Stuff From Darell on the Subject of EVs

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1. My May 17, 2003 letter to CARB Chairman Lloyd can be found at the top of this page.

2. My Jan, 2004 response to Car and Driver's Pat Bedard's article Forget Electric Cars follows. << My response will make much more sense if you follow the link and read the article first.

The buyers may have spoken, but they were asked the wrong question.

Mr. Bedard:

Let me begin by correcting the final statement of your January 2004 Article: The buyers have spoken: Forget electric cars: Battery electric cars are simply not going to happen for a very sensible reason: Customers are repeatedly told that they don’t want them.”  (bold mine)

Your article concludes that customers do not want Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) because so few have been sold even after the automakers seemingly spent billions of dollars trying to create a market for them. I propose that customers are not buying BEVs because the general car-buying population has been shielded from the benefits of BEVs, while being simultaneously bombarded with the message of your article: Buyers don’t want BEVs! Since BEVs have not been marketed as a positive commodity, it is clear to me that customers have not yet had the chance to know that they want them.

I am intimately familiar with EV marketing, as I have both leased and purchased a “production” BEV. I currently own a Rav4EV. I can confidently tell you that the conclusions you draw in your article are flawed. Following are some EV marketing experiences from one of the “real customers [who] put down [his] own cash.” In your own words, I am somebody “you’d better listen [to]”:

You say that “real customers” like me who put down their own cash for a BEV should be listened to. Yet you also call us "knee jerk enviros" and “Sierra Clubbers” implying that what we say is not relevant to the general population of unbiased thinkers. In the end, you found it more important to listen to the automakers’ negative public relations messages instead of to the real experiences of the buyers.

No conclusions of market size or demand can be made accurately until a BEV is effectively marketed. That has yet to happen.

Darell Dickey

3. In March of 2004 I began to wonder why the city of Santa Rosa (a city that prides itself on having a city vehicle fleet that is 10% alt-fuel vehicles) has little, if any public charging areas. The city has several chargers that are not available to the public. At the prompting of other Santa Rosa EV drivers, I wrote to the mayor's staff, and this is the response I received:

Mr. Dickey -

Your question to Council member Bender regards the availability of a "public" electric vehicle charging station has been forwarded to me.

Freeman Toyota, here in Santa Rosa, in the past, has provided access to the public for a battery re-charge for Toyota's electrics. As you perhaps know the auto manufacturers have not standardized the recharge receptacles for their different electric vehicles. Consequently depending on what electric vehicle manufacturer the public chooses the recharge stations don't always "fit" their particular model.

Unfortunately we have learned today that Freeman Toyota is no longer allowing public access to their recharger. I will do my best to encourage them to re-open public access as they did sell electrics when they were available. However, as a private business they have no mandate to provide public access. The City is working with a private business in our Downtown to submit a grant application for a public access charger, as they have agreed to pay for the energy. Unfortunately the grant application missed the most recent funding round deadline and will have to be resubmitted assuming the BAAQD offers funding in the future.

It is my understanding that personal portable "rechargers" are available that you could carry in your vehicle and "recharge" at you friends house while you visiting. The Toyota home page may help direct you to the availability of these devices.

In an emergency, the City does have a re-charger for City Fleet electric vehicles, that we can arrange with some advance notice, private vehicle recharges. The City is very proud of our efforts to date as we have nearly 10% of our nearly 1,000 vehicle fleet operating on clean burning alternate fuels.

As perhaps you know the State of California has recently de-emphasized the pure electric vehicle and now recommends hybrids as they seem to have none of the range restrictions and considering the fossil fuel electric generation emissions might also be a "cleaner emission choice" than pure electrics. That coupled with massive property tax shift away from Cities by the State, coupled with the States own huge budget deficits does not currently permit us to propose City funding. We are in fact currently considering lay offs as one possible repercussion of the State's reduction of our revenues.

I hope this answers your questions, please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions.

Charlie Lachman
Deputy Director F.S.P.W.
City of Santa Rosa

I was then compelled to reply with this letter to correct the many errors in "knowledge" that Santa Rosa's decision makers seem to have.

Mr. Charlie Lachman -

Thank you for your response to my message. While I do not have many more questions, I would like to clarify a few points regarding EVs and charging infrastructure.

I am steeped in the country's EV community, and am aware of the charge compatibility issues. The auto makers have, in fact, standardized on a charge receptacle. By CA law, any new production EV will need to be equipped with a conductive Avcon inlet. But since there are no EVs in production, that standard has not been realized. Today, the most common production charging inlet is the inductive small paddle. Both GM and Toyota have made these chargers, and they both work with all vehicles that require either a large or small paddle charger. You are correct that not every charge station will fit every EV. But we do have ways to adapt, and providing the most common charger (small paddle inductive) offers the best bang-for-the-buck to keep the current production EVs on the road more often than their gasoline counterparts.

Opening up the Freeman Toyota small paddle charger would be a nice benefit indeed. I do understand that they have no obligation, and I appreciate the effort in encouraging them to again allow access to their charger.

There is no such thing as a legal "portable recharger" for any but the oldest GM EV1s. That charger has never been available separately from the vehicle, and it will only work with the very few large paddle vehicles on the road. It also requires approximately 24 hours for a full charge. Toyota has not made nor sold a portable charger solution, and neither has any other EV maker since the early EV1. The only safe and practical way to charge is from a private or public fixed charger - the same way a gas car requires a gasoline station to refuel.

The City of Santa Rosa has every reason to be proud to have such a large percentage of alternatively fueled vehicles in their fleet. Just a small number of public chargers could increase the number of 100% clean EVs that drive to and through your city, thus redoubling your clean air effectiveness. I now drive my gas car to Santa Rosa every time I visit. With a convenient public charger or two, I could always bring my EV, and assist the city with its clean air efforts. Unfortunately, "emergency charging" and "advance notice" do not easily go hand-in-hand. I would never need an emergency charge, I would need a convenience charge. If the city fleet charger cannot be used for that, then unfortunately it does little good for potential EV drivers in, to and through your city.

While I can appreciate the city's loss of funding, I implore you to research the facts regarding the cleanliness of pure battery EVs vs. today's hybrids. I am painfully aware of the state's decisions, as I attended the board meetings where these issues were discussed. A vehicle that burns gasoline for propulsion cannot be cleaner than a similar vehicle that runs on electricity. I will give two short, simple examples to make my point. (I can supply you with a pile of authoritative, factual references if you so desire - many of them written by the state before the latest ill-formed decisions were made).

1. My EV is powered by the sun, via my photovoltaic panels on the roof of my Davis home. I create no pollution when my fuel is made, and I generate no pollution when I consume this fuel. A cleaner solution than this has yet to be built.
2. EV drivers who charge from the grid typically take their power after midnight when enough electricity is wasted in CA to charge 500,000 EVs every night. That is, they use electricity that is produced and not used for anything else, as the generators "idle." The power generation pollution is there regardless. That EVs can use this otherwise wasted power to charge is a benefit that helps to CLEAN our air since an EV is driven in place of a gasoline vehicle.

In contrast, gasoline vehicles (and certainly today's hybrids are exactly that - gasoline vehicles with some mild battery assist) always pollute. They pollute not only as they drive, but they pollute while oil is being drilled from the earth, pumped, trucked, refined, and distributed to the millions of gasoline cars on the road. I'm compelled to repeat: There is no such thing as a gasoline car that is as clean as an EV. ESPECIALLY when the generation of the fuel is considered in the equation. Of this I have no doubt. I can only ask that you base your clean air conclusions on logic and facts instead of what the state of CA has recently determined.

If clean air in Santa Rosa (and in any area that supports the oil industry) is a genuine goal of the city, I respectfully submit that installing public chargers is one of the cheapest ways to achieve that goal.

Thank you for your time.

- Darell Dickey

On December 10, 2006, this Op-Ed artical appeared in the Davis Enterprise. Following the original article is my response.

(I substituted my own image of my Ranger EV charging at the site since the original is not available)

Susan Wolbarst. Special to The Enterprise
Published: December 10, 2006

Imagine the best possible perk a person could have in downtown Davis. Go ahead, let your imagination run wild.

See it before you now: your own private parking space, available day or night for as long as you want it. No pesky "No Parking" signs; no green, red or blue paint on the curb limiting your lingering.

Just pull on up, park your vehicle in your ultra-choice downtown location and go get your massage, get your hair done, have lunch, do your banking, browse, sip a coffee, listen to a bunch of CDs, window shop, try on clothes, go to a three-hour movie — loiter and spend your money for the whole day if you feel like it — without having to remember to check your watch every two hours, then frantically move your car. Without fear of a parking ticket. Today or any other day. Ever.


Not if you're really special. If you're really special, you're one of two people whose electric vehicles can be recharged at the special EV (electric vehicle) parking place in the parking lot adjacent to the E Street Plaza. Yes, the E Street Plaza, smack in the heart of downtown Davis, where parking places are in short supply almost any day or night of the week.

If you're like me, you've never actually seen anyone parked in that EV space. In all the years since the city put in that electric vehicle-only parking place, the only time I've ever seen an electric vehicle parked there was the time I parked one there myself.

It was a GEM (stands for Global Electric Motorcars; in reality, they're golf carts) I borrowed from the city's free loaner program. I parked it there while I visited my hair stylist, the inimitable Fran at Cut Loose Salon.

I pulled in triumphantly, knowing I had just fulfilled a longtime ambition: parking in the always-vacant primo downtown EV parking spot. However, when I went to plug in the extension cord, thinking I'd recharge the GEM while Fran recharged my hair color, I got a shock, or rather, a surprise. There was no place to plug in!

Thinking I must be losing it, I used my cell phone to call the city phone number posted inside the GEM car for assistance. I asked how to plug in the GEM at the EV-only parking spot in the E Street Plaza.

"Oh," the helpful fellow who answered told me, "that thing doesn't work with the city cars. Only two people in town have vehicles that can work at that charger."

"Two people?" I asked incredulously.

"That's right," he confirmed. He did allow there was nothing to prevent me from parking there in a city GEM, since the GEM is an electric vehicle and the space is limited to electric-powered vehicles. I just couldn't plug in.

That made me wonder, if there's power flowing to that charger, serving that always-empty parking space, why couldn't the city just adapt the charger to take a plug, so the city's fleet of 27 GEM vehicles plus the city's dozen or so privately owned GEMS could recharge there?

They wouldn't have to disturb the technology serving the two very special people who can currently use the current there, but they could add the other kind of plug as well, maybe increasing use of the parking spot from a frequency of "virtually never" to "once in a blue moon."

I mean, not too long ago the city spent $80,000 to buy a high-tech camera system called AutoVu so the Police Department could give out more parking tickets, so I'm assuming it could afford the cost of rewiring the charger.

On the other hand, maybe they could use the AutoVu to confirm how often (if ever) the two special people who have the technology to recharge their cars there actually use their private parking space. In my opinion, it would be well worth the $80,000 we spent on the AutoVu to know this definitively.

Maybe, if no one ever parks there, we could convince the City Council to convert the spot into a frog rest stop or a burrowing owl habitat.

The one thing I'm confident the City Council would never consider is making it into a parking space for use by ordinary gas-powered cars, the kind nearly all of us members of the shopping public drive, so we could actually park there.

If City Council members were willing to use that kind of logic, it might be possible to convince them to eliminate timed parking limits altogether, so we could spend more of our money downtown instead of hurrying away after a two-hour hair appointment — no matter how much we'd like to stay for lunch or do some shopping — to avoid getting parking tickets.

One thing I've noticed and I don't even have an AutoVu, is that they seldom, if ever, give parking tickets in shopping malls in Woodland, Sacramento or Vacaville. And they probably won't give them at the Davis Target, either, which is something downtown merchants and the Davis City Council might like to think about the next time they deliberately restrict parking for shoppers downtown.

Consider the number of green-curbed 20-minute parking spaces that have replaced two-hour spaces all over downtown in recent years. I've noticed a lot of those 20-minute spots remain almost as empty as the one very special EV parking place in the E Street Plaza.

Twenty minutes won't even get you through the line at the post office in downtown Davis, but it will get you to (or most of the way to) ticket-free shopping in some out-of-town location.

— Susan Wolbarst is a freelance writer and Davis resident who prefers shopping in downtown Davis.

And my response published on December 24, 2006:

See a jpg of the published article here.

The Reserved Parking Space that Benefits Everybody.

In her December 10 Op-Ed piece “Your Very Own Parking Space,” Susan Wolbarst describes many facets of the downtown Davis parking situation that dissatisfy her. Her biggest concern seems to be the Electric Vehicle (EV) parking space at the E Street Plaza lot that she describes as “ultra-choice” and “always empty.” I support Ms. Wolbarst’s right to feel wronged. I also encourage her to step back from the entitlement issues so she can understand the reasons why we have reserved EV parking/charging spaces in Davis.

An available EV parking/charging space facilitates the use of cleaner, alternative transportation, and benefits everybody who breathes. The City of Davis should continue to be proactive in encouraging the use of electric vehicles. I have personally taken advantage of the E Street Plaza EV space more times than “virtually never.” And while there are certainly more than two of us “really special people” in town who can charge there, that point is not relevant to this discussion. There are hundreds of EV drivers in nearby towns, and when EV drivers visit Davis, they usually need to charge locally in order to safely make the gasoline-free drive home. EV drivers typically have a charger at home and do not need a local public charger. Because we regularly charge at home, and because many of us also choose to bicycle or walk to the downtown area, the EV space in question is often left available for a distant EV driver who might need it. When I drive my EV to Sacramento or to San Francisco, I rely on public charging in those cities to allow me to make the round trip without the use of gasoline. If EV spaces are removed - as Ms. Wolbarst proposes for this space in Davis – more gasoline vehicle trips would be the result. When more gasoline is used, we suffer a reduction in air quality, water quality, money from our domestic economy, and national security.

EV parking/charging spaces are often not occupied for the same reason that handicapped parking spaces are often not occupied: The spaces are only useful if they are available when they are needed. Drivers are no more likely to purchase an EV just to take advantage of a special parking space than they are likely to injure themselves just so they can park at a blue curb. When an EV driver needs to charge his car, he needs a charger, and an adjacent parking space to park the vehicle.

It would seem that a Davis EV driver has no way to appease Ms. Wolbarst’s negative view of the EV parking space in question. If an EV driver does park in the EV-reserved spot, he is held in contempt as one of the privileged few, taking advantage of a situation that penalizes the gasoline-burning masses. If a local EV driver chooses to park in a regular space, or to relieve downtown parking congestion by walking or bicycling to town, the EV space is left available for another EV driver, and the spot is labeled “always empty.” An empty EV space inspires Ms. Wolbarst to consider that the space would be better used for the benefit of yet another gasoline car driver.

Her point that most drivers use gasoline cars is a valid one, and demonstrates why we should encourage the use of cleaner, alternative transportation. When we avoid using gasoline, we increase our quality of life. Though gasoline stations can be found throughout Davis for the benefit of all gasoline car drivers, an EV driver cannot use gasoline, and needs a space to park and charge. If parking and charging is not offered, driving an EV becomes difficult – even impossible in some situations - and is less likely to happen. We end up with more gasoline consumption and exhaust right where we live and breath. Davis should continue to attract clean vehicles, even if it costs us one space that could otherwise be occupied by a gasoline car. When a clean car is driven in place of a gasoline car, everybody benefits.

Ms. Wolbarst implies that EV drivers have a utopian existence because of this one “dream” parking space. She does do not consider the money, time and effort that EV drivers regularly invest in keeping public chargers safe from vandalism, in repairing broken chargers, and in educating drivers who may not understand the importance of having these EV parking/charging spaces available. EV drivers in today’s gasoline-centric society face several unique challenges.

I was amused that the Enterprise staff photographer tasked with taking a picture of the “always empty” EV parking space found an actual EV using it as it was intended. That parking space is used, and is often left available for an EV driver in need of a charge.

More EV information:

.....And I even wrote a short version.....

In her December 10 Op-Ed article “Your Very Own Parking Space,” Susan Wolbarst describes the Electric Vehicle (EV) parking/charging space at the E Street Plaza lot as “ultra-choice” and “always empty.” The reasons why we have reserved EV parking/charging spaces in Davis are apparently not universally understood.

An EV cannot fuel at prevalent gasoline stations the way standard gasoline cars do. The only way to fuel an EV is with a charger near an available parking space. An available EV parking/charging space encourages the use of EVs, which in turn benefits everybody who breathes.

EV parking/charging spaces are often not occupied for the same reason that handicapped parking spaces are often not occupied: The spaces are only useful if they are available when they are needed. Drivers are no more likely to purchase an EV just to take advantage of a special parking space than they are likely to injure themselves just so they can park at a blue curb.

The City of Davis should continue to be proactive in encouraging clean transportation. There are hundreds of EV drivers in nearby towns, and when EV drivers visit Davis, they would likely need to charge locally in order to safely make the gasoline-free drive home. When I drive my EV to Sacramento or to San Francisco, I rely on public charging in those cities to allow me to make the round trip without the use of gasoline. If EV spaces are removed - as Ms. Wolbarst proposes for this space in Davis – more gasoline vehicle trips would be the result. When more gasoline is used, we suffer a reduction in clean air, clean water, money from our domestic economy, and national security.

I was amused that the Enterprise staff photographer tasked with taking a picture of this “always empty” EV parking space found an actual EV using it as it was intended. That parking space is used, and is often left available for an EV driver in need of a charge

4. My comments on the 2007 ZEV Technology Review. May 10, 2007
ZEV TechStatus report is here.

Clerk of the Board
California Air Resources Board
1001 I Street
Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Air Resources Board Members:

While Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) are slowly regaining a small percentage of the respect that they deserve, the board continues to make inaccurate assumptions that undermine BEVs while simultaneously putting Fuel Cell Vehicles (FCVs) on a pedestal. Thanks to the CARB, in 1996 we had new ZEVs available to the public. Thanks to the promise of FCVs, today we have just a handful of used ZEVs being sold for astronomical prices – along with the promise of “future” FCVs. There is currently no way to purchase or lease a full-featured ZEV. How have we ended up in worse shape in 2007 than in 1996?

From the panel’s summary regarding BEVS:

“…the Panel concluded that in California, full-sized battery electric vehicles
are still not likely to be a mass market technology in the foreseeable future due to high cost of the batteries, and limited customer acceptance.”

The “limited customer acceptance” assumes
1. That BEVs were ever marketed to consumers in the same way as today’s gasoline cars.
2. That buying a BEV was as easy as buying any other car.
3. That BEVs were all for sale, with options and color choices like any other car.
4. That the BEV drivers were not happy with their vehicles.

And of course these assumptions do not match reality. If BEVs had never been pressed into public service, would they be enjoying the same sort of “future perfection” distinction that is granted to the FCVs of the indeterminate future? If we had no practical, privately-driven, on-road experience with BEVs in the past, we would today be talking about hundreds of miles of range, recharge time measured in minutes and durability measured in 10’s of years and 100’s of thousands of miles. And all of this in a package that benefits from relatively simple and cheap infrastructure, and costs less than the cheapest FCV product to date! Instead, we DID have BEVs on the road in the late 1990’s and for the most part, they were fantastic vehicles that almost nobody wanted to let go of when the leases expired. And from the above assumptions – and also assuming that a modern BEV would be no better than what we could muster eleven years ago – we hear the conclusion that “full-sized battery electric vehicles are still not likely to be a mass market technology in the foreseeable future due to high cost of the batteries, and limited customer acceptance.”

After dismissing the mass marketability of Battery Electric Vehicles, the panel concludes about Fuel Cell Vehicles that “…while these challenges [of performance, cost, infrastructure, efficiency and durability] are not trivial, the past rate of success and the massive intellectual and financial resources being devoted to fuel cell vehicle technology, ensures that FCEVs remain a promising candidate for a future mass market true ZEV.”

Compared to BEVs being made by small auto makers today, the FCVs being made by the big players are not as durable, they cost more, they are less efficient, they lack performance and have close to zero infrastructure. Yet, because of the car makers’ “devotion” to FCVs, the board has determined that there is better mass market appeal for FCVs than for BEVs. Even though FCVs are still not available to the consumer eleven years after road-ready BEVs were (and in many cases still are!) serving as daily drivers. How can we continue to compare the past performance of BEVs with the promise of stellar *future* performance of FCV’s that seem to be pushed back every time they are discussed? BEVs can be on the road today, helping to keep our air clean. Instead we continue to wait for the perfect FCV to save us. To save us from the gasoline cars that the car makers will continue to churn out just as long as they keep being given the “Get out of Jail Free” card of making just a few FCVs for the foreseeable future.

We are pinning our hopes on a vehicle that has no “consumer ready” date even a decade after BEVs proved to be viable and desirable in the real world. FCVs will, at best, use 3-4 times more energy than a BEV. FCVs currently cost an order of magnitude more to build. FCV “mass marketability” is based on promises, and not real-world public acceptance. FCV technology has been chosen as the winner by the same industry that claimed unleaded gasoline would put them out of business; that bankruptcy would be the result of enforcement of the original CAFE standards. Should we not choose the winner simply by selecting the technology that is proven and ready today? Maybe tomorrow the winner will be different, and we can adapt. Why do we keep waiting, year after year, for FCVs to come close to the BEVs of eleven years ago?

With the same amount of funding and devotion, the same infrastructure effort, and given the same production costs, I simply cannot envision how a FCV could be better than a modern BEV by any metric. Yet I already know many of the ways that a BEV is better than a FCV – starting with the most obvious: An affordable BEV could be on the road efficiently driving with zero emissions today, just as they were eleven years ago.

Allow auto makers to continue down the FCV path at their own expense. But demand salable ZEVS now, and see what they come up with. Waiting for FCVs to be perfected is killing us.

Darell Dickey


In response to criticism that RAN is supporting "clean" cars instead of "no" cars. Link.

Great discussion, and I agree with many of the seemingly differing opinions. We’ve all after the same goal. We just don’t all agree on how best to get there.

I’ve tried preaching the part of getting people out of their cars. And I actually PRACTICE what I preach, and it still doesn’t work. And it makes me wonder - how may of the people here who are frustated with support of cleaner vehicles over the support of non-vehicle use are actually practicing what they preach? Do you drive a car of any type? At all? I’m so tired of seeing giant single-driver SUVs at “No War for Oil” rallies. If you are serious about change, be that change.

I ride my bicycle for the vast majority of my tansportation, to the tune of over 500 miles/month on average. If I must go farther or faster, I drive my solar-fueled EV. If I need to go farther than 100 miles, I take a Prius. This doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

I don’t mention my transportation stuff to be smug (as I’m so often accused) I mention it to demonstrate that I’m a non-vehicle advocate who advocates EVs. To my thinking, an EV is the easiest way to give people the transportation freedom that they still think they need now, while leaving the smallest footprint. While we’re doing this, we need to also be working on ways to reduce private automobile use, of course.

People here have asked where all this “clean” electricity comes from. While others have answered that quite well, I’ll add that electricity is the MOST versatile flex-fuel we have. We can make it out of just about anything. We can make it at home where we use it. I maintain an EV site, and on my Rav4EV owner’s page ( We see that the majority of the owners who bothered to send me picture and information have SOLAR POWER. This is no scientific study, but I think it is still very telling. EV drivers are heros if only because they’ve proven that we still can have our high-speed mobility without feeding the oil machine.

- Darell, the EVnut.
Disclosure: I’m a bicycle riding, EV driving Prius owner.

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