Rich Lechner on Smart Transport June 09

I talked to Rich Lechner, IBM’s VP of Energy and Environment, the other day about the global problem of getting transportation right. According to Rich, in the US alone, congested roadways cost about $78bn per year so this is very much an economic as well as a sustainability-related issue!

We had a wide-ranging conversation about all kinds of solutions, including using demand response to manage traffic flows!


Better Place to charge US$0.08 per eMile

The e-mile

I have been a fan of Better Place and their unique model around electric vehicles since I watched Shai Agassi’s presentation at the DLD conference in January 2008.

If you are unfamiliar with the Better Place model, they looked at the idea of electric vehicles and people’s ‘range anxiety’ and asked how best to solve it. Their plan, put charging stations anywhere people park and build cars (or have a partner build cars) with readily swappable batteries, so if you are traveling beyond the range of the battery in your car, you drop into a swap station when your battery starts to be depleted, swap batteries and drive on. Simple!

In the Better Place business model, Better Place owns the battery in your car and charges you for the energy your battery uses – similar to how a mobile phone company charges you for minutes talktime.

Being a fan of the Better Place model I watched Shai’s talk at the TED conference earlier this year with great interest and he didn’t disappoint. A very inspirational talk. Until you start to do the maths!

Shai mentioned a price of 8c per mile (in the US) for driving a Better Place car. Frankly this sounds expensive to me.

I filled the tank in my car yesterday and took a note of the price. It was €0.948 per litre. Now my maths are not the best so bear with me while I work through this (and please do point out any errors in the comments – I want to be proven wrong on this!).

I use 5.1 litres per 100 km in my car so to drive 100km costs me €4.8348 (5.1 x €0.948).
This is €0.048 per km (€4.83/100).
This is €0.077 per mile (€0.048/.625).
This is US$0.10 per mile at today’s currency conversion rate.

If my current miles are costing me US$0.10 per mile and Shai is offering miles at US$0.08 it is not a hugely compelling case he’s making!

Now in fairness to Shai, I drive a 2008 Prius and the 5.1L/100km is roughly equal to 46mpg (using US gallons) which is about as good as you are going to get (esp as that figure is an average of urban and long-distance driving, not the maximum achieved on long-distance).

Still, for me, Shai’s 2015 figure of US$0.04 per mile is far more compelling than the 2010 US$0.08.

How much do you spend per mile and is US$0.08 attractive to you?


Would you buy a car if you had an option to (electric) car share?

Photo Credit Cayetano

I live in Seville, Spain and this town has a wonderful community bike rental program called Sevici. This is run by the town council and JCDecaux and use of these bicycles is free for the first 30 minutes and in the order of €1 per hour thereafter.

You use an RFID card to access the bicycles and you take bikes from, and return them to stations throughout the city like the one in the photo above. When you return the bike to a station, it is automatically recognised and locked.

Now what if you took this concept and married it with the idea of Car Sharing? And, what if all the cars in the car sharing program were electric (or plug-in hybrids) so that when you returned the car to its station, it plugged itself in and started to charge?

While a model like this wouldn’t work well in a suburban area, if you lived in a city center and had access to something like this, you might never need to buy a car. For cities trying to reduce their levels of pollution, levels of congestion or their carbon footprint, a scheme like this would seem to be a very appropriate step to consider.

A plan like this could also help with electricity grid stabilisation using vehicle to grid technologies.

Would you buy a car if you had an option to (electric) car share?