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For nearly a decade, utility companies have been targeted by companies and individuals selling a particular kind of snake oil. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a lot of these people are acting maliciously (I’ll get to that in a minute). In fact, I think a lot of these people have the best of intentions at heart — there’s just a problem in the way they look at the world, and that’s this: they’re wrong about what the utility companies’ role in the transition to EVs needs to be, and there is a whole lot of incentive for them to stay wrong.

How We Got Here

Before we talk about how we got here, we need to talk about what “here” is. Basically, we exist in a world that is still very much influenced by pressures that started way back in 2008 and 2009 when the housing market collapsed, fuel prices soared, and carmakers were desperate to sell new cars and trucks to just about anyone who could still buy them. The flex-fuel Dodge Ram pickups (Ram was still part of Dodge back then) had “Runs on Corn!” written in broad strokes across the windshield while they baked in the Napleton Northlake Dodge parking lot.

It was a wild time, for sure, but it was the first real shake to the ever-growing US car market that many of us had lived through, and it was very much the dawn of the EV startup. There was Tesla, there was Fisker, there was Aptera, heck, there was even Paul Elio and his goofy tadpole thing. Everyone was pushing for 40 MPG or 50 MPG cars, hybrids were in the limelight, and nobody back then really knew if it would be biofuels or hydrogen or battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) that would win the day.

Now, as I type this, it’s obvious that BEVs won. It wasn’t so much that BEVs won, though. It was Tesla that won, and every other carmaker has been forced to participate in the electric future that Tesla created. And, to their credit, just about every one of them — with a few notable holdouts, like Toyota and Mazda — have jumped into the BEV race with both feet, committing to a majority electric future by 2030, if not a fully electric one … and the environmentalists are pushing this as a huge win.

The EV Future Is Not An Environmentalist Victory

No to Climate Death! Used under CC License.

Read that heading again, carefully. This isn’t an article that’s claiming EVs are worse for the environment than internal combustion (those articles are complete and utter bullshit, anyway). What this is is an article that hopes to explain that Tesla — and, by extension, all EVs — didn’t win because they are better for the environment. The EVs won because they are better cars.

That’s it. That’s the reason. Electric cars are better cars. Electric cars are succeeding as a product, in other words, not as an ideology.

It’s not the planet. It’s a sad fact, but almost no one cares about the planet. Even in a liberal Utopia like Portland, Oregon, headlines about record heat waves hover over pictures of JetSkis leaping over the waves and scantily-clad women on motor yachts enjoying mojitos. Hardly the picture of doom and gloom that you’d expect from a burning planet facing record heat waves, record droughts, and a global pandemic that’s still churning out thousands of newly-stuffed body bags every day, you know?

You know.

The Consultants Get Paid

Screencap from Breaking Bad.

The success of Tesla has given the internal-combustion stakeholders a bloody nose, and the environmentalists and activists — even the most well-meaning among them — have done everything they can to draw attention to that fact. As such, the sharkiest sharks have had no choice but to smell the blood in the water, and find a way to cash in. Who are they? Consultants.

While the environmental activists are working hard to change the way that people think about cars with talk about “average commutes” and “savings calculators” and “cradle to grave emissions” and “educating the public about the benefits of EVs” to anyone who will listen, the consultants have found someone who is not just willing to listen, but who is willing to reach into some very, very deep pockets when they’re done listening. That someone is the utility companies.

Utility companies, almost without exception, have millions of captive customers who must pay them every month or risk their health, their jobs, or more. That also means they have millions of dollars to play with. Combine that huge budget with pressure from policy makers and those very same, well-meaning environmentalists, and you end up with a large company that has a large PR incentive to spend large amounts of money on large projects — projects like getting people to buy more EVs! (Maybe even large ones!)

The first problem is that even the most well-meaning and sincere among the policy makers and activists typically have no idea how the car business works. Like, none. Not even a little bit. They don’t know about floorplans or co-ops or CSI scores or allocations — and they certainly, as a group, have no idea how those things can conspire against a dealer or salesperson who might very much want to sell you an electric car, but who literally cannot, through no fault of their own.

The second problem is that very few people at the utility companies understand how the car business works, either, but they at least know enough to know that they don’t know enough, and that’s where the consultants swoop in and convince the utilities that it’s their job — no, their mission — to convince people to buy electric cars.

To aid in that mission, the consultants have created a cottage industry of certificate programs, expensive training seminars, and online buyers’ guides that are terrible at convincing people to choose a perfectly reasonable EV instead of a loud and emotional Hemi-powered monster, terrible at their stated mission of helping dealers to sell cars, and terrible at showing people how an electric car can fit into the lives, today, but that are very good at convincing utility companies to transfer money from their bank accounts to the consultant’s.

They got it wrong, and that was the elephant in the room right now that everyone was afraid to talk about at that “big” EV web conference took part in last month. The environmentalists and activists who wanted the utility companies and policy-makers to engage in conversations with John Q. Public about “wheel to well emissions” and change the way people make decisions about cars got it 100% wrong. EVs aren’t succeeding because people are changing the way they think, they’re succeeding because they’re meeting new car buyers where they’re at today with body styles, performance figures, and capabilities that are more in line with what mainstream Americans are already buying, which also includes easily knowing how and where to fill up. The EV evangelists got it wrong, and the consultants took advantage of their political clout in order to siphon money out of the utilities. Full stop.

TL;DR: environmentalists and activists lobbied utility companies to become more visibly “green,” and the consultants took advantage of that by convincing the utility companies that it’s their job to sell cars, when it’s actually their job to sell electricity.

Selling Electric Fuel

Image courtesy Western Electric Co., circa 1915.

Utility companies sell electricity, plain and simple. But, they’ve had such a captive market and such a strong natural monopoly on their primary product that almost no one involved in a utility company’s day-to-day even thinks about selling electricity.

Want to see someone flounder? Ask someone at a utility company why you should buy electricity from them.

It seems like an asinine question, doesn’t it? A given, even, that you must buy electricity — but that wasn’t always the case. At the turn of the last century, though, it was a legitimate question. My own home outside of Chicago still has gas fixtures in it, for gas lights. There are pictures of lamplighters on the streets right outside, and the reason those gas lamps aren’t lit tonight is that, once upon a time, someone sold electricity to the people of this neighborhood.

Electricity is a superior product, and it succeeded because it was cleaner than gas and oil, sure, but I’d weigh that at about 10% of the reason why. The reasons that weighed heavier were many. The electric lights burned brighter, the smell of burning fuel oil was gone, the hassle of refilling oil lamps was eliminated, there was no smoke to stain the walls or ceilings, either.

That was it. That was the reason: electric fuel was better fuel. It succeeded as a product and not an ideology.

Image courtesy Chicago Edison Co.

Fast forward a hundred-odd years, and electric fuel is still better fuel. The electricity pushes cars to highway speeds faster than gasoline can, that gasoline smell that sticks to your hands is gone, the hassle of pumping gas into the car every few days is eliminated by at-home charging, and there are no harmful tailpipe emissions, either.

What’s more, electricity is cheap, it’s familiar, and it is absolutely everywhere. Sure, there may not be a 20 minutes-to-200 miles fast charger on every street corner (yet), but there very much is a power outlet that will, given time, charge your electric car, and every new electric car sold is a new car that needs electric fuel.

That’s it. That’s the difference. An electric car is just a regular car that you fill up with different stuff, and the utility companies, environmentalists — and every other stakeholder, come to think of it — would be better served by understanding that they’ll never “advance” or “accelerate” EV adoption by getting people to change the way they think about cars, but they may have a chance by getting people to change the way they think about the fuel that they’re putting in their cars.

Not dirty. Clean!
Not hard to find. Everywhere!
Not an expensive luxury. Affordable!
Not for hippies and tree-huggers. For everyone!
Not a sacrifice for a better tomorrow. Better for me, now!

Once the utility companies understand their role, they can start affecting real change, and let the dealers do what they know how to do best: sell cars that people want to buy to the people that want to buy them. And if that means that one or two of these opportunistic “consultants” has to find a different 9-5? So much the better.

Original content from CleanTechnica.

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Here are 5 vital things you need to know about heat pumps




Here are 5 vital things you need to know about heat pumps

Electrek spoke with Heidi Gehring, associate director, cooling product marketing at Carrier HVAC, about the five essential things to know about this energy-efficient, cost-effective way to heat and cool a home.

Electrek: What’s a heat pump and how does it work?

Heidi Gehring: A heat pump is often mistaken for an air conditioner at first glance. What makes it different from an air conditioner is that it can both heat and cool your home using electricity and refrigerant.

In cooler months, heat is pulled from the outdoor air and transferred indoors; in warmer months, the system pulls heat out of the indoor air. Heat pumps have both an indoor and outdoor component. Each unit contains a fan and coil that operates either as a condenser (in cooling mode) or an evaporator (in heating mode). The fan moves the air across the coil and throughout the ducts in the home.

Electrek: Do heat pumps save you money, and what kinds of cost savings can be expected?

Heidi Gehring: Because heat pumps are more energy efficient, they can save you money on your heating and cooling bills. Your savings will vary based on the model you select.

Heat pumps are rated by their Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF2) – which is a measure of a heat pump’s overall energy efficiency during the heating season – their Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER2), and their Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER2). The higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the system. 

Additionally, the US government’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 includes incentives for the installation of high-efficiency home heating and cooling products, including up to a $2,000 tax credit for high-efficiency heat pumps and up to 30% for geothermal heat pump systems placed in service between 2022 and 2032. Look into local and state programs, too, as many utilities and local governments offer heat pump rebates.

Electrek: Why is a heat pump better for the environment?

Heidi Gehring: Heat pumps rely on electricity rather than fossil fuels, making them a much greener choice. Improvements in technology in recent years also mean that heat pumps are more efficient than ever, requiring less electricity than older heaters, furnaces, and air conditioners.

Geothermal heat pumps are also available – they pull energy directly from the earth to heat or cool your home and can result in up to 70% savings on your energy bill.

Electrek: What features should you consider when comparing different models?

Heidi Gehring: Heat pumps vary in the number of stages or speeds they offer. Different speeds or stages can affect your comfort and the consistency of indoor temperature. Humidity plays a major role but is often overlooked. Two-stage and variable-speed offer better control because they operate for a longer period of time at lower speeds and use less energy. These pull more humidity out of the air than models with a single-stage compressor.

Variable-speed and two-stage models are generally quieter than single-stage models, and because they run longer, that means the air is run through the filter more, so it has less chance of becoming stagnant.

Electrek: When is the best time of year to install a heat pump?

Heidi Gehring: Usually in the spring or fall. During the coldest winter months and hottest summer months, demand for systems and technicians increases, so you may experience longer wait times and higher prices. Make sure you hire a professional. HVAC systems of any kind require expert knowledge for installation and are not a good DIY project.

If you’re switching from a traditional HVAC system to a heat pump, you may also need electrical upgrades. A professional HVAC installer can help you with that as well.

Read more: This award-winning apartment heat pump can fit under a kitchen sink

Photo: Carrier HVAC

Heidi Gehring is the associate director, cooling product marketing at Carrier HVAC. She joined Bryant in 2017 as the quality manager for warranty, data analytics, and field service technology. In 2019, she moved into product marketing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the University of Wisconsin Madison and an MBA from Purdue Global.

UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad

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Kia officially premieres EV9 SUV with 336-mile range, vehicle-to-grid capabilities, plus GT version




Kia officially premieres EV9 SUV with 336-mile range, vehicle-to-grid capabilities, plus GT version

As promised, following our first glimpse at official images last week, Kia has fully launched its long-anticipated EV9 SUV ahead of pre-orders next quarter. In addition to further details regarding some of the technology we’ve already seen in Kia’s first third-row EV, the automaker shared exciting news regarding sustainability, autonomy, over-the-air updates, and vehicle-to-grid capabilities.

Table of contents

Quick recap on Kia’s first three-row electric SUV

The Kia EV9 debuts as the second all-electric model donning the Korean automaker’s new “EV” series nomenclature. Like the EV6 crossover that proceeded it, the EV9 sits atop Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform, offering ultrafast charging speeds in addition to capabilities for vehicle-to-load (V2L) power and the potential for greater uses. (More on that below.)

We’ve been anticipating today’s official debut since Kia first teased the SUV concept in November 2021. That was soon followed by a working prototype last summer that closely resembled its originally dreamed design form. In mid-March, Kia shared the first full images of the EV9, inside and out, relaying some of the design elements reiterated during the recent presentation.

This includes the SUV’s unique digital spin on Kia’s signature “tiger face” front end, as well as multiple seating options in the cabin, including second-row swivel seats that turn 180 degrees. While that was certainly enough to briefly pique our interest, we were quickly anticipating the full EV9 debut from Korea, which was promised before the end of the month.

Following the full presentation from Kia (you can view that for yourself below), we have learned a ton more about this all-electric SUV, and there’s a lot for future customers to get excited about.

Credit: Kia

Kia EV9 SUV specs and key features

All right, let’s dig right in because there’s a lot to unfold here. The Kia EV9 SUV will come available in two different battery size options – a 76.1 kWh pack in the Standard RWD option or a Long Range 99.8 kWh battery available in both RWD and AWD configurations.

When asked, the Kia team confirmed that both the Standard and Long Range variants of the RWD EV9 will be sold in North America. The automaker is not sharing detailed performance specs for each trim level just yet, but it did share a few:

  • RWD Long Range
    • One single 150 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 9.4 seconds
  • RWD Standard Range
    • One single 160 kW (350 Nm) electric motor
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 8.2 seconds
  • AWD variant
    • Two electric motors that combine for 282 kW (600 Nm torque)
    • Estimated 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) acceleration in 6 seconds

Right now, Kia is estimating its Long Range RWD version of the EV9 will be able to deliver 541 km (336 miles) of range on a single charge. Since its estimates were calculated using the more generous WLTP standard, we’d expect the official EPA estimated range to land between 300-310 miles.

Kia also said it will eventually introduce a “Boost” option that will increase the torque of the AWD SUV’s front motor to a total of 700 Nm. That add-on will be available for purchase at a later date using a new tool debuting on the EV9 – the Kia Connect Store.

According to Kia, the Connect store will enable future drivers to purchase digital features and other services at their leisure, all installed over the air without any need for a dealership visit. When asked by the media during the debut presentation, Kia shared that the Connect Store will offer features as either a one-time purchase or subscription option.

Vehicle-to-… everything!

One of the huge selling points of EVs built upon Hyundai Motor Group’s 800V E-GMP platform is the charging performance it can deliver. The super fast charge rates of the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and Kia EV6 have already gone over really well with consumers and should be no different when the EV9 SUV arrives.

Kia states that the 800V platform will be able to garner an estimated 239 km (approximately 149 miles) of range in just 15 minutes of DC fast charging, which could be perfect for future road trips in the family-sized electric SUV.

Another huge perk enabled by the E-GMP platform is its Integrated Charging Control Unit (ICCU), allowing for the discharging of energy from the EV’s battery to power other devices. This is better known as vehicle-to-load, or V2L. Kia states the EV9 will be able to deliver 3.68 kW of power to other devices, whether it’s a laptop, mini fridge, or charging another EV.

We’ve explored the function ourselves with the Hyundai IONIQ 5 and IONIQ 6, but Kia is taking things a step further in the EV9 with another first. Kia’s all-electric SUV will come equipped with the technology to support vehicle-to-home (V2H), allowing future owners to use the EV9 has a backup power source during emergencies or power outages.

Furthermore, Kia said its EV9 customers will eventually be able to add a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) function in the future, allowing them to actually supply surplus energy back to their local energy grid for profit. There will be a lot of red tape to cut through to get this feature implemented, but if successful, it could be an absolute game changer.

Kia debuts a GT-Line, but what about a performance GT?

During its recent presentation, Kia also introduced a new GT-line that will emerge in select markets later this year. Per Kia:

In addition to the standard model, Kia has unveiled the GT-Line model design, which features a unique aesthetic that distinguishes it from the standard model. The front and rear bumpers, wheels, and roof rack have undergone a transformation, donning a distinctive black color palette that exudes a strong and assertive presence, setting it apart from its standard counterpart. Notably, the GT-Line features an exclusive digital pattern lighting grill that adds an element of dynamism and sophistication to its already impressive design. 

All that said, this trim variant is aesthetic in nature and should not be confused with a performance GT version of the SUV, similar to what Kia did with the aforementioned EV6. That would be sweet, though, wouldn’t it?

Well, to our surprise, Kia president and CEO Ho-Sung Song said the automaker is, in fact, in the process of developing an EV9 performance GT SUV, stating further that it will “redefine what performance means to an EV.” Exciting news, but Song followed by saying we won’t see that version until early 2025.

ADAS and sustainability get a chance to shine in the EV9

For years now, Kia has been one of the global automakers truly embracing electrification and striving toward true carbon neutrality throughout its business by 2045, but during the EV9 SUV presentation, we learned it is again pushing the boundaries of sustainable styling.

The EV9 will be the first Kia model to showcase the automaker’s three-step Design Sustainability Strategy, which includes the phasing out of leathers, increasing the use of bio-based materials, and applying 10 “must-have” sustainable items to every model, from its standard trim all the way to the top tier option. Here are some examples present in Kia’s electric SUV:

  • Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET)
  • Recycled suede and recycled thermoplastic olefin (TPO) in the dashboard, door, and pillar trim
  • Recycled fishing nets used in the floor carpets
  • BIO PU (Bio-Polyurethane), derived from corn and eucalyptus, is used to replace leather and PVC

In terms of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Kia is striving toward reaching SAE Level 3 autonomy, and the EV9 will arrive with the necessary components to eventually allow for hands-free driving under certain driving conditions as the SUV follows the car in front of it while maintaining a safe distance.

Its current iteration will feature remote smart parking assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, blind spot detection, lane-keeping assist, and smart cruise control. Highway driving assist 2 allows for lane changes and uses hands-on detection to confirm its driver’s attention.

Lastly, Digital Key 2 will allow future EV9 owners to open and start their car using just their smartphone – another first for Kia.


Kia EV9 pricing and availability

All right, let’s start with pricing. There is none, sorry. According to Kia, its team is “monitoring several factors to determine optimal pricing for its customers.” We’re not sure where it will land, but this SUV is very likely going to be Kia’s most expensive model to date.

The first versions will be produced in Korea, but Kia intends to share global production plans for the EV9 in the near future. Pre-orders for the electric SUV will begin in Korea in Q2 2023, followed by other global markets in the second half of this year, including Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.

We are sure to learn more as we approach pre-orders in Korea and will at least be able to ballpark where pricing and performance specs may land for the North American market. In the meantime, check out the full EV9 SUV world premiere from Kia below.

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Meet Hawaii’s first solar and wind-powered electric catamaran charter




Meet Hawaii’s first solar and wind-powered electric catamaran charter

Kohala Blue, a boat tour operator in Kawaihae on the Big Island of Hawaii, has introduced what it calls the first renewable electric catamaran charter in Hawaii. The Dolce Vita is powered by an electric propulsion system that is charged by solar panels, wind turbines, and propeller regeneration.

Kohala Blue’s solar and wind-powered electric catamaran

When Kohala Blue’s 34-foot Gemini sailing charter broke down last year with a damaged diesel engine, the company was caught in a tight spot with few options.

Rather than trying to replace the parts, which would have been really costly, Kohala Blue’s owner, Shaun Barnes, made the decision to go electric.

Kohala Blue issued a news release last week, stating, “The company recently upgraded its 34-foot Gemini sailing catamaran with two electric propulsion motors, powered with sun and wind, that run silently and peacefully while underway.” The press release added:

What this means for passengers is a sailing experience like no other in the islands: no engine noise, vibration, air or water pollution and no fumes associated with gas or diesel power. Guests are confident their choice to snorkel, sail and observe marine life from the spacious decks of the Dolce Vita is the best for the marine environment.

The company says the conversion has completely transformed the experience for guests, creating a nearly silent, peaceful ride while minimizing the impact on marine animals.

In particular, electric propulsion has much less impact on whales than loud gas engines because they rely on ultrasonic hearing to navigate and find food.

Kohala Blue Instagram

The 34-foot Gemini 105MC sailing catamaran is Hawaii’s first renewable electric charter, according to Kohala Blue. Solar panels fitted on the dodger combined with wind turbines and propeller regeneration allow for a completely renewable energy-powered eco-friendly experience.

Barnes says she has noticed clear benefits from the electric conversion, telling West Hawaii Today:

The best part of it is the peace and quiet. When we’re moving, people can’t even tell whether we’re under motor or under sail. We have a hydrophone — an underwater microphone — and you can hear other boats coming from very far away.

She added that although the electric sailboat has roughly 19.8 hp, less than the 27 hp with the diesel engine, the electric engine’s instant torque offsets the speed reduction with a max speed under motor of about 6.5 knots.

Kohala Blue offers private charters for up to six guests with morning, afternoon, and sunset sails. You can book tours on the company’s website.

Electrek’s Take

Kohala Blue is paving the way for an eco-friendly sailing experience with its new solar- and wind-powered electric-powered catamaran.

Nobody wants to travel on the water with a loud diesel engine blocking out all the sounds and smells of nature and, more importantly, destroying the environment and its inhabitants.

The company may need to start another business in converting sailboats to solar, wind, and electric power because these could revolutionize the charter industry while saving the oceans and the creatures living in them.

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