Category Archives: Keeping Watch on Earth News

Plummeting battery prices to make electric cars cheaper than gas cars in 3 years

Repost from Think Progress

A Bloomberg bombshell.

By JOE ROMM, APR 16, 2019, 1:03 PM

Batteries have been getting smaller and cheaper so much faster than expected that the experts at Bloomberg NEF (BNEF) have had to revise their own projections for electric vehicles every year.

BNEF projected in 2017 that “the crossover point when electric vehicles will be cheaper upfront than a combustion vehicle” would be 2026 (nine years), BNEF energy analyst Nathaniel Bullard tweeted last week.

But things have changed quickly since then and the timeframe has narrowed significantly: in 2018, it was 2024 (six years), and now, in 2019, BNEF projects the crossover point will be 2022 — just three years away.

Achieving parity for upfront, initial cost means that the buying decision for electric vehicles (EVs) is about to become a no-brainer. And that means decarbonizing much of the transportation sector is also becoming a no-brainer.

That’s because EVs are already superior to gasoline cars in many key respects: they have faster acceleration, much lower maintenance costs, zero tail-pipe emissions, and a much lower per-mile fueling cost than petrol cars , even when running on carbon-free fuel.

Bullard explains in a Bloomberg article that this crossover will start in 2022 for large vehicles in Europe, but quickly spread to smaller vehicles and other parts of the world as battery prices continue to plummet.

Indeed, he notes that as recently as 2015, batteries were 57% of the cost of a U.S. medium-sized car. Today that is down to 33%, and by 2025, batteries will be a mere 20% of total EV cost (see chart).


Moreover, BNEF notes that other key parts of EVs — such as the electric powertrain — are also starting to see price drops, since “large-volume manufacturing is only now beginning for such parts.” Over the next decade, key components like motors and power electronics could become as much as 30% cheaper than they are today.

As battery performance and price improve, EVs are getting longer and longer ranges — some as much as 500 miles — and the charging time is dropping rapidly. Already, superfast chargers can charge an EV in as little as 20 minutes, and new chargers can cut that time in half. Next-generation batteries may be chargeable in three to five minutes.

As Wall Street Journal auto columnist Dan Neil explained in late December, dirty, inefficient internal-combustion (IC) engine vehicles are becoming a very risky bet.

“During the reasonable service life of any vehicle I buy today, I expect the demand for IC-powered vehicles will drop to practically zero, equivalent to the current market penetration of flip phones,” Neil wrote. And so, “a gas-powered vehicle would be too expensive.”

For all these reasons, expect the EV revolution to keep its foot on the accelerator.


    Calfire Maps: Valero Benicia Refinery and two other Bay Area refineries at high risk of wildfire

    April 13, 2019

    A friend posted this on Facebook:

    “Scary and sadly there is a high hazard fire zone next to the refinery Valero in our town.”


    An analysis finds more than 75 towns and cities with populations over 1,000 where, like Paradise, at least 90 percent of residents live within Cal Fire’s “very high fire hazard severity zones.”

    The Facebook post could be a bit misleading if you assume Benicia is among the 10 California Communities identified in the KQED story.  But if you dig in a bit, you find an interactive map.  Drilling down into this map, you find Benicia’s Valero Refinery surrounded by a “High Fire Hazard Zone” (dark orange).

    Click to enlarge

    Expand the map a bit and scroll around the Bay Area and you find that refineries in Martinez and Rodeo are located near VERY High Fire Hazard zones (red).

    Click to enlarge

    This coming Tuesday, April 16, Benicia’s City Council will consider a staff recommendation to adopt an updated Emergency Operations Plan (EOP).  Someone needs to do a careful search of the proposed plan to determine readiness for a very real wildfire threat to the refinery.

    Questions should be asked at the Council meeting to assure the public:

    • Are adequate preparations in place for cutting back combustible materials in and near Benicia’s Industrial Park?
    • Will adequate watch be undertaken by the two fire departments (Valero and City of Benicia) during California’s expanding fire season?
    • Are plans to fight wildfire in the eventuality of an outbreak detailed, robust, and well-rehearsed?

    Of course, the lives of refinery workers and nearby Industrial Park workers, and indeed the lives and well-being of all Benicia residents are put at risk as climate change increases the odds for wildfires in our beautiful part of the world.  Vigilance is required!


      New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe

      Repost from Bloomberg
      [Editor: Spectacular photos – click to enlarge.  – R.S.]

      Swedish forest fires, retreating glaciers and arid cropland attest to a new reality.

      By Jonathan Tirone, April 9, 2019, 5:05 AM PDT
      Dust, sand and smoke hang over Portugal and Spain as seen from the International Space Station on 6 August 2018. Source: ESA

      Climate change is picking up pace in Europe, thrusting farmers and power generators onto the front lines of a battle with nature that threatens to upend the lives of the half billion people who occupy the world’s biggest trading bloc.

      Last year was the third hottest on record and underlines “the clear warming trend” experienced in the last four decades, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service, which operates a network of satellites for the European Union that collects weather, soil, air and water data.

      Copernicus lenses captured dozens of images illustrating how climate change is unfolding on Europe’s landscape. The images were made available to coincide with a gathering of 15,000 scientists in Vienna at an annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, which assesses the issue each year.

      The convention in the Austrian capital is a locus of discovery, where scientists present research and compare notes. The European Space Agency, which operates the Copernicus network, is boosting its 2019 presence after it developing a series of open-source data tools designed to help economies adapt to the hotter and drier seasons already impacting crop yields, power generation and river transport.

      Fires in Sweden
      Heatwaves and little rain led to rarely seen forest fires in Sweden in July 2018. Source: ESA

      Rainfall across central and northern Europe was 80 percent below average levels, resulting in agricultural losses and wildfires. Satellite photos showed dozens of Swedish forests burning in July that destroyed more than $100 million worth of woodland.

      “As temperatures rose during the year, so did the duration of sunshine,” Copernicus said in a statement. “Parts of central and northern Europe experienced up to 40 percent more sunshine hours than average with Germany being the sunniest on record.”

      Alpine Snowfall
      Cloudless days let Copernicus snap this shot across the 1,200-km Alps.  Source: ESA

      Not all of the impacts are negative. The preponderance of cloudless days in northern Europe helped Germans generate a record amount of solar power last year. Their 45 gigawatts of installed capacity provided Europe’s biggest economy with some 9 percent of its electricity while forcing utilities to integrate more variable flows of power from renewables onto their grids.


      But that sunshine took a toll on another source of European power—hydroelectricity. Alpine glaciers, whose melting waters help top off hydro power plants across Austria and Switzerland, are disappearing at a faster pace.

      “Glacier retreat would have a large impact on the Alps since glaciers are an important part of the region’s ecosystem, landscape and economy,” said Harry Zekollari, a climate scientist in Switzerland. “They attract tourists to the mountain ranges and act as natural fresh water reservoirs. Glaciers provide a source of water for hydroelectricity, which is especially important in warm and dry periods.”

      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Copernicus data show aridity is likely to deepen and spread through mid century. Source: Copernicus Climate Change Service operated by ECMWF

      It’s because of those long-term weather trends that that the EU is trying to get more policy makers and businesses to use satellite data and imagery to help planning. Its data feeds Barcelona’s Vortex SL, which aids renewable energy developers to find places with the best wind currents and weather patterns before installing turbines and panels. Marex Spectron Group Ltd.use Copernicus data in forecasting coffee, sugar and cocoa yields. The EU project said it even helped Heineken NV brew a better beer by lowering the amount of water it needs in the process.


      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Lush Belgian fields in July 2017 were scorched by heat a year later. Source: ESA

      The pain felt by European farmers was evident from space, according to Copernicus, which published images showing how the normally lush cropland of central and northern Europe were burnt crisp by heat and lack of rain.


      “Dry conditions were especially persistent in Germany, where the April-September period was the second-driest on record, leading to heavy agricultural production losses,” the scientists wrote.

      In order to avoid the catastrophic effects of runaway climate change—rising seas, super-storms, famine and war—the world needs to invest some $2.4 trillion a year through 2035 in order to cut fossil fuel emissions. Even a rise of 1.5 degrees would have massive consequences, including a “multi-meter rise in sea levels” over hundreds to thousands of years and a mass extinction of plants and animals.

      relates to New Satellite Photos Show Climate Change Is Sweeping Europe
      Different crop types around Emmelrod in the Netherlands. Green shows summer crops, red is potatoes, orange is market crops, yellow is cereals and blue depicts grassland. Source: ESA

      To avoid the worst outcomes posed by living on a hotter and drier planet, Copernicus is trying to help farmers by giving them access to satellite images overlaid with data, which could help agriculture identify crop strains that can keep up with the changing climate.

      Countries need to “develop and consolidate innovative approaches, tools and methods for characterizing high-impact events and quantify loss and damage,” according to the World Meteorological Organization’s state of the climate report.

      Silted Bay
      Farm runoff silting up the bay by Mont-Saint-Michel during planting season. Source: ESA