Harvey may hurt oil prices short term, but the glut continues

Hurricane Harvey has severely damaged the Texas Oil Cost, shutting down refineries which will probably disrupt gasoline supplies, resulting in price hikes. Despite this, the long term forecast is still that we are in an oil glut, and barring major hostilities in the Middle East, prices are going to remain soft. The word to learn today is “contango”:

Contango occurs when the current futures price of an asset (as quoted in the futures market) is higher than the current spot price of the underlying asset. (meaning today’s prices are much less due to excess supply)

“Floating storage off Singapore reached an all-time high in February,” Smith told CNBC’s “The Rundown.”

“We started to see Singapore floating storage dropping off last month from that record high of 60-million barrels, but we saw it rebound last week.”

Ahead of the OPEC production cut, producers ramped up production and exports to maximize revenues, with OPEC sending over three- fifths of its production to markets in the Asian region.

February arrivals hit 16.1 million barrels per day. That’s 1.1 million barrels more than last year’s average and nearly 300,000 barrels higher than the previous record set in February 2016, according to ClipperData.

The region’s refineries cannot process that much crude, so the influx lifted Singapore floating storage to 64-million barrels in early February, the highest level on available records. It has fluctuated since then, but remains well above recent averages.

“As long as we see 60-million barrels floating offshore in Singapore, it is just indicating that the market is still oversupplied and is not absorbing all this oil,” Smith said.

Of course, any excuse, valid or not, to raise prices and start gouging drivers will be taken. The cost getting the oil to the refineries has not changed, there are just suddenly fewer refineries to make fuel, and pipelines to transport what fuel is in the area are shut down. This situation could see fuel prices rise up to $1 gallon.

Cummins unveils e-Semi concept truck with 100 mile range

Besting Tesla’s Reveal By Just Days, Cummins Unveils AEOS Electric Semi

Cummins revealed from its historic technical center in Columbus, Indiana, a fully electric class 7 demonstration Urban Hauler Tractor as a step in its earlier announced electrification movement.

The vehicle is equipped with a 140 kWh battery for 100 miles (160 km) of electric range, but up to 300 miles is possible with additional battery packs. Tesla’s upcoming semi is also believed to have range of 200 to 300 miles. It’s reveal is set for late September, which means Cummins is ahead in the electric semi race.

Optionally, a range extender (Cummins B4.5 or B6.7 engines) will be made available for even longer ranges.

I would note that Cummins does not make trucks, only diesel engines for trucks. The truck was made for it using a Cummins’ designed drivetrain. 100 miles is not useful for anything beyond intracity deliveries, but that is certainly a niche area that would save money and reduce pollution.

They have upstaged Tesla’s planned reveal of the electric semi on September 6, but then rumor has it the Tesla models will have 2-3 times the range, making it useful for intrastate transport.

Stay tuned.

It keeps going, and going, and going…

Finnish Tesla Model S taxi driver crosses 400,000 km, 93% of battery life remains

Ari Nyyssönen, a Finnish taxi driver, has racked up an impressive 400,000 kilometers (250,000 miles) in his Tesla Model S and is confident that the car could last until 1 million kilometers or over 621,000 miles.

Having logged over 400,000 kilometers of taxi service in his 2014 Model S with 85 kWh battery pack, Nyyssönen had the vehicle’s motor replaced and battery pack serviced under warranty. “They are the biggest worries,” Nyyssönen said, “but they are not very bad because the most important defects have been repaired according to the guarantee.”

Arguably the most important component in a Tesla is its battery pack. After 400k km (250k mi), Nyyssönen notes that the battery was still able to maintain roughly 93% of its original driving range and showed little signs of degradation. Nyyssönen’s story can be considered a testament to the reliability and durability of Tesla’s lithium ion battery cells, but also the maintenance and service plans the company offers.

The two things that can be hard on Lion batteries are extreme heat and extreme cold. Finland is definitely a chilly locale. Oh, and lots of charge/discharge cycles, which a taxi certainly goes through.

Were there any problems with the car? Yes, some problems with both the motor and battery pack at one point, but both were repaired, under warranty by Tesla.

Economist cover calls ICE “roadkill”

The death of the internal combustion engine
The Economist

The first death rattles of the internal combustion engine are already reverberating around the world—and many of the consequences will be welcome.

To gauge what lies ahead, think how the internal combustion engine has shaped modern life. The rich world was rebuilt for motor vehicles, with huge investments in road networks and the invention of suburbia, along with shopping malls and drive-through restaurants. Roughly 85% of American workers commute by car. Carmaking was also a generator of economic development and the expansion of the middle class, in post-war America and elsewhere. There are now about 1bn cars on the road, almost all powered by fossil fuels. Though most of them sit idle, America’s car and lorry engines can produce ten times as much energy as its power stations. The internal combustion engine is the mightiest motor in history.

But electrification has thrown the car industry into turmoil. Its best brands are founded on their engineering heritage—especially in Germany. Compared with existing vehicles, electric cars are much simpler and have fewer parts; they are more like computers on wheels. That means they need fewer people to assemble them and fewer subsidiary systems from specialist suppliers. Carworkers at factories that do not make electric cars are worried that they could be for the chop. With less to go wrong, the market for maintenance and spare parts will shrink. While today’s carmakers grapple with their costly legacy of old factories and swollen workforces, new entrants will be unencumbered. Premium brands may be able to stand out through styling and handling, but low-margin, mass-market carmakers will have to compete chiefly on cost.

I am seeing more and more “respected” publications coming to this conclusion in the financial media. Bloomberg was the first, and has been revising its estimates of when EVs will hit “critical mass” from 10% to 35% by 2040. I expected that revision to be revised.

Daimler not serious about EVs

New Smart Electric Offers Less Range, Less Power and Fewer DealershipsPluginCars.com

In February 2017, the Smart automotive brand said it would exclusively focus on making and selling pure electric cars. Production of gas-powered Smart cars for North America was reportedly halted in April. With that change, and in what appears to be an unwinding of its US presence, Smart’s 85 dealerships will be reduced to only 27 locations in the coming months, according to a report this week in Automotive News. Daimler is the parent company for both Mercedes-Benz and Smart.

The surviving dealerships are located in California, New York, and other states with zero-emission vehicle mandates. Daimler executives said they expected to see dealerships remain in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Portland, Ore.

This part of the story I can understand. Traditional car dealers do NOT like EVs. Most of a dealership’s money comes from the service department, and EVs tend to have little that needs fixing, replacing, or changing (the previously noted Bolt with a dickey battery not withstanding). Changing a line over to electric only is bound to upset these people who see that their profits are going to evaporate, so i can understand the dealers bailing on the SmartCar badge.

The new version defies the trend for electric cars, which commonly receive upgrades in range and power in successive generations. But the driving range of the 2017 Smart Electric Drive fell by 10 miles to just 58 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That breaks down to a city range of 63 miles and a highway rating of 51 miles. The new 2017 model of the Smart Electric Drive is also slower than its predecessor—using an 81-horsepower electric motor to reach 60 miles per hour in more than 11 seconds. Its top speed is 81 mph.

This makes ZERO sense unless Daimler is simply setting the line up to die in the U.S.


General Motors Notifies Early Chevy Bolt Owners of Potential Battery Failure

General Motors today began notifying a couple of hundred owners of the Chevrolet Bolt all-electric car about a battery problem that could leave them stranded. In an exclusive interview with PluginCars.com, Kevin Kelly, ‎senior manager for advanced technology communications at General Motors, said that the problem might affect less than one percent of early Bolt production models. The company is proactively reaching out to “fewer than a couple hundred customers” that could be impacted, according to Kelly. The remedy is to replace the entire battery pack, even if only one cell is faulty.

Well, technically most people interpret “a couple of hundred” as at least 200, so if that many customers are being notified, that is about 2% of the cars, not 1% based on GM having sold around 9,500 through the end of July, but I won’t quibble.

On that Tuesday afternoon, the dashboard indicated approximately 100 miles of remaining range. (Because I was less than one mile away from home, I did not take note of the exact state of charge.) After a few seconds of a warning chime, the steering wheel shuddered, and the vehicle quickly came to a complete stop in the middle of the road. When I looked down at the dashboard, the indicated remaining range had abruptly changed to nine miles.

Umm, not good. This is the kind of thing that the press LOVES to blow up into a major calamity.

As you might imagine, it was an unpleasant experience—exacerbated by poor OnStar service and the tow-truck driver informing me that my Bolt was the third one he had picked up in recent days. The service at the closest Chevrolet dealership, approximately 20 miles away, was also lacking. It took about two days to diagnose the problem because, as the service manager informed me, the dealership only has one EV specialist—and that technician was busy working on other Bolt jobs in the queue (for unspecified repairs). It took nearly two weeks for a new battery pack to be shipped to the dealership and swapped into the car. The service record indicated: “Battery has a bad cell 25.”

To me this shows GM’s indifference to EVs. I really cannot see such a “meh” response if this had been a been a Caddy or and Impala. Also, I can’t say I am impressed with OnStar based on my own experiences. The service you get is very Jekyll and Hyde. Hopefully GM is telling the truth and this is isolated.

City cuts electricity usage by over half, so utility doubles rates

Black Hills’ plan for higher street-light costs stuns city
The Pueblo Chieftain

City Council was stunned to learn Monday that Black Hills Energy wants to more than double the annual cost of the city’s high-efficiency LED street lights — a $1-million increase that would erase the savings from the low-energy street lights.

That savings also is the money the city uses to pay off the $4.2million LED program — which Black Hills helped create.

“This is a slap in the face,” Council President Steve Nawrocki told City Manager Sam Azad after he explained that Black Hills wants an extra $940,000 a year for street light costs and $60,000 more for traffic lights. That basically doubles what the city has been paying.

For example, the city spent $2.1 million on street lights in 2013. After the LED lights were installed, that annual bill dropped to $950,000 in 2016.

It is naked greed like this that will be the death of utilities. The city pays for new lights in order to save money on their electric bill, then when they do save money the utility company wants it back.

Expensive and baroquely tacky

Mercedes unveils new cabriolet all-electric concept with ‘over 200 miles of range’

Mercedes has unveiled a new cabriolet all-electric concept as part of its ‘Vision’ design series at the Monterey Car Week.

The ‘Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet’ is Daimler’s idea of an “ultra-stylish luxury-class cabriolet” with an all-electric powertrain.

“The Vision Mercedes-Maybach 6 Cabriolet takes modern luxury into the realms of the ultimate in luxury, and is the perfect embodiment of our design strategy. Breathtaking proportions combined with a luxurious “haute couture” interior help to create the ultimate experience,”

Translation: This car will never see production because its only buyer would be Liberace, and he’s dead.

Health cost for renewable vs fossil energy 7 cents per kilowatt hour.

Health benefits of wind and solar offset all subsidies
Ars Technica

A paper in Nature Energy this week dives into the weeds by trying to estimate the economic benefits of wind and solar power across the whole of the US. Berkeley environmental engineer Dev Millstein and his colleagues estimate that between 3,000 and 12,700 premature deaths have been averted because of air quality benefits over the last decade or so, creating a total economic benefit between $30 billion and $113 billion. The benefits from wind work out to be more than 7¢ per kilowatt-hour, which is more than unsubsidized wind energy generally costs.

Two ways to look at this: Either we should be subsidizing the cost of solar/wind at 7 cents/kWh or we should be adding a 7 cents/kWh tax to all fossil-fuel generated electricity (coal/oil/NG).

Yawn. Hyundai promises new “long range premium electric” four years from now.

Hyundai plans long-range premium electric car in strategic shift

Hyundai Motor Co said on Thursday it was placing electric vehicles at the center of its product strategy – one that includes plans for a premium long-distance electric car as it seeks to catch up to Tesla and other rivals.

The South Korean automaker is planning to launch an electric sedan under its high-end Genesis brand in 2021 with a range of 500 km (310 miles) per charge. It will also introduce an electric version of its Kona small sport utility vehicle (SUV) with a range of 390 km in the first half of next year.

More promises about things a legacy car maker is going to do at some point in the distant future. How about if Hyundai made it’s Ioniq EV available nationwide, instead of just some dealerships? If you want to compete with Tesla, try actually selling EVs you make. Also, while the Kona CUV is a nice start, but there is a lot of smoke and ommissions.

First, the 390 KM range (242 miles) is a fairy tale. It is based on the shamefully misleading Japanese driving cycle, not the more realistic EPA stndard. When all is said and done, that range will probably drop to 150-180 miles. Not shabby, but less than the existing 238 for the Chevy Bolt. Also, they claim the car will be available the first half of 2018, but neglect to say if they mean the Asian market or the U.S. market. So, what will definitely be available in the U.S. next year?

Hyundai unveiled a near production version of its new fuel cell SUV with a driving range of more than 580 km per charge, compared with the 415 km for its current Tucson fuel cell SUV.

The mid-sized SUV will be launched in Korea early next year, followed by U.S. and European markets.

That’s great, if you happen to live near the two dozen or so hydrogen fueling stations in the U.S. (most of which are in California). If you don’t, this vehicle will not be available to buy. And if you do live near these fueling stations, you can’t drive anywhere greater than 50% of your range unless your destination has an H2 filling station.So far, Hyundai has sold just shy of 700 of its Tuscon HFC vehicles (introduced in 2013) and hopes to sell twice as many of this new one next year. Not exactly record-breaking numbers.

Hyundai’s existing Ioniq EV, has been getting rave reviews despite is modest 124 miles range. Hyundai would be better served with figuring out how to make more Ioniqs while increasing their range.

A three ton electric utility van is perfect for service/delivery business

A three ton e-Van with 100 miles of range.

A new all-electric delivery truck is on the way, and it’s not from Tesla
LA Times

Chanje’s vision sounds a lot like Tesla’s: electric vehicles recharged via clean rooftop solar power.

But the new company has no interest in the automobile market. Instead, it’s entering what it believes to be a lucrative niche in medium-duty electric trucks.

Few such trucks exist. Most medium-duty electric trucks are internal-combusion vehicles hand-converted to run on electric motors and batteries.

Chanje’s trucks are not concept vehicles or prototypes. They’re ready for sale, and the Los Angeles company plans to begin selling or leasing them within weeks.

Okay, a quibble here. They are not “ready for sale” if I can’t buy them today.

He wouldn’t get specific on pricing, but contends that monthly lease amounts will be “at parity” with leases for diesel-engine competitors once lower maintenance costs and net fuel savings are figured in. He said buyers of such trucks consider price and financial return above all other considerations.

Translation: Prepare for sticker shock, but factor in all the costs, specifically fuel and maintenance, which will be a lot less than a standard ICE van.

That model is to sell into the delivery market, where routes typically run 50 to 70 miles a day, well within an electric battery’s range. Range on current Chanje vehicles is about 100 miles.

I make it a rule to discount all range claims not verified by the EPA 20%-25%. But, even if it only has 75-80 miles of range, that is still more than enough for a lot of businesses, especially if they can charge during lunch.

WV Wants annual $4.5 billion subsidy for coal

West Virginia governor wants to sell Trump on a $4.5 billion coal bailout by calling it a “homeland security initiative”
Washington Post

Jim Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia, is floating a federal proposal to bail out the struggling Appalachian coal industry at a cost to taxpayers of up to $4.5 billion a year.

As Justice described it to the Wall Street Journal, under the proposal, the federal government would pay out $15 to eastern power companies for each ton of Appalachian coal they purchase.

Justice is attempting to sell the proposal as a “homeland security initiative” for protecting the eastern energy grid. He told a West Virginia newspaper that “if you’re all on gas or you’re all on gas and western coal and somebody puts a bomb at a gas junction point or somebody puts a bomb on a bridge coming from the west, you could very well lose the entire eastern power grid.”

Right, and if we switch to distributed generation (roof-top solar and neighborhood/city-wide solar farms) then someone blowing up a pipeline (pipelines do explode with worrying frequency, but because of incompetence, poor maintenance, and accidents, not because of “terrorism”) has a negligible effect on the grid. Centralized power distribution (like we have now) is HIGHLY vulnerable to mishap, neglect, natural disaster, and attack.

$4.5 billion would be better spent on modernizing the grid, moving from coal to renewable power and re-training coal miners for green energy jobs. Seems to me that it is better to work outside in the fresh air and sunshine, than in a hole in the ground.