|2013-09-10. Study: Panda Poo May Be Coup for Future of Biofuels.
Excerpt: ...bacteria in panda feces could help make biofuel production
more efficient. ...more than 40 different microbes living in the guts of
giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo ... could help decompose the corn cobs
and other tough plant materials so it can be more easily and efficiently
processed to make ethanol. ...Pandas, which have a short digestive
tract, feast on a diet of tough bamboo. Bacteria with extremely potent
enzymes break down the woody bamboo efficiently and quickly. ...“The
time from eating to defecation is comparatively short in the panda, so
their microbes have to be very efficient to get nutritional value out of
the bamboo,” said study lead researcher Ashli Brown, an assistant
professor of biochemistry at Mississippi State University. “And
efficiency is key when it comes to biofuel production — that’s why we
focused on the microbes in the giant panda.”.... http://www.climatecentral.org/news/panda-poo-may-be-coup-for-future-of-biofuels-16456. Bobby Magill, Climate Central.
2013-08-21. Turning Grass into Gas.
Excerpt: The ... cellulosic biofuels ... process has been around since
the early 1800s, when the chemist Henri Braconnot figured out how to
strip sugars from cellulose—the basic building block of all plant
life—and refine them into a crude form of ethanol. ...For almost 200
years cellulosic ethanol has had the potential to be one of the world’s
greenest fuels. Unlike corn ethanol, cellulosic doesn’t rely on food
crops. ...Cellulosic refineries enjoyed a brief heyday in the early
1900s—Henry Ford’s first models could run on pure ethanol—but were
driven out of business by cheap petroleum. ...in early 2013, cellulosic
ethanol refineries finally began producing biofuel. Texas-based KiOR,
the nation’s leading independent cellulosic company, began shipping
cellulosic diesel and gasoline from its refinery in Columbus,
Mississippi. INEOS Bio’s Florida refinery began producing cellulosic
ethanol from yard and wood waste in early summer. By 2014 the Spanish
energy giant Abengoa, the chemical conglomerate DuPont, the ethanol
maker Poet, and five other cellulosic refiners are expected to begin
producing next-generation biofuel. ...turning wood or grass into fuel on
a commercial scale is really hard to do. “Getting to scale” is
industry-speak for the process of moving from a small research lab
putting out fuel in 100-gallon batches to an industrial-size refinery
producing 10 million to 40 million gallons. When chemical or
pharmaceutical manufacturers scale up, they commonly do so by orders of
10 or 100, expressed as 10x or 100x. ...Congress asked the cellulosic
industry to scale up on the order of 10,000x in five years. “In a lab,
you’re working with perfectly clean wood chips,” explains Renata Bura of
the University of Washington’s biofuels and bioproducts laboratory.
“It’s almost never that pristine in a real-world refinery. At a
commercial-scale facility, you’ll have needles, bark, and branches”
polluting the mix..... http://www.onearth.org/articles/2013/08/are-cellulosic-biofuels-the-holy-grail-of-green-fuels. Bruce Barcott, OnEarth, NRDC.
2013-07-10. 'Scout,' Robotic Solar Boat, On Transatlantic Voyage Thanks To Group Of College Students.
Excerpt: ...The vessel Scout was launched from just off Sakonnet
Point, R.I., in the early morning hours of July Fourth. Last time we
checked – Saturday morning – the 12.8-foot-long, 25-inch-wide boat had
hop-scotched 72 miles from waypoint to waypoint to a spot 49 miles off
the Rhode Island coast. That left Scout a mere, oh, 3,389 miles to go to
reach its destination, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain, where 515 years
ago a guy named Columbus began his own transatlantic voyage. ...The
entirely solar-powered Scout is following a preprogrammed route.... A
couple of things make this project especially cool: First, while the
project has sponsors and supporters, it is not affiliated with a company
or university. It’s just a group of college guys bringing diverse
design, building and engineering skills together to make something cool
happen. ...The second cool thing here: Scout was built from scratch. You
can see how the whole process unfolded, beginning in April 2012, on the
website, from a design for a hull, to building the form, to
constructing the different aspects of the carbon fiber hull. And then
there were the long hours of programming – two weeks of 15-hours-a-day
crunching..... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/10/scout-robotic-solar-boat_n_3575669.html. Pete Danko, Huffington Post.
2013-07-06. In Cargo Delivery, the Three-Wheelers That Could.
Excerpt: ... a Portland entrepreneur, Franklin Jones, ...helped
pioneer the new field of pedal-powered freight delivery. In 2009, Mr.
Jones, a former teacher, founded B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery (http://b-linepdx.com/),
a company that delivers produce, baked goods, coffee beans, bike parts
and office supplies to restaurants, bike shops and other businesses
throughout Portland’s downtown area using electric-assisted tricycles
that pull 60-cubic-foot cargo boxes with a 600-pound capacity. .... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/business/in-cargo-delivery-the-three-wheelers-that-could.html. Clare Martin, New York Times.
2013-06-18. US kids born in polluted areas more likely to have autism.
Excerpt: Women who live in areas with polluted air are up to twice as
likely to have an autistic child than those living in communities with
cleaner air, according to a new study. Building on two other smaller,
regional studies, the Harvard University research is the first to link
air pollution nationwide with autism. It also is the first to suggest
that baby boys may be more at risk for autism disorders when their
mothers breathe polluted air during pregnancy. Babies born in areas with
high airborne levels of mercury, diesel exhaust, lead, manganese,
nickel and methylene chloride were more likely to have autism than those
in areas with lower pollution. The strongest links were for diesel
exhaust and mercury.... http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/pollution-and-autism. Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News.
2013-05-16. Overinflated: Why the NYC Bike Share Backlash Is a Good Thing.
Excerpt: ...the backlash against Citi Bike -- the new bike-sharing
program scheduled to put 6,000 bikes and 330 stations on New York City’s
streets by the end of the month -- is a positive development. ...most
of the energy behind it has been provided by residents of apartment
buildings or business owners who are taking issue with the siting of
particular bike share stations. What’s striking about that fact is that
it means, essentially, that these people have already accepted the idea
of a bike-sharing program in New York as a fait accompli -- and that
they are now merely subjecting that program to the same gauntlet of
travails that would accompany the introduction of any other new transit
system. ...Dropping a huge bike-share program into the middle of New
York City is unquestionably a dramatic step; ...The debate over London’s
Barclays Cycle Hire program, ...the resounding success of Barclays
Cycle Hire [London] to date effectively refutes all the objections these
doubters raised prior to its launch in 2010. ...49 percent of Barclays’
users say they actually started cycling in London because of the
system. ...bike-sharing is inherently unsafe? ...there have been more
than 20 million ... uses... without a single fatal crash.... http://www.onearth.org/blog/overinflated-why-the-nyc-bike-share-backlash-is-a-good-thing. Tom Vanderbilt, OnEarth Magazine.
2013-03. My Heart-Stopping Ride Aboard the Navy's Great Green Fleet
| Julia Whitty, Mother Jones. Excerpt: ...the Navy has always looked
far into the future to fuel its supply lines; the job description of
admirals requires them to assess risk and solve intractable problems
that stymie the rest of us. Peak oil, foreign oil, greenhouse emissions,
climate change? Just another bunch of enemies. So when the Department
of Defense set a goal to meet 25 percent of its energy needs with
renewables by 2025, the Navy found itself fighting on familiar ground.
Four times in history it has overhauled old transportation
paradigms—from sail to coal to gasoline to diesel to nuclear—carrying
commercial shipping with it in the process. "We are a better Navy and a
better Marine Corps for innovation," Mabus says. "We have led the world
in the adoption of new energy strategies in the past. This is our
legacy.".... See full article at http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/02/navy-climate-change-great-green-fleet.
2013 February 12. Why Prius Owners Drive Like That.
By Dwight Silverman, Houston Chronicle. Excerpt: ...I don't drive it
too aggressively, but I do enjoy its ability to get moving quickly. ...I
used to get irked with Toyota Prius owners... notorious for driving
below posted speed limits, slowing to a stop far out from a stop sign or
light, taking their sweet time when the light turns green or creeping
through parking lots so silently that they startle pedestrians. Sure,
with my Mustang averaging about 15 MPG in city driving, I envied Prius
owners' claims of 50 MPG and better, but really... do they have to be so
pokey while doing it? Well, now that we have a Toyota Prius in our
household, I know that the answer is... Yes! Now, I'm one of those
annoying Prius drivers. ...Not only do you want to conserve power, but
you also want to make sure the batteries stay charged enough so the
electric motor can be used. ...When you coast or brake, the wheels and
the braking system turn into a generator, feeding current back into the
batteries. Coasting or braking also takes the gasoline engine out of the
equation, resulting in high fuel efficiency. ...Prius owners love to
coast. On surface streets, this translate on coasting to stop signs and
traffic lights from as far out as possible. Ideally, you'd love to come
to a stop right at the intersection without tapping the brake. I haven't
reached that skill level, but I'm getting there. You also don't want to
do any jackrabbit starts when the light turns green. Toyota recommends
slow-and-steady starts from standing stops, but there's another school
of thought among advanced Prius drivers. Some argue you should get up to
cruising speed as soon as possible, so the gasoline engine runs for as
short a time as possible. ...On the freeway, Prius drivers try to
"glide", a state in which they're still moving at highway speeds but
using no gasoline engine at all. The Prius can achieve decent mileage at
55 mph, but as it goes faster, mileage drops precipitously. That's why
Prius owners tend to be the ones in the right lane, letting everyone
else pass them while speeding. ...Of course, the way you drive in a
Prius is actually the way you're supposed to drive, according to every
defensive driving class I've been forced to attend….
2013 January 16. Could Some Midwest Land Support New Biofuel Refineries?
| Richard Harris, NPR news. Excerpt: Millions of acres of marginal
farmland in the Midwest — land that isn't in good enough condition to
grow crops — could be used to produce liquid fuels made from plant
material, according to a study in Nature. And those biofuels could, in
theory, provide about 25 percent of the advanced biofuels required by a
2007 federal law. …G. Philip Robertson and colleagues at Michigan State
University's Kellogg Biological Station have been looking at plants that
don't require farm fields. "First, we discovered that the grasses and
flowers that take over fields once you stop farming produce a fair
amount of biomass, especially if you provide them a little bit of
fertilizer," Robertson says. …Using these crops for fuel is much better
for the atmosphere than burning gasoline…. But biofuels could at best
provide only a tiny fraction of our energy needs. …The 27 million acres
identified in the latest study would provide less than 0.5 percent of
our national energy demand…. And the more we try to expand biofuels, the
more we risk displacing crops for food, or chopping down forests, which
store a huge amount of carbon. …Europe has recently recognized those
potential hazards and is scaling back its biofuels ambitions….
Read[/listen to] the full article: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/16/169538570/could-some-midwest-land-support-new-biofuel-refineries
2013 January 08. As Biofuel Demand Grows, So Do Guatemala’s Hunger Pangs
| Elisabeth Rosenthal, The New York Times. Excerpt: GUATEMALA CITY —
In the tiny tortillerias of this city, people complain ceaselessly about
the high price of corn. Just three years ago, one quetzal — about 15
cents — bought eight tortillas; today it buys only four. And eggs have
tripled in price because chickens eat corn feed. … Recent laws in the
United States and Europe that mandate the increasing use of biofuel in
cars have had far-flung ripple effects, economists say, as land once
devoted to growing food for humans is now sometimes more profitably used
for churning out vehicle fuel. …Now that the United States is using 40
percent of its crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla
prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn.
… Production of sugar cane, long a mainstay Guatemalan crop, has also
skyrocketed as biofuels opened new market opportunities. Pantaleon Sugar
Holdings, which once exported only food products, now uses 13 percent
of its production for fuel. Local sugar prices have doubled…. Read the
full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/06/science/earth/in-fields-and-markets-guatemalans-feel-squeeze-of-biofuel-demand.html?ref=science
2013 January 04. A Boost for Lithium-Sulfur Batteries
| Robert F. Service, Science 4 Vol. 339 no. 6115 pp. 20-21. Excerpt:
…new innovations unveiled at the meeting could see fivefold improvements
in battery performance. …today's lithium-ion rechargeables work by
shuttling electrical charges back and forth between two electrodes—a
positively charged cathode and a negatively charged anode. …LiCoO2
cathodes can't hold on to very many lithium ions, which keeps the
battery's overall electrical storage capacity low. …lithium-sulfur
batteries [could have] about five times the capacity of current
lithium-ion cells. …Yi Cui, a materials scientist at Stanford University
in Palo Alto, California, … and his team encapsulated tiny
nanoparticles of sulfur inside a shell of titanium dioxide (TiO2)… [and]
packed their coated nanoparticles together to form a cathode. …the new
batteries have a capacity …roughly six times that of the current devices
on the market. … Cui said his team charged and discharged the battery
more than 1000 times with negligible drop off in performance. …In
previous work, Cui's team … [made] a high capacity anode, which can
potentially give lithium-ion batteries another 10-fold power boost. Now,
Cui says, his group is working to put the two nanoparticle electrodes
together to see if they can produce the battery Christmas presents have
been waiting for. …. Read the full article: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6115/20.2.full
2012 December 21. Make Way for Kilowatts: A Growing-Up Year for Plug-Ins
| by Bradley Berman, The New York Times. Excerpt: … eight significant
plug-in models came to market in the United States in 2012. … many of
these debuts were for limited production runs of a couple of thousand
vehicles. … cars with plugs will still represent only about one-third of
1 percent of the new-car market…. TESLA MODEL S … simultaneously
stylish, efficient, roomy, high-tech and very fast … range of the
85-kilowatt-hour model, which starts at $79,350 … is rated by the E.P.A.
at 265 miles per charge. …NISSAN LEAF … 8,330 had left showrooms, ….
Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid gained steadily as 2012 drew
to a close. … Toyota added a plug-in version to its growing family of
Prius hybrids in 2012. …Perhaps the biggest green car story of 2012 was
the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards... that
established a standard of 54.5 miles per gallon as an average of all
light-duty cars and trucks by 2025, essentially doubling fuel efficiency
compared with today’s vehicles. That target also suggests that within a
generation hybrids will be ubiquitous and E.V.’s common, on American
roads. …. Read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/automobiles/a-growing-up-year-for-plug-ins.html?emc=eta1&_r=0
2012 December 20. Meet the Change Makers: How UPS Delivers Big Energy Savings
| Adam Aston, OnEarth (NRDC). Excerpt: [Interview with Scott Wicker,
who was named UPS’s first chief sustainability officer in 2011.] …we saw
that we were wasting a lot of time making left turns. The more time a
van sits waiting to turn, the more fuel is burned idling. …Last year we
avoided 98 million minutes of idling. …Last year … we estimate we
avoided driving nearly 90 million miles thanks to improvements in
routing and package-flow technologies. That translates into more than 8
million gallons of fuel not burned. Our technologies determine how to
load each package and where each one goes on a specific shelf in the
truck. this effort alone saved 653,000 gallons of fuel. …Our fleet of
alternative-fueled vehicles is the largest in the industry, and one of
the most diverse. …Many are powered by natural gas, … an alternative to
diesel. … For long distances, we also have about 59 big rigs … powered
by liquefied natural gas (LNG). …Rounding out the alternative fleet are
381 hybrid electric models that, similar to Toyota’s Prius, use a
combination of combustion, electric motors, and battery storage to boost
mileage. Because they recapture so much of their energy through
regenerative braking, these models are especially well-suited to urban
routes…. …we’re rolling out 40 hydraulic hybrid delivery vehicles.
…Instead of storing energy in a conventional battery, these vehicles use
hydraulic fluid as the storage medium. When the vehicle accelerates,
some of this stored pressure helps it to start moving. During braking,
the process works in reverse: the vehicle’s momentum is converted into
pressure to recharge the hydraulic tanks. It’s a remarkably rugged
system that can save up to 40 percent of fuel….We’d like to get off of
fossil fuels. That’s our goal…. Read the full article: http://www.onearth.org/article/meet-the-change-makers-how-ups-delivers-big-energy-savings
2012 Aug 27. Designers Set Sail, Turning to Wind to Help Power Cargo Ships. By John J. Geoghegan, The NY Times. Excerpt: If the world’s shipping fleet were a
country, it would be the world’s sixth leading emitter of greenhouse
gases. To reduce those emissions — and, not incidentally, to conserve
expensive fossil fuels — cargo ship designers are now turning to the
oldest source of power there is: the wind… Wind, of course, is cost- and
emission-free. But none of the designs under consideration would
replace a ship’s engine, only supplement it….
2012 July 19. Navy 'Green Fleet' sails on biofuels
| by Jennifer A. Dlouhy, SFGate. Excerpt: ...Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
said the "Great Green Fleet" test exercises for the first time proved
that aircraft carriers, FA-18 jets and other equipment could run on
advanced biofuels without any modifications, a milestone in his quest to
find alternative fuels. Critics have blasted the exercises as too
costly, especially as the Defense Department heads toward mandated
budget cuts. The advanced biofuels used to power the Navy vessels came
from a mix of algae and cooking oil, sold by Solazyme of South San
Francisco and Dynamic Fuels, a joint venture of Tyson Foods and
2012 Summer. How Clean Are Electric Vehicles
| by Don Anair, Catalyst. Excerpt:
By drawing some or all of their power from the electricity grid instead
of the gas pump, EVs slash oil consumption and eliminate tailpipe
emissions, but still produce global warming emissions (because the
electricity they use is generated from a mix of energy sources,
including fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas)...No matter where
you live in the United States, an EV slashes oil consumption and has
lower global warming emissions than the average new compact
gasoline-powered vehicle. But in regions that depend heavily on
coal-fired electricity, charging an EV will generate more global warming
emissions than in regions that obtain more of their electricity from
cleaner sources such as natural gas, solar, and wind power....
2012-05-29. Into the Wild Green Yonder | By Jeff Turrentine, OnEarth
Magazine (NRDC). Excerpt: Algae-derived biofuel -- already powering some
planes and helicopters -- offers a cleaner, renewable alternative to
petroleum. Will its partisan critics give it a chance to fly? Last
November 7, Continental Airlines Flight 1403 took off from Houston,
bound for Chicago. The trip was utterly unremarkable save for one thing.
Thanks to its fuel -- a blend of standard jet diesel and a biofuel
derived from algae -- the flight reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an
amount equivalent to what a car would spew out in 30,000 miles of
driving. …This technology isn't in the blue-sky or even beta-testing
stage of the R&D sequence. It has already been proved in the lab,
and it's now being proved in the marketplace, where some very big
clients -- among them major airlines, the U.S. Navy, and Bunge, one of
the world's largest agribusiness conglomerates -- are placing orders for
millions of gallons of algae-derived biofuel from dozens of
manufacturers. …"We have literally invented the ability to design oil,"
says Harrison Dillon, president and chief technology officer of
Solazyme, the Bay Area company that sold its biofuel to United
Continental Holdings for the Houston-to-Chicago flight last November….
Read the full article: http://www.onearth.org/article/into-the-wild-green-yonder
2012 April 13. How Green Are Electric Cars? Depends on Where You Plug In
| By Paul Stenquist, The NY Times. Excerpt: …According to a report
that the Union of Concerned Scientists plans to release on Monday, there
would be a considerable difference in the amount of greenhouse gases —
primarily carbon dioxide — that result from charging the cars’ battery
packs…The U.C.S. report, which takes into account the full cycle of
energy production, often called a well-to-wheels analysis, demonstrates
that in areas where the electric utility relies on natural gas, nuclear,
hydroelectric or renewable sources to power its generators, the
potential for electric cars and plug-in hybrids to reduce carbon dioxide
emissions is great. But where generators are powered by burning a high
percentage of coal, electric cars may not be even as good as the latest
gasoline models — and far short of the thriftiest hybrids….
2012 Mar 23. The Electric Car, Unplugged
| By John Broder, The New York Times. Excerpt: The future would appear
bright for the electric car. Gasoline prices are high. The government is
spending billions on battery technology. Auto companies are preparing
to roll out a dozen new electrified models. Concern is growing about the
climate impacts of burning oil. And tough new fuel economy standards
are looming. Yet the state of the electric car is dismal, the victim of
hyped expectations, technological flops, high costs and a hostile
political climate. … is this what an emergent technology looks like
before it crosses the valley of death? …Chris Paine, who made the 2006
documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” about the demise of G.M.’s
EV1 at the hands of the car company, government regulators and the oil
industry, said … one possible culprit still stands to gain if the
electric car is killed yet again,… “Not too hard to guess,” he said.
“With Americans paying $250 a month to fill up on gasoline when
electricity can do the job in a Volt for $50 a month, why are we being
told electric cars are failures? Who could possibly be behind this?”
2012 Feb 9. Breakthrough in designing cheaper, more efficient catalysts for fuel cells.
Berkeley Research News. Excerpt: University of California, Berkeley,
chemists are reimagining catalysts in ways that could have a profound
impact on the chemical industry as well as on the growing market for
hydrogen fuel cell vehicles….
…In an article appearing this week in the journal Science, UC Berkeley
chemists show how to construct a catalyst composed only of edges and
demonstrate that it can catalyze the production of hydrogen from water
as readily as the edges and defects in regular catalysts….
2011 Nov 30. Algae fuel firms face moment of truth.
By Damian Kahya and Richard Anderson, BBC News. Excerpt: …Following
pioneering research during the 1950s and 60s in places such as Berkeley,
University of California, the US Aquatic Species Program was launched
by President Jimmy Carter in 1978… That programme slowly fizzled out,
culminating in a report in 1998 which concluded that the price of oil
needed to be far higher than the then $15-20 a barrel to make algae
viable… By 2007, with the oil price well north of $100, interest in
algae had risen again….
…a rash of start-ups around the world - and especially in the US - [have
sought] venture capital funding based on promises of limitless, cheap,
clean fuel… But none has yet succeeded in producing fuel commercially
and at scale….
…"As you scale up, it's not that things get cheaper, but that new
problems emerge," said Professor Jerry Brand from the University of
Texas in Austin….
2011 Nov 29. E. Coli Bacteria Engineered to Eat Switchgrass and Make Transportation Fuels.
By Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab News Center. Excerpt: A milestone has
been reached on the road to developing advanced biofuels that can
replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuels with a domestically-produced
clean, green, renewable alternative.
Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy
Institute (JBEI) have engineered the first strains of Escherichia coli
bacteria that can digest switchgrass biomass and synthesize its sugars
into all three of those transportation fuels. What’s more, the microbes
are able to do this without any help from enzyme additives….
…Advanced biofuels made from the lignocellulosic biomass of non-food
crops and agricultural waste are widely believed to represent the best
source of renewable liquid transportation fuels. Unlike ethanol, which
in this country is produced from corn starch, these advanced biofuels
can replace gasoline on a gallon-for-gallon basis, and they can be used
in today’s engines and infrastructures. The biggest roadblock to an
advanced biofuels highway is bringing the cost of producing these fuels
down so that they are economically competitive….
2011 August 3. Costilla County Runs Successful Biodiesel Plan.
By Elise Thatcher, Colorado Public Radio Podcast. Excerpt: "Recently
Colorado Matters covered the demise of a plant in southwestern Colorado
that was supposed to produce biodiesel. That was the San Juan Biofuels
plant in Dove Creek, which closed mostly because of the recession. Today
we’re going to talk about a similar plant in another rural part of the
state. It's in Costilla County, in south central Colorado. That’s one of
the five poorest counties in the state. Like San Juan Biofuels, it uses
local crops. But the difference is this plant is still running."
2011 August 26. Electric-Car Makers' Quest: One Plug to Charge Them All.
By Csaba Csere, The New York Times. Excerpt: With electric cars and
plug-in hybrids at last trickling into the showrooms of mainstream
automakers, the dream of going gasoline-free is becoming a reality for
many drivers. Cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt can cover
considerable distances under electric power alone — certainly enough
for local errands and even most daily commutes — while enabling their
owners to shun gas stations. Indeed, charging the car’s battery pack at
home, or topping up at the office or shopping mall, will work fine for
most drivers. But what about trips that are beyond the range of a single
…Sure, there are already public charging stations in service, and new
ones are coming online daily. But those typically take several hours to
fully replenish a battery.
As a result, the ability for quick battery boosts — using a compatible
direct current fast charger, the Leaf can refill to 80 percent capacity
in 30 minutes — could potentially become an important point of
differentiation among electric models.
2011 July 28. SolarCity to install plug-in car charging stations.
By David R. Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: SolarCity, a
San Mateo company known for leasing solar power systems to homeowners,
will begin installing electric vehicle charging stations built by
Clipper Creek, the two firms reported Wednesday.
…Although the chargers do not need to be coupled with solar power
systems, SolarCity is encouraging people to use both, charging their
plug-in cars during the day with the aid of solar power.
"Electric cars are already among the cleanest-running vehicles on the
road - charging them on solar makes them that much better," said
SolarCity Chief Executive Officer Lyndon Rive.
2010 Oct 5. U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, NY Times. Excerpt: With insurgents increasingly
attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the
Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to
develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to
transport fossil fuels.
…Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill
and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the
recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a
decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not
readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on
fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have
become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as
providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now
account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed
forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the
…“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the
core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former
ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the
power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by
2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and
…He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable
energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from
unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of
…While setting national energy policy requires Congressional debates,
military leaders can simply order the adoption of renewable energy. And
the military has the buying power to create products and markets. That,
in turn, may make renewable energy more practical and affordable for
everyday uses, experts say.
…Last year, the Navy introduced its first hybrid vessel, a Wasp class
amphibious assault ship called the U.S.S. Makin Island, which at speeds
under 10 knots runs on electricity rather than on fossil fuel…The Air
Force will have its entire fleet certified to fly on biofuels by 2011
and has already flown test flights using a 50-50 mix of plant-based
biofuel and jet fuel; the Navy took its first delivery of fuel made from
algae this summer.
…This spring, the military invited commercial manufacturers to
demonstrate products that might be useful on the battlefield. A small
number were selected for further testing. The goal was to see, for
example, if cooling systems could handle the 120 degree temperatures
often seen in current war zones or if embedded solar panels would make
tents more visible to enemy radar.
2010 August 10. Lithium: The Next Frontier in Alternative Energy.
By Anton Polouektov. Excerpt: With peak oil occupying the minds of
energy experts and the Gulf oil spill acting as a painful reminder of
the dangers posed to the environment by our unquenchable thirst for
fossil fuels, a rejuvenated interest in alternative energy is sweeping
the nation. Electric and hybrid vehicles are currently the most viable
alternative to gas-powered engines, and Lithium-Ion batteries are the
most viable means of powering them...
....Lithium, the lightweight silver-white alkali metal that stores
energy in lithium-ion batteries, has been attracting growing attention
from automotive and energy companies over the past several years and the
mineral’s meteoric rise to global prominence is seemingly set to
continue unabated as a new generation of electric cars begins rolling
off the assembly line...
....Critics of Lithium-based energy solutions argue that although
Lithium is one of the most common metals in the Earth’s crust, the
availability of easily accessible reserves of the mineral may be
comparatively limited...He concluded that “the range of future demands
for lithium is unsustainable.”...
...Ultimately, the strongest argument in favor of Lithium may be that
it is one of the very few truly viable alternative energy solutions
available to us today, even though it would not completely alleviate
global dependence on oil and natural gas...
…"Better batteries can help us to use the electricity generated by
solar and wind in our transportation system, leaving oil for heating and
aircraft.” In the end, a switch from internal combustion engines to
electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries may be the first step
towards finding a real alternative to fossil fuels, but before it is
taken, some research still needs to be conducted to determine whether an
increase in lithium-ion battery production is sustainable in the long
2010 July 23. Berkelely lab co-leads $122 million sunlight-to-fuel effort.
By Suzanne Bohan, Contra Costa Times.Excerpt: Plants fuel the world
with their ability to convert sunlight into a usable form of energy.
Now, the Department of Energy is putting up $122 million to help humans
capture the energy of the sun and create renewable liquid fuels through
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology
in Pasadena were selected to lead the ambitious research project, the
Energy Department announced Thursday. Its aim is to master the basic
science involved and develop applications that can be scaled up for
…Instead of yielding a simple carbohydrate, artificial photosynthesis
would be designed to create oxygen and liquid fuels such as hydrocarbons
or alcohols that could be directly pumped into vehicles, without
additional, costly refinement.
Photosynthesis "happens on the nano scale," said PAUL ALIVISATOS, [UC
BERKELEY PROFESSOR and] director of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
"There's really a new environment with all the nanotechnology that's
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said that it would create 100 new jobs,
not including construction and other contract jobs. It also engages the
work of an estimated 200 scientists statewide. Other universities
involved in the artificial photosynthesis hub include SLAC National
Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford, UC BERKELEY, UC Santa Barbara, UC
Irvine and UC San Diego....
2010 July 26. Exploring Algae As Fuel.
By Andrew Pollack, The New York Times. Excerpt: SAN DIEGO — In a
laboratory where almost all the test tubes look green, the tools of
modern biotechnology are being applied to lowly pond scum.
…The goal is nothing less than to create superalgae, highly efficient
at converting sunlight and carbon dioxide into lipids and oils that can
be sent to a refinery and made into diesel or jet fuel.
…“There are probably well over 100 academic efforts to use genetic
engineering to optimize biofuel production from algae,” said Matthew C.
Posewitz, an assistant professor of chemistry at the Colorado School of
Mines, who has written a review of the field. “There’s just intense
…The strains can potentially produce 10 or more times more fuel per
acre than the corn used to make ethanol or the soybeans used to make
biodiesel. Moreover, algae might be grown on arid land and brackish
water, so that fuel production would not compete with food production.
And algae are voracious consumers of carbon dioxide, potentially helping
to keep some of this greenhouse gas from contributing to global
…Not all these traits are being developed by genetic engineering,
because in many cases scientists do not know what genes to use. Instead,
the company screens thousands of strains each day, looking for
organisms with the right properties. Those desirable traits can be
further enhanced by breeding or accelerated evolution.
2010 February 18. Road Transportation Emerges As Key Driver of Warming.
Goddard Institute for Space Studies.Excerpt: For decades,
climatologists have studied the gases and particles that have potential
to alter Earth's climate. They have discovered and described certain
airborne chemicals that can trap incoming sunlight and warm the climate,
while others cool the planet by blocking the Sun's rays.
Now a new study led by Nadine Unger of NASA's Goddard Institute for
Space Studies (GISS) in New York City offers a more intuitive way to
understand what's changing the Earth's climate. Rather than analyzing
impacts by chemical species, scientists have analyzed the climate
impacts by different economic sectors.
Each part of the economy, such as ground transportation or agriculture,
emits a unique portfolio of gases and aerosols that affect the climate
in different ways and on different timescales
…The new analysis offers policy makers and the public a far more
detailed and comprehensive understanding of how to mitigate climate
change most effectively, Unger and colleagues assert. "Targeting on-road
transportation is a win-win-win," she said. "It's good for the climate
in the short term and long term, and it's good for our health."
2010 March 9. The Lithium Chase.
By Clifford Krauss, NY Times. Excerpt: ...As awareness spreads that
lithium is a crucial ingredient for hybrid and electric cars, a global
hunt is under way for new supplies of the metal.
Toyota Tsusho, the material supplier for the big Japanese automaker,
announced a joint venture in January with the Australian miner Orocobre
to develop a $100 million lithium project in Argentina. That deal came
only days after Magna International, the Canadian car parts company that
is helping develop a battery-powered version of the Ford Focus,
announced that it was investing $10 million in a small Canadian lithium
firm that also has projects in Argentina.
They were the latest in a series of deals and projects announced over
the last year, reflecting a new urgency among companies to assure
themselves future supplies of the metal.
...About 60 mining companies have begun feasibility studies in
Argentina, Serbia and Nevada that could lead to more than $1 billion in
new lithium projects in the next several years, while dozens of smaller
projects are being proposed in China, Finland, Mexico and Canada.
The companies are competing for construction financing, and the future
of most of the projects will depend on how popular electric cars
eventually become. That is an open question since batteries remain
expensive, recharging stations need to be developed, and consumer taste
for cars that depend on regular stops at electric outlets remains
2010 Feb 18. Orange peels, newspapers may lead to cheaper, cleaner ethanol fuel.
EurekAlert. Excerpt: Scientists may have just made the breakthrough of a
lifetime, turning discarded fruit peels and other throwaways into
cheap, clean fuel to power the world's vehicles.
University of Central Florida professor Henry Daniell has developed a
groundbreaking way to produce ethanol from waste products such as orange
peels and newspapers. His approach is greener and less expensive than
the current methods available to run vehicles on cleaner fuel – and his
goal is to relegate gasoline to a secondary fuel.
Daniell's breakthrough can be applied to several non-food products
throughout the United States, including sugarcane, switchgrass and
...Daniell's technique – developed with U.S. Department of Agriculture
funding -- uses plant-derived enzyme cocktails to break down orange
peels and other waste materials into sugar, which is then fermented into
Corn starch now is fermented and converted into ethanol. But ethanol
derived from corn produces more greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline
does. Ethanol created using Daniell's approach produces much lower
greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline or electricity....
2010 Feb 14. Cities Prepare for Life With the Electric Car.
By Todd Woody and Clifford Krauss, NY Times. Excerpt:SAN FRANCISCO — If
electric cars have any future in the United States, this may be the
city where they arrive first.
The San Francisco building code will soon be revised to require that
new structures be wired for car chargers. Across the street from City
Hall, some drivers are already plugging converted hybrids into a row of
In nearby Silicon Valley, companies are ordering workplace charging
stations in the belief that their employees will be first in line when
electric cars begin arriving in showrooms. And at the headquarters of
Pacific Gas and Electric, utility executives are preparing “heat maps”
of neighborhoods that they fear may overload the power grid in their
exuberance for electric cars.
...In cities like San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and San Diego, a
combination of green consciousness and enthusiasm for new technology
seems to be stirring public interest in the cars.
The first wave of electric car buying is expected to begin around
December, when Nissan introduces the Leaf, a five-passenger electric car
that will have a range of 100 miles on a fully charged battery and be
priced for middle-class families....
2010 Jan 31. An Electric Boost for Bicyclists.
By J. David Goodman, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...Detroit may be
introducing electric car designs and China may be pushing forward with a
big expansion of its highways and trains. But people like Mr. Jiang,
Ms. Wijzenbeek-Voet and Mr. Chiu — as well as delivery workers in New
York, postal employees in Germany and commuters from Canada to Japan —
are among the millions taking part in a more accidental transportation
It began in China, where an estimated 120 million electric bicycles now
hum along the roads, up from a few thousand in the 1990s. They are
replacing traditional bikes and motorcycles at a rapid clip and, in many
cases, allowing people to put off the switch to cars.
In turn, the booming Chinese electric-bike industry is spurring
worldwide interest and impressive sales in India, Europe and the United
States. China is exporting many bikes, and Western manufacturers are
also copying the Chinese trend to produce models of their own. From
virtually nothing a decade ago, electric bikes have become an $11
billion global industry....
2010 Jan 28. Biofuel advance made in Bay Area, researchers say.
By Suzanne Bohan, Contra Costa Times. Excerpt: Researchers in
Emeryville have engineered a microbe that produces biodiesel fuel
directly from plant waste and grasses, according to a study published
Thursday in the Journal Nature. The development was hailed as a major
milestone in a federal initiative to develop new forms of transportation
fuels to ease the country's dependence on foreign oil and to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions. "This is a very important advance," said Jay
Keasling, chief executive of the Joint Bioenergy Institute and acting
deputy director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, which manages the Joint
...Energy Secretary Steven Chu sent an excited message praising the
advance, Keasling said. The institute, which opened in late 2008 with
the mandate of developing commercially viable alternates to corn-based
ethanol within five years, has a $125 million Department of Energy
grant. ..."This was about making a fuel that would work with our
existing infrastructure" for diesel, Keasling said. ...extracting fuel
from tough plant material called "cellulosic biomass." The biomass can
be taken from agricultural waste material or can be grown on marginal
land unsuitable for farming. The bacteria, a strain of the laboratory
workhorse E. coli, can convert materials such as straw, wood chips or
grass directly into fatty acids used as fuels. ...The challenge now is
going from laboratory flask to commercial-scale fermentation tanks to
produce vast quantities of fuel. ...Worldwide for diesel fuel is
growing, the Nature study noted. The Emeryville scientists also plan to
manipulate bacteria to produce biodiesel for jet planes.
"Carbon Cycle 2.0: Jay Keasling: Biofuels" (videolecture on YouTube, 2010 Feb 16 - 35 min)
2009 December 22. Solar Car-Charging Comes to New York.
By Jim Motavalli, The NY Times. Excerpt: When the sun shines on the
docks of Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Beautiful Earth Group's solar charging
station is making electricity to power the company's leased,
battery-powered Mini E.
The Beautiful Earth Group, started last year, builds and operates solar
and wind farms, the first of them in the Southwest. Lex Heslin, chief
executive of Beautiful Earth, claims two firsts: He got the keys to the
first Mini E (an electric version of the Mini Cooper) in New York last
May and his company is operating the city's first solar E.V. charging
The drive-in station ... has 5.6-kilowatt capacity from 24 Sharp
235-watt photovoltaic panels and can recharge the Mini E in three hours.
Mr. Heslin does say, however, that solar car-charging will inevitably
be somewhat limited in New York City. Skyscrapers not only block the
sun, he said, but are also shaded by other buildings. And, he said, the
rooftop footprints of the stations are too small for large-scale
generation. "There are a few locations in New York City where it will
work, but they are the exception rather than the rule," he said
...Tesla Motors and SolarCity opened a charging corridor between San
Francisco and Los Angeles (at four Rabobank branches) in September.
...Coulomb Technologies, based in Silicon Valley, has built 450
charging stations around the world, and several of them have been hooked
into solar panels. According to its chief executive, Richard Lowenthal,
Coulomb has formed a partnership with Envision Solar to integrate its
ChargePoint technology into, among other places, a "solar grove" at Dell
headquarters in Round Rock, Tex. Dell's system has two
solar-to-electric charging stations and 11 large "solar trees" producing
131,000 kilowatt hours annually. The "trees" (elevated platforms with
516 BP solar modules) double as shade for 56 parking spaces....
2009-08-26. Detroit Gets the Message. http://www.onearth.org/article/detroit-gets-the-message.
Molly Webster, OnEarth magazine. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt:
At the Supreme Court, on Capitol Hill, and in state legislatures around
the country, NRDC has spent years aggressively pushing auto
manufacturers to increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles and
decrease emissions of greenhouse gas pollutants. So it was especially
gratifying when, on May 22 , President Barack Obama stood in the
Rose Garden with a group of environmentalists, auto industry executives,
and federal regulators to announce the establishment of strong
greenhouse gas and fuel-efficiency standards for cars. This "historic
agreement," the president declared, will "help America break its
dependence on oil, reduce harmful pollution, and begin the transition to
a clean-energy economy." On hand for the ceremony were the heads of
General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler, all of whom have embraced the new
rules, which will create greenhouse gas emission standards; these will
be roughly equivalent to an increase in fuel efficiency to 35.5 miles
per gallon. New car models will emit, on average, 30 percent less
greenhouse gases than current models. Roland Hwang, NRDC's vehicle
policy director, called the agreement "transformative."....
2009 August 19. Toyota, Hybrid Innovator, Holds Back in Race to Go Electric.
By Hiroko Tabuchi, The NY Times.Excerpt: ...Mitsubishi Motors started
leasing its all-electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, in June. Next year, Nissan
Motor is set to release its electric car, the Leaf. But Toyota does not
plan to introduce an all-electric car until 2012. Instead, later this
year, it plans to introduce a plug-in electric-gasoline hybrid, and only
a few hundred initially.
...Electric technology could help determine winners and losers in the
auto industry of the future, but Toyota has been highly skeptical of
“The time is not here,” Masatami Takimoto, Toyota’s executive vice president, said during a factory tour this year.
Electric cars “face many challenges,” he said, adding that “to
commercialize pure E.V.’s, we need a battery that far exceeds the
If Toyota is right, its competitors will have spent billions on a technology that will be slow to take off.
But if electric cars win drivers over, Toyota’s rivals could take the lead.
...Toyota executives rattle off reasons to be skeptical of electric
cars: They do not travel far enough on a charge; their batteries are
expensive and not reliable; the electrical infrastructure is not in
place to recharge them.
...Toyota is instead building on its hybrid technology, bringing out a
plug-in, gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle later this year that runs a
short distance on batteries before the hybrid system kicks in....
2009 August 16. A New Test for Business and Biofuel.
By Kirk Johnson, The NY Times. Excerpt: IGNACIO, Colo. — ...With the
twin goals of making fuel from algae and reducing emissions of
heat-trapping gases, a start-up company co-founded by a Colorado State
University professor recently introduced a strain of algae that loves
carbon dioxide into a water tank next to a natural gas processing plant.
The water is already green-tinged with life.
The Southern Utes, one of the nation’s wealthiest American Indian
communities thanks to its energy and real-estate investments, is a major
investor in the professor’s company. It hopes to gain a toehold in what
tribal leaders believe could be the next billion-dollar energy boom.
But from the tribe’s perspective, the business model here is about more
than business. “It’s a marriage of an older way of thinking into a
modern time,” said the tribe’s chairman, Matthew J. Box, referring to
the interplay of environmental consciousness and investment opportunity
...The Colorado State professor, Bryan Willson, who teaches mechanical
engineering and is a co-founder of the three-year-old company Solix
Biofuels, said working with the Southern Utes on their land afforded his
company advantages that would have been impossible in mainstream
corporate America. The tribe contributed almost one-third of the $20
million in capital raised by Solix, free use of land and more than $1
million in equipment....
...More than 200 other companies are also trying to find a
cost-effective, scalable way to achieve the same end — turning algae
into vegetable oil fuel, according to the National Renewable Energy
Laboratory, a federal research center in Golden, Colo. Just last month,
Exxon said it planned to throw $600 million into its own algae project,
dwarfing Solix’s financial base about fiftyfold. Like most oil-to-fuel
efforts, the Solix project focuses on making biodiesel, which can be
used in a regular diesel engine....
2009 July 31. The Food, Energy and Environment ‘Trilemma’.
By John Lorinc, The NY Times. Excerpt: At the 2009 Bio World Congress
on Industrial Biotechnology, held in Montreal last week, industry
players and scientists found themselves pondering two seemingly
One focused on how rapid advances in genetic engineering and
biotechnology can expand the market for cellulosic ethanol and other
“second-generation biofuels,” which are touted as low-emission
substitutes for corn ethanol (itself a partial substitute for gasoline).
The other involved the problem of ensuring that exponential growth in
the global biofuel market — which is projected to grow 12.3 percent a
year through 2017, according to one recent study of the industry — will
not hurt the environment and divert vast tracks of arable land needed
for food or grain production.
A paper published in Science earlier this month, referred to the triple
challenges of energy, environment and food as the biofuel “trilemma.”
The authors identified five “beneficial” sources of biomass: perennial
plants grown on abandoned farm fields, crop residue, sustainably
harvested wood residue, double or mixed crops, and industrial/municipal
“In a world seeking solutions to its energy, environmental, and food
challenges, society cannot afford to miss out on the global
greenhouse-gas emission reductions and the local environmental and
societal benefits when biofuels are done right,” the authors state.
“However, society also cannot accept the undesirable impacts of biofuels
2009 July 13. Exxon to Invest Millions to Make Fuel From Algae.
By Jad Mouawad, The NY Times. Excerpt: ...On Tuesday, Exxon plans to
announce an investment of $600 million in producing liquid
transportation fuels from algae — organisms in water that range from
pond scum to seaweed. The biofuel effort involves a partnership with
Synthetic Genomics, a biotechnology company founded by the genomics
pioneer J. Craig Venter.
The agreement could plug a major gap in the strategy of Exxon, the
world’s largest and richest publicly traded oil company, which has been
criticized by environmental groups for dismissing concerns about global
warming in the past and its reluctance to develop renewable fuels.
...Exxon’s sincerity and commitment will almost certainly be questioned
by its most galvanized environmentalist critics, especially when
compared with the company’s extraordinary profits from petroleum in
“Research is great, but we need to see new products in the market,”
Kert Davies, the research director at Greenpeace, said. “We’ve always
said that major oil companies have to be involved. But the question is
whether companies are simply paying lip service to something or whether
they are putting their weight and power behind it.”
...Currently, about 9 percent of the nation’s liquid fuel supply comes
from biofuels — most of it corn-based ethanol. And by 2022, Congress has
mandated that biofuel levels reach 36 billion gallons.
...According to Exxon, algae could yield more than 2,000 gallons of
fuel per acre of production each year, compared with 650 gallons for
palm trees and 450 gallons for sugar canes. Corn yields just 250 gallons
per acre a year....
2009 May 7. U.S. Drops Research Into Fuel Cells for Cars.
By Matthew L. Wald, The NY Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON — Cars powered by
hydrogen fuel cells, once hailed by President George W. Bush as a
pollution-free solution for reducing the nation’s dependence on foreign
oil, will not be practical over the next 10 to 20 years, the energy
secretary said Thursday, and the government will cut off funds for the
Developing those cells and coming up with a way to transport the
hydrogen is a big challenge, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in
releasing energy-related details of the administration’s budget for the
year beginning Oct. 1. Dr. Chu said the government preferred to focus on
projects that would bear fruit more quickly.
The retreat from cars powered by fuel cells counters Mr. Bush’s
prediction in 2003 that “the first car driven by a child born today
could be powered by hydrogen, and pollution-free.” The Energy Department
will continue to pay for research into stationary fuel cells, which Dr.
Chu said could be used like batteries on the power grid and do not
require compact storage of hydrogen.
...“We’re very devoted to delivering solutions — not just science
papers, but solutions — but it will require some basic science,” Dr.
Chu, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in physics, said at a news
2009 Spring. Solar Fueling Stations: Building a Zero Emissions Transportation Future.
(PDF) By Sara Schedler, Friends of the Earth newsmagazine. Excerpt:
...Transportation currently accounts for more than one-third of all U.S.
greenhouse gas emissions and is rapidly growing. In order to quickly
and substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation
and achieve energy independence as a nation, we must fundamentally
transform our vehicles and the fuel they use. Plug-in electric vehicles,
fueled by renewable energy sources such as solar, offer a vital
solution to achieving these goals. ...Recognizing the important role
plug- in vehicles can play in solving our greenhouse gas and oil
dependence problems, President Obama has set goals of putting one
million plug-ins on the road by 2015, requiring that at least 50 percent
of all federal fleet purchases be plug-ins by 2012, and converting the
White House fleet to plug-ins (security-permitting). Today, a plug-in
charged from the cleaner California electric grid can reduce emissions
by up to 62 percent compared to a conventional car. But, when the
electricity used to fuel plug-in cars is produced from 100 percent
renewable sources such as solar energy, greenhouse gas emissions from
cars can approach zero. Friends of the Earth is pursuing this vision and
working with legislators, regulatory agencies, and businesses to
develop solar-powered charging stations (i.e. sun fuel stations) that
can fuel plug- in cars directly from the sun. A solar fueling station is
essentially a carport upon which solar panels are mounted and
underneath which cars park and charge from provided outlets. These
stations not only charge cars, but can also feed the grid with clean
energy or provide energy for the onsite host building(s) when cars are
not being charged. ...Solar fueling stations will also significantly
contribute towards the emerging green economy and help support a
burgeoning green collar workforce. Importantly, by using existing built
space such as parking lots to generate fuel, solar fueling stations
encourage infill development and cut down on the use of virgin land for
solar power generation. ...there are approximately 90 million parking
spaces in California and if just one-third of all parking spaces in the
state were converted to solar fueling stations, they could generate
enough fuel to power the average daily commute for the majority of
Californian cars on the road....
2009 April 5. India's electric car captures imagination.
By Daniel Pepper, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: Indian cities are
typically clogged with hulking buses, braying bullock carts and
motorbikes - stacked with as many as five people - that cause commuters
to idle for hours in traffic.
Despite such urban chaos, many Indians pine for a vehicle that they can
call their own. A Mumbai auto manufacturer has answered the call,
introducing the world's cheapest car on March 23. At $2,000, the Tata
Nano is a five-seat, air-conditioned, gasoline-powered car that
environmental activists predict will further pollute smog-filled Indian
While the Tata Nano has received much international publicity, India's
other automotive innovation - the Reva-i - has quietly become the
world's best-selling electric car...
The Maini Group, the Bangalore company that manufactures the car... has
sold more electric vehicles than any other company - 3,000 - to at
least 20 major cities throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America....
...The Reva-i is not yet available in the United States. Like many
European models, strict safety and testing regulations make the price of
entering the U.S. market prohibitively expensive....
Nevertheless, the Reva appears to be catching on globally.
...Unlike the much-anticipated GM Volt, due in 2010, the Reva is all
electric, with no gas option. The plug-in vehicle turns on with the
flick of a dial and rolls almost silently into traffic. Its
manufacturer, the Maini Group, is about to introduce its
third-generation model, which will be the same shape and size as its two
...Reva expects to triple its sales in 2009. There are 3,000 on the
road in Europe, Asia and Latin America, and a state-of-the-art plant in
Bangalore near completion is expected to eventually churn out 30,000
cars a year....
2009 April 1. China Vies to Be World’s Leader in Electric Cars.
By Keith Bradsher, The NY Times. Excerpt: TIANJIN, China — Chinese
leaders have adopted a plan aimed at turning the country into one of the
leading producers of hybrid and all-electric vehicles within three
years, and making it the world leader in electric cars and buses after
The goal, which radiates from the very top of the Chinese government,
suggests that Detroit’s Big Three, already struggling to stay alive,
will face even stiffer foreign competition on the next field of
automotive technology than they do today.
“China is well positioned to lead in this,” said David Tulauskas, director of China government policy at General Motors.
To some extent, China is making a virtue of a liability. It is behind
the United States, Japan and other countries when it comes to making
gas-powered vehicles, but by skipping the current technology, China
hopes to get a jump on the next.
...But electric vehicles may do little to clear the country’s
smog-darkened sky or curb its rapidly rising emissions of global warming
gases. China gets three-fourths of its electricity from coal, which
produces more soot and more greenhouse gases than other fuels.
A report by McKinsey & Company last autumn estimated that replacing
a gasoline-powered car with a similar-size electric car in China would
reduce greenhouse emissions by only 19 percent. It would reduce urban
pollution, however, by shifting the source of smog from car exhaust
pipes to power plants, which are often located outside cities....
2009 Feb 27. On the Fast Track.
by Craig Canine, OnEarth Magazine - NRDC. The rest of the developed
world has high-speed rail. We don't. That's finally about to change.
...Several states are improving existing rail lines with the goal of
offering "medium-fast" (around 110 mph) service within the decade (see "Slow, Slow, Quick-Quick, Slow,"
this issue), but California has pulled into the lead as the probable
site of America's first true high-speed (top operating speed: 220 mph)
Supporters hope it will be whizzing passengers between Los Angeles and
San Francisco by 2020. Once the technology has a foothold in the United
States, its rapid spread will become more and more likely as the
economic, environmental, and practical benefits sink in.
State-of-the-art high-speed rail systems don't come cheap, but the
price of not building them will be astronomical, in both economic and
environmental terms. As far as the planet's climate is concerned,
high-speed rail can't come fast enough.
Trains, even painfully slow ones powered by diesel engines, are
inherently efficient compared with other ways of moving people and
cargo. The reasons have to do with basic physics. Steel wheels on steel
tracks have much lower rolling resistance than rubber tires on pavement.
One train uses less energy to overcome wind resistance than the number
of trucks or cars that would be needed to haul an equal load the same
distance. A single freight train can take as many as 280 trucks off the
highway and uses a quarter as much fuel as an average truck to move a
ton one mile. Amtrak passenger trains, hardly paragons of up-to-date
technology, consume on average 18 percent less energy per passenger mile
than airplanes and 27 percent less than cars. So policies that
encourage and expand rail transport will yield net reductions in both
oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.
... High-speed trains take the environmental advantages of conventional
passenger rail and supercharge them. All of today's high-speed rail
systems run on electricity drawn from overhead wires, which powers
motors in the trains' locomotives. Electric motors are roughly three
times more efficient than internal combustion engines in converting
energy into mechanical force. Recent generations of high-speed trains
use superefficient motors; regenerative braking (which captures energy
that would otherwise be lost as heat, then converts it back into
electricity and returns it to the grid); and advanced, lightweight
materials to boost their comparative efficiency even further.
Independent research commissioned by Eurostar, which operates
high-speed trains between London and Europe through the Channel Tunnel,
has shown that a passenger who flies from London to Paris (214 miles) or
Brussels (199 miles) generates 10 times more carbon dioxide than one
who rides on a high-speed train.
2009 February 26. $25 Billion to Promote Electric Cars Is Untouched.
By Leslie Wayne, The NY Times. Excerpt: The Energy Department has $25
billion to make loans to hasten the arrival of the next generation of
automotive technology — electric-powered cars. But no money has been
allocated so far, even though the Advanced Technology Vehicles
Manufacturing Loan program, established in 2007, has received
applications from 75 companies, including start-ups as well as the three
With General Motors and Chrysler making repeat visits to Washington to
ask for bailout money to stave off insolvency, some members of Congress
are starting to ask why the Energy Department money is not flowing yet.
The loans also are intended to help fulfill President Obama’s campaign
promise of putting one million electric cars on American roads by 2015.
...Energy Department staff members said they were still sifting through
loan applications, dozens of which arrived on the filing deadline of
Dec. 31. On top of that, another $2 billion is coming to the department
from the $787 billion stimulus package. That money will be used to
develop the advanced battery technology needed to power electric cars,
batteries more durable, safer and cheaper than anything available
2009 February 21. British Fight Climate Change With Fish and Chips.
By Elisabeth Rosenthal, The NY Times. Excerpt: NUNEATON, England — As
he has done frequently over the last 18 months, Andy Roost drove his
blue diesel Peugeot 205 onto a farm, where signs pointed one way for
“eggs” and another for “oil.”
He unscrewed the gas cap and chatted nonchalantly as Colin Friedlos,
the proprietor, poured three large jugs of used cooking oil — tinted
green to indicate environmental benefit — into the Peugeot’s gas tank.
Mr. Friedlos operates one of hundreds of small plants in Britain that
are processing, and often selling to private motorists, used cooking
oil, which can be poured directly into unmodified diesel cars, from
Fords to Mercedes.
...Here, ...the direct-to-the-tank approach is gaining a bit of
mainstream popularity, attracting people like Mr. Roost... The oil, he
said, is “good for the environment and it’s cheaper than diesel, even
now that prices have dropped.” It costs $4.88 per gallon, which is about
10 percent less than diesel costs now — and about one-third less than
diesel cost at its peak last year. Used cooking oil will never erase the
need for filling stations, nor will it, by itself, reverse climate
change, transportation experts say.
“You can’t eat enough French fries” to serve all the cars driven in the
West, said Peder Jensen, a transport specialist at the European
Environment Agency. At most, he said, cooking oil might supplant a few
percent of diesel fuel consumption. But he said that it was one of many
small adjustments that, added together, could have an important effect
on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases....
2009 Feb 18. CITY OF SAN FRANCISCO UNVEILS CHARGING STATIONS FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES.
Campbell, Calif. Based Coulomb Technologies Powers Public Charging
Stations at San Francisco City Hall to be Used for Fleet and Car-Share
Plug-in Automobiles. SAN FRANCISCO - Coulomb Technologies, the leader in
electric vehicle infrastructure, today announced the City of San
Francisco has installed its Smartlet Networked Charging Stations at City
Hall. The charging stations are a part of a two-year public
demonstration conducted with the City of San Francisco - a pilot project
to power San Francisco's plug-in fleet and car-share plug-in vehicles.
Coulomb's charging infrastructure is providing the City of San Francisco
special networked features that address electric vehicle fleet needs.
Unveiling of the charging stations came today in a press conference with
Mayor Gavin Newsom and Coulomb CEO Richard Lowenthal announcing the
City's Green Vehicle Showcase outside City Hall, and is part of the Bay
Area's regional EV initiative.
"Our goal is to transform the Bay Area into the EV Capital of the
United States, and a networked infrastructure is essential for the
adoption of electric vehicles," said San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
"San Francisco is proud to be the first city to feature charging
stations with technology to support our city's clean electric fleet
vehicles and car-share fleets."....
2009 January. The Interdisciplinary Study of Biofuels-Understanding questions and finding solutions through biology, chemistry, and physics.
Philip D. Weyman. NSTA, the Science Teacher. Excerpt: From media news
coverage to fluctuating gas prices, the hot topic of energy is hard to
ignore. However, little connection often exists between energy use in
our daily lives and the presentation of energy-related concepts in the
science classroom. The concepts of energy production and consumption
bring together knowledge from several science disciplines to both
enhance student understanding and seek solutions to important global
problems. Students learn the second law of thermodynamics,
photosynthesis, and Ohm's law in the classroom, but they may not see the
direct application of these concepts to their daily lives-from the
electricity that powers their computers to the ethanol-blended gasoline
that fuels their cars. Students may have even more trouble relating to
the world's rapidly emerging energy crisis. As global demand for energy
increases, supplies of liquid transportation fuels used to power our
cars, trucks, and airplanes decrease, leading to a potential crisis in
their cost and availability (Hudson 2005). In addition, increasing
evidence points toward planetary climate changes resulting from carbon
dioxide emissions associated with burning fossil fuels. Substituting
biofuel for fossil fuel is one potential solution to these energy
problems. This article provides an overview of activities and
discussions teachers can use to address the questions raised about
biofuels in biology, chemistry, and physics classes....
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