Donald Lewes Hings (1907-11-06 – 2004–02-24) was born in Leicester, England, but moved to western Canada with his parents when he was three. He grew up in Rossland, in the Kootenays, halfway between Vancouver and Calgary, and 10 km north of the Canada/ United States border.
He was a pioneer in the field of telecommunications, and best known for his invention of the Walkie-Talkie. Previously, mobile radios were mounted on vehicles and transmitted in Morse code. Hings’ model, developed in 1937 while working at Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company (CM&S) now, Cominco) in Trail, British Columbia, was portable and could transmit the human voice over long distances. He called his invention the packset.
During the Second World War (1940-1945) Hings worked for the National Research Council, on loan from CM&S, working with the Signal Corps to develop military communications, including the military walkie-talkie. From 1946-1985, he worked for Electronic Laboratories of Canada as President & Chief Engineer. The company was started 1942-11-02 as a subsidiary of Electronic Laboratories, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. It was dissolved 1998-09-21.
Between 1975 and 1993, he devoted his time to developing instrumentation for measurements of the causes and effects of long-range air pollution vectors.
In 1946 he was awarded the Member of the British Empire by King George VI. In 2001 he was presented with the Order of Canada by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson. In 2006 he was inducted into the Telecommunications Hall of Fame because “his modifications of the two-way radio … which he evolved into the world’s first functional and operational walkie-talkie, saved the lives of thousands of British, Canadian and American troops during the Second World War and helped to usher modern telecommunications technologies into the military”.
Despite being a lifetime member of the Professional Engineers Associations of British Columbia and Ontario, the American Geophysical Union and the Canadian Signal Corps, his professional education was self-taught. He had no university education.
His life work includes a wide-range of antenna, radio technologies and geophysical exploration techniques using electromagnetic instrumentation that he developed. He has more than 55 patents to his name in both Canada and the US.
On 2000-02-13 Roger Chaisson, Bruce Waugh and David Billings were awarded the People’s Choice Award at the Ottawa Winterlude Festival for their 4 m tall ice sculpture dedicated to Don Hings. It depicted a Red Cross soldier in the Second World War, speaking into a C-48 walkie-talkie.
Hings was adept at Morse code, and was an amateur radio operator, with call sign VE7BH. His obituary notes that he talked to “HAM boys” well into his 90s.
Hings lived in Burnaby, a municipality immediately east of Vancouver, at the summit of the 203 m high Capitol Hill, a neighbourhood north of Hastings Street, east of Willingdon Avenue, and west of Fell Avenue, known for its Italian, Portuguese and Croatian immigrant communities. He first saw Capitol Hill on a Scout outing in 1918, and decided then and there that he wanted to live there. He bought ca. 2.5 city blocks of the area, built his house there in the late 1940s. This is where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.
He located his business on a compound at this site. Seven of the staff members that worked for him in Ottawa, relocated to Capitol Hill when the company was established. Ultimately, he sold building lots to a staff of 15 at the same price he had paid for them, so they could live close by their place of work.
In addition to other patents, he has one for an electric piano. It consists of tuned steel bars that set up a moving magnetic field that creates pure tones, minus the harmonics, It is small, compact and never needs to be tuned. In addition it is equipped with a speaker and volume control.
One quotation: “Language and culture cannot be separated. Language is vital to understanding our unique cultural perspectives. Language is a tool that is used to explore and experience our cultures and the perspectives that are embedded in our cultures.”
One comment: Today, Buffy Sainte-Marie celebrates her 80th birthday. My appreciation of her is in large part based on one song, The Universal Soldier. It points a finger at each and every person for the perpetration of war. At one time, I also owned a version of this song by the 1960s Wesleyan College folk group, The Highwaymen, on their One More Time (1964) album. Covers of the song have been made in 1965 by both Glen Campbell (1936 – 2017) in as well as Donovan (1946).
This weblog post started off as a response to several fake news posts in various media, alleging that the recent power outages in Texas were due to wind turbine issues. While some wind turbines have failed, there are other, more important reasons for electrical power supply failures, resulting in the inability of Texas to provide water, food and energy to state residents, during – and after – winter storm Uri. Many of these are related to a toxic political environment, where the standard answer to any political question is privatization, where many other jurisdictions have found more nuanced solutions, often involving government participation.
In addition, the post has expanded into new areas, including the use of electric vehicle batteries and household power-walls to provide emergency power. If power utilities (corporations) cannot provide inexpensive and reliable supplies of energy, people will have to take energy production and storage into their own hands. It is noted, but not further discussed, that spot pricing of electrical power in Texas, has not led to a more equitable distribution, but to price gouging, despite this being illegal during an emergency.
Wikipedia states: “The electrical power grid that powers Northern America is not a single grid, but is instead divided into multiple wide area synchronous grids. The Eastern Interconnection and the Western Interconnection are the largest. Three other regions include the Texas Interconnection, the Quebec Interconnection, and the Alaska Interconnection. Each region delivers power at a nominal 60 Hz frequency. The regions are not usually directly connected or synchronized to each other, but there are some high voltage direct current] HVDC Interconnectors.” Direct current is used to avoid any synchronizing issues between interconnections.
The American federal government regulated electrical power in the Federal Water Power Act of 1920-06-10. Its name was changed to the Federal Power Act in 1935. The content of the act has been changed at irregular intervals over the past century. Expressed less than rigorously, there are three electrical grids in the United States of America: The eastern grid, the western grid and the Texas grid, established so that the Lone-Star state/ Republic of Texas, could avoid regulation by the American federal government.
North American electrical energy production is coordinated by Regional Reliability Councils. These are: Eastern Interconnection with Florida Reliability Coordinating Council (FRCC); Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO); Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC); ReliabilityFirst Corporation (RFC); SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC); and Southwest Power Pool (SPP). Western Interconnection with Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Texas Interconnection with Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Winter Storm Uri, has an official starting date of 2021-02-13, caused temperatures in Texas to drop to -20 C, in some locations. This caused serious water, energy and hunger problems, and a significant loss of human life. Accessing adequate supplies of water, food and gasoline has been difficult/ impossible for many/ some.
In Texas, wrath was initially directed at wind turbines. Many of the people criticising them are staunch members of the Republican party, and fossil fuel supporters. Fortunately, as will be shown below, many of these criticisms were regarded as fake news, resulting in a significant backlash.
Sid Miller, Texas Commissioner of Agriculture, stated in a Facebook post 2021-02-16: “We should never build another wind turbine in Texas. The experiment failed big time. Governor Abbott’s Public Utility Commission appointees need to be fired and more gas, coal and oil infrastructure built.”
The same day Governor Greg Abbott told Fox News’ Sean Hannity: “This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America. Our wind and our solar got shut down, and they were collectively more than 10% of our power grid, and that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis.”
Fortunately, there are wiser voices. Princeton engineering professor Jesse Jenkins tweeted: “Those of you who have heard that frozen wind turbines are to blame for this, think again. The extreme demand and thermal power plant outages are the principle cause.” PolitiFact reported: “Of the power shortfall that hit Texas, over 80% was due to problems at coal- and gas-fired plants.” Daniel Cohan, associate professor of environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston, Texas stated: “By far the biggest outages have come from our natural gas plants, a portion were down for scheduled maintenance. Others weren’t designed to operate reliably in extreme cold weather and others haven’t been able to get enough natural gas supply.” Even rapper Bun B (Bernard James Freeman) criticized Texas Governor Greg Abbott for falsely blaming blackouts on renewable energy.
Benjamin Sovacool, University of Sussex, professor of energy policy, stated: “In Northern Europe, wind power operates very reliably in even colder temperatures, including the upper Arctic regions of Finland, Norway, and Sweden. As long as wind turbines are properly maintained and serviced, they can operate reliably in temperatures well below zero [0 F = ca. -18 C]. Humans, to carry out servicing and maintenance and operation, are the most important factor, not the weather.”
Various sources state that the operating temperature range of a wind turbine is between -20 C and +40 C. Admittedly steel alloys suitable for cold-temperature environments are typically used in wind turbines located in colder climates. Lubricants are used that retain appropriate viscosity for the climate where they are operating. Wind turbines are equipped with cold-weather packages that ensure cold-weather operation.
Active anti-icing systems are installed on most Nordic wind turbines. These can fail during a power outage on the grid, because they are dependent on external power sources. In a worst case scenario, cold, ice and older technology could result in a 10 percent reduction in annual energy production. With newer and larger turbines equipped with appropriate anti icing systems this loss would be significantly lower.
Blades without an ice-prevention system installed may need to be stopped temporarily in cold weather because falling ice could present a hazard. However, icing can be managed. Current anti-icing options allow wind turbines to be effective sources of power in cold climates.
It is interesting to see that in Texas, thermal energy sources, including natural gas, coal and nuclear energy did not receive the same criticism. Excuses were made that thermal energy failings were due to frozen instruments. The main culprit had nothing to do with instrumentation, but freeze-off, a situation where liquids inside wells, pipes and valves freeze, forming ice that blocks gas flow, clogging pipes. It disrupts gas production across the US every winter.
Another challenge, not generally cited, was that cold weather increased demand for natural gas for residential heating. There simply wasn’t enough fuel available to power the state’s electricity needs. Natural gas production was halved at the Texas Permian Basin during the storm. It fell from 635 million cubic meters of gas produced per day in 2020-12 to about 300 million cubic meters of gas per day during the storm period. This means that gas production was at a four-year low. It could take several weeks to restore supplies fully, due to equipment damage.
There are pragmatic reasons why a reduction in natural-gas supply could result in a reduction of gas to electrical power plants. Texas Gas Services, a public utility, explained it when requesting help from the public to reduce the number of people who could potentially lose the delivery of gas to residences during these extremely cold conditions. They said that conservation (whatever that is, in this context) is critical to avoid widespread outages. If an outage occurs, it will take time and effort to restore service. In part, because each residence will have to be checked for leaks before gas service can be re-established. If only electricity is lost, gas-furnaces should be turned off. When electrical power is restored, consumers are advised to wait 10 minutes before restarting gas furnaces to allow the natural gas system to adjust to increased demand and to avoid further disruptions. In other words, a residential gas outage could result in weeks of delay in getting service restored, while a residential electrical outage would allow an immediate restoration of power.
Many Texans have expressed relief that their state has few electric vehicles. Plugin Texas states that there were 8 397 EVs registered in the state in 2016. Statista estimates that in 2016, there were a total of 8.3 million registered vehicles in the state, indicating that about 0.1% of vehicles in the state are EVs. About 13 million people live in Texas.
Vehicle-to-grid (V2G) power flows, enhanced with two-way advanced meters, would give power utilities an ability to flexibly manage charging. The combined capacity of EV batteries could dampen demand responses and prevent brownouts = an intentional or unintentional drop in voltage in the grid, or worse, blackouts = a loss of the electrical power network supply.
Normally, there should be limitations placed on the use of smart technologies to manage power consumption. Power utilities are keen to flatten electrical consumption throughout the day, so they want consumers to heat their water, wash their dishes and their clothes at night. Yet, insurance companies are concerned the use of dishwashers, washing machines and other appliances at night may increase the number of residential fires.
A more appropriate response may be to charge EV batteries during off-peak periods, then to use them during peak periods. This may be managed on a household basis, or involve large parts of a grid. This is one way to reduce the need for supplementary power stations. In one study, using power in this way may actually increase the life-span of EV battery packs.
In Europe, the ISO 15118-20 standard, comes into effect this year (2021). The standard covers everything from electric bikes, cars, buses and trucks to ships and airplanes. It can control AC and DC changing, as well as wireless power transfer (WPT) and bi-directional power transfer (BPT).
During exceptional times, such as winter storm Uri, electric vehicle batteries, with appropriate charging technology, can function as emergency power sources. They would turn the energy in their battery packs into alternating current (AC) power to provide emergency backup power.
Most EV manufacturers are now recycling used battery packs into second-life storage devices. One of these is Tesla’s Power Wall, but many others are coming onto the market. Power transistors are becoming much more efficient and compact, which has resulted in more efficient and compact domestic power inverters.
Micro power generation in the form of photovoltaic cells, miniature wind turbines or even concentrated solar (thermal) power units will also help make electrical supply more robust.
Some solutions encourage the prepper in everyone, including do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturing of powerwalls, suitable for talented amateurs.
An Aside: At Cliff Cottage, we removed our main living room wood-burning stove. At one point we had intended on replacing it with a more modern stove, but this has met with opposition/ procrastination from all of the residents. They comment that every time a new log is put on a fire, smoke/ toxins enter the room. Thus, what we are considering now is a battery pack that will provide electricity when there is a blackout. In addition, it should be able to provide extra power during peak periods, and charge itself off-peak. A related project (Turtle Power) is to build a 1 kW miniature wind turbine, with no visible, unintentionally accessible moving parts, and occupying a volume of less than 1 m3. Anyone wanting further information, or an opportunity to participate, is invited to take contact.
Fossil fuels cause significant environmental and health problems. They are also a non-renewable resource. Relying on them is not a wise long-term energy strategy. Texans, and almost everyone else, will have to learn to do wind energy better, to install micro power generation equipment, and to use battery power at home and on the road.
A panel van is a cargo vehicle with (up to) three distinguishing characteristics. First, it is based on a passenger car chassis. Second, there is typically only one row of seats for a driver and either one or two passengers. The area behind this row is for cargo/ goods/ freight. Third, (optionally,)there are no side windows behind the B-pillar, which is the roof support for the vehicle immediately behind the front doors.
In the past, some panel vans were almost identical to station wagons, but with glass side-windows replaced with steel, and rear seats removed. In the above photo, the windows are still in place, but painted with signage. Others featured a raised cargo area, behind the B-pillar. British panel vans, especially the Hillman Husky and Commer Cob, with their Audax design from 1960 to 1965, by Raymond Loewy (1893 – 1986), appealed most to me in the 1960s.
An aside: In part, this preference for British vehicles came from spending most summers in Kelowna, British Columbia, where my mother grew up. The community seemed to have a split personality: Half of the population drove British cars, the other half American. The first vehicle I ever drove was a Chevrolet pickup, in a farm field. I also spent a lot of time driving to beaches in the back of my aunt’s 1939 Plymouth. However, most of my mother’s friends had their own Austin A40s, Morris Minors, and even a Mini, bought in 1960.
By the 1970s, station wagons such as the Volkswagen Squareback and Volvo Amazon station wagon/ 125 and, later, Volvo 145 were also favourably viewed. This position was overtaken by the Saab 95 panel van in the 1980s and early 1990s. Our landlord in Aukra, Norway, had such a vehicle. Sometimes he would take us into Molde, about 30 km away, with Trish sitting in the passenger seat, while I lounged in the back. At the time, this was all perfectly legal. With the introduction of the Citroën Berlingo and Renault Kangoo in 1996, these two models dominated my thoughts. They no longer featured the front end, and lower seating height of a small car, but had a distinctive cockpit that improved visibility.
Part of the appeal of a panel van is that both sides and, potentially, the back, can be used to display artwork. This is part of their charm, and I have spent considerable time contemplating what I would paint on these surfaces. This characteristic does not extend to the panel van’s passenger vehicle cousin, the multi-purpose vehicle (MPV). Despite their inferiority in displaying artwork, they also have one major advantage. When they aren’t busy carrying cargo, they can also haul up to five, and sometimes even seven people. This group of vehicles also includes the Kia Soul.
Since retirement in 2017, I have been unable to justify buying a panel van. We are reduced to one vehicle in the household. Even if that one vehicle is used mainly by a single person at a time, and sometimes even two people, it has to be capable of carrying at least four people. Unfortunately, the premise of owning a panel van was dependent on having more than one vehicle in the household. Any new vehicle means that it won’t be a panel van, but could be an MPV.
Why an MPV? Apart from driving to the local store, or SpirenTEK, the local hacker space, which could be done with any vehicle, the answer is to transform it into a primitive mini-camper, that could be used to explore Trøndelag/ Norway/ Scandinavia/ Europe at a leisurely pace. There are companies that make removable camper conversions, but it is also something that could be made in almost any woodworking workshop. Thus, the MPV is the most relevant type of vehicle to consider.
There are smaller contenders: a Fiat 500 Giardiniera (if it ever makes it into production, hopefully with a side opening tailgate), a Hyundai Kona, or a Kia e-Niro, all vehicles that have suitable range! If worse comes to worse and price becomes an important consideration, there is always a Dacia Spring, or a Renault Zöe. Renault has also said it will reduce the number of platforms it builds on, which probably means it will discontinue its Renault Twingo EV. They have also said that they will introduce a Renault 5 hatchback EV in 2023 or 2024 (probably a replacement for the Zöe), and a Renault 4 retrostyled mini-SUV EV in 2025. These would both use a new CMF-B EV platform, designed for electric compact vehicles, and be built at the Douai plant near Lille, France. None of these vehicles would make a suitable mini-camper. Apart from power, torque and sufficient battery capacity, which determines range, liquid battery cooling is imperative.
EV variant vans prior to 2021 were better suited to flat, slow moving urban landscapes, than to the mountainous terrain of Norway. Fortunately, both Renault and Citroën have updated their smaller vans. Soon these will be available with improved motors and batteries, so that they provide sufficient range and power. Are they once again fit for purpose? The availability of liquid battery cooling will provide the answer. If not, the Kia Soul EV does.
Update: On 2021-02-14 some minor changes were made to improve the text, and to help people better understand locations in Canada and Norway.
The U.S. consumes about 100 EJ = 100 Exajoules = 100 x 1018 Joules of energy, annually. Americans, being Americans don’t often express energy in Joules. Rather, they prefer to use British Thermal Units (BTUs), where 1 BTU = 1055 J. Another way of expressing this is to say that Americans use about 100 quads of energy, where 1 quad = 1015 BTUs. If one is willing to accept a 5.5% error, one can say that 1 EJ is about equal to 1 quad.
Only about one third of energy consumed is used for productive work. The above Sankey diagram shows energy inputs and outputs, productive work is clumped together as energy services, in a dark gray box. The other 2/3 is wasted as heat, which in the above diagram is referred to as rejected energy, which is clumped together in a light gray box.
Renewable energy comes from solar (1.04 quads), hydro (2.5 quads), winds (2.75 quads) and geothermal (0.21 quads) sources, for a total of 6.5 quads. Thermal energy systems burn fuel or split atoms, and accounted for about 93.5% of American energy inputs in 2019. Most of this fuel come from fossil sources, that is responsible for most of the carbon emissions associated with climate change. Wasted/ rejected energy is a proxy/ surrogate/ substitute for the damage being done to the planet. The exception is the energy provided by nuclear power, although it also has issues of its own. In contrast, renewable energy (wind, solar, hydro, geothermal) capture energy, without creating heat. While there are some transmission loses, most of that energy provides energy services.
A modern electric vehicle (EV) with regenerative braking is about 95% energy effective. Even the most efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, can only achieve about 30% energy efficiency. This means that an EV only needs about 1/3 of the energy inputs that an ICE vehicle needs.
The United States transportation sector uses 28% of the total energy. Of this, cars, light trucks, and motorcycles use about 58%, while 23% is used in heavy duty trucks, 8% is for aircraft, 4% is for boats and ships, 3% is for trains and buses, while the last 4% is for pipelines (according to 2013 figures). This means that road transportation accounts for over 80% of the total. From the Sankey diagram, one can see that the transportation sector has 28.2 quads of input of (mostly) fossil-fuel energy, which means that 22.5 quads are road related. This results in 5.93 quads of transportation services, of which 4.75 quads are road related. These figures show about a 21% efficiency, because transportation related engines are considerably less efficient than other engines, including those used for electrical power generation.
If one uses renewable energy for road transportation, 4.75 quads of transportation services could be produced from about 5.0 quads of renewable (wind/ solar/ hydro/ geothermal) energy. At the same time, 22.5 quads of oil production would be eliminated, without any negative energy-related consequences. In fact, there would be benefits in terms of improved health, and less pressure on the environment.
A shift to renewable sources in other sectors would also have benefits. Natural gas and coal currently make a large contribution to inputs for electricity generation used elsewhere, 11.7 and 10.2 quads each, respectively, for a total of 21.9 quads. However, using the 1/3 service, 2/3 rejected formula, this means that these fossil-fuel inputs only produce 7.3 quads of electrical services. This contribution could be replaced by 7.5 quads of renewable energy.
Gasoline has an energy density of about 45 MJ/kg, which can provide about 15 MJ/kg of energy services, and 30 MJ/kg of rejected energy, as discussed above. A litre of gasoline has a mass of 0.76 kg and produces 2.356 kg of CO2 and 11.4 MJ of energy.
For American readers: The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that “About 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) are produced from burning a gallon of gasoline that does not contain ethanol. About 22.38 pounds of CO2 are produced by burning a gallon of diesel fuel. U.S. gasoline and diesel fuel consumption for transportation in 2013 resulted in the emission of about 1 095 and 427 million metric tons of CO2 respectively, for a total of 1 522 million metric tons of CO2. This total was equivalent to 83% of total CO2 emissions by the U.S. transportation sector and 28% of total U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions.Under international agreement, CO2 from the combustion of biomass or biofuels are not included in national greenhouse gas emissions inventories.”
Since 1 MJ = 0.2778 Kilowatt hours (kWh), 11.4 MJ is the equivalent of 3.17 kWh. According to Electric Choice, the average price a residential customer in the United States pays for electricity is 13.31 cents per kWh in December 2020. This means that gasoline would have to sell for 42.19 cents per litre to be cost effective. Since there are 3.785 litres per American gallon, a gallon would have to sell for about $1.60 to provide an equivalent price. According to Global Petrol Prices, the average price of mid-grade/ 95-octane gasoline was $2.752 per gallon, the equivalent of $0.727 per litre, as of 2021-02-01.
In Norway, the price is about NOK 1 per kWh for electricity, but with wide variations. The price of 95-octane gasoline is about NOK 16.33 per litre, once again according to Global Petrol Prices. This helps explain why EVs are so popular. To be price equivalent, gasoline would have to sell for about NOK 3.17 per litre. Currently, Stortinget, the Norwegian parliament, is debating increasing the CO2 tax by NOK 5 per litre, which would bring the price to over NOK 21 per litre. Not all political parties are in agreement, with this proposal.
There is a great deal of discussion about consumption figures for electric vehicles in Norway. In part, this is because the terrain varies greatly. Some people drive in urban landscapes, others out in the country. Some people are flatlanders, while others have more mountainous environments. However many consumers have experienced real-world energy consumption levels of about 15 kWh/100 km for vehicles such as a Hyundai Kona, Kia Soul and Tesla Model 3. This gives a fuel cost of about NOK 15/ 100 km. In American terms, this would be about 24 kWh/ 100 miles, or $3.20/ 100 miles, with the electrical costs noted above.