BMW Aiming to Rejuvenate Scooter Business (with e-Scooter)
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 06:00 PM PDT
BMW is planning to get back into the scooter business, primarily by pushing its new electric scooter, the C Evolution e-Scooter.
The C Evolution e-Scooter is looking to follow in the design footsteps of the company?s cult favorite, the C1, which sported a ?futuristic? windshield/roof combination and its heavy emphasis on safety.
Image Credit: t 2012 Michael Harley / AOL / BMW
Volt-Like Cadillac on the Way
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 04:00 PM PDT
The Chevy Volt may have a big brother soon (I know, big brothers should come first, but things are different in the auto world). Here?s more on the details from Gas2:
Volt-Like Cadillac ELR To Hit Dealerships In 2013 (via Gas 2.0)
One common knock against the Chevy Volt is its high price, coming in at a whopping $40,000 (give or take) before tax credits. If only GM had launched the Volt as a Cadillac, people might complain less. Well GM is doing just that, and the Volt-like Cadillac ELR is set to hit dealerships starting in?
Eaton & DOE Upgrading & Downsizing Hybrid Power System
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 02:30 PM PDT
As part of a new R&D project funded partly by the DOE, the electric car company Eaton is upgrading the power control system it uses in its hybrid electric vehicles.
The company is working to greatly reduce the size of the battery, by 50 percent, and improve the total performance of the system and its charge rate, while maintaining the battery life, fuel economy, and overall vehicle performance.
The project will be funded partly by a grant from the Department of Energy?s Advanced Research Projects Agency ? Energy (ARPA-E), intended to spur the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.
Source: Autoblog Green
GM Volt August Sales = 2,831 Units, New Record
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 02:00 PM PDT
August sales of the GM Chevy Volt are their best yet.
According to Autoblog Green, 2,831 GM Volts were sold in August. That is higher than its previous best in March of 2012, when the GM Chevy Volt sold 2,289 units.
Michelle Malcho, a GM Spokesperson told the Detroit Free Press the following:
?We?re really seeing momentum continuing to build. As people see their neighbors have one and as they start to understand the technology and are able to drive it, they put it into their consideration.?
Malcho also noted that one-third of all Volt sales come from California, while Michigan provides a strong sales base.
It?s also expected the GM Volt plant in Hamtramck, Michigan will shut down for one month starting mid-September. The reasoning for the month-long closure is likely due to retooling, levelling out supply and demand levels, or a combination of both.
While nearly 3,000 Volts were sold last month, only 685 Nissan Leafs were sold. In August 2011, that number was 1,362. In July 2012, it was a much worse 395. Though, according to some of our readers wanting a Leaf, they are might hard to get in some locations, despite being advertised as available. Odd.
Source: Autoblog Green
Image Credit: GM Volt at 2012 New York International Auto Show via Shutterstock
Slick 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV (video)
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 12:00 PM PDT
The new 2012 Toyota RAV4 EV is showcased in the two above videos with close-up shots of the car?s interior, exterior, and engine. I?m not much of a car person, but I found the top video with interviews of the Toyota and Tesla engineers fairly entertaining. It?s nice to hear people admit that they stereotyped each other before actually working together ? and low and behold, the partnership between Toyota and Tesla has gone smoothly.
The second video focuses on reducing ?range anxiety? ? the idea that a car?s battery will leave you stranded when you least expect it ? by making the car more aerodynamic. Some aspects of the video are quite technical, other changes to the car are easy enough to understand. Everything from improved wheels to the rear spoiler have been modified to reduce drag, giving the RAV4 EV a range of about 100 miles.
Source: Autoblog Green
Puerto Rico Offers Excise Tax Breaks on Hybrids, Electric Vehicles
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 10:10 AM PDT
Image Credit: Mitsubishi i
Puerto Rico is looking to increase the number of its citizens driving electric and hybrid vehicles by using a unique strategy. Because excise taxes are so common there, they are offering excise tax breaks for those purchasing a hybrid or EV.
Until 2016, anyone who buys an electric vehicle will get a 100 percent excise tax exemption. And anyone buying hybrids will receive a 65 percent exemption, up to a maximum of $8,000, through July 1, 2013.
That should stimulate some clean, green vehicle purchases.
Crowdfunding for Community Power?
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 10:00 AM PDT
Back in April, President Obama signed the JOBS Act, and one of the most-heralded elements was so-called crowdfunding. The law sought to solve a major problem, that it?s hard to finance small-scale business ventures. Wall Street only cares about multi-million-dollar plays, and securities regulations make small-dollar projects rather difficult (and costly) to jointly fund.
The Act could have big implications for community-based renewable energy projects.
Right now, there are two kinds of community-based renewable energy projects, the charitable and the persistent. Solar Mosaic, for example, was founded and funded on the concept that many environmentally-motivated people would help finance local solar projects with 0% interest loans. They succeeded in building several projects, but the model is constrained by the limited universe of people who have money at hand and are willing to let it be used for no reward.
The other kind of renewable energy project allows participants to get some kind of financial reward through sheer persistence, overcoming enormous regulatory and legal barriers to success (some of which I covered in this 2007 report). It means finding a complex legal structure to capture federal tax credits despite needing investors with ?passive tax liability,? or sacrificing federal incentives for simple ownership structures like cooperatives or municipal utilities. It means having ?accredited? (rich) investors, or only soliciting investors through personal relationships. This community wind project is an illustration, as are several solar projects in this report.
The JOBS Act may finally allow thousands of regular folks to make a modest return (5-10%) by investing in local renewable energy projects. The Act allows for crowdfunding under the following circumstances:
§ The project raises less than $1 million
§ The project owner discloses certain financial information, such as income tax returns, financial statements reviewed by an accountant, or fully audited financial statements.
The $1 million limit is the approximate cost of a 200-kW solar project, so crowdfunding could mean a significant boost for community-based solar arrays, especially in states with virtual net metering (allowing those potential investors to share the electricity output).
Crowdfunding won?t mean much for wind projects, where a single turbine costs well over the dollar limit, but the JOBS Act also opened the door for more community-based wind with changes to SEC exemption Regulation A. (For more on this, read my 2007 report on wind energy ownership, and then this article on the changes to Regulation A).
It?s not all roses and unicorns. There are still several potential hangups for the crowdfunding model:
§ The SEC still has to implement the new regulation (likely in early 2013).
§ Websites that host crowdfunding opportunities (e.g. Kickstarter) will have to comply with new regulations.
§ The information disclosure requirements for potential project owners mentioned in the Act are not insignificant.
§ Upfront costs such as legal fees, even for a modest crowdfunding venture, could still be $10,000 to $15,000.
§ It?s not clear how crowdfunding solves the problem of capturing federal tax incentives.
I?ll be interested to see how it develops.
This post originally appeared on ILSR?s Energy Self-Reliant States blog.
Photo Credit: Hepburn Wind
Better Place Consortium Delivers EU Showcase in Amsterdam
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 09:00 AM PDT
Better Place Consortium opened an electric car battery swapping station at The Netherlands? main international airport, and one of the largest in the world, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The station was opened in coordination with with the launch of a marque electric taxi project.
One of the unusual, but refreshingly distinctive Better Place stations.
The company also announced the appointment of a new CEO, Paul Harms. Harms previously served as the CEO of Athlon Netherlands, and as executive VP of Athlon Car Leasing.
?We?re thrilled that Paul has joined the Better Place team to lead and expand this project going forward,? said Shai Agassi, Founder and former CEO of Better Place. ?And we?re grateful for the support of the European Commission, the Dutch and Danish governments, Schiphol, Renault, and all of our partners in making this project happen in less than 18 months. We?re determined to demonstrate to Europe that electric cars can drive any distance in any country and aren?t just limited to short-distance driving.?
The project consortium, ?Greening European Transportation Infrastructure for Electric Vehicles,? was the first decarbonization infrastructure project that was co-financed by the European Union?s TEN-T program.
For now, this station will be utilized only by 10 Renault Fluence Z.E taxis operated by Connexion, Bios, and TCA.
The EV battery swapping station was built in partnership with the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Better Place announced that it will also build another switch station in Amsterdam to expand the Schiphol showcase.
The Schiphol-Amsterdam corridor is among the most demanding routes, with more than 700,000 taxi trips originating from Schiphol per year. Battery switch technology can enable electric taxis to operate all day because they don?t have to spend hours charging.
Better Place stations take less than 2 minutes to swap car batteries. They remove discharged batteries from the floor of vehicles and replace them with charged batteries. The removed battery is charged until another vehicle comes to pick it up.
Unlike most new concepts, the Better Place battery swapping one stands out because it has been around for years and is successfully operating in Israel and Denmark. So, I give them props for that.
Source: Business Wire
?Love on a Bike? Tour ? Worth a Spin!
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 08:00 AM PDT
Here?s a beautiful idea (come to life by the wonderful Danish): the ?Love on a Bike? Tour, which is organized by Royal North Sealand. It?s described as follows:
?Do you and the love of your life long for some romantic time alone together? Do you long to feel the freedom that riding a bicycle brings?
??Love on a bike? is a romantic short break in one of Denmark?s most beautiful and culturally rich areas. We take care of all of the practical details, so you can take care of each other.?
There is freedom in romance with the outdoors, with the open road, with the elements. If you have the opportunity, give this tour a spin sometime!
?The tours ? three or four days, ranging from 8km (5 miles) to 30km (19 miles) a day ? run through Denmark?s scenic North Sealand region, about an hour by train from Copenhagen. Much of the journey is along a steep rocky coastline, with sweeping views of the ocean.? Sounds nice, eh?
Image Credit: Royal North Sealand/Promo image
Swedish Solar Water Purifier Offers Clean Water to 1/6 of World Population Lacking It
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 07:00 AM PDT
A solar energy water purifier developed in Sweden holds the promise of providing clean, fresh drinking water to the estimated one-sixth of the world?s population that lacks it. The Sollvatten uses the ultraviolet (UV) light in sunshine to kill microrganisms in water, purifying as much as 11 liters of water in 2-6 hours, and can be used two to three times a day.
It?s estimated that lack of clean drinking water puts more than 1 billion people around the world at risk of water-borne bacterial dieseases such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. Recognizing the increasingly urgent strains being placed on water resources worldwide, the United Nations has declared 2013 the ?International Year of Water Cooperation.?
Clean Water for the Masses
Solvatten is being recognized as a potentially revolutionary innovation in water purification by organizations around the world. Its design includes two 5-liter compartments with two transparent faces. When exposed to the sun, the water is heated to 130° F, high enough to kill off disease-causing pathogens. An indicator light turns from green to red, indicating when the water is safe to drink.
At last month?s World Water Week in Stockholm, the Sollvatten team demonstrated the portable water purification system?s effectiveness. They also shared other, significant benefits, including the social and economic empowerment it?s bringing to individuals and communities.
Charcoal, the primary household fuel used in Nairobi?s Kibera slum, is becoming increasingly scarce as a result of deforestation, which poses substantial and additional environmental and health problems in Kenya and numerous other countries around the world. The price of charcoal has risen sharply, adding an estimated 30%-50% to households? fuel expenditures, as government authorities attempt to control and outlaw illegal logging, Sweden?s Global Utmaning reported following the World Water Week conference.
Joined by the Nordic Environment Ministers NDF and local NGOs, Sollvatten water purifiers are now in the hands of some 13,000 people in the area. Using it is enabling Nairobi families to save around $150 to $250 per year on energy costs, according to Global Autmaning?s report.
Yet more significantly, Sollvatten enables them to produce clean drinking water for their families much more easily at far less overall cost. Residents using Sollvatten are saving time and money, while also helping conserve precious forest and water resources. It?s also freeing up more time for them to pursue other ways of producing income.
Residents using Sollvatten are even turning it into small businesses. One Kibera woman sells about 40 bags of Sollvatten-purified water a day for 40 cents a bag. A local barber shop owner is saving money as a result of using Sollvatten to purify water as opposed to heating it with charcoal.
Climate change, clean water, and deforestation reduction projects involving Sollvatten are now under way in 20 countries. The Nordic Environment Ministers NDF and local NGOs are offering subsidies in the form of ?climate benefit? credits that make Sollvatten affordable for local residents.
Non-profit Myclimate is offering voluntary carbon offset credits to businesses and residents in Uganda. The program?s being monitored by the Eco Trust environmental conservation group to assure that the credits genuinely meet strict voluntary carbon offset credit criteria and guidelines.
Sollvatten is also receiving recognition in the US clean energy community. Darien, Connecticut?based Soluxe Solar Aug. 30 announced Sollvatten the latest recipient of its weekly Solar Flare award, which honors companies, individuals, and programs helping the solar cause, according to a press release.
Photo Credit: Sollvatten
China?s Plans with Electric Cars Delayed, but Not Dead
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 06:00 AM PDT
China has had many plans to integrate electric cars into US and other foreign car markets. But its plans have hit yellow light after yellow light.
BYD e6 electric taxi in service in Shenzhen, China
From the Green Car Report: ?The challenges to China?s ambitious goals for electric cars are the same ones facing every other automaker: lithium-ion cells are expensive, meaning electric cars cost far more to build and sell than gasoline cars?and Chinese consumers are nothing if not price-sensitive.?
So, as it is now, it has to step back its dreams. ?China has dialed back on its plans for pure plug-in cars, and is focusing more on raising fuel efficiency and encouraging known technologies like hybrids,? the Green Car Report adds.
Plans for China?s ?domination? of our market, or the world market, may be just that, only plans in the works. However, it is good to plan for something that would [optimistically] do away with gas-guzzling vehicles.
Resistance to the change is everywhere, especially in large manufacturing industries. This is not simply the case with the Chinese, but a global situation.
Apparently, China?s plans are delayed, but the plans are still important, even if the details have yet to materialize. We?ll see how things change in the coming years. A closing quote from the Green Car Report:
Five to eight years ago, Chinese carmakers were going to blast into the U.S. car market and sell huge volumes of inexpensive small cars?just like the Germans, Japanese, and Koreans before them.
Then, two or three years ago, Chinese auto companies were going to leapfrog directly into electric cars, dominating that market globally.
Neither of those things has happened.
At least not yet.
China?s national government, working closely in partnership with large industrial companies, still has as its official policy that ?new energy vehicles? will become a major part of the country?s output?and domestic sales.
50-MW Wind Power Project for Pakistan
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 05:00 AM PDT
At Gharo-Jhimpir district Thatta, which is less than 100 miles from Karachi, a 50-MW project has been approved by the Sindh government. A Czech Republic company named Wikov Wind will supply the technology for the wind farm. It is a manufacturer and designer of wind turbines. A memorandum of understanding has been signed between the local government and the Czech company to go ahead with the wind farm development.
The agreement was signed by DG Sindh Board of Investment Muhammad Riazuddin and Wikov Wind?s Martin Wichterle, with witnesses such as Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Minister for Finance. Sindh was noted at the official ceremony to have huge wind power potential, and therefore also a good chance of attracting foreign investment. Construction on this particular 50-MW project will likely begin in January of 2013, but the total wind power potential for the region could be one thousands times larger.
Currently, Pakistan pays about $11-12 billion each year for oil imports, according to one source. It would be difficult for any country to grow economically when it is paying so much for foreign sources of energy. The wind power potential of Pakistan has been estimated at over 140,000 MW, so if the country continues on the path of developing its own renewable energy resources, there is a good chance for greater energy independence, and in turn an improvement in the national economy.
This summer, energy blackouts have resulted in urban dwellers having no access to electricity for 16 hours at a time. For rural residents, electricity has been unavailable up to 22 hours a day, for some periods.
Additionally, an energy blackout for people without mobile devices is effectively an information blackout, because there is no phone, Internet, or television access.
Pakistan will need much more energy going forward ? it has a population of over 176,000,000, and that might reach 300,000,000 by 2050.
Image Credit: Asjad Jamshed, Wiki Commons
JinkoSolar Selected to Power First Ever Off-Grid Utility Scale PV System in South Africa
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 04:00 AM PDT
JinkoSolar, a leading global manufacturer of solar energy products, is working with Solea Renewables to develop the first ever off-grid utility scale photovoltaic system in South Africa for a Limpopo province chrome mine.
?The 1 megawatt plant will produce approximately 1.8 GWh of electricity per year and will effectively reduce the mine?s daytime diesel dependency for the next 20 to 30 years.?
This project is following in line with South Africa?s stated plans to increase its purchases of power supplied by independent producers, and its objective to increase the percentage of the country?s total power mix that is provided by renewable energy.
?While the global demand for South African coal, platinum, palladium and chromium increases, mines and other industrial consumers face power supply constraints due to capacity challenges at Eskom. The turnkey delivery of our PV plants will not only benefit end-users, but it will in turn help reduce the ever present and increasing energy demand Eskom faces,? said Vusi Mhlanzi, Director of Solea Renewables.
Source: PR Newswire
Image Credit: BootKidz UK
Researching Magnetism to Understand Superconductivity
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 03:00 AM PDT
The electrical resistance that occurs in power lines adds up to energy losses of nearly 3% of an electrical grid?s total. On the scale of a country, this equals several thousand lost gigawatt-hours. In the case of a country like Switzerland, it?s the equivalent of the electricity consumption of a large city like Geneva.
The possibility of transferring electricity without any of this loss of current has long been a goal of energy researchers. And it appears that now that may finally be within grasp, thanks to new research into the behavior of magnetism at extremely small scales.
?Materials known as ?high temperature? superconductors (even though they must be maintained at -140°C!), which can conduct electricity without any losses, were supposed to make this dream a reality. But over the past twenty-five years, scientists have not been able to make any progress in this area. Research being done in EPFL?s Laboratory for Quantum Magnetism (LQM) could change that. Their study of magnetism at extremely small scales could give physicists a tool to use in their search for new superconducting materials.?
Some forms of ceramics make very good insulators at room temperature, but when submersed in liquid nitrogen become perfect conductors. This behavior, named ?high temperature? superconductivity, is not well understood by physicists. But it?s been theorized that, when at these low temperatures, ?the collective quantum magnetic properties of the atoms in the material might come into play.?
For the new research, a new and unique device was created by the researchers to help improve our understanding of the phenomenon. The research team created a layer just a single atom thick, and then used an ultrasensitive instrument to measure the magnetic dynamics of the atoms. ?And then EPFL provided the final piece of the puzzle, with mathematical models to analyze the measurements.?
?We now have a kind of flashlight that will show us what direction we should take in our search,? explains Ronnow. ?Without understanding how these superconducting properties occurred at these temperatures, researchers were probing in the dark, using trial and error, to explore promising new materials. By combining these results with other recent work done by LQM researcher Nikolai Tsyrulin, the EPFL team has provided a new method to help physicists in their search for new superconductors.?
Source: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Image Credits: DOE/Ames Laboratory
$1.08 Million Goes towards Kids Learning to Be Green
Posted: 06 Sep 2012 02:00 AM PDT
In recent years, many multinational companies have espoused ?green and eco-friendly? as their marketing campaign slogan. These days, many people and companies are getting focused on improving the world around us, by means of recycling, going solar, bicycling, driving electric cars, and using resources wisely. Even the fireworks which were used in London Olympics were supposedly eco-friendly (or more eco-friendly).
Government agencies and many companies around the world are working hard to use resources wisely, and to create awareness among the public to purchase products that are eco-friendly and can be easily recycled. It?s our duty to pass on such knowledge to younger generations, and keep them well informed about the importance of sustainability.
Just recently I learned of one of the most creative and innovative projects yet when it comes to inspiring youth to learn more about sustainable design, renewable energy, and overall being ?green.? This project came as a result of an initiative from the National Science Foundation, which awarded a whopping 1.08 million dollar grant to two incredible nonprofit groups: Solar One and MOUSE.
Both of these groups will be working with high school students at four different New York City schools, to teach them about various ways to improve their school buildings over the course of three years. The program will be known as ?GreenTECH?, the perfect name for a project that will be so focused on technology and the environment at the same time. Using the expertise of Solar One, an environmental education organization, and MOUSE, a group that focuses on helping young people learn by using technology; the students will be challenged in ways they have never experienced.
Through the project, the students will learn all about sustainable design and, with the help of their leaders, will be able to offer recommendations on specific changes that can be made to the buildings where they spend each school day.
This is an exciting prospect that places the power of change in the students? hands, allowing them to learn, grow, and improve their surroundings. Some of their tasks may include ideas on how to make their school buildings more energy efficient. Others might focus on sustainability. They will be able to learn how to do an energy audit or plan a rooftop garden.
In sum, these students will be getting a unique chance to learn and understand these pertinent issues at a very young age, with the hope that they will grow into conscientious citizens who care about the environment and know how to protect it.
Solar One and MOUSE reported in a recent news article that they are thrilled with the upcoming project, especially because National Science Foundation grants are extremely hard to come by. They described the application process as ?rigorous.? Only a handful of grants are accepted each year.
Their hope is that this three-year project, which took several years to conceptualize, will encourage students to become more involved in their surroundings. They will not only learn to use new technologies, but they will be among the first to experience the Green Design Lab? curriculum.
They will also help manage a Help Desk in their school, a task that is not only ingenious but gives them impeccable skills to use later in life. Ultimately, I think it?s an incredible project, and I wish these two nonprofits all the best in their efforts.
Author Bio: Catherine is a part-time blogger and believes in eco-friendly living by means of using eco-friendly products. She has written several other articles on eco-friendly bathroom units and on designing the right bathroom.