No, Making a Tesla Battery Does Not Equal 8 Years of Driving an Internal Combustion Car.

“The innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.” – Niccolò Machiavelli 

 

If you have an irrational resistance to change, particularly technological advancements that can in anyway be portrayed as being good for the environment, then right now there is a terrific propaganda piece being spread around that will reinforce your worldview.  Based on a Swedish study, this story claims that the production of a Tesla 100 kWh battery, Tesla’s biggest, produces 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide emissions which they allege is equivalent to driving an internal-combustion vehicle for 8.2 years. There is just one problem: it is utter nonsense.

In taking on this claim, we will take their numbers and assumptions at face value and address the first question: How far do you have to drive an internal combustion engine powered vehicle to reach their 17.5 tons of carbon dioxide? To figure this out we will use the Audi A8 4.0 since it is a comparable vehicle in terms of size, performance, and price range to the Tesla Model S equipped with the 100 kWH battery. According to it’s official EPA ratings, the Audi achieves 19 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 22 mph in combined use. Taking those numbers, we can calculate that you would have to drive the Audi just a tad over 31,500 miles to reach our 17.5 tons of carbon emissions. In the interests of transparency, feel free to verify the match here.

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The next question is how many miles does the average American drive in a year? According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average across all age groups in 13,476 miles per year. So now we can divide 31,500 miles by the annual average of 13,476 miles driven and we arrive at an apples to apples number of 2.34 years – not 8.2 years.

Now that we have demonstrated this to be blatant propaganda, allow me to point out a couple of the other logical fallacies involved:

  1. They completely ignore that these numbers will soon shift even further in favor of Tesla once their first Gigafactory, powered by renewable energy, comes online.
  2. While this study focuses solely on battery production, it looks only at internal combustion engine miles driven and completely ignores the carbon emissions produced in the production of the 93 octane gasoline used by the Audi. The EPA calculates an additional 1.1 tons of upstream carbon which would further reduce our number.

As a car guy, I understand there are plenty of reasons to like the internal combustion engine: quick refueling, established infrastructure, the sound of a high performance engine. But no matter how you look at it, environmental superiority isn’t one of them.

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What is Permaculture?

Though the problems of the world are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple. – Bill Mollison
The quote above is from one of the fathers of permaculture, Bill Mollison. In 1978 he and David Holmgren coined the term as a contraction of the words “permanent,” “agriculture,” and “culture”. Heavily inspired by Masanobu Fukuoka’s natural farming philosophy, Mollison and Holmgren recognized that the cultural element was missing from the equation in Western society. People had come to somehow perceive themselves as separate from nature rather than part of it.
Mollison described permaculture as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”.

Permaculture is based on 3 core ethics and 12 design principles.

Permaculture ethics are the foundation of the entire philosophy. The three core ethics of permaculture are:

  • Care for the earth: Provision for all life systems to continue and multiply. This is the first principle, because without a healthy earth, humans cannot flourish.
  • Care for the people: Provision for people to access those resources necessary for their existence.
  • Return of surplus: Reinvesting surpluses back into the system to provide for the first two ethics. This includes returning waste back into the system to recycle into usefulness.

While still broad, the twelve design principles provide more detail on how the ethics are put into action. They are:

  1. Observe and Interact – “Beauty is in the mind of the beholder
    By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.
  2. Catch and Store Energy – “Make hay while the sun shines
    By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.
  3. Obtain a Yield – “You can’t work on an empty stomach
    Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the working you are doing.
  4. Apply Self Regulation and Accept Feedback – “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children of the seventh generation
    We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. Negative feedback is often slow to emerge.
  5. Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services – “Let nature take its course
    Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behavior and dependence on non-renewable resources.
  6. Produce No Waste – “Waste not, want not” or “A stitch in time saves nine
    By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
  7. Design From Patterns to Details – “Can’t see the forest for the trees
    By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go.
  8. Integrate Rather Than Segregate – “Many hands make light work
    By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and they work together to support each other.
  9. Use Small and Slow Solutions – “Slow and steady wins the race” or “The bigger they are, the harder they fall
    Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources and produce more sustainable outcomes.
  10. Use and Value Diversity – “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
    Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.
  11. Use Edges and Value the Marginal – “Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path
    The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.
  12. Creatively Use and Respond to Change – “Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be
    We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing and then intervening at the right time.

The beauty of permaculture it that it can not only be applied to gardens but also entire farms, homes and buildings, neighborhoods, and even cities. If you would like to learn more there are many great books available. The two I would definitely recommend are linked below, but there are many others.

Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability

Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual

There are also many great videos on YouTube and permaculture design courses are available all around the globe.

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EViation Alice Makes Electric Flight A Reality

“Aviation is proof that, given the will, we have the capacity to achieve the impossible.”  – Eddie Rickenbacker

EViation Aircraft made a splash this week at the 52nd Paris Airshow where they unveiled the Alice, an all-electric plane that can carry 9 passengers and 2 crew up to 800 miles. With a stated goal to “pioneer accessible, sustainable air travel that can power the future of regional transit”, EViation is poised to stage a major market disruption.

At just over 39 feet in length with a 44 foot wing span, the Alice is 300 times more efficient than comparable conventional aircraft thanks in part to it’s ultra light weight fully composite construction and optimally efficient aerodynamic design. A Li-lon 980 kWh power pack provides juice for the main pusher prop at the tail and a pusher prop at each of the wingtips that propel the plane along at a 240 knot cruising speed. This translates to a 33 minute flight from Martha’s Vineyard to Boston, a 2 hour flight time from Silicon Valley to San Diego, and a 2.5 hour flight from Nashville to Orlando.

Not only do these stats mean good things for passengers and the environment, the operators will benefit from the lower energy and reduced maintenance costs, while low noise and zero emissions enable such electrically powered planes to operate from landing strips close to urban areas. “With this aircraft, air taxi operators will be able to serve customers on-demand travel [to] the nearest landing strip for the price of a train ticket,” said CEO Bar-Yohai.

Gretchen, stop trying to make “Climate Change” happen. It’s not going to happen.

I’m sorry, I am fluent in movie quotes and just couldn’t help myself with the title. But, if you are honest with yourself after reading this post, I think you will find that the emotion or curiosity you felt when you read it perfectly illustrates the point I am about to make. Chase here to talk about why I think we should all stop using phrases like “global warming” and “climate change” if we ever want to accomplish anything.

Over the past few decades our culture has become obsessed with labeling very complex issues with catchy, easy to digest buzzwords. This is no doubt due to the influence of media, particularly online media, and the marketing industry. The downside is that when we take such large and complex issues and try to wrap them up in a buzzword, we force people to either be 100% in support or 100% in opposition to all facets of it with no room for nuance and compromise (that is not a bad word). These buzzwords become incendiary language and cause people to instantly dig in their heels and reject your cause outright. In my opinion, this has a lot to do with why our society and government have become so polarized and gridlocked on many issues.

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So what do I suggest? I suggest we stop being lazy! Understand that these issues are enormously complex and stop trying to solve them in broad generalities. Speak directly to what resonates with the audience. Instead of telling people we need to leave fossil fuel energy production behind to fight climate change, we should try to explain that renewable energy has the potential to create a huge number of jobs and be a major economic growth sector. Instead of telling them that we need to transition to electrically powered transportation to fight global warming, we should try framing our dependence on oil as a national security issue that we have the technology to solve. And oh, by the way, these things are all much more sustainable and better for our environment too!

We should also seek out unlikely allies and work with them where our issues intersect. For example, Ducks Unlimited is a 501c nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands and upland habitats for waterfowl. Their objective is to do those things to ensure that waterfowl hunting remains sustainable, but guess which habitats are best at carbon sequestration? Wetlands and forests!

These are just a few examples of subtle changes we can make that may help reach people and perhaps make progress, even if we don’t use the same lingo and our stated goals are different. Give it a try, see what happens. Whatever you do though, don’t screw it up by saying “climate change”!

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There and Back Again: Our Trip to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

Helen Keller

 

This past week our family embarked on quite the adventure. We attended the Sustainable Living Visitor Program at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, a sustainability demonstration community in Missouri. Not sure what that means? Perhaps it would be best to let them explain it in their own word.

Pretty cool stuff, huh? Besides just getting away for the week, our goals while at Dancing Rabbit were to learn as much as we could about all things sustainable living and see if living in a close knit intentional community seemed right for us. We definitely learned A LOT that we will be carrying forward with us and we are still digesting the community experience. Perhaps more on that in the future. But back to last week!

After a 6.5 hour drive from Kentucky to the prairies of northern Missouri, we arrived during the afternoon on Sunday, May 21. Kendal and Sloan were quite eager to get out of the car and take this picture for you all.

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After a meet and greet with the other visitor program attendees we settled into our accommodations in the two story, 6 bedroom, straw bale structure known as Skyhouse. The days that followed featured educational sessions of everything from Communication and Conflict Resolution to Alternative Energy and Construction, the later being of far more interest to me personally. We were given tours of most every structure at Dancing Rabbit along with detailed information of their construction methods. For me, it was fascinating to be able to see all of these examples in one place. Below are just a few of them.

We were also able to get some hands on education and stimulation. One afternoon we had a garden work party where we weeded the strawberry patch (compensated with tasty little berries as we worked) and built some new beds. Surprisingly, it turns out Kendal loves tenderizing manure with a pitch fork. Who would have guessed?

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Another day we were taken on a property walk and learned about Dancing Rabbit’s prairie restoration and conservation work. They own close to 300 acres of depleted agricultural land that they are working to bring back to it’s native glory. Part of that program includes prescribed burns to replenish the soil and eliminate non-native plant life. The area below was burned this past winter and is bursting back to life.

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And then there was the social element. Our days were filled with amazing conversation……

……impromptu ukulele lessons from one of the other attendees…..

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….and lots of great food and drink!

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The amount of social interaction was both rewarding and at times overwhelming. In modern society we have really lost the close connections with our community that for millennia were not just the norm but necessary for survival. These moments where what really made the experience. Well, that and the occasional miracle….

YES, that is a wild bird. It just hung out for about 15 minutes. Where else does something like that happen except an ecovillage or Disney movie? It was crazy and the kids loved it.

As you can see, we had a great time and learned so much. If you get the opportunity to attend their visitor program or even just visit Dancing Rabbit I highly recommend it. They are doing great work and passionately want to share it with everyone they can.

Have you visited an ecovillage or other intentional community? Comment below and let us know.

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Death of the Internal Combustion Engine

Less than a month after Tesla became the United State’s most valuable automakerFinancial Post is reporting on a newly published study by Stanford University economist Tony Seba that is sending shock waves through the automotive and oil industries. After careful analysis of current market and economic trends along with technology investments and advancements, Seba’s forecast titled Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030 suggests that by the late-2020s the internal combustion engine will be all but extinct on the dealer showroom.

According to Seba, this revolution is being driven by technology and simple economics rather than government policies. Electric cars are currently the fastest growing segment in the global automotive industry. March 2017 saw a 134% increase in electric automobile sales over March 2016 and a 87% increase Q1 2017 versus Q1 2016. With this kind of growth, two things are occurring: 1) the economies of scale are making electric cars and their components cheaper to produce and 2) the automotive industry worldwide is pouring billions of dollars into battery and electric systems research and development.

Over the next 2-3 years battery ranges are predicted to meet and exceed to 350-400 mile range petrol powered vehicles typically reach and entry level electric vehicle prices are projected to break below $30,000. By 2022-2023 entry level EVs will be approaching $20,000. That is when, according to Seba, the avalanche will occur. “What the cost curve says is that by 2025 all new vehicles will be electric, all new buses, all new cars, all new tractors, all new vans, anything that moves on wheels will be electric, globally,” Professor Seba projects. With EV life expectancy in excess of 1 million miles, almost zero maintenance, and less than 7 cents per mile to operate, internal combustion will simple become obsolete.

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This shift is not without its challenges. The US government stands to lose up to $50 billion in fuel tax revenue, funds that are used for road construction and other surface transportation projects. “Certain high-cost countries, companies, and fields will see their oil production entirely wiped out. Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP could see 40 percent to 50 percent of their assets become stranded,” the report states. Additionally, the traditional automakers with their large bureaucracies are at risk of being leapfrogged by nimble cash flush tech companies that are already making moves in the industry. That is a lot of economic and geo-political instability added to an already complex world stage.

While I feel like Seba’s projections are a little optimistic, the trends are clearly pointing in one direction. And with renewable energy constituting the majority of new energy production coming on line the news is all the sweeter. What are your thoughts on this? Comment below and let us know.

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