rumours:

APPLE’S ability to make desirable iGadgets designed for easy portability is beyond question. Reports emerged this week that it is planning to make a mobile device that will instead carry its users—an electric car. Apple’s plans are unclear and unconfirmed. By some accounts it has put a few hundred people to work developing cars to match Tesla, another Silicon Valley firm that makes fast and luxurious battery-powered saloons. Others reckon that it is working on a self-driving car.

Plenty of other tech firms are turning their attention to cars. In February Uber, a firm that provides taxis through a smartphone app, said it would set up a laboratory in Pittsburgh to develop self-driving taxis. Sony recently put money into ZMP, a self-driving car startup; Google has been working for years on driverless cars.

The Economist doesn’t sound optimistic about the future for the alleged Apple EV:

The likes of Apple may not know much about pistons and gearboxes, but the big challenge for electric cars is batteries. Battery-powered cars have many advantages: refuelling at home, cheap running costs and no tailpipe emissions. But the market for pure electric vehicles is tiny:

Expensive batteries make for costly cars, and limited range and a lack of recharging infrastructure have put off most drivers. Nissan’s Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car, attracted only 40,000 buyers last year compared with the 250,000 the company once hoped to shift. Tesla aspires to enter the mass market but so far it has dealt with the battery problem by putting lots of them in a big, expensive car, thereby limiting it to a luxury niche. The plunging oil price dents the prospects for electrification still further.

and concludes:

Tech firms may be better off working with carmakers, to develop the software that will provide the brains of the self-driving car, and to improve the range and battery costs of the electric car. In the motor industry, supplying the key parts is generally more profitable than putting the cars together, even if you do not get your company’s badge on the bonnet. In the future cars will be different but the brands will probably be much the same.

 

The Open Source Electric Vehicle Hall of Shame

This morning I wrote an article about Elon Musk’s announcement that Tesla would be:

Applying the open source philosophy to our patents.

The headline put the words “Open Source” inside quotation marks, because Tesla are not now offering the world an “Open Source Electric Vehicle”, although a British company called Riversimple did do that many years ago.

It has now come to my attention that a variety of so called “news” organisations are propagating the myth that “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”. That just ain’t so, and spending a few moments at Google or Wikipedia should be sufficient to persuade the most slow witted of investigative journalists of that fact. Here we will name and shame those who have proved themselves gloriously unable to tell fact from fiction, or Riversimple from Tesla Motors:

Zacks.com @ NASDAQ – “It’s the first ‘open source’ automobile manufacturing company”

The Los Angeles Times – “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”

The Chicago Tribune – “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”

The Seattle Times – “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”

Government Technology – “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”

Google search for “The Tesla Model S just became the world’s first open-source car”

Google reports 774 versions of the same "open source" nonsense

Google reports 774 versions of the same "open source Tesla" nonsense

If you discover any new variations on this recurring theme please feel free to let us know by filling in the comment form below.

Tesla Electric Vehicles Now “Open Source”

In a blog post yesterday Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced that:

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

Mr. Musk’s blog post doesn’t define “good faith” precisely, but he goes on to say that:

At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.

Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.

Teslas are by no means the first Open Source Electric Vehicles (or OSEVs for short). Here in the UK Riversimple open sourced their hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicle many moons ago. Here’s what their conception looks like:

Tesla certainly isn’t that sort of OSEV company. Where are the CAD models for example? Nonetheless maybe a few enterprising entrepreneurs can now combine the best of both worlds and start making some real inroads into “the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day”?

Here’s what the two vehicles look like in action, emphasising the differences between the two companies’ approach to the technology:


Please also note that the Tesla Model S is now available “with the steering wheel on the right side of the car”!

The First Great Dunchideock Blackout

At May’s film night in Dunchideock Village Hall it was announced that anybody interested in learning more about the recent power cut in the village could “read all about it” on this very web site. A cry was heard from the audience:

Which one is that then?

It has now been brought to my attention that the other end of the village has suffered far more from the absence of electricity this year than my own particular neck of the woods. Having engaged in further communications with some local residents and Western Power Distribution I have another long tale of woe to tell!

There was undoubtedly much wet and windy weather around the Haldon Hills earlier this year. According to the UK Met Office, handily situated just up the road in Exeter, in their summary of Winter 2013/14:

Winter 2014 was an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January, and again from late January to mid-February. When considered overall, this was the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years. An analysis of pressure fields by the University of East Anglia suggests this winter has had more very severe gale days than any other winter season in a series from 1871.

All those storms didn’t appear to have any long lasting impact on the southern side of Dunchideock at the time, but the story is rather different slightly to the north. Here’s a map of Western Power Distribution’s high voltage electricity network in the area:

WPD map of 11 kV (red) and 33 kV (green) cables south and west of Exeter

WPD map of 11 kV (red) and 33 kV (green) cables south and west of Exeter

Hopefully it is now apparent to you that the northern part of Dunchideock is on a completely different “circuit” to the southern part. You can also see that there have been a few electricity supply issues over the past few months! Taking them in chronological order, the first outage was on Tuesday February 4th. It’s unlikely to be mere coincidence that on the same day the Met Office issued a press release saying that:

The stormy conditions are expected to bring damaging gusts of wind of up to 60 mph inland and perhaps as high as 80 mph along some southern and western coasts of Britain on Tuesday night and Wednesday. These severe gales, combined with further heavy rain may cause some disruption because of fallen trees and high waves in coastal areas.

The net result as far as northern Dunchideock was concerned was:

A power cut from 21:00 to 02:00 on the 5th. When the power went off alternate houses in the road came back on after a minute or so and stayed on.

According to Western Power Distribution the immediate cause was that:

One of two low voltage fuses blew (on a split phase transformer). Hence 50% of customers would be on supply.

Transformer 31/0174 near Thornes Meadow, Dunchideock

Transformer 31/0174 near Thornes Meadow, Dunchideock

Ten days later the real “Great Dunchideock Blackout” occurred. According to the Met Office once again, in their forecast for Friday February 14th:

The Met Office was so concerned about the wind speeds on Wednesday a Red weather warning was issued for wind, the first red warning since January 2013. Extremely strong winds were seen in the south and northwest of England and parts of Wales.

We have another weather system crossing the UK on Friday bringing further heavy rain and very strong winds, leading to a number of weather warnings being put in place. The rain will push into the UK from the southwest during Friday morning, moving quickly north eastwards.

There are Yellow weather warnings for wind in place for the South coast and round into East Anglia with an Amber weather warning for wind along the South coast. We are expecting some gusts of around 60 miles per hour inland and perhaps 80 miles per hour in exposed areas along the coast itself. With these very strong winds large waves will push onto the coastline with dangerous conditions possible as well as some localised coastal flooding.

Here in Dunchideock, for the residents of Thornes Meadow at least, the result was a power cut lasting almost two days:

The second power cut was on 14th February at 19:30 and the electricity did not come back on until 14:00 on the 16th. Everybody in Thornes Meadow was off this time. The recorded messages of restoration times were continually put back.

As you may be able to imagine, in such circumstances Western Power Distribution had a very long list of problems to deal with. The immediate issues for Dunchideock were:

Two separate  High Voltage faults (conductors down due to trees and an entire barn roof being blown onto the line).

Due to the number of faults WPD had to bring in extra engineers from the Midlands and South Wales to help with the repairs. In normal circumstances the UK electricity market regulator Ofgem specifies a maximum 18 hour time limit on restoring electricity supplies. However in extreme circumstances this can relaxed. Ofgem themselves foresaw the potential difficulties, and issued a news release of their own on February 12th, stating that:

Severe weather is currently forecast across Great Britain. Electricity distribution companies, who own and operate the local networks, are making preparations ahead of this weather. We set rules on how quickly companies have to respond to restore power in both normal weather and severe weather conditions.

For severe weather there are different categories according to the severity of the storm. The category sets the amount of time companies have to restore power before compensation must be paid. The category is determined by the number of major faults experienced within a 24 hour period on the distribution company’s network.

The distribution company may be able to give an initial early view of what category the storm is but the data is checked and verified by us. The time you are off supply before being able to claim payments varies according to severity of storm. This is because the companies will have more work to do to fix faults.

  • Category 1: After 24 hours
  • Category 2: After 48 hours

In this case the storm was ultimately classified as category 2, and hence the unfortunate residents of Thornes Meadow are not entitled to any compensation despite being without any electricity supply for nearly two days.

Moving on to the next outage, which took place on “February 25th from 18:50 to 19:45″ on which date there were no special press releases from the Met Office. Thankfully this power cut was of much shorter duration than the previous one, and was because:

A high voltage fuse operated. Restoration was via HV fuse replacement.

Finally we come to May 14th, when “a faulty high voltage insulator” led to a power cut in properties supplied by transformer 31/6871 in the vicinity of Dunchideock Church. Once again the weather wasn’t sufficiently inclement to warrant a Met Office press release.

Transformer 31/6871 near Dunchideock Church

Transformer 31/6871 near Dunchideock Church

All of this additional information leads me to conjecture yet again about all those blown fuses and faulty insulators. What stresses and strains is our local electricity distribution network being subjected to these days by the combination of lots of inclement weather and renewable electricity generation, down here in not always Sunny South West England?

Rather too many for comfort would seem to be the answer, if Dunchideock’s recent experience is anything to go by.