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MAR 31

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Electric Vehicle Racing at Pikes Peak
Written by Philip Proefrock on 31/03/12   

An electric vehicle may offer serious competition to conventional racing vehicles in this year's Pikes Peak race. Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima is the levitra professional 100 mg current champion and levitra buying online the record holder for the fastest time in the race. For the 2012 race, he hopes to extend his title run and set a new time record with an electric vehicle. Team Monster has not released many details about their vehicle, but it is known that the vehicle will be an EV with a twin motor system and regenerative brakes.

The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is an ecclectic event, and the race has a number of classes of vehicles, including electric vehicles, that take part every year. Part of purchase propecia the attraction for using an EV is that electric motors are relatively unaffected by the levitra in uk change in altitude (the course rises 4,721 feet (1,439 meters) over its length of 12.42 miles (19.99 km), whereas combustion engines must deal with the change in air pressure and oxygen as they climb higher.

A strict environmentalist perspective might look at any form of motorsport and see it as unnecessary excess. But racing can be a testing platform to develop and improve EV technology. Racing can also serve to make more people aware of electric vehicles and bring them further into mainstream awareness.



MAR 30

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The Sounds of Electric Vehicles
Written by Philip Proefrock on 30/03/12   

For some, electric vehicles are too quiet, and consideration is already being given to requiring EVs to be more audible. Eventually, the outcome from the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act of 2010 is likely to require that electric vehicles make some sound, at least at low speeds, to help provide an auditory signal to pedestrians, cyclists, and others in order to improve safety. Even sighted people rely on audible cues to know that a vehicle is nearby.

In my recent test drive of levitra alternative the forthcoming Volkswagen E-Golf, I immediately noticed that this car makes noise. The purr made by the E-Golf is a variable tone (that sounds like a "young Wookiee" according to Autoblog Green). It is characteristic and cheap cialis generic levitra viagra distinctive, and seems to relate to engines and motors while not being a usual engine sound.

I had this car roll up behind me as another test driver came back from their loop in the car, and I would likely not have been aware of the car's presence without the sound. In general, I think it is effective, and not annoying or intrusive. It communicates its presence and it changes with the speed of viagra buyviagra onlin the vehicle, which is something that happens naturally with a conventional engine, as well.

But, when driving this car, I found my perception of the sound was as something external, rather than part of the car I was driving. At one point, as I was about to pull out onto the road, I heard the sound increase, and I momentarily hesitated, because the sound seemed to be from outside, as though another vehicle was coming, rather than the levitra on women sound seeming to be related to teh car I was driving. Almost immediately, I realized what it was, and that the road was clear, and I continued on. But the sound was behaving differently enough that it gave me that brief pause.

This was only an intial impression, and I only spent 10 minutes or so in the car. Very likely, a regular driver of one of these cars will become accustomed to the sound and how it relates to the car. I don't think I would have any problem acclimating to it if I was driving this car regularly. But to me, it is indicative that the development of sound for EVs may have subtleties that will need to be worked out in order to find the right way to provide sound cues from electric cars.

[Ed. Note: Volkswagen paid for the travel and lodging for my trip to SF where I gathered some of the information for this story.]

image credit: Volkswagen


MAR 29

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Test Drive of the VW Electric Golf
Written by Philip Proefrock on 29/03/12   

While on the west coast for the Volkswagen press tour, I had the chance to drive the company's new electric Golf. The E-Golf is scheduled to be available as part of the 2014 Volkswagen line. At present, there is a pilot fleet of about 20 of these cars that are being driven by VW employees as part of a study examining things such as usage and vehicle charging before the the best site soft levitra vehicle is ready for general release. The test fleet, including the vehicle that I drove, was built using the 6th generation Golf body, but the production version will use the 7th generation Golf as vehicle platform.

My test drive of the E-Golf was only a couple of miles, since there were a couple dozen journalists who wanted to have a chance for a drive, so it needed to be constrained, but I still got a taste of driving this car similar to many of the other EVs I've driven. I've had the opportunity to drive a number of electric vehicles, though many of those experiences have been on the small, indoor driving track that has been available at the NAIAS in Detroit, and I've been a passenger in a few other demonstration EVs that weren't available for general driving.

The E-Golf has an interesting regenerative braking system that is more interactive - and more like driving a car with a manual transmission - than usual with other EVs I've encountered, which tend to behave like a car with an automatic transmission. When coasting, the E-Golf will begin to regeneratively recharge the batteries. However, the driver can use a pair of paddle switches on the steering wheel to increase the level of regenerative braking the car provides, recapturing progressively more energy back to the batteries and slowing the car more quickly with each step. This would take some getting used to before one became proficient with it, but it brings back a level of engagement to the driving experience that most EVs don't have.

The E-Golf has a 26.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and purchase viagra from canada an estimated range of purchase discount cialis online 93 miles. For the test fleet, VW is also providing an iPhone with special app to enable the owner to "check the battery’s charging status, regulate the car’s internal temperature, gauge how much charging time is left, or even remotely start the charging procedure."

More about the sound made by the E-Golf will be coming shortly.

[Ed. Note: Volkswagen paid for the travel and lodging for my trip to SF where I gathered some of the information for this story.]

image credits: EcoGeek


MAR 29

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New Technique for Low-Velocity Wind Turbines
Written by Philip Proefrock on 29/03/12   

One of the biggest problems with typical horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWT - pinwheel-type turbines) is that they are not very efficient at low wind speeds. This is usually dealt with by surveying sites and finding locations where wind speeds tend to be higher, so that the turbines will be more effective once they are built, but these locations are often in remote locations, far from where the power is needed.

Wind turbines that use ducts to direct the wind for greater efficiency are not an entirely new idea, but the developers of the Winga have a new approach that could make this a useful configuration for new wind turbines.

By using wings to shroud both the inlet and the outlet to the turbine, it is possible for the turbine to generate power with lower wind speeds. The Winga turbine could be located closer to the ground, so that it would be less visually obtrusive, and also makes maintenance easier to carry out. The Winga can also be configured so that it could be lowered to the ground in the event of excessive winds that had the potential to cause damage.

The Winga has a cut-in speed (where the turbine first begins to generate power) of just 2 meters per second (about 4.5 mph) wind speed and reaches full power at a wind speed of 4 meters per second (about 9 mph). A typical HAWT has a cut-in speed of 4 meters per second, and doesn't reach full power until the winds reach 10 meters per second (about 22 mph).

The compact configuration of this turbine also allows it to use an annular rotor instead of the more conventional central-axis blades, which concentrates the blade area at the edges, where the greatest amount of torque is developed. The Winga has a tower height of 35 meters (about 115 feet), and measures 36.5 meters (120 feet) in length, with a scoop opening measuring 9 meters by 12 meters (30 feet by 40 feet). All of the moving parts are contained within the enclosure, so it would not have the look there get cialis in canada dynamic, moving appearance that some find bothersome with conventional turbines.

The lower height of the Winga could be a disadvantage in some respects, since faster, more consistent winds are found at higher elevations above the ground. But the ability to produce power at a lower wind speed, and the likelihood that it can produce power more consistently, could overcome that disadvantage. Steering the large scoop into the wind when the winds are swirling and less steadily coming from a single direction might also be difficult and could also lead to inefficiencies. But the possibilities offered by the Winga are interesting, and further development could be worth watching.

link: Winga E-Generator

HatTip to: @johnrobb


MAR 29

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Test Driving Some 2012 Volkswagens
Written by Philip Proefrock on 29/03/12   

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a press information and driving event held by Volkswagen in California, near their Electronics Research Laboratory in Belmont. As noted with many other manufacturers at this year's NAIAS, the connected car is something that Volkswagen is also deeply involved in, and their decision to locate this facility in Silicon Valley is deliberately intended to support that aspect of their business.

At present, Volkswagen has several vehicles of particular interest. Among the vehicles I drove were the Touareg Hybrid, the Jetta Sportwagen TDI, and the E-Golf. (I'll have more coverage of the E-Golf in another article.) The Touareg is a 5-seat SUV with a parallel hybrid drivetrain (one electric motor with compact disengagement clutch mounted between V6 engine and generic viagra online paypal transmission: 47 hp electric motor and 3.0 liter V6) with permanent all-wheel drive. It carries 174 pounds of nickel/metal hydride batteries, but this is a mild hybrid that mostly uses the electric motor to assist the conventional engine. The Touareg Hybrid gets mileage of 20 MPG city/24 MPG highway (as compared to 16 MPG city/23 MPG highway for the 3.6 liter conventional gas engine). That puts it in the middle of cialis canada 5mg the pack among hybrid SUVs.

If cargo capacity were the reason to buy an SUV, you'd actually do beter with the Jetta Sportwagen TDI. Nearly 2,000 pounds lighter than the Touareg, the Sportwagen also seats five, but it has 2.9 more cubic feet of storage space with the rear seats down (66.9 cubic feet for Sportwagen versus 64 cubic feet for Touareg). The diesel Sportwagen gets almost double the mileage of the Touareg, as well, with 29 MPG city/39 MPG highway for the automatic transmission version (and as compared to the 24 MPG city/31 MPG highway for the 2.5 liter gasoline engine version). Manual transmissions are available for both models of Sportwagen.

As noted earlier, over 20% of Volkswagens sold in the US are diesels. Volkswagen officials indicated that smaller 1.8 liter and 1.4 liter diesel engines are forthcoming for more fuel-efficient vehicles in upcoming model years. Diesels also provide a 20% reduction in carbon emissions as compared to gasoline engines.

Volkswagen doesn't typically have the highest numbers compared with its competitors in terms of fuel efficiency, which may be why we don't find ourselves talking about them as often as we do with some other automakers. But the comapny has a corporate-wide commitment to reducing the environmental impacts of their business with their "Think Blue" strategy (choosing blue - as with the entire planet seen from space - rather than green to represent their breadth of vision). This includes long-term goals such as a 40% reduction in greenhouse gasses from production plants by 2020 and a fleet CO2 emissions target of below 120 grams per kilometer. The company also recently completed construction of the only LEED Platinum Certified automotive factory in the country with their new manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

[Ed. Note: Volkswagen paid for the travel and lodging for my trip to SF where I gathered some of the information for this story.]

image credit: EcoGeek (pictured: L: Touareg, R: Jetta Sportwagen)


MAR 28

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EPA Sets New Carbon Emissions Limits
Written by Philip Proefrock on 28/03/12   

The US Environmental Protection Agency has released its Clean Air Act standard for carbon emission from new power plants. Under the proposed EPA rule, any new fossil-fuel-fired power plants (whether fueled by coal or natural gas or any other fossil fuel) would have to meet an "output-based standard of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour (lb CO2/MWh gross)." (EPA Fact Sheet PDF) EPA believes that over 95% of existing gas-fired plants would meet this standard, but that coal-fired plants would need to incorporate carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology in order to meet the limit.

The proposed rule does not apply to existing plants or to plants currently under construction. Nor does it ban new coal power plants from being built (although others have remarked that this marks the beginning of the end of electricit from coal). But new coal plants will have to meet standard with additional equipment that is still costly to install and to operate. This makes it increasingly likely that new power plants will utilize fuels other than coal.

According to the EPA statement, "The proposed standard, which only applies to power plants built in the future, is flexible and would help minimize carbon pollution through the buy cheap online viagra deployment of the same types of modern technologies and steps that power companies are already taking to build the next generation of power plants. EPA’s proposal is in line with these investments and generic viagra online pharmacy will ensure that this progress toward a cleaner, safer and more modern power sector continues." If 'Clean Coal' is as viable as its lobby would like us to believe, there shoud be no problems with this.

image: CC BY 3.0 by Davidshay1

link: EPA News Release


MAR 27

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US Army Abandoning LEED Certification
Written by Philip Proefrock on 27/03/12   

While the headline may sound dire, it's not an indication that the US Army is giving up on green building. Instead, the Army has announced it will use a new construction code of we recommend generic levitra effective its own which is based on the ASHRAE 189.1 standard for new buildings and renovations, rather than continue to use LEED or the High Perfromance Sustainable Buildings standards. This new standard will "govern all new construction, major renovations and leased space acquisition." The Army had already adopted ASHRAE 189.1 late in 2010.

Some of the impetus for this change is political. In 2011, Congress acted to prevent any Department of Defense project from achieving LEED gold or platinum certification as part of that year's Defense Reauthorization bill.

Moreover, LEED is fundamentally a marketing program that recognizes buildings built to a particular high standard of performance. At its core, the Army is more concerned about having better buildings that it can operate more efficiently. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Dorothy Robyn stated that, "With more than 300,000 buildings and 2.2 billion square feet of building space, DoD has a footprint three times that of Wal-Mart and six times that of GSA. Our corresponding energy bill is $4 billion annually." The Defense Department recognizes the importance of green buildings for its overall operational effectiveness.

The armed forces have been one of the biggest early adopters of LEED, and if all of click here canada cialis no prescription the services are going to move away from using LEED as their standard for improved performance, that is likely to have a strong effect on USGBC, GBCI, and the LEED program as a whole. "The repercussions of this announcement will be widespread," notes Green Building Law Update. "For federal contractors, this is a game changer. The LEED AP credential will be less valuable. Past performance highlighting LEED certification will be less valuable, if not totally irrelevant."

ASHRAE 189.1 is not some lesser standard. It was develeoped by ASHRAE (the professional organization of mechanical engineers), US Green Building Council, and IESNA (the professional organization of lighting engineers), as well as the International Code Council. Moreover, the Army's action is not unprecedented. The International Code Council has also developed the International Green Construction Code (IGCC) which incorporates the ANSI/ASHRAE/USGBC/IES Standard 189.1 as a "jurisdictional compliance option." Increasingly, building codes are going to directly incorporate green measures instead of relying on third-party standards that are merely optional.

Ultimately, this may push LEED in new directions. LEED was meant to push the envelope and to transform the marketplace. In that respect, it has accomplished much of that initial goal. As the industry has moved to embrace LEED, perhaps in the coming years, LEED will again push for even greater improvements in building technology and again make LEED an indication of a truly elite building.

via: Green Building Law Update


MAR 26

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Sharing Smart Meter Data
Written by Philip Proefrock on 26/03/12   

I have a new smart meter on my house, and I'm far from the only one. The number of smart meters installed across the country is growing quickly. Smart meters are digital, rather than analog, equipment to measure the amount of electricity each customer uses. However, smart meters are able to collect more data than just the electricity that has been used, they can also track the amount of electricity used as well as when it was used. Smart meters also are often equipped with wireless two-way communication for easier meter reading, among other uses.

The White House recently announced an agreement with nine "major electricity suppliers" under which consumers will be able to get access to data about their own energy use. In addition to getting the information themselves, this would allow consumers to use third-party applications to track their energy use and indian pharmacy viagra "empower consumers to make wiser energy decisions." Congressional representative Ed Markey plans to introduce legislation that would require this information to be available to all consumers.

image: EcoGeek

via: Rep. Markey Press Release


MAR 26

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Volkswagen Pursuing Diesel Research
Written by Philip Proefrock on 26/03/12   

Volkswagen has announced partnerships with two manufacturers of biodiesel fuel as part of their ongoing work in developing diesel automobiles. The two companies are each receiving two VW diesel automobiles: a Passat TDI and a Jetta TDI, and they will each study how their fuels perform in these vehicles. The two companies, Amyris and Solazyme, will share the buy cheap generic viagra results of their research with VW over the 12-month period to help VW to "develop more efficient, cleaner burning diesel powertrains for future products."

Both companies are making biodiesel fuel with renewable materials as feedstock, instead of using petroleum. But the two companies are using different approaches to making fuel. Amyris uses a fermentation process to produce fuels from plant-sourced sugar feedstock. Solazyme uses an algae-based process, which also requires plant sugar feedstock, to produce its fuel. We've had both of these companies on our radar for the past few years, and they are both survivors in a startup industry that has seen a number of other players fall by the wayside.

Volkswagen is already a significant presence in the diesel portion of the passenger fleet in the United States. Although VW represents only about 2.5% of the US market, over 20% of that is with diesel automobiles.

Previously on EcoGeek: Solazyme, Amyris

[Ed. Note: Volkswagen paid for the travel and lodging for my trip to SF where I gathered some of the information for this story.]


MAR 21

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Wave-Powered Ocean Robots
Written by Philip Proefrock on 21/03/12   

A group of four autonomous, wave-powered robots has completed a trip from San Francisco to Hawaii and are now continuing on in two pairs, one set to Australia, and the other set to Japan.  They are seeking to carry out the PacX Challenge in which they are trying to set the record for the longest ocean voyage by an unmanned ocean vessel and to demonstrte the abilities of these robots.

The Wave Gliders are built with a two-part construction, with a floating part, which also contains solar panels to operate on-board data collecting equipment and communications equipment, and a glider part, which is connected to the float with a cable and which is used to provide propulsion for the vehicle. The float measures 208 x 60 cm (about 82 x 24 inches) and the glider is 40 x 191 cm (about 16 x 75 in). The two are connected with a 7 meter (about 23 feet) cable. The robot weighs 90 kg (about 200 pounds).

The robots can be used for station-keeping data collection, as well as for autonomous travel, as the current project demonstrates. The Wave Glider has a speed of 0.4 to 2.0 knots (about 0.45 to 2.3 mph or 0.75 to 3.7 kph), but they are able to operate autonomously for up to 1 year. By being able to be autonomously operated, it is possible to do data collection at a remote ocean location without needing to use fuel and human effort to take a buoy to the location to deploy it and order cialis lowest price to keep it resupplied.


MAR 16

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Making Solar Panels with an Ion Cannon
Written by Philip Proefrock on 16/03/12   

Twin Creeks Technologies has announced a new method to make less expensive solar cells. While we see many new ways of making cheap solar panels, most of these methods focus on producing panels with alternative materials rather than silicon. But the method developed by Twin Creeks produces ultra-thin pieces of crystalline silicon by using an ion cannon dubbed Hyperion.

There are a number of different materials that are used for solar cells, but crystalline silicon is the material that has been used for cells with the highest efficiency. Unfortunately, it also has a very high cost. Much of the thickness of the silicon cell does not contribute to making electricity. Thinner cells would work as well, and use less material, but they have been too hard to produce until now, because crystalline silicon is a fragile and brittle material.

The Hyperion ion cannon bombards discs of silicon with hydrogen ions with a very precisely controlled charge. These accumulate in a layer 20 micrometers below the surface. After bombardment, the discs are transported to a furnace where the ions expand into hydrogen gas and shear off a fine layer of crystalline silicon called a lamina, which is ten times thinner than conventionally produced silicon (20 micrometers versus 200 micrometers). These pieces can be mounted on a metal backing which supports the how to buy levitra in canada silicon and allows it to flex without breaking. This method also eliminates the waste of silicon which is ordinarily lost from conventional sawing.

The company claims an ability to create silicon solar cells for under 40 cents per watt (half the price of conventional methods), and says that one of its Hyperion systems has the capacity to produce 1.5 million wafers - enough for 6 megawatts of solar cells - per year.


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