Are Plug-In Hybrids the Best Option until Electric Cars Become More Common?

Going the Extra Mile – Intelligent Energy Management of Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (6 page pdf, Kanok Boriboonsomsin, Guoyuan Wu, and Matthew Barth, ACCESS, University of California, May 2016)

Today we review some testing of energy management strategies to find the optimum use of the battery in a plug-in hybrid while minimizing the use of carbon fuel. This is in the context of the fact that electric cars are less than 1% of all cars in many parts of the USA and Canada and that in some regions of those countries (for example, California, Ontario, Quebec) electric power is produced from carbon free energy sources. Results indicate that if electric energy use is restricted to when the battery level is between 20 and 80% charged (such as in stop and go traffic or going downhill) then the fuel use is minimized.  Overall gasoline consumption can be reduced by between 9 and 14% over what a normal hybrid electric car would achieve which in turn is twice as efficient as car that uses only gasoline. This is true if the power used to charge the battery some from renewable energy (hydro or nuclear).

plug in hybrid diagram

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How Does Early Action to Cut Carbon Emissions Reduce Impacts from Climate Change?

Differential climate impacts for policy-relevant limits to global warming: the case of 1.5 _C and 2 _C (25 page pdf,Carl-Friedrich Schleussner, Tabea K. Lissner, Erich M. Fischer, Jan Wohland, Mahé Perrette, Antonius Golly, Joeri Rogelj, Katelin Childers, Jacob Schewe, Katja Frieler, Matthias Mengel, William Hare, and Michiel Schaeffer, Earth System Dynamics, Apr. 21, 2016)

Also discussed here: 1.5°C vs 2°C: Why half a degree matters (Newsletter, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Apr. 21, 2016)

Today we review research using scenarios with global climate models that show the difference in impacts from limiting global warming to 1.5 deg C or to 2.0 deg C by taking action to reduce carbon emissions and how quickly this is done. Many authoritative sources from COP 21 in Paris indicated that unless cuts of the order of 50% are taken within a decade (2025) that the 1.5 deg goal will be breached and unless the cuts reach 100% by 2050 that the 2 deg goal is probably unachievable. The paper examines the consequences of taking action too slowly or to a less than acceptable degree.

The impacts affect the length of heat waves (lasting 2 months more for 1.5C or 3 months for 2C), water availability, sea level rise, coral reefs and reduced crop yields. Perhaps the largest impact, sea level rise, has the largest implications because the processes involved in melting ice sheets are so large and slow moving. Once the Greenland ice sheet begins to breakdown, sea level rises of 5-7 m are inevitable over centuries with warming over 2C and will accelerate beyond 2100, while early action to limit warming to 1.5C would limit the sea level rise to 40 cm. Clearly policy makers at both the international and national/subnational levels need to step up to the challenge and soon.

2 deg climate impacts

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What are the Best Incentives to Buy an Electric Car?

Incentives for promoting Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) adoption in Norway (12 page pdf, Kristin Ystmark Bjerkan, Tom E. Nørbech, Marianne Elvsaas Nordtømme, Transportation Research Part d 43, ScienceDirect, Jan. 14, 2016)

Also discussed here: What are the most effective ways of promoting electric cars?  (Science for Environment Policy, European Commission, Apr. 22, 2016)

Today we review research on which incentives are the most effective in selling battery electric (BEV) cars based on a survey of Norwegians. The survey analysis considered low and high income levels, the differing impacts of reduced (or subsidized) cost at purchase to ongoing costs and benefits such as exemption from tolls. The typical Norwegian owner of an e-car is male, aged 36-55, high income, university education and living in the capital (Oslo). The single biggest factor was the initial purchase price (with discounts), followed by (exemptions from) congestion or road pricing, followed by free access to bus lanes. This supports the tactics used by governments in countries, such as Canada, in offering significant discounts for new e-car purchases and less emphasis on using exemptions from road tolls (even though road pricing is much less used and there are far fewer electric cars on the road in this country compared to Norway).

ecar incentives

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How Much do Computers Contribute to Climate Warming?

The dirty parts of the computing world (Nathan Ensmenger, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Apr. 11, 2016)

Today we review as assessment of the degree to which computers and computer networks contribute to or pollute with energy use, water consumption, mining and e-waste. In all four categories computer technology plays a significant role with 2 of global electricity use, and 25 tons of e-waste from Western countries alone. A typical desktop computer uses 30% more energy than the standard refrigerator. The computational output from Bitcoin is 256 times the combined capacity of the world’s 500 top supercomputers. In many countries, energy is produced from fuels such as coal and natural gas which produce carbon emissions. Clearly computers should be part of the accounting of the world’s energy, waste and water tallies.

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Can Extreme Weather Events be Attributed to Climate Change?

Attribution of Extreme Weather Events in the Context of Climate Change (163 page pdf, Committee on Extreme Weather Events and Climate Change Attribution; Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Mar. 17, 2016)

Also discussed here: Global Warming Is Happening FAST, but Is It Causing Extreme Weather Events?(Astrid Caldas, Union of Concerned Scientists, Mar. 11, 2016)

Today we review a major effort to answer the question: how does climate change affect extreme weather events? This was investigated using two well known approaches: the long term statistics of meteorological parameters and through simulations using physical climate models. Although much more research is needed, several conclusions were made including a main one that some types of extreme weather events (such as extreme cold and heat events)  are more easily understood and attributable to climate change than others (such as wildfires and severe convective storms and tornadoes) . This, in turn, is linked to the ability of models to simulate and physically represent large scale temperature events covering continents more effectively than those on an urban or smaller scale that involve fine scale precipitation patterns. Another major finding was that it is impossible to absolutely link climate change alone to a single extreme event because of the role that natural variability almost always plays.

Attribution-capability-by-type-event

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What are Countries Doing to Protect Human Health and Ecosystems?

Global Metrics for the Environment, 2016 REPORT, Environmental Performance Index (12 page pdf,  Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Also discussed here: U.S. Could Do Much More To Protect The Environment, Report Finds (Huffington Post, Jan. 27, 2016)

And here:Environmental Performance Index- Air Quality (Yale University, Jan. 24, 2016)

Today we review the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, prepared by Yale University which ranks the performance of countries in two areas: protection of human health and protection of Ecosystems. While improvements were seen in most categories, air quality is becoming worse mainly as a result of increased concentrations of fine particulate matter, especially in urban areas. While only 2% of global deaths (1.24 million) are caused by unsafe drinking water (and that is due to 80% of waste water not being treated), poor air quality caused 10% of global deaths (5.52 deaths). Overall, Finland tops the list in all categories with policy commitments made to achieve carbon neutral status by 2050. Other Scandinavian countries are near the top while North American countries such as Canada (ranked overall at #16) or the USA (ranked 26) are not achieving as much. This also applies to air quality where Canada at #26 and USA at #36.

env perf index 2016

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What has Europe Done to Reduce Air Pollution and Related Premature Deaths?

The impact of European legislative and technology measures to reduce air pollutants on air quality, human health and climate (11 page pdf, S T Turnock, E W Butt, T B Richardson, G W Mann, C L Reddington1, P M Forster, J Haywood, M Crippa, G Janssens-Maenhout, C E Johnson, Environ. Res. Lett., Feb 12, 2016)

Today we review a paper that estimates, using two simulation models,  how many premature deaths were prevented with and without the technology and regulatory changes over the period from 1970 to 2010. Results indicate that the adoption of  the PM2.5 concentration to 15 μgm−3 prevented 80,000 deaths and economic benefits of $232 each year. Mitigation measures reduced the premature deaths by 3 to 4 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in central and eastern Europe ..and 5 to 6 premature deaths annually per 10 000 people in south eastern Europe (Romania and Bulgaria).

premature deaths in EU

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