Mon05042015

News

Water district reps address LAH concerns over project taxation

Water district reps address LAH concerns over project taxation

 Gary Kremen

Los Altos Hills residents, city councilmembers and even the Santa Clara Valley Water District Board chairman have protested taxes for water the district doesn't deliver.

"We're getting taxed for something we're not receiving, ...

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Schools

Homestead students use projects  to solve environmental problems

Homestead students use projects to solve environmental problems


Alisha Parikh/Special to the Town Crier
Homestead High School junior Maya Dhar, a Los Altos resident, left, and classmate Carolyn MacDonald support the school’s AP Environmental Science classes at the Arbor Day Festival April 23.

As summer appro...

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Community

Slideshow: Los Altos Live!

More than 20 acts performed to a soldout crowd Saturday at Los Altos High School's Eagle Theater for the seventh annual "Los Altos Live!" talent show. The show featured an eclectic range of acts, including rock bands, singers, dancers and the Broad...

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Sports

St. Francis swimmers shine

St. Francis swimmers shine


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
St. Francis High’s Benjamin Ho competes against Sacred Heart Cathedral Thursday. The junior swam on all three victorious relays at the home meet, which the Lancers won easily.

Flexing its power in the pool, host St....

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Comment

Halsey House deserves preservation: Other Voices

Halsey House deserves preservation: Other Voices


Many contributing supporters to the Friends of Historic Redwood Grove believe that the Halsey House, designated a historic landmark by the Los Altos City Council in 1981, deserves to be saved and renovated for adapted use by the community.

Set in ...

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Special Sections

Sneaky shots: A photographers guide to capturing the proposal

Sneaky shots: A photographers guide to capturing the proposal


Elliott Burr/Special to the Town Crier
A stealthy photographer scouts locations ahead of time to find not just a place to perch, but also the ideal position for the subjects.

It’s showtime.

You’re about to ask the person in front of you to spen...

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Business

Pharmaca celebrates grand opening over weekend

Pharmaca celebrates grand opening over weekend


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Pharmaca is coming to 400 Main St. with a grand-opening celebration scheduled Saturday and Sunday.

If natural health and beauty products are your cup of tea, expect to find them – and hot tea – this weekend at the gran...

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Books

People

JANE BUTTERFIELD PRINGLE LYND

JANE BUTTERFIELD PRINGLE LYND

October 30, 1924 - April 8, 2015

Jane Butterfield Pringle Lynd, daughter to Liebert and Elise Butterfield of San Francisco, passed away quietly at her home in Palo Alto surrounded by her family, following a short illness. Jane was a proud third ge...

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Travel

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers

Cuba libre: Local residents join mad rush of travelers


Natalie Elefant/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident Natalie Elefant noted the vibrant street performances as a traveler in Cuba.

The U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Cuba late last year, enabling Americans to import $100 worth of cig...

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Stepping Out

'Birds' landing in Mtn. View

'Birds' landing in Mtn. View


Ray Renati/Special to the Town Crier
The Pear Avenue Theatre production of Paul Braverman’s “Birds of a Feather” stars Troy Johnson as mafia boss Sean Kineen, left, and Diane Tasca as private eye Frankie Payne.

Pear Avenue Theatre’s world premi...

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Spiritual Life

Magazine

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon

Practice prudent pruning: Maintaining manzanita, ceanothus and toyon


tanya kucak/Special to the Town Crier
Shrub manzanitas are known for their sinuous mahogany trunks and branches. If the foliage hides the bark, prune selectively to open the center so that the bark is visible year-round. This Montara manzanita is ...

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Inside Mountain View

Up to the challenge: Local leaders unite to help at-risk youth

Up to the challenge: Local leaders unite to help at-risk youth


Courtesy of Challenge Team
Jeanette Freiberg, bottom of pile, has fun with family members. The Challenge Team named Freiberg, a student at Mountain View High School, its 2015 Youth Champion.

There’s an ongoing joke among members of the Challenge...

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The confusing future of automobile fuels


Gary Anderson/Special to the Town Crier
The Green Car Journal named the Honda Accord – offered in standard gas and gas-hybrid versions – “Green Car of the Year” at the Los Angeles International Auto Show.

With California the de facto leader of an eight-state consortium to reduce automotive emissions, the Los Angeles International Auto Show, held the week before Thanksgiving, seemed like the logical place to find out what the future holds for automobile fuel systems.

That’s where we were Nov. 20 and 21, and sure enough, the big introductions on the Honda, Toyota and Hyundai stands included vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel-cell systems that they are promising to put into production in the next two years.

The benefit of fuel-cell electronic vehicles is that they produce zero emissions on the road. Bringing its new Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) Concept out from behind a waterfall at the front of the stage, the Honda executives touted the fact that nothing comes out of the tailpipe except pure water vapor.

The fuel-cell vehicles also have an advantage over zero-emissions battery electric vehicles like the Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf now running around the streets of Los Altos. An FCEV can be fueled to full 300-mile-range capacity in under five minutes.

Fuel-cell systems use electricity – generated from carbon fuels or renewable sources – to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen is captured and transported to a filling station before being compressed and pushed into a pressurized tank in the automobile. To power the car, the hydrogen recombines with oxygen in the fuel-cell stack to release the stored-up energy as electricity. The electricity charges an onboard battery that powers the car through electric motors. All of this technology is developed and proven.

There is just one teeny, tiny problem, however: The only place in the Bay Area where a fuel-cell car can get a fill-up is in Emeryville. If you’re one of the test customers driving one of the Mercedes-Benz F-Cell cars or Honda Clarity FCEVs in Los Angeles, life is a bit better. There are five stations in greater Los Angeles, so you might have to drive only 10-15 miles for a fill-up. There are no firm plans right now to improve this situation in the Bay Area.

Confused about whether we will or won’t see fuel-cell cars in the marketplace, even in California, in our future? We certainly are.

But never fear. With the positive reception Tesla has garnered for its first model – Consumer Reports last month wrote that Tesla owners are more loyal to their vehicles than any other automobile brand in the history of the magazine’s surveys – there were battery electric vehicles on several other manufacturers’ stages at the auto show. That included the Audi e-tron, the Toyota RAV4 EV, the VW eGolf Hatchback, the Mercedes-Benz Smart and B-Class EV and the Cadillac ELR. Outside the convention center, more than 50 BMW i3 battery electric vehicles were available for test-drives around downtown.

The downside of these vehicles is that the batteries require four to eight hours of charging to drive a range of 80 to 200 miles. The upside is that the batteries can be charged anywhere there is electricity.

But wait, there’s more. If you like the idea of refueling your car from a power plug most of the time but want to make sure that you won’t run out of juice on the road, there are options. Most automakers, from Toyota to Porsche, displayed new plug-in hybrids on their stands, following the ground-breaking Chevrolet Volt. So perhaps the combination of battery power and an internal-combustion engine will be the answer.

What explains this flood of new zero-emission vehicles with such radically differing technologies?

The reality is that no one believes the free market, operating by itself and acting only out of profit-oriented self-interest, is going to lead us out of the fossil-fueled age of internal combustion. Although only a few years ago we were worried about running out of oil and/or breathable air in our lifetimes, new technologies to produce oil and continuing improvements in emissions and fuel efficiency in internal combustion have pushed the challenges well past the planning horizon of any investor.

This means that the transition to alternative fuels isn’t going to happen without the involvement of government agencies at the national and local levels, offering both sticks and carrots to encourage the auto manufacturers and energy companies to develop necessary products.

In California and the seven states following its lead, legislation mandates that at least 15 percent of all cars sold in these states by 2025 must produce zero emissions (battery electric or fuel-cell electric). Manufacturers recently challenged those standards, because little progress has been made toward the long-range goal in any state except California, but they were told the standards would not be relaxed.

Tax incentives are offered now to reduce the cost of battery electric vehicles to consumers, and state and federal governments provide various kinds of support to fund development of both the fueling infrastructure and improvement in the technologies.

The problem is, as we have seen in the past, if the government shifts support from one technology to another – like five years ago when the Department of Energy shifted toward battery development and away from fuel-cell development – the game can change dramatically.

Manufacturers have been given a clear but challenging goal in the next 10 years, one that will require active involvement by government, but they have no assurance which of the two paths that involvement may take. The companies are forced to bet on red and black, promising that there will be either fuel-cell cars or battery electric cars, depending on where the ball drops.

In the meantime, in the main lobby of the convention center, Green Car Journal unveiled its “Green Car of the Year” for 2013. Was it some new gee-whiz technology? Nope. The award this year went to the Honda Accord line of vehicles, offered in standard gasoline and gas-hybrid versions. The publication noted that Honda received recognition for the extent of its contribution to clean air and renewable resources, simply by continuing each year to improve fuel efficiency, reduce emissions and increase reliability in a car that the mainstream automobile consumer can afford.

Progress is being made, but the future remains clouded by the uncertainty of government policy.

Longtime Los Altos residents Gary and Genie Anderson are co-owners of Enthusiast Publications LLC, which edits several car club magazines and contributes articles and columns to automotive magazines and online services.

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