Category Archives: zero-emissions and hybrids

PopSci’s Top 50 Greenest US Cities


I am a little behind the times, but at the beginning of February Popular Science Magazine came out with their list of America’s 50 Greenest Cities. They compiled the list based on four criteria – electricity (10 points), transportation (10 points), green living (5 points) and recycling & green perspective (5 points). Here are the top 20:

1. Portland, Ore. 23.1
2. San Francisco, Calif. 23.0
3. Boston, Mass. 22.7
4. Oakland, Calif. 22.5
5. Eugene, Ore. 22.4
6. Cambridge, Mass. 22.2
7. Berkeley, Calif. 22.2
8. Seattle, Wash. 22.1
9. Chicago, Ill. 21.3
10. Austin, Tex. 21.0
11. Minneapolis, Minn. 20.3
12. St. Paul, Minn. 20.2
13. Sunnyvale, Calif. 19.9
14. Honolulu, Hawaii 19.9
15. Fort Worth, Tex. 19.7
16. Albuquerque, N.M. 19.1
17. Syracuse, N.Y. 18.9
18. Huntsville, Ala. 18.4
19. Denver, Colo. 18.2
20. New York, N.Y. 18.2

Check the PopSci site for the full list and all the details. They also highlight 6 case studies of cities making concerted efforts to green themselves.

Oakland: Zero Emission Bus

Chicago: Make Power, Save the Heat

San Francisco: Sunroofs in Fog City

Santa Rosa: Tapping Geysers for Watts

Salt Lake City: Heating Homes from Waste

New York City: Turning the Tides into Electricity

Another interesting analysis of green spots in the US was listed by a PopSci reader in the comments. Check the site for an interesting interactive state-by-state look at green stat’s across the country.



World Solar Challenge


Tomorrow (Sunday) marks the beginning of the 2007 Panasonic World Solar Challenge.

The Challenge: Design and build a car capable of crossing the vast and imposing continent of Australia using only sunlight as fuel and to prove it, in the spirit of friendly competition against others with the same goal.

Inspired by adventure and fuelled by the spirit of friendly competition, the event attracts teams from corporations, research and educational institutions around the world.

2007 will be the 20th anniversary since the first World Solar Challenge was staged.



[world solar challenge]

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.”


Tesla’s got some competition

Of course, the Tesla isn’t the only high-performance EV out there, nor was it the first (see Venturi Fetish, Wrightspeed X1), but it certainly was the first to capture the attention of the mainstream media.  Undoubtedly, it has changed many people’s perceptions of what an electric car can be.

Lucky for Tesla, the car pictured above, the Lightning GT, will be staying on the other side of the Atlantic.  Made by the Lightning Car Company, and using Altairnano NanoSafe batteries, the 700bhp coupe is now available for pre-order, with the first deliveries arriving in 2008. The coupe will also be available with a range extender (think the Chevy Volt).  The chassis is made of a carbon fiber/aluminum honeycomb composite monocoque, but its actual weight has not yet been disclosed.
The Lightning GT uses four 120kW wheel motors made by PML Flightlink.  These Hi-Pa Drive motors were also used in the 640hp EV Mini Cooper featured on green.mnp a few months back.  Lightning writes on its website that “all of the power is generated at the wheel, the point at which it is required, which eliminates mechanical complexity and power losses experienced in standard sports cars.  These lightweight and ultra powerful motors do not add significant extra unsprung weight and are therefore ideal in that position.”  A few days after the Lightning started making its rounds on the internet, the Director of Public Relations at Tesla addressed such hub-mounted motors on the company’s blog:

Without digressing too much, I’d like to tackle a reoccurring question because it dovetails perfectly with a discussion of driving dynamics. “Would four hub-mounted motors have made for a better Tesla Roadster?” In a word: no. Four hub-mounted motors would work great in an electric off road vehicle or rally car – power to each wheel could be controlled for mud, ice, and gravel along with the hill control feature used in off-roading. In a sports car, the added weight and complexity would have compromised the driving enjoyment that makes a sports car a driver’s delight.

The weight that engineers most worry about is rotating mass. In other words, anything that goes round and round as the car moves. This includes components like the wheels, tires, brake rotors, and even the lug nuts. Besides the gyroscopic forces that a spinning wheel assembly represents as a car turns, this is mass that needs to be spun up to speed for acceleration and slowed back down again for braking. More mass here means relatively slower acceleration and braking.

So who’s right?  We’ll have to wait for each car to reach production.  In all likelihood, each is probably right to some extent – almost every car company out there has a different philosophy in terms of engines (i.e. displacement vs. forced induction; inline 6′s vs V-6′s, and let’s not forget about horizontally-opposed boxer engines either), and engine placement and weight distribution (front-engine rear wheel drive vs. mid-engine rear wheel drive vs. rear-engine, rear wheel drive vs front-engine all-wheel drive…)  The real issue is how the individual manufacturer executes their philosophical belief in the specific model.

The other thing to consider; price.  The Tesla is going to retail for a little shy of $100,000, whereas the Lightning GT will cost almost three times that (£150,000).  We already know Tesla has big plans for EV’s, and is trying to bring them to mass-market, with plans for a dealer network and a sports-sedan.  Perhaps Lightning is set on becoming and remaining a boutique EV manufacturer…

More at the Lightning Car Company

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.


Chrysler Announces Hybrid Version of New Aspen Full-Size SUV

Since Americans want to have their cake and eat it too (although why anyone prefers to drive a tank-like behemoth is still beyond me)…

The new Aspen full-size SUV will join the Dodge Durango as Chrysler’s first volume production hybrids next year. Both vehicles will use a 5.7-liter HEMI engine coupled with the advanced two-mode hybrid technology being co-developed by GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW.

The HEMI engine will continue to feature Chrysler Group’s Multi-displacement System (MDS), which allows the engine to alternate between four-cylinder mode when less power is needed and V-8 mode when more power is in demand.

The new 5.7-liter HEMI Hybrid is expected to deliver an overall fuel economy improvement of more than 25%, including an improvement of nearly 40% in the city. The current 2007 Aspen (2WD) carries an EPA rating of 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway, 17 mpg combined.

Sounds about as fuel efficient as the Escalade hybrid


Hybrid version of LF-A supercar confirmed by Lexus

At the Detroit Auto Show in January, Lexus showed a re-styled version of the LF-A concept that originally appeared on the show circuit in 2005 and has turned up periodically running around the Nurburgring in Germany. Until now, the LF-A has been powered by a 500hp 5.0L V-10 driving the rear wheels. At the same show, Toyota also showed a sports car concept called FT-HS that had a hybrid drivetrain.

Reports are now coming out of England that a new Lexus branded high-end sports car may be on the way that combines elements of both of those concepts. Lexus GB director has reportedly acknowledged that an all new supercar is coming before the end of the decade that doesn’t share a platform with any existing vehicle. According to Settle, it will have new hybrid technology, indicating that it may have plug-in capability which is plausible since Toyota has already said the next generation Prius will have lithium ion batteries. If Toyota does indeed build this car, it could make an interesting counterpoint to Honda’s NSX sucessor which looks like it will have a conventional ICE powerplant.

Photo gallery at the link below:


Scuderi Group to Preview Enhanced Designs of Air-Hybrid Engine

Why use batteries when you can use compressed air?

Waste heat energy is generally recovered in combined-cycle engines which utilize the Otto cycle to generate power and the Rankine cycle to recover waste heat. Conventional combined-cycle engines must immediately utilize the recovered waste heat or discard it.

In contrast, the Scuderi Air-Hybrid Engine has the added capability of storing the waste, which is heat-generated energy in the form of compressed air in the Scuderi Engine’s air tank for later use. This capability further enhances the engine’s fuel efficiency and further reduces the engine’s emissions output.

By adding a small air storage tank with some simple controls, the Scuderi engine can also recapture energy normally lost during the braking of a vehicle. In addition, unlike electric hybrids, the Scuderi Air-Hybrid has the capability of recapturing energy from the exhaust of the engine, making it possible to utilize a Scuderi Air-Hybrid design in stationary applications such as electric generators.

Scuderi expects its Air-Hybrid Engine to deliver a significant increase in performance, efficiency and environmental impact over today’s internal combustion engines. The Scuderi Air-Hybrid Engine is adaptable to diesel and gasoline automobiles, commercial vehicles and any other applications powered by internal combustion engines.


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: