Thursday, November 10, 2011

Latest from: CleanTechnica

Latest from: CleanTechnica

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Tokyo Motor Show: Daihatsu Presents Three Super-Cute Electric Prototypes

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:03 PM PST

Daihatsu is the oldest Japanese automaker, but I know it mainly as the one who makes all the little kei cars – you know, the "light motor vehicles" with engines up to 660cc and 64HP that go 60mph with a strong tailwind and get 50mpg running around heavy city traffic. I used to have a Daihatsu Mira, and while I loved that it got awesome mileage and was tiny enough to park anywhere (no, really), I was not fond of the way it looked. Not so Daihatsu's new concept cars debuting at the Tokyo Motor Show next month – in fact, they look pretty awesome.

The three new concepts expected to be shown off at the 42nd Tokyo Motor Show are the mini sports car "DX" (pronounced D-Cross), the two-seater electric PICO, and the zero-emission FC SHOWCASE (where "sho" also means dealership in Japanese – apparently Daihatsu likes puns).

The DX – Sporty and Green

Starting with the DX (pictured above) – it somehow calls the Mini Cooper to mind, although that's probably not intentional since Daihatsu is aiming for a unique and aggressive design. The body is made of resin and there are a number of options available; customer customization is one of the little car's strong points. It sports a 2-cylinder direct injection turbo engine – Daihatsu hopes for both great performance and good mileage.  It’s not the first green sports car to show up, but does look promising.

The PICO – Electric, Seats 2

The PICO seats two and is totally electric. It classifies as a kei car (low annual tax if you keep one in Japan!), but is supposed to fill a gap between kei cars and two-wheeled vehicles. Daihatsu's target market is businesses delivering locally as well as the ever-increasing domestic population of elderly citizens. The PICO has a low flat floor to make getting in and out as easy as possible – it's definitely one of the more user-friendly of the various two-wheeled electric vehicles slated to hit the market.

The FC SHOWCASE – No Idea, But I Like It

The FC SHOWCASE is one of the more interesting concepts to be presented. Like a number of Japanese vehicles,  it's completely rectangular and also completely tiny at 134" long, 58" wide, and 75" tall. It also uses Daihatsu's proprietary zero-precious-metal liquid fuel cell technology. Not using precious metals in the fuel cells reduces the resources problem considerably and also reduces the overall cost of the vehicle. The fuel cells are even high density, meaning the FC should have a pretty significant range (although Daihatsu has not told us what they think it will be).

Any of these look fun to you? I'd take all of them for a test drive, but let us know what you think in the comments, below the gallery.

daihatsu-1 daihatsu-4 daihatsu-5 daihatsu-3 daihatsu-2

Source | Gallery: Green Car View

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Electric Vehicles Enable More Local Clean Energy

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 01:01 PM PST

The U.S. Northwest could get an additional 12 percent of its electricity from local wind power if 1 in 8 of the region’s cars used batteries.

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratories investigating how electric vehicles can help smooth the introduction of more variable renewable energy into the grid system.

The study examines the Northwest Power Pool, an area  encompassing roughly seven states in the Northwest.  With around 2.1 million electrified vehicles, the grid could support an additional 10 gigawatts of wind power.  With electricity demand from those seven states of about 250 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, the additional 10 gigawatts of wind would provide 12 percent of the annual electricity demand (roughly 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year).

The results are no doubt applicable to other regions of the country.  In fact, at least 33 states have enough wind power to meet 10 percent or more of their electricity needs and if the same portion of vehicles (13%) were electrified in those 33 states, it would allow them to add a collective 100 gigawatts of wind power, meeting nearly 14% of their electricity needs.

Northwest Power Pool

In the long-run, a fully electrified vehicle fleet would theoretically – just do the math! – provide enough balancing power for a 100% renewable electricity system.  And since the large majority of those vehicle trips would be made on batteries alone, it would be a significant dent in American reliance on foreign oil for transportation.

Further reading: learn a bit more about electric vehicles helping wind power in Denmark, too.

Hat tip to Midwest Energy News for the original story.

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

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Free Nissan Quick Chargers For Europe

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:50 PM PST

On the heels of its no-contact charging system, Nissan is now trying to generate some positive buzz for its new quick charge units in Europe by giving away 400 new stations to EV charging operators. Nissan assumes that the new units will bolster the existing networks and also help customers charge their EVs almost as quickly as can be done – the Leaf goes from 0 to 80% in just 30 minutes with the new system.

Seriously? Yes.

  • 400 quick chargers to be given away free by Nissan
  • Installation in high profile locations starting February 2012
  • Charge to 80% in 30 minutes

Expanding the EV Infrastructure

The free stations are all going to Zero Emissions Mobility partners and volunteering companies in Europe who have shown support for Nissan's electro-mobility plots, which seems pretty fair to me. There's also a strict list of criteria from Nissan to determine eligibility for a free charger, including charger location (good), installation date (makes perfect sense), and whether or not Nissan LEAF owners get free electricity (wait a minute…).

Regarding the necessity of a widespread EV charging station network, Pierre Loing, Vice President Product Planning & Zero Emission Business Unit, Nissan International SA, states the obvious:

“With a significant number of QCs available across Europe, EV owners will be able to recharge quickly no matter where they go. We believe this is essential for the mass adoption of EVs.”

Yes, Pierre, yes, it is. While Nissan believes that a range of just over 100 miles is plenty for the average LEAF owner (hey, that's plenty for me during every-day use and I don't even have an electric car), the company hopes that a larger quick-charge network will allay fears of becoming stranded when traveling longer distances. The upside to the quick charge station, of course, is that it's significantly cheaper than a tank of gas. The downside, as we all know, is that even a quick charge station necessitates a 30 minute pit stop.

The equipment for the new stations will be quickly available following an agreement between Nissan and five of Europe's utility and EV infrastructure supply companies. The new stations will also be cheaper and smaller than the previous model – even the ones that aren't being given away for free. Nissan hopes to have "several" thousand units placed by 2012 and "tens of thousands" by 2015. Very ambitious, Nissan!

The Nuts and Bolts of the Quick Charger

The new chargers adhere to the CHAdeMO (Charge to Move) standard developed by Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Fuji Heavy Industries. This is significant for the consumer because it means that not only Nissan LEAF owners, but also anyone with an EV from Mitsubishi, Citroen, and Peugeot can use the Nissan charging stations. While they deliver 50kW of high voltage DC electricity, they are "AC ready" to support Renault EVs as well.

Without widespread access to technology to quickly charge an electric vehicle, the inconvenience of being stuck on a leash close to home and having to wait forever before being able to take the car out again discourages a number of potential buyers. I believe Nissan's move to install standard quick charging stations in a comprehensive network looks like it's heading in the right direction.

What about you? Do you own an electric car? Thinking about it? Why would you buy one – or choose not to? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source: PRNewswire | Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Tokyo Motor Show: The Extremely Short-Range Suzuki Q-Concept

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 12:49 PM PST

It's not a car, it's not a motorcycle – it's Suzuki's mini-electric vehicle, the Suzuki Q-Concept. It's just 98.5" long and intended for use on trips less than 6 miles long.

The tiny little EV is supposed to close the gap between (electric) car and motorcycle (where have we heard that before?); it takes up less parking space than a passenger car and is more comfortable than a bike. The Q-concept is designed as a tandem two-seater, but the rear seat is removable just in case extra storage space is needed (no, a passenger cannot perch on top of the luggage).

Orange, Round, and Unusual

The only door swings forward and up – even better for parking in narrow spaces – and the driver's seat can rotate up to 90 degrees for easier access. The door is also a nifty little half-circular shape, which addresses no issues of practicality but has a rather unique aesthetic.

Since the top half of the EV is composed almost entirely of windows, the interior is brighter than its small size might suggest. With the mostly-white-with-bright-accents color scheme, the car looks almost as if Apple had a hand in its design (a MacBook or an iPod on wheels, perhaps?).

The roundness of the body is reflected in the dashboard (it's a sphere with the steering wheel sticking out, seriously). It includes a transparent display module along with two rear-facing camera screens. Did I say it had a steering wheel? It's not really a wheel – it's a couple of curved rods around a circular steering wheel hub, which also accommodates a smart phone.

Perhaps Apple had something to do with the design after all. Ludicrous or adorable? Let us know what you think in the comments, below.

Source: Auto Motor und Sport | Image: Suzuki.co.jp

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How to Buy a Congressman

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 04:56 AM PST

Did Rick Perry Come to His Senses for a Moment?

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 04:55 AM PST

rick perry department of energy

If you haven’t heard the biggest news of the Republican presidential primary debate last night (hint: it concerns Rick Perry and the Department of Energy), check it out here:

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About Solar Energy / Why Solar Energy (VIDEO)

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 04:05 AM PST

I wanted to update our “about solar energy / why solar energy” page. There’s a lot more info I’ve been wanting to include, and I also thought that it would be a good idea to make a video to go along with the page, focusing on some of the key points. So, here’s my “About Solar / Why Solar” video (note that I have very little experience making videos, so take it easy on me! :D ):

Now, some text, with plenty more points and facts than are mentioned in the video above. The sections are as follows:

  1. Solar Energy Abundance!
  2. Falling Solar Costs
  3. Solar Energy Industry Growth
  4. Largest Solar Power Projects

If you’re looking for specific information on solar power technology, that’s not included here, but I’d recommend:

  1. How Do Solar Panels, Solar Cells and Solar Energy Work?
  2. Solar Thermal Panels, Practical but Not Yet Popular – A Solar Overview
  3. The Solar Power Wikipedia page

Solar Energy Abundance!

world solar energy potential

"Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables." (source: Perez & Perez, 2009a)

No other energy source compares to the energy potential of solar. Looking at the image above, make sure to note that circles for Coal, Uranium, Petroleum, and Natural Gas are TOTAL recoverable reserves whereas the renewable energy circles (including the giant solar energy one) are PER YEAR.

Bottom line: Solar energy is the most abundant energy source on the planet.

For a micro-scale example, the solar energy hitting the state of Texas each month is equal to the total amount of energy the Texas oil and gas industry has ever produced.

Solar Power Costs

Now, a lot of politicians and people connected to or confused by the fossil fuel industry like to tout that solar power is expensive. Well, to put the matter bluntly: “No, it’s not.”

Technology improvements and policies to promote research, development, and installation of solar have resulted in tremendous drops in the cost of solar power over the past several years. Even WITHOUT taking important health and safety costs (note that a Harvard study concluded in 2011 that the health costs of coal are $500 billion a year in the U.S.), environmental costs, energy security costs, and other social costs into account, solar is already cost-competitive with traditional energy options like coal and nuclear energy (if you take into account how long would take coal or nuclear plants to get built) — see the graphs below.

solar pv energy cost trend

solar energy versus solar power costs

solar energy versus nuclear energy costs

Here are more stories on solar power costs:

  1. True Value of Solar Power (linked above)
  2. Cost of Solar Power Competitive with Coal Some Places, & Dropping Fast
  3. GE: Solar Power Cheaper than Fossil Fuels in 5 years
  4. Solar Power Graphs to Make You Smile
  5. Historic Report: Solar Energy Costs Now Lower than Nuclear Energy

Solar Energy Industry Growth

Dropping costs, as well as concerns like global warming and air pollution, have triggered massive growth in the solar energy industry. I’m going to focus on U.S. solar energy industry growth here, but the trends are similar globally and in other major economies, like China, Germany, the UK, Spain, and many other countries.

One of my favorite solar graphs is this one on the exponential solar power growth we’ve seen in recent years:

solar power growth

Some more facts for you:

  1. The U.S. solar energy industry now employs over 100,000 people (more than the coal or steel industry, to put that into perspective).
  2. The U.S. solar energy industry is the fastest-growing industry in the U.S. It is creating jobs 10 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole).
  3. Over 5,000 businesses (mostly small businesses) support the solar industry in the U.S., creating jobs for Americans in every state.
  4. Solar PV installations have grown about 69% in the past year (that’s 40 times faster than the U.S. economy as a whole).
  5. The U.S. solar energy industry is a net exporter, by $2 billion/year, and is even a net exporter to China (how many industries can claim that?).
  6. 9 out of 10 Americans think we should be developing and using more solar power.
  7. The utility-scale solar market has grown 171% in the past year or so.

Solar is expected to continue booming. In the U.S., it might even double each year up to 2020 (under the right policy scenario):

solar power growth projections

More posts on solar energy industry growth:

  1. Solar Industry on Solyndra, Tremendous Job Growth (100,000 US Jobs Now), & Doubling of Installed PV
  2. International Solar PV Nearly Doubled, PV Growth Doubled in 2010
  3. Solar Power Could Produce >50% of Global Electricity, IEA Report Concludes
  4. Cleantech's Revolutionary Growth & Expectations for Coming 10 Years
  5. Solar Power Graphs to Make You Smile
  6. Solar Energy Markets and Growth

Largest Solar Power Plants

OK, an “about solar” page wouldn’t be complete without a list of the largest solar power plants in the world, right? (Though, note that much of the solar in the world is in small installations and one of the prime advantages of solar is its decentralization and its ability to help “democratize” the electricity system – even the CIA and Department of Defense have focused on the national security benefits of solar.) Nonetheless, I think almost everyone loves a list of the “largest _________,” so here are two current lists (largest solar thermal power plants and largest solar photovoltaic power plants):

Largest Solar Thermal Power Plants in Operation

  1. Solar Energy Systems” in the Mojave Desert of California, USA — 354 MW
  2. Solnova Solar Power Station” in Seville, Spain — 150 MW
  3. Andasol Solar Power Station” in Granada, Spain — 150 MW
  4. “Extresol Solar Power Station” in Torre de Miguel Sesmero, Spain — 1oo MW
  5. “Palma del Río Solar Power Station” in Córdoba, Spain — 100 MW
  6. “Manchasol Solar Power Station” in Ciudad Real, Spain — 100 MW
  7. “Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center” in Florida, USA — 75 MW
  8. “Nevada Solar One” in Boulder City, Nevada, USA — 64 MW
  9. 6 more solar thermal power plants in Spain have a capacity of 50 MW

Largest Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Power Plants in the World

  1. Sarnia Photovoltaic Power Plant” in Canada — 97 MW
  2. “Montalto di Castro Photovoltaic Power Station” in Italy — 84.2 MW
  3. “Finsterwalde Solar Park” in Germany — 80.7 MW
  4. “Ohotnikovo Solar Park” in Ukraine — 80 MW
  5. “Solarpark Senftenberg” in Germany — 78 MW
  6. “Lieberose Photovoltaic Park” in Germany — 71.8 MW
  7. “Rovigo Photovoltaic Power Plant” in Italy — 70 MW
  8. “Olmedilla Photovoltaic Park” in Spain — 60 MW
  9. “Strasskirchen Solar Photovoltaic Park” in Germany — 54 MW
  10. “Puertollano Photovoltaic Park” in Spain — 50 MW

Chime in below with extra information, comments, or questions! Or shoot me a message on Google+.

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Jump-Starting the Hydrogen Economy: AFC Energy Takes a Back to Basics, Commercial Approach

Posted: 10 Nov 2011 02:40 AM PST

There’s a lot going on in the fuel cell world. Applications both large and small are increasing as utilities, industrial and commercial customers install fuel cell systems as primary or back-up sources of clean electrical power. A string of automakers have recently announced commitments to fuel cell vehicle development programs. Fuel cell use is even growing in the residential market. Moving further down in scale, they’re increasingly being used in consumer electronics.

In most cases, longstanding challenges to wide-scale commercialization remain, however, due to one simple fact: production costs remain all too high, putting large-scale commercialization off in the distant future.

The UK’s AFC Energy is intent on changing that, and as quickly as possible. On the verge of announcing its first commercial-scale installations with an industrial partner, AFC’s founder and CEO Howard White, talked with Clean Technica about the company’s laser-like focus on taking the basic, time-tested and proven alkaline fuel cell technology invented in the 19th century and updating it through the use of modern materials and manufacturing processes.

The result is a modular, low cost-high-performance alkaline fuel cell system that in contrast to what’s been developed to date that if not commercially viable today soon will be, certainly in specific industrial sectors, according to White.

If AFC succeeds, White sees its success as opening up a global market for hydrogen that in large part is viewed and treated as a waste by-product in industry.

“The internal combustion engine monetized what was essentially a nuisance product. Today, companies are throwing hydrogen away as a waste product, a nuisance product, because it’s too expensive to move around. We monetize the value of hydrogen, and when that happens, we and others will start looking for it.

“We’re turning a mechanical operation into a solid state solution at a much lower cost, with the same efficiency,” White explained. “I think we are the breakthrough technology that will help usher in a hydrogen economy.”

A Disruptive Alkaline Fuel Cell Technology

AFC’s alkaline fuel cell system is a low temperature, low pressure technology that operates at 60 percent energy conversion efficiency, the highest in the industry, according to White. “That means we can aim at low cost-high efficiency systems that can compete” with conventional technologies already out in the marketplace.

We’re not competing with other fuel cell companies, but with internal combustion engines. [Ours] is a disruptive technology to turbines in power generation.”

AFC’s is modular system based on 10 kilowatt-hour (kWh) ‘blocks.’ They’re manufactured using high-grade thermal plastics, “so no special materials are needed,” White explained. “Nothing in our fuel cell is welded, so they’re easily set up and broken down.

“Inherent in our design is reuse-recycle. We seek to have a balance of plant that can build up or reduce with a cartridge that at the moment has a 10 kWh capacity, soon to be 20 kWh lasting 12 months.

“Then, you take them out and put another one in. We warranty our power stations for 20 years, but theoretically they can last forever.”

The electrodes in AFC’s systems are recyclable. “We clean and reuse them. The catalyst on the electrode is what wears out. They can be hot-swapped.”

AFC’s target for capital and operating expenditures (capex/opex) is less than 4 pence (~6 US cents) per kilowatt-hour, but White believes that AFC will exceed that. “Once we get into mass production, we’ll be able to drive that price down aggressively,” he said.

“Our technology, besides clever design and an enormous amount of IP (intellectual property), is no more difficult than that found in a refrigerator, and the maintenance can be done by [adequately trained] technical and maintenance people,” such as are found in the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) industry, White continued.

“Cartridges are no more difficult to make than those used in refrigerators. It’s not so much a manufacturing process as such; it’s an assembly process.”

Continue to Page 2

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