The First Wave of Electric Vehicles Compared

On Saturday, Nissan delivered its first battery-powered Leaf to a customer in Northern California, helping bring the nation one step closer to a future in which our cars, trucks and buses will be electric drive. That future will include a mix of electric vehicles: battery vehicles (BEVs) like the Leaf, plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) like Chevrolet’s Volt and fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) like the Honda FCX Clarity and Mercedes B-Class F-CELL. All four vehicles are or soon will be in customer hands in limited numbers in California. In fact, the first FCEVs were delivered to California customers back in 2008. With the Leaf to be delivered tomorrow, and the Chevy Volt soon to follow, it’s not too early to begin asking how these vehicles stack up. Fuel Cells 2000 has done just that, using company or government data to compare in comfort, range, performance, cargo space and other customary measures. The resulting chart is available at: http://www.fuelcells.org/info/ElectricVehicles.pdf

Clean Energy Patents Have Skyrocketed

When the Obama administration Nobel prizewinning Steven Chu took over from Bush/Cheney oil man Bodman at the Department of Energy, he prioritized clean energy innovation. By December last year, to speed the development of clean energy solutions to prevent climate change, he had overhauled the patent review process, hiring experts so he could put clean energy patents on a fast track. Looks like that investment in patent-reviewing brains is paying off. An upward trend is clear by the beginning of 2010, according to the data from the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index. And this quarter, a record number of clean energy patents have been granted. Overall, among technologies, solar led clean tech with 88 solar patents, followed by wind with 71. Auto companies filed mostly fuel cell patents. GM filed 9 hybrid-electric vehicle patents and 30 for fuel cells. Samsung also went heavily into fuel cells with 21 patents, and a couple for solar technologies. GE filed 19 wind patents (and 3 for fuel cells).

NASCAR To Use corn ethanol E15 in its Nextel Cup

Advanced Biofuels industry leaders should use the unique Green Racing focus of the American Le Mans Series to promote and advocate for the adoption of advanced biofuels according to Bob Kozak, Senior Green Racing Editor and founding board member of Advanced Biofuels USA in an opinion piece published today on AdvancedBiofuelsUSA.org. This week American corn growers, Growth Energy, and NASCAR came together to announce NASCAR’s decision to “go green” by using corn ethanol E15 in its Nextel Cup series in 2011. A small step for mankind perhaps, but it pales when compared to the testing and adoption of innovative green automotive technologies in the American Le Mans Series races where cellulosic E-85 is becoming the norm. Kozak urges the advanced biofuels industry to emulate the moves of Growth Energy and American Ethanol and use automotive racing, which boasts the largest audience of any sport both in the US and worldwide, to educate the public on the benefits of American grown 2nd and 3rd generation non-food biofuels.

Electric Eel Powers Holiday Lights in Japan

An aquarium in Japan is shocking visitors with its Christmas display -- using an eco-friendly electric eel to illuminate the lights on its holiday tree. Each time the eel moves, two aluminium panels gather enough electricity to light up the 2-metre (6 ft 6 in) tall tree, decked out in white, in glowing intermittent flashes. The aquarium in Kamakura, just south of Tokyo, has featured the electric eel for five years to encourage ecological sensitivity. This year, it added a Santa robot that sings and dances when visitors stomp on a pad. "We first decided to get an electric eel to light up a Christmas tree and its top ornament using its electricity," said Kazuhiko Minawa, on the public relations team for the Enoshima Aquarium. "As electric eels use their muscles when generating a charge, we also thought to get humans to use their muscles to light up parts of the tree and power Santa." Visitor Sumie Chiba was fascinated with the display but questioned the practicality of eel energy for domestic use. "If this was possible, I think it's very nice and extremely eco-friendly," she said.

Government denies cutting corners in solar farm

Responding to a lawsuit by an Indian tribe, government lawyers said Monday that officials properly approved a 10-square mile solar farm to power San Diego and asked a judge not to stop the project. The Quechan Indian tribe has sued in San Diego federal court to stop the Imperial Valley Solar project, which would provide 709 megawatts to San Diego Gas & Electric if fully built. The tribe said that the environmental reviews of the project didn't fully consider the impact on artifacts and sacred sites. But in a filing with the court, lawyers for the Department of Interior said officials did what was required of them and a judge can't second-guess those decisions unless they were "arbitrary and capricious."

NASA Pushes For A Green Jetliner

They might be best known for space travel, but the folks at NASA are determined to shape the future of commercial aviation. The agency says airliners need to be quieter, greener and more fuel-efficient. To attain those goals, NASA handed out nearly $6 million in contracts this week to two defense industry giants: Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. NASA’s goal is to develop technology that would enable future aircraft to burn 50% less fuel than current models, cut harmful emissions in half and shrink the geographic areas affected by obnoxious airport noise by 83%. The agency hopes to develop concepts for airliners that could go into service by 2025. Engineers from Lockheed’s famed-Skunkworks defense enclave in Palmdale won about $3 million to develop the concept. Northrop engineers, working out of the company’s space park in El Segundo, were given $2.65 million. The engineers will have 12 months to develop a concept for an aircraft that can fly near the speed of sound at a range of 7,000 miles, carrying up to 100,000 pounds of either passengers or cargo. But don’t expect the traditional “tube-and-wing” design for the aircraft’s wings and fuselage. This project is all about thinking outside the box.

120,000 Students Save 500,000 Kilowatt-Hours of Electricity in First Annual Campus Conservation Nationals Contest

The results are in for the nation’s largest real-time electricity and water use reduction competition on college campuses, the Campus Conservation Nationals 2010 – and the 40 participating colleges and universities collectively reduced electricity consumption by 508,694 kilowatt-hours to save $50,209 and avoid putting 816,394 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The Alliance to Save Energy, in partnership with Lucid Design Group and the National Wildlife Federation, established the inaugural Campus Conservation Nationals, in which schools competed from November 1-19 to achieve the greatest energy reductions in their residence halls. “Students can be hugely effective sustainability advocates on their campuses and in their communities,” commented Jo Tiffany, senior director of education for the Alliance’s Green Campus Program. “By doing simple things to make energy use more visible, such as emailing residents their weekly energy use, putting up posters with energy and water savings tips and rewarding building users who achieve the most energy savings, students can combat the ‘hotel mentality” often held by dorm residents who do not pay directly for the energy they consume.”

A Private Network for Recharging Cars

A utility with operations around Texas is planning a network of 50 to 150 charging stations for electric cars in the Houston metropolitan area to eliminate “range anxiety,” and is talking with Nissan, Toyota and others about offering auto buyers a package that includes network access and a home charger. The company, NRG, hopes to offer packages ranging from $49 a month, for cars with both electric motors and gasoline engines like the Chevy Volt that would not need access to the scattered charging stations, to $79 a month, for buyers of the Nissan Leaf. The network, called eVgo, will be the first private one for charging, said David Crane, the chief executive of NRG, which is based in Princeton, N.J. In a conference call with reporters, he said Thursday that a combination of home and public charging stations would “make the electric vehicle more affordable and practical, which we believe will significantly close the decision gap.” The plan is to have 50 charging stations installed by the middle of next year; these would deliver three or four miles of range for each minute of charging time.

Italy Goes Solar With First Sun-Powered Road

Most people will be surprised, but Italy was the first country in the world to build motorways. In fact, the A8 "Milano-Laghi" motorway ("Milan-Lakes", as it connects the city of Milan to Lake Como and Maggiore) was completed in 1926. Time has passed and all developed nations now boast wide motorway networks, a strategic infrastructure that helps interconnecting people, places and is ultimately essential to economic growth. But Italy will soon be able to claim a new "first": the A18 Catania-Siracusa motorway, a 30km addition to Sicily's 600km motorway network, will be a fully solar-powered motorway, the first in its kind. Work is well underway to complete commissioning of this cutting edge infrastructure, which will be the most advanced motorway in Europe, including many outstanding features in terms of control systems, surveillance apparatus, tarmac quality, safety features (one of its new tunnels has also been awarded for its levels of safety). Construction activities are concluded, and a quarter of its solar photovoltaic (PV) panels were already operational by the end of September.

GE Awards First Ecomagination Millions to Smart Grid Firms

GE handed out the first of what will be $200 million in awards from its Ecomagination Challenge to companies making windows that automatically tint to keep buildings cool, heating systems that run on solar-powered hot water and other energy-efficient technologies developed with the smart grid in mind. Out of nearly 4,000 ideas submitted to the challenge, GE selected 12 companies that will be on the receiving end of $55 million. The challenge, which was open for 10 weeks, is aimed at speeding up the development and use of power grid technology around the world. In addition to investing in ideas, GE will work with winners on technology development, validation and distribution. The 12 companies GE is partnering with work on energy storage, utility security, energy management software, electric vehicle charging and other technologies that connect with power grids.

Behold the Greenerator

Designed by Jonathan Globerson, the Greenerator is a green generator that produces clean energy without depending on external sources. It uses flexible thin-film solar cells that are cheaper, more efficient and require less material for manufacturing than conventional solar cells. All you have to do is install them in your balconies and enjoy the benefits of renewable energy. Each unit is estimated to save 6% of the electric bill and 2000 pounds CO2.

U.S. Green Building Council certifies 1 billion square feet

The U.S. Green Building Council, as it kicks off its annual Greenbuild conference this week, is announcing a major milestone: its certified commercial buildings now exceed 1 billion square feet. Another 6 billion or so square feet of projects are registered around the world under the private group's LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) program, one of the most comprehensive and best-known green building standards. "This traction demonstrates the transformation of the way we design, build and operate buildings," said Rick Fedrizzi, the group's president and CEO, in a statement. "Not only does green building contribute to saving energy, water and money, it also creates green jobs that will grow and energize our economy." LEED's rapid growth continued, albeit at a slower pace, during the recent U.S. economic downtown, according to the group's data. Since it was introduced in 2000, more than 36,000 commercial projects and 38,000 single-family homes have participated and of those, 7,194 commercial projects and 8,611 homes are complete and have met the criteria. LEED requires reductions in energy and water use as well as recyclable, locally sourced and non-toxic building materials.

$450M Solar-powered Neighborhood Is Coming To Boston

After a decade of wrangling, developer John Rosenthal will break ground today with his ambitious plan to build a solar-powered neighborhood near Fenway Park, filling several acres of parking lots with apartments, offices, stores, and a revamped transit station. The five-building complex, known as Fenway Center, will be unlike anything now standing in Boston, with solar panels to generate much of its electricity. The development will fill a large void between Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street, along and over the Massachusetts Turnpike, and result in the construction of new roads that will improve travel around the neighborhood. “This is going to turn ugly, underutilized parking lots into a world-class neighborhood,’’ Rosenthal said. He won city approval for the project in 2009 and has since been working to get state permits and secure financing in the down economy. While private funding for the $450 million project is not locked down, the groundbreaking kicks off the public transportation improvements that will help clear the way for the development.

GE To Buy 25,000 Electric Cars

GE said on Thursday that it will buy 25,000 electric vehicles for its fleet through 2015 in the "largest-ever" purchase of electric cars. GE will begin with a purchase of 12,000 Chevy Volts from General Motors Co. The purchases will begin in 2011, said GE. GE says that because of its size and technology the company is uniquely positioned to bring the electric vehicles into the mainstream. GE Chief Executive Jeff Immelt said the purchase will help to "move electric vehicles from anticipation to action." "Wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will also drive clean energy innovation, strengthen energy security and deliver economic value," he said. GM Chief Executive Daniel Akerson described the deal with GE as "a marriage made in heaven" for both corporations." "We're interested in [GE's] watt station, their charging stations," said Akerson. "It dovetails well with this electric vehicle [the Volt] and electric vehicle development across the automobile industry." GE has a current fleet of 30,000 vehicles which are used by GE employees to conduct their business. The conglomerate said it "will add other [electric] vehicles as manufacturers bring them to market." The Chevrolet Volt is expected to roll off production lines later this month.

Eco-fatigue? Green No Longer Red Hot Says One Media Study?

Green marketing, a movement so hot that not even a deep recession could kill it, is starting to show signs of consumer revolt. At the very least, it's a signal that green alone isn't enough of a marketing proposition; at most, it could signal consumers simply aren't buying the benefits of environmentally positioned products and brands. In recent months, sales have begun to slow in categories such as green cleaners and grow in not-so-sustainable ones like bottled water as shoppers decide they may not be worth the tradeoff. And a September study showed big swings in the number of consumers who believe environmentally friendly alternatives are too expensive, don't work as well as other products and aren't actually better for the environment — all of which seem to add up to what Timothy Kenyon, director of the GfK Roper Green Gauge study calls "green fatigue."

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