New Technologies – The Electric Car and Its Infrastructure Will Bail Us Out of the “Great Recession”

Those that are getting their regular paychecks may not feel it. Those that read and hear of others going through bad times, may still not get it. Real estate publications, economists, prognosticators, politicians tell us things are getting better. Some of us are scratching our heads.

Unemployment hits 11% in Florida, the dollar collapses, gold prices near record highs, foreclosures, bankruptcies, short sales, people moving in with other people, vacant houses, people can’t get credit, people can’t afford their real estate taxes, cities are going bankrupt because no ones paying their taxes, higher crime rates, people jumping off of bridges, people acting like their losing children in hot air balloons. Are these strange times we’re living in or what?

Business owners, entrepreneurs, people in sales, independent contractors, and those that don’t get regular paychecks don’t know what to believe anymore. They read things are getting better, but why don’t they feel better? The stock market is inching up, ok. But what’s causing this…. book manipulations? layoffs which produce higher profits? Google clicks that tell us people are thinking about buying? holidays coming up? who knows? They are real numbers, yes, but what do they tell us? Yes, the market has been rising since March of this year.

But we all know something’s not right. We haven’t seen this in our lifetime, unless you lived in the 20s and 30s. I was selling real estate in the 80’s with interest rates at 17 ½%, but this is different. There are more societal ills, things are more complicated.

Something’s definitely broken. Obama is bailing everybody out and is on a Christmas buying spree. He wants to spend our way out of this recession, but what will the consequences be? Runaway inflation, socialism, or the downfall of the American society as we know it?

Our only consolation is that we live in a world economy now. Everyone is hurting. Our countries are interconnected economically. It is a world recession. We won’t stop buying Japanese cars, because Uncle Sam asks us nicely. We can, however, start developing and enabling new technologies that are already here.

We need to develop the electric car and its infrastructure. This will bail us out and start the cycle of prosperity again. Millions of jobs will be created by this development, we will start eliminating burning of fossil fuels, and this will set us in the direction of the “green economy”.

Many studies and research have concluded this. Larry Burns, the retired head of GM’s research and development, has said that the electric-vehicle age will reshape the energy grid, redefine driving patterns, and generally improve the quality of life especially in urban areas.

First, there will be many types of electric vehicles, including the plug-in hybrid, the all-battery vehicle, and vehicles powered by the hydrogen fuel cell, which is essentially a battery fed by external source of hydrogen. These vehicles will come in all shapes and sizes, including all-terrain vehicles to large commercial trucks. These different vehicles will be able to tap into many different energy sources.

Solar, wind, or nuclear power, all free of co2 emissions, can feed the power grid that will recharge the batteries. Also, these energy sources can be used to split water into hydrogen and hydroxyl ion, and then use the hydrogen to power the hydrogen fuel cell.

Second, the storage capacity of the vehicle fleet will play an important part in the stabilizing of the power grid. Not only will the battery powered vehicles draw power from the electricity grid during the recharging, but when parked, can also feed additional power back into the grid, during periods of peak demand.

Third, the electric vehicles will open up a new age of smart vehicles, in which sensor systems and vehicle-to-vehicle communications will enable collision protection, traffic routing, and remote managing of the vehicle.

Automakers, utility companies, broadband providers, government road builders, and public-private funds will all have to contribute to this integrated system. The beauty of it is, it’s already here, but it needs to be implemented and expanded in America. A company called Better Place has already built some of the infrastructure with battery swapping stations and recharging stations throughout Europe, Japan, and Israel. America must stay at the forefront of the implementation and development of this new coming electric vehicle age. Tomorrow is too late.

Several other studies have been done to show how many millions of jobs can be created throughout the world by implementing the electric car, its infrastructure, and the subsequent green technologies. The new age of the electric vehicle illustrates the opportunities that are now available as we make our way from unsustainable fossil-fuel technologies to a new age of sustainable technologies.

This is true not only for automobiles but in the choice for energy systems, building designs, urban planning, and food systems. So in a way the breakdown of the world economies has provided an opportunity for the new green revolution to evolve.

What Actually Happens During An OBDII Emissions Inspection

I have seen many people talk about OBD-II emissions tests on various web forums. Often with a puzzled: “I failed readiness!” or “Do I have to do an OBD-II test on my 1994 vehicle?” Since OBD-II has replaced or will replace sniffer tests for 96 and newer vehicles in most states, I thought I’d dump some introductory information about OBD-II emissions tests for people. I don’t get into the details about OBD-II, the various protocols, or how to tune an OBD-II vehicle here. Only what to expect in the emissions process.

First, some really quick background: California required emissions control systems (Catalytic converters) on cars sold in California starting the 1966 model year. This was adopted across the US in 1968, and eventually became the Clean Air Act of 1970 which required emissions standards that were hard for manufacturers to meet. Ultimately, car makers found that switching to electronically controlled engine management allowed them to meet these demands. These electronics became more sophisticated and more standardized as time went on, and now we have a standard protocol (OBD-II) that all these computers adhere to.

Today: Many States, California, Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, Washington, New Hampshire, and on and on have mandatory emissions inspections in some or all counties. Typically this is used as part of the car registration and renewal process. Up until 2000, this just meant popping the car on a dyno, sticking a sniffer in the tailpipe and measuring what percentage of the air coming out of the vehicle is clean. However, in 2000 the EPA started pushing an “OBD-II emissions test” and many states adopted it, or are in the process of adopting it.

An OBD-II test consists of the emissions computer plugging into the OBD-ii port on the car (usually under the dash or hidden behind the cigarette lighter) and asking the car’s computer whether the emissions equipment on the vehicle is working within the required efficiency limits. This is advantageous over the sniffer because its much faster, more consistent (in theory) and harder for those of us that like fast cars to just jury rig a huge catalytic converter the morning before inspection in order to pass with flying colors in our fire-spitting vicious mobiles

The way OBD-II tests actually work, is pretty simple. The car’s ECU waits for a set of conditions that are representative of normal driving and then checks the values of a few sensors to make sure that under that condition the equipment is working exactly as it should. Typically it examines systems such as the catalytic converter, the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR), and the evaporative emissions. It stores these results internally and the computer just queries for these results at inspection time. The inspection machine also checks the computer to see if any error codes are set, and if the check engine light (also know as a Malfunction Indicator Light (MIL)) is set. If the tester determines that the emissions equipment is in order, there are no internal errors which the car didn’t see fit to tell you about and the check engine light is not on, the car is given a pass without needing any further emissions related tests.

For the car to definitively say that the vehicle is in working order it needs to examine its systems for a set number of “driving cycles”. Driving cycles are defined differently for different car companies. For some a driving cycle is the time between when the key is first turned on, until it is turned off. For others, it is any 10 minute period of non-idle driving, etc. This is where the concept of readiness is introduced. When the vehicle’s ECU is reset for any reason (replacement, low battery, faulty sensors, etc) it resets the ‘readiness monitors’ inside the ECU. These are a number of flags that determine whether or not the car is prepared to validate the condition of the emissions systems. The vehicle then must be driven for a preset number of drive cycles to give the ECU all the information it needs to get out of the unready state and actually test the emissions systems.

If a car is inspected while it is not ready, the car will return ‘not ready’ to the inspection computer. On cars sold between 1996 and 2000 an emissions test is considered a fail if any 2 of the emissions systems return not ready. On later vehicles, you are only allowed one not ready. The typical remedy for failing readiness is to drive the car around for up to 500 miles and trying the test again. After that, if you still fail, a dealer or somebody with factory diagnosis equipment is required to force the vehicle to run the emissions tests regardless of readiness.

Modified Cars: OBD-II represents a problem for cars with modified emissions systems. In the past, you could just keep the factory exhaust in a corner of your garage and slap it on for inspection, but now the electric tattle-tails will still catch you. You can use a datalogger, such as the car-code logger: to check whether your car has passed readiness and thinks it is in an emissions happy state. This is of course for use with off-road only vehicles only.

A common problem for modified cars is secondary o2 sensors. Part of the OBD-II tests involves determining the efficiency of catalytic converter (or pre-cat catalytic converters) by checking the value of the oxygen sensors which are located after the cat. If your off-road vehicle does not have this equipment the vehicle will likely fail. A common solution for this problem is to install an oxygen sensor simulator which gives the car’s ECU a false signal that mimics what it is expecting to see so it thinks everything is in order. A quick internet search for “o2 simulator” will return further information on this topic.

Finally, remember that you will need to drive the car a lot of miles to get readiness to pass. In some extreme cases over 1000 miles is required. So if you are planning on taking the car down for a few months in order to do a long project, and your time for inspection is coming up you are better off getting the vehicle inspected before taking it off the road and resetting the ECU.