Archive for August 22nd, 2009

How Long Will Tomorrow’s Automotive Lithium Batteries Last?
a123 systems battery pack photo
Automotive lithium battery pack by A123 Systems.

Regardless of electric vehicle maker’s claims and warranties for lithium battery longevity, consumer doubts will linger, shaped by the many preceding year’s worth of computer and cell phone battery disappointments. (Example: ever notice that the cell phone battery replacement always costs more than a new phone, and is needed just about the time a new phone design comes out?)

I’ve been looking for third party tests of the newest commercial automotive batteries, or next-gen prototypes. C… Read the full story on TreeHugger
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Friendly competitor LS9 congratulates Amyris on $25M raise
Both Khosla-backed biofuel companies are on the verge of closing Series C rounds, focused on aggressive timeframes toward commercialization.

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New World Record in Solar Power Efficiency

A Chinese company set a new world record in solar power efficiency this week. According to the company, Suntech Power Holdings, they achieved a 15.6% conversion efficiency on “a commercial grade multi-crystalline silicon PV module.” This breaks a 15-year-old world record set by US company Sandia National Labs.

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Orders are up as Chinese solar power companies post 2Q09 profits, losses
Chinese solar manufacturers release numbers this week that show many
taking major losses, yet are reporting increases in product shipments.

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My Point Exactly

My Point Exactly
I missed this story when it came out last week:

Hydrocarbon biofuels’ promise tops that of ethanol, gasoline

John Regalbuto, a chemical engineer at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and director of the NSF catalysis and biocatalysis program, wrote in Science that biomass-derived fuels are not far from being part of the energy mix as a replacement for gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.”If recent technological innovations result in competitive production costs, hydrocarbons rather than ethanol will likely be the dominant biofuel,” Regalbuto wrote.

Hydrocarbon fuels can be directly produced from the sugars of woody biomass — forest waste, cornstalks or switchgrass — through microbial fermentation or liquid-phase catalysis, he wrote. They can be produced by pyrolysis or gasification directly from the woody biomass. And they can be produced by converting the lipids of nonfood crops and algae.

And the money quote, which has been my argument all along:

“I’m not a lobbyist but a scientist, but if I were, I would argue for a subsidy for all biofuels and not just ethanol,” he said in an e-mail. “It’s too early to tell which route — pyrolysis, aqueous phase processing, gasification or synthetic biology — will win out; we may well have versions of all four contributing to the mix. I would simply say that lignocellulosic hydrocarbons appear to give far more promise than cellulosic ethanol.”

Without any subsidies at all, fossil fuels would kill pretty much all biofuels except for sugarcane ethanol from the tropics. If you subsidize all biofuels equally, corn ethanol can compete as a 1st generation fuel, but gasification or pyrolysis will win out over cellulosic ethanol. The energy efficiency of cellulosic ethanol relative to gasification is far too low for it to compete in the long run. I am not naive enough to think that corn ethanol is going away – it has too much support in Congress. But the 2nd generation will only see cellulosic in niche applications. Gasification is where I am placing my bet.

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Brown bag lunches on climate change

Brown bag lunches on climate change

From Clean Wisconsin:

Senate and Assembly leaders are currently drafting clean energy legislation based on the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommendations.

Bring your lunch to this series of policy briefings that will provide overviews of those policies and allow legislators and staff to have their questions answered by some of the state’s leading experts on these topics.

August 26: Energy Efficiency, 12-1 pm Capitol – 400 SE
The Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommends that Wisconsin reduce its electricity use by 2% per year. Energy efficiency experts will discuss how that goal and other Task Force policy recommendations can be achieved in Wisconsin.

Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin
Susan Stratton, Executive Director, Energy Center of Wisconsin
Clay Nesler, VP, Building Efficiency, Global Energy and Sustainability, Johnson Controls

September 2: Renewable Electricity Standard, 12-1 pm Capitol – 425 SW
Current Wisconsin law requires utilities to produce 10% of their energy from renewable resources, and the Governor’s Global Warming Task Force recommended an increase to 25% by 2025. Renewable energy business, utilities and environmentalists will discuss the importance of this higher standard for Wisconsin.

Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin
Kristine Krause, Vice President – Environmental, WE Energies
Curt Bjurlin, EcoEnergy LLC, Project Developer

September 30: Midwestern Governors Assoc., Greenhouse Gas Accord, 12-1 pm Capitol – 425 SW
At the direction of six Midwestern Governors, a roadmap was developed for a Midwest cap and trade program to regulate greenhouse gas emissions throughout the region. Members of this MGA process will discuss the recommendation process and what it would mean for Wisconsin.

Keith Reopelle, Senior Policy Director, Clean Wisconsin
Roy Thilly, CEO, Wisconsin Public Power Inc.

October 14: Low Carbon Fuel Standard 12-1 pm Capitol – 425 SW
A Low Carbon Fuel Standard ensures that oil and fuel distributors begin switching to the cleanest, most efficient fuel sources including biofuels and renewable electricity. Discussions will focus on the impacts of an LCFS on Wisconsin.

Peter Taglia, Staff Scientist, Clean Wisconsin
Mary Blanchard, Director of Marketing, Virent Energy Systems
Gary Radloff, Director of Policy and Strategic Communications, DATCP

Speakers are subject to change. For more information, please contact Keith Reopelle at (608) 251-7020, ext. 11 or

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An Electric Unicycle that Recharges while Rolling Downhill

If you want to cut your carbon footprint, you can ride your bike a little more. If you want to cut it even further (from all that exhaling while pedaling), meet the EniCycle. This one-wheeled ride has a range of just under 19 miles on a charge. But it recharges when you ride it downhill (if you dare).

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Greenbird Breaks Wind-Powered Car Land Speed Record

The Greenbird broke the wind powered vehicle land speed record clocking in at 126.4 mph

Tested on the California/Nevada border, the Ecotricity Greenbird broke the land speed record for wind-powered vehicles.  The Greenbird clocked in at a top speed of 126.4 mph and maintained a speed of 126.2 mph for three seconds.  The previous record was 116mph.

The Greenbird is a collaboration between Ecotricity and engineer Richard Jenkins.  Ecotricity is an independent green electricity company based in the UK founded and owned by entrepreneur Dale
Vince.  Jenkins is the founder of the Windjet project and has a wide range of skills in engineering, design, piloting, and construction experience.  Both sides are innovative, experienced, and have a passion for wind energy as a solution for transportation and utilities.

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BanyanTree takes stake in GEI’s heat transfer tech
Indian company’s air-cooled heat exchangers and steam condensers offer water reduction potential that’s attracting private equity interest.

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Caught in Forged Letter Fraud, Dirty Coal Front Group ACCCE Throws their Astroturf Contractor Under the Bus
An update on the story the just keeps on giving: the unfolding saga of the forged letters fraudulently sent by DC lobby firm Bonner and Associates on behalf of dirty coal interests in a deceitful attempt to kill Congressional clean energy and climate legislation.

In June, employees at Bonner and Associates, on a contract for the dirty coal front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (subcontracted via the Hawthorne Group), sent letters to several Congressional offices fraudulently posing as black, Hispanic, women’s and senior citizen’s groups urging votes against the American Clean Energy and Security Act (the Waxman-Markey bill).

Now, Brad Johnson at the WonkRoom reports:

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is dumping Bonner & Associates, the Astroturf firm that forged letters to Congress attacking clean energy legislation on its behalf. … ACCCE spokesman Joe Lucas told National Journal that his organization “did nothing wrong”:

We will not be working with Mr. Bonner again. ACCCE did nothing wrong. Looking back, there would be many things we would do differently.

In fact, ACCCE covered up the fraud and is now throwing Bonner under the bus. The coal coalition had been informed by the Hawthorn Group, its primary contractor, days before the pivotal House vote on the energy legislation. But ACCCE kept silent, failing to notify lawmakers or the defrauded organizations. ACCCE continues to employ the Hawthorn Group and the notorious voter-fraud company Lincoln Strategy Group.

Makes you wonder, what else is the dirty energy lobby up to…

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Swebo taps Maryland for new U.S. headquarters
Economic development mission accomplished: a top 50 Nordic region cleantech company sets up shop in Annapolis with plans to start manufacturing operations.

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Report: Honda To Debut Electric Car In US By 2015

The Nikkei reports that Honda Motor Co. will introduce battery electric vehicles in the US market in the first half of the next decade. A similar report came from Kyodo News.

Honda will reportedly unveil a prototype of the minicar-sized EV at the Tokyo Motor Show in October.

Of the big Japanese automakers, Toyota and Honda have so far focused on hybrid vehicles. But tougher environmental regulations in the US state of California will likely require major carmakers that sell a certain number of vehicles in that megamarket to increase sales of zero-emission vehicles.

Nissan is concentrating on electric cars, and it plans to introduce them in 2010. Toyota, meanwhile, intends to launch electric cars around 2012. As for Honda, it started selling vehicles powered by fuel cells last summer, a technology that would meet California’s requirement because it does not emit any exhaust. But sales of such cars have been limited by their high prices, prompting Honda to decide to develop electric cars.

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BYD Plans Limited Introduction of e6 EV in US Next Year

BYD Auto, the Chinese automaker part-owned by a Warren Buffett company, plans to introduce a limited number of its e6 electric crossovers in the US next year, according to BYD Chairman Wang Chuanfu in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. BYD had showcased the e6 at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit in January. (Earlier post.)

The e6 at NAIAS in January. Click to enlarge.

Wang said the company will use proceeds from a new share issue to finance the US introduction, as well as for another production line for its lithium iron phosphate batteries in China.

Wang said BYD will select a specific region in the US and target a few hundred e6s at government agencies, utilities and perhaps celebrities. BYD plans a similar entry strategy in Europe in 2011 or later.

Inside the e6. Click to enlarge.

In January at NAIAS, BYD said that it was BYD planning four motor combinations for the e6, which can offer all-wheel drive with front and rear motors: 75 kW; 75 kW + 40 kW; 160 kW; and 160 kW + 40 kW. Electric power consumption will be less than 18 kWh/100km (290 Wh/mile). BYD says that the e6 has a range of more than 400 km (249 miles).

In China, the e6 uses a 220V, 10A charge.

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SK Chemical to Increase Biodiesel Output

Joongang Daily. South Korea’s

SK Chemicals Co. plans to increase its production of biodiesel; its Ulsan plant, which produces biodiesel from palm oil, has tripled its production capacity to 120,000 metric tons a year from 40,000 tons.

SK Chemical also plans to build biodiesel facilities in Europe and the US, according to Hang-duk Roh, a company spokesman and vice president of the new businesses division.

…SK Chemicals has agreed to sell 60,000 tons of biodiesel from the [Ulsan] plant to European commodities trader Trafigura Beheer BV in 2010, with a high possibility of extending the contract after it ends in 2011, said Tom O’Brien, a director at Trafigura, at the signing ceremony in Singapore yesterday.

The biodiesel will be sold in Europe, the world’s biggest market for the fuel. European biodiesel demand was around 10 million tons a year, Roh said.

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