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Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update


9th Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum

The 9th Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum Call for Proposals ends TODAY!

The 2018 Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum is an opportunity to showcase:
  • Best Practices
  • Local Projects
  • Innovated Strategies for energy efficiency and sustainability
  • Innovative Tools and Technologies
  • and more!
Click here to learn more!


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Resources and Opportunities 

·         Global Green to expand biogas program to 2 California cities

·         2016 Energy Code Presentations

·         Toolkit: Upgrade your parking to high-efficiency lighting solutions

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Job Announcements



Upcoming events

Conferences/Workshops:

Webinars:

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Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update


The wEEkly Update

For Local Governments and their partners

February 12, 2018


News



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Resources and Opportunities
City Energy Efficiency Resources
Interactive State Project Map
Report: Inclusion of Water Efficiency in Energy Efficiency Programs
Low-income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) Tool
Baseline Assessment Guide
Program Funding Catalog
Study: End-Use Technology Cost and Performance Projections through 2050
SEE Action Guide for States: Evaluation, Measurement, and Verification Frameworks
2017 Grid Modernization Initiative Peer Review Report
Find more resources and opportunities



Job Announcements



Upcoming events
Webinar: The Next Step in The Clean Energy Transition – Decarbonizing Heating Energy in Buildings - Feb. 12
Webinar: New Tools in the Toolbox: A Fresh Take on Financing – Feb. 15
California Energy Efficiency Coordinating Committee Meeting: Feb. 15
Grid Modernization Webinar Series: Feb. 20 & Mar. 20

Webinar: Kick the Cold: The Intersection of Healthy Homes and Energy Efficiency – Feb. 22
Advanced Energy Community Workshop – Feb. 28
2nd Annual San Joaquin Valley Clean Transportation Summit - Mar 14-15
Yosemite Policymakers Conference - Mar 15-18
ICEPAG 2018: Microgrid Global Summit - Mar. 27-29
Green California Summit & Exposition - Apr. 9-10
2018 Business of Clean Energy Symposium - June 4-5 2018 Business of Clean Energy Symposium - June 4-5
9th Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum - June 20-21
Find more events





Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update

Here are your WEEkly Updates: 
1.    Energy Commission Funding Supports Efficiency, Alternative Fuel Projects
The CEC approved several grants, contracts and loans yesterday that support projects - for City of Gardena, UC Riverside, San Luis Obispo County, and San Diego Community College District - that will help the state meet its EE and GHG emission reduction goals. Modifications have also been made to the reporting process for publicly owned utilities to ensure increased use of renewable energy.
2.    Tesla Batteries to Power Office Buildings in California
The Irvine Company is fitting more than 20 buildings in Irvine and Newport Beach with battery systems from Tesla. The project is being undertaken in partnership with Advanced Microgrid Solutions and SoCal Edison, and will provide 10 MW of power to facilities and reduce energy costs by as much as 10%.
3.    USDA Rural Energy for America Program Loans and Grants Available
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is encouraging rural small businesses to apply for loans and grants aimed at renewable energy and energy-related projects. The USDA is accepting applications for loans and grants for new "renewable energy systems and energy efficiency improvements" and "energy audits and renewable energy development assistance."
4.    Study: Confusion and Growth Opportunities in Building/Energy Management Systems
Survey results from MACH Energy indicate that while facility management professionals are increasingly implementing energy management systems (EMS), the market remains in a potentially high-growth stage. Two primary conclusions of the survey: these building professionals primarily implement EMS to achieve cost and expense reduction; and there is marketplace confusion.
5.    ACEEE Call for Papers: 2016 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings
The Call for Papers deadline, October 23rd, is approaching for the ACEE 2016 Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, "From Components to Systems, From Buildings to Communities." The conference is taking place August 21-26, 2016 in Pacific Grove, CA.
6.    10/21 ClimatEEfficient Webinar: Long Beach in a New Light
Learn about how the City of Long Beach partnered with The Energy Network on streetlight retrofitting. You will hear from the City of Long Beach and The Energy Network on how they teamed up to convert 25,000 streetlights to more energy-efficient fixtures, making it the fourth largest project of its kind on the West Coast.
7.    Energy Calendar

And that is all for this week! 

If you have any requests for information, events, resources, or news to share, please send details to statewideenergycoordinator@lgc.org.

REBATES! for Your New Alternative or Renewable Vehicle

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) offer a number of rebates, incentives and vouchers to promote the introduction of cleaner vehicles on California roads. So, if you’re looking to get a new (or used) car in the near future, seriously consider an alternative or renewable vehicle. It will save you your money and your lungs over the long term.

First thing’s first. What counts as an alternative or renewable vehicle? There are several technologies available and in development. Here are a few of our favorites:
Now for the incentive and rebates… the best part and probably the reason you’re reading this! 
Photo Source: Zero Motorcycles

CARB is sponsoring a CCSE- administered rebate program for zero-emission and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Whether you want to buy or lease one of these light-duty vehicles, you can get up to $2,500 through the Clean Vehicle Rebate Project. The website has an extensive list of eligible vehicles, links to apply for the rebates easily online, project statistics, and informative FAQs.

The Drive Clean! Rebate Program, administered by the SJVAPCD, offers up to $3,000 for new vehicles purchases and leases. Check the eligible vehicle list and apply for your well-deserved rebate using this fillable W9 form. If you need more information about all these vehicles, check out this DriveClean Buying Guide. You can access a quick vehicle compare and a Plug-In EV Resource Center or even calculate your savings by rebates and incentives.

The SJVAPCD also has a Vanpool Voucher program to promote carpools for SJV residents. So many people commute 20 miles or more for work by themselves in inefficient vehicles, and this rideshare program would alleviate congestion on the roads and vehicle emissions. The incentive is worth up to $360 a year and you can apply using this fillable form. The SJVAPCD has a number of other grants and incentive programs that target improving our air quality. Check them out here!

I want. If only! The new Tesla Model X.
If you manage a fleet that only operates in California, you could be eligible for this Hybrid and Zero-Emission Truck and Bus Voucher Incentive Project (HVIP). Vouchers are somewhat limited, but they are worth anywhere from $6,000 to $45,000 for each qualified new hybrid or electric truck or bus you buy. Eligible vehicles can be found here and the website has information for all dealers, fleets and vehicle makers. As long as your fleet operates only in California, it is eligible for this project, no matter the size or whether it is private or public.

There is a lot to take advantage of and I suggest you look into these if you’re considering a new vehicle! The technologies are only getting better and our air seems to only be getting worse, especially with this recent drought. So, do your part!

On the third day of Christmas a Model S for Dee



It was only a few months ago that I happened across a Tesla showroom, and I do use the term showroom loosely. There was one (very very nice) car in the showroom with about 40 customers drooling over it (including me). I stated that the Tesla would be my next car, I was so impressed. Then I found out that in order to take the car for a “test drive”, I needed to leave a (fully refundable) $5,000 deposit to go towards an order for my very own Tesla, which incidentally takes 11 months to get one made for you. I started to wonder…Would I really want to spend $100K plus on a new car. Heck, I could almost buy a house for that price!

I found out this morning that the Tesla won the automotive industry’s equivalent to the Grammy for Best Motion Picture. Judges have unanimously voted the Tesla Model S the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year. The U.S.-manufactured electric vehicle (EV) becomes the first vehicle to win the award not powered by an internal combustion engine in the 64-year history of the publication.

In 2010, the Department of Energy backed Tesla Motors, Inc., with a $465 million loan for the construction of two manufacturing facilities, one in southern California for the Model S electricsedan and one in Palo Alto, California, for electric powertrains. The Palo Alto facility is for assembling electric vehicle battery packs, electric motors, and related electric vehicle control equipment, both for Tesla's own electric vehicles and for sale to other automobile manufacturers. The Tesla offers three lithium-ion battery packs for the Model S that are designed to provide ranges of 140, 200, and 265 miles per a single charge. The 2012 model has an EPA combined city and highway rating of 89 miles-per-gallon equivalent.

Santa, I would like a new RED one just like the one in the picture for Christmas. You don’t have to bring in down the chimney, parking it in the driveway with a big gold bow would work just fine.  Thank You!

--Dee Cox

Photo credit: Tesla, Motor Trend

Believe it or not: schmorgishborg!

Today's BION is a cheat.  Frankly, I'm just not up to it as I have my second sinus infection in a month and the fifth for the whole summer (yes, it's still over 90 degrees here so it's summer in my book!). So, today you're getting a schmorgishborg of BIONs from headlines that excited me--or as I've previously mentioned, something my husband found on Reddit and then set to me.

Believe it or not: Tesla goes long range with new super charger.

Believe it or not: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Carnegie Institution for Science report that there is enough energy available in winds to meet all of the world’s demand! 

Believe it or not: San Franciso considers public power market, 100% renewable.

Believe it or not: First North American tidal turbine goes live in Maine.

Tesla's Model S invades dreams and soon showrooms

The Tesla Model S beckons to me from a poster tacked to the wall behind my computer terminal.

It's a sleek silver with custom rims that look like blades of a jet turbine. I can imagine popping the door, climbing in after work and blasting quietly onto the freeway listening to AC/DC's Highway to Hell. 

That's the thought anyway.

Daydream nation

Many motorheads are likely tuning to a similar daydream. Cool car, custom and the latest technology. Great name too. Tesla, after Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest electrical engineers of the modern era, responsible for developing the alternating current electrical supply system. He even demonstrated wireless energy transfer back in 1891 and inspired a pretty decent rock and roll band.

Suffice to say the dude is cool. And so is the car named for him. Although this vehicle's arrival has more to do with Tesla Motors Inc. Chairman Elon Musk, another bigwig in the innovation realm. In addition to his co-founding of Tesla, Musk also has been instrumental of the commercialization of space travel via his efforts on SpaceX and its Dragon spacecraft, which returned successfully from a trip to the International Space Station.

Summer is the S season

The Model S is due in showrooms June 22, but the first cars will likely go to reservation holders as the manufacturer slowly rolls out each completed vehicle from assembly lines at the Fremont, Calif. plant. In an 8-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Musk writes that reservations for the Model S topped 10,000 soon after first quarter 2012.

"We plan to continue making customer deliveries on a slow, methodical ramp, and remain confident in our target of 5,000 vehicle deliveries by year end," he says.

Anticipation is building. "Eagerly waiting for delivery in LA 'Lower Alabama,' writes jlswit on a post by George Blankenship, Tesla vice president of sales, on the company website. There are many more such fan responses.

Range is key

The car sounds like a major step ahead of the competition. In addition to Chevy's Volt and Nissan's Leaf, Ford's come out with an electric Focus, trumpeting "You'll never need a drop of gas or an oil change." Mitsubishi has its odd looking MiEV, which according to the manufacturer is the "greenest vehicle of 2012." And there are the independents: Coda, Fisker and others.

The base price of the Model S is $49,900. But the statistic that catches my eye is the range. Darren Quick of gizmag.com posted a chart provided by the company that shows a potential distance of 450 miles on a single charge. Of course the driver would have to limit speed to about 25 mph, but it's possible.

Quick says the company plans to issue a prize to the first customer who logs more than 400 miles on a charge. More likely drivers will see their range between 250 and 350 miles, he says.

That range beats the pants off other electrics and makes the car more likely to win converts from the internal-combustion crowd.

Turning dreams into reality

And it makes me want one. This kind of interest in a car reminds me of my dream back in high school. Then I was deep into 1950s retro and Hot Rod magazine.

I daydreamed of a 1957, or 1956 (I wasn't too proud), Chevy Nomad. Black. In fact, I just spotted one on Blackstone Avenue in Fresno, Calif. A Bel-Air version in mint condition. It looked awesome but didn't quite have the same appeal to my present-day self. I ended up in high school (class of '79) with a $300 1963 Ford Galaxie. Four-door land yacht. Still, I loved the stupid thing.

The Model S has a taste of the exotic. In fact, it looks far more high-end than its price would indicate.

I recently stumbled across a peek at an Austin Martin DBS concept car that shared a look similar to the Model S's sweeping lines and tough, eat-you-for-dinner grill and front end. Not bad. To me the DB series will always be one of the coolest cars ever.

So if my fortunes change and I'm following this particular daydream to reality, you can expect to see me picking out a color and adding custom features to my own Model S. Yeah, right.

The DeLorean is back, and this time it's electric

Translogic's Bradley Hasemeyer talks with the chief executive of the revived DeLorean Motor Co. about its new electric version of the iconic car made famous in the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy.

Stephen Wynne, DeLorean CEO, explains how he bought the company and its technology after restoring and repairing existing models. He's now using the inventory and plans to make new cars, and after being inspired by Tesla's Roadster decided to build an electric version.

This electric DeLorean puts out an impressive 260 horsepower. The original offered less than half that. And it sports a number of upgrades. But it won't come cheap. The price for the car is in the $95,000 to $100,000 range but will have a significant number of options, Wynne says.

Expect more from the Texas-based company, however. "We've got to move to the next level of technology," Wynne says.

At the DMC website, there's more information. Not everybody wants an electric car, obviously. The company sells used vehicles that look immaculate. For instance, a 5-speed with 4,357 miles runs just $54,900.

Electric car sales ramp up; is change coming?

Electric automobile sales have yet to disrupt the dominance of internal combustion.

Electrics at this point would appear bound for a niche market, hardly living up to President Obama's pledge to encourage their proliferation to about 1 million plug-ins on the road by 2015.

That prospect had gop.com's research division saying: "Another day, another broken promise from President Obama."

Fisker flounders

And Fisker, the manufacturer of the much-ballyhooed Karma and recipient of a half billion-dollar U.S. Department of Energy loan, has announced layoffs after issuing recalls in prior weeks of its more than 200 cars sold. John Voelcker of greencarreports.com says Fisker and fellow electric car builder Tesla are vulnerable to the same type of criticism surrounding failed photovoltaic panel manufacturer Solyndra, which also was on the DOE's loan llist.

None of that taint appears to have landed on Tesla, which is coming off a raft of positive press with increased sales, a deal with Daimler for an electric Mercedes-Benz and the debut of its electric SUV, the "Falcon Wing" Model X. If this latest round of news is any indication, the appetite for electric cars may prove more robust as consumer options and infrastructure to keep the cars charged increase.

Tesla shines

The sector remains unproved. Tesla, despite its evolution, continues to lose money. But revenue is increasing. Chairman Elon Musk says in the company's 8K report to shareholders that "net losses will continue as planned until we reach volume sales of Model S in 2013."

The Model S is a high-end family sedan built in Tesla's Fremont, Calif. factory. The price is expected to be somewhere north of $60,000. Musk says about 8,000 orders for the car have been placed so far. It accelerates from 0-60 mph in about 4.5 seconds, which is faster than my friend Al's built-up 1977 Trans Am.

The Model X is a media darling, getting coverage all over the Web and in the automotive press. Huffingtonpost.com's Sharon Silke Carty says it "has struck a chord with wealthy, environmentally conscious customers" who snapped up about 500 reservations after its recent debut.

Production is expected to begin in late 2013 with customer deliveries starting in early 2014, Musk says. Volume is targeted at 10,000 to 15,000 units per year.

EV sales lackluster

EV sales currently are dominated by General Motors and Nissan. The Volt closed out 2011 with a minor sales flurry. It sold 7,671 units for the year, with more than 1,500 of those in December, according to figures compiled by Martin LaMonica of cnet.com.

Nissan sold 9,674 units of its all-electric Leaf, with 954 of those in the final month of 2011, according to goodcarbadcar.net.

Other nameplates sold fewer cars.

Electrics find a place

But battery power is making headway on the highway. At least in California, the cars have become more commonplace. The other morning as rain pelted me in the health club parking lot, a Leaf quietly rolled past. The thing moved like an oddly shaped ninja. And all lit up in the darkness, it even looked graceful.

Soundless electrics certainly would reduce road noise, until a Harley with straight pipes pulls up alongside.

Gas prices make a difference

Gas prices, which could push $5 per gallon this summer, may influence some buyers. Oil-price.net reports oil per barrel prices above $100 for West Texas Intermediate and its one-year forecast price climbing $20. That's not a big deal. Crude prices have hovered around the centennial mark for a couple years now.

But it's the rapid rise nationally in gas prices in the first months of the year that has some worried about what the summer holds. Summer is usually when more people are on the road and prices increase at the pump.

Ronald D. White of the LA Times quotes analyst Brian L. Milne as saying the early increase may point to higher prices later in the year. "There's a chance that the U.S. average tops $4 a gallon by June, with some parts of the country approaching $5 a gallon," Milne says.

Nothing inspires change like price increases. Of course, electric cars remain very expensive.

Hydro Gene makes a prediction

Automotive enthusiast and hydrogen energy activist Gene Johnson says as long as the price point for electric cars sits so far above the average consumer's means, the segment will remain somewhat exclusive. Johnson, a big clean energy proponent in California's San Joaquin Valley, offers a better method -- retrofits.

He and some friends took a Toyota RAV4, removed its gas-burning stock engine and replaced it with an electric drive train. They sold it on eBay for more than $20,000, easily covering the retrofit cost with a tidy profit.

He says that's the way to go. Johnson predicts more companies will enter the conversion business. He even goes so far as saying Fresno would be a great place to start.

Solar shoulders in

At some point, on-board solar may play a role in recharging electric cars.

The solar-powered SolarWorld GT started the U.S. leg of its round-the-world trek at the University of California, Santa Barbara and plans to drive across the country, according to gizmag.com. The car, a collaboration between solar panel manufacturer SolarWorld, and Bochum University of Applied Sciences in Germany, is hardly a production vehicle.

But its sojourn may be the start of something. The car and its team are to head to Florida, where the GT will be shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to continue driving across Europe, Asia and Africa and back to Darwin, Australia. Assuming the car returns, "it will set the Guinness Record for the longest distance covered by a solar car -- approximately 34,000 kilometers, or 21,080 miles," Ben Coxworth writes.

Such accomplishments are but interesting footnotes. However, should solar panels some day be incorporated cheaply into a car's surface and still be efficient enough to provide a continuous charge, there's no stopping the electric car.

We'll see.

Photo: SolarWorld GT race team.

Building a sustainable-car market with 8 horses

Jim Kor could design great heavy machinery and standard automobiles.

But he wanted something more, something sustainable.

What he came up with is an 8 horsepower car he calls the Urbee. His crew designed it by taking what he calls the "long view," looking for ways to reduce impact while providing people a way to continue their car-centric pursuits. He said that now there are about 1 billion vehicles on the road.

"By mid-century, there could be almost 2 billion," Kor said in a presentation at the State of Green Business Forum in Chicago early in 2011. "This could lead to global ecological catastrophe."

Reducing smog

Perhaps. Two times the number of internal-combustion engines burning fossil fuels could smoke the skies, adding dangerously to the already high carbon content of the atmosphere. But many besides Kor are engineering concerted efforts to subvert that scenario. A number of those projects found their way to the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the Sturgis (for you biker fans) of U.S. car shows.

As never before, designers and innovators are looking to engineer the automobile to run on something more than a gallon of fuel every 10 to 12 miles. Not that there's anything wrong with awful mileage, within reason. There are quite a few cars far beyond my reach that I'd love to have in my stable.

Mercedes joins the game

Mercedes-Benz, which is hardly known for its fuel-sipping ways, came out with several models of interest. The most obvious and different looking is the Smart pickup, which runs on a 55 kilowatt magneto-electric motor, powered by a 17.6 kWh-capacity lithium-ion battery pack, according to Ben Coxworth, a reporter for gizmag.com.

"The Subaru Brat-like mini rear cargo bed definitely gave it a unique car-truck-combo appeal ... or repulsion, depending on the observer," Coxworth writes.

Mercedes also debuted its E300 diesel hybrid, which writes Sebastian Blanco of autoblog.com, is expected to get 45 miles per gallon, while the gas-electric E400 Hybrid is expected to get 27 mpg.

Sailing the autobahn

Blanco says the E-Class hybrids use a combination of lithium-ion batteries, regenerative brakes and the ability to "sail" to save fuel. "Sailing here means that, at speeds of up to 100 mph, the combustion engine can switch off while the electric motor keeps the car moving," he says.

Mercedes maintains its traditional horsepower with 231 for the E300 and 333 for the E400.

That's not super green but far better than most luxury performance sedans I occasionally dream of owning. Here's a post I wrote while still business editor of the Fresno Bee about perhaps my ultimate ride, the Audi A8, driven by Jason Statham in "Transporter 3." Fuel economy: 16 mpg, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's fueleconomy.gov. The car is amazing, and I can just imagine shortening the ride from my sister's house in Hermosa Beach from four hours to two plus, screaming down 99 in the pitch black sharing the road with nobody but truckers.

Building a better Urbee

Kor's venture is not yet ready for prime time. His base is in a Winnipeg, Manitoba shop, and he could use some investors. The Urbee is a hybrid that's engineered to slip through the wind with the least amount of resistance and expended power. He says he wants to make it simple and patterned it after the easy-to-build-and-repair Ford Model T and Volkswagen Beetle.

Kor says the majority of what's produced today is unsustainable, and he'd like to help change that. "The solution resides within all of us," he says.

Cars are an obvious entry point to sustainability. They're full of fantasy and style, as Kor says. Make the next Aston Martin DB5 ("Goldfinger" version) in green and watch the industry evolve overnight, or something like that.

Ford electrifies Fusion

Even Ford is getting into the alternative transportation game. Globalenergywatch.com reports that the automaker's Fusion is the first sedan to offer gasoline, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions this year.

"Derrick Kuzak, Ford's group vice president of global product development tells the site: "We brought our global teams together around a blank slate with the charge to develop a mid-size car with ground-breaking design and jaw-dropping fuel economy."

Ford's entry continues to crowd the field, adding to Chevy's Volt, Nissan's Leaf, Tesla's Roadster and upcoming Model S and various other makes.

EVs stalk commercial market

It's hard to say how the segment will fare with consumers, who fret about range and recharge speeds. But energy costs, especially with continued uncertainty of supply from the Middle East, drive development of electric and hybrid vehicles. And don't expect any sustained declines in fuel prices.

Ulicia Wang of earth2tech.com reports another trend that could sneak up and grab a bunch of market share: commercial trucks. VIA Motors, headed by former General Motors Chairman Bob Lutz, retrofits new trucks with electric/gas drive-train capable of 402 horsepower. The first 40 miles is electric with a range of 400 miles using the gas engine.

Wang says the company plans target corporate clients and later consumers.

Green car rental

And there's the Venice Beach, Calif.-based outfit MPG Car Rental, which rents a fleet of high-mpg vehicles like the Honda Insight and Chevy Volt to people in Los Angeles. "MPG is helping reduce our carbon footprint and bring an affordable green alternative to car rental," the company says.

More like-minded companies will spring up. Their success or failure will help chart the course of the electric-vehicle segment. I'm betting such entrepreneurship, high gas prices and an expanded EV and hybrid lineup will pull in significantly more believers.

And that's not even counting the electric motorcycle market.

Photo: gizmowatch.com

Electric car bulletin: Tesla posts losses, Ford & Fisker prepare EV debut

Electric cars have been on the road a measly few months and they're already dominating automotive news.

Tesla posted first-quarter losses nearly double those of a year earlier. Ford plans to begin production of its electric Focus late this year. And Fisker stands to be the second major independent automaker to launch commercial production and sales of an electric car.

Expect more to come. The sector once was only a partially forgotten memory relived by people who had seen the 2006 documentary "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

But now it promises to get increasingly active as the year rolls on and buyers appear. Utilities are talking about recharging centers and retailers are planning to stock home-charging devices as more and more of the vehicles enter the commuting landscape.

Detroit automaker Ford plans to join Nissan, Chevy and sports car builder Tesla with commercial-scale production of electric vehicles in the United States. But it looks to be beaten to the punch by Fisker Automotive, which intends to deliver its long-delayed 403-horsepower Karma to showrooms in June or July, according to a story by Katie Fehrenbacher at earth2tech.com.

Ford advertises the EV Focus as guilt-free.

The car offers a 6.6 kilowatt on-board charger that enables it to be recharged in half the time it takes for the Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, says Nick Chambers of plugincars.com. Of course, with the Volt's smaller battery, that difference works out to about the same amount of recharging time.

"The Focus Electric looks like a true competitor and will likely make Leaf fence sitters think twice — and may even cause some current Leaf orders to give up their place in line," Chambers writes.

Like the Leaf, the Focus Electric has a 100-mile range. Ford says the car will come with "electric-vehicle-specific features," specifically a custom Ford MyTouch instrument cluster, which allows the driver to keep tabs on the battery charge status, the distance to the next charging point and expected "range surplus" as well as mess with other information. The car also has a Microsoft feature that tells the owner when to get the cheapest utility rates for recharging.

Fisker is flush, having raised more than $1 billion in equity, loans and grants, says Fehrenbacher, citing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The latest is $100 million from Chicago-based Advanced Equities Inc. That should help the automaker ride out the bumpy road Tesla's taken as the pioneer in the market. The Karma sedan is expected to sell for a princely $96,000 but go 0 to 60 in 5.9 seconds.

Tesla posted losses in the quarter that ended March 31, 2011 of $48.9 million, up 66 percent from the same period a year earlier. The Palo Alto automaker's stock closed at $27.55 per share, down 12 cents, on May 13. (A Friday by the way.)

In its SEC 10-Q form, the company said it remains dependent on revenue generated from the sale of its Tesla Roadster, "in the near term, and our future success will be dependent upon our ability to design and achieve market acceptance of new vehicle models, and specifically the Model S."

Tesla officials said the company will stop making the Roadster in December but will continue selling the model until all units are gone. Production on the Roadster began in 2008.

Tesla's planned sedan, the Model S, is expected to begin production sometime in the middle of 2012. However, officials say it "requires significant investment prior to commercial introduction, and may never be successfully developed or commercially successful."

The company appeared to be issuing a reality check in its filing, explaining that there can be no assurances that the Model S, which will have a $50,000 price tag, will prove to be a viable car as it is based on unproven components, will be built in a Fremont plant that may cost to much to equip and may have different styling and design than that of the concept vehicle and turn off consumers.

All of it just goes to show that any venture is a risk. Tesla's taking a big one, and its executives made note of that in very frank language. Still, the company had received about 4,300 reservations for the Model S as of March 31, 2011.

And gas prices likely won't go down too much.

Top 7 earth friendly cars, plus a Tesla

I saw my first Tesla.

Up close, and personal. My first impression: This car is teeny. Would I be able to fold in my 6-foot 2-inch frame? Heck yes!

Tesla Roadster
With 3.7 seconds to 60 mph, this baby would fly. The possibility of me expanding my horizons with speeding tickets would increase exponentially if I were allowed access.

The Tesla Roadster was one of the key attractions at Fresno Earth Day celebration at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Fresno. Accompanying the little black electric powered ball of fury were a Nissan Leaf, a Chevy Volt, a solar-powered Toyota Prius, a hybrid Honda Insight and several other vehicles of interest.

The festivities included other attractions. Those included 75 participants for a crowd-pleasing variety that included live music, food, workshops, tours, exhibits, free e-waste recycling, solar cooking & bio-fuel making demonstrations, xeriscaping and more. The church itself is worth checking out as it is LEED certified and makes use of energy efficient materials, low-flow plumbing and landscaping that needs very little water.

But I was there to see the cars. For me, the experience proved valuable even if it was self-indulgent. My wife, Peggy, tagged along for the experience. I promised her it would be brief and that I would avoid engaging in any long-winded discussions about cars.

I succeeded. We left after about 20 minutes and still got a chance to look at the solar oven display. Very cool concept. Great for reducing deforestation in third world countries.

Zap Car
But the wheeled objects really captured my interest. There was a Zap car, one of the three-wheeled creations of the Santa Rosa-based manufacturer of electric vehicles that until recently served as a niche product. Zap recently purchased controlling interest in Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd. and hopes to tap into the growing Chinese market with a new lineup of vehicles. I suspect it's a company to watch.

Peggy snapped several pictures of the Zap mobile, figuring it would be a favorite of her students. She teaches ninth-grade English at rural Riverdale High School (which by the way has its own solar installation.)

Nissan Leaf
I checked out the Nissan Leaf. The owner explained details of power consumption and some of the variables for getting the most miles out of a charge. One thing I noticed about the rig was that it looked a lot beefier in person. The photos of the Leaf online make it look dainty somehow.

Up close, the Leaf looks quite solid. The aluminum wheels are rather large and sporty and the interior is spacious and not too Jetsons. Here's a shout-out to Phil T, who's been blogging about his experiences as a SoCal Leaf owner for the past several months. "Phil, you're right. Photos don't do the car justice."

Smart Car
We also got to get up close and personal with Smart car. I've been repulsed by the things since I first saw one skittering down the freeway. All I can think of is the short wheel base and how the thing would spin like a top on ice.

But looking at it from a different angle gave me greater appreciation. Just the engineering of the car is amazing. All sorts of stuff crammed in without looking crammed. The engine fits in back like a Bug. (Obviously not in in a Beetle's league, but still interesting.)

There's an electric version of the rig available this year at dealerships across the country. Dubbed Smart Fortwo Electric, the tiny vehicle was anticipated by Daimler designers two decades to be powered by an electric drive train, according to officials. They apparently left room in the design so there appears no change in outward appearance in the two vehicles.

VW TDI
Two vehicles that stood out at the Earth Day event, at least to me, were a couple of Volkswagen Jetta TDI series, one older and another brand new. TDI, for turbo direct injection diesel, is the designation VW bestowed upon its latest generation of diesel vehicles. The older Jetta was tuned to run on biodiesel, while the new one sported VW's latest "clean diesel" technology. Mileage in the latter is listed at 34 mpg combined city/highway.

Fred Voglmaier, who writes on tdiclub.com, says demand for the diesel rigs is high. Could be.

Prius
The Prius owner at the Earth Day event gave a serious rundown on what kind of mileage he gets under multiple conditions. The data was fascinating and he can get up to 56 mpg under certain conditions. The model even was equipped with a solar panel in the glass roof.

Toyota is set to introduce its Prius PHV, for plug-in hybrid, next year. Here's how Steve Siler of caranddriver.com described the differences with the conventional hybrid: "The Prius PHV is essentially just a Prius whose nickel-metal hydride battery pack has been swapped for a far pricier, far heavier, and far more potent lithium-ion pack."

Range is supposed to be far less than the Volt or Leaf.

Volt
The Chevy Volt looked the most conventional of the electric cars at the Unitarian church that day. In fact, it looked rather large, hardly a compact car. Interior space was ample, and the design, inside and out, was very un-Chevy. By that, I mean Chevy's had a reputation for short-shrifting its cars on style. The SUVs look cool. The cars, on the other hand, and I personally believe since the Camaro was redesigned in the 1970s, just looked lame.

The Volt, and the redesigned Camaro, return Chevy to a contender among car buyers.

Biodiesel Mercedes
There was also a beat up old Mercedes at the show that looked as if the owner brewed the biodiesel in the trunk. It's an original, late 70s or early 80s vintage. Cool but definitely somebody else's project.

Honda Insight
The Honda Insight is a great vehicle and reasonably priced. Great entry for the hybrid/electric market. My wife despises the design as she does that of the Prius.

All in all great show. I saw the Tesla driving around Fresno. I pointed it out to some young people at the athletic club, but they just stared blankly until I said, "0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds."

Electric vehicles are coming: Recharge with 5 choices

The MiEV is coming to town.

Translation: Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. is offering up its Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle (amazing name, I know) for pre-order starting April 22, Earth Day.

This vehicle, like Nissan's Leaf, is all electric all the time. The only other full-on electric car commercially available is the Tesla Roadster, which will set you back about $100,000. Tesla's sleek Model S sedan, which also boasts a 300 mile charge life and claims zero to 60 in 5.6 seconds, costs about half that and comes out next year.

The $41,000 Chevy Volt is also on the streets. One was spotted by my co-worker Sandy Nax recently at a Kingsburg auto show. The Volt also features a gas engine for backup. Its all-electric range is 40 miles, not quite half the $32,780 Leaf's 100-mile advertised distance.

But according to Washington Examiner reporter David Freddoso, the news isn't all that electrifying for Chevy. Freddoso writes in his blog in March that sales of the Volt in February were a "very modest 281," down from 326 in December. Read some of the comments on the post, and it appears to be an issue more of supply than demand. One commenter says his Volt won't be delivered until late April or May.

After several delays, Fisker appears on track to begin delivering its Karma sedan in June or July, reports Products & Tech News. The blog says "Fisker’s Roger Ormisher also points out that the company did begin 'limited series production' at the end of March as planned, and he says the company is 'ramping up slowly to ensure absolute quality.'" The all-electric luxury car will cost about $100,000.

Comparatively, the entry-level 2012 Mitsubishi i will set buyers back a measly $27,990. Add in the federal tax credit and the price drops to $20,490, "a substantial savings ... when compared to its mass-produced production EV competition," the company says in a statement.

For a couple thousand more, buyers can get the SE package with "360-watt, eight speaker sound system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upgraded seating material with silver interior accents, unique two-tone interior and door panels, 15-inch alloy wheels and fog lamps." Another upgrade includes a quick-charge port for 80 percent recharge in 30 minutes and other fun stuff.

The MiEV will be on display at Earth Day San Francisco 2011 on April 23 in the Civic Center Plaza. For more information, go to http://www.earthdaysf.com/.

Mitsubishi didn't offer a driving range for the MiEV on its press release, but Michael Boxwell of thechargingpoint.com says the automaker claims a range of 92 miles. He said while testing the car, he was able to achieve a range of 92.7 miles in the city. "However, at higher speeds range does drop off considerably," Boxwell says. "On a trip down the motorway my range dropped to a little over 50 miles, while cross-country motoring gave me a range of 64.4 miles."

Blogger Phil T has been testing the limits of his newly purchased Nissan Leaf on Southern California roads and had this to say of its range: "I measured 86.5 miles of range on a day when I decided to try to run the car out of power to see what the range would be. I drove some of the miles gently and others aggressively, with no freeway miles. I know that the car is capable of more range, and I may try it again with a full 'tank' of careful driving."

I'll be following the exploits of Phil T, who just recently picked up his Leaf in Costa Mesa. I mentioned to him my fear of going all electric. (I have considered converting my black custom 1974 Super Beetle.) Phil says not to worry: "No point in being afraid, Mike. After all, 'faint heart never won fair maiden,' as they say."

In my defense, I will say I won the fair maiden 20 years ago.

Phil says it's just a matter of factoring in conditions and whether a driver's daily trips fit the range of an electric vehicle. "That and you'd need a plan for longer trips," he says.

So, if you've taken the plunge, I'd love to hear about your experiences.

Top 5 electric cars go head to head

Should the average consumer buy into this electric car craze?

I don't know. Really. I believe in clean energy, but I'm sold on gasoline (even though at 14 I blew myself up in Fairbanks trying to start a pile of debris on fire with my 5-gallon container of chainsaw fuel. But that's another Human Torch type story.)

Gas has that hard-acceleration, immediate-return-on horsepower, lust-for-life feeling.

But give me $101,500 or $9,900 for a deposit and $1,658 a month for a lease and maybe I'll change my mind. That's the price for a Tesla Roadster. At 3.7 seconds from 0 to 60 mph and a range of 245 miles, it's pretty close to perfect.

I pause here on a mental trip in that imaginary Roadster -- black, by the way -- down Highway 99 to Bakersfield. Make that past Bakersfield and up the Grapevine to Vallejo and Magic Mountain, stomping the guts of BMWs and Mercedes that attempt to be fast. Ah ...

For purposes of this post, I have eliminated hybrids. No Toyota Prius or Camry. Skip the Honda Insight and Ford Escape. Electric only. Nor have I included lead-acid or lithium battery conversions.

And at this point, we only have Tesla on the road with a production vehicle. Actually, ZAP has to be tossed into the mix as well. The Santa Rosa-based company manufactures a line of small transporters. In July, the company inked a deal in which ZAP will acquire 51 percent of Chinese automaker Zhejiang Jonway Automobile Co. Ltd. for $29 million "as part of a strategy to capitalize on the growing automotive and electric vehicle market in China."

This list includes models expected to be available soon. So here goes.
  1. Tesla: Hands down. It's fast, cool looking and I could truly blow the doors off my friend Al's TA in OK City. He likes to race that hopped up big block 1977 Pontiac on the track.
  2. Chevy Volt. Very practical. It's versatile and not bad looking. The price is $41,000 and the range id 40 miles. However, it is supplemented by a gasoline-powered generator that allows it to go another 340 miles. Due out this fall.
  3. Nissan LEAF. Not bad. Sort of looks like an early generation Prius with a custom back end. The price tag for the SV package was listed as $32,780, while the SL package was $33,720. The SV includes a photovoltaic spoiler, rearview monitor and universal transceiver. Range is 100 miles. Due in California in December.
  4. Coda. Cool name. Last Led Zep album comes to mind. But unproven company in the United States. I was impressed with the website which calculated an annual expense comparison of my 2000 VW Passat and a Coda. Passat: $725, Coda: $124. Coda's sticker price is not listed on its site but it's expected to be in the low to mid $30,000 range.
  5. Sigma. ElectricCars.com lists Sigma/Montelle kit cars as a viable option. Manufactured by EV Concepts, it goes from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds and has a top speed of 100-120 mph. Price for two-wheel-drive models start at $23,000, and all-wheel-drive models start at $55,000.
There's also Ford, which is coming out with a stylish electric version of its Focus sometime next year and will follow with a line of electric vehicles, says dailytech.com. Range for the Focus will be about 100 miles. And Audi, Mercedes and others are reportedly in R&D.

Fisker Automotive Inc. of Irvine is also coming out with a car, but it's going to be a hybrid.

Disclosure. I've not test driven any of these cars. For that I'd have to defer to Katie Fehrenbacher of Earth2Tech.com, who can be seen in video piloting some of them.

The viability of going electric appears more likely by the month. But who knows. A friend of mine who's worked most of his life in the oil patch says, "Bah!" to most of this talk. His prediction: There's just too much oil and natural gas in reserve, counting shale and oil sands.

Photo: Sigma by EV Concepts.