back to article SF's green mayor dreams of electric car heaven

On a trip to Israel two weeks ago San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom heard more about the plan to switch the country from petrol vehicles to electric, and was so impressed he bought the project. Now Newsom wants his city to be the first in the US to adopt electric cars wholesale, and claims that with the will, "you can be off oil …


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  1. Steve Evans
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    Think of all the fun you can have zooming down the hills of SF completely silently, scaring the crap out of pedestrians, whilst at the same time recharging your batteries! Although given the weight of the batteries, I doubt we'll be seeing much of the bullet-esq flying going on!

  2. Repo

    but... #2

    Given the weight of most Americans; expect the 120 mile range to be closer to 20 miles...

  3. michael


    the plan is pepol buy one or one form a range of cars and then pay per mile on a type of contract in the city with all the charging and battry swaping thrown in for free?

    hands up pepol who can see a problem with this

    *rases hand*

    1. vandlisum of charging points

    not wishing to give the uff idard but a bit of water and some mettle ploles and thouse charging points could provide hours of amusment

    2. stealing battrys not just swaping

    one for the car one for the boot...

    3. so we can only use it "in" the city?

    there cars will only be used in the city I thought a lot of usa's lived out side citys and drove in

    and that is only in 10mins of thnking

  4. ben

    and another but...

    Wasn't California where they had massive problems with the inability of the power grid to supply existing demand for Air Conditioning and latte makers ?

    Great choice, therefore, for a large increase in baseband demand...

  5. SysKoll

    It's just PR.

    Look, guys, it's just PR. It's BS meant to impress the gullible greens and the media.

    California has successfully fought any effort to build more power generation capacity. Billions were wasted in dubious feel-good efforts to develop "renewable energy", at a horrific cost per watt. This might be a good way to subsidize some companies but it did little to add more capacity to the grid.

    And now SF wants to add a massive number of power-draining rechargeable cars? Exactly how, pray tell, does Gavin hope to find this power?

    Take a piss-poor electric car with a 50-HP electric engine and a one-hour autonomy. That's 50*736/1000 = 36 kWh of power storage requirements. With very optimistic losses, call it 40 kWh.

    Now let's see. I want to rechage this car in 5 hours at night. That's 40/5 = 8 kW of load on the grid, neglecting all losses. Put 100,000 of these suckers in the streets, and hello, you need an extra 800 megawatts of power every night. That's 4 gas generators or half a small nuclear power plant, which isn't going to fly since there are already rolling black-outs in some parts of California.

    I'll believe in this electric car plan the day SF announces it's building power plants. Otherwise it's just PR.

  6. Anonymous Coward
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    more buts...

    How fast/slow will these vehicles be?

    How slow will these glorified milk-floats go up the numerous hills of SF?

    Will Ambulances and Fire Engines be powered in the same way?

    The fuel (Nuclear/Fossil) will simply be getting burned some place else so what exactly is the benefit here - other than looking good in a PC sort of way.

    How many batteries will it take to power Arnie's Hummer?

    What will it cost (environmentally) to make the batteries and what will it cost to decommission them?

    Will the "Green cross code" be amended? - i.e. the line about "listening" for traffic will be removed.

    And most importantly, will these electric engines be able to mimic the wonderful sound of a V8 engine...?

  7. aeromorph
    Thumb Up

    Per-Mile Charge

    San Francisco already has a company offering per-mile cars for rent (City Car Share) and one offering per-hour cars (ZipCar). ZipCar actually bought the third that was offering cars in San Francisco a few months ago and seems to be doing quite well nationwide even with the rising cost of gas prices. Both of these services pay for gas and insurance.

    It seems that mandating that they offer electric cars for at least part of their fleet if the city pays for the power stations wouldn't be objectionable. Once people get used to charging their cars (or swapping batteries), I imagine it won't be long before people would be willing to buy their own.

  8. StopthePropaganda

    thank you SysKoll

    ..saved me from needing to remind the pie-eyed folks amongst us, that alternative/electric car programs are not about companies being in the business of making cars, but of being in the business of getting government funding.

    the only thing you left out is the fact that the government controls the power output here. Remember the "rolling blackouts"? Policy was made where and when to choose areas to be shut down. Downtown, government areas, big business areas were *never* touched. And some residential areas (poorer ones) got the treatment repeatedly while most affluent neighborhoods never once got blacked out. Politics and backroom deals caused the artificial shortage and the state sponsored extortion to remind people who was in charge.

    In a blackout, how does one charge an electric car? How does one keep their food/freezer stocks safe? If they can't keep frozen stuff for long, do they drive to the grocery store (which may be blacked out as well)? How would they do that on Gavin "Any Twosome" Newsom's plan? People can't leave their area when their batteries are dead, nor can they drive to big protests to complain. State/county systems will of course be completely unaffected so welfare and "assistance" can be mobilized, making people even more beholden to the almighty Government.

    Either government is dangerously incompetent (likely) in completely missing the possibilities of abuse, or knows exactly the possible abuses and is making sure to take advantage of it (also likely knowing Gavin's complete disregard for the democratic process and the Constitution).

  9. Nev

    California Power


    The reason for power "shortages" and brownouts in California had nothing to do with generating capacity, It was Enron and their manipulation of the electricity "market" by illegally taking generating capacity offline to boost electricity prices.

  10. Craig Rubens

    The SF/PBP details

    Great post with good points about the barriers to an electrified San Franciscan fleet.

    Here's a link to our original story breaking the news that Newsom was in talks with Project Better Place execs about bring the electric experiment to San Francisco:

  11. Chris iverson


    Ok so the city of SF does pretty well on the transportation front. Electric busses, NG busses, a few trains here and there, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Considering California's transport infrastructure is is in terrible shape, I'm sure ,besides normal levels of corruption required to get this off the ground, there will be several new taxes imposed to pay for this. City taxes, state taxes, dino fuel taxes, not to mention the gas tax that they already have that they diverted elsewhere.

    So in short.....Californians, drop your pants, trouser, slacks, shorts prepare for a small pinch from this red hot poker that is lining up for insertion into a certain cavity.

  12. Pyros


    Coming from Jeb Bush's regime in Florida (although there's no other place where grander plans that CA have sprung up, IMO,) I can safely tell people two things here:

    1) Someone's talking out of their OTHER ofrice. The best (and long) bet here is that, if it doesn't get shot down, then at least we'll know where the money nozzle is being aimed at.

    2) If, for some wild reason it actually DOES get off the ground (so to speak,) let's also consider the possibility of any other city (and state) to actually do the same. Sillicon Vally, I can see--lots of throwaway money there--but anywhere else? I'll ask the Internet Oracle about that.

    And then there's the other points the commentary pointed out--substations, power supplies, and so forth--which undermines said mayor's (lack of) planning.

    I'll be waiting.

  13. Jon Tocker

    Speaking tubes vs telephone

    Got to love all the people making references to "slow electic cars" and "milk floats", they remind me of a tale I heard of some bloke not long after Bell had invented the telephone who, on hearing you'd be able to talk between New York and Boston, said "Nonsense, you'd never get a speaking tube that long and if you did, you'd never make yourself heard down it."

    Such quaint archaisms should, I feel, be treasured and those who utter them should be preserved as a rich part of our cultural heritage. Now, in a time where it seems everyone is forgetting the lessons of the past, it is especially important to hold onto such people who's grip on ancient history is so tight they're actually still living in it.

    I propose a special facility to house these people so that the rest of us can visit them from time to time and marvel in their rustic simplicity. I figure an extra wing at the Smithsonian should suffice.

    By all means, question where the fuck the power for these vehicles is going to come from, discuss the logistics of setting up a recharging or battery-swap infrastructure or the costs of all the new EVs or the logistics of a proper battery recycling system - but for fuck's sake at least move into the later years of the 20th Century with regard to the performance of electric cars if you can't make it as far as the 21st.

    and michael:

    I rather doubt they would leave the charging points and batteries sitting on the side of the road unattended and unsecured - there would doubtless be attendants at some outlets to help you change/charge your batteries like in a service station and self-help outlets would be secured against abuse/theft/vandalism. We have a few unattended EFT-POS-only petrol stations here in NZ. Strangely enough, they are still functional. No one has vandalised them or stolen the petrol. Why is that? Oh, that's right, they're well constructed, monitored by security cameras and fitted with alarms.

    See what you could have come up with if you'd thought for more than 10 minutes?

    And actually, more people live within cities than commute from the outside - that's why they're cities: they have lots of people living in them.

  14. Jim

    an electric car for every homeless person

    So maybe with this plan, his Newsom-ness will be able to ensure that homeless people will not have to be car-less. By raising taxes on ordinary hard-working citizens, he can provide free health-care, free sidewalk camping and toilets, and other free services - perhaps including free electric cars - for the homeless people he continues to try to attract to our fair city.

  15. CTG

    Car ownership is the problem

    Most transport problems could be fixed if people just gave up the ridiculous notion that they have to own their own - or two, or three - cars. The number of cars per passenger miles travelled is way over the top in most countries (second after the US is, bizarrely enough, New Zealand, Jon T :-).

    People who live in cities really really don't need to own a car. Using your own car to commute to work, when tens of thousands of other people are doing the same thing, is just plain bonkers. I think the ZipCar model is great - just have ranks of electric cars all around the city, and you just pay as you go. For out of town trips, just drive the ZipCar to a car park at the edge of town where you can pick up a gas/petrol car.

    But as long as we have dickheads who treat cars as status symbols (big car == big dick) I don't see any alternative to the planet choking to death on car fumes.

    Oh, and michael, your arguments would be just a little more persuasive if you could learn to spell.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    There is no universal solution

    One size does not fit all.

    Electric cars aren't for everyone. Unleaded isn't either. NG, propane, they all have their place. Ideas like "everyone in the city abandon your cars, and rent a car for a day" etc. are madness. First off, not everyone FITS in a "Standard" car. My car (Scion XB,) has 46" of headroom, to my knowledge, it is the only car in the world that offers this stock, and there are *no* cars that offer more. In this car, my head touches the roof. I am not that tall, 6' 3", but I have short legs. Give me an electric car (or any car) sized to fit "average" (or about 40" of headroom) and I am screwed.

    Some people need to haul things about, as part of work, because they are renoing the home, or because they have a family of X that they shuttle to and fro, hither and yon. The idea of simply saying "everyone should do this" is quite simply not considering that the whole reason that the car market has evolved the way it has is the differing needs of people.

    I wholeheartedly agree that electric vehicles should be an OPTION. Power is power, and as the demand for it expands, (in theory anyways,) more capacity will be brought on-line to supply that demand. I've seen some numebrs thrown around here "OMFG 8kWh to charge a car up overnight" etc. So you don't charge the whole car. You keep a few spare batts on a trickle charger at home, and rotate the batts out. That is a problem I am certain can be solved.

    You know, people carry on about the infrastructure requirements, this that the next thing. The truth is, if them with the money wanted to give it a go, they would. The "charge stations" would pop up around the petrol gas stations in the city, just like you can have the odd station here that offers diesel, propane, natrual gas etc. alongside the unleaded. (Well, now, that's speaking for Canada, I am making an assumption that the USians have stations like that too.)

    In short, there are many problems facing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, but I think nothing so much as the fear that once the adoption has begun, it will cascade into "everyone MUST have an EV, petrol is b&." If that were truly the case, where I live at least, it would cause revolution. Ther eare too many *needs* facing people for cars, to impose some cookie-cutter ideal, either petrol OR elevtric.

  17. Tina Juarez


    If you zoom in Google geo and get a look of SF streets you know that the roads are so bad in San Francisco you'd bust your battery hold downs in a block or two!!

    Agassi is on the right track but its all about Infrastructure... & budget for it!

  18. michael

    @Car ownership is the problem

    "(second after the US is, bizarrely enough, New Zealand, Jon T :-)."

    probley because in parts of us and nz you need a car just to see your nabiors pepol for get that in non city parts of the world ppeol need a personal fast transport

    (I can make you self understood perfuctley well when speeking. it is not my fult you can not read my spelling)

  19. Frank Bough
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    it IS your fault

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