Category Archives: batteries

The East African Solar Entrepreneurs

A couple hours drive on a dusty road outside of the southern town of Masaka, Uganda, you’ll find Musubiro Village. Miles from the closest electricity grid, there is little hope of government power coming this way anytime soon.

In Musubiro, like so many other villages across Africa, the main source of light is kerosene- which is not only expensive, but has a myriad of negative health side affects, and the risk that always comes when you mix open flames and straw thatched roof dwellings. Typically, the day’s chores are done, children’s studying is over, and small shops are closed when the sun goes down at 7:30 p.m.

Not anymore.

Barefoot Power, a for-profit social enterprise operating across East Africa, has built a network of “Solar Entrepreneurs” who are responsible for bringing solar lighting to towns and villages like Musubiro all across Uganda. Their products, ranging from the extremely popular “Firefly Mobile”, a small 1.5 watt panel with 12 small LED lights and a phone charger, or their full “Village Kits” that can provide lighting to an entire house, are making solar power affordable and accessible to those at the base of the economic pyramid. The small solar panels are portable and once charged, act like a battery.

Barefoot Power currently has 160 Solar Entrepreneurs operating all over Uganda, and an extensive distribution network which makes its products available to customers across Kenya, Tanzania, India, and several other parts of the world. (Source)

Livin’ Off the Grid


Despite how kitschy this video is, the guy has a certain charm about him (I think it’s his tiny carbon footprint). Our friend here doesn’t make it look completely easy or anything, but still manages an amazing proof of concept design here. Not to be a fearmonger, or something, but I hope this type of design makes it to your ordinary consumer (read: Joe Six-Pack) before it’s too late!

Why another video, you ask? Well, why our resident green expert is on her mini-sojourn, we must keep the house tidy. Expect more and better to come soon.

A123Systems to Market PHEV Conversion Packs in 2008

Want to make your hybrid a plug-in?  We’ve got some good news:

The PHEV conversion modules will be available in 2008 – here’s the info:

It will be certified to meet all applicable new car test standards and will be installed by trained mechanics in less than 2 hours, without any changes to the underlying electronics, mechanics or materially useable space of the production hybrid other than the installation of the plug in the rear bumper.

The applicable market in the US for standard production hybrids will be approaching 1 million through the course of this year. With almost two dozen hybrid models expected by the end of 2008, there will be 5 million standard hybrids on the road by 2010. At an initial 40 mile module installed price of $10,000 supported with a $3,500 tax credit, the payback period for a fleet owner with $3.00/gallon gas is 2.5 years, against an expected life of 10 or more years. The payback period for the average commuter driving 11,000 miles per year would be 5.5 years. These calculations place no value on the net reduction of approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions over the life of the vehicle and take no account of the cost reductions which could accrue from additional materials research and increasing production volumes.


Electric Utilities show interest in Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) Technology

Pacific Gas and Electric Company, California’s biggest utility, showcased the first-ever utility demonstration of Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology during an alternative energy solution summit in Silicon Valley.  Austin Energy, the public utility for Austin, TX is also exploring V2G technology and applications.

V2G technology allows for the bi-directional sharing of electricity between Electric Vehicles (EVs) and Plug-in Electric Hybrid Vehicles (PHEVs), and the electric power grid. The technology turns each vehicle into a power storage system, increasing power reliability and the amount of renewable energy available to the grid during peak power usage.

PG&E envisions a future in which vehicle owners will be able to set a price threshold at which they are willing to sell energy, and when electricity reaches that point, the utility would then automatically draw energy out of the vehicle’s battery. The energy used by the utility would earn customers credit on their monthly utility bill.

“At night, electricity is very cheap, very plentiful. You can’t turn down your nuclear reactors at night. A lot of the wind energy comes in at night, and utilities don’t know what to do with it,” Sass Somekh, President Emeritus of Novellus, told a group assembled for the V2G press event. “The utilities would then be able to borrow back during the day the electricity two-to-three times what you would pay at night.”

Like demand response technologies, V2G has the potential to reduce peak demand on the electrical grid. This is important for a number of reasons. (1) During peak demand, utilities have to buy power at extremely high rates (which are passed onto the ratepayer in one manner of another), and this power often comes from dirty, fossil-fuel powered ‘Peaking Plants.’ (2) The electrical grid is built to handle these periods of peak demand (which are a small percentage of the day) plus some additional capacity as a contingency. If peak demand can be reduced, then infrastructure investments in the grid are likely to be less costly, and consequently, there would be less costs to pass on to ratepayers. (3) V2G scenarios are a great starting point on the path to real-time pricing. At the moment, except for some large commercial and industrial customers, electric rates for most customers are flat. Real-time pricing would encourage customers to use electricity in a more efficient manner (from the grid’s perspective), for example, to run their dishwasher or charge their ipods at night, rather than in the middle of the day when demand is at its highest. Customers who intelligently use electricity would likely see a substantial reduction in electricity costs.


[GreenCarCongress] and [The Herald Democrat] and [InsideGreentech]
Related studies:

ZAP Releases Drawings of ZAP-X EV Crossover

Design-Concept or Pre-Production Sneak Peek?

Well ZAP (Zero Air Pollution), known for it’s NEV’s, has released sketches of their “soon-to-be-released” ZAP-X EV sport utility vehicle, which was first introduced to us all as the Lotus APX Demonstrator at NADA 2007.

The companies claim this AWD ‘crossover’ vehicle will have some pretty impressive specifications, most notably four in-hub electric motors that deliver a total of 644hp, and a top speed of 155mph. By utilizing a “lightweight aluminum architecture” and an “advanced battery system,” ZAP claims the SUV will have a range of 350 miles, and, that its “rapid charge technology” means the batteries can be recharged in 10 minutes or less. Lithium-ion batteries are to be used in conjunction with ‘supercapacitors,’ which will help to provide quick bursts of acceleration. (The Toyota FT-HS concept also featured ultracapacitors) The ZAP-X should reach 60mph from a standstill in 4.8 seconds.

Lotus Engineering first showed itself as a player in the EV scene with the Tesla roadster, but the company has also collaborated with ZAP on the Obvio 012 EV sportscar.

As excited as I want to get for this vehicle, it just screams “vaporware.” With technical ‘specs’ that include photovoltaic glass made from “nano solar cells,” an on-board computer running Windows XP, let alone 644hp and a supposed 10 minute recharge (on certain voltages) time, I don’t see this appearing in showrooms anytime soon. Come on, nano-engineered solar cells aren’t even on the market yet!


Product Brochure (.pdf)