Invasion of the Golf Carts

Sunday’s O details conflict between City and State laws in allowing folks in King City and Sherwood to take their golf carts to the grocery store. The same issue is being echoed nationally.

What this really points to is latent demand for Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs), which are street legal, small electric vehicles. When are we going to see a mass-market NEV?

48 Comments

48 Responses to Invasion of the Golf Carts

  1. dick BARNARD
    July 21, 2008 at 9:11 am Link

    great idea to try, would like to see the immediate result of no short trips in one’s gas vehicle,should send a quick message to petroleum producers…

  2. EngineerScotty
    July 21, 2008 at 10:11 am Link

    Of course, there’s the Smart car; perfectly street-legal, including on highways. Electric models are rumored to be in the works.

    But you bring up an interesting point; many “alternative” forms of transportation, especially with motors, often have trouble finding a niche on US public infrastructure. Segways, when they were introduced, found themselves outlawed on many city’s sidewalks; and things like golf carts are inappropriate both on sidewalks, as well as on public streets. Much of this has to do with safety, as a 500-pound golf cart is a potential danger to a pedestrian, but will get crushed in a collision with a two-ton minivan.

    Perhaps we need more infrastructure dedicated to “small” vehicles, including bicycles, golf carts, etc? Either dedicated streets, or dedicated lanes within a “normal” street–similar to a bike lane, but wider?

  3. al m
    July 21, 2008 at 10:50 am Link

    Well if golf carts are ok, how about this:

    brb…………

  4. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 11:08 am Link

    The problem with Neighborhood Electric Vehicles as they exist today (and I’ve looked at a few in the showroom, but didn’t plunk down any cash) is that they are too limited.

    I understand the intent of creating a lighter, slower vehicle (and therefore theoretically cheaper), and limiting it to slower-speed roads for in-town driving (no freeways).

    But the compromise point is too far toward the low-end of the scale. These vehicles need to be just a little bit faster and just a little bit more crash-worthy.

    In most states which allow them, NEVs are limited to a maximum speed of 25mph and can drive on roads with posted speeds of around 35mph. But there are many streets with posted speeds of 35mph, let’s not kid ourselves, where a large percentage of cars are driving even faster than that. Driving along at 25mph when people are passing you at 45 in the other lane (if there is another lane) does not instill a feeling of safety and comfort in a driver, especially in a lightweight vehicle with lower crash-worthiness.

    Many modern NEVs are already constructed with the ability to drive 35mph, but they are still limited by law to 25mph. (If you are a large landowner with a fleet which will not drive on public roads, such as a golf course or industrial park, dealers can sell you a 35mph vehicle, but it’s VIN number will be different so that the DMV will not issue you road-legal tags.)

    If we can have statutory change to allow NEVs to drive 35mph with corresponding increases in safety requirements, these cars will become a lot more useful to a lot more people, and for not too much more money. (Many NEVs can technically already go 35mph without arbitrary limiters required by law, what’s needed are stiffer roll cages, better reinforced doors, etc.)

    • Cmjensen
      October 29, 2016 at 11:49 am Link

      I agree this would better suit the public need since most streets leading to retail locations including grocery stores are on 35mph roads. Higher safety standards would make a 2 mile trip to the grocery store simple and safe.

  5. EngineerScotty
    July 21, 2008 at 11:27 am Link

    Bob R. brings up an interesting point; he claims that NEVs for street uses must be limited (by means of a governor, I suppose) to 25MPH; in other words it should not be *possible* to drive one 35MPH. A NEV that is capable of driving faster is not street-legal (I assume this would included modified vehicles).

    Yet we don’t require that “ordinary” automobiles be limited to 55MPH, or 70MPH, or even some margin of error of the fastest speed limit possible. One can do a lot more damage, both to one’s self and passengers, and to other vehicles, pedestrians, and other obstacles. with a souped-up Honda Civic at 100MPH, then one can with a souped-up golf cart at 40. :)

    Previous attempts to require governors on automobiles, IIRC, were universally unpopular and withdrawn.

  6. al m
    July 21, 2008 at 11:34 am Link

    Are these things legal?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PrktDqFd7xo

  7. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 11:35 am Link

    Yes, a governor is employed, usually embedded within the software for the motor control computer itself, as opposed to an external (and more easily defeated/removed) circuit.

  8. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 11:38 am Link

    The short answer Al’s video question is: No.

  9. rusty hinges
    July 21, 2008 at 12:14 pm Link

    From an aging user’s point of view, the “smart car” is out because too low-slung and hard/painful to get in and out of. Seats in a golf cart are upright instead of laid back, and at a usable height.

    Fanatics wonder why otherwise environmentally conscious people buy Elements, Escapes or the little Scion boxy things when they could be buying a “smart car” or a Prius. Well, wait ’til your joints get a little rustier, and you’ll get it.

  10. AL M
    July 21, 2008 at 12:15 pm Link

    Thanks Bob!

    I didn’t think so!

  11. Erik Halstead
    July 21, 2008 at 12:44 pm Link

    Instead of promoting hundreds of people plugging in their electric carts at night, contributing to air pollution in Boardman (the prime source of electric generation in PGE’s territory) – why doesn’t the City of Sherwood create an electric taxi or bus system that uses far fewer vehicles, but serves the city at large?

    Even a purchase of a half-dozen busses would provide decent service for the city. If necessary, a small underpass underneath 99W could be built to keep these busses off of 99W and provide a link between west and east.

  12. Doug
    July 21, 2008 at 1:30 pm Link

    Erik:

    I’m ignorant of where PGE’s power comes from, so this is an honest question… doens’t most of the region’s power come from hydro?

  13. EngineerScotty
    July 21, 2008 at 1:46 pm Link

    To answer part of Erik’s question:

    Financing is a big thing, of course, It doesn’t cost the City of Sherwood or its taxpayers (collectively) anything when someone plugs in their golf cart or NEV at night–private citizens pay the bill for that juice.

    Operations of a bus service, even a small one, requires a significant financial committment, even if users pay reasonable fares. Same issue, of courae, that plagues mass transit as a whole in this country–it’s hard to make such operations profitable.

    Of course, “the roads” aren’t profitable either–millions if not billions of tax dollars goes into their construction and maintenance; but it is assumed as a given by many that good road infrastructure is a civil necessity. Good rail infrastructure doesn’t get this benefit of the doubt; nor does publicly-operated vehicles for the public’s use, no matter the mode of transportation.

    Many taxpayers view “the roads” as already paid for; and in many cases, governments are able to recapture the cost of additional road construction (from developers, for instance). Which brings up an interesting question–do we (and if not, why not) require developers to add some sort of transit infrastructure in developments?

  14. Matthew
    July 21, 2008 at 1:49 pm Link

    Doug:
    http://www.portlandgeneral.com/home/products/power_options/basic_service.asp

    41% is from Hydro, 42% from coal, (which is locked in in a long term price contract, although maybe that is expiring right now,) and 15% from Natural Gas.

    PGE is requesting a 15% rate increase in Jaurary because of Natural Gas prices. (NW Natural is requesting 40%, so…)

    All that said, the air pollution from a thousand NEVs is far better than the air pollution from a thousand gasoline cars making short trips in the big picture. Yes, it isn’t so good if you happen to live in Boardman, but if the plant was in Sherwood, the NEVs would result in cleaner air than cars would…

  15. Jeff F
    July 21, 2008 at 2:47 pm Link

    Matthew Says:

    41% is from Hydro, 42% from coal, (which is locked in in a long term price contract, although maybe that is expiring right now,) and 15% from Natural Gas.

    According to an article in today’s paper, we could see a 400% increase in electricity from wind power — except the grid can’t handle it. Maybe they could at least shift from coal to wind, even without increasing the total.

  16. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm Link

    The interesting thing about variable sources of power such as wind and solar is that they can be balanced by a network of intelligent charging systems.

    In other words, thousands of electric car chargers can be informed by the grid as to just how fast or slow to charge (or how much electricity to temporarily feed back into the grid) to help keep the grid balanced.

    Work along these lines is proceeding, but is still largely experimental.

  17. Erik Halstead
    July 21, 2008 at 6:02 pm Link

    Matthew wrote: 41% is from Hydro, 42% from coal, (which is locked in in a long term price contract, although maybe that is expiring right now,) and 15% from Natural Gas.

    It should be noted in both PGE and Pacific Power’s Integrated Resource Plans that both companies are forecasting a decrease in hydro as a percentage of total power mix; this is due to the decommissioning of a number of hydro projects as well as increased use of natural gas and to a lesser extent wind/biomass/solar generation.

    By the way, what’s 400% of 1%? 4%. 400% sounds great because it’s a big huge number, but it is a percentage of something very small. One or two nuclear plants could actually produce the same electric generation as that 400% increase in wind power, and it would produce power virtually 24/7. When PGE shut down Trojan, Oregon went from being an energy exporter to an energy importer overnight.

  18. Erik Halstead
    July 21, 2008 at 6:06 pm Link

    Matthew wrote: Yes, it isn’t so good if you happen to live in Boardman, but if the plant was in Sherwood, the NEVs would result in cleaner air than cars would…

    Maybe that ought to be step 1 – ask Sherwood residents if they are willing to host their own power plant. Since Portland is gung ho on “greening” itself, maybe Portland ought to shut down Portland International Airport and replace it with a field of wind turbines and solar panels. (Too bad if you need to fly somewhere, flying by nature is very polluting unless you’re in a glider.)

    Is it fair to make Boardman the dumping ground for the Metro area’s pollution? Did anyone ask Boardman residents how they feel about the Metro area using more electricity and forcing them to breathe in that air? It’s certainly easy to argue for a solution when the negative benefit is 160 miles away and you can’t see it.

  19. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 6:24 pm Link

    Since Portland is gung ho on “greening” itself, maybe Portland ought to shut down Portland International Airport and replace it with a field of wind turbines and solar panels.

    Where on earth do you come up with these Devil’s Advocate notions, anyway? Why should Portland, when seeking land to build solar and/or wind installations, decomission an airport? Do you actually believe this is the way Portland leaders think? If not, then why use such an example?

  20. Andrew MacDonald
    July 21, 2008 at 6:27 pm Link

    Erik wrote: It’s certainly easy to argue for a solution when the negative benefit is 160 miles away and you can’t see it.

    Well, it certainly makes more sense to build polluting power plants where people generally aren’t rather than where they are (population of WV vs. Boardman). But point taken on the need to own up to the means of generation. I’d support a 2-3 nuclear plant addition to the area as an excellent source of baseline power to complement a future mix of renewable energy.

    That aside, even if we used 100% coal power plants, it’s better for the environment to switch out of gas-powered cars to electric vehicles, because power plants are dramatically more efficient at producing energy than your average internal combustion engine, even accounting for transmission loss and the related costs.

    So regardless of our power mix and its siting, we’d be better off switching from gas-powered transit to electric-powered transit at every opportunity.

  21. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 6:30 pm Link

    Did anyone ask Boardman residents how they feel about the Metro area using more electricity and forcing them to breathe in that air?

    There is a regulatory process for the siting and construction of power generation plants, and a regulatory process for plant emissions. Did the residents have any say in either of these processes?

    If not, are you proposing that regulations be strongly tightened so that plants must be sited closer to the communities which consume the power, or that pollution must be controlled so that increases in out-of-area demand do not cause a corresponding increase in plant-area pollution?

    How clean is the Boardman plant, anyway, compared to other plants with similar fuel and output?

    If the demands of Portland were served by your hypothetical airport-closure solar/wind array, and the Boardman plant were completely shut down, do you think that would be compatible with the wishes of the residents of Boardman?

    By the way, which way does the wind usually carry the pollution from Boardman through the Columbia River Gorge?

  22. Jeff F
    July 21, 2008 at 7:02 pm Link

    Erik Halstead Says:

    By the way, what’s 400% of 1%? 4%. 400% sounds great because it’s a big huge number, but it is a percentage of something very small. One or two nuclear plants could actually produce the same electric generation as that 400% increase in wind power, and it would produce power virtually 24/7. When PGE shut down Trojan, Oregon went from being an energy exporter to an energy importer overnight.

    Well, I am pretty sure that wind generators don’t create radioactive waste products. I’m not sure why anyone would choose one or two nuclear power plants to achieve the same output.

  23. Erik Halstead
    July 21, 2008 at 9:53 pm Link

    Bob R. (yes, this is going to be a personally directed comment):

    If, judging from your two most recent posts, that the local residents of Boardman should have little say in the siting of a power plant which is PGE’s largest power plant, AND the largest single cause of air pollution in the Columbia Gorge and throughout much of the Columbia Plateau, then I would surmise that the wishes of Portland can overtake the wishes of a small town.

    Likewise, we can extend that “majority rules” comment towards Portland’s transportation planning. 85% of trips in the Portland metro area are taken by car. Under the same guidelines, then 85% of transportation planning, dollars, etc. (if not more) should be automobile based. Forget the “peak oil”, “global warming”, and other discussions – the magic number is 85% of trips are by car. Why bother with light rail, bike/ped projects, Streetcar, and even busses – because so few people use them.

    Yet, it is an often stated purpose of this thread, among others, to move away from the car-based transportation network – despite that the majority demands it.

    Based on that philosophy, shouldn’t it likewise be demanded that if we are going to reduce our carbon footprint here in Portland by changing our transportation, that we should likewise consider the needs of the Eastern Oregon/Washington community, and actively work to stop use of the Boardman plant, even if it means significantly reducing our own electric needs? (Which, getting back on topic, using plug-in golf carts seem to have a problem with, unless we remove load elsewhere)?

    The folks that live in Boardman live there for a reason, and it’s not because they enjoy being trampled upon by Portland folks who use too much damn electricity with their massive central A/C units, their four computers, their big-screen TVs and so on and so forth.

    Jeff F. wrote: I’m not sure why anyone would choose one or two nuclear power plants to achieve the same output

    Because the wind doesn’t always blow. The most optimistic report shows that wind power can produce up to 20% of the U.S. power demand. What’s your preferred method to generate the other 80% of demand – natural gas? Killing fish with more hydro dams? Burning coal?

    Frankly, I’d rather have nuclear than coal. After all, Portland already has one nuclear reactor within city limits.

  24. Dave
    July 21, 2008 at 10:01 pm Link

    Yet, it is an often stated purpose of this thread, among others, to move away from the car-based transportation network – despite that the majority demands it.

    The majority accepts it. I’d love to ditch my car, but my commute goes about 6-8 times longer to use MAX/buses/bike to get there. It’s a weird commute pattern, but there are very few similar jobs around Portland, and it takes me about 15 minutes (each way) unless something goes wrong.

    Congestion has almost disappeared on the non-peak directions, and definitely reduced overall since gas prices got up around $4/gallon. With plug-in hybrids in 15-20 years that won’t last. Peak oil et al won’t stop us from needing the CRC eventually. Not every trip can be served by transit, and not everyone wants to live near their office.

  25. Matthew
    July 21, 2008 at 10:04 pm Link

    I believe Jeff was referring to this study by DOE for 20% wind.

    http://www.20percentwind.org/

    There is a report, it is 250 pages, and I’m not done reading it yet. The intermittent nature of wind isn’t strictly an issue, the intermittent nature of the way people use power is actually a bigger problem, and when you combine multiple intermittent issues like that, the problem is only slightly worse than one of them by themselves. The study is also a little bit of marketing* in it but that isn’t that surprising. And yes, we need to expand the electrical grid to connect places were the wind blows to the places where people live, but the actual cost of the grid expansion needed is about 5% of the cost of electricity, the problem is that grid expansion is a common good and it is hard to get a deregulated market to pay for it.

    *It talks about hydrogen cars as a source of electrical demand management. Besides the fact that those are a lot further away than 2030, (if they ever make it out of the lab at costs that people can afford: They use far more platinum than a catalytic converter, and my neighbor lost his last month, because it was worth $200 as scrap.) But in the previous chapter they assumed that natural gas would remain semi-affordable for peaking plants. If natural gas remains affordable relative to electricity, then it is cheaper to make hydrogen directly from the natural gas (CH4), skipping the whole electricity bit… But whatever.

  26. Bob R.
    July 21, 2008 at 11:36 pm Link

    If, judging from your two most recent posts, that the local residents of Boardman should have little say in the siting of a power plant which is PGE’s largest power plant

    I never said that.

    Likewise, we can extend that “majority rules” comment towards Portland’s transportation planning.

    I never said that either.

    The folks that live in Boardman live there for a reason, and it’s not because they enjoy being trampled upon by Portland folks who use too much damn electricity with their massive central A/C units, their four computers, their big-screen TVs and so on and so forth.

    I have no central A/C, I have no big-screen TV, and although I own more than 4 computers, I never use more than 2 at a time, with 1 usually in sleep mode.

    yes, this is going to be a personally directed comment

    If you’re going to make personally-directed comments, get your facts right, or don’t bother. Thanks.

  27. EngineerScotty
    July 22, 2008 at 10:35 am Link

    Erik,

    The suggestion that because 85% (or whatever) of trips are made using roads, that we must spend 85% of transportation dollars on roads going forward, is a complete non-sequitur. If that logic were used seventy years ago, inter-urban transport would either be via rail or dirt road in most cases.

    Transportation dollars should be spent where future demands are likely to dictate. If gasoline is US$4 a gallon or more, that changes the equation quite a bit from when gasoline is $2. It may be that oil prices have levelled off, but I wouldn’t expect a return to cheap gas anytime soon–the emergence of China as a major automotive market has vastly increased the demand for oil.

    With regards to your great concern for the poor citizens of Boardman, whose lungs apparently are being filled with coal dust due to the desire of Portland-area lefties to drive electric vehicles or use electric-power transit–it should be pointed out that use of fossil fuels causes quite a bit of pollution in places besides where the car burning the gas is ultimately driven. Oil refineries pollute; even moreso when they catch fire. Where is your concern for the poor folk of Galveston, TX? Wrecked oil tankers pollute like crazy. Where is your concern for how your transportation choices affect people in Valdez, AK? And the coal that is used to fire the power plants in Boardman isn’t being bought from countries like Venezuela, Russia, or Saudi Arabia–all of which, to put it lightly, have been known to act against US interests from time to time. :)

    Of course, I suspect that many folks in Boardman don’t mind the PGE plant one bit, just as folks in Arlington don’t mind being Portland’s garbage dump. Both activities mean jobs; modern powerplants pollute far less than internal combustion engines in autos–and the air out in central and eastern Oregon is far cleaner than here in Portland, simply due to the sparseness of the population.

  28. Erik Halstead
    July 22, 2008 at 12:24 pm Link

    Bob R. wrote: If you’re going to make personally-directed comments, get your facts right, or don’t bother. Thanks.

    And I suggest you do the same.

    Bob R.’s personally directed comment to me:

    Where on earth do you come up with these Devil’s Advocate notions, anyway?

    Let’s play by the same rules, Bob. I asked a perfectly legitimate question, and you have refused to provide direct answers towards the questions but rather questioned my belief in asking the questions. Further, you quoted me as stating you said something, when I never said (or implied) that you said it, but rather took a statement which you did state, extend it further and suggested in a question that if we believe ‘A’, should ‘B’ apply as well? You mis-interpreted my comments and then are calling me on a rules violation that you felt no problem violating yourself.

    I see that all of the progress you have made in following the rules when replying to me in the last month or so, you have thrown down the drain.

  29. Erik Halstead
    July 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm Link

    EngineerScotty wrote: With regards to your great concern for the poor citizens of Boardman, whose lungs apparently are being filled with coal dust due to the desire of Portland-area lefties to drive electric vehicles or use electric-power transit

    Good points.

    it should be pointed out that use of fossil fuels causes quite a bit of pollution in places besides where the car burning the gas is ultimately driven. Oil refineries pollute; even moreso when they catch fire. Where is your concern for the poor folk of Galveston, TX?

    You’re comparing a one-time event (an oil refinery explosion) compared to burning coal which is a non-stop, continuous activity. The Boardman coal plant doesn’t “just pollute” when it explodes, it pollutes when it’s in operation which is close to 24/7.

    Wrecked oil tankers pollute like crazy. Where is your concern for how your transportation choices affect people in Valdez, AK?

    Again, one time event. Yes, it was an environmental disaster. If a MAX train derailed and killed 75 people, would that dictate that we eliminate all MAX trains because MAX murders people? Do we stop talking about Amtrak because of one incident in Louisiana that single-handedly doubled Amtrak’s total passenger causalty numbers; or the event on the Northeast Corridor when a stoned Conrail engineer plowed head-on into an Amtrak train? Keep in mind there have been multiple head-on collisions on the track between Portland and Seattle (fortunately none involved an Amtrak train) – so do we forget about building Cascades service trains because of the risk of another head-on wreck?

    And the coal that is used to fire the power plants in Boardman isn’t being bought from countries like Venezuela, Russia, or Saudi Arabia–all of which, to put it lightly, have been known to act against US interests from time to time.

    I thought we were talking about the environmental issues, not import issues, but we can talk about that too.

    China isn’t exactly a friend of the U.S. but much of Portland’s commerce depends on trading with China and other southeast Asia countries. Is Vietnam a “friend” of the U.S.? Is it right that counties like Adidas and Nike make so much of their money on the backs of those two countries among others?

    My own bike proudly proclaims “Made in China” – so if trading with unfriendly nations is a problem, should we take 2/3rds of the bikes off the road in Portland because they too were made in China? And there are only two factories that build the Toyota Prius – one of which is in China.

    Whether or not Boardman wants the plant in their city or not, raises the question as to whether Portland should be raising a fuss over sprawl which isn’t occurring within Portland city limits (Portland is for the most part landlocked by other cities or the Columbia River, leaving only Sauvie Island and along U.S. 30 to grow on its own.) If Portland is so concerned about sprawl in Vancouver, shouldn’t Portland be concerned about pollution in Eastern Oregon?

    If, on the other hand, Portland shows little to no concern about pollution in Arlington and Boardman, then whey should Portland care if people want to build houses in northern Clark County? Why is it okay to pollute in Eastern Oregon, 160 miles east of downtown, but not OK 20 miles north of downtown? Why is it not OK to “sprawl” to Vancouver but it is OK to sprawl to Sherwood and North Plains and Banks and Forest Grove and Hillsboro and Oregon City and Wilsonville?

    And why is it OK for Portland to continue to use a power plant that was built specifically to skirt environmental laws that came into force just months after the plant started generating electricity, is the largest contributor towards air pollution in the Columbia Basin, and creates a haze through the Columbia Gorge that rivals that of the hundreds of thousands of vehicles in the Portland metro area?

    If the goal is to reduce dependence on foreign oil consumption AND reduce pollution, I know of a company in Hayward, California, that has a solution. Portland refuses to listen. Vancouver has.

  30. Bob R.
    July 22, 2008 at 1:06 pm Link

    Erik says:

    Bob R.’s personally directed comment to me:

    Where on earth do you come up with these Devil’s Advocate notions, anyway?

    It’s a legitimate question, Erik… where did you come up with that? I’m trying to understand where you are coming from, and why on earth you’d think anyone would want to remove PDX Airport completely to install a solar/wind farm.

    The only assumption I made there was that you were making a devil’s advocate proposition about the airport. If I’m wrong, and you are in fact _actually_ advocating for the removal of the airport, I apologize. You never actually answered the question, so we still don’t know.

    Meanwhile, however, all you did was ascribe ideas to me which I never said or advocated in any form, ever. You essentially put words in my mouth, and they were wrong.

    I see that all of the progress you have made in following the rules when replying to me in the last month or so, you have thrown down the drain.

    And that’s wrong too.

    As I’ve said before (with evidence), if I applied the rules as strictly to you as you constantly demand I apply them to myself and others, you’d be gone. But I don’t, so you’re still here. And yet apparently never satisfied.

    Nobody has demanded moderator intervention or complained about application of the rules as often as you, Erik, even people who post here regularly with views which are squarely at odds with mine. Once again we wind up with a thread which is only tangentially about it’s original topic, with another gripe from you about me and the rules.

  31. EngineerScotty
    July 22, 2008 at 2:10 pm Link

    Read carefully.

    Oil refineries certainly pollute while in normal operation. (And they stink, too). Apologies, I suppose, if my reference to sunken oil tankers and refinery explosions distracted you from the point.

    Automobiles kill 50,000 people every year in this country, so obviously the suggestion that we should close MAX due to a hypothetical train accident is nonsense.

    Regarding Portland’s concern about Vancouver sprawl vs Boardman pollution–that’s an easy one to answer: Vancouver sprawl (or sprawl in other Portland suburbs) affects Portland somewhat directly, especially when new infrastructure is added to the city. Were a project to widen 99E/224 into a freeway to advance past the “big idea” phase (the most likely “new freeway” cooncept to reach Portland); Portland would have similar reasons to object or participate in the design. Portland obviously has little reason to care about sprawl in, say, Phoenix, AZ, on the other hand.

    I will certainly concede that the Boardman coal plant does pollute far more than more modern coal-fired powerplants. And I’m all for requiring PGE to modernize the Boardman plant, by the way. Are you?

    You do raise one valid point; there seem to be some in Portland that regard the ‘Couv with some disdain–viewing it as little more than yet another bedroom community (one that doesn’t “play nice”), rather than a legitimate city in its own right. Obviously, that attitude will get the city nowhere. But construction of a bridge which will move the bottleneck of traffic congestion five miles south to the city center, is certainly Portland’s business.

    What company in Hayward, CA are you referring to–Gillig? We’ve already got tons of busses. If you’re referring to building bus lanes rather than rail tracks accross the CRC–those bus lanes have to have somewhere to connect to for good BRT service to downtown. Bbus lanes which merely merge into I-5 traffic further south aren’t going to help much, and further widening of I-5 or installation of a continuous busway into downtwon, would be mucho expensive. Likewise on the Washington side. We’ve already got the Yellow Line ending about two miles south of the bridge, OTOH–extending it across the river into Vancouver as part of the CRC project is a more cost-effective use of existing infrastructure.

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t post at least one link to both sides’s propaganda:

    The pro-LRT arguments

    A pro-BRT argument

  32. Jeff F
    July 22, 2008 at 2:49 pm Link

    Erik H:

    Jeff F. wrote: I’m not sure why anyone would choose one or two nuclear power plants to achieve the same output

    Because the wind doesn’t always blow. The most optimistic report shows that wind power can produce up to 20% of the U.S. power demand. What’s your preferred method to generate the other 80% of demand – natural gas? Killing fish with more hydro dams? Burning coal?

    In the first place, my comment was a response to yours that the amount of energy produced by the proposed wind turbines could be replaced by 2-3 nuclear plants. As far as I can tell, we weren’t addressing the 80%. I still want to know why plants that produce waste we still don’t know how to deal with for the next few thousand years, is preferable to wind. Citing the wind turbines is obviously pretty important, but whether the wind blows 24/7 isn’t that relevant.

    Frankly, I’d rather have nuclear than coal. After all, Portland already has one nuclear reactor within city limits.

    As long as we have that sticky problem of waste, this makes no sense to me. I’m much more in favor of reducing demand, and developing better means of conserving than I am in increasing power output.

    And, no, I don’t have central a/c (or any), no huge tv and only one computer, which is turned off most of the time. Much of Portland, other than the suburbs, lacks central a/c as well, at least in residences.

  33. Bob R.
    July 22, 2008 at 3:26 pm Link

    After all, Portland already has one nuclear reactor within city limits.

    I assume you’re referring to the TRIGA rector at Reed College, known as the Reed Research Reactor. It’s purely a research/education tool and produces a maximum of 250kW of thermal energy. Corvallis has one also, of a very similar, but newer, design. Trojan produced roughly 1130 megawatts, or 4500X as much thermal energy.

    I was lucky enough to be able to operate the Reed reactor a few times as a schoolkid, through an educational outreach program they offered at the time. (Don’t panic, I was supervised by a licensed operator. If my memory isn’t too fuzzy, I brought the thing up to about 80% of output and the procedures to do so took a few hours.) I remember that the containment pool had to be occasionally topped off with an ordinary garden hose (it’s a bit more complicated than that, but not so far from that characterization.)

    There is no useful comparison between these small research reactors and a major power station. I don’t accept the argument that because we have the TRIGA reactors we should therefore be readily accepting of more major power generation reactors, thousands of times more powerful.

    I’m not categorically opposed to nuclear power generation, I just don’t buy this line of argument and I think there’s plenty of other things we can try first before building more nuclear plants.

    Your comment is timely, however, as new smaller-scale reactor designs, enough for a reactor to power a small town or large neighborhood and be located nearby, are on the drawing board, right here in Oregon.

  34. Bob R.
    July 22, 2008 at 3:51 pm Link

    Now, taking the issue of sustainable power generation and tying it back to Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, I think in the long term we’ll see a transformation take place *if* two variables move in the right direction:

    1. The price of solar power installations continues to decrease.
    2. The price of good-quality electric cars (NEVs and full freeway-capable vehicles) decreases as well.

    The problem with recharging EVs at night is that most solar energy systems only output power during daylight hours. (Some store the solar energy as heat to boil water for nighttime generation.) This means that much of the energy for electric cars, although still more efficient than gasoline when taking into account transmission/charging/storage losses, will come from polluting sources at night, at least in the near term.

    But if solar becomes cheaper, and EVs become more widespread, I think we’ll see the proliferation of daytime charging stations at workplaces and shopping oriented parking structures. There’s no reason this can’t be solar in nature.

    There are already companies deploying solar carports. These aren’t primarily car charging stations, but just taking advantage of otherwise-wasted roof area for placement of solar panels.

    But a workplace or retailer could sell this solar energy to EV owners on-the-spot for a premium. The convenience of recharging where you park is worth more than standard power at home. Solar parking facility owners could generate revenue at market rates for power fed into the grid, and at above-market rates for cars parked in the facility.

    My crystal ball is not very clear, and this may never be economically feasible, but it is within the realm of possibility especially given the increases in energy prices from other modes of generation and storage.

  35. MRB
    July 22, 2008 at 3:52 pm Link

    Portland folks who use too much damn electricity with their massive central A/C units, their four computers, their big-screen TVs and so on and so forth.

    [Moderator: Personally directed remark removed. MRB – Can you rephrase that referring primarily to the comments and not to the person?]

  36. nuovorecord
    July 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm Link

    What factors exist that render it unfeasible to simply install solar panels on the roof of a NEV, allowing it to recharge itself? Forgive my ignorance of the technology – this would seem like an obvious solution, so I’m assuming there’s a level of complexity involved that makes this difficult/expensive.

  37. Douglas K.
    July 22, 2008 at 4:21 pm Link

    Why does the power for NEVs need to be generated locally? Yes, solar is good for daytime uses such as workplace power and air conditioning, but not so much for lighting streets or recharging cars at night.

    On the other hand, the wind is always blowing somewhere, and geothermal is 24/7. With a sufficiently reliable national transmission grid, all that otherwise unused energy from the wind blowing at night could power a large portion of our vehicle fleet.

  38. Bob R.
    July 22, 2008 at 4:29 pm Link

    What factors exist that render it unfeasible to simply install solar panels on the roof of a NEV, allowing it to recharge itself? Forgive my ignorance of the technology – this would seem like an obvious solution, so I’m assuming there’s a level of complexity involved that makes this difficult/expensive.

    Given current solar cell efficiencies (even if they were way more efficient this would still be true), the surface area of the roof of a car is insufficient to recharge a vehicle conforming to the weight and power needs that we generally consider to be a car, in a reasonable amount of time. However, car-mounted solar cells could partially offset the needs of air conditioning or keep the vehicle cool while parked. (Toyota is rumoured to be offering this as an option on a next-generation Prius.)

    The surface area of a carport can be at least 4X the usable roof area of a car, allowing for correspondingly faster recharge times.

    Now, if you want to talk about much lighter, less powerful vehicles, using parts more commonly used on bicycles, you can indeed do something today which is self-recharging using on-board solar:

    http://www.sunnev.com/

    There is also a company making golf carts with solar roofs which can recoup a portion (but not most) of their typical power consumption from the sun:

    http://www.cruisecarinc.com/solar-energy.htm

  39. Bob R.
    July 22, 2008 at 4:37 pm Link

    A timely article:
    Coulomb Technologies announces “Smartlet” public charging stations

    Excerpt:

    The Smartlets are equipped with electrical metering and wireless communications capabilities. Drivers would get a subscription through ChargePoint and then when they park their plug-in vehicles, the Smartlet would authenticate and then allow them to start charging. Parking lot owners and cities would take a cut of the revenue while a car is being charged.

  40. Matthew
    July 22, 2008 at 5:21 pm Link

    Right now the hot sunny daytime electricity, (the type generated by solar panels, but also by a bunch of large diesel generators spread around town,) sells for more money on the open market than the nighttime power generated by nukes/wind/coal/whatever, and a lot of that has to do with the cost (read: materials) related to building new power plants that only get used during the middle of the day. Powering a car with that valuable daytime power is silly, put that power into the grid for all those people with central AC to use, and charge your NEV at night with the cheap stuff. Yes, you lose the direct “feel good” feeling about your car’s fuel, but it actually does far more for the planet to hook the solar panels to the grid and then charge the car at night, than hook the car directly to the solar panels.

    The other thing: Solar panels are picky about being aimed the correct direction, not being partly shaded by a tree and not getting too hot and etc. Putting solar panels on racks designed to hold them, (and allow air to get around them to keep them cool,) aimed south at a 30 degree tilt (in Portland,) and not shaded by trees/other cars/telephone poles/etc, and you’ll get a lot more power out of them than mounted flat on a roof of a car, even if you did park outside all the time.

    Maybe in 50 years daytime power will be cheaper than nighttime power, and solar panels will be cheap enough that you can afford to have them spend half their time in the shade, but I really doubt that… The only place I can see solar panels on top of the vehicle being a truly good idea is if you intent to drive 2 mph in places where there is nothing higher than the roof of your car, and there isn’t a grid nearby. In other words, it is a great on Mars, but for driving from your house to the store, not so much.

  41. zilfondel
    July 22, 2008 at 6:38 pm Link

    In response to the last comment:

    http://www.wsc.org.au/

  42. Matthew
    July 22, 2008 at 7:24 pm Link

    And indeed Australia has a lot of problems with it’s grid, so maybe solar panels on a car is a good idea there… (On the other hand, I’ve heard many good suggestions that if they had spent the money that is lost as a result of this crisis on grid connected solar panels in the first place, that they could have had 400% of the electricity they currently consume from the sun, but that is a different story.)

    Yes, the WSC is a very cool gimmick, but I compare it to getting 1900 mpg, it is doable and it is very interesting, but don’t expect to see that car on the market anytime soon/ever. There are technology spin offs from both WSC and SMT, of course, but the main trick that they use are cars that are 2 feet tall and have no wind resistance, it isn’t adding a $500 solar panel to a golf cart…

  43. MRB
    July 22, 2008 at 9:53 pm Link

    Portland folks who use too much damn electricity with their massive central A/C units, their four computers, their big-screen TVs and so on and so forth.

    [Bob: sure]

    Ah yes, the mating call of the threatened suburban white male. Let me wipe the tear from my eye, it must be tough going from being far and away the most privileged class in the history of the earth to… well, still the most privileged group in history.

    I know you are used to unlimited theft from the poor and brown in our aging cities. Lord forbid we stop paying for your three kids and green lawns and start electing people unlike you to popular office. It must be tough.

  44. MachineShedFred
    July 23, 2008 at 1:27 pm Link

    “I still want to know why plants that produce waste we still don’t know how to deal with for the next few thousand years, is preferable to wind”

    Well, we do know how to deal with the waste. We reprocess it and load it right back into the reactor.

    If something is highly radioactive, that means it is still fissioning at a fast rate, and therefore still producing energy. When fuel rods come out of a reactor, they have only burned off 3% or so of the fuel contained in them, and have transuranic elements that “poison” the criticality of the fuel assembly. When these immediately go to storage, that makes your waste that lasts for 10,000+ years.

    Should we start reprocessing (like France, Germany, Japan, etc.), we’d be left with some transuranic low-level waste that lasts a couple hundred years before becoming completely inert (well within the reasonable span for a storage site such as Yucca Mountain), as well as much more fuel to load right back into the reactor. Reprocessing can be done on-site, removing transport safety concerns.

    This works even better with more modern designs such as the Integral Fast Reactor (look it up) which is designed to use the inherent neutron flux to “breed” fuel out of typically non-reactive U238 while generating power. Also, there are modern reactor designs that use Thorium-232 which is even more abundant that Uranium, and can be used to breed Uranium isotopes.

    Reactor waste is a problem that physics solved 40 years ago. The solution, however, is being held up by politics, and ignorance of the science.

    Oh, and according to Scientific American, coal fly ash contains more radiation that nuclear waste, due to burning off all that pesky carbon and leaving the heavy elements such as Uranium and Thorium in concentrations 10x their natural occurrence in the coal.

    Would you rather have that radioactive material flying through the air and into your lungs, or concentrated into a vitrified glass, buried hundreds of feet underground in a geologic formation that hasn’t moved in a hundred thousand years?

    I know which one I’d pick.

  45. Matthew
    July 23, 2008 at 4:58 pm Link

    “Would you rather have that radioactive material flying through the air and into your lungs, or concentrated into a vitrified glass, buried hundreds of feet underground in a geologic formation that hasn’t moved in a hundred thousand years?”

    This is a false choice, much like “15 hours of congestion or a 12 lane bridge?” There are other options that aren’t being considered in that question and I’d much rather look at them. What happens if we put everyone on a real-time time of use pricing system, and appliances start showing up that will communicate with your electric meter? For instance, why can’t my refrigerator just shut itself off between 4 and 5pm on a summer day? It won’t harm the food in there, (especially if I don’t open the door because I’m not even home,) and if it has to work a little harder at 3:30 and 5:30 to make up for it, the power grid would be much happier. If suddenly people get pricing signals they might act on them, (very similar to traffic congestion pricing.) California is actually mandating that new central heating and cooling systems be able to set back on command from the grid and while there is some controversy about that, once you start billing people on real time time of use, most people will be willing to be a few degrees hotter or colder once in a while…

    Once technology like that is fully phased in, it is estimated that you can use a mix of intermittent renewable sources (solar, wind, wave, tide, whatever) to supply around 80% of the power in the grid. Since 41% of PGE’s power comes from hydro already and much of that either has storage capability or is base load anyway we’d either be able to remove half the dams, (or spill a lot more of the water down fish ladders or wait for climate change to dry up our glaciers which will mandate that we keep them all in service.)

    So, do I prefer nuclear or coal? Neither.

  46. MachineShedFred
    July 24, 2008 at 7:20 am Link

    So instead, you prefer the massive environmental damage caused by wholesale replacement of appliances that work just fine in favor of new ones that might tell me to kick rocks if PGE doesn’t want me baking a cake right now?

    Solar manufacturing isn’t efficient enough yet, sometimes the wind doesn’t blow, wave and tidal power is still in infancy and hasn’t been proven to scale. It’s also unclear what effect a massive buildout of wind turbines might do to prevailing winds and weather patterns; as well as what unknown effects tidal generators may have on delicate tidal ecosystems.

    We have proven technologies, available today, that solve the problems we have today, and don’t create new ones if implemented properly – and in fact can solve a “problem” that exists today only because people want it to (nuclear waste). Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?

  47. Douglas K.
    July 24, 2008 at 8:05 am Link

    sometimes the wind doesn’t blow

    The wind is always blowing somewhere. Get a sufficiently widespread national infrastructure of wind power, and “the wind not blowing” won’t be an issue.

  48. Matthew
    July 24, 2008 at 8:44 am Link

    “So instead, you prefer the massive environmental damage caused by wholesale replacement of appliances that work just fine in favor of new ones that might tell me to kick rocks if PGE doesn’t want me baking a cake right now?”

    Are you are suggesting that we shut down Boardman tomorrow even though a new nuclear plant is probably 10 years away? No? I’m not advocating that people throw away perfectly good appliances right now either, I don’t know where you read that. How many people do you know with 30 year old refrigerators? In 30 years, how many people do you expect to have the same refrigerator as they do today? They eventually wear out and then people buy new ones, and when they buy new ones they should be setup to integrate into the grid, and they should do it intelligently, not by telling you to kick rocks, but by displaying the price of baking the cake during the middle of a calm cloudy day across the entire west coast during high or low tide in a drought year, vs waiting a few hours. Likewise I think the fridge should decide that it would only let it get a few degrees warming than normal at that time period, and if you were standing there with the door open, it would still turn on…

    “We have proven technologies, available today, that solve the problems we have today, and don’t create new ones if implemented properly – and in fact can solve a “problem” that exists today only because people want it to (nuclear waste). Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. The very technology that is in the switchgear of almost any powerplant, (including breeder reactors,) that enables it to load follow, is the same technology that I’m advocating we install in our appliances.

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