Electric Road Trip

What's the carbon footprint of EVs in the states where we traveled?

Our charts tackle two big questions: What are the emissions of a gasoline-powered car versus an electric car? And how do the emissions of an electric car change from state to state?

The Electric Road Trip traveled through 19 states in September and October. We tracked how many kilowatt-hours of electricity we consumed while driving in each state, based on Energy Department averages for each state's mix of generation. Using electricity creates emissions — emissions that change drastically state by state. For example, Minnesota's carbon dioxide emissions per mile for each kilowatt-hour of power are well below Kentucky's because of Minnesota's zero-carbon wind energy and nuclear generation. Higher-emitting coal and natural gas are Kentucky's primary sources of electricity.

Meanwhile, we're also comparing these numbers to the emissions for a gas-powered car with an internal combustion engine. In our final analysis, calculations are based on a conventional car that gets 24 mpg.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Two months, a lot of EV reporting

The Electric Road Trip team is digesting two months of in-depth national reporting on the electric vehicle and mobility in America. Stay tuned for our final analysis in the Nov. 13 edition of the newsletter.

In the meantime, please return to the blog for the full story of our cross-country journey. And visit our Facebook page to continue the dialogue.

— Joel Kirkland, E&E News enterprise editor

IN THE NEWS

Regulators are investigating battery safety and software management issues in Tesla's Model S and Model X cars after a series of fires led to claims that Tesla mishandled the dangerous defect. E&E News

Critics of Toyota have turned their attention to the car company's latest public relations campaign, accusing it of overhyping its record of fuel efficiency and emissions reductions. E&E News

Engineers say a new battery design could make it possible for electric vehicle drivers to get up to 300 miles on a 10-minute charge. E&E News

With an impeachment trial looming, members of Congress and interest groups are stepping up pressure to pass an extension of the federal EV tax credit. E&E News

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Video blog, week 8: Southern California

With David Ferris and David Iaconangelo behind the wheel of a Tesla Model 3, the Electric Road Trip spent its final leg in and around Los Angeles. This corner of our 8,000-mile trip to explore how electric cars are affecting America took our reporters from LA's urban core to mud pots near the Salton Sea.

Southern California offered a wild blend of reporting. One day, we tested an electric car as part of a ride-share program touted by the city as a way to expand public access to electric transportation. The next day, we were off to a geothermal energy-rich desert region that's both a huge potential source of lithium for batteries and an artists enclave.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Lithium rush, LA ride-share and the Tesla lounge

Last night, as light drained from the Los Angeles sky, the Electric Road Trip turned in to a parking lot and came to rest. Our 6,000-mile journey has come to an end.

We dodged both fires and blackouts as we traversed California this week. Our Tesla Model 3 got spattered with bugs. We drove too fast on Interstate 5 on our way to meet people with a ton of useful perspectives on electric vehicles: academics, Tesla-loving restaurateurs and rural activists.

Our last outing took us to the Salton Sea, an otherworldly landscape of desert, water and strange geological phenomena — including an elusive mineral that is the topic of our weekly spotlight.

— David Ferris

Energy companies operating near California's Salton Sea are making an expensive gamble on efforts to tap a vast reserve of U.S. lithium reserves. While extracting lithium from under the ecologically troubled region has frustrated engineers for decades, rich investors, including Warren Buffett, hope to cash in on new markets for lithium-ion batteries and electric cars.

That market could be dominated by Chile, or Australia, or China, each of which has its own lithium reserves. Or, if the geothermal entrepreneurs of the Salton Sea have their way, the winner could be America.

See the full-length story in Energywire.

TOP STOPS

In the latest video blog, reporters David Ferris and David Iaconangelo explore the bevy of electric transportation activity along the West Coast, from Portland to Los Angeles.

KETTLEMAN CITY, Calif. — George Aviet, a restaurateur from Silicon Valley, docked his Tesla at a wide charging plaza. He breezed through the door of a lounge built for Tesla owners and greeted a young barista. There's a race to design chargers and electric cars that can fuel up faster. But for now, Tesla is using the charge time to sell its brand and give owners a premium members-only experience.

LOS ANGELES — EVgo's LA fast-charger hubs were the first in the nation to be reserved for ride-sharing and ride-hailing. The Electric Road Trip talked with a top corporate strategist at the charging company. "The biggest exposure for us is EV adoption," he said.

DAVIS, Calif. — University of California researchers think the state may be pushing up against the limit of what it can do to boost electric vehicle sales. One barrier to adoption is that Californians still don't know much about EVs.

HURON, Calif. — The cost of a Lyft to a hospital in Fresno is beyond the means of most people in Huron, population 7,288. E&E News reporters visited the farm town, one of the poorest in California, to profile a nonprofit that runs an electric car ride-sharing program called Green Raiteros.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS

E&E News interviewed Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe. The Michigan utility helps tell the story of how power companies are looking at electric vehicles as a way to flatten demand during peak periods, with consequences for climate emissions and renewables. E&E News

GM and Toyota, along with a major trade group, threw their weight behind the Trump administration in the legal fight over California's clean car standards. E&E News

The oil industry lobby responded to New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer's $450 billion plan to boost EVs by saying it would "subsidize wealthy luxury car owners." E&E News

Tesla profited in the 3rd quarter despite a drop of almost 40% in revenue from the U.S. Bloomberg

Volkswagen plans to build two EV factories in China in 2020 with a production capacity of 600,000 vehicles, leapfrogging Tesla in that country. Reuters/CNBC

Daimler, the world's biggest truck-maker, is shifting its investments from natural gas-powered trucks to a focus on battery-electric ones. Bloomberg

NEXT TURN

While our automotive journey is over, the Electric Road Trip is not quite done. Our notebooks hold some great stories, and we will share them with you in our final newsletter next week.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Inside Tesla's exclusive charging lounge

KETTLEMAN CITY, Calif. — Almost exactly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, at a highway stop of fast-food joints and gas stations, Tesla Inc. is carrying out a social experiment in modern fueling.

The electric automaker has a wide charging plaza for Teslas here, near the crest of a hill. Forty of its trademark fast chargers are lined up under canopies of solar panels. Along with all that solar, what's unique about this is what Tesla owners do while their cars charge.

A white and red building emblazoned with a giant T has a locked glass door with a keypad. The only ones with the code are Tesla owners, who find it on the dashboard screens of their Teslas. Inside is, for the lack of a better term, a deluxe waiting lounge. The salon of sorts, in the dusty flat of the Central Valley, is Tesla's idea for how to help drivers mark time as their batteries fill.

Fast-charging stations — ones that provide a decent jolt in a half an hour — are found at gas stations, in Walmart parking lots, at suburban shopping malls and outside curio shops. The idea is to give drivers somewhere to go while they wait. But charging companies and automakers are in an escalating race to design chargers and cars that can charge faster, betting that matching a gas station's in-and-out feel will generate more EV sales.

Pilot projects in the United States and other countries are experimenting with embedding chargers in the road, so the electric vehicles never have to stop to charge at all.

For now, the Tesla lounge in Kettleman City appears to give Tesla owners a premium members-only experience as they wait, while selling them on Tesla itself.

See the full-length story in Energywire.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

For EVgo, electric ride-sharing has potential

LOS ANGELES — On the rooftop of a shopping center in Los Angeles, several EVgo fast chargers are reserved for electric ride-sharing and ride-hailing drivers.

When we visited the parking lot last Friday, no one was there.

The problem is, we came too late, said Jonathan Levy, EVgo's vice president for strategy, who appeared alongside LA's mayor at the ribbon-cutting for the chargers last spring. Drivers come during their lunch hour and then go back to work, and we arrived after 3 p.m.

The short and sweet of it, Levy said, is that there's plenty of room for growth in LA, where ride-sharing services and ride-hailing giants like Lyft and Uber are as busy as in any other major city. And EVgo has a big partner in and around Tinseltown: General Motors.

The GM-owned ride-sharing platform, which is called Maven, finds people who are willing to rent out their cars. Drivers who choose the all-electric Chevrolet Bolt can get two weeks' worth of free charging at EVgo's stations.

Levy, a Department of Energy official during the Obama administration, was cagey about how EVgo makes out in its partnership with Maven. "It's B2B," he said, using shorthand for business-to-business. "We bring the load. They bring the drivers."

In any case, Levy said, the larger strategy is to promote electric vehicles. "The biggest exposure for us is EV adoption," he said.

Unveiled last April, EVgo's LA fast-charger hubs were the first in the nation to be reserved for ride-sharing and ride-hailing. Regardless of whether that "dedicated charging" model holds promise, California transportation policy officials are focusing their attention on the volume of cars on the road dedicated to picking people up and dropping them off.

Some of that policy focus is derived from a new California law. Legislators required the state to start measuring how many tons of greenhouse gas emissions are being emitted by the expanding number of ride-hailing and ride-sharing cars on the street.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Video blog, week 7: the West Coast

Week 7 of the Electric Road Trip took our reporters from Seattle to Los Angeles. Reporter David Ferris examined Seattle's struggle to bring curbside charging to city dwellers. In Portland, Ore., Ferris charged up on Electric Avenue before he glided through the redwoods of Northern California and on to San Francisco, where he met reporter David Iaconangelo. It seemed a no-brainer to hit the Tesla factory.

At a policy institute in Davis, Calif., experts talked about how hard it is for the state to meet an aggressive electric vehicle sales goal without more public engagement. And our reporters profiled a nonprofit electric car ride-sharing program in a rural farming community southwest of Fresno. From there, they headed to LA, where we begin the final leg of the road trip.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

The electric car share for one town's farmworkers

HURON, Calif. — To catch a Lyft from Huron, population 7,288, to a hospital in Fresno will run you about $50. That's far beyond the means of most people in this tiny farm town, one of the poorest in California.

One entrepreneurial official has a captivating solution: Build a homegrown Latino Lyft, sans the smart phone, using only electric cars.

This week, we visited Huron because many consider electric vehicles a toy for the rich, but this program flips that on its head. Its name is Green Raiteros.

What is a raitero?

Rey León, mayor of Huron, leapt up the stairs onto the second floor of his nonprofit, which runs the program. "It's Spanglish," he said. A raitero is someone with a car who agrees to give someone else a ride — a raite, in Spanish. The driver might charge a passenger more than the rider can afford. Or the driver might just say, "Give me 20 bucks and buy me lunch," explained Leon. "It's an old practice, and it happened long before Uber."

This program, by contrast, is free for the riders.

Two full-time drivers, Veronica and Ruben, use a new Chevy Bolt or a used BMW i3 to chauffeur their riders. The car purchases were funded by a charity of Google's former executive chairman, Eric Schmidt. If their own schedules fill up, drivers can ask one of a dozen other volunteers to help out and get reimbursed at the federal rate for mileage. When the day is over, they charge at one of the 10 Level 2 stations located on the premises.

Leon said 22 chargers are sited around town. That includes 12 more Level 2 chargers in three apartment complexes. Few of those, according to people who work there, are used very often.

All of the chargers are the fruit of corporate scandal. NRG Energy, accused of price fixing during California's 2000-01 power shortage, paid for the first 10 at the Green Raiteros' hub, through its subsidiary EVgo. The rest were installed by Electrify America, a subsidiary created to dispense money from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal settlement.

That might raise questions about how easily Green Raiteros could be replicated, despite León's optimism. His vision is to expand networks of rural electric car shares across the state. "There's Hurons all over California," he said.

On our way out of town, we pulled over and ventured into an almond grove. Huron is located in one of the nation's highest-revenue agricultural counties, but 43% of its Latino population lives in poverty.

"We're the ones who feed the nation. This," said León, holding his hands out to indicate the region, "are the results of what you call environmental racism."

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

Can electric motorcycles prevail? This maker says yes

SCOTTS VALLEY, Calif. — Electric motorcycles are nimble, quick off the line — and hard to sell. One of the few pure-electric motorcycle makers is Zero Motorcycles, based in Scotts Valley, near the coastal California town of Santa Cruz.

I visited the factory because recent events piqued my curiosity. Electric motorcycles have come to wider attention with this summer's rollout of the Harley-Davidson LiveWire, that giant's first foray into electric vehicles.

Harley started its electric journey in 2014. Zero was founded all the way back in 2006.

Zero's office is nestled among firs. Inside, the factory is painted white and everyone wears black. Heavy metal is on the speakers and motorcycle helmets are on lots of desks. No Tesla robots here; everything is built by hand.

"We put more people on electric motorcycles than all of our competitors combined," said Dan Quick, the company's spokesman, as he showed me around. (Zero doesn't release sales figures, but Quick said at full capacity this floor could make 10,000 units a year.)

One reason for Zero's dominance is that its competitors have gone out of business.

Two pure-electric rivals, Brammo of Oregon and Alta Motors of San Francisco, failed to thrive and were sold to bigger companies, never to be heard from again. Lightning Motorcycles, a small-batch factory nearby in San Jose, is one of the only ones left.

Some people rave about the quiet, darting performance of electric motorcycles (so they say; I'm not a rider.) The instant torque is a blast, and the electric drivetrain can be precisely tuned with software, creating an experience that a gas-powered cycle can't match.

The problem is range. Zero's premium model, the SR/F, goes 161 miles on a charge; the others top out around 90 miles, and the charging stations are still few.

The company's motorhead vibe belies the complexity of what it has created.

"From a technology standpoint, we are three different companies. We are a software company, we are an industrial manufacturing organization, and we're an EV company," Quick said.

Almost every component Zero uses is custom, because its product is such a departure that off-the-shelf parts don't work. It designed its own cells and battery packs, with higher power density than electric passenger cars.

Zero is also finding customers among different kinds of machines that need precision electric motors. For example, it received an order from Duke Energy Corp. in North Carolina, to move the cherry-picker arms it uses to repair power lines.

While the ranks of small competitors have been thinned, Zero will face stiff competition from the incumbents. Harley-Davidson says the LiveWire is just the first of a new line of electric motorcycles. Polaris Inc. has signaled that it will relaunch the classic Indian Motorcycle line as electric.

"We are where Tesla was a few years ago," Quick said.

Tesla is the leader of the electric sports car category but may not be for long, as brands like Audi and Jaguar ramp up. "There's going to be a point where all the large manufacturers of the world will simply have more resources than us to throw at the problem," he concluded.

Zero sits on the outer boundary of Silicon Valley, where startups can dazzle or perish. Time will tell which fate awaits Zero.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.

The problem that stumps Calif.'s top EV researchers

California may be the nation's whiz kid on electric vehicle policy, but its own top researchers think the state may be starting to push up against the limit of what it can do to boost sales.

The Electric Road Trip swung by the city of Davis yesterday to meet with a group of doctoral students, professors and program managers at the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center.

Housed at the University of California's Institute of Transportation Studies, the center is one of the nation's top research institutions for EV policy. California's legislators and regulators cite its work. Its researchers sit on consortia, accept funding and analyze data from virtually everyone with a hand in the EV world, including industry and federal agencies.

Six researchers there gave us a roundup of some of their recently published studies and discussed common barriers to adoption in California.

One of the barriers that caught my ear was studied by associate researcher Ken Kurani in a paper this spring, which showed how little most Californians know about electric cars and the raft of subsidies created by the state to support sales.

In recent years, the state government has passed policies that, in some cases, can knock $10,000 off the price of a new EV. A small percentage of Californians — fewer than 10% — have learned about them and snapped them up.

But in a survey carried out in 2017, Kurani found that nearly four out of five households had given "little to no consideration to any type of EV," and over the three years prior, consumer awareness of the incentives, or recognition of EV models, hadn't increased at all.

"None of what the state is doing is really ringing anybody's bell," said Kurani.

Could the state reach its 2030 goal of getting 5 million EVs on the road? "We don't get to 5 million unless we get the other 90-some percent of people to pay attention," he said.

The auto industry has said that state governments need to take a bolder lead in promoting electrification. In June 2018, for example, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers pointed the finger at the nine East Coast states that follow California's zero-emissions program, faulting them for not providing enough incentives or new charging infrastructure.

The center's researchers pointed out that those things hadn't exactly turned on a lightbulb for most Californians.

Electric Road Trip

E&E News reporters take a 6,000-mile road trip in an electric vehicle to explore how the switch from gas to electric transportation will change the economy, environment and daily life of America.
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