Business & Economy
April 13, 2021

The Battery Revolution in Our Times

When technology and economy come together, that’s usually called a revolution.

You can get one of these electric scooters for a few hundred bucks at Canadian Tire:

 

Joe Sulmona says you may soon be able to get one of these if you need  more carrying capacity.

Bigger battery too.  From Euractiv:

Advances in technology mean that battery-powered heavy trucks can go up against their fossil-fuel counterparts on price and – with better charging infrastructure – on range, according to the study, conducted by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), an independent research institute.

“A tipping point is in sight for electric trucks,” said Björn Nykvist, lead author and senior researcher at SEI. “Battery technology is very close to a threshold that makes electric trucks feasible and economically competitive. All that is missing is one companion component: fast charging.”

If you’d like to know more the evolution of one-person electric transportation and its impact on urban transit as a whole,  here’s a more definitive piece from Boundmotor:

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PT: Some new research from the University of Oxford that won’t surprise you – “people who walk or cycle have lower carbon footprints from daily travel” – but the degree of difference might, particularly between bikes and electric cars.  From The Conversation:

We observed around 4,000 people living in London, Antwerp, Barcelona, Vienna, Orebro, Rome and Zurich. Over a two-year period, our participants completed 10,000 travel diary entries which served as records of all the trips they made each day, whether going to work by train, taking the kids to school by car or riding the bus into town. For each trip, we calculated the carbon footprint.

Strikingly, people who cycled on a daily basis had 84% lower carbon emissions from all their daily travel than those who didn’t.

When we compared the life cycle of each travel mode, taking into account the carbon generated by making the vehicle, fuelling it and disposing of it, we found that emissions from cycling can be more than 30 times lower for each trip than driving a fossil fuel car, and about ten times lower than driving an electric one.

PT: Let’s repeat that: Taking into account the full lifecycle costs, each trip on a bike creates 30 times less emissions than driving. 

And here’s some useful data on the difference the pandemic has made:

The pandemic forced countries around the world to adapt to reduce the spread of the virus. In the UK, walking and cycling have been the big winners, with 20% rise in people walking regularly, and cycling levels increasing by 9% on weekdays and 58% on weekends compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is despite cycle commuters being very likely to work from home.

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When a category five hurricane devastated New Orleans in 2005, Dutch teams consulted with New Orleans about potentially reconstructing their canals to avoid flooding events, and to mitigate future disasters.  The Dutch had advised the city to create very slightly  sloped canal  walls down to channels with flat bottoms and gentle grass verges on top, creating more space and land areas for water to naturally sit  and saturate. While the plan was politely received, it was determined to be too radical and culturally different from the shallow familiar canals and shelved in favour of adding in new pumping stations.

The Dutch flooding teams also visited Vancouver and spoke at a gathering sponsored by the Dutch consulate. I have already written about the fact Vancouver is a sponge city, riddled with underground creeks and water.

One of the first issues that came up in private conversation with the Dutch team was the work done dredging the Fraser River near the former Olympic Skating Oval site. That, said the engineering team was a problem, in that in their experience, river bottom compromise would lead to eventual undershoring and severe flooding events.

How do the Dutch know? Over 50 percent of their coastline has deep  banks of undeveloped, untarnished dunes hugging the coastline. Twenty-five percent of the country is below sea level.

In 1953 a horrendous flood resulting from a storm surge along the North sea killed 1,800 people. From that disaster the country developed a comprehensive management system of “polders”, which are reclaimed land parcels that would normally be below the sea. Instead of physical man made dikes protected and bolstered dunes double as water protection for communities and wonderful natural bird habitat.

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In British Columbia Kees Lokman at UBC has been creating an open-source database called Living with Water  as a sea rise of one half a meter is expected along the coast by 2050 and by one meter in 2100.  Most of people in the province live close to water, with sixty percent living in Metro Vancouver.

In this article by CBC’s Brenna Lo, Mr. Lokman states that every municipality must have a person on staff dealing specifically with coastal issues, and stormwater management. The bad news is that the most fertile land in Canada is located along the Fraser River and one-third will be impacted by flooding, threatening food security.  Areas that receive some flooding in high tides now will be permanently underwater by 2050.

Eric Niler in Wired.com has written about increased flooding along North American ocean coasts, identifying dredging and sea rise resulting in troublesome high tides.  In Vancouver the “king tides” (a completely unscientific term used to describe tides during the full and new moon) have municipal attention, with the City of Vancouver asking people to photograph high tides in the city, and send images to the City for a photographic record and future resource.

Science Advances has just published this article that looks at the acceleration in sea rise level, and notes that the gap between high water levels and flood thresholds is shrinking. With an “assumed universal sea rise level of 150mm (five inches) “gently sloped topography” and “porous rocks” mean some areas will be more compromised than others.

What is groundbreaking about this study is it is the first one to connect “nuisance flooding” to sea level rise and the man-made changes along the coasts which make it easier for water to flow inland.

Sea levels have increased 208 to 220 mm (8 to 9 inches) in the last 140 years, especially impacting the east and gulf coasts of the United States.

Dredging and channel deepening, which have been done on the Fraser River near Richmond B.C. also exacerbates flooding. Concerns about airport field flooding have been identified by pilots and scientists at New York City’s JFK airport,  San Francisco, Oakland, New Orleans, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Newark, and Washington, DC.

The worst damage occurs when coastal  flooding, erosion coincide with storm waves and high peak tides.

There are already some forms of mitigation and studies are underway to look at restoring parts of San Francisco’s East Bay  and unused river channels in New York Harbour to mitigate the rise of incoming tides on the main channel.

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A few weeks ago, PT wondered why GlobalBC TV doesn’t use charts to show the daily Covid numbers in context.

Charts are really useful! – vast amounts of information can be displayed with clarity, for comparison, over time.  Like the one below, used by Investigate West, to illustrate this even more useful story:

A Lost Decade: How Climate Action Fizzled In Cascadia

(Click for full story to see how chart is presented over time with annotations.)

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It is not small shifts in technology but big moves in governmental policy that will be the last gasp of the gas driven vehicle. As Reuters.com writes

China’s pointed direction to shift completely to electric vehicles will halt 70 percent of global oil demand in the enxt ten years, meaning that the “oil era” is clearly finished.

There’s a secondary reason too: China will no longer spend $80 billion dollars annually importing oil to fuel vehicles, meaning cleaning air and a better bottom line.

I have already written about the fact that SUVs are considered status symbols in China and will likely continue to be popular. China in 2016 produced 28 million vehicles, a big chunk of the 70 million vehicles produced globally.

On January 1st of 2018 China stopped the manufacturing of over 500 different car models including domestic and foreign automobile ventures. The stoppages of ICE (internal combustion engines) vehicle manufacturing  included factories operated by  Volkswagen and Benz.

As the New York Times said at the timethe measure pointed to a mounting willingness by China to test forceful antipollution policies and assume a leading role in the fight against climate change. The country, which for years prioritized economic growth over environmental protection and now produces more than a quarter of the world’s human-caused greenhouse gases, has emerged as an unlikely bastion of climate action after President Trump’s rejection of the Paris climate agreement.”

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It was always a surprise to be in Vancouver’s downtown commercial areas and help tourists with directions in what would be the most blinding heat of a pre-Covid Vancouver summer.Tourists from the southern United States would almost universally respond how great it was to be out of the humid heat of their own hometowns.

Price Tags has already posted about the fact that projection models are showing the movement of millions of people to American northeast and northwest cities, with populations in places like Minnesota, Michigan and Vermont  growing by ten percent.  These areas will become more temperate and inviting. It’s expected that cities like Detroit, Rochester, Buffalo and Milwaukee will be sought after for relocating climate refugees for the “excess capacity in infrastructure, water supplies and highways”.

Access to fresh water, cooler temperatures and  less fire hazards were perceived as priorities. Add in the need for Covid pandemic physical distancing, and some of that migration has already started.

In the Pacific northwest median sales prices  in Bellingham Washington have increased 16.5 percent, and the number of homes sold has increased 26 percent. As one managing broker stated “People are relocating from areas like Seattle, Portland and California. I’ve helped several clients relocate from Seattle because they want to get out of the city.”

How far north will climate refugees travel to have “liveable” usable summers?

Propublica’s data in this article by L. Waldron and A. Lustgarten  suggests that climate “damage” will mean that the southern third of the United States will become so hot it will disrupt the economy “erasing more than 8% of its economic output and likely turning migration from a choice to an imperative.”

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