Sustainability


EVs

One of the ways to sell more electric vehicles requires adding charging infrastructure at work and in public areas.

This past week, I attended Drive Oregon’s Utility Engagement Work Group meeting. During the meeting, one of the presenters shared a statistic that stated to meet the COP21 goal of keeping the world temperature to under 2C increase from the pre-industrial revolution era, sixty-five percent of all vehicles on the road will need to be zero emissions by 2030. This claim contrasts with a recent Bloomberg report that says we will be lucky if fifty percent of vehicles are emission free by 2040. The fact is, no matter what prediction or calculation we choose, the global transition away from the internal combustion engine (ICE) to electric vehicles (EVs) remains elusive.

Consumer Acceptance – A Long Way to Go

Today, EVs make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the total global number of vehicles on the road. In 2015, 550,297 EVs were sold worldwide. Although this number represents a sixty percent increase in sales over 2014, these figures are statistically insignificant toward having any impact on reducing global emissions, let alone influencing consumer minds about purchasing an EV.

Barriers to Widespread EV Adoption

The barriers that continue to hinder widespread EV adoption include higher purchasing costs, short battery range, lack of reliable charging infrastructure and a reluctance by car manufacturers and dealers to promote EVs with effective marketing tactics. What is needed are affordable, long range EVs that are convenient to operate and quick to charge. However, to make all of this happen, a coordinated and concerted effort is required from several public and private entities. For example, during the Utility Engagement Work Group meeting, a comment by one of the participating electric utilities reasoned, “it takes a village to help spread EV adoption.” This means installing reliable charging infrastructure at the workplace as well as in public areas. However, efforts to install more EV charging outlets have been hampered by the lack of use. The demand is still at a trickle rather than a rush. The question is how do we create a viable path to mass EV adoption that is cost efficient and is adaptable to the realities of low-cost gasoline and insufficient interest?

EV Affordability and Availability

One of the main barriers to EV adoption thus far has been the relatively high cost of entry and lack of choice. Besides the Tesla Model S, the ultimate luxury sedan, the Nissan Leaf and a few others such as the Chevy Volt and Spark, the available options for 41 states are limited. One of the issues is the compliance car. Because California, Washington, DC and nine other states require automakers to sell zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), the compliance car is only sold in those states. Although improving, the compliance vehicles do not offer significant range, imaginative design or much of an economic value when compared to cheaper internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. Also, many auto manufacturers are reluctantly moving forward with EVs simply because they disrupt their reliable and profitable business model.

Disrupting a Profitable Business Model

An often overlooked reason EV adoption has been slow is because auto dealers are worried about protecting their business model which, in America, focuses on selling trucks and SUVs and servicing ICEs. Without a transmission and multiple moving parts, the EV requires much less maintenance than the fossil-fueled car. This fact is one of the reasons why Tesla’s sales model is direct-to-consumer which eliminates the middleman and the need to have nearby service areas.

Overcoming Range Anxiety

Unlike ICEs, the EV suffers from the perception of lack of range. From the beginning, consumers have been reluctant to purchase a car with a range of 85 miles or less. (The Tesla Model S and Model X have ranges of 208 – 270 miles, but the starting cost of $69,900 limits affordability.) Although most studies have shown that commuters live in urban areas and drive 30 miles or less each day, they are still reluctant to own a car that takes an average of 8 hours for a full charge, instead of only a few minutes at the pump. Those most likely to purchase an EV will own a second conventional car for the long trips.

EV Charging Infrastructure

The emphasis on ubiquitous charging infrastructure is coupled with the need for a standard charging device. Currently, there are AC Level 1 (120 volts), AC Level 2 (240 volts) and DC fast charging (40 – 60 kW) outlets which can be both confusing and inconvenient. Similar to how the USB became the standard for computer attachments such as jump-drives and device charging, EV manufacturers and EV charging outlets will most likely develop a universal standard that will improve charging times and connection convenience. The EV charger needs to be available and reliable. (At the Utility Engagement Work Group meeting, there were several comments about how many EV chargers have not worked properly, or not at all, which has resulted in negative feedback.)

Design, Performance and Marketing

One of the factors that may be offputting to car buyers considering an affordable EV is the odd design. In particular, the Nissan Leaf represents the best example of a car that many believe lack the sleek and stylized look made famous by the Tesla Model S. Although BMW and Volkswagen and others are moving quickly to ramp up their EV offerings, the need to create mass appeal via fresh design is a big part of the marketing equation. Fortunately, the performance of EVs continues to improve and to adjust to the quick acceleration and torque is an advantage that needs emphasis. There are so many marketing angles for selling EVs including regenerative braking, silent driving, as well as the environment. However, as one EV observer in writes, “The burden of persuading buyers with good products and great marketing remains on the automakers, and the Madison Avenue firms they employ.”

The Driverless EV

Finally, with the advancement of driverless vehicles speeding up, there is the possibility that EVs will someday spread in popularity with ridesharing and services such as Uber and Lyft.  (Some experts predict  fully autonomous vehicles will debut in 2019.) Many of today’s younger generation have a new approach to cars that didn’t exist a few years ago. Why buy a car when you can take advantage of Zipcar, Car2Go or several other car sharing companies? These cars may also become electric and driverless in the future which will transform the entire auto industry. It may not be too far off when Uber driverless EVs pull up at the airport arrivals area and silently whisk people off to their destinations. Experts have predicted with the advancement of driverless electric vehicles; there will be far fewer cars on the road and much less vehicle ownership. The net result would be fewer cars in general that are mostly electric which will be convenient for commuters, good for the environment, and a sudden opening of space for redevelopment and more green space!

WindyFlats2015

With the COP21 Paris agreement now in place, the concept of sustainability as an integral part of business operations is now poised to kick into high gear.

The global agreement marks a pivotal point in history where the economic and social opportunities for transitioning to a low-carbon economy are enormous. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement sets out “to pursue a transformation towards sustainable development that fosters climate resilient and low greenhouse gas emission societies and economies, and that does not threaten food production and distribution.” The goal is to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2070.  In addition to protecting Earth as a habitat for life, the COP21 agreement is now igniting a revolution of transformative ideas including high-level of innovation and entrepreneurship on a scale not seen since the end of World War II.

Transforming the tenants of consumerism

For many forward-thinking businesses and organizations already embracing sustainable development, the COP21 agreement is a welcome affirmation. By embedding new initiatives into their culture that include social, environmental and economic sustainability solutions, these innovative business leaders are achieving more than a bankable return on their investment. They are transforming the tenants of consumer-based capitalism into a new system where twentieth-century concepts such as planned obsolescence and industrial waste are being replaced by vertical integration that includes upcycling, recycling and downcycling combined with energy efficiency in a low-carbon and reduced water usage environment. In effect, these leaders are demonstrating a new “ecological worldview.”

The hidden power of ecological worldviews

At the recent Northwest Environmental Council (NWEC) conference held in Portland, Oregon, one of the breakout sessions entitled “Making the business case for sustainability,” Dr. Steve Schein discussed the findings from his book entitled, “A new psychology for sustainability leadership. The hidden power of ecological worldviews.” Schein’s research includes interviews with over 75 corporate, governmental and non-profit C-level leaders and discovers that many hold ecological worldviews that transcend the “business-as-usual” approach to capitalism and “put society’s social and environmental needs at the core of their business.” For these leaders, the sustainability process begins by embracing an “ecological worldview” where there is a clear goal to reassess the entire production cycle.

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To advertisers and marketers it’s important to realize that kids and young teens are extremely media/computer savvy and the best way to engage them is to be authentic and to always converse with them on their terms. What may be surprising for parents and teachers is what were once thought to be effective and efficient methods for teaching and providing guidance may now no longer be as relevant or meaningful for todays kids. 

Just a few years ago the folks at Common Sense Media wrote, “we may think of our kids’ online, mobile, and technological activities as “digital life,” but to them, it’s just life. Their world is as much about creating media as it is about consuming it.” And that in essence is what matters most – much of how kids view their world is through technology.

Generation Z

For kids born after 1998, “known as “Generation Z”,  they know of no life without Internet, ubiquitous cell phones, iPods, iPads, social media or 24/7 entertainment.” They’re also much more brand and fashion conscious at these younger ages.

This axiom holds true when considering how kids are learning and how they are choosing to get involved in activities both online and off.

The Power of Agency

What shouldn’t be surprising are the things kids can do  – and are doing – when empowered to do so. As Melissa Clark-Reynolds, CEO of Minimonos, stated at the Sustainable Brands ’11 conference, “kids need to be given agency”, that is “they need to be given the capacity to make powerful choices and affect the world.”

Minimonos (Spanish for little monkeys) is an online game that challenges kids to think in sustainable terms by rewarding them for doing the right thing. The purpose of Minimonos is “to have a place that embodies core values like sustainability and generosity, without turning those values into a boring lecture.”  What’s more, these kids are looking for authenticity and something that will inspire them – but it has to be on their terms and level of interest.

More than most parents may be willing to admit, a large percentage of today’s kids are extremely media savvy (they totally get it!) and they can detect the insincerity of a website, a social media platform, or any game or program that may be purportedly “designed for kids” but clearly doesn’t understand what motivates and engages them. If any of the content feels like it’s being imposed or is just irrelevant, then it’s summarily rejected. However, if the content has real value where the kids feel empowered to make decisions, are able to connect with other like-minded kids and can realize social status through rewards (gamification) – and it’s fun – then there is a good chance the website/game or social media platform may be a success.

What’s also important is when kids are given this “agency” it is not to diminish or negate the need for providing safety, structure and supervision while they’re spending time online. “The very nature of their constantly connected culture means kids must understand the concept of privacy so that what they post and create won’t hurt them or embarrass them at some point down the line.” However, as Emily Bazelon writes the The New York Times, “parents and lawmakers are [at times] so worried about protecting our children that they can fail to distinguish between real threats and phantom ones.” The point is to strike a balance between protecting and monitoring kids while also allowing them to find their space online where they can flourish.

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Lars Breneman is planning a vacation to visit his relatives in Germany next year and after reviewing his flight options he’s chosen to fly with Lufthansa. Lars’ decision wasn’t based on any loyalty to his German ancestry, rather he chose the German airline because he’s doing his best to save money – and reduce his carbon footprint. Lars, who lives in Seattle, discovered that Lufthansa has recently begun testing bio-fuels to help lower its carbon emissions, which also means the airline may eventually pay less towards the new EU carbon fees.

The New York Times recently reported, “starting Jan. 1, 2012 the European Union will require all carriers entering or leaving its airports to either reduce their [greenhouse gas – GHG] emissions or pay a charge — whether the airline is United, Air France or Lufthansa… and the “cleanest” airlines will pay less in emissions fees.”

Depending on the size and model of aircraft, airplanes on average spew 244 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions for every mile flown. Source: Blueskymodel.org

 

For Lufthansa the objective is to become the “driver of change” in reducing GHG emissions with its new biofuels and has estimated a savings of 1,500 tons of CO2 emissions during the recent test period.

On the other hand the US airline industry has taken a different approach having recently filed a lawsuit before the European Court of Justice.

It would be safe to say that the impending fee has caused some friction. “The European Union is imposing this on U.S. carriers without our agreement,” Wendell Albright, director of the Office of Aviation Negotiations at the State Department, said in a recent NY Times interview. “It is for the U.S. to decide on targets or appropriate action for U.S. airlines with respect to greenhouse gas emissions.”

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