Sunday, June 30, 2013

2015 Toyota hydrogen fuel cell car will have 300-mile range, Tokyo debut

The details on the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that Toyota will be offering in 2015 remain woefully scarce, but as we get closer to some sort of reveal at this year's Tokyo Motor Show in November, a few details are emerging. For one, that we will see the car at the Tokyo show.

That's the word from Bloomberg, anyway, which goes on to say that Toyota could introduce the fuel cell sedan to the US in 2014 as a 2015 model, "for a price comparable to a mid-size BMW or Tesla Model S." That narrows down the previously hinted-at price of between $50,000 and $100,000 a bit. Last month, Toyota's Chris Hostetter, Toyota USA's group vice president of strategic planning, told reporters the car will cost in the neighborhood of $50,000, "depending on how big your neighborhood is" and that it will have a range of 300 miles. That's the kind of math that led Tesla CEO Elon Musk to say fuel cells were really "fool cells," last month (see Bloomberg for more).

Toyota revealed the FCV-R fuel cell vehicle concept (pictured) at Tokyo in 2011. This week, it is leading a "Future of Mobility Conversation" at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival and is once again talking about hydrogen fuel cell vehicles with Toyota's Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle – Advanced (FCHV-adv) in tow.
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News Source: Toyota, Bloomberg

New US survey says diesel cost of ownership lower than gas

It's cheaper to drive a diesel-powered vehicle than a gas-powered vehicle over the course of three to five years, according to a new study commissioned by Robert Bosch LLC – a company that makes plenty of diesel engine parts – using data compiled by The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The savings stem not just from improved fuel efficiency but also overall fuel costs and better retention of value, and take into account the added purchase price of a diesel engine over its gasoline counterpart.

According to the study, "most of the savings are in the $2000 to $6000 range." The highest return on investment comes from the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Buyers of a diesel GL will save a shocking $13,514 over the course of three years and $15,619 in five. Another star performer is the Volkswagen Golf TDI, which can save its owner more than $5,000 over three years. The full study can be found in PDF form atthis link, and a press release with a summary of some of its findings can be seen below.
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Source: Autoblog

Zero recalling some of its electric motorcycles due to Li-ion battery defect

Zero Motorcycles Inc. (Zero) is certain model year 2013 FX motorcycles manufactured 28 January 2013 through 21 May 2013; and model year 2013 XU motorcycles manufactured 16 January 2013, through 20 May 2013. A manufacturing defect with the sealant material in the battery may allow water to penetrate the battery and contact the cells.
Water penetration into the battery may lead to corrosion of the cells, possibly resulting in a rapid temperature increase and off-gassing of the cells’ electrolyte which may cause a burn to the rider.
Zero will notify owners and dealers will replace the battery modules, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in late June 2013. The potential number of vehicles affected by the recall is 128.
FX and XU motorcycles have Li-ion battery packs with maximum capacities of 2.8 kWh or 5.7 kWh, depending upon the model.

Source: Green Car Congress

Must-See: Jaguar C-X75 Build - VIDEO

Jaguar C-X75

First unveiled in 2010 as part of a joint venture between Jaguar and Formula 1 team Williams, the C-X75 Jaguar was a plug-in hybrid supercar powered by a range-extending gas-turbine engine mounted behind the seats. The car’s four electric motors, one at each wheel, each made 195 horsepower for a grand total of 780 horsepower and 1,187 ft-lbs of torque. All that power was good for an estimated top speed of just over 200 mph, and – like the ill-fated Jaguar XJ220 before it – demand for the car was huge.
Also like Jaguar’s XJ220 supercar form the 90s, the realities of the market made getting the concept to production almost totally impossible, so the C-X75 project was cancelled before it ever really began.
Cancelled or not, however, Jaguar’s C-X75 is an incredible piece of machinery that deserves every moment in the sun it gets. To that end, Jaguar and Williams have introduced a fantastic video about some of the thinking behind the C-X75 project that seems to suggest we should be looking for even more innovative plug-in vehicles from Jaguar and Land Rover in the near future. I’ll let the video’s description serves as my introduction …
For over two years we have worked to develop one of the most innovative and technologically advanced prototypes ever created. The C-X75 pushes every boundary of power, performance and even fuel efficiency. This short film details the journey to this point and gives an exciting insight into the technology which has the potential to be used in future Jaguar models.
… and advise you to check it out, and stay tuned for more!


Saturday, June 29, 2013

2013 Kia Sportage: The One-Sentence Review


It wasn’t so long ago that massive SUVs dominated America’s highways and byways, forcing smaller cars off the road and guzzling gas like it was going out of style. But those days are gone, and a new kind of car, the crossover, has stepped up to fill its place. The 2013 Kia Sportage celebrates two decades of production this year, and Kia has learned a lot when it comes to building a better family crossover, though there is still room for improvement, especially in the rear seats and cargo area.


The big wheels and LED tail lights really bring some attitude to the Kia Sportage.
Performance: My test car came armed with the standard 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine, rather than the 2.0 liter turbocharged engine. That was a bit of a disappointment, especially given the barely-adequete performance of the 2.4 liter engine. With a $30,800 MSRP and all-wheel drive, the Kia Sportage could really have used that 260 horsepower turbo engine. The only benefit of the non-turbo is slightly-better MPG ratings, with the 2.4 liter engine netting a 21/27/23 with all-wheel drive. The turbo engine gets 20/25/22 mpg.
The Sportage also wasn’t the most comfortable car in terms of ride quality or handling, but it wasn’t awful either. The seats and suspension absorbed most bumps, though there was a fair bit of body roll around tighter turns. The all-wheel drive stuck the Sportage to the road, even in wet weather, and it made for a confident, if a bit sluggish, ride.
One-Sentence Review: Opt for the turbo engine and all-wheel drive, and you’ll have no complaints.


There’s no denying the Kia Sportage is a good-looking car, though the non-turbo engine is only adequate.
Exterior: This is one sharp-looking crossover, and when it debuted in 2010 there was nothing like it. However, with competitors rolling out increasingly attractive vehicles, it isn’t the only option if you’re looking for a family car with some personality.
That said, I love the looks of the Kia Sportage, and it really didn’t feel like I was driving a crossover. It stuck out from the crowd in a good way, and the aggressive front fascia goes a long way towards soothing my masculine car sensibilities. It is a wonderful alternative to a minivan, and I didn’t mind being seen it, despite my lack of children. Even the name, “Sportage”, seems aimed at mid-life men.
One-Sentence Review: This is a great-looking ride with a more manly appeal than many crossover competitors.


Doesn’t look like the interior of a Kia, does it?
Interior: The Kia Sportage is, straight up, a comfortable and luxurious-feeling crossover. Like its partner Hyundai, Kia has stepped up the level of quality in their cars in an unexpected way in this price range. Standard features include air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, a radio with USB/iPod integration, and power everything.
Stepping up to the top-tier EX model nets you bigger wheels, dual climate-control, foglights, upgraded cloth seats and sound system, and the Uvo infotainment system. Soft materials cover most surfaces, and the optional leather seats include cooling and heating elements, which I found especially useful on hot days where leather surfaces can be scorching. This feels like a more expensive car than it is, and I don’t know how Kia manages it.
One-Sentence Review: Stepping into the Kia Sportage feels like stepping into a more expensive car than it is thanks to the long list of features and quality workmanship.


Unfortunately, the rear seats and cargo area are both cramped compared to competitors.
Overall Value: Despite it’s attractive exterior, comfortable interior, and optional turbocharged engine, I have a few other gripes with the Kia Sportage. The rear seats don’t provide much room for a full-sized adult, and the cargo hold is just 26.1 cubic feet with the seats up, 54.6 cubic feet with the seats down.
That said, at $30,800 my tester came with just about every option save the turbocharged motor, and most people probably don’t need the extra 80 or so horsepower. I enjoyed coming home and seeing the Kia Sportage in my driveway, and some of my neighbors made a point to ask me about it.
It definitely has a premium feel to it, but at a very agreeable price point. If you live in an area where all-wheel drive isn’t necessary, the Sportage also offers competitive fuel economy of up to 30 mpg highway.
One-Sentence Review: The 2013 Kia Sportage is a good-looking, well-appointed crossover that feels good to drive, looks good in your driveway, and won’t empty your wallet at the dealership or gas pump.

Might The Military Make EVs Mainstream?


America has the world’s largest military by far, spending more than the next 20 countries combined. When we’re not invading other countries, the military of developing world-changing technologies like GPS and the Internet, technologies that once seemed impossibly expensive for the average person to own. So one writer is asking; can the military make EVs mainstream?
The question was posed by Jack Baruth over at TTAC, pointing to the recent Zero MMX special-forces motorcycle as an example of a practical application of electric vehicles in the military. This quiet and reliable electric motorcycle has been designed for use by special forces, who covet stealth. Silence is actually a huge advantage in a military context, and electric vehicles could excel given their quiet nature.
Even outside of combat, electric vehicles powered by local solar arrays would alleviate the millions of gallons of fuel even a modestly-sized outpost requires on an annual basis. Having small EVs running parts and supplies around the base would be a huge boon to cutting back on fuel-intensive trucks most bases already use. Even the military recognizes that shortages of fossil fuels will drive future conflict, and seeking out alternatives is imperative.
The U.S. Marines have experimented with a handful of Smith Electric trucks on some bases, but if the military were to employ EVs en masse, it would be a huge boon to battery and automakers. It could also accelerate progress on battery and motor technology, as well as give regular soldiers more exposure to electric vehicles.
While we are probably decades away from fully-electric tanks rolling across the battlefield of the future, the U.S. military could have a huge impact on EV adoption going forward…if the generals so choose.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Limited-Range Bi-Fuel Vehicles The Next Step For Alt-Fuels?


Installing CNG systems on conventional cars is expensive, due in part to the large and intrusive fuel tanks needed to hold even a most amount of natural gas. But vehicle consultant Carlabs has developed a small bi-fuel system that takes advantage of CNG’s low cost, without adding too much to the car’s sale price.


Carlabs performed bi-fuel conversions on four vehicles to show the flexibility of their system. A Hyundai Sonata, BMW X3, Ford Mustang GT, and GMC Acadia, using tanks that hold the equivalent of four gallons of natural gas. The tanks were fitted into the space usually reserved for the spare tire, and added between 55 and 75 miles of extra range using a fuel that averages around $2 for a gallon-equivalent. This is in addition to the standard gasoline tanks on each car, which were unaltered. The cars can switch seamlessly between gasoline and natural gas.
These systems could make a great “gateway” alternative-fuel vehicle for people who live in areas where CNG stations are still few and far between. If you lived close to a CNG station, you could putz around town on a much-cheaper fuel source, and then for long journeys fill up on regular gasoline, secure that you’ll never be far from refueling. It gives me security than a pure CNG car like the $26,000 Honda Civic Natural Gas, which was briefly offered with a $3,000 gas card to motivate sales.
Best of all, the systems only cost between $2,600 and $2,900 per car which, while not cheap, is about the cost of adding leather seats or other premium options. Most bi-fuel systems have much larger tanks, driving up costs. Vehicles, like the Ram 2500 HD CNG carry a $11,000 premium for their natural gas systems. This lower cost could conceivably be made up in just a couple of years of driving, especially if gas prices go back up to $4 a gallon and you do a lot of city driving.
Are small bi-fuel systems the key to CNG adoption?

Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Option To Cost $2,850 Over HEMI V8

2014 Ram 1500

The Chrysler 3.0 liter EcoDiesel engine, which debuted in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Dieselhas made its way into the Ram 1500 pickup. While official MPG figures have not been released, Ram does say that it will only cost $2,850 more than a similarly-equipped HEMI V8 model.
2014 Ram 1500America seems to have finally gotten over its adversity to diesel engines, and Chrysler is taking full advantage. The EcoDiesel engine offers 240 horsepower and 420 ft-lbs of torque, which is less power but more torque than the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 engine, which offers 395 horsepower and 410 ft-lbs of torque. What that means is that while the EcoDiesel Ram won’t be as fast, it will be able to pull just as much, if not more.
Fuel economy should also be substantially better than the HEMI too, which manages just 14 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway. The 3.6 liter Pentastar offers better fuel economy at 17 city and 25 highway, thanks in part to a class-exclusive 8-speed automatic transmission, making it the most fuel-efficient pickup you can buy. But the EcoDiesel V6 should top even that, as in the Jeep Grand Cherokee the EcoDiesel engine manages 21 city and 30 highway mpg. A 30 mpg, full-size pickup? Yes please, and while you’re add it throw one into the Jeep Wrangler too.
The $2,850 price premium is substantial, but with perhaps as much as 10 mpg better on the highway, it could be a very cost-efficient option for anyone who needs V8 power, but wants V6 fuel economy. If you can afford the extra cost, the EcoDiesel option seems like a no brainer…though I’ll wait for the official mpg ratings before declaring it MPG King.

Source: Chrysler

Fiat 500E Reportedly Sold Out

2013 Fiat 500e

Despite feeling bullied into building electric cars, and complaining that each Fiat 500E built costs the Chrysler-Fiat alliance money, the news out of California for the Italian EV is overwhelmingly good. Having been on sale for just a couple of months, Fiat dealerships have gone through almost their entire allotment of Fiat 500Es for the year.
Priced at $32,500, the Fiat 500E is elibigible for both the $7,500 Federal Tax Rebate for EVs and California’s own $5,000 rebate, bringing the price down to just $20,000. If that is still too rich for your blood, for just $999 down and $199 a month, you can lease a Fiat 500E, which is proving to be the most popular option. The Chevy Spark EV offers the same lease deal, but is about $4,500 cheaper before rebates.
Sporting an 87-mile range, adorable looks, and access to a rental car program, the Fiat 500E is supposedly a $10,000 money sink for Chrysler. Even so, the popularity of the car in California, the only place it is for sale or lease, could cause the upper management to rethink their no-EV policy. Will Fiat crank up production, or is it a case of first come, first serve? Maybe a little exclusivity will drive sales even more?

Source: Wards Auto

Put Down Oil Drill, Pick Up The Test Tube: Making Fuel From Yeast

Jay Keasling (left), speaking with Rajit Sapar at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, is pioneering a technique to develop diesel fuel from yeast.
Courtesy of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
What if we could get our gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel from yeast instead of from oil wells? That's not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, it's already happening on a small scale. And there's a vigorous research effort to ramp this up on a massive scale.
One of the more innovative approaches uses a new technology called "synthetic biology." Jay Keasling is one of the leaders in this hot field.
With his supershort crew cut and friendly demeanor, Keasling would fit in nicely where he grew up — on a corn farm in Nebraska that's been in his family for generations. But these days you'll find him in a glistening building in Emeryville, Calif., home to several of his many endeavors.
Among the many hats Keasling wears is that of associate laboratory director for biosciences at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He's also CEO of the Joint BioEnergy Institute, director of the Synthetic Biology Research Center, and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
Not to mention founder of three biotechnology companies — Amyris, LS9 and Lygos.
"My research [focus], since I've been at Berkeley for the past 20 years, is, 'How do you engineer chemistry within cells?' " Keasling says. "I really believe you can use microbes as little chemical factories to produce almost anything we want."
This is the basis of synthetic biology — genetic engineering taken to a whole new level. Instead of tweaking one or two genes, Keasling and his colleagues change a bunch of genes, so microbes such as yeast can be transformed into chemical factories.
His most successful project to date doesn't have to do with energy. Keasling and his team inserted or tweaked a dozen genes in yeast cells and turned them into tiny factories that churn out a partially synthetic version of artemisinin, a key drug in the leading treatment of malaria. (The usual source of artemisinin is a tree known as sweet wormwood, and there are not enough to meet the global demand.)
Keasling's group licensed the synthetic version to a drug company called Sanofi, which has since produced 35 tons of artemisinin, enough for 70 million people. And this spring, the World Health Organization approved the new version as a malaria treatment.
Surprisingly, it's not such a leap from making the artemisinin to churning out fuels. The drug and diesel are both basically hydrocarbons — hydrogen and carbon atoms cobbled together. So Keasling remembers thinking, "if we can just make a few more tweaks to that yeast that produces artemisinin, we can get it to spit out diesel fuels, or maybe even jet fuels, or gasoline."
Sure enough, they made those tweaks.
And now Amyris, one of the companies Keasling founded, "has a factory in Brazil that's using the engineered yeast, taking in sugar and spitting out a product that's a diesel fuel," Keasling says. Already, that diesel is in buses in Rio and Sao Paulo.
There is, of course, a catch: "This diesel is still more expensive than petroleum-based diesel by quite a long shot."
The yeast produces a hydrocarbon called farnesene, which can not only be converted to diesel but also turned into other much more lucrative chemicals. That's how Amyris can afford to make this pricey fuel.
The challenge now is to drive down the price. One way Keasling can do that is to make yeast much more efficient at churning out fuel molecules. Another way to make the end product cheaper is to start with a plentiful, less expensive starting material — raw plant matter instead of purified sugar.
"It turns out that all plants are roughly two-thirds sugar," Keasling explains. It's tied up in a molecule called cellulose."
Lots of biotechnology companies have been working on the problem of breaking down cellulose with some modest success. Synthetic biology could possibly crack it wide open.
Under ideal circumstances, there's enough raw plant material — especially agricultural waste — to supply about a third of the liquid fuel we use. (Though there are when you grow crops for fuel instead of food.)
These cleaner fuels would help reduce the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air, at least a bit. But ultimately, the challenge of reducing global emissions has to be met on many fronts, researchers say.
"In terms of technology the big lever is to improve the efficiency of the vehicles," says Doug Chapin, director of MPR Associates, an engineering firm in Alexandria, Va. Chapin was chairman of a recent report by the National Research Council, which looked at what it would take to reduce vehicle emissions by 80 percent by midcentury.
"The other big lever is [that] none of this happens unless the nation has the will to decide that this is the thing they want to achieve, almost more importantly than anything else," Chapin says.
Americans and others would need to accept fuels that cost more at the pump in exchange for the much less tangible benefit of a healthier planet. And governments would have to institute that not very popular idea.
Of course, making biofuels cheaper would make that sort of transformation an easier proposition, and that's what drives Keasling.
"There are some huge challenges, but there are huge opportunities," he says. "Imagine if we replaced a third of our transportation fuels and made them renewable. And maybe through other means we could decrease the use of petroleum-based fuels so we were putting much less carbon into the atmosphere. That would be a huge benefit."

Of course, it's intellectually stimulating to figure out how to engineer microbes to do your bidding. But it's also gratifying to feel like you're solving a problem that will help humanity. And Keasling says there's a personal bonus in this for him, too. His father in Nebraska now grows corn for ethanol, which is a very inefficient way to make fuel from crops. Maybe someday he'll be able to switch to a better crop for biofuel.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

VW’s Vision Of Ecological Sustainability Takes Shape In Tennessee

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica
Volkswagen AG’s vision of ecological sustainability is taking shape amidst the lushly forested, green hills of the Tennessee Valley. Serving as a proving ground and model for increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions, water usage, materials usage, and waste for VW plants the world over, VW America’s manufacturing facility in Chattanooga embodies the sum total of Think Blue, the latest five-year (2013-2018) iteration of the automaker’s global sustainability initiative.
Realizing incremental gains in energy usage and key sustainability performance indicators at Volkswagen Chattanooga won’t be easy. The facility is already equipped with the latest in high–energy efficiency mechatronic (mechanical electronics) robotics, manufacturing equipment, and process management and administrative systems — all configured to provide employees an optimal ergonomic work environment. All administrative and manufacturing facilities and processes have been thoroughly assessed and evaluated with an eye towards realizing VW’s comprehensive sustainability goals.
Nonetheless, with Think Blue, VW management aims to reduce carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, water use, waste, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at its manufacturing facilities another 25% by 2018. Part and parcel of this, VW AG management has earmarked $500 million to $600 million of capital to further enhance the overall social and ecological — as well as economic — sustainability of its global operations by investing in renewable energy projects.
Providing VW with a proving ground and benchmark for new facility and process features and enhancements that improve the overall sustainability of its operations, the sustained commitment to ecological sustainability VW is making was clearly evident at the Chattanooga site during a recent company-sponsored energy management workshop and site tour that I had the opportunity to attend.

Why VW’s Think Blue Is Serious Green

With Think Blue, VW is ratcheting up its sustainability efforts, starting at sites such as the plant in Chattanooga – which manufactures the VW Passat for the US and foreign markets – and then globally. Design features incorporated and proved there have already been used in several other VW manufacturing facilities around the world, including in China and Mexico, VW executives told reporters.

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica
Indicative of how seriously VW is taking Think Blue, mangers’ annual bonuses are tied to achieving Think Blue’s sustainability goals, in which customer and employee satisfaction, environmental sustainability, product quality and performance, and profitability all factor in.
Investing $1 billion to construct the world’s first LEED-certified manufacturing site and world-first LEED Platinum auto manufacturing plant, VW is intent on further reducing the negative environmental and social impacts of its operations while continuing to follow through on its commitment to excellence in auto manufacturing, efforts that company representatives described, explained, exhibited, and discussed with a group of reporters.
Commissioned in 2011 with a production line comprised of body, paint, and assembly shops, some 2,700 VW Chattanooga employees churned out 152,543 VW Passats last year, more than the manufacturing line’s 150,000 rated capacity.
Demonstrating the willingness to go beyond merely meeting local, national, and international standards for environmental and social responsibility, at Chattanooga, the global auto manufacturer has restored a brownfield site – a former US Army munitions storage and waste disposal facility – turning it into a wetland and forest reserve that now provides habitat for a variety of threatened native species as well as a recreation for residents and visitors.
On the social impact side, an initial class of 12 student apprentices is about to complete a rigorous, three-year work-study program that could see them earn associate’s degrees from Chattanooga State University, as well as be the first Americans to earn German national and VW technical certifications. That’s in addition to being offered full-time jobs at the plant should they pass their final exams.

Embedding Sustainability As A Core Value

Converging on the VW Chattanooga plant, an international team of VW executives and staff has developed a comprehensive, four-stage Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology that now serves as the template for its manufacturing facilities worldwide. Baseline references for 2012, embodied in four key performance indicators (KPIs) – energy, water, waste, CO2 and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – have been established to mark progress.

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica
The first step in the LCA process entails performing a Life Cycle Inventory that includes assessing the Global Warming Potential (GWP), photochemical ozone creation and ozone depletion, and soil and water acidification profiles of its operations. These are verified by independent experts.
The three subsequent phases of VW’s LCA process extend to include all facilities and processes, vehicle service life and recycling, as well as accounting for upstream emissions, such as aluminum manufacturing. More streamlined and energy efficient, the new Passat’s 1.4-liter TDI BlueMotion is one example of the results, an enhancement that translates into lower vehicle emissions over the course of each vehicle’s lifecycle.
Green building elements incorporated at VW Chattanooga include recycled building materials and the use of smart insulation and energy-efficient lighting. Temperature regulation and heat recovery is enhanced by making use of light-reflecting foil on rooftops, six-inch thick insulation, air-to-air heat exchangers, and coat ventilation, which also results in enhanced air flow characteristics, a critically important health and safety attribute for an auto manufacturing plant, given the presence of potentially toxic chemicals and emissions.
Fresh air cooling is used at night or when outside air temperatures are low enough. LED and T5 fluorescent lighting, as well design aspects meant to assure that a high level of natural light is used, helps minimize power consumption.
VW’s efforts to conserve water at the Chattanooga plant extend to harvesting rainwater to supply low-water toilets and shower facilities, as well as cooling robots in the body shop and other aspects of manufacturing and administrative processes. Stormwater is saved in basins and pumped into cooling towers for use in factory processes and for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC).
Dr. Jan Spies, who is in charge of manufacturing plant and site design for VW plant worldwide, stated:
“We’re trying to save water wherever and whenever possible. We think we can save 50 million gallons per year compared to a normal factory.”

Renewable Energy Greening Auto Manufacturing

And what would a green auto manufacturing plant be without green, renewable energy? Installed in 2011, four solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are up and running at VW sites in Germany.

Image Credit: Andrew Burger / CleanTechnica

At the VW Chattanooga plant, a 9.6 megawattt-DC (Mwdc)/7.6 MWac solar photovoltaic (PV) system is designed to supply 12.5% of the facility’s power needs. The solar PV system generates some 13.1 million kilowatt-hours per year of clean, renewable energy, which VW purchases from Phoenix Solar, which installed, operates and owns the solar PV system. Ground-mounted at a 25-degree fixed tilt, the clean energy produced enables VW Chattanooga to avoid some 6,100 metric tons per year of CO2 emissions.
While the solar PV system has exceeded expected peak production at times, a cloudy winter left overall power generation a bit below expectations so far this year. Solar energy is supplying around 7% of the facility’s total energy needs and about 14% of its electricity, VW Chattanooga’s energy and utility specialist David Gustashaw explained during a tour of the solar PV field, which spans some 33 acres.
The rest of VW Chattanooga’s electricity needs are met via the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) grid. TVA has been switching its dual-fuel generation systems from coal to natural gas, which also “helped knocked [the VW Chattanooga] site’s green emissions factor down,” he pointed out.
As Gustashaw put it simply when explaining why the world’s third-largest auto manufacturer chose to install a 9.6 MWdc PV system on site when a much smaller one would have been sufficient to demonstrate its green credentials,
“It’s a demonstration of our ethic.”
Spurred onward by environmental, climate change, and renewable energy goals in Europe, VW has laid out a strategic plan for shifting away from fossil fuels towards a diversified mix of renewable energy resources via which it intends to reduce its carbon and greenhouse emissions 40% from 2010 levels by 2020 and another 15% by 2030, Rainund Wunder, executive vice president for VW Kraftwerk Gmbh, explained.
Recent efforts include upgrading coal-fired power plants; installing high-efficiency, low emissions combined-cycle natural gas power plants; making use of combined heat and power (CHP) and cogeneration technology; and investing in wind, hydro, and solar energy projects. Renewable resources meet 24% of VW’s power needs at present. The plan is for that to increase to 35% by 2020, 50% by 2030, 65% by 2040, and 80% by 2050.
VW’s renewable power capacity totaled 47 MW as of 2011. Plans are for renewables to meet more than half the global automaker’s power needs, with the lion’s share being allocated to offshore wind power generation.
Why put so much time and effort and devote so much in the way of enterprise resources to energy management? As Dr. Spies succinctly put it, VW has found that it’s less costly to incorporate energy efficiency improvements and make manufacturing, management, and administrative processes recycling friendly from the start, incorporating them early in the design process.
More than half (55.4%) of energy consumption at the VW Chattanooga plant is used for heating, cooling, ventilation, and lighting, as opposed to production line processes, Spies pointed out. “Conserving, recovering, and reusing energy is basically the core task when designing a plant,” he said.

Source: CleanTechnica

Sunswift Eve Aims To Be A Mass Market Solar Cars


The ultimate dream of electric vehicle enthusiasts is a solar-powered car that looks, feels, and performs like a conventional gas-powered automobile. The Sunswift Eve is the latest solar car effort from the University of New South Wales, taking years of solar racing experience and loading it into a car designed for the mainstream.
Solar-powered cars have been around for decades, though mostly they have raced back and forth across the Australian Outback in low-speed races with funky-looking rides.The University of New South Wales Sunswift team has participated in these races since 1995, fielding four different solar-powered vehicles and even winning the 2009 World Solar Challenge silicon class. This is a team with plenty of experience drawing performance from the sun.
Taking that racing experience and translating it into a road-going automobile is something major carmakers do all the time. While performance details haven’t been mentioned yet, it basically looks to be a lightweight fiberglass couple-style body covered in solar panels and sporting a very aerodynamic design. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of performance they can draw out of this thing.
Could we see legitimate solar-powered cars in our lifetime? Seems a bit ambitious and too sci-fi, but it has to start somewhere, and maybe the Sunswift Eve points the way forward.

Source: Autoblog Green

Volkswagen Passat TDI Sets Cross-Country MPG Record


If cars can get triple-digit fuel economy from a single gallon of fossil fuels, do we really need an alternative? That is quite the question, isn’t it? It is made all the more complicated because a couple of well-known hypermilers just set a new cross-country mpg record in a turbodiesel-powered Volkswagen Passat TDI, averaging an astounding 77.9 mpg. founder Wayne Gerdes and co-driver Bob Winger, an electrical engineer, visited all 48 contiguous U.S. states in 17 days, covering 8,122 miles on just 104.94 gallons of diesel fuel. The duo set off from Volkswagen’s Virginia headquarters and using techniques like drafting and shifting into neutral going downhill, they average almost 78 mpg.
Keep in mind this includes crossing some serious mountain ranges multiple times, including the Rockies and Adirondacks. Gerdes managed to beat his own 48-state record of 64.55 mpg, set back in 2011 with a Kia Optima Hybrid. With turbodiesels now surpassing hybrids in terms of fuel economy, are we approaching an age where burning fossil fuels is the responsible thing to do?

Source: Volkswagen

Petition To Protect Tesla Motors From Distribution Ban Started


A petition was started on the website to allow Tesla Motors to sell their own cars directly to their customers in all 50 states of America. If you think Tesla should be able to sell its cars directly to customers, you should sign this petition.
As the petition said: “State legislators are trying to unfairly protect automobile dealers in their states from competition”. Another way to put it; various automobile dealer associations  have been trying to get state officials to ban automobile manufacturers from selling their own cars directly to customers. They want Tesla to lock into dealership franchises, protecting a dealership racket that has existed for decades.
The associations include:
  • VADA: Virginia Automobile Dealers Association;
  • MSADA: Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association;
  • MADA: Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association;
  • NCADA: North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association;
  • NYSADA: New York State Automobile Dealers Association;
These organizations have huge pull on state legislatures. As the MSADA website said: “Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association represents the interests of 465 franchised auto and truck dealers.” That equates to thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual business.
These laws were originally established to prevent automakers from coming into a market and selling cars to customers at a lower cost, undercutting established dealerships. The auto industry is one of the only industries where the producers have to sell their products through a third part (dealerships). However, since Tesla has no established dealership franchises, they aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes.
But dealership associations feel threatened, and have already managed to keep Tesla out of Texas and Virginia. That is why this petition seeks to keep these laws preventing Tesla from selling their electric cars from going into law. If the dealers keep pushing, the Feds might step in, and the whole house of cards might come falling down. So sign that petition, won’t you?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nismo Offers To 'Chip' Your Leaf Electric Car For Better Performance


While nobody will ever accuse the first-generation Nissan Leaf of being a sports car, a few magazines and test drivers have shown that some small modifications can make a big difference on this little EV. NISMO, Nissan’s in-house performance shop, is offering Japanese customers suspension and motor control modifications that make the Leaf a sportier version of itself.
The new NISMO Performance Package improve everything from aerodynamics to acceleration, starting with a more aero-friendly bodykit. The bodykit can be had in either fiberglass or carbon fiber (for $7,700) that adds a new front and rear fascia, side skirts, and a carbon fiber spoiler. Buyers can also opt for lightweight aluminum wheels for $450 a pop. Add to that an $1,100 suspension package and you have a much more aggressive-looking Leaf.
But the best bang for your buck is the $1,400 Sport Reset package, which tweaks the motor control module to deliver more driving performance and range. How it does that, and exactly how many extra miles the NISMO package eeks out of the Leaf, we aren’t told. But for $1,400 bucks, we’ll take what we can get. Nissan still isn’t selling its rear-drive, race-only version of the Leaf, so this will have to hold us over for now.
No word on if the NISMO Performance Package will make it stateside. Keep your fingers crossed though.

Source: Green Car Reports