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Archive for September, 2011

A Solid Look at Compressed Natural Gas

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

The need for an alternative to gasoline and diesel has certainly been made clear over the past couple of decades.  Presidents and legislators alike have promised to funnel money into funds to help find alternative fuels, and car manufacturers are working tirelessly to create vehicle that do not require these fuels.  One proposed solution that is gaining a fair amount of popularity in the automotive world is compressed natural gas.  While this is still a fossil fuel that can emit greenhouse gases, it is considerably greener than its predecessors, does not increase carbon concentrations in the atmosphere, and can even be produced from landfills and wastewater.

It is already possible to convert vehicles to compressed natural gas, and surprisingly, many transit companies have already done so.  Many states even offer rebates and tax incentives to companies operating large fleets of vehicles who are willing to convert the fleets to use this newer, cleaner source of energy.  Arkansas, for example, just put $2.2 million into a fund that is available until December 2011 for companies looking to convert their fleets. The money is available to fleets belonging to public entities as well as any private fleet that operates ten or more vehicles, as long as at least four of them are converted.

Within the week since Arkansas made the announcement that they would be providing these monies, they have received numerous calls expressing interest.  Because the money is first come, first served, the state is hoping that many will take advantage of the program quickly.  Rebates will cover half of the cost of purchase, up to $25,000, provided the equipment installed is certified by the EPA and meets all of their requirements.

So, what is stopping companies throughout Arkansas from taking advantage of the money immediately?  The best guess is that it is likely logistics.  Finding the right place to have a conversion installed and finding a ready source of compressed natural gas that can be used as needed is not yet as easy as many public vehicles need it to be.  The move towards more eco-friendly vehicles is certainly picking up steam, but until there are reliable sources of alternative fuels or charging stations for electric cars, many motorists are still going to have to wonder how they will venture far from home without the need to drive significantly out of their way to refuel.  The good news, however, is that governments and alternative energy companies everywhere are working to address that even as we speak.

A Little Known Worldwide Phenomenon: Natural Gas Powers Cars

Unlike using solar energy to power cars, this is still very underground as far as green movements go. Yet, nonetheless, it’s making an impact worldwide; using compressed natural gas (CNG) to power cars is a green phenomenon. But how does it work? Can a fossil fuel really be green? These and other questions permeate the mystery behind natural gas as a fuel for cars.

What is natural gas?

Natural gas is a byproduct of oil drilling. It can be obtained from petroleum reservoirs as a multi-component gas. It consists of about 90% methane and 10% other gaseous hydrocarbons. It is refined and compressed into tanks or cylinders to be used in cars and other market uses. CNG is nothing new to commercial fleet operators. Honda has been selling the gas for over eighty years. UPS is a notable buyer.

How does it work?

Engines in natural gas cars are similar to conventional gasoline engines. They are, however, fitted with custom engine modifications or add-ons that allow it to run on natural gas. Engines can be built to run on natural gas or, in some cases, gasoline engines can be converted to utilize the gas. The engine works similarly to a gasoline engine. It uses pistons (spark plugs) to generate motion using fuel combustion. However, natural gas varies in its flammability, volume, and ignitability.

Natural gas is also stored in the car in a similar manner to conventional gas, usually in the rear of the car. The natural gas fuel tank contains cylinders which hold the gas under around 3,000 pounds of pressure to conserve space. The cylinders are protected from impact with metal buffers.

Advantages

  • Natural gas cars are considerably less expensive to run than gasoline-powered cars. On average, natural gas costs 30% less than gasoline. Furthermore, it is possible to refuel your car at home using your household natural gas line.
  • Natural gas, although it is a hydrocarbon, burns much cleaner than conventional gasoline. In fact, natural gas vehicles can reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 90%.
  • Safety is also a notable advantage for natural gas vehicles. They are considered safer because of the reinforced fuel tanks which makes them more resistant to leaks and punctures.

Disadvantages

  • One disadvantage for natural gas cars is smaller passenger space due to that large, reinforced fuel tank. And while they burn cleaner, natural gas cars have less fuel efficiency than gasoline cars.
  • Secondly, while it burns much cleaner, natural gas is a fossil fuel and a non-renewable resource.
  • Another issue, for now, with natural gas is the lack of fueling stations for fill-up. If you do not have natural gas running to your home, it is often not feasible to own a natural gas vehicle.

Nonetheless, natural gas is a readily available, domestic resource that could easily make a huge difference in greenhouse gas emissions. There are over 8 million natural gas cars in use worldwide. In 2006, Honda introduced the Civic GX, its first natural gas vehicle. Popular Science did a year-long study of the car, creating an excellent resource for information on natural gas cars and their day-to-day function.

GM’s Chevy Volt VS Tesla Motors

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

Meet the Chevy Volt

If you were to walk up to a Chevy Volt in a regular parking lot you might not think of it as a car that could be powered entirely by electrical energy. This is because it has the looks and size of the more popular mass vehicles, and yet beats the hybrids to an amazingly high degree. In fact, some recent headlines explained that many of the new Chevy Volt buyers were people frequently trading in the other mass vehicles such as the Prius.

Most of the consumers questioned said that there were a lot of reasons to turn to the Chevy Volt, but the primary factors had to do with the unbelievable mileage equivalents they could enjoy with the EV (electric vehicle). For instance, the Prius will usually get around 44 mpg while most of the Chevy Volt owners can enjoy around 58 mpg, but this “mileage” must be translated to battery life, and also not exclude the fact that there are zero emissions coming from the car.

Let’s look at that battery life first. When considering the distance that a single full charge of a battery can provide, it is usually going to have to translate to the costs associated with the charging process. Unlike the pricing on gas, however, the owner of an EV such as the Volt is going to be able to rely upon the equipment that the manufacturer provides and which ensures the best charging process possible. For example, the device that charges the vehicle is going to run fault detection protocols to ensure that the outlet is going to deliver the properly grounded supplies into the device. Not many makers have this sort of option, and this is actually a problem that occurred with those who relied on household outlets for vehicles such as the Prius.

The programming equipment can also be triggered to take advantage of any off-peak rates available too. This can translate to a tremendous amount of financial savings because it could actually be said to reduce the “per gallon” price of fuel. For instance, if you use electrical charging during the lowest or “off peak” hours it would be the same thing as finding gasoline at a reduced price for a standard car.

The Volt is also a great communicator and can let the driver remain consistently aware of the level of battery left when using certain equipment or driving in a specific way. This is extremely useful because it prevents the owner from ending up without any energy to operate the car without gas.

NOW MEET TESLA MOTORS

Anyone interested in the green driving movement will be likely to have heard about Tesla Motors. This is going to be for a number of reasons, but primarily because it is a company producing sports cars that are entirely powered by electricity. Yes, sports cars. The Tesla Roadster is capable of 288 horsepower, reaching zero to fifty in less than six seconds, and has the lines and sleek looks of the world’s most glamorous sports cars too.

Among the other reasons that Tesla Motors has become such a well-known name is the fact that it was their car known as the Roadster that was selected for the Renew America Roadtrip in 2009. This was a cross country journey that few believed an electric car could manage. This was not without good reason when you consider that most electric vehicles can run for only a limited number of miles without a lengthy recharging process. The recharging equipment can be difficult to find, and has to be especially wired to accommodate the needs of the car.

Tesla Motors had already been thinking well into the future, however, and had designed a vehicle that can be plugged into the same wall outlets as a cell phone, lamp, or other standard electrical device. The charging process requires around four hours to complete and then the car can run for roughly 245 miles before the next recharging is required. Clearly, this was the sort of functionality that would easily get any vehicle across the country in a reasonable amount of time, but the Tesla Motors Roadster also did so without a single harmful emission.

The Tesla vehicles are known for their “zero tailpipe emissions” which means it is among the only electric cars that can deliver sports car performance without also dumping the same harmful chemicals into the air that most high-end vehicles are known for. Instead, the vehicle will “create” only the emissions connected directly to the generation of the electricity that is used to power or charge the batteries. This means that around 50% of standard emissions are reduced simply by relying on one of these electric cars.

The infrastructure necessary to support widespread EV usage is not yet available, but with a design like that in the Tesla Roadster there is really no need to worry about such things. The vehicles can recharge anywhere a standard 120v or 240v outlet is available and will go for more than two hundred miles without any problems.

Is ECOtality INC a Total Solution?

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

If you are interested in alternative energies it is likely to be due to your desire to see the environment improved or saved from further harm or damage. This means that you think about the ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint, which in turn leads to questions about household and transportation energy consumption as well. As soon as people begin worrying about such issues they find that the problems can seem overwhelming, but this is why a company such as ECOtality, INC. is a wonderful surprise.

This group offers a seemingly total solution to the creation of earth-friendly energy that relies on everything from wind and water to solar and electric supplies. With a commitment to “developing and commercially advancing clean energy solutions and environmentally friendly products…” ECOtality, INC. has designed a set of initiatives that really tap into every area imaginable.

Consider that ECOtality, INC. has its ECOtality North America division that focuses on the creation of electric vehicles. These include everything from alternative-fuel, hybrid (HEV), plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and electric vehicles (EV) to the infrastructure necessary to support their widespread use. The company also announced plans to partner with car2go N.A. in July of 2011. This is an innovative urban program in which clients have access to a fleet of electric vehicles and can use them when necessary while never having to worry about maintenance or upkeep. This means that the group is now heavily involved in the designing and creation of EVs (electric vehicles) but that they also foster a “car sharing” program which ensures the largest number of users possible.

To support their electric car programs, ECOtality, INC. also has their Blink Network that is continually expanding the number of residential and commercial charge stations available for owners of electric vehicles as well. In late July of 2011, the group announced its partnership with the global furniture company known as IKEA, and indicated that they would feature at least two of the Blink EV charging stations at every store in operation, and there are many plans for a continually expanding network of stations as well.

Because there is not always time to conduct a complete battery the company has also created fast charging hear known as their Minit-Charger that provides super-fast charging with less heat and longer battery life.

The company also offers fuel cells, solar energy solutions, energy storage systems and equipment, and even helps with the creation of “turn key” programs for the adoption of electric transportation systems as well.

Tesla Motors to Lease EVs in Europe

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

If you have been following the evolution of the electric car over the past few years, there is no doubt that you are familiar with Tesla Motors. Founded in 2003, the company strives to provide affordable EVs that make use of the best technologies in order to cut fossil fuel dependence and reduce carbon emissions.

While the vehicles have been available throughout Europe since their release, many have been reluctant to purchase the vehicles due to high price tags and a bit of range anxiety. In late July of 2011, however, Tesla Motors, in conjunction with Athlon Car Lease, announced an agreement that would make both the Tesla Roadster and the Tesla Roadster Sport available for lease in Europe. Furthermore, the companies already have plans to include the Tesla Model S in their lease agreement when the car is released in Europe near the end of 2012.

The Roadster is currently the only highway capable serially produced EV on the market that has a range of more than 300km, and the Roadster has much to offer. It is the first vehicle to be produced by Tesla, yet it can already boast greater acceleration than EVs costing nearly double the price as well as more than twice the range of EVs that are still in the production and planning stages. When the Model S hits the market, with even greater range and the ability to charge in only about 45 minutes, there is no doubt that it will change the EV market in Europe. While the Model S will carry a higher price tag, it will offer seating for five as well as a remarkable amount of cargo space, something that most entrants into the EV market so far have lacked.

The partnership between Tesla Motors and Athlon Car Lease simply makes sense. Athlon has been working to change the car leasing industry to help promote greater sustainability, which is also the key goal for the engineers behind Tesla Motors. This partnership has the capability to revolutionize Europe’s vehicle leasing market, and there are few who doubt that the partnership will have a positive and lingering effect. Athlon Car Lease is currently active in nine European countries, and since the cars will be first available for lease in populous areas where recharging stations are available, the long term effect when the benefits of EVs become apparent could indeed spread throughout a significant percentage of Europe.

ECOtality Inc’s EV Project Brings Major Incentives for EV Purchase to Tennesseans

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

The EV Project is a joint project created by ECOtality, INC and partially funded by the US Department of Energy to help bring electric cars to the mainstream. The project is working hard to bring both electronic vehicles and EV charging stations to states around the country, and for residents in the state of Tennessee, which is a pilot market for the project, incentives are certainly very inviting for those interested in purchasing an EV. In total, the state is offering 2.5 million dollars worth of rebates for  people who purchase the new Nissan Leaf SL with DC Fast Charge capabilities.

The LEAF is one of the first EVs to become available to the mainstream public, and for consumers who sign up for the EV Project through the Nissan LEAF Customer Journey online and live in Tennessee, the benefits of ownership are great. In order to qualify, applicants must own their home and must have resided there for at least two years. Applicants will also have to agree to share their LEAF charging data. The purchase of a LEAF through this program will include a Blink Wall Mount charger in addition to free or substantially reduced installation. The rebate per participating purchase is $2,500, which is offered in addition to the $7,500 rebate provided by the Federal government.

ECOtality, Inc is a company based in San Francisco, California. The company works in a variety of ways to help take consumers and businesses off of the fossil fuel based grid. They work with a variety of forms of alternative energy and with the EV Project, the company is striving to help increase the speed with which advanced electric technologies in vehicles are made available and accessible to the general public. The company strives to help do more than increase consumer interest in EVs, they are working hard through the EV project to also ensure that areas where the car is made available have access to sufficient charging stations.

Range anxiety, or a fear of running out of power away from a home charging station is cited as one of the main reasons why consumers are hesitant to purchase and use electric vehicles. ECOtality, Inc has chosen to tackle this issue head-on. The EV Project has been funded to add a total of 14,000 charging stations throughout the US, spanning a total of six states. While this may not yet make the technology widely accepted nationwide, success in pilot markets will certainly increase interest in and funding for EVs throughout the rest of the nation.

A Look at the Chevy Volt

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

If you know a bit about electric vehicles (or EVs), you already understand that they are positioned to really “boom” in the United States in the coming years. In fact, a new wave of entirely electric cars is now entering the markets, and one of the most well-known is the Chevy Volt. It’s popularity has as much to do with the way that the manufacturer, General Motors, has promoted it as it does with the fact that the Chevy Volt is among the first of the mass market electric vehicles.

If you read about the different EVs, you might see that some boast of making electric vehicles affordable to the masses, but it is a model such as the Chevy Volt that will provide the familiar looks of the average sedan along with the benefits of a gas-free car.

This, however, is where vehicles such as the Chevy Volt might run into trouble because the cars do need fuel in the form of electricity. Unfortunately, though the markets are ready to receive EVs in a number of formats, the infrastructure necessary to feed the cars or EVs with the electricity that they need is not yet available. This is why there are so many options for home charging stations or for EVs that can be plugged directly into any wall outlet to get a full charge.

Okay, you might say, so what’s the problem? If there are cars that plug into outlets and home-based charging devices, why is there a big concern about public charging stations? It is because the average EV cannot go for hundreds of miles on a single charge in the ways that regular cars can go for hundreds of miles on a tank of gas. In fact, most EV owners have to plug their vehicles into charging stations whenever available.

So, the maker of the Volt vehicles used a very clever approach to finding an answer. They installed 26 solar charging stations (officially labeled as Green Zones) at the dealerships making the cars available. These solar charging stations are going to serve as pseudo-billboards advertising the presence of entirely electric cars, but will also demonstrate that the Volt is a vehicle that can actually be operated by a reliable solar panel array.

General Motors is demonstrating through the construction of Green Zones that ownership of one of their EVs is just part of the way that consumers can help improve the environment and come to rely on alternative energy sources.

Electric cars Electrify the Frankfurt Motor Show

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

BMW i3 Concept

The IAA Frankfurt Motor Show, kicking off Thursday, will pit the latest electric cars equipped with the best environmental credentials and designs.

High-end brands including BMW, Audi and Volkswagen will showcase the next-generation cars at one of the largest motor shows in the world held biannually.

BMW will introduce its i3 concept car, a small and “affordable” electric car scheduled to go into production starting 2013. The all-electric city car is perhaps the most advanced take on the electric vehicle from BMW, a much more complete take than the Megacity concept car that preceded it.

To make its battery more efficient, it has filled the bottom half of the i3 with lightweight aluminum, with a Life passenger compartment on the top. It was designed to make the vehicle as light as possible which is important to raise the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries often criticized as too heavy, big, and expensive to commercialize.

Replacing gasoline with environmentally friendly power options has become obligatory with international push to meet stricter energy standards. The latest push in Korea came last week when the government announced up to 6 million won ($5,569) of fresh tax credits for buyers of electric cars starting next year.

The i3 will be capable of reaching 100 kph in 7.9 seconds. It has a single-speed transmission.

BMW said when i3 goes on sale in 2013, it will be priced at about $35,000 under current exchange rates. Continue reading “Electric cars Electrify the Frankfurt Motor Show” »

What do people like about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

The summer of 2011 the Mitsubishi i-MiEV began appearing in auto shows and making its first impressions on the driving public. The media attention on the vehicle was more than above average because the details about the EV (electric vehicle) had intrigued so many different groups and individuals.

After all, the makers of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV claimed that it could go 62 miles on a single battery cycle and that it cost only one-third of the average gas powered vehicles to operate, but that this reduction could be increased by almost three-fold if the owner learned when their utility companies extended discounted pricing to EV owners. Continue reading “What do people like about the Mitsubishi i-MiEV?” »

Nissan Leaf and Household Power

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Nissan Leaf and Household Power

One of the biggest news stories to come from the world of EVs (electric vehicles) during 2011 was the announcement by Nissan that their Nissan Leaf could actually provide emergency energy supplies to a home during the event of a power outage or failure. They went on to explain that the Nissan Leaf (due to reach consumer markets in 2012) has the option for two-way energy flow. This means that the vehicle can accept energy into its batteries, but that a simple switch can re-direct that energy back into the charging station, and then back to the source. In that case, say the carmakers, the Nissan Leaf can operate a home should the power supplies be interrupted or fail.

They went on to indicate that the car could keep the average American home functioning for roughly 20 hours after the power loss. So, is it possible? That is something that will not be determined until the vehicles appear in the spring season of 2012. What people do know about the Nissan Leaf is that the car has a power control system rated at 6,000 watts with lithium-ion batteries capable of storing up to 24,000 kilowatts for up to two days at a time. Continue reading “Nissan Leaf and Household Power” »

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