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Jump into the show notes below for more goodies!
Shenzhen: Second To None
As Nicolas noted in the podcast, Shenzhen followed the electrification of its 16,359 buses by announcing that its 17,000 taxis would soon be electric as well. And just as there’s a pragmatic reason for the government’s push into renewables (avoiding civil disorder caused by frustration at the horrific pollution), there’s another incentive here also — China is now the world’s biggest oil importer, and the number of combustion vehicles there is going to increase for decades. So, they have environmental and economic reasons to push for electric vehicles!
We should probably also re-emphasize that while autocracies are great for getting things done, they can be pretty terrible for the people who’re getting things done to. (In a similar way, lots of wealthy investor types love the idea of “creative destruction” — that’s what they used to call “disruption”, back in the day — unless, of course, they’re the ones getting creatively destroyed!) And again, we don’t want to diminish the very real systemic injustices in our own countries (in Nicolas’ case, the US, and in my case, Canada).
As for the China x Cleantech letter, that’s here!
The Spectre Haunting Cleantech
Yes, a spectre is haunting cleantech: the spectre of premature triumphalism. Despite the progress we’ve made, this is not the end of fossil fuels. It’s not even the beginning of the end. At best, it’s the end of the beginning. (Hat tip to Marx and Churchill, there…)
I criticized Ray Kurzweil for getting people enthused about thinking that if you go from 0% to 1% you’re halfway to 100%. It’s clear Kurzweil knows a lot about computer technology — but it’s also clear that doesn’t transfer to the real world. The Dunning-Kruger effect might be at play — overconfidence from knowing a lot about computers makes Kurzweil think he knows a lot about other stuff … when he doesn’t.
In the podcast, I referred to this February 2008 article where Kurzweil proclaimed that since solar and wind then supplied 1% of world energy, solar would provide 100% of world energy in 2028. I dunno about you guys, but I’ll take the under.
We discussed a few examples in the podcast, but as a treat for readers of the show notes, let’s take smartphones, which are heavily influenced by computers. Most people consider the first smartphones to have come out in 2003. They had about 5% market share in 2006. By Kurzweil’s logic, they should have replaced feature phones by maybe 2009 or 2010. Instead, in 2020, feature phones are still expected to be 15% of new mobile phone sales!
The point here isn’t to bash Kurzweil, but to caution that with the fantastic and encouraging news we’re getting out of solar, batteries, and EVs, it’s going to be tempting to get complacent or declare victory. We can’t do that. We need to save most of the high-fives for the finish line.
Roger Bannister running the 4-minute mile. Source: NYTimes.
A Roger Bannister Moment for EV Charging Access
The city of Richmond, Canada, recently gave us a “Roger Bannister moment” for EV charging access. It passed a zoning bylaw that requires energized-from-day-one Level 2 infrastructure for 100% of parking spaces in all new apartments, condos, and townhouses with shared garages. That’s really, really cool. Because until now, most cities had settled for 20%.
It’s a “Roger Bannister moment” in the sense that, once Roger Bannister proved that you could run a 4 minute mile, suddenly a lot of runners started to achieve it. Richmond has passed the bylaw; it’s being considered by another Vancouver suburb, Port Coquitlam; and Vancouver is now hoping to implement it by March. Which brings us to the “map of the episode,” showing the Vancouver metro area, with its Game of Thrones–style aggregation of 20+ feuding municipalities great and small, all squabbling amongst each other!
Richmond has a 100% Level 2 charging zoning bylaw; Port Coquitlam and Vancouver will soon follow!
The two volunteers from the Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association that did the yeoman’s work on this — Don Chandler and Jim Hindson — provided a link to the model zoning bylaw in the above-linked article for the benefit of any readers who want to approach their municipal governments with the same proposal.
A key catalyst was an engineering study that found it would cost roughly the same to give 100% Level 2 access with a “smart” energy management system as it would cost to provide dedicated Level 1 “dumb” circuits for every parking stall. The energy management system allows you to run all the parking stalls on one big circuit, so you avoid the cost of duplicated electrical equipment for all the Level 1 stalls.
We’ll try to report back on how many cities adopt this 100% Level 2 mandate for new apartment buildings — if you have the bandwidth to follow up on this where you live, please keep us up to date on your progress!