Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging — Will it Work?
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 04:17 AM PDT
It’s intended to take the hassle out of electric vehicle charging, and, according to its designers, Qualcomm, is a simple but effective alternative to cumbersome plug-in charging stations. Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) is designed to eliminate unsightly charging stations and unnecessary cables, and with just about everything else we use today incorporating wireless technology, it seems like the next logical step for the plight of the eco-friendly car. Here we look at how plausible the innovative idea is before it goes on trial in London in November.
How would it work?
Wireless charging makes use of an electromagnetic field which transfers energy between two objects. The idea is that drivers will be able to park up at a charging station and have their vehicle recharged without even leaving their seat. Those who struggle to remember the basics of parallel parking from their driving lessons need not worry, as perfect pad and vehicle alignment won’t be necessary.
The technology, named Qualcomm Halo, will incorporate smaller batteries than are currently used at charging stations, but Qualcomm explains that drivers will be able to charge their car little and often, with increasing convenience. As these spaces will remain reserved for electric vehicle owners, there will hopefully be an increase in those converting from fuel cars.
The London experiment
The main vehicle test will be carried out using a specially adapted Delta Motorsport E4 Coupe. The Formula 1 car designer was required to add the pad to the vehicle in order to connect it to the road unit, as well as a touch screen interface to let the driver know when he or she is aligned with the charging pad.
Throughout the trial, charging pads stationed at Qualcomm’s West London office and at minicab company Addison Lee, will be put into practice. The initiative, supported by Prime Minister David Cameron is designed to demonstrate how WEVC can work in busy cities, such as London.
Time, or rather the lack of it, is everything in the city, so the option of quick, easy, and readily available charging is particularly appealing. With many making short but frequent trips, presumably the need for more charging pads will grow, as, hopefully, will the market for eco-friendly vehicles. As an added incentive, drivers of electric cars can expect to avoid the daily cost of London’s congestion charge.
So, is it plausible?
In short, yes. Technology is ever advancing, and Qualcomm Halo not only recognizes this, but also promotes the needed reduction of fuel emissions.
It’s not, however, alone in its wireless charging quest, with a similar trial already underway in Germany. Concept vehicles have also emerged from both Rolls-Royce, Delphi, and Infiniti/Nissan that include wireless charging technology. Google, Hertz, and Plugless Power are also testing out wireless charging technology. And researchers in Tokyo have created an electric roadway demo that wirelessly charges EVs.
Although wireless charging is designed, first and foremost, for city driving, it remains to be seen if it could ever work outside of the city. The fact that motorists may well require a car for both urban and rural driving, therefore, poses a problem.
Eco-friendly driving constantly comes up against questions of how practical it is, and Qualcomm’s idea is no exception. Certainly, the short-term vision has a lot of promise, but the long-term success of WEVC remains to be seen.
This guest post was written by an eco-friendly driver and blogger, Isabelle Guarella, on behalf of PassSmart.com.
Electric Car Chargers Coming to Capitol Hill
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 03:32 AM PDT
Obama has reportedly approved the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in and around Capitol Hill.
LG EV Charging Station in Korea.
Currently, only two US senators are known to own electric cars: Democratic Sen. Carl Levin (Michigan), whom owns a Chevy Volt EREV, and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn), whom owns a Nissan Leaf.
There are an estimated 55,000 electric cars on the roads of America, and that is very short of President Obama’s goal to get 1 million on these roads by 2015.
The US needs “to take steps to ensure the infrastructure exists to make these vehicles desirable and accessible to consumers,” Sen. Carl Levin said in a floor statement after the bill passed.
Electric vehicle charging infrastructure really is very important to mitigating the issue of range anxiety for electric car owners, concern about not being able to charge their car if they run out of battery power.
If charging stations were ubiquitous and electric vehicles could charge in a few minutes, range anxiety would be a minor issue, because even short-range vehicles could simply recharge whenever necessary instead of stranding their owners.
Shorter range vehicles, with their smaller battery packs, are clearer much cheaper, but for them to proliferate, we need more charging infrastructure.
Levin was supported by Sen. Jeff Merkley (Democratic Senator of Oregon), whose spokeswoman told the Government Executive website: ”If we are going to increase the use of electric vehicles across the nation, we need to make sure we have the necessary charging infrastructure.
“Helping encourage more electric vehicles across the country and ensuring we have the necessary infrastructure for an EV future is crucial,” she added.
The location of the stations, as well as when they are to be installed, has not yet been determined.
Photo Credit: sunxez
Liquid Metal Battery Company is Now “Ambri”
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 03:18 AM PDT
Molten salt sandwiched between two layers of liquid metal constitutes the inside of a new battery developed by Ambri, a company founded in Cambridge. The evolving creation of MIT Professor Don Sadoway. The company and the battery is now backed by Bill Gates, who met Sadoway after he took an online class of his at MIT.
This startup is developing the battery based on liquid metal electrodes to be stable and scalable at an acceptably low cost for grid storage and renewable energy storage applications.
“A dirt cheap battery that could be used for the power grid could overcome the variable nature of clean power or the problem that the sun only shines and the wind only blows at certain times of day.”
It should be ready for commercialization in about 2 years.
Along with Gates, oil company Total and venture capital firm Khosla Ventures have invested in Ambri, as well as the Department of Energy’s high-risk, early-stage ARPA-E program, which gave Ambri a $6.9 million grant.
Sunvalley Solar Wins Solar Contract at Food Manufacturer
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 03:15 AM PDT
Sunvalley Solar Incorporated recently announced a new contract to install 112 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy for a Santa Ana, California food manufacturing company.
The solar technology and system integration company in a release this week said the new installation has the potential to create 160,338 kilowatt-hours (kWh) yearly.
James Zhang, CEO of Sunvalley Solar, Inc., commented on the deal:
“The steady increase in demand for commercial solar energy in Southern California bodes well for Sunvalley Solar. While in the process of implementing contracts garnered in 2011 and 2012 we continue to market our innovative solar solutions to new commercial clients. To fund our ever growing business we’ve worked earnestly to clean up our balance sheet and improve our cash flow. This, combined with our Joint Development Agreement with Blue Earth, Inc. (BBLU), allows Sunvalley to demonstrate its commitment to customers and shareholders alike. Though every business faces difficulties we are confident of our future success.”
Installation will start in September, 2012, the statement said.
Source: PR Newswire
Image: Solar Photovoltaic Panels image courtesy of Shutterstock
Advanced Tornado/Hurricane Shelter Panels from Recycled Materials
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 03:07 AM PDT
Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham have designed new storm shelter panels made from recycled materials that have passed the National Storm Shelter Association’s tornado threat test. The new panels are a part of a new high-tech shelter they are designing.
For the live test, “15-pound two-by-fours fired from a pressure cannon were unable to penetrate the panels, made of recycled materials, in a dozen attempts.” The two-by-fours struck the panels at around 100 mph — thats the speed that projectiles usually exit a tornado that is spinning with 200 mph winds. A tornado with those wind speeds would rate as an EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita scale, and could level even well-built homes.
By passing the NSSA’s tornado test, the panels also surpass the NSSA hurricane threat standard, which fires 9-pound two-by-fours at speeds of 60 to 75 mph.
The completion of this test is the first step toward commercial use, which the team is hoping to achieve by the 2013 tornado season. The final test will happen this fall as the fully assembled structure undergoes testing.
“Our effort to apply modern materials science to storm shelters started in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and grew more urgent after we saw 62 Alabama tornadoes in one day this past April,” says Uday Vaidya, Ph.D., a professor within the UAB Department of Materials Science & Engineering and the project leader. In 2011, tornadoes caused 551 deaths nationally — including 245 in Alabama — and property damage exceeding $28 billion.
“With an average of more than 1,370 tornadoes per year for the past three years in the United States, it’s time we changed they way storm shelters are built with the goal of saving more lives,” Vaidya says.
The panels are made of thermoplastic and fiberglass resins and fibers resulting in a stronger per-unit density than the steel used in current shelters, as well as weighing 80 percent less. The same materials are currently being used in the latest armored military vehicles.
The primary source material is discarded liner that was previously used to wrap offshore oil-rig pipes. “Recycled materials used in the experimental phase itself kept thousands of pounds of waste from landfills.”
Source: University of Alabama Birmingham
Image Credits: UAB
EV Low Operating Costs Make EVs Cheaper Over Time, Especially Useful for Fleet Operators
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:56 AM PDT
Sticker shock gets even the best of us, but a report from Pike Research says the low cost of electric vehicle charging, compared to traditional fuel, brings the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles below that of internal combustion engine vehicles!
Senior research analyst Lisa Jerram said electric battery vehicles have seen a resurgence recently, especially from fleet operations. One concern for fleet managers, though, is the cost of charging equipment.
Check out the full report here.
Source: Business Wire
Image: Ford Focus Electric via Ford
Offshore Financial Fraud May Bring Down World’s Largest Solar PV Supplier, China’s Suntech
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:48 AM PDT
Suntech’s freefall from being the world’s largest producer of silicon solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels continues, as new details regarding a $700-million investment fraud and business practices at Suntech’s Global Solar Fund (GSF) come to light.
An Italian court filed criminal charges against GSF Aug. 29 that could result in the dismantling of €80 million ($100 million) worth (more than 20 MW) of solar power projects in southern Italy that have been backed by Italian government financial support, Reuters reports.
The massive fraud at GSF could prove fatal to Suntech, which, up until recent solar power industry and market turmoil, was a favorite of the Chinese government, and one of China’s high-flying producers of crystalline solar PV cells and panels. The investment fraud also reveals the central role offshore finance and tax havens play in bilking governments and taxpayers of savings, investment capital and tax revenue.
Dirty Dealings in Clean Energy Finance
GSF is based in Luxembourg, which despite high-profile, international efforts to clamp down on offshore finance, remains one of the world’s largest offshore banking and tax havens. Suntech set up and owns 80% of GSF, the purpose of which is to develop solar power projcts in Europe. The remaining 10% is owned by GSF Capital, which is partly owned and managed by Javier Romero, the man who has emerged as the central figure in the fraud.
In this case, GSF pledged €560 million ($700 million) in apparently fake bonds with Suntech in order to secure a loan made to the fund. That loan helped GSF qualify for solar power project development incentives through an Italian government stimulus program that’s made Italy one of the world’s leading producers of solar power.
An Italian prosecutor in the southern city of Brindisi has charged five GSF subsidiaries with illegal construction of solar power plants. They’re accused of avoiding the required approval process in order to qualify for incentive payments for developing solar power projects, according to Reuters’ report.
More specifically, the GSF subsidiaries allegedly divided a 20-MW solar PV park into smaller units in order to avoid the more detailed, lengthy, and costly permitting process for solar power plants more than 1-MW in capacity. In some cases, management falsely reported completing the project construction so that they could qualify for incentive payments before a deadline.
The alleged fraud is a large and growing black stain on Suntech’s management, including founder Dr. Zhengrong Shi, who recently announced his resignation as Suntech president and CEO. Now Suntech’s executive chairman and chief strategy officer, Shi personally owns 10.7% of GSF.
In addition to the criminal charges, Suntech is facing legal action for its lack of disclosure regarding the alleged fraud. Suntech management hasn’t disclosed the Italian criminal charges and pending litigation to its US shareholders.
Several US law firms are suing Suntech on their behalf. Class-action lawsuits have been filed alleging that Suntech failed to properly disclose the financial workings of GSF and to monitor its business practices, according to Reuters’ report.
“Suntech management had the opportunity to disclose all potential problems associated with GSF when they announced the suspected fraud with the German bonds,” Reuters quoted Mark Bachman, a solar technologies analyst for Avian Securities in Boston.
A growing list of investors, as well as government authorities, are taking legal action against Suntech. “If there are now additional potential liabilities related to GSF activities in Italy that were undisclosed, then what little investor interest remained in the stock will be eroded,” Reuters quoted Bachman.
Tornado-Tough Shelters from Recycled Materials
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:36 AM PDT
With Hurricane Isaac making landfall (and memories of Katrina), news of super sturdy shelter panels from recycled materials is rather apropos. Researchers at the University of Alabama-Birmingham have developed panels that can withstand a pummeling of 15-pound two-by-fours shot from a cannon. The boards struck the panels at 100 mph, which is about the strength that an EF5 tornado can hurl shrapnel; hurricane threat standards are lower.
These resilient panels are a combo of thermoplastic and fiberglass resins that were fashioned from liner previously used to wrap offshore oil-rig pipes.
Source: University of Alabama Birmingham
Image: Todd Shoemake via Shutterstock
Gilligan’s Island Goes Solar
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:28 AM PDT
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a Hawaiian island that is being furnished with about 260 kilowatts of solar panels.
Nope, this isn’t another farcical TV show plot — Coconut Island, home to the University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and the isle shown in the opening and closing of Gilligan’s Island episodes, has entered a 20-year agreement with SolarCity. The plan is for the University of Hawaii to get 25 percent of its total energy usage from renewable sources by 2020, according to Chancellor Tom Apple.
No doubt, Professor Roy Hinkley would approve.
Image: Mana Photo via Shutterstock
European Investment Bank Supporting Electric Car Industry
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:20 AM PDT
The European Investment Bank announced Tuesday that it was providing electric car networks company Better Place with a €40 million loan, continuing the institution’s support for innovation and sustainable transportation.
Approximately €30 million of the proceeds will be used to finalize network deployments throughout and fund operators in Denmark, with the remaining funds going to similar projects in Israel.
“After a comprehensive due diligence process, the European Investment Bank has concluded that Better Place represents both a classic infrastructure project and a clear step towards innovative low carbon transport,” said Shai Agassi, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Better Place.
“The credit facility gives us a more flexible, balanced capital structure that allows us to expand our operations without solely relying on equity. We applaud the EIB, one of the most respected financial institutions in Europe, for taking the time to thoroughly evaluate our business model, and we look forward to continued collaboration with EIB as our European operations grow.”
The Better Place network of Battery Switch Stations throughout Denmark connect Copenhagen to Aarhus, one of the major routes in the country, allowing drivers the peace of mind to choose electric cars. Whereas, in Israel, more than half of the planned network of Battery Switch Stations are already in place.
The Battery Switch Stations are, as the name suggests, locations along major routes that allow drivers to switch specific batteries to immediately expand their electric vehicle range. These stations also provide charging stations to help facilitate the growth of the electric vehicle industry.
In Israel and Denmark combined, the company reported that it has more than 500 Renault Fluence Z.E. electric cars with switchable batteries on the roads, logging 3 million electric kilometres year-to-date during the company’s controlled launch.
“Our goal is to continue to work with European institutions and partners who share our vision for electric transport so that one day you can drive from Copenhagen to Paris in a fully electric car by switching batteries along the way,” Agassi said. “The Copenhagen-Paris corridor is 1,220 kilometers, which is about the same distance I recently drove in a trip across Israel in a Renault Fluence Z.E., switching batteries without stopping to charge.”
Source: Better Place via Business Wire
Novel Technique to Synthesize Nanocrystals that Harvest Solar Energy
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:17 AM PDT
One of the many reasons that solar energy has not been as widely adopted as many of us would have hoped is due to a technical limitation in the materials used; simply put, by virtue of being light-absorbing, they’re not as durable as would be necessary to ensure widespread adoption of solar energy as an alternative.
However, a new research project has addressed these issues by synthesising two inorganic nanocrystals, each of which is more durable than their organic counterparts. When exposed to light, the two nanocrystals produce hydrogen gas or an electric charge.
“The main advantage of this technique is that it allows for direct, all inorganic coupling of the light absorber and the catalyst,” says the leading author Dr. Mikhail Zamkov of Bowling Green State University.
The article, published in the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE), is a video that can be viewed by anyone with a mind to learn, found here.
As shown in the image above, the first nanocrystal is rod-shaped, which allows for the charge separation necessary to produce hydrogen gas, and the second is composed of stacked layers and generates electricity. By being nanocrystals and, subsequently, inorganic, they are easier to recharge and less sensitive to heat than their organic counterparts.
“We have established a new method for making photocatalytic and photovoltaic materials. This is important primarily as a new strategy for making photovoltaic films that are 100% inorganic, thus producing a more stable solar panel. It is a design that you could reach marketability,” Dr. Zamkov says.
“It is important to have these steps documented in a video format, as the synthesis of the photocatalytic nanocrystals and the photovoltaic cells are long procedures with detailed steps. It makes our technique more visible and accessible.”
Vespa Style Comes to the Electric Bike — Jetson E-Bike
Posted: 30 Aug 2012 02:13 AM PDT
Electric bikes are a great way to get around the city when you don’t want to deal with expensive taxis and long lines of traffic, but is turning an electric bike into a Vespa-looking electric bike really what people want?
I guess we’ll be finding out with the release of the Jetson E-bike.
Starting at $1,799 USD, the Jetson E-bike can reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour and has a 40-mile range per individual charge. Powered by a lithium-ion battery, the 500W electric motor will only take you four hours to recharge on a standard 110V outlet, and if you want to actually pedal the bike — and completely ruin the image of riding a Vespa — then you can do that too and charge the battery at the same time.
The battery is removable to help ease charging, and the bike is fitted with rear wheel motor and disc brakes, an LCD enhanced display, and multiple locking points so you can ensure no one will be making off with your shiny new Vespa-like contraption.
The E-bike will come in several colours, including eight subtle colours and another four neon colours to really ensure you cause that 18-car pile up you’ve bee hoping for.
I’m not wrong. This could blind people!
Source: Jetson E-bike