Category Archives: fuel economy

Food Riots Lead to Increased Push for Food Security

In response to the violent food riots in Haiti, Yemen, Egypt, and the riots that have taken place over the past year in Mexico, West Bengal, Camaroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal, French Agriculture minister Michel Barnier is urging the EU to take action immediately against biofuels sourced from edible crops. Four of France’s ministers also insist that similar food riots are on the brink in some 30 other countries.

A demonstrator ate grass in front of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier during a protest against the high cost of living in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Political leaders from poor countries contend that biofuels, which Western countries have been encouraging, are driving up food prices and starving poor people, making biofuels a new flash point in global diplomacy.

Meanwhile, today marks the official enforcement of the 2.5% biofuels mandate UK-wide.

[BBC News; NYTimes, Daily Kos; Celsias]

Cali Sues the EPA


[image from WIRED]

The Govinator is poised to strike! California is suing the Environmental protection agency for denying California a waiver it and 16 other states need to regulate greenhouse gases from new cars and trucks. The reason, you ask? Well Dubya signed a bill [just in time] to cut greenhouse emissions gradually over time [much less drastic than the California regulations], and the EPA decided that California’s waiver was therefore no longer needed. Once again, this administration shows that it prefers mediocrity [and auto/oil lobbyist money] to innovation and forward thinking.

Read the article here, via YAHOO Green and WIRED.

A Highway in the Sky??

“Imagine a national transit system that runs on solar energy and wind power. Now imagine that it consists of recycled airplanes speeding along elevated tracks.”


This is the vision of Mass Tram America and its founder Ben Missler, an ex-Boeing engineer who wants to use the carcases of old Boeing jets (normally scrapped for metal) fueled with solar, wind and fuel cells as traveler trains that run up above traffic at 150 mph, suspended on a monorail. How it works:

  • The actual Tram car is constructed from de-commissioned Boeing 727’s, 737’s, and 757’s that are stripped of their wings, engines, and tails.

  • The fuselages become compartments equipped with solar cells and battery storage.

  • These compartments are attached to a rail system by permanent magnet regenerative motorized wheels.

  • Power is provided through solar electricity, wind power, regenerative breaking and fuel cells.

  • The system of single rails is hung from suspension cables, made level with support cables.

  • This system can be adapted to current road construction. When crossing a river, for example, the rail can be suspended from an existing bridge, minimizing construction and cost.

  • Structural steel or reinforced concrete towers are erected as high as needed, and multi-strand stainless steel cables are strung between towers.

  • Towers to support the rail system are erected approximately every 1000 feet and fitted with solar panels, wind turbines, or a combination of both.

  • Transfer stations are set up where necessary, allowing passengers to disembark or transfer to another tram. They also contain extra backup power for tram cars, as well as parking, concessions, and other passenger services.

  • All of the Tram’s components utilize off-the-shelf technology. All of the mechanisms needed to make “The Highway in the Sky” a reality are in use today.

Mass Tram America is hoping to launch a pilot project by 2011. For more info, pick up October’s Plenty Magazine, or check the Mass Tram America Website.

[Plenty Magazine; Mass Tram America]

DIY: Energy load evaluation made easy.


The Kill A Watt has been an absolute mainstay device in the Solar world for many years now and i am glad i can now offer it to those that are working to get off grid.If you are not inclined towards doing all of the calculations to match your home with the solar you will need to reduce or get completely offline,I do now offer a load evaluation consulting service.This would provide absolutely accurate data on how many panels,batteries,correct wire guage,trackers(or fixed array) and type of inverter you might need.Would also include recommendations on which appliances to replace with links to suitable alternatives.All that is needed is your household Kill A Watt data and your city to calculate yearly insolation data.If interested there are online load sheets and contact forms on hughessolarenergy to get the process started!

Aston Martin Electric & Bio

There’s obviously a distinction between green and electric.  For the layman, that means that there’s always the question on how the power is derived.  If it’s electric, it’s usually coal.  That being said, we can now bring you this semi-exciting news in good will.  (So many people gloss over the distinction as obvious, but it’s important to remind)

An Aston Martin car modified to run on biofuel became the first of its type to win a race in the British GT.


The car is basically a standard ProDrive built DBRS9 that has been re-calibrated to run on the biofuel. The Barwell Motorsport run Aston Martin has been running on ethanol all season and previously earned two pole positions and now leads the championship standings.

This news is a bit more exciting (especially for you richer ninjas):

Gizmag/BusinessWeek reports that Aston Martin has some really interesting electric cars in production.

“Taking its design cues from quintessential British sports cars like the Aston Martin or TVR, the Lightning Electric Car promises to deliver performance rivalling anything currently on the market. The Lightning GT will boast 700+bhp and should completely erode any doubts about the performance capabilities of electric cars. Three versions of the GT are currently planned for a 2008 release,—a luxury model, a lightweight sports model capable of reaching 0-60mph in less than four seconds and an extended range model designed to travel up to 250 miles on a single 10 minute charge.”


H.R. 6: CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 – is it enough?

WASHINGTON, June 22 — Automakers had to know they were in serious trouble when Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat with deep blue-collar roots, announced that she had lost patience with their annual objections to higher gas mileage rules.

“When automobile manufacturers told me they could not meet the increased standards, I listened,” said Ms. Mikulski, who said she had always been swayed by the potential loss of middle-class manufacturing jobs. “I listened year after year, and now I have listened for more than 20 years. After 20 years, I firmly do believe it is time for a change.”

Bolstered by such converts as Ms. Mikulski, the Senate just before midnight Thursday approved an energy bill that would for the first time in more than two decades require auto companies to produce cars and trucks that get substantially more out of a gallon of gas.

But that was about the only industry it took on. The measure, approved on a bipartisan 65-to-37 vote, essentially spared oil and gas companies and major utilities and fell short of goals initially set by supporters in areas like renewable fuels.


Jan 18, 2007: This bill passed in the House of Representatives by roll call vote. The totals were 264 Ayes, 163 Nays, 8 Present/Not Voting. View Votes (roll no. 40)


Jun 21, 2007: This bill passed in the Senate by roll call vote. The totals were 65 Ayes, 27 Nays, 7 Present/Not Voting. View Votes (roll no. 226)

Washington, DC [] In a flurry of activity, the U.S. Senate voted down two amendments yesterday that would have created $32 billion worth of energy tax incentives and a National Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPS) requiring utilities to generate 15% of electricity from renewables by 2020. Later that same evening however, the Senate passed H.R. 6, the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, 65-27.

The Clean Energy Act of 2007 is designed to reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable resources, promoting new emerging energy technologies, developing greater efficiency and creating a Strategic Energy Efficiency and Renewables Reserve.

But two key amendments that would have provided billions of dollars worth of incentives and revenue for the U.S. renewable energy industry were rejected. The Energy Tax Package—approved by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and House Ways & Mean committee earlier this week—contained a five-year extension of the tax credit for the production of electricity from wind, geothermal, biomass as well as the solar ITC extension.

Bill Status

Having passed in both the House and Senate, the bill may proceed to a conference committee of senators and representatives to work out differences in the versions of the bill each chamber approved. The bill then awaits the signature of the President before becoming law.

[NYTimes, RebewableEnergyAccess,]

Rocket Fuel Economy


The aerospike engine is a type of rocket engine that maintains its aerodynamic efficiency across a wide range of altitudes through the use of an aerospike nozzle. For this reason the nozzle is sometimes referred to as an altitude-compensating nozzle. A vehicle with an aerospike engine uses 25–30% less fuel at low altitudes, where most missions have the greatest need for thrust. Aerospike engines have been studied for a number of years and are the baseline engines for many single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) designs and were also a strong contender for the Space Shuttle main engine. However, no engine is in commercial production. The best large-scale aerospikes are still only in testing phases.


A normal rocket engine uses a large engine bell to direct the jet of exhaust from the engine to the surrounding airflow and maximize its acceleration – and thus the thrust. However, the proper design of the bell varies with external conditions: one that is designed to operate at high altitudes where the air pressure is lower needs to be much larger than one designed for low altitudes. The losses of using the wrong design can be significant. For instance the Space Shuttle engine can generate an exhaust velocity of just over 4,400 m/s in space, but only 3,500 m/s at sea level. If a large bell (designed for high altitude operation) were used near sea level, the extra weight of the bell might not overcome the additional thrust gained. Tuning the bell to the average environment in which the engine will operate is an important task in any rocket design.

The aerospike attempts to avoid this problem. Instead of firing the exhaust out of a small hole in the middle of a bell, it is fired along the outside edge of a wedge-shaped protrusion, the “spike”. The spike forms one side of a virtual bell, with the other side being formed by the airflow past the spacecraft – thus the aero-spike.

The trick to the aerospike design is that at low altitude the ambient pressure compresses the wake against the nozzle. The recirculation in the base zone of the wedge can then raise the pressure there to near ambient. Since the pressure on top of the engine is ambient, this means that base gives no overall thrust (but it also means that this part of the nozzle doesn’t lose thrust by forming a partial vacuum, thus the base part of the nozzle can be ignored at low altitude).


Connaught Type D Performance Hybrid

Connaught is set to offer a hybrid version of its new Type-D GT sports coupe, with deliveries beginning in early 2008.

Utilizing what must be world’s smallest v-10 engine (displacing only 2.0 liters!),the Type D-h can accelerate to 60mph from a standstill in 6.5 seconds and tops out at 140mph. But, thanks to its hybrid powertrain, the vehicle delivers this performance with an average combined fuel economy of 42mpg.

The Connaught hybrid utilizes a CVT transmission to ensure the electric motor always is running at the best speed for the conditions. The automaker appears to be using ultracapacitors alongside batteries in the powertrain as well, writing on its website that “a capacitive and fast charging storage system to respond instantly to big current demands” to aid in sudden acceleration. Built around a lightweight steel space frame with composites and aluminum body panels, the Type D tips the scales at a Lotus-like 1870 pounds, and with a perfect 50-50 front-rear weight distribution.

The engine alone reaches its torque peak at 4000rpm, but with the electric motor assisting its efforts there’s a flat torque curve of 144lb ft from 1000rpm right up to 6000rpm. That strong low-end pull is the secret of the Connaught’s pace, delivering a pulling ability extraordinary for such a compact engine unit. Maximum combined power – 162bhp – arrives at 6000rpm.

When the Type-D is stationary, the petrol engine does not run. The air-conditioning can still operate if needed, though, thanks to that 48-volt electrical system. To move off, you press the clutch pedal down, select a gear, press the accelerator and the engine fires up as you engage the clutch and move away. There’s none of the usual chatter and jerk of a conventional starter, because the electric motor performs the job of starting the engine.

There are three settings for the electric motor: “Sport” mode uses all available motor assistance, but will use up the battery power so it cannot be engaged all the time. The “sport” setting also opens valves in the intake and exhaust system. “Normal” mode adds battery charging on deceleration (regenerative braking) and rations the motor assistance. “Economy” mode maximizes the deceleration charge.

The conventional Type-D GT makes 300bhp, does 0-60mph in under 5 seconds, and is priced at about $120,000. The price for the hybrid Type D-h has not yet been announced.

More at [Connaught Motor Cars]


New small Volkswagen to be 3L car

Volkswagen appears to be developing a new 3L car for the European market. The 3L designation refers to the fuel consumption of 3L/100 km (78.4mpg) or less. Between 1999 and 2005 VW sold a version of the Lupo called the Lupo 3L which was had the fuel consumption rating and had a diesel engine, but cost €15,000 which is rather high for a minimalist small car. Because of the high price they only sold 30,000 units over that six year span.

The new 3L car which may share mechanicals with the Audi A1 is targeted at an €8,000 price point which should make it more palatable. If they can hit that target price, it could also be a formidable competitor to the new Smart ForTwo. The new car will probably be equipped with a two cylinder engine, although it’s not clear if it will be gas or diesel.