Tag: emissions

3 Ways Electric Cars Are Changing More Than the Way We Drive

Part 1 of 3 on the Future of Transportation and the Internet of Things

The world is moving away from cars based on the internal combustion engine (ICEs). The future is electric. With Tesla leading the way on what’s possible with electric vehicles, more traditional auto manufacturers are following suit.

Volvo has announced that all of its cars will have electric motors by 2019. Aston Martin is planning the same by 2025. General Motors plans to have at least 20 electric vehicles (EVs) by 2023. The list goes on.

Much of the pressure is coming from countries banning ICE sales in the not-too-distant future (The Netherlands by 2025; China, India and Germany by 2030; France and the UK by 2040). Industry and consumers, however, want electric as well.

When everybody wants something, it tends to happen. The question is, what will be the ramifications? One safe bet is that the market for your ICE -based car will be drying up quickly – so think about selling now. But beyond concerns for personal finance, we can also expect EVs to have a dramatic impact in a number of areas including climate conditions in cities, the automotive industry in general, and energy distribution worldwide.

Lower emissions

The obvious benefit of electric cars – the reason countries, industries, and individuals everywhere are pushing for them – is lower emissions. One of the cities most concerned about emissions is Beijing. Back in 2015, the notoriously thick smog of the city disappeared quickly when authorities banned driving  for two weeks in preparation for a World War II commemoration parade. The day after driving resumed, the smog returned.

Today, Beijing is planning to replace the city’s nearly 70,000 taxis with EVs. Doubtless, this is a step in the right direction. Yet, while Beijing tends to get the lion’s share of press coverage when it comes to smog, other cities face similar challenges. From Paris to Mexico City and all around the world, lower emissions from electric vehicles will help to improve health for citizens locally and fight climate change globally.

Industry change

The automotive industry is not just General Motors, Volkswagen, Toyota and the rest. It’s also made up of countless suppliers of parts and components. But when you move from a traditional ICE to the electric engine, you lose about 90% of the parts. Electric engines are just simpler.

This means that for companies in the automotive supplier ecosystem, much of the market is going away soon. The simplicity of electric engines will also be felt further down the value chain. Service centers, for example, will feel the hit.  Many of these centers – particularly the large chains – use the inexpensive 3,000-mile oil change as a loss-leader to upsell customers on needed maintenance. But without oil in the electric engine – and without as much need for maintenance – many of these chains will have to rethink their business models to survive.

New energy horizons

One of the most significant impacts of EVs will be on the way energy is distributed – because in addition to being modes of transportation, EVs will also act as energy sources that can plug directly into the grid.

This will help address the challenge of “demand response.” The problem to solve here is one of grid stability in the era of renewable energy. Traditionally, large centrally located energy generation plants –  coal, gas, and nuclear – have churned out a steady supply of energy that results in a fairly stable grid.

However, the renewable energy paradigm – based mostly on solar and wind – is neither centralized nor steady. Rather it is distributed across rooftops, solar farms, and mountain tops. And it is variable according to weather conditions.

With renewables, in other words, utilities have less control over the supply side of the equation – meaning how and when energy is generated. This has the potential to lead to instability on the electricity grid. If you can’t manage the supply, then you have to use demand side management, also known as demand response. This can be done using through incentives, and the technology is advancing such that increasingly the process is becoming automated.

By providing a storage mechanism that can both take energy in and send it out, car batteries on EVs can act as frequency regulators for the grid. This is a big deal that has the potential to change energy distribution forever.

At night, say, when the wind is blowing, a car battery can store energy generated by wind turbines. Or, in the middle of the afternoon when everybody wants air conditioning on a hot day, the same batteries can distribute some of their energy. This leads to improved grid stability.

Industry convergence

Let’s just note, however, that the entities with the closest relationships to the owners of the batteries so critical to grid stability would not be the utilities but EV manufacturers. What’s stopping Elon Musk from enticing Tesla customers from sharing their batteries? Tesla could enable its customers provide energy from their batteries – and then sell it on the grid for a profit. Customers make money. Tesla makes money. Utility companies make money. Everybody is happy.

This transforms the automobile industry into an energy industry. At SAP we talk a lot about digital transformation as a response to digital disruption. This is disruption at its most dramatic.

Elon Musk has stated aims to make 500,000 Tesla’s in 2018. Let’s say he falls disastrously short and only hits half his target. Let’s also assume an average 80 kilowatt hour (kWh) battery size in the EVs – (Tesla cars today have battery sizes ranging from 60 -110 kWh). 250,000 cars x 80 kWh – and you’ll see that this fleet would have the capacity of 20 gigawatt hours of storage. For comparison, a gigawatt is roughly the output of a nuclear power plant. So, Tesla will be producing the equivalent of 20 nuclear power plants worth of storage, at least, per year.

Electric vehicle manufacturers will be able to aggregate the energy on their networks, and sell access to their “virtual power plants”. It is a whole new world.

Stay tuned for more on how the transportation industry is changing forever.


Photo credit Tesla

IBM to increase the amount of renewable electricity it procures

IBM branded battery

After returning from IBM’s InterConnect conference recently we chided IBM for their aping of Amazon’s radical opaqueness concerning their cloud emissions, and their lack of innovation concerning renewables.

However, some better news emerged in the last few days.

The Whitehouse last week hosted a roundtable of some of the largest Federal suppliers to discuss their GHG reduction targets, or if they didn’t have any, to create and disclose them.

Coming out of that roundtable, IBM announced its committment to procure electricity from renewable sources for 20% of its annual electricity consumption by 2020. To do this, IBM will contract over 800 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year of renewable electricity.

And IBM further committed to:

Reduce CO2 emissions associated with IBM’s energy consumption 35% by year-end 2020 against base year 2005 adjusted for acquisitions and divestitures.

To put this in context, in the energy conservation section of IBM’s 2013 corporate report, IBM reports that it sourced 17% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2013.

It is now committing to increase that from the 2013 figure of 17% to 20% by 2020. Hmmm.

IBM committed to purchasing 800 GWh’s of renewable electricity per year by 2020. How does that compare to some of its peers?

In 2014, the EPA reported that Intel purchased 3,102 GWh’s, of renewable electricity, and Microsoft purchased 2,488 GWh’s which, in both cases amounted to 100% of their total US electricity use.

In light of this, 800 GWh’s amounting to 20% of total electricity use looks a little under-ambitious.

On the other hand, at least IBM are doing something.

Amazon, as noted earlier, have steadfastly refused to do any reporting of their energy consumption, and their emissions. This may well be, at least in part, because Amazon doesn’t sell enough to the government to appear on the US Federal government’s Greenhouse Gas Management Scorecard for significant suppliers.

With the news this week that 2015 will likely be the hottest year on record, and that the Antarctic ice sheets are melting at unprecedented rates, it is time for organisations that can make a significant difference, to do so.

Google, purchased 32% of their total US energy from renewables in 2014. But more than that, this week it emerged that Google are considering moving climate denying sites down the list of Google search results.

And just yesterday, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff cancelled all his company’s events in the state of Indiana, after its governor signed a law making discrimination on the grounds of sexuality legal.

These are the kinds of measures that can make a difference.

Come on IBM. If this were your Spring Break report card, it’d read “IBM – could work harder”.

Use open source platforms to find cloud computing’s energy and emissions footprint


Regular GreenMonk readers will be very aware that I am deeply skeptical about claims that Cloud Computing is Green (or even energy efficient). And that I talk about the significant carbon, water and biodiversity effects cloud computing can have.

One of the biggest issues with any claims of Cloud Computing being energy efficient, or Green, is the lack of transparency from the Cloud Computing providers. None of them are publishing any data around the energy consumption, or emissions of their Cloud infrastructure. Without data to back them up, any claims of Cloud computing being efficient are worthless.

Last week, while at the RackSpace EMEA Analyst day, we were given a potted history of OpenStack, RackSpace’s Cloud Computing platform. OpenStack was jointly developed by NASA and RackSpace and they open-sourced it with an Apache License in July 2010.

Anyone can download OpenStack and use it to create and host Cloud Computing solutions. Prominent OpenStack users include NASA, RackSpace (not surprisingly), AT&T, Deutsche Telecom, HP and IBM.

What has this got to do with Cloud Computing and energy efficiency I hear you ask?

Well, it occurred to me, during the analyst day, that because OpenStack is open source, anyone can fork it and write a version with built-in energy and emissions reporting. What would be really cool is, if this functionality, having been written, became a part of the core distribution – then anyone deploying OpenStack, would have this functionality by default…

SAP’s 2011 Sustainability Report

SAP 2011 Sustainability Report
SAP launched its 2011 Sustainability Report this week and in terms of aesthetics and social sharing, this is one of the best Sustainability Reports I have seen to-date.

The site contains many videos with SAP staff – including one from co-CEO’s Jim Hagemann Snabe & Bill McDermott which is featured prominently on the home page. Interestingly there are also several customer reference videos as well with the customers vouching for how SAP have helped them become more sustainable.

There are also many blog posts and interesting stories from SAP employees talking about everything from Materiality, through to Electric Vehicles.

There is a whole section in the report dedicated to how SAP Empowers its customers. It includes customer video testimonials, white papers and some very impressive top line figures for savings (“5.7 million tons of estimated carbon reductions, saving $550 million in energy costs”). However the methodology for producing these data is not gone into in any detail in this section. I contacted SAP to voice my concerns about this and they assured me that in the next couple of weeks the report will be updated to include the methodologies, and the story around producing this innovative section of the report.

SAP's progress on sustainability

As you’d expect from SAP, there’s also a lot of data in the report on how they are doing on their journey to sustainability and it’s mostly positive results. Almost all of their numbers are headed in the right direction. Unfortunately the exceptions to this are in the environmental area with increases in Data Centre Energy, Total Energy consumed and SAP’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint.

On the data centre energy front, the energy increase is both in real terms, and in kWh per employee. This is likely due to SAP increasingly hosting customers data and applications through their cloud offerings. What might be interesting here would be to see a kWh per cloud customer metric, or similar. Also, one would suspect that there should be a net reduction in energy consumption for that application, if it is replacing a customer’s pre-existing on-premises application. There could be some interesting data to mine there around energy wins.

On the Total Energy Consumed page you see that energy consumption has increased from 843GWh in 2010 to 860GWh in 2011. In the report it attributes this to growth in the business (SAP bought SucessFactors during this period) but the lack of a kWh per Employee metric on this page makes this hard to verify.

On the Greenhouse Gas page, we again see an increase in emissions from the 453kTons 2010 figure to 490kTons in 2011. On this page, it is possible to see a By Employee figure and here too we see an increase in emissions from 8.7 tons per employee in 2010 to 9.0 tons in 2011. However, when we look at the emissions by € revenue, we see a fall, from 36.3g/€ in 2010 to 34.4g/€ in 2011. 2011 was a good year for SAP, from a revenue perspective, it would appear…