In many states, you are fairly limited in terms of whom you get your energy and other utilities from. However, in states where there are deregulated energy markets, you have many choices. For example, whether you are in Austin or Houston, you have the Power to Choose Texas Electricity. This lets you decide from a list of providers to find the best option for your needs.
But with so many potential options, how do you decide which is right for your needs? Well, there are a couple of things you can do, and this article will take a closer look at them.
Compare the Costs
Every month, the average American household spends a lot on their utilities. In an effort to keep these costs as low as possible, you always need to compare the costs of energy plans. If you simply choose the first plan you see or find, you could end up leaving a better deal on the table.
So be sure to consider various companies, and examine their costs for all of the different plans they’re offering. Thankfully, this doesn’t require you to reach out to and/or visit each provider individually. There are many tools and services that can help you compare these costs online, right from the comfort of your own home. While the cost isn’t the only thing to consider, it certainly isn’t one to forget about.
Decide on the Specifics of Your Plan
Another important aspect of shopping for an energy plan in Texas is to know what you need. There are a variety of plans, and you need to take time to become aware of what you need and prefer out of your plan.
In general, there are two main plan types, a fixed and variable rate plan. A fixed-rate plan is one that has its price per kWh locked in for the entire duration of the term or contract. On the other hand, a variable rate plan is one that will vary as the market changes throughout your term.
Also, know the term or contract length that you are comfortable with. Shorter plans are great for flexibility, while longer plans can provide price stability. Some plans may also come with different rewards, incentives, or other benefits, so be sure to do a ton of research on the different plans available in your area.
Look at Provider Reputations
While the prices and plans offered by a provider are important to consider, you also need to think about their reputation. You want to work with a provider that has a positive reputation in the space and one that has good reviews. If they have bad reviews, a troubled past, or other issues that come up during research, it’s a good idea to tread lightly.
Of course, everyone’s experience may differ. So while it’s good to look at reviews, be careful not to make your decision solely based on them. You should also ask friends and family, check out their website and consider reaching out to them directly with any questions you might have.
The provider you go with should also offer quality customer service and support. Issues may arise, and you don’t want to wait days and days to hear back from your provider about your problem.
In conclusion, in order to find the best energy plan for your needs, be sure to know how to shop for them. You should always compare costs, know the specifics of your plan and look at the reputations of the providers you’re considering.
Italy’s Plugin Vehicle Market More Than Tripled YoY In Q1 2021 — 6.6% Market Share
Originally published on opportunity:energy.
The first quarter of 2021 has offered an upbeat snapshot of EV sales throughout Europe, with a continued strong rise across all markets. Italy’s sales started off the year with softer growth than other countries, but a strong rebound at the end of Q1 means this year’s electric car sales stats are already impressing.
The Italian plugin vehicle market posted new historic highs in March, with record numbers of registrations for pure electric cars as well as plug-in hybrids, as most automakers rushed to deliver to customers by quarter end. This is a fairly typical feature across many markets, and encourages us to use aggregate sales within a quarter as a good projection of the year’s trends.
The first three months of 2021 saw 13,319 registrations of fully electric cars, marking great progress over the same period last year, when 5,402 BEVs were registered in the same timeframe (see UNRAE data). This 146% increase year over year (YoY) was in part influenced by Covid — the pandemic started affecting all markets in March 2020 — but is mostly a sign of the increasing strength of electrified sales in the Bel Paese. The overall market rebounded in fact “only” by 29%, with around 450,000 units compared to 350,000 units in the first quarter of 2020. In 2021, BEV market share rose to 3% for the quarter, up from 1.5% a year ago.
An even better performance was that of plug-in hybrids, which at 16,408 units actually performed better than BEVs in the first three months of 2021, an unusual exploit in the Italian car market. This performance by PHEVs marks an eye-watering +455% growth YoY, from just 2,957 units a year ago, moving the segment’s market share to 3.6% from a measly 0.8% in Q1 2020. Whether the relative strength of plug-in hybrids versus full electrics is a new trend is yet to be confirmed, but it certainly helped build up the overall weight of plug-in vehicles, which grew to 6.6% in the first three months of 2021, from 2.4% last year.
With these dramatic changes in the perception — and sales — of electric vehicles in such a short timeframe, it’s interesting to single out which models contributed most in reaffirming the exponential growth trends of the nascent Italian EV market. Can anyone guess?
The top 10 chart confirms the preferences of a car market known for its reliance on compact models. The Fiat 500e sits firmly in first place with 2,058 units registered, a broadly anticipated position for the first beautiful BEV effort by Fiat in the A-segment. The even smaller Smart ForTwo follows in second place at 1,723 registrations, benefitting from its perfect fit for tight Italian urban environments. A surprisingly close third is the Tesla Model 3, with 1,684 registrations, mostly due to its record March deliveries. This luxury D-segment outlier is proof of Tesla’s ability to conquer market share even in a country so averse to larger size and price as Italy. What will happen when the American automaker will land its C-segment model in less than a couple of years?
Off of the podium, French models seized most positions. A distant fourth, the Renault Zoe achieved 1,271 registrations, a 50% improvement on its own numbers from a year prior, but not enough to compete with even stronger growth by the top 3. Is the Zoe’s reign over Europe already a thing of the past? The Renault Twingo Z.E. followed in fifth position with 1,254 registrations, another strong candidate for the podium in this market. The Peugeot e-208 and crossover sibling Peugeot e-2008 followed at a distance in sixth and seventh, respectively, trailed by their platform-sharing Opel Corsa-e in eighth position. The Hyundai Kona EV and Volkswagen ID.3 closed out the chart, showing how successful BEVs can still fall victim to lower regional availability or showrooms’ unwillingness to sell.
Italy’s EV market is so far confirming its predilection for smaller and cheaper cars, a tough arena that is gradually getting more crowded. As A- and B-segment full electric models keep playing a leading role in Europe’s fourth largest market, we could nonetheless soon start to see a growing interest in more family-sized models, as tantalising new entries (the Volkswagen ID.4, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Kia EV6 …) make their debut in Tesla territory and a broader choice of EVs is progressively met by increased awareness. A crucial year for EV adoption is unfolding, and no market — not even Italy — will be left untouched.
The Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 Folding E-Bike — CleanTechnica Review
The team over at Lectric eBikes in Phoenix, Arizona is hell bent on making electric bikes affordable and functional for the masses. The Lectric XP and Lectric Step-Thru were launched at a bargain price of just $899 a bit less than 2 years ago and having shipped more than 70,000 of the bikes to date, it is clear its first iterations were massive successes.
The team has taken the lessons learned from its first generation bikes and is launching version 2.0 of both the Lectric XP and the Lectric Step-Thru with a slew of improvements. The new bikes feature slightly wider, slightly curved handlebars for a more comfortable ride, a front oil shock, slightly smaller 20″ x 3″ tires, new front rack mounting points on the frame, a ton of new accessories, and a beefier rear rack, to name a few of the upgrades.
Lectric is committed to keeping the price down and was able to bring all these new features while keeping the price under $1000. The new Lectric XP 2.0 and Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 are both launching today for what’s still, in my opinion, the best value in e-bikes at $999. As a special bonus, Lectric is making the new version of the bike available to all customers with backlogged orders eagerly waiting for their Lectric e-bike to ship.
Customer with existing orders were given the option to upgrade to the 2.0 models for just $50 for a total price of $949. Lectric also gave those customers a 20% discount off of accessories to further sweeten the deal. Here are just a few of the new accessories Lectric is launching with the introduction of its second generation bikes: A cargo package including a front rack and a pair of baskets for $149, a comfort package including a suspension seatpost and a saddle that is the equivalent of a recliner for $99, a premium headlight upgrade for $49, a bike lock $49, mirrors for $39, and a phone holder for $29.
We met up with Lectric eBikes CEO Levi Conlow and a few guys from his merry band of misfits while they were out in Southern California doing some work and were able to spend a few days with a prototype build of the Lectric Step-Thru 2.0.
We toured it through our normal review route on miles of roads, took it off-road, onto the sand, over rocks, downhill, uphill, and everything in between and just can’t help but to be impressed by the second generation build. The Lectric was designed to be as capable as possible at as low a price point as possible and considering what you get for the price in this second version, it is an impressive value.
The Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 is built on top of the same low-step folding frame as its predecessor, with the removable battery integrated into the primary tube of the bike. The power is routed to a 500 watt rear hub motor designed in house by Lectric. 500 watt motors are increasingly popular as bike builders and riders find they strike a nice balance between power output and efficiency.
The updated Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 comes with an adjustable shock up front that provides a bit of extra cushion to absorb heavier bumps. Combined with the shock absorption coming from the oversized 20″ x 3″ CST tires, the Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 provides a smooth ride.
These tires are smaller than the 20″ x 4″ tires on Lectric’s original bikes and are a significant improvement. The tread on these CST tires provides a ton of traction without creating a ton of additional rolling resistance. Their rounded profile makes them smooth on city streets as well as on dirt trails.
As a folding bike, the slightly smaller tires trim off a bit of extra weight and thin out the profile of the bike a bit. At 62 pounds, this bike is no lightweight, but the ability to fold increases its portability and gives owners plenty of options for tucking it into an RV, boat, trunk, or in the closet.
The handlebars were also improved on the new version. They’re slightly wider and pull back just a bit from the bike for more control and more comfort. They are a subtle, but noticeable improvement over the first generation that make for a more stable, comfortable, controlled ride.
Individually, these upgrades are nice, but not life changing. Together, they smooth over some of the rough edges in the first generation bikes for a new Lectric lineup that’s more capable, more refined, and more capable than their predecessors. A massive part of that capability has to do with the new accessories Lectric is rolling out alongside its new bikes.
The new front rack bosses we mentioned earlier are sweet, as they make it possible to mount a front rack to the frame of the bike. Doing this adds a new place to haul gear and makes it far more stable than a traditional front basket by securing the load to the frame itself. A large or small basket can be bolted to the L-shaped front rack, depending on the needs of the rider. We had a look at some of the first prototypes of the baskets, and they are sharp looking matte black metal baskets built to put in some serious work.
Out back, the new rear rack that comes with the bike has a capacity of 77 lb (35 kg). That’s a significant amount more hauling capacity than a standard rear rack can carry and that could be a factor for folks looking to put their Step-Thru to work hauling gear. With the improved hauling capacity, a copious lineup of new accessories available from the factory, the fact that Lectric was able to deliver a ton of new features for only $100 more at a time when supply chain prices are climbing across the industry is an impressive feat.
Lectric’s stock seat is already one of the most comfortable factory seats we’ve ridden on, but they wanted more. It may be a pet project of the CEO or just a desire to make the most comfortable seating position on any bike out there, but we had the opportunity to test out Lectric’s new optional comfort saddle and suspension and man, is it comfortable.
Yes, it is a massive seat. Yes, the seat and post probably weigh more than some high end road bikes. But dang, this thing brings the comfort. It’s the equivalent of the recliner chair in your living room that everyone falls asleep in and it’s actually reasonably comfortable to peddle the bike on. I took it off-road for a short blast on some local trails and it was like riding on a cloud of marshmallows.
The new 2.0 looks to be better positioned to meet the needs of even more customers, accelerating Lectric’s evil plan for world domination. Ok, maybe it’s not evil, but the company is trying to get as many e-bikes out into the world as possible, electrifying the way we get around along the way. On top of that, Lectric’s introductory accessory bundles make it easier for owners to get their hands on quality gear designed and built specifically to extend the functionality of their Lectric bikes.
The upgraded version of the bike should help to carry them even farther up the sales ladder, ultimately replacing even more cars with miles ridden on electric bikes. I mean, if you can get an electric bike with a rear rack and basket for under $1,000, who wants to drive to the grocery store anyway? And that’s the goal. Lectric’s CEO is bent on replacing car trips with trips on electric bikes. That might be from your house to the grocery store, from your RV to the beach, or leaving with the kids and dog in tow to head to the park. Zero emissions is zero emissions and who knows, you just might get a workout while you’re at it.
The new Lectric XP 2.0 and Lectric Step-Thru 2.o both officially launch today. Get all the juicy details about the new bikes, the new accessories to bling them out with, and order one directly from Lectric’s website.
Lectric Step-Thru 2.0 Folding E-Bike Specs
- Motor: 500 watt Lectric-designed rear hub motor
- Battery: 460Wh, 48v, 9.6Ah battery built with Samsung cells
- Range: up to 45 miles
- Charge Time: 4-6 hours
- Top Speed:
- Throttle: 20 mph
- Pedal Assist: 28 mph
- Tires: 20″ x 3.3″ CST BFT or Chao Yang tires with oversized 3.5″ inner tubes
- Gearing: 1 x 7-speed
- Size: One size
- Recommended Rider Height: 4’10” – 6’3″
- Colors: White or Black
- Lights: integrated front and rear LED lights
- Assembly: Arrives fully assembled
- Weight: 62 lb
- Payload Capacity: 330 lb
- Price: $999
All images credit: Kyle Field, CleanTechnica
Lithium-Ion Battery Care Guide – Part Three
Lithium-ion batteries are the most common battery in consumer electronics. They are used in everything from cell phones to power tools to electric cars and more. However, they have well-defined characteristics that cause them to wear out, and understanding these characteristics can help you to double the life of your batteries or more. This is especially useful for products that do not have replaceable batteries.
Battery wear is loss of capacity and/or increased internal resistance. The latter not being a well known concept, over time the battery is able to put out less amperage as the battery ages and eventually the battery is unable to generate power quickly enough to operate the appliance at all even though the battery is not empty.
The standard disclaimers apply, all advice is for informational purposes only, CleanTechnica is not responsible for any damages caused by inaccurate information or following any advice provided. Also, new technology may change the characteristics spoken about, making them less or more relevant in the future or even rendering them obsolete.
Lithium-Ion Batteries Age From The Following Factors:
- Time – Part One
- Cycles – Part One
- Storage/operating temperature – Part Two
- Charging – Part Two
- Discharging – In this article
- Depth of charge – Part Four (upcoming)
- Time spent at near full/empty – Part Four (upcoming)
- Depth of discharge – Part Five (upcoming)
- End Of Life – Part Five (upcoming)
- Summary – Part Six (upcoming)
Lithium batteries last longest when discharged slowly. Discharge rate is commonly quoted in C rate, 1C meaning going from 100% full to empty (0%) in one hour, 2C meaning 30 minutes, 0.5C meaning 2 hours and so forth). High discharge rates are not ideal, as batteries prefer to be discharged at well below 1C (going from fully charged to fully drained in well over 1 hour). Some chemistries are actually able to handle discharge rates of up to 60C (full to empty in 1 minute) but it’s not good for longevity. There is also generally a capacity vs discharge rate at play, the higher the discharge C rate a battery is rated for, the lower the capacity. For example many power tools use batteries that only hold 25-40% of the capacity of the highest capacity cells available but are able to reliably discharge at 5-10C.
Constant ludicrous speed acceleration will reduce the life of your batteries, but you don’t need to completely baby them during discharge, unlike gasoline-powered vehicles, a super low rate of discharge is not going to net you much utility over standard driving.
Your best bet in increasing longevity here is to try not to punish your batteries. Don’t push them to their limits and they will experience less capacity loss and slower increases in internal resistance over time. Of course this is not always practical. For example, many yard tools give less than an hour of run time on fully charged batteries and there is nothing you can do about this except to not use the tool (which is unrealistic). On the other hand, you can sometimes buy larger batteries for the tool which nets you a lower C/hr discharge rate. Or use powerbanks that don’t drain themselves as quickly when recharging phones away from an outlet — a 15,000mAh USB Powerbank that can charge your phone say three times will have a lower C discharge rate than a 5000mAh USB Powerbank doing the exact same job (but only delivering perhaps one charge).
If you have the ability to choose between different batteries, aim for higher capacity and higher C rated (if you can get this information and the upcharge is reasonable). For an EV you don’t have much choice of battery chemistry, but you can look into longevity information online for that model of vehicle and see how they have fared. In general most modern EVs have been designed well in regards to battery longevity. But don’t take this for granted, do the necessary research before purchase.
Virtually all battery types experience self-discharge over time. Self-discharge is when a battery loses power that is stored in it even though you did not use it for anything. When a battery/battery pack is left unused for long periods, the pack drains itself over time and eventually you end up with a dead battery even though it’s only been sitting on a shelf (or your driveway).
There is self-drain and parasitic drain at play. Self-drain is loss of energy as the chemicals in the battery go from its higher energy charged state to a lower energy discharged state without a load attached. Virtually all batteries experience self-drain, but the rate varies by battery chemistry, temperature, and the age of the battery. The rate of self-drain is not always linear. That said, modern lithium-ion batteries often have a very low self-drain rate, contrasted to parasitic drain. Parasitic drain is caused by circuitry attached to the batter(ies) that slowly drains them in the background when the device is not in active use by its owner. It can sometimes also be caused by leaving a battery on an unplugged charger after its charged. Finally it can also be caused by functions happening in the background for more complex devices like cell phones (screen off waiting for a call/text, WiFi/Bluetooth on etc) and EVs (Sentry mode, listening for the fob signal, conditioning the batteries when the vehicle is not in use and so forth).
Lithium-ion does not typically self-discharge as quickly as other battery types, however, cells and packs (made up of many cells) have control circuity and this inevitably causes some parasitic drain. As each pack type’s control circuitry is custom designed, how much drain any particular pack experiences is not defined and you will have to experiment to figure it out. Some may last weeks, others months, and some could (rarely) last years. Also, self-discharge will vary on whether the battery pack is connected or disconnected from the device it powers (think power tools, e-bikes etc.). In some cases the self-discharge rate soars when it’s left connected vs battery stored separately. Manufacturers rarely specify if this applies to the item in the owner’s manual.
Stay tuned for Part Four, Depth Of Charge
A summary of the terminology used in the battery world:
Charging algorithm = Battery is charged at Constant Current, then near full charge (typically over 80%) the charger switches to Constant Voltage. The charging rate slows until the battery reaches 100% charge. Many EVs modify this algorithm.
C = Capacity of the battery
- Battery ability to output power is measured in 1/C. 1C means the battery drained in one hour, 2C means 30 minutes (1/2 hour), 3C means empty in 20 minutes (1/3 of an hour) and so forth.
- Charging can also be measured in C, 1C means charged in 1 hour, 0.5C charged in 2 hours, 2C charged in 30 minutes and so forth.
Charge rates are not typically linear, the battery is typically charged more rapidly until it reaches the Constant Voltage stage.
Series = Multiple batteries linked in a chain to increase the total voltage of the pack.
Parallel = Multiple batteries linked side by side to increase amperage instead of voltage.
(x)S(x)P configuration = explains how multiple batteries are linked. 4S2P for example means 8 cells, four in Series and two Parallel rows
Volts (V) = Electric potential. Power outlets are measured in volts.
Watts (W)= Volts x Amps. Energy/Power usage is often measured in watts. A kilowatt is 1000 watts. kWh is Kilowatts per hour.
Energy is measured in Joules and is convertible to Watts/second if you have a time component.
Power = Energy over time. Typically measured in Watts. One Joule per second is 1 watt. The same number of Joules or Watts in half the time is twice the power.
Nominal voltage = Voltage used to calculate Watts of a battery.
Battery capacity = How many Ah of power the battery can output (when new).
Load = Device that uses the power from the battery.
Internal resistance of a battery affects its Power output. Increased internal resistance is the reduction in rate of Power output the battery can deliver. Energy output is affected somewhat by increased internal resistance.
“Horrific” Gas Explosion Rocks Baltimore County Neighborhood
A gas explosion injured several people, including one critically in Pikesville, Maryland on Friday. Baltimore Gas & Electric crews were working on the gas line when it exploded. The blast, which launched flames 60 feet into the air, ignited a fire that burned for three hours, and power and gas service were shut down for more than 250 homes for several hours. This is the second gas explosion in less than a year in the Baltimore region. A massive and deadly explosion ripped through multiple row houses in the Reisterstown Station neighborhood last August. “In the corner of our eyes, we saw this giant burst of flame,” Rubin Schechman told WBAL. “Just a horrific incident, it’s horrible. To see people coming out to work, doing what they’re supposed to, getting hurt like that, it’s horrible.” Holding back tears the next day, Jill Wachs told the Baltimore Sun, “It was a pretty devastating day on Birch Hollow [Road].”
Originally published by Nexus Media.
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