Category Archives: Green Transportation

GREEN: First Look: 2011 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid Concept

GREEN:  First Look: 2011 Porsche 918 Spyder Hybrid Concept

From the March, 2010 issue of Automobile Magazine
By Georg Kacher
Officially it’s only a concept, but there’s no doubt that project XG10 — or the 918 Spyder concept — will pave the way for the next Porsche supercar. And what a supercar it is going to be: in addition to the normally aspirated, high-revving, 3.4-liter V-8 good for more than 495 hp, the striking 918 Spyder has three electric motors onboard that add another 215 hp to the tally. Says Wolfgang Dürheimer, board member in charge of R&D: “This car can lap the Nürburgring faster than the Carrera GT. At the same time, it averages 78 mpg [on the EU driving cycle] when driven gently. Are we going to build it? We will definitely bring some blank sales contracts to the Geneva show, but it’s too early to talk pricing, production volumes, and timing.


“The strategic aim is to demonstrate that even a supercar can be environmentally friendly. XG10 promises total driving pleasure—and a clear conscience. This is a trendsetting and sustainable premium product that uses the issue of social acceptability to its advantage. And it reflects the legacy of Ferry Porsche, who was convinced that sports cars would never go out of fashion.”

XG10 stands for X1, Geneva 2010. X1 is the code name of the 918 Spyder, which is only one version of many. Potential variations include a 918 coupe, an electric 918, and a 918 RS/RSR. This car can be either two- or four-wheel drive, have plug-in electric or gasoline power, come with an open top or a fixed roof, and be either a racer or a street machine. Its genetic evolution dates back to the 1997 Porsche GT1, which was a Le Mans–winning 911 on steroids. That car triggered project LMP 2000 (Porsche’s exciting Le Mans comeback car), which was halted at the eleventh hour by then-chairman Wendelin Wiedeking, who was always more of a numbers man than a car guy.

Thankfully, Wiedeking and his controller, Holger Härter, allowed Dürheimer to pick up the LMP pieces and convert them into the street-legal Carrera GT, which was launched in 2003 and found 1250 takers. In 2006, Porsche moved on to form the basis of the successful RS Spyder. Four years later, we’re witnessing the debut of XG10, which still uses several Carrera GT elements, such as the front suspension and the forward structure. For 2011, insiders are already predicting LMP1, a race version of the 918 Spyder, which would comply with planned hybrid-friendly Le Mans regulations.

“In terms of performance, XG10 will even eclipse the Carrera GT,” promises a beaming Dürheimer. “In terms of fuel consumption, it beats every microcar. It really does combine the best of both worlds. Thanks to the modularity of the engineering concept, hybridization can quickly filter down to the 911 and the Boxster, if required. Better still, all the R&D work was done in-house—and that includes the performance electronics and the electric motors. There was not a single systems supplier involved in the gestation process. As a result, we own all the intellectual property rights.”

The team of fifty specialists was led by Gernot Döllner, a seasoned and multitalented vehicle engineer. We asked him to name the three most critical crossroads of the concept-defining process. “XG10 started off as a conventional hybrid but then switched to the more practical and more advanced plug-in concept. The number of electric motors and where to position them was also an issue. In the end, we decided to integrate the rear motor in the housing of the seven-speed dual-clutch PDK transmission. We are still experimenting with the packaging of the cooling system. The best solution may be a nose-mounted, low-temperature circuit complemented by a pair of mid-mounted, high-temperature radiators. The body style is not yet cast in stone. Although the show car is a Spyder, generating a coupe version would be simple.”

The design of the low-noise, low-emissions crowd-stopper is the work of Hakan Saracoglu, who works for department chief Michael Mauer. Inspired by such legendary Porsche racing cars as the 908 Spyder and the 917 Le Mans coupe, as well as by the current ALMS RS Spyder, the former Mercedes-Benz and Saab designer masterminded the creation of an emphatically modern sports car with a few familiar touches.

“In a way, the 918 is two cars in one,” explains the soft-spoken design director. “Its character can change from mild to wild and vice versa—mild as in wafting along in eco mode, wild as in switching the drive program selector to sport or race. In mild, the car benefits from the relatively low weight and strong aerodynamic performance. In wild, it improves downforce and stability by extending the adjustable wing, and it raises the two ram-air intake scoops to further enhance thermodynamic efficiency. Design-wise, it was our mission to visualize a brand-new, unique, and revolutionary vehicle concept. Big wheels were a must, the stance had to be positively ground-hugging, and an unmistakable front end was imperative, as was a pacesetting mix of classic curvatures and contemporary creases. There is no doubt that the XG10 marks an important evolution of our design language, certain elements of which are bound to appear on future production models.”

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GREEN: First Drive: Audi E-Tron

From the December, 2009 issue of Automobile Magazine
By Georg Kacher
 The three volume German premium brands are about to introduce electric mobility from the top down – in new models like the BMW Vision EfficientDynamics, the electric Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, and the Audi E-tron. We got an early turn in the E-tron, which aims at the niche currently owned by the Tesla Roadster.

Although it shares elements of its aluminum architecture with the R8, the E-tron is smaller, almost as short as an A3. Despite the generous wheelbase (102 inches), the cabin isn’t particularly spacious. The towering battery stack behind the rear firewall takes up even more space than the R8’s V-10 engine, transaxle, and fuel tank combined. Wrapped in liquid-cooled safety foil, the lithium-ion cells provide an energy capacity of 53 kWh, an exact match to the Tesla. To extend battery life, only 80 percent of that capacity is used. The batteries power four electric motors, rated at a total of 313 hp. The whopping maximum torque of 3319 lb-ft needs to be scaled back drastically so that full acceleration doesn’t peel the tread off the tires. “The biggest challenge is of course to synchronize the four motors,” says Thomas Kräuter, technical project leader for concept cars. “Since each wheel can be accelerated and decelerated individually, this is no mean feat.”

Time to put the electric showpiece to the test. Getting in is a challenge not only because of the concealed door handles but also due to the narrow door aperture and the restricted adjustment of the space-age bucket seat. The airy cockpit has a jet-fighter touch, with hard-to-decipher LED monitors instead of rearview mirrors; a dished, flat-bottom steering wheel; and various iPhone-style touch pads instead of push buttons. Hit the start button, and the gear lever rises from its flush sleeping position like the head of an angry cobra. I select D, but nothing happens. To save energy, the E-tron doesn’t crawl, so you don’t have to hold the car with the brake. At the first stab of the accelerator, the Audi takes off like a noiseless red arrow, but the quoted 0-to-62-mph time of 4.8 seconds is at this stage strictly theoretical, since the concept car weighs some 1300 pounds more than the target, and it’s muzzled by a speed limiter. In finished form, the E-tron will accelerate with no holds barred from 0 to 85 mph, at which point the system starts to ease off because of the rapidly increasing aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance. The top speed will be capped at 125 mph.

Driving an electric vehicle, you gaze at alien instruments, such as the neon-green power-reserve meter and the equally prominent range indicator. You hear unfamiliar sounds, like the gushing coolant flow that keeps the batteries healthy, the distant hum of the heat pump that also serves as the air-conditioning, the subdued whine of the regenerative brakes, and the much more intense mix of wind and road noise. What one doesn’t notice at relatively low speeds are the E-tron’s 70 percent rear-biased torque split, its 42/58 percent front/rear weight distribution, the torque vectoring that combats excessive understeer and oversteer, or the qualities of the suspension, which uses control arms in the front and rear. The carbon-ceramic disc brakes are squeezed by hydraulically operated calipers up front; the rear ones are electrically activated. The advantages of this arrangement are lower friction losses, lighter weight, and more efficient energy regeneration.

Feather-footed drivers can hope for a range of 155 miles between charges, but if you storm up a mountain flat-out, the low-power warning light will likely come on after only sixty miles. At the conclusion of our two hours of driving and maneuvering, the charge meter still read 40 percent full. With a 220-volt household current, a recharge can take up to eight hours. Tapping a 400-volt network drops that down to two and a half hours.

The E-tron will be built alongside the R8 and the Lamborghini Gallardo starting in 2011. The first year, Audi plans to build 100 units, most of which will be leased to customers. For 2012, the goal is 1000 vehicles for lease and sale. Of course, there are still many questions, typical of electric cars. How will the batteries cope with extreme temperatures, dust, and moisture? What effect will the number, sequence, and duration of charge cycles have? How do owners access and replace subpar batteries? How often will software updates be required? Will enough customers be willing to fork out at least $200,000 for what in essence is an experimental vehicle?

“The age of electric mobility has only just begun,” says Kräuter. “Audi wants to be a force to be reckoned with in this segment. Of course, there will be setbacks. But setbacks have always been part of the pioneer’s fate.”

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NASA’s Puffin: The Personal Electric Air Vehicle

Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer, is the person who dreamed about the Puffin. Puffin is a single seated electric powered airplane. Moore conceptualized the idea of electric aircraft for his doctoral degree. Operating it from your house is as simple as taking out your car from the garage. You can launch this aircraft from your own home because of vertical take-off and landing. Mark Moore is trying to combine the best feature of a plane and a helicopter into a hybrid known as the Puffin. The Puffin is not some abstract reality that is not going to take a concrete shape.

Moore is an expert in small aircraft flying system. He is working with NASA, MIT and the National Institute of Aerospace to turn Puffin into a reality. This electric aircraft would be 12-foot (3.7 m) long, and have a 14.5-foot (4.4 m) of wingspan. Puffin is already a hit in the Internet community. Moore himself tells the whole story, “The animation of the Puffin on YouTube has gotten more 648,000 hits in a week. Until the concept was mentioned in the media Jan. 19, the video had only been clicked on a couple of thousand times since it was uploaded to the NASAPAV channel last November.” The animation was created by Analytical Mechanics Associates graphic designers.

Another characteristic of the Puffin is it can take pilot up to 50 miles at a cruising speed of 150 mph. It’s also lightweight, totaling up to just 181kg when fully loaded with the batteries. But its greatest advantage without doubt is the zero carbon emission. The design would be powered by a total of 60 horsepower through electric motors, which are designed to be able to fail any two powertrain components on either side and still produce the required power to hover. It has a cruising speed of 150 mph (241 kph), but cruises more efficiently at lower speeds The range with current battery technology would be about 50 miles (80 km).

Moore draws the analogy between actual puffin bird and his own puffin. Puffin’s wings also look quite small for flying. Moore’s creation aircraft would also have small wings. He states another similarity between his bird and nature’s bird, “But it’s also apparently called the most environmentally friendly bird, because it hides its poop. So the vehicle is environmentally friendly because it essentially has no emissions. Also, puffins tend to live in solitude, only ever coming together on land to mate, and ours is a one-person vehicle.”

Puffin would be a hybrid of helicopter and small aircraft. Like a helicopter it would stand upright on the ground. Its tail consists of 4 legs that act as landing gear. It lifts off like a helicopter. When it hovers and leans forward to fly horizontally it gives the appearance of a hang-glider. Next step of the NIA will be to fly a remote control one-third size model. This experiment will enable them to validate theorems made in academic studies, with the particular emphasis on exploring the transition from hover to forward flight.

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Aliz Eco-Luxury Yacht Proudly Goes Green

With eco-friendly superyachts increasingly marking their presence, it reflects the growing environmental consciousness of today’s sailors. So, to assist the sailing society to comply with green initiatives, designer Heather Witkop has come up with the Aliz yacht with solar panels installed to harness solar energy for its energy needs. This 145-foot luxury yacht features a master suite with 180 degrees of view, an outdoor lounge, wet bar and grill area along with the lounge/dining area on the main deck featuring a waterfall. Creating an overall connection with eco consciousness, the Aliz features a hydraulic elevator surrounded by a garden that changes from deck to deck, bringing a sense of life to the living spaces. Finally to keep the connection real, Aliz has a river flowing through on the upper deck along with the bar and lounge to keep the guests in groove. With its maximum cruising speed of 25 knots, Aliz can accommodate 12 guests proudly going green and sailing blue.

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Shades of Green: Why Not All Hybrids Are Eco-Wonderful

Shades of Green: Why Not All Hybrids Are Eco-Wonderful
By Jim Motavalli | Apr 14, 2010

As he strode around the New York International Auto Show, Jim Kliesch of the Union of Concerned Scientists singled out the 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco as the “car of the show.” Why? The unassuming Eco manages to extract 41 mpg from a conventional, non-hybrid drivetrain. The secret: lighter components and a good aerodynamic profile.

Kliesch’s larger point was that cars don’t have to be hybrids to be green. And in fact, the UCS points out an interesting corollary: Not all hybrids are particularly green.

On its recently launched Hybrid Scorecard, the UCS charges that the BMW ActiveHybrid X6 “squanders” its hybrid drivetrain. “We’re glad BMW came out with a hybrid, but the ActiveHybrid X6 just boosts the power of the already sizeable V-8 engine and reduces greenhouse gas emissions only 17 percent from the standard X6,” says Don Anair, a senior vehicles analyst at UCS. “The BMW doesn’t make any gains in reducing smog-forming emissions, either.”

Conversely, the UCS praises the Mercedes-Benz S400 Hybrid. Like the BMW in that it’s the company’s first gas-electric model, the hybrid system in the S400 essentially compensates for the bigger car’s added weight, Anair said, with the result that it ties the smaller E350 in fuel economy.

Rating hybrid cars is a useful exercise, because the public is inclined to automatically give hybrids an environmental pass. But they’re not all created equal.

The UCS Hybrid Scorecard rates more than 30 hybrids, made by Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Its top performer is, not surprisingly, the Toyota Prius, which gets a 9.8 out 10 for its fuel economy and its ability to reduce both smog emissions and greenhouse gases (44 percent less of the latter than the comparison vehicle, the Toyota Matrix).

Tied for second are the Honda Civic Hybrid and the nearly identical Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids (all with 7.8 scores). The BMW X6 gets a low score of 4.4, and the Mercedes S400 does only slightly better with a 5.5. The lowest rated are both discontinued GM vehicles.

The Lexus RX is billed as “the world’s only luxury crossover hybrid,” and a number of current hybrids (especially from Lexus) play up their high-end aspirations. But UCS is leery of luxury hybrids, saying they are larded down with extras that drive up costs.

“Hybrids don’t have to be luxury vehicles,” said Anair. “They should be within the reach of all Americans. Car buyers shouldn’t be forced to buy high-end bells and whistles when fuel economy and reducing emissions are their top priority.”

The UCS guide rates each vehicle on its provision of what it calls “forced features” and reports that even mid-market cars fall into this trap: The Honda Civic Hybrid has more than $3,000 worth and the Ford Fusion Hybrid nearly $4,000. The worst forced offender, the environmental group said, is the Lexus LS 600h L, which comes with $17,000 of such add-ons compared to the conventional LS 460L. The BMW ActiveHybrid’s $10,000 in forced features include a deluxe sound system.

To be fair, BMW has some stellar eco-cars in the works, including from its project i a battery electric designed for the world’s “mega-cities” (with populations over 10 million). It won’t be a luxury hybrid, and don’t expect much of a sound system.

Photo: amenish.dewatermere
.Tags: Car, Hybrid, BMW AG, UCS, BMW X6, Lexus RX, BMW ActiveHybrid, Automotive, Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli is the author of Forward Drive: The Race to Build Clean Cars for the Future, among other books. He has been covering the environmental side of the auto industry for more than a decade, and writes regularly on those topics for the New York Times.

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The Need for Solar Powered Boats

As We See The Price Tag On Oil Just About To Escalate, Are Photovoltaic Powered Ships The Solution?

Apr 7th, 2010

Photovoltaic driven boats will be a significant part of the foreseeable future; unquestionably they are going to take over a substantial part of the leisure marining business on inland waterways but it is very difficult to see it halting there.

Currently an incredible around the world craft called “Planet Solar” has been created and definitely will make the voyage at some point this year. This comes after a catamaran which has previously crossed the Atlantic in a mere 3 weeks called Sun 21.

Currently in action are solar driven ferries several have lately been commissioned to be used in Hong Kong and they declare that there’s a saving of 50% in overall carbon emissions, the actual ferries run on solar energy throughout the day with an all-round efficiency saving of 75%.

The benefits pertaining to shipping is huge, perhaps combined together with computer governed kite technologies that is presently being used regarding oil tankers and also container ships salvaging fortunes in energy expenses.

With all the most recent developments in solar panel technology it is easy to have photo voltaic cells almost anywhere, they also do not need direct sunlight to work effectively, consequently they are able to remain static and continue to supply electric power. Battery power technologies have additionally improved along with lithium battery packs supplying electricity for longer with more effectiveness.

Due to 13% of world-wide carbon pollutants made by shipping it’s quite possible that govt policy will increase this alteration while they search for methods to decrease carbon footprints. CEO Robert Dane states the brand new hybrid ferries can save ferry organizations millions in fuel expenses whilst also providing an equal or even superior product for the same price. If governing bodies all over the world start to deliver regulations and tax breaks to these businesses to look at the environmental option after that we may see a sharp rise in Electric powered ferries within the next decade.

Andreas Stubbs discusses solar powered boats for extra info stop by the electric powered boat motor website.

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Will Plug-in Vehicles Be Obsolete Before They’re Profitable?

Will Plug-in Vehicles Be Obsolete Before They’re Profitable?
John Petersen

Last week I did a 40-minute interview for Hedge Fund Radio, a weekly investment program hosted by John Thomas, the Mad Hedge Fund Trader. While our conversation focused on the unassailable mathematics supporting my contention that plug-in vehicles are wasteful, I was fascinated by John’s description of his recent conversations with Toyota Motors (TM) where Toyota confirmed its commitment to NiMH battery technology for hybrid drive and fuel cell technology for electric drive. Its somehow comforting to know that the world’s most successful automaker agrees that the first modern plug-in, GM’s EV1, died from congenital birth defects and the same flaws will almost certainly doom the next generation of cars with plugs.

The best part of the interview was that it gave me a chance to clarify and crystallize my thinking on the basic problem of using batteries to replace the fuel tank for an average American who drives 12,000 miles per year and would normally buy a fuel-efficient car with an internal combustion engine. The quick and dirty summary is:

•In a conventional fuel efficient car, a typical user will burn 400 gallons of gas per year;

•In a $22,500 Toyota Prius, a 1.3 kWh battery pack will save 160 gallons of gas per year, or 123 gallons per kWh;
•In a $40,000 GM Volt, a 16 kWh battery pack will save 340 gallons of gas per year, or 21 gallons per kWh;
•In a $44,000 Nissan Leaf, a 24 kWh battery pack will save 400 gallons of gas per year, or 17 gallons per kWh; and
•In a $110,000 Tesla Roadster, a 53 kWh battery pack will save 400 gallons of gas per year, or 7.5 gallons per kWh.
Economists would call that a rather shocking example of the law of diminishing returns.

The fundamental problem is that we live on a resource constrained planet and it is the epitome of foolishness to believe that wasting one class of natural resources (battery materials) in the name of conserving another (oil and gas) can ever make sense. It all comes back to the premise that sensible industrial policy will rely on currently available technology to harvest the low-hanging fruit and slash fuel consumption with HEV and stop-start systems while emerging technologies like fuel cells that are better suited to high-hanging fruit evolve and mature. In other words, we need to take baby steps.

I’m often accused of being a Luddite for my cynicism over the electric-drive dream. The truth is I’m an incurable optimist who sees no limits to human ingenuity and creativity. I’ve lived through one of the most transformative periods in history and know that the rate of technological change is accelerating. Therefore, I don’t even question the idea that humanity is likely to see twice as much technological change in the next twenty years as it did in the 20th century. Most of us baby boomers bought 45 RPM vinyl, reel-to-reel tape, 8-track tape, cassette tape, digital audiotape, compact disks and MP3 files. In their respective eras, which were usually short-lived, each of these innovations was the latest and greatest thing until something better changed the game. Given the change I’ve lived through, I have a hard time putting much faith in anyone who believes 10 to 25 year forecasts are possible, much less reliable. There is simply no way to predict what the disruptive changes will be or when they will occur. After all, if changes were predictable, they wouldn’t be disruptive.

Lithium-ion battery developers like A123 Systems (AONE) and Ener1 (HEV) are charging forward with their plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new manufacturing plants that will make batteries for electric cars. While the timing of its IPO isn’t clear, Tesla Motors just filed an amendment to its SEC registration statement and will probably make a big splash sometime this spring. When you cut through the fog, however, all of the business models foresee nothing but losses for years to come. The factories won’t be built till 2012. Once the factories are built, it will take a couple years to work out the manufacturing glitches and bring and quality control up a level that’s competitive with the Japanese and Koreans. Once the quality’s in place and the products are dependable, it will take additional time, perhaps a long time, to convince a meaningful number of consumers that electric vehicles, which promise cheap fuel from the grid but cost $3,500 per gallon of gas equivalent in ‘fuel tank’ capacity, make economic sense. I hope someone packs a lunch.

If battery-powered vehicles offered a decent natural resource balance, the promised “economies of scale” were assured and there were no potentially disruptive technologies on the horizon, I might have a different view about the long-term potential of plug-ins. My experience, however, tells me that something better will almost certainly arrive on the scene before the current A-list of electric-drive supermodels turns the corner to profitability.

Products that become obsolete before their manufacturers become profitable are never kind to investors.

Currently the market is valuing battery companies that won’t be profitable for years at nosebleed levels while it values the first clear beneficiaries of the cleantech revolution at embarrassingly low prices. I don’t know how long it will take for A123, Ener1 or Tesla to turn the corner and report a profit, but I know that Johnson Controls (JCI) and Exide (XIDE) will be selling millions, if not tens of millions, of stop-start batteries per year within a couple of years and nothing boosts profitability like selling higher value products to existing customers without increasing unit volumes. While I can’t be certain until ongoing testing by several first tier automotive OEMs is completed, I’m increasingly confident Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) will play a critical role in the emerging stop-start market.

Every industrial revolution in history has been driven by innovations that have proven their ability to do more valuable work with lower inputs of raw materials, capital and labor. Despite lofty aspirations, consumers are far more motivated by the green in their wallets than the green in their cocktail party conversations. Try as they might, governments are never good at planning economic growth or driving uneconomic technologies into the market. I’ve long advocated the proposition that a business model that does not make sense without government subsidies does not make sense. I’ve also been forced by experience to shorten my investment horizons from a couple of decades to a few years. While I haven’t yet reached the point in life where I refuse to buy green bananas, I don’t have a great deal of interest in carving a new plantation out of raw jungle.

Disclosure: Author is a former officer and director of Axion Power International (AXPW.OB) and holds a substantial long position in its stock. He recently sold his other holdings in the energy storage sector for significant gains.

Posted by John Petersen on March 30, 2010 05:30 AM | Will Plug-in Vehicles Be Obsolete Before They’re Profitable?

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