Who’s Trying to Re-Kill the Electric Car? The Energy Gang Podcast Re-Cap

Who’s Trying to Re-Kill the Electric Car? The Energy Gang Podcast Re-Cap

The Energy Gang, a Green Tech Media (GTM) podcast, dives into energy, clean technology, and environmental issues.  We’re very excited to welcome Katherine Hamilton, one of the show’s co-hosts, as our keynote speaker at our annual Renewable Energy Summit to take place on Thursday, January 16, 2020!  Katherine is also the Chair of 38 North Solutions, a public policy firm focused on clean energy and innovation, which she co-founded.

While we wait for Katherine’s visit to Wisconsin in January, we’re listening to The Energy Gang Podcast. I was especially intrigued by the October 26 episode, “Who’s Trying to Re-Kill the Electric Car?” The title is a spoof on the film, Who Killed the Electric Car? which came out in 2006. The documentary is a reminder of previous attempts to make electric vehicles mainstream. In 1997, after a California air emissions mandate, General Motors launched the EV1, the first electric vehicle made for the mass market. After only 6 years on the market, the EV1 was recalled and the vehicles were destroyed.

This Energy Gang episode digs into the question: Are we in the midst of the same story at a grander scale?

Who (if anyone) is re-killing the electric car?

There is certainly momentum in the EV market that points to a long and prosperous life for today’s electric cars. Bloomberg New Energy Finance says 57% of passenger vehicles sales could be electric by 2040. EVs are already cost competitive, with a lower cost per mile to operate and very little maintenance.

With more and more electric vehicles, we demand less and less gasoline. This sets up an interesting dynamic between oil companies and electric utilities. While these industries have often agreed (or left each other alone) on big policy issues, they’re beginning to fight over the market to fuel our vehicles.

We’re just beginning to see how this conflict will play out. Transportation is a huge market – Wisconsin alone spends $8.4 billion per year (yes, that’s billion with “b”) to fuel our vehicles, all of which is sent out of the state, and much of it out of the country, to purchase liquid fossil fuels to run our vehicles.

It’s no surprise that oil and gas companies see electric vehicles as a threat. In fact, many of them are pivoting to include electric vehicle charging in their line of services. In Europe, gas companies own a lot of the public charging infrastructure and BP recently bought Greenlots, a charging station software provider.

What about our local gas station owners? The Energy Gang says they don’t seem to care that much, but they are considering installing EV chargers. Gas stations could somewhat easily switch from one fuel to another, and keep people buying items in their convenience store, where they make the bulk of their profits.

How to Make Sure EVs Survive This Time

Utilities stand to gain from a growing electric vehicle market, and they are catching on fast. As energy efficiency has made big gains, overall electricity consumption is growing more slowly than it has in the past.  Electrifying vehicles and other appliances is a real growth opportunity for power companies. Five years ago, utilities weren’t proposing programs to promote electric vehicles except in California. Now, utilities in 25 states have plans to invest in public electric vehicle charging.

In those 25 states, at least 10 have oil-affiliated groups pushing back. In Wisconsin, we are working hard to get the facts out about electric vehicles and make sure consumers and decision-makers understand the benefits of this transition, and the downsides to our current, expensive transportation fuel:

  1. EVs are for everyone. EVs are already cheaper to own and operate, and the costs of the vehicles themselves are coming down fast.
  2. EVs are better for the environment and will continue to get cleaner as our grid gets cleaner. Internal combustion engines, on the other hand, only get dirtier over time.
  3. In our view, power companies, government, and private businesses should be working together to build the charging network needed to support these vehicles, just like we built roads when cars first came along.

We’re watching this story unfold in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Public Service Commission opened a docket to investigate the electric vehicle market and explore the roles that utilities and regulators could take in this new market. Stakeholders are welcome to participate in this docket. So far, dozens of organizations and individuals have submitted comments ranging from supportive and excited to questioning or downright anti-electric vehicle.

Our hope is this docket will help to build clarity and momentum in the market. We have allies who also believe in this transition, and we will continue working together to make sure the electric vehicles of today survive.

Consumers are driving the transition

Electric vehicle adoption will be in an exciting transition and one that I’m grateful to take part in. I was 2 years old when the 1997 EV-1 came to market. Had it not been “killed,” maybe my first car would have been electric? We’ve come a long way since then. Now, consumers are driving the EV market and demanding high quality electric cars. The market is delivering and we should keep it thriving.

If you want to learn more about electric vehicles and clean energy, you should attend our Renewable Energy Summit on January 16, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin!  Keynote Speaker Katherine Hamilton will be discussing these issues and more. Our Presenting Sponsors are on the cutting edge of our clean energy future, with Invenergy developing large-scale solar and wind projects and Zerology establishing the nation’s first all-electric taxi fleet!

 

2019 Ride with RENEW in the Fox Cities

2019 Ride with RENEW in the Fox Cities

On Saturday, September 14th, our 7th Annual “Ride with RENEW” bike ride, held in the Fox Cities this year, was a huge success!

We started the morning at Prairie Hill Park in Grand Chute with 40 determined bike riders and 12 wonderful young ladies from the Girl Scouts of the Northwest Great Lakes!  The State Representative for the area, Amanda Stuck, welcomed our riders by talking about the importance of energy, and how easy it has become to take advantage of clean energy sources.

Our bike riders and Girl Scouts then set out for the Bubolz Nature Center where we explored their solar panels and microgrid, built and operated by Faith Technologies, who walked us through this one-of-a-kind facility in Wisconsin. The microgrid includes a lithium battery, a hydrogen fuel cell, and a generator, and the facility runs off the solar panels and renewable storage most of the time.

Next we biked 10 miles to Evergreen Credit Union which has become a regional leader in sustainability. With solar panels covering its roof, Roni Kasperek of Evergreen described the credit union’s migration to becoming a clean energy leader and how sustainability is a core value of the organization.

We turned Schildt Park into a clean energy mecca at lunch!  Featuring pizza from Glass Nickel Pizza, we were fortunate to have the Ripon Lego League join us as they collected data from our bike riders to help them with their Lego challenge of designing a sustainable community!  Our riders engaged in the Lego League’s survey, created to help the kids better understand bikers’ safety needs and how a city could better support bicycling.  The Lego League kids did a great job helping to serve lunch and engage with our bikers!

In addition, we had an electric vehicle exposition featuring 9 vehicles from 5 car brands that drive with electricity, instead of gasoline. This technology is advancing and many new types of affordable electric vehicles are coming out soon.  We loved showing these cars off to our bike riders and a few members of the public, and the vehicle owners loved chatting about how much they enjoy driving electric.

After lunch we saw small wind turbines at Essity (formerly SCA Tissue) right along the bike path.  These 4 turbines were designed and installed by a former Wisconsin company called Renewegy (which is unfortunately no longer in business).  Next we headed to Heckrodt Wetland Reserve in Menasha where we learned about their tremendous efforts to preserve this part of the state and how solar power is a sustainable part of their growth.

We next saw an innovative solar carport at the Petit and Dommershausen law offices in downtown Menasha, where were treated to a much-needed snack.  Then we biked to RiverHeath, which is a new development in Appleton right along the Fox River.  Mike Barnett of HGA described an innovative use of geothermal energy, designed by HGA and installed by G.O. Loop, that uses the temperature of the water to provide heating and cooling to the new buildings in the RiverHeath complex.

Last, but certainly not least, we biked to the first power plant in Wisconsin that delivered electricity to a customer. We were greeted by “Thomas Edison,” a generous measure provided by the Appleton Historical Society, who helped explain the origins of the Vulcan Street Hydropower Plant which was put into service in 1882 and provided electricity for lights at paper manufacturing plants as well as one home.

The actual Vulcan plant burned down in 1889.  The Appleton Historical Society, as well as Ford Motor Company, contributed many hours and, in Ford’s case, equipment, to allow this replica of the original hydropower plant in Wisconsin to stand and to give visitors like us the opportunity to learn about Wisconsin’s energy history and see it in action.

Finally, we arrived back at Prairie Hill Park, where we enjoyed beer from Central Waters based in Amherst and celebrated a great event with our riders!  The weather was outstanding, and we can’t wait to plan next year’s Ride with RENEW.

Four of RENEW staff members joined Board member Jim Funk of Energize LLC as he showed off one of Wisconsin’s earliest examples of “bi-facial” solar panels – panels that can receive light from both sides of the panel to create electricity.  This installation at a carport has served as a beautiful visual example of solar energy in the Fox Cities since 2010.  For example, check out the very cool design when our staff member Jim Boullion’s car was parked underneath the panels.

Check out our Facebook photo album to see more images of the ride!

Thank you again to all of our sponsors, shown below, all the bike riders, the Girl Scouts, Lego League, and everyone who donated to support our riders and helped us raise over $17,000 to continue our education, advocacy, and collaboration to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin!

2019 RIDE WITH RENEW SPONSORS

Fox Cities Gear up for  RENEW Wisconsin Bicycle Tour

Fox Cities Gear up for RENEW Wisconsin Bicycle Tour

Ride with RENEW to highlight area renewable energy projects.

On Saturday, September 14th, RENEW Wisconsin will host its 7th annual “Ride with RENEW” bicycle tour of renewable energy projects in Appleton, Grand Chute, Neenah, Menasha, and Fox Crossing, WI.  All event proceeds support RENEW Wisconsin’s ongoing work to advance renewable energy in Wisconsin.

Riders will travel approximately 30 miles on paved roads and bike paths to visit solar, geothermal, wind, and hydropower energy generation facilities in the area. Riders can also participate in an electric vehicle “ride and drive” event as part of National Drive Electric Week.

Riders will depart from Prairie Hill Park at 9 AM. The total tour time will be approximately 7 hours (including stops at renewable energy sites) and actual riding time will be approximately 3 hours. Those not able or wanting to bike the ride can register as a non-biker and can use their own vehicles to transport themselves to the various tour stops.

Participants will get an inside look at some of the area’s leading renewable energy projects and will enjoy breakfast, lunch, and beverages along the way. They will visit with installers and workers who are advancing renewable energy every day, and hear from customers about why clean energy works for their businesses and communities.

The day’s tour will include stops at the following clean energy facilities:

  • Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve – The Gordon Bubolz Nature Preserve is a 700-acre facility used for recreation, conservation, and education. In July 2018, the nature preserve unveiled its new clean energy microgrid composed of solar panels, battery system, and software system.
  • Evergreen Credit Union – With a mission to be the most environmentally responsible credit union in the nation, Evergreen Credit Union installed a solar array at their Appleton facility. The solar array produces enough electricity to satisfy 85% of the credit union’s annual electricity demand.
  • Electric Vehicle Ride and Drive at Schildt Park (Neenah) – As part of National Drive Electric Week, join RENEW Wisconsin and many Fox Valley sustainable businesses to learn about and test drive electric vehicles and electric bicycles. The event will overlap with Ride with RENEW’s lunch hour.
  • Essity Wind Turbines – Essity is a global company that manufactures hygiene and health products. In 2007, Essity installed a 20 kW solar PV system, and in 2010, Essity installed four wind turbines that generate 80 kW of energy.
  • Heckrodt Nature Preserve – Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, a  Solar for Good grant recipient, is a 76-acre urban nature reserve. In 2018, Heckrodt installed a 19.6 kilowatt solar panel system to offset 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions.
  • Petit & Dommershausen, SC Law Offices – The Petit & Dommershausen Law Offices have embraced solar energy at their Menasha and Oshkosh locations. After installing a 20.7 kW solar carport array at their Menasha location in the fall of 2017, Petit & Dommershausen is offsetting approximately 81% of their Menasha office’s annual electricity usage.
  • RiverHeath – RiverHeath Community is a vibrant apartment and retail area that was redeveloped from an urban brownfield site on the Fox River. Buildings utilize an innovative river based geothermal heating and cooling system that minimizes the site’s energy use and carbon intensity while reducing first costs compared to a conventional ground source geothermal system.
  • Vulcan Street Plant – The Vulcan Street Hydroelectric Central Station, the world’s first Edison hydroelectric central station, began operation in 1882 in Appleton. The output of the original generator was about 12.5 kilowatts. In 1891, the plant burned down, and a replica of the plant was later built on South Oneida Street.
  • Schmidt Brothers Solar Canopy (add-on stop for non-bikers) – This 20kW Bi-Facial Solar Cantilevered Parking Canopy benefits from added generation from reflection below when snow covers the lot and when white or other light-colored vehicles park beneath it. The cantilevered design was specifically implemented to provide open and clear access to all parking spaces.
  • The ride will conclude at Prairie Hill Park for refreshments at around 4:00 p.m.

Registration for the ride is open through September 14th. The cost is $45 for members of RENEW Wisconsin, $55 for non-members, and $75 to both register for the ride and become a member of the organization for one year.  All donations to RENEW Wisconsin for this charity bike ride are matched up to $15,000 by generous donors John & Mary Frantz of Madison!

Individuals and businesses can donate to RENEW Wisconsin or in support of a rider, donate to RENEW to contribute towards a $15,000 matching donation, or volunteer on ride day.

“We are very excited to tour some of the Fox Cities’ great renewable energy projects on Saturday, September 14th,” said Tyler Huebner, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. “This tour allows us to showcase a variety of ways to produce homegrown, clean energy right here in Wisconsin and for our team to engage with renewable energy advocates in the Appleton area. We’ll be learning about wind, solar, geothermal, and a hydropower plant that is part of renewable energy history as being the first electric production in Wisconsin. This is a really fun event where you can meet great people, help a good cause, and learn together about clean energy in Wisconsin.”


Sponsors of the Event include Eland Electric, Energize LLC, HGA, North Wind Renewable Energy Cooperative, Appleton Solar, Arch Electric, Clean Fuel Partners, G.O. Loop, Petit & Dommershausen, SC Law Offices, RiverHeath, Velocity, Wegner CPAs, 4imprint, Central Waters Brewing Company, Chain Reaction Cyclery, Glass Nickel Pizza Co., and Sturdy Bag Designs.

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Midwest Electric Vehicles in 5 Maps (NRDC Guest Blog)

RENEW Wisconsin Electric Vehicle Blog: Midwest Electric Vehicles in 5 Maps (NRDC Guest Blog)

I’ve been following the NRDC Fellows’ EV road trip across the Midwest. They drove, they charged, and they wrote about it. This particular blog post, about the Midwest electric vehicle market, caught my eye. At first, maybe it was due to the colorful maps, but I found an underlying message for Wisconsin in this post: Keep the ball rolling.

There is so much potential for Wisconsin to be a leader in the electric vehicle market, and these statistics prove it. With hardly any pro-electric vehicle policy, Wisconsin is keeping up with states like Minnesota and Michigan. Think about what we could do if we keep the ball rolling! Recent wins like the Volkswagen Settlement Funding signal a bright future for Wisconsin’s electric vehicle market.

Enjoy!


Midwest Electric Vehicles in 5 Maps

July 02, 2019
Ada Statler  Jessica Russo  Madhur Boloor  Patricia Valderrama Samuel Garcia 

This is the sixth blog in a series about our Midwest electric vehicle adventure.

We’ve written about electric vehicle (EV) policies and pilot programs in the Midwest, as well as sub-trends we’ve seen along our 1,300+ mile electric road trip route. But it can also be helpful to see where the numbers stand overall. These maps look state by state at EV sales numbers, market shares, growth, charging infrastructure, and related jobs. Notably, the places where we’re seeing the most EV-related activity (darker blues in the map) are also generally where we’ve seen the introduction of more EV-friendly policies.

Looking at the number of new EVs bought in a state can seem like the most straightforward way to understand how many clean cars are on the road there. But without taking population and car ownership numbers overall into account, it is hard to really get a sense of where EVs are taking off and where they still need encouragement.

Looking at EV purchases as a percent of market share within each state is a bit more helpful as it allows you to consider how big of a presence EV sales are in the state’s market. For perspective, the highest EV penetration is in states like California, where the 7.84 percent EV market share of new vehicles bought in the state in 2018 represents 46.8% of national EV sales that year—likely due to Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) Standards that require automakers to stock EVs in-state. The ZEV standard goal is 2.5 percent market share for EVs by 2025 and 8 percent market share by 2030. No Midwestern states have joined the coalition of states with ZEV standards. Nevertheless, Illinois and Minnesota lead the region with 1.2 and 1.14 percent EV market shares respectively. (It’s no coincidence that both these states also have a relatively high number of public chargers, and that Minnesota has been moving forward with utility charging programs.) Policies like ZEV standards could go a long way toward reducing barriers to EV access in this region and expanding consumer choice.

It might still be hard to get a sense of EV growth without looking at how the market share changes from year to year. The short of it: quickly! This map shows the change in EV market share over one year. Notably, some states, like Illinois, have grown faster (as a percent change) in the past, while others, like Nebraska, are just starting to see more growth and thus appear to have greater growth.

Increasing the number of public charging stations is essential in order to enable longer-distance travel in electric vehicles and ownership options for roadtrippers, and for those who may not be able to charge an EV at home. This data source looks at number of plugs as opposed to stations because there may be anywhere from one to eight plugs at a single charging station. Both the total plug count and the total station count are important: we don’t want any EVs to have to wait in line to charge, but we also want to make sure that stations have a useful geographic spread. 

It’s important to note that these ports are not evenly distributed throughout the state. Most are concentrated in larger cities, with a few along major highways. In our experience, there are certainly spots where more could be useful. For instance, even in Missouri, which has the largest number of absolute charging ports in the region, it would have been very difficult for us to travel in our Chevy Bolt (a longer range non-Tesla EV) between the state’s two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City. This is just one example of the need for more strategically distributed chargers.


Thanks to the NRDC team for allowing us to share their blog. Check out other blogs from the NRDC Fellows Road Trip here.

Governor Evers Signs Budget Designating VW Money to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations!

Governor Evers Signs Budget Designating VW Money to Electric Vehicle Charging Stations!

Wisconsin has secured Volkswagen Settlement funding for electric vehicle charging stations!

Governor Evers signed the State Budget today, with 78 partial vetoes. One of those vetoes was used to edit the section designating Volkswagen Settlement funding. In the signed budget, up to $10 million can be used for electric vehicle charging stations.

Over the next two years, Wisconsin is expected to receive $25 million in Volkswagen settlement funding. Evers’ veto reinstates his original proposal which allocates $15 million to replace public buses and up to $10 million for electric vehicle charging stations.

Together, we sent 443 letters to legislators telling them that electric vehicle charging stations are important for advancing clean energy in Wisconsin. Thank you for your support in making this issue heard!

Now, Wisconsin will join the 45 other states taking advantage of this huge opportunity to kickstart the fast-growing electric market. We are eager to see the future of clean transportation in Wisconsin, and believe this funding will go a long way toward making electric vehicles accessible for all Wisconsinites.

RENEW Wisconsin at the 30th Anniversary MREA Energy Fair

RENEW Wisconsin at the 30th Anniversary MREA Energy Fair

Last weekend, the MREA Energy Fair brought people together to learn about clean energy and sustainability, connect with others, and take action towards a sustainable future. The Fair featured workshops, exhibitors, live music, inspiring keynote speakers, family fun, great local food, and more. The Energy Fair is the longest-running event of its kind in the nation and RENEW Wisconsin was excited to be a part of it!

RENEW staff presented some compelling workshops and you can download slides from their presentations below.

Clean Energy Communications

Jodi Jean Amble, RENEW’s Communications Director, presented a workshop on clean energy communications. She discussed 6 tenets of creating effective communications messages, shared insights from clean energy communications polling,  and showcased some of RENEW’s recent campaigns.

Community-Led Clean Energy Action

Michael Vickerman, RENEW’s Policy Director, presented a workshop focused on communities across Wisconsin that are taking action to advance renewable energy in meaningful ways. Michael’s presentation surveys the specific action steps taken by individual municipalities to procure new supplies of solar energy and integrate carbon reduction goals into their own operations, including local transit options.  

Solar Farms – Economic and Agricultural Benefits

Heather Allen, RENEW’s Program Director, presented a workshop on solar farms featuring Bob Bishop, a local farmer from Iowa County renting his land out for the 300 Megawatt Badger Hollow Solar Farm. They talked about the economic, environmental and agricultural benefits of solar farms for rural communities. This workshop explored how to address frequently asked questions including those related to land use, food production, visual changes, and community values.

Solar for Good – Helping Wisconsin Nonprofits

Sam Dunaiski, RENEW’s Program Manager, presented information on the Solar for Good program including how the program got started and how it assists nonprofits in going solar. The workshop also featured a panel of nonprofits and solar installers that participated in the program. Panelists were Joe Lenarz (Pleasant Ridge Waldorf School), Kelsey Parry (Heckrodt Wetland Preserve), Angie Kochanski (Arch Electric), and Doug Stingle (North Wind Renewable Energy).

Electric Vehicle Toolkit

Jane McCurry, RENEW’s Program Manager focusing on electric vehicles, presented a workshop for people interested in seeing EV adoption advance in the Midwest. The discussion included charging infrastructure, influencing policy, the benefits of driving electric, and why EVs are good for the community, state, and country.