Motorhead, Okinawa
Comments 5

Progress

Things seem to be back to normal in Okinawa. Yesterday I went for a drive to the north of the island, and noticed this parking space at one of the convenience stores.

Electric Vehicle Parking / Charging Space in Okinawa

These E.V. (electric vehicle) charging stations are starting to appear across Okinawa. There are some at the expressway service areas , and I even spotted one all the way up in Higashi Village. This is a quite uplifting, a really positive sign for the future, especially following days of seeing catastrophic images on the news. I also saw my first Nissan Leaf electric car.

Nissan Leaf Electric Car

Nissan Leaf Electric Car (photo by Nissan)

Okinawa is pretty much perfect for electric vehicles. The islands compact size means that all journeys should be less than the official 100 mile range of the Leaf (and also less than the EPA’s  estimated range  for the Leaf of 73 miles). My hope is that the Leaf, and similar vehicles, will become the standard rental cars on the island. Great for the environment, great for the lungs of pedestrians and cyclists, great for the car companies to showcase their creations, and great for visitors who are indirectly test driving a possible next vehicle.

5 Comments

  1. Tord S Eriksson says

    Still terrible news from Japan, but electric cars, that’s a subject very close to my heart!

    Environmentally, the switch to electric cars is just slightly more ‘friendly’ than other environmentally friendly cars (according to a US study), and then there is the problem with electricity production. If all cars would be electric you’d have to produce many times the amount of electricity that is produced today on Okinawa – and all forms of electricity production has its environmental impact.

    Japan has now experience of what can happen to nuclear plant, not to mention where do you put the waste? First we got tons of low radiation waste (like contanimated tools and clothes of the employees – no you can’t just wash it off. This is produced all the time, not to be manhandled for many, many years. Then we have the medium radiation waste, that has to be kept in water pools for hundreds of years. Eventually comes the high radiation waste, that can’t be handled for thousands of years, or even tens of thousands of years, unless it is reprocessed, which in itself has other dangers, including security issues.

    Hydro power disrupts the water table, both above the dams, and down-stream the dams, and with oil and gas-fired plants we have the exhaust of various things, and coal-powered generation has even more environmental issues (and health issues for the coal mine workers), like spewing out masses of sulfur!

    The least understood, and known, is wave power, that maybe is a good thing, maybe not, as one of the types that is most popular among the polticians and salesmen of today contains wast amounts of hydraulic fluid, that surely will, little by little, leak into the environment, unless we have a tsunami when a lot will leak! They may also affect fishing and sealiving creatures – we just don’t know.

    Wind power is not harmless either, but mostly affects the local environment, as big roads has to be built between the windmills – for transporting the various bits needed, and for the big cranes, that are used during the assembly of the windmills, to drive on, et cetera. And then big power cables have to be buried, and so on.

    To conclude:

    Older types of electric cars were much worse, I hasten to add, as they used lead-acid batteries, which have environmental issues in themselves, plus the cars were very heavy, increasing road wear, and dangerous in case of fire, or collision. Both for the car’s occupants, and other car drivers and passengers! A burning modern electric car is a much more intensive bon fire than a regular car fire, a side effect of the modern batteries.

    The only type of car that seem to have small environmental effects is a French pneumatic one, that uses compressed air for propulsion! Still needs compressors, of course, but the cars are light, and quiet – and are made in different sizes, from small buses to tiny personal transports! The compressed air is carried in Kevlar-reinforced tubes under the floor of the vehicles, and crash tests have gone well :-)!

    Now I am off to drive my small compact to work, to switch to my 25 ton, 18 meter long, bus!

  2. Jason Masters says

    Nice blog I really miss Okinawa and would love to get back there if I had the time and extra cash I’m hoping maybe in a year. But it’s good to see the progress of the island though they were always slightly ahead of the curve anyhow but still laid back society do you know if American heights still exists?

  3. Tord has summed up the post I was about to make rather better than I would have managed.

    Electric vehicles are in principle clearly a big step forward, but the associated problems Tord describes mean that we can’t simply switch our fleet of automobiles over to electric ones and continue life as normal.

    The answer lies in changing our way of living to consume much, much less energy, so that renewables can supply us with what we need. That means local production and consumption, and people living and working locally in their communities. Long commutes, and long-distance vegetables, need to become things of the past.

    This doesn’t mean a life of toil, however. http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/
    is an excellent look at creative low-energy (tho’ often technologically very sophisticated) solutions that can help us to lead comfortable lives without huge energy consumption.

  4. I’ll add that George Monbiot is saying that renewables can’t fulfill all our energy needs, and that nuclear is better than coal:

    http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/21/going-critical/

    George is someone I have a great deal of respect for, so I’m prepared to accept his conclusion, particularly as he is calling for simultaneous expansion of renewables and reduction of consumption: there is no one solution, the answer lies in putting all of the available solutions available to maximumise the benefit we get from them. Nuclear is going to be part of this solution, tho’ how big a part depends on how well we can use the other parts.

    (and what to do with the waste is still an unsolved problem)

    • I read the article this morning. Wondered if it was fair to describe the Fukushima reactor as “A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features”.

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