Monthly Archives: December 2011


The Chevy Volt’s driving range is reduced by cold or hot weather. The EPA estimates the Chevy Volt can travel 35 miles on a fully charged battery according to an article written by Doug Wernert, Chevrolet VoltAge Community Manager.   This will vary due to the weather conditions he adds.   If it is cold, using the car heater and front window defrost will have a “high/maximum Impact” on the Volt’s range.  And of course, in hot weather the A/C unit has “high/maximum impact” on range.  (Do you have the feeling that the range estimates are often at odds with the last news release you read?)  Does the EPA account for the weather in their estimated fully charged battery range?  If not, then it would seem that 35 miles might only be good on optimal days, says 68F or something like that (no A/C, no heat) and would result in a lower figure for the rest of the time.   A chart that accompanied Wernert’s article listed some other activities that resulted in “high/maximum impact” on the range.  These are

High speeds (70+mph)

Aggressive Accelerations

Steep incline

So, no driving in the mountains with the pedal to the metal in cold weather.


Visual Comparison of Earthquake Strength

The Atlantic has posted “An Excellent Visual Comparison of Earthquake Strength” in their online magazine.  Click the link below.  But first a little background on the Richter Scale to help you gauge the size of an earthquake.

The Richter Scale, used to gauge the energy contained in an earthquake, is a logarithmic scale, not a linear scale.  According to Wiki,  an earthquake that measures 5 on the Richter Scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger and corresponds to an energy release that is 31.6 time greater than one that measures 4 on the Richter Scale.  Every step up in a whole number is a ten-fold increase in the size and severity of the quake.

Click  here to see Atlantic’s visual comparison:


Cycle 24 November 2011 Update

November Cycle 24 monthly sunspot count was nearly 100, which is by far the most active period since the cycle began.    The same goes for the F 10.7 Radio Flux that racked up a value of about 155.  But of these numbers are well below those of Cycle 23 at its peak.  Cycle 23 peak sunspot count was 170 and its F10.7 was about 235.   See the  November NOAA/SWPC charts below:


Solar Activity/Geomagnetism

The Ap index is a good proxy for overall solar activity. For two months it has declined.  We are seeing Cycle 24 peaks in F10.7, and sunspots simultaneously with this drop in Ap.  It may mean that the spots and F10.7 may soon be trending downward as well.

If you  are interested,  the following is a brief explanation of the various ways geomagnetism is expressed.

The magnetic activity indices K, Kp and ap are designed to measure the variations in the geomagnetic field that arise from current systems caused by regular solar radiation changes. Other irregular current systems produce magnetic field changes caused by the interaction of the solar wind with the magnetosphere, by the magnetosphere itself, by the interactions between the magnetosphere and ionosphere, and by the ionosphere itself.

The planetary 3-hour range index Kp is the mean K-index from 13 geomagnetic observatories.  The scale is 0 to 9 expressed in thirds of a unit, 5-  is 4 2/3, 5 is 5 and 5+ is 5 1/3.  This planetary index is designed to measure particle radiation by its magnetic effects.  The 3-hourly ap (equivalent range) index is derive from the Kp index as follows:

Kp = 0o   0+   1-   1o   1+   2-   2o   2+   3-   3o   3+   4-   4o   4+

ap =  0     2     3      4     5     6     7       9    12   15    18     22   27   32

Kp = 5-    5o    5+   6-   6o    6+    7-     7o     7+     8-     8o     8+    9-     9o

ap = 39   48   56    67   80   94   111  132    154   179   207  236  300  400

Now one more derivation to get to the Ap index.   The  Ap index is defined as the earliest occurring maximum 24-hour value  obtained by computing an 8-point running average of successive 3-hour ap indices during a geomagnetic storm event.


Rare Earth Elements Background.

If you follow the alternative energy issues (windmills, solar cells, ethanol for fuel, etc) you have very likely encountered discussions about rare earth elements. This posting is designed to provide the reader a little background.    Rare earths are used in lights, batteries, motors, lasers, and many other electronic applications.  In addition some of them are used as oil refinery catalysts, in metal alloys and glass polishing and coloring applications just to mention a few non-electronic uses.  There are 17 rare earth elements on the periodic table.  What makes these metals rare is that they are not often found in concentrations that can be profitably mined.  According to Wikipedia, one of them “Cerium” is the 25th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust,  however they are widely dispersed.  China has the best mines in the world it would seem.  China sold these elements at prices low enough to shut down most of the other mines in the world.

The magnets that can be made from several of the elements are vastly more powerful that those made from cobalt, the previous best permanent magnet making metal. Two of the rare earths commonly used are Neodymium and Samarium.  They are alloyed with other metals to form permanent magnets.  These magnets are replacing non-rare earth alloy magnets in electric motor assemblies because of their magnetic field strength.  These rare earth alloy magnets can be made smaller to reduce weight and still create high magnetic flux for electric motors.  It is said that the magnetic attraction is so powerful that if your finger is between two of these magnets you will likely experience a fractured finger.

Pure Neodymium has a low Curie temperature so it is only magnetic at low temperatures. Above the Curie point it’s parallel alignment of the magnetic field lines become disordered and it loses its magnetism.  To overcome this problem, Neodymium is alloyed with boron and iron to make a permanent magnet that can operate up to approximately 300 C.  The rare earths are also vulnerable to corrosion.  This problem is resolved by plating.

Although Samarium has a higher Curie temperature, it plays a smaller role than Neodymium because it is more expensive and creates a weaker magnetic field.  It is commonly alloyed with Cobalt.

The price and geopolitics are playing a role in the use of rare earths.  According to a November 16, 2011 NYTimes article, the prices of rare earths are dropping:

International prices for some light rare earths, like cerium and lanthanum, used in the polishing of flat-screen televisions and the refining of oil, respectively, have fallen as much as two-thirds since August and are still dropping. Prices have declined by roughly one-third since then for highly magnetic rare earths, like neodymium, needed for products like smartphones, computers and large wind turbines.

A chart of the price versus time for Neodymium is shown below:

The price for Neodymium appears to be at about $350 per kilogram.

There are some geopolitical ramifications surrounding rare earths:  Again from the Times posting:

China mines 94 percent of the rare earth metals in the world. Through 2008, it supplied almost all of the global annual demand outside of China of 50,000 to 55,000 tons. But it cut export quotas to a little more than 30,000 tons last year and again this year and imposed steep export taxes, producing a shortage in the rest of the world.

Together with a two-month Chinese embargo on shipments to Japan during a territorial dispute a year ago, the trade restrictions and shortage resulted in prices outside China reaching as much as 15 times the level within China last winter. That created a big incentive for companies that use rare earths in their products to move factories to China or find alternatives.

The US had some working rare earth working mines before the advent of the Chinese.  I have read that one in California is planning to resume production now that the prices have reached a point where working the mine is economical.

Stay tuned.


Electric Car Update-YTD November

Volt vs. Leaf

The Chevy Volt sales were 1139 vehicles in November bettering last month’s sales of 1108.  That brought the year-to-date Volt sales (YTD) to 6142.  Chevy had forecast Volt sales 10,000 vehicles in 2011 and it looks like they wont make that target.   Chevy is forecasting Volt sales at 45,000 in 2012 and they will export 15,000 more.  I suppose it is possible that they might make that forecast, but I have my doubts unless GE (Obama good buddy Jeffery Immelt CEO of GE) buys the 10,000 Volts they pledged that they would.  The first part of 2011, Chevy maintained that they were production, not sales, limited.  But at the end of 2011, there did not seem to be a lack of Volts for sales.  November’s sales of 1139 are the best month so far this year.

You make your estimate of 2012 sales.

The Volt’s main competitor this year has been Nissan’s Leaf.  Leaf sales dropped for the third consecutive month to 672 vehicles.  Even so, Leaf still leads in the 2011 YTD sales race with 8738 vehicles sold.


Aptera is an all electric three wheel vehicle with an EPA rating of 200mpg equivalent.   It is a beauty but they can’t get matching loan money to continue operation.  They announced that they are going out of business.

Sorry about that.


The USA Is Energy Rich—Who Is Preventing Us From Using It?

Look at this video, which is based on work done by the Congressional Research Office late last year and further developed by the Institute for Energy Research in their new report North American Energy Inventory.   The USA has more energy resource than any country in the world—that means oil, natural gas and coal are in abundant supply.  North America’s  (USA, Canada and Mexico) combined resources make it the most energy rich region in the world.  So why aren’t we experiences the lower prices for gasoline, heating oil, electricity, etc.  Why are we sending so much of our money to the people in the Middle East and places like Venezuela, where they often us that money to oppose us?  I hope you got the right answer which is –Our Federal Government.

AT STAKE:   1,000,000 new jobs.  Lowered trade imbalance.   Depriving enemies of our money to oppose us.

See also: Keystone Pipeline Delayed  

Obama Administrations war on fossil fuels

Lets Reduce Foreign Crude Oil by Using Our Own 

Between The Rock And The Hard Place US Energy Policy: