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New Semiconductor Could Improve Vehicle Fuel Economy By 10 Percent

spage Jevons Paradox does not apply (119 comments)

A 150-year old observation about markets and business production does not apply to individuals spending money to reduce consumption. Sure, a few people who overspend to get a more fuel-efficient car will maintain their gasoline budget and take extra trips in it, but far more will take the money saved on fuel and spend it on other things. Sure, those things have their own energy costs, but a fancy Apple gizmo has far less embodied energy than the gasoline the owner saved. Besides, those wacky environmentalists spending $$$ to consume less energy are likely to spend some of the money saved on additional energy-saving measures.

Read the Wikipedia article more carefully, there are so many caveats and non-linearities that it really is a weak argument even before you consider individual consumers' motivations.

about 4 months ago

Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don't Buy Our Electric Car

spage Re:Fixed costs & whining (462 comments)

See my post elsewhere. Nissan probably invested 20x more in Leaf production than Fiat did in the 500e, so Nissan enjoys economy of scale. They claimed the Leaf is profitable in November 2013.

about 4 months ago

Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don't Buy Our Electric Car

spage Re:That much for an Italian car? (462 comments)

A Maserati Ghibli costs $66,900. The Fiat 500e is $24,800 if you quality for the full federal income tax credit of $7500, and even less with other incentives. Instructing strangers how to spend their money is not a good strategy, comrade.

about 4 months ago

Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don't Buy Our Electric Car

spage Re:Same strategy back in '94 (462 comments)

Good summary except for this part

Toyota had a similar mindset as GM, but couldn't compete on ZEVs

No one tried to compete on EVs. GM spent money on the amazing EV1 but was never serious about promoting it and simultaneously lobbied to kill the ZEV mandate. Meanwhile the original Toyota RAV4 EV was a fine car and some happy pioneer owners are still running theirs because Toyota sold 300 of them instead of leasing, almost by accident.

about 4 months ago

Fiat Chrysler CEO: Please Don't Buy Our Electric Car

spage either go big or cry about expensive low-volume (462 comments)

Given the state of the art in electric vehicles I really don't see an electric vehicle being significantly profitable at less than $50,000 right now. There simply aren't enough of them out there to drive the unit costs down. I expect that number to fall over time but it will require investment by companies

Facts congruent with your last sentence disprove your first sentence. The Nissan Leaf sells around $29,000 (thus $22K if you get the EV tax credit) and in November 2013 Nissan claimed it is profitable. The difference between the Leaf and compliance cars like the Fiat 500e (and the Ford Focus EV, GM Spark EV, Honda Fit EV, Smart ED, Toyota RAV4 EV, etc., etc., etc.) is that Nissan has invested hundreds of millions in the Leaf, building its own battery plants near the production sites in USA, Europe, and Japan. Result: there were "34,000 Leafs on US roads today and 75,000 worldwide", and thousands more since then.

Maybe Fiat and all the other compliance car makers thought their component suppliers would magically sell them cheap battery packs, motors, inverters, on-board chargers, etc. That may come with standardization and aggregate volume, but Tesla and Nissan (and maybe BMW with its big investment in the i3 brand) have shown that to drive costs down, you make it yourself in volume and/or order tens of thousands of parts. Car companies grudgingly building 2,000 compliance cars over 3 years can STFU about costs.

and maybe some government subsidies here and there.

The tax credit for buying an EV is enough.

about 4 months ago

Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

spage or pay your customers who have excess capacity (504 comments)

Power grids must always have excess capacity available or risk going down and most industrial sized power plants take hours to throttle up while usually providing very little storage capacity. ... we may be able to someday store electrical power and smooth out the uncertainly.
There's a fix for that: all the electrical energy stored in electric vehicle batteries. Hence the dozens of studies and pilot programs of Vehicle 2 Grid systems where the utility can work with its customers to meet peak demand. And just like rooftop solar, the customer is spending the $1000s per kWh capital costs, not the utility!

But just like rooftop solar, when it comes to a utility actually paying its customers instead of billing them... Does. Not. Compute. <Utility looks around wildly for government people to influence so it can raise rates>

about 5 months ago

Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

spage regulating in their favor, allergic to paying (504 comments)

Electric Utilities are heavily regulated. I am not sure about Oklahoma, but in many states the rate that utilities can charge is tied back to the cost of electric production
Sure, and the battles over the rates that utilities pay for customer-generated electricity are raging right now.

Since electric production tends to be capital intensive
But in this case the utility customers are putting up the money!! I blew $19,000 on solar panels, my utility got a new source of electrons for no money down! I'm taking on the risk for them!

Feeding electricity back into the grid is not a free lunch for the utilities – there are costs involved.
Well the utilities say that, but it's mostly fear-mongering. The wires they built to send electricity to my house will happily carry electricity in the other direction. And again, compared to building a new fossil fuel plant buying my excess instead of fueling a plant is easy money for the utilities.

(and I am sure that electric utilities will whine loudly in an exaggerated fashion as they fight a rearguard action.)
That's what this is all about. Most states have net metering: if the utility sells to me at 15/kWh , I can sell my excess to them at the same rate. It's currently a win for the utilities because they're getting electrons in the hot summer with minimal capital cost, but they're throwing up roadblocks and raising rates now in fear of a future where a significant percentage of their customers are selling to them. In a fair system they would pay me what they would pay to run a plant at that moment, less a transmission fee and plus a bonus that my electrons are low CO2. this month's Sierra Magazine lists state-by-state efforts to fight net metering, refuse to hook up new solar installations, etc. South Carolina sounds worse than Oklahoma, there "initial determination that rooftop-solar leases should be banned as unfair competition to the utility industry."

In a sane approach to limiting global warming, there would be taxes on fossil-generated electricity or (less ideally) carbon emissions trading, and the utilities would be trying to figure out how to decrease those costs. Well hey look, our customers are putting up their own capital to solve the problem for us!

It's a similar situation with V2G (Vehicle 2 Grid) to cope with demand spikes and brown-outs. Electrical vehicle owners could be a huge instantaneous reserve of electrons to avoid, without the capital and operational costs of having dirty peaker plants on standby. There have been dozens of studies of this, but again the electric utilities are allergic to the idea of paying their customers. Most owners would be willing to let the utility drain 20% of their battery, but not if they get nothing in return.

I naively hoped that the electric utilities would be happy about distributed renewable power generation and would evolve to work with customers who are also suppliers to their mutual benefit. But it turns out they're wedded to the idea of burning fossil fuels to make electricity to sell to us, and many are in bed with the fucking Koch brothers. But soon they'll need electrons more than people with renewables need them: "SolarCity is partnering with electric car company Tesla ... to store solar energy in battery packs for use at night, with a connection to the grid solely for backup."

about 5 months ago

JavaScript Inventor Brendan Eich Named New CEO of Mozilla

spage Here's what a real "string of short-tenured CEOs" (112 comments)

  * Marissa Mayer (2012–)
  * Ross Levinsohn _Interim_ (2012)
  * Scott Thompson (2012)
  * Tim Morse _Interim_ (2011–2012)
  * Carol Bartz (2009–2011)
  * Jerry Yang (2007–2009)

about 6 months ago

JavaScript Inventor Brendan Eich Named New CEO of Mozilla

spage exaggeration (112 comments)

after a string of recent short-tenured CEOs at Mozilla's helm.
Kovacs became CEO in 2010, and announced his departure in 2013, I think 7-year veteran Jay Sullivan has been acting CEO since then. Before that John Lilly was CEO for 2 years, taking over from Mitchell Baker who remains as Chairman. Two short-term CEOs in a row makes a pair, not a string.

People who don't like Firefox's six-week release cadence can quit bitching and run the Firefox Extended Support Release.

about 6 months ago

Toyota Announces Plans For Fuel Cell Car By 2015

spage feasible but zero demand (115 comments)

All the comments about H2 efficiency and explosive risk completely miss the point. Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles have been feasible for years, there have been a few Honda Clarity and Mercedes B-Class FCVs driving round Southern California (which has the ONLY public refueling stations in the entire USA) for several years.

The problem is demand. If you care about the environment you plug in for your regular commute. You can can already buy a plug-in hybrid for half the price and lower running costs than these 2015 cars. As Volt owners gleefully report, most drivers travel for hundreds of miles recharging at home, but for long trips the car has the quick refueling of gasoline that's available everywhere.

There's a market of people who don't want any tailpipe emissions and can't plug in and regularly drive long distances and live near the handful of H2 stations and are willing to spend a lot of money on a new technology, but it's vanishingly small!

Eventually fossil fuels could be so expensive or restricted that H2 will be the range-extender we use for our plug-in vehicles, if ethanol from biomass doesn't work out. But that's a long way away. Meanwhile Toyota and Hyundai are very cagey about whether you can plug in their HFCVs; it seems the answer is No. Their cars have a battery and motor so plugging in is the cheapest way to drive the first few miles, and I think soon consumers will reject a motor-driven car that you can't plug in. The comparative reviews of the first HFCVs against 2015's plug-in hybrid cars will be brutal, and there will be dozens of "gotcha" pieces, wherein the brave reporter drives out of Southern California and gets stranded.

about 10 months ago

Toyota Announces Plans For Fuel Cell Car By 2015

spage hydrogen combustion is dead (115 comments)

The hydrogen combustion car is dead, dead. It combines the chicken-and-egg problems of hydrogen fuel distribution with all the inefficiency of blowing stuff up to make heat and a little forward motion. At least fuel cells are efficient.

The BMW 7 series and Mazda rotary hydrogen ICE demo cars came out years ago. Nothing serious since. Periodically some lame manufacturer without access to fuel cells or batteries converts an engine to burn hydrogen, but it's a stunt that goes nowhere.

about 10 months ago

Mind Control In Virtual Reality, Circa 2013

spage yup, not Gibson, but he came close (35 comments)

The summary seems to imply that Gibson made the Matrix. No it doesn't, there's an "or" in there.

However, William Gibson never envisioned mind control in Virtual Reality either. You jacked in to cyberspace, a consensual hallucination of a graphic representation of data (which never took off, there's no "representation" of the net at all when you jump from Slashdot to YouTube), but Gibson explicitly had his hackers typing commands while jacked in: "distant fingers caressing the deck", "whip moves on those keyboards faster than you could follow", etc.

Gibson's Neuromancer follow-up Count Zero is stuffed with profoundly prescient ideas like fully-immersive telepresence and one of the first descriptions of hanging out with people's avatars in cyberspace, but the closest he comes to a "brain-computer interface" is slotting in a piece of microsoft behind your ear which gives you the knowledge to fly a real plane in physical reality. Similarly, in Spads & Fokkers (his short story with Michael Swanwick) players use a brain interface to control a holographic plane in a videogame: "He fitted the Batang behind his ear after coating the inductor surface with paste, jacked its fiberoptic ribbon into the programmer, ... when it was done, a sky-blue Spad darted restlessly through the air a few inches from his face. It almost glowed, it was so real. It had the strange inner life that fanatically detailed museum-grade models often have, but it took all of his concentration to keep it in existence. If his attention wavered at all, it lost focus, fuzzing into a pathetic blur."

In another comment undefinedreference says You could play a video game or work in a virtual environment while your body is essentially at the gym. Gibson foresaw that too, but “The street finds its own uses for things,” and so Rikki in Burning Chrome is "working three-hour shifts in an approximation of REM sleep, while her body and a bundle of conditioned reflexes took care of business. The customers never got to complain that she was faking it, because those were real orgasms. But she felt them, if she felt them at all, as faint silver flares somewhere out on the edge of sleep."

Gibson's ideas are masterful poetic riffs on the future, but they aren't its operating manual.

about 10 months ago

JavaScript-Based OpenRISC Emulator Can Run Linux, GCC, Wayland

spage Re:Just Stop. Please. It's Time to Stop. (89 comments)

Oh STFU. If you come out with a neat piece of software that runs in a browser, you can post a link to it (like this one) and millions of people can run it in a single click because it's so damn easy. If your software is written in anything else but JavaScript, people have to screw around downloading runtimes and saving and executing binaries, and at best 5% as many people will bother trying it. Sure, an app store simplifies that, but now you have to build multiple app versions, iOS, Android, and whatever the hell Windows uses, and you've still left millions of potential users out.

It's the universal availability of JavaScript and zero-install that you get by running it in a web browser that drives the innovation and interest in it, and there's no sign of it stopping. Go build an OpenRISC emulator in C that's far better in every way than this, post a link to the installer, and watch your effort get ignored.

about a year ago

A Peek At Apple's Planned $5B HQ

spage Re:Looks just like Spy Central UK (GCHQ) (257 comments)

GCHQ designed by Gensler is 1.1M square feet for 4,600 staff. Apple is 2.8M square feet for 14,200.

Foster and Partners are a fantastic firm, their buildings are reliably masterpieces of design and engineering, and Sir Norman is arguably the greatest living architect, but they don't come cheap. The insanely great HSBC building was the most expensive building in the world in 1985.

about a year ago

Cadillac Unveils Pricier Alternative To Tesla Model S

spage NOT a rebadge, not like the Cimarron (196 comments)

As Anonymous Coward points out elsewhere, sharing a powertrain is NOT a rebadge. The ELR looks nothing like the Volt, therefore it is not a rebadge.

about a year ago

Cadillac Unveils Pricier Alternative To Tesla Model S

spage The point of a "demand" paddle (196 comments)

Well, what should happen when you lift off the accelerator? In a conventional car, the engine brakes the car, and engine braking increases in lower gears. So GM has reused the concept to adjust the amount of brake regen when you lift off. Other electrified cars coast, or apply a set amount of regen. I don't know what VW's new plug-in hybrids, with a conventional dual-clutch transmission, do.

Tesla hooks brake regen up to the accelerator pedal, so as you lift off more more brake regen increases, turning it into an accelerator/decelerator control. One-footed driving sounds like a blast.

about a year ago

Cadillac Unveils Pricier Alternative To Tesla Model S

spage ultracaps aren't happening (196 comments)

You made sense until your last word. Ultra-capacitors aren't happening. As batteries steadily get cheaper, you can use a bigger battery. A bigger battery can handle more power, so it can cope with more braking regen and recharge faster (and deliver more horsepower); and it's not cycled as much as a smaller battery, so it lasts longer. That reduces the fast-charge and longevity benefits of ultracaps, which are still far more expensive and heavier than a lithium-ion battery of the energy. Ionova claims 10 Wh/kg for their ultracaps while li-on is over 100 Wh/kg. In theory you can recharge an ultracap in seconds, but the future fast charger to recharge a Model S battery in a minute has to deliver 7000 amps at 500V instead of ~240 amps, so it's going to cost a fortune.

Ultracaps still have a chance in hybrids, the Prius only has a 1.3 kWh battery. Only price keeps ultracaps from replacing that battery. But again, as batteries get cheaper, more people will expect to be able to plug in.

about a year ago

LucasFilm Combines Video Games and Movies To Eliminate Post-Production

spage movies as raw material, as William Gibson foretold (79 comments)

Others have commented how this will lead to dumbed-down movies with videogame features and Mario/Angry Birds franchise tie-ins, such as

Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball models, in swimsuits, in all the future movies!

... all with the face and voice of Jar Jar Binks ...

But this would actually be fantastic if if the movie watcher got to control the remix. There are cut-scenes in Red Dead Redemption that are rival anything in a movie (Marston's last encounter with Bonnie, so polite, so suffused with longing!) and then you can enter the world as one of the characters. Why limit your favorite characters to one setting, legal threats from George Lucas notwithstanding?

In a marvelous talk 10 years ago to the Director's Guild of America (read it!), William Gibson explores the long past of movie-making as storytelling, and predicts the future of it.

Any linear narrative film, for instance, can serve as the armature for what we would think of as a virtual reality, but which Johnny X, eight-year-old end-point consumer, up the line, thinks of as how he looks at stuff. If he discovers, say, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, he might idly pause to allow his avatar a freestyle Hong Kong kick-fest with the German guards in the prison camp. Just because he can. Because he’s always been able to. He doesn’t think about these things. He probably doesn’t fully understand that that hasn’t always been possible. He doesn’t know that you weren’t always able to explore the sets virtually, see them from any angle, or that you couldn’t open doors and enter rooms that never actually appeared in the original film.

Or maybe, if his attention span wavers, he’ll opt to experience the film as if shot from the POV of that baseball that McQueen keeps tossing.

Somewhere in the countless preferences in Johnny’s system there’s one that puts high-rez, highly expressive dog-heads on all of the characters. He doesn’t know that this setting is based on a once-popular Edwardian folk-motif of poker-playing dogs, but that’s okay; he’s not a history professor, and if he needed to know, the system would tell him. You get complete breed-selection, too, with the dog-head setting, but that was all something he enjoyed more when he was still a little kid.

But later in the afternoon he’s run across something called The Hours, and he’s not much into it at all, but then he wonders how these women would look if he put the dog-heads on them. And actually it’s pretty good, then, with the dog-heads on, so then he opts for the freestyle Hong Kong kick-fest ...

Because I see Johnny falling asleep now in his darkened bedroom, and atop the heirloom Ikea bureau, the one that belonged to his grandmother, which his mother has recently had restored, there is a freshly-extruded resin action-figure, another instantaneous product of Johnny’s entertainment system.

It is a woman, posed balletically, as if in flight on John Wu wires.

It is Meryl Streep, as she appears in The Hours.

She has the head of a chihuahua.

about a year ago

LucasFilm Combines Video Games and Movies To Eliminate Post-Production

spage the Pre-viz becomes the movie (79 comments)

What you said, definitely. DVD extras (the best part of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) show preproduction steadily evolving. Nearly all movies are story-boarded before production, and animation houses have always made animatics showing the key frames and shifts of the camera. Nowadays effects-heavy movie scenes are pre-visualized on a computer: someone builds a 3-D world for the scene, puts some 3-D character models in it, animates the models, and then moves a virtual camera around to create a computer animation of the sequence of shots. The result is a clunky computer videogame cut-scene version of the sequence.

Which raises the interesting prospect that as computer graphics continue to improve, film makers will stop at the pre-visualization and declare victory. Why make a movie at all when it already exists? Five years ago after watching the "making of" featurette for the effects-heavy movie Hancock I wrote

You see Charlize Theron watching the pre-viz on a Mac notebook, watching her 3-D character to learn what she's supposed to do in the shot! ... The cameramen, the actors, even the director, all watch a movie that already exists that dictates what they need to do.

So record the actors at the table reading of the script, lip-sync the existing character models with their voices, and you have the movie. Perhaps if the real-world actors can do a better job emoting than the pre-viz animators (a big "if" for some actors!), film them and composite into the existing movie.

about a year ago

Engineers Aim To Make Cleaner-Burning Cookstoves For Developing World

spage research area for decades, solar anyone? (147 comments)

Bloody university PR departments presenting every research project as if it's some Eureka moment.

"For over a decade, cookstove experts and enthusiasts have gathered at Aprovecho [Research Center]". In 2009 The New Yorker had a long article about stove enthusiasts designing better stoves, what's changed since then? The Chinese are already cranking out Rocket stoves in volume; other commenters have linked to, Biolite, etc.. The problem isn't engineering, it's economics and cultural.

Meanwhile, any stove still requires spending hours collecting firewood, contributing to deforestation and CO2 emissions. As an adjunct people can put food in a black pot in an insulated container heated by a cheap solar reflector. But now you've got two $20 purchases per family, one of which only works part of the time. Meanwhile the U.N. spends millions trucking fuel into refugee camps. Again, the problems are NOT engineering ones.

1 year,2 days


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