Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Years to all

Happy New Year to all our Friends!! 

Be safe this year and keep coming back...

Is Tesla's Solar City Sibling The 'Energy Company Of The 21st Century'?

Some solar-energy companies have had a hard time in recent years, but SolarCity may look a little more promising.
That isn't just because Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk is the company's chairman, either--though it can't hurt.
Instead, says The Atlantic (on Mashable), it's because the company is starting to use Tesla battery packs for energy storage, as part of its solar array systems--a move increasingly thought to be an essential part of the push towards greener electricity.
Energy storage offers the best way of regulating and buffering the inconsistent flow of energy from renewable sources like wind, solar, and tidal generation, ensuring supply will be sufficient to meet energy needs when demand is highest--and reducing wasted energy when it isn't.
By charging the batteries when power generation--in this case, from photovoltaic solar panels--is at its highest, customers can make use of greener energy in the most efficient way.
As demand creeps up around peak times (which don't necessarily match the peak times of generation), power can be used from the battery pack. SolarCity calls it 'DemandLogic', as it ensures customers avoid paying extra "demand charges" to their local utilities if they use power during the highest-demand hours.
SolarCity's Tesla-based battery packs are ideal for this, with high capacity for maximizing storage. Battery packs can be customized for each business, but the goal is to store roughly 30 percent of the electricity generated by the solar array.
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive says DemandLogic could save commercial customers as much as 20 percent in demand charges.
There are other benefits too, such as emergency power should the grid go down in a storm. The backup battery power could be essential for keeping small businesses running if their external power source is knocked out.
It's not all commercial, of course. Some homeowners in California have already started using Tesla packs, installed by SolarCity, to cover their peak energy usage by storing power from solar arrays on their rooftops.
Thanks to strong incentives--subsidies of 60 percent in California, writes The Atlantic--customers pay relatively little for the battery packs.
Tesla itself actually uses grid storage at some of its Supercharger sites, where solar-generated electricity generated actually outstrips demand from Model S customers visiting the DC quick-charging stations.
Existing electric utilities are less keen on the idea, predictably, but with the DemandLogic system they aren't pushed out entirely. Businesses remain connected to the grid, and still draw much of their energy from it.
Rive says SolarCity is a "secondary provider" that can be viewed more as a cost-reducer than a sole energy provider.
SolarCity has big plans, however--aiming to become "the energy company of the 21st Century".
Those don't sound like the words of a company that wants to remain a "secondary provider".
And as the idea of demand-based energy storage and solar arrays catches on, Tesla's battery packs and SolarCity's solar arrays may start to become a familiar (and cost-reducing) sight.

Source: Green Car Reports

An in-depth look at how Envia failed to bring its new battery tech to GM

Not long ago, Envia Systems' innovative battery looked like it would break barriers. The "High Capacity Manganese Rich (HCMR)" technology was supposed to provide General Motors with an affordable battery that could power the next-generation Chevy Volt and move other, pure EVs at least 200 miles on a single charge. Now, though, the Silicon Valley-based company looks more like the latest cautionary tale for anyone trying to successfully enter the lithium battery and electric vehicle space.

This 7,600-word feature article could serve as a paper in university courses in public policy, engineering and global economics. Steve LeVine, Quartz's Washington correspondent, spent two years writing it after studying legal documents and interviewing dozens of Envia staff members.

This epic tale starts in late November 2012 at a Mexican restaurant in Palo Alto.
This epic tale starts in late November 2012 at a Mexican restaurant in Palo Alto, CA, organized by, at the time, Envia CEO Atul Kapadia and CTO Sujeet Kumar. They'd been hoping to tell staff about a major deal signed with GM giving Envia the rare opportunity to become a supplier to a global automaker. That moment happened a little while later as Kapadia drove away and took a call from GM that the deal was signed. Back at Envia's office in nearby Newark, the CEO made the announcement to employees and the room erupted.

A year later, the company is still in operation but it's basically hanging on the edge of a cliff. The deal with GM has fallen apart and the automaker has accused Envia of misrepresenting its technology. Critics of US government funding for cleantech are waiting with zeal for more arguments to cast out in Washington, as Envia was awarded government funds. Envia has its own battle in courtrooms as Kapadia and other recently fired colleagues have accused Kumar of fraud and intellectual property theft. Nanotech startup NanoeXa Corporation filed a suit earlier in the year against Envia alleging intellectual property theft of its battery cathode technology.

For students, there's a great deal of information to process in the article, some that goes well beyond the company in question. It touches on policy and global economics, for example, and looks at how the Obama administration choose EVs and lithium batteries as a strategic tool in its competitive battle with China. The US Department of Energy's APRA-E program received about 3,700 requests for funding, but only one percent made the cut. Envia was one, receiving a $4-million grant that was to be jointly carried out with the federal government's Argonne national laboratory. Anyone who wants more details can study tables and read all about Envia's cathode intellectual property, ownership of which is still being contested in the NanoeXa lawsuit. Read the whole thing here.
News Source: Quartz

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ford EcoSport SUV Gets a Luxe Redesign

Ford Ecosport
In recent weeks, Toyota made a decision to recommit to its Lexus CT200h sport hybrid. At the same time, GM is having significant success with the small but luxurious Buick Verano sedan and Buick Encore hatchback. So, is the age of the premium compact is, finally, upon us? If this luxe-minded Ford EcoSport built by DC designs is any indication, the answer is “yes” … and fans of Ford’s overseas EcoSport are ready to have the blue oval to get in on the action!
Based on Ford’s global Fiesta platform and offered with markets like the UK in mind, the 2014 Ford EcoSport could find its way to America if the company decides there’s room for a premium crossover to slot below the US-market Ford Escape. DC Design’s vision of the EcoSport, however, paints the small SUV/crossover as a sort of urban limo- dressing up the interior with soft woods and leathers. In the back, the standard bench seat setup has been ditched in favor of more isolated “captain’s chairs, divided by a center console that houses buttons and dials for the HVAC and audio systems – features that have more in common with Mercedes’ S Class than, say, a Ford Focus.
On the outside, DC Designs changed the standard Ford EcoSport fascias to include an oversized grille, a redesigned front bumper, modified headlights, and aggressive-looking LED daytime running lights.
There’s no word on what DC has in mind for pricing on the off-chance that you want to reproduce this show car for yourself, but I’m guessing that, if you have to ask …

Ford Ecosport by DC Design
Ford Ecosport by DC Design
Ford Ecosport by DC Design
Ford Ecosport by DC Design
Ford Ecosport by DC Design
Source | Photos: DC Design, via AutoExpress UK.

Dauphine-Lamarck’s 1998 Honda CG125

Honda CG125
The most significant trend in today’s motorcycle industry is the shifting of focus away from the aging baby-boomer crowd of wanna-be Hell’s Angel accountants and orthodontists who fueled the last Harley boom towards the young, trendy urbanites who will, hopefully, catch the 2-wheeled fire and fan its flames for the next 30-40 years of their lives. It’s a smart, calculated move- but new bikes from major players aren’t the only indication that “what’s hot” is light, nimble, and small-displacement. Enter Dauphine-Lamarck and his sexy, street-styled 1998 Honda CG125.
Like many of you, I’m sure, 1998 doesn’t seem like it was 16 long model years ago to me. Even so, the Honda CG’s basic design came to us even earlier- in the 1980s- and continues, mostly, in the bargain-basement CG110 Honda sells in Nigeria and other developing nations. That “boring” bike gets a subtle, but effective restyling by Dauphine-Lamarck that puts the little Honda CG125 on level playing field with “store-bought” cafe racers from Triumph and Royal Enfield (even if those bikes would, admittedly, leave the Honda in the dust).
The crew at Paris-based Dauphine-Lamarck specializes in small capacity Hondas from the 1960s through 1990s, and works to provides accessible, affordable customs to those that appreciate their philosophy and approach. What they’d be willing to do for you and your Honda Grom 125, however, remains to be seen- but you can tell us what you think of their “philosophy and approach” in the comments section, below.

1998 Honda CG125
1998 Honda CG125
1998 Honda CG125
1998 Honda CG125
Source | Photosthe Bike Shed, via Motorpasion.

Volkswagen XL1 Up Close in Barcelona - VIDEO

By Zachary Shahan
We’ve written a few times about the wickedly efficient (perhaps most efficient car in the worldVolkswagen XL1. I recently got to see the car over at EVS27 in Barcelona. Of course, I didn’t miss the opportunity to take a video and snap a few pics. Unfortunately, there was no option to open the doors and get a look or take a seat inside the vehicle. Nonetheless, seeing the VW XL1 in the flesh was a pretty cool experience. Here’s the video, followed by some pictures:

From a September article, here are some more stats on the XL1:
  1. Price = €111,000 (or $143,000)
  2. 250 being produced for sale
  3. Being produced in Osnabrück, Germany
  4. Is a diesel plug-in hybrid
  5. 313 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 24 g/km of CO2
  6. 0 to 62 mph (o-100 km/h) in 11.9 seconds
  7. Electronically limited top speed = 99 mph
We really, really, really want one of these beauty's.
Keep your eyes peeled. I’m soon going to publish an article chock full of pics from EVS27.

Source: CleanTechnica

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender

Hydrogen fuel cells have often been viewed as alternatives to large battery packs for powering electric vehicles.
But what if a small hydrogen fuel cell could be used in a battery-electric vehicle--solely as a range extender?
The French postal service, La Poste, is about to test that concept in three Renault Kangoo ZE small delivery vans.
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
Twice the range, zero emissions
The goal is to double the range, letting La Poste use zero-emission electric Kangoos on its longer routes and in more challenging terrain with steep hills.
The fuel cells come from Symbio FCell, based in Paris, and they'll be deployed in three "HyKangoo" small vans that will go into service by March.
They'll be tested on mail routes of 62 miles (100 km) or more through the cold, mountainous terrain of the Franche-Comté region--which borders Switzerland, and has the Vosges mountains to the north and the Jura range to the south.
When the range extender concept, originally developed for chemical giant Solvay, was offered to La Poste, the delivery group instantly saw it as solving a crucial range limitation.
Greening the fleet
La Poste today operates the world's largest electric-vehicle fleet, and it intends to electrify all 60,000 of its vehicles by 2050 or before.
More than 70 percent of its vehicles cover 62 miles or more per day, which currently limits use of Kangoo ZE vans to less than one-third of its routes. The fuel-cell range extender is expected to expand their use to a large majority of regions covered.
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
"The fuel cell solution improves winter working conditions for postal workers by providing better heating and defogging without impacting battery performance," said Jean-François Courtoy, Industrial Director for La Poste in Franche Comté.
"In addition, it makes replacing the diesel vehicles that are used today for longer routes possible. This will significantly improve our level of global CO2 emissions.
5-kW stack
The Kangoo ZE is driven by a 44-kilowatt (70-horsepower) electric motor, powered by a 22-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. Its range is rated at about 100 miles (160 km) on the European cycle, though in the U.S., its EPA-equivalent range might be as low as 70 miles.
The fuel cell, along with a reinforced 1.3-cubic-foot (38-liter) tank holding 3.8 pounds (1.72 kg) of hydrogen compressed at 5000 psi (35 mPa), is said to add a further 100 miles. At full power, roughly 0.7 lb 0.1 lb (0.3 kg) of hydrogen is consumed per hour.
According to Symbio FCell, the hydrogen-powered range extender is based on a system of 5-kW stacks--the HyKangoo uses a 5-kW system--and can be sized to provide output from 5 kW to 20 kW using one to four modules.
The entire system fits under the cargo floor, with no compromise to load volume. it recharges the battery directly, with beneficial effects on battery life because deep discharge cycles can be avoided.
A side benefit, Chauvet said, is the ability to use waste heat from the stack to heat the driver's cabin--further reducing load on the battery, which would otherwise have to provide range-consuming resistance heat.
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
Renault 'HyKangoo' electric delivery van with Symbio FCell hydrogen fuel-cell range extender
Cost-competitive with diesel
The first three vehicles cost about $68,800 (50,000) after a French government environmental incentive is deducted, according to Symbio FCell's Bertrand Chauvet.
At that cost, La Poste calculates that the lifetime running costs of the HyKangoo will be no more than the diesel-engined Kangoo vans they use today, including the cost of diesel fuel.
The company hopes to cut the delivered cost of a HyKangoo to $48,200 (€35,000) once series production begins, Chauvet said. Similar systems will be offered next year for boats, trucks, and buses as well.
Thus far, Symbio FCell has shipped five HyKangoos to customers, and it hopes to ship 100 such vehicles during 2014--and 1,000 or more in 2015, once real-world usage data is available.
La Poste will use hydrogen fuel purchased from an industrial supplier, though it hopes to use electrolysis to split out hydrogen from a feedstock in the future.
The French administrative process to install such a process, Chauvet said, is "very constraining" and will take at least a year to complete.

Source: Green Car Reports

Electric Car Sales Out-pace Growth of Gas, Hybrid Cars

Electric car sales have not yet hit 1% of new car sales in the US, but sales are growing fast and it looks certain that they will pass 1% in 2014. 2013 pure electric car sales are up 300% in 2013 compared to 2012. And hitting 1% could mean that electric cars are on their way to market domination by 2020. But to dig in even a little further on why a small percentage of sales in 2013 is not indicative of a small percentage of sales forever, let’s look at the history of conventional car sales and conventional hybrid sales real quickly.
Adjusting for population, after 3 years on the market, plug-in cars (pure electric cars + plug-in hybrid electric cars) have seen about 3 times as many sales as automobiles had seen after their first three years on the market, and also many more sales than conventional hybrids had seen 3 years after their introduction. Here’s more on this from Alex Planes of The Motley Fool:
The American auto industry effectively began in 1896 with a 13-vehicle production run at the Duryea Motor Wagon plant (or garage, as the case might well be). Three years later, just before the start of the 20th century, there were roughly 8,000 cars on what passed for American roads — virtually nothing was paved for vehicle travel. There were 8,000 EVs on the road after eight months of tracking. That’s not really fair, though, because there are more than three times as many people in the U.S. as there were at the turn of the 20th century. Adjusted for population growth, there should have been 33,000 EVs on the roads after three years. That happened after 19 months, and we’re now approaching three times that number midway through the third year of tracking. In fact, EVs are outperforming hybrids at the same point after adoption as well. Here’s what that looks like:
I included battery-only EVs on the chart to prove I wasn’t fudging the numbers on EV adoption by using plug-in hybrids — battery-only EVs surpassed the population-adjusted sales pace of the earliest cars with eight months to go in their third year of tracking. It’s also worth pointing out that battery-only EVs have outsold plug-in hybrids by more than 1,000 vehicles for each of the past three months and are on track to reach a cumulative total of roughly 68,000 sales at the end of the year.
Why compare EVs with the earliest cars? The “motor wagons” of the late 1800s faced similar challenges to those often attributed to EVs: minimal supporting infrastructure and a high price tag relative to the dominant (horse-drawn) transportation of the day.
Note that the article quoted above was published in June, and the story for battery-only EVs has gotten even better since then.
The critical thing for a technology to really take over, however, is that it really be better. While a lot of people don’t realize it yet, I’d contend that electric cars certainly are better. The majority of the populationisn’t even familiar with the most popular electric cars on the market. They don’t really know anything about electric cars. So, there’s a lot of education that needs to be done. But I’m convinced that sales will fly up as more and more people become aware of them and then test them out. This seems to be the trend, and there are qualitative reasons for that.
Are electric cars better in every single way? No, of course, not, but they are much better in net, in my humble opinion. The media very regressively focuses on the one or two areas in which electric cars are weaker, but as I’ve noted, there are at least 8 ways in which electric cars are much better than gasmobiles.

Source: Gas2.0

Hyundai tells Tucson fuel cell story, calls it 'next generation electric vehicle'

Hyundai is going to be in a very celebratory mood next spring. That's when Hyundai will start making its hydrogen fuel-cell electric Tucson crossover available to Golden State citizens next year, and the automaker isn't backing away from hyperbole about its green vehicle ambitions.

"We've had a strategy to be the global eco-leader for years" Hyundai Motor America's John Krafcik
The company has posted a two-plus-minute video all about its Tucson announcement at the Los Angeles Auto Show last month, with a number of executives promoting the FCEV as the Next Big Thing. Naturally, John Krafcik, then still Hyundai Motor America president and chief executive officer, went for broke, saying that Hyundai has "had a strategy to be the global eco-leader for years," and that folks will be "able to drive the future next spring."

The 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell will be available in California next spring for a 36-month lease. Customers who put $2,999 down can lease the car for $499 a month, and that includes unlimited free hydrogen refueling for the vehicles, which have an estimated 300-mile range on a full (H2) tank. There are nine hydrogen refueling stations in California, and four Hyundai dealerships will add them.

Meanwhile, Hyundai will introduce a new concept fuel-cell car, the Intrado, at next year's Geneva Motor Show. The company says the fuel-cell powertrain will be smaller and lighter than the Tucson's, though is saying little else about the vehicle. Check out Hyundai's video below.

Source: Autoblog Green

Saturday, December 28, 2013

One year later, Consumer Reports still likes Tesla Model S

After a year of tooling around in its Tesla Model S electric luxury sedan, Consumer Reports likes the car, but says it has created "a few mild irritations." To which the Tesla-less among us say: cry us a river.

The Model S looses up to 10 miles of range when left uncharged for 24 hours at a time.
CR has put almost 11,400 miles on the Model S during the past year, and does have a few (very few) quibbles with the car. The single-charge range for the 85-kWh version of the car in "non-max" mode, which was rated by the EPA to be about 245 miles, regularly comes up about 20 miles short. Cold weather shaves off even more, and the car looses as many as 10 miles of range when left uncharged for 24 hours at a time.

And the air-conditioning isn't that great, CR says, noting that the cooling efforts aren't helped by the fact that there's no retractable shade for the roof. And, well, that's about it. Other than that, CR likes its rig. We should not be too surprised, since CR called the Model S "the most practical electric car we've ever tested"this past spring, giving the EV a score of 99 out of a possible 100 and touting the sedan's acceleration, handling and styling. The car continues to impress. Last month, CR reported near-perfect satisfaction levels from owners. Inquiring readers can check out Consumer Reports' most recent review here.

All of this is good news for a company still doing a bit of damage control in the wake of four fires, which haven't caused any major injuries but have made some folks (not to mention Tesla investors) a little skittish. Tesla re-stated that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration still gives the 2014 model-year Model S a five-star crash-test rating, and reminds everyone that the car remains far safer than the typical gas-powered vehicles. Now about that air-conditioning...

News Source: Consumer Reports

It’s Gonna Happen: Ducati is Building a Scooter in 2014

Ducati Scooter

The motorcycle blogosphere has been talking Ducati scooter almost from the moment the company was bought by Audi back in 2012. At the time, I laughed at the idea of an Audi-run Ducati, but Audi’s ambitions of going toe-to-toe with crosstown rivals BMW seems to be pushing Ducati hard to improve sales and customer support, advance technology, and go into markets that compete directly with BMW’s 2 wheeled division.
According to Asphalt and Rubber, Audi also “would like to see the ~44,000 unit (Ducati) bump its figures into the six-figure territory”, which would certainly help establish Auducati as the go-to brand for German 2 wheelers. Maybe.
Regardless of sales goals, the real question seems to be about what, specifically, an Audi-developed Ducati scooter would look like. Would it be a fun, sporty urban runabout like the Aprilia SR50 or a big, comfy cruising scoot that has more in common with BMW’s massive C series maxi-scooters? Given VW/Audi’s historically ego-driven decision making, I’d expect it to be something closer to the latter- but, who knows? Ducati may do something smart and offer a product that has more in common with the old 125 cc Ducati cafe racers of years gone by and give Honda’s hot-selling Grom something to worry about. Something like this …

Ducati 125 cafe racer

What do you guys think? Is Ducati going to shock the world with a product we might actually want, or will they simply do what they’ve done better than anyone for the last few decades: play catch-up to BMW? Worst case, they slap a Ducati-looking headset and boy-racer exhaust on an old Vespa frame – and even that may be better than another giant-sized scooter that nobody asked for, right? Let us know what you think, in the comments, below.

SourceAsphalt and Rubber, original image from Gas 2.

Mitsubishi Boss Talks PHEVs, New Montero for US

2015 Mitsubishi Montero Hybrid

Mitsubishi seemed like it was on the verge of closing up its US shop just a few short years ago- but the brand is experiencing something of a renaissance of late, thanks to excellent new products like the forward-looking MiEV electric car, the fun-to-drive Mirage CVT (which happens to be the highest MPG car you can buy that’s not a hybrid), and the award-winning Mitsubishi Outlander Hybrid. What’s next for the once-struggling brand?
“When I took office in 2005,” explains Mitsubishi President Osamu Masuko, “I don’t think there were many people who had confidence that a turnaround would come … We are finally starting to see the fruits of the seeds we have planted. We’re delivering a profit. This year, we laid the foundation for paying a dividend next year.”
Those profits and dividends are going to go precisely where they’re needed: towards new product. One of those products, considered key to Mitsubishi’s recovery in the US, is a new full-size 2015 Mitsubishi Montero SUV based on the Pajero Hybrid concept shown at this year’s Tokyo Auto Show. Throughout Masuko’s interview with Automotive News, however, the Mitsubishi boss talks about the next phase of Mitsubishi’s turnaround plans. The meaty stuff for Gas 2 fans and green gearheads, though, is the commitment to more EVs, PHEVs, and hybrids coming from the brand as Mitsubishi strengthens its ties with Renault and Nissan. “With Nissan and Renault,” he says, “we’re considering producing an all-electric minicar. We want to bring together our experts to bring down battery costs. And as an extension of that, we may consider an EV application in a car bigger than a minicar … regarding the next generation (MiEV), we’re not sure if it would be the same size. It might be better to have a vehicle a little larger.”
Could that mean that a Mitsubishi-badged version of the next Smart car/Renault Twingo might be coming to the US? The current Smart uses a Mitsubishi-sourced drivetrain, and the 4-door Twingo badged as a Mitsu wouldn’t directly compete with Mercedes’ Smart brand. What do you think?