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Friday Green Numbers round-up for Jan 21st 2011

Green Numbers

And here is a round-up of this week’s Green numbers…

  1. 19th Century Economist Reveals Surefire Investment Strategy!

    Intel just finished the ?best year in [its] history,? and expects 2011 to be even better. This news suggests a few important questions: for how much longer are we going to keep buying more and more more powerful microchips? Will 2012 be still better for Intel and other hardware suppliers? 2020? 2050? How much can the demand for computation keep expanding?

    I first started asking myself these questions after I drew graphs (using US BEA data) of changes over time in computer cost and aggregate US corporate computer spending. They reveal a deeply weird pattern: as computers get cheaper, companies spend more and more on them. See for yourself…

  2. In Spain, the three wise men no longer bring coal

    On January 6, it is traditional that Spanish children receive gifts from the three wise men, a day far more anticipated than the arrival of Santa Claus. The most feared gift used to be coal, a sign that the children had behaved badly over the past year. Coal is also a bad sign for the environment, because it?s the largest source of CO2 to the atmosphere and a major driver of global warming. But happily in Spain, things are changing.

    In the morning of the three wise men, while children all over Spain opened their gifts and thousands of new electronic gadgets were plugged into the grid, none of the nation?s electricity was coming from coal. Over the whole day, three-quarters of Spain?s electricity was met from renewable sources while coal barely reached 4% of …

  3. New Materials Could Double Chevy Volt Battery Capacity

    Since its release last December the Chevy Volt has proven to be extremely popular ? it?s been crowned the 2011 Green Car of the Year, the North American Car of the Year and its sales eclipsed those of the Nissan Leaf. However it is set to become even more appealing as GE announced it is working on a new generation of batteries with double the energy-storage capacity. GM?s licensed battery-electrode materials developed at Argonne National Laboratory (a U.S. Department of Energy lab) use mixed-metal oxides that not only increase storage capacity, but improve the safety and durability of car batteries…

  4. Black market steals half a million pollution permits

    Nearly half a million pollution permits were stolen from a Czech carbon bank this week. The event put the spotlight on an emerging black market for the right to pollute the planet, and shut down much of the European carbon trading scheme

    The stolen permits would allow a company to pollute the atmosphere with almost half a million tonnes of carbon. Known as European Union Allowances (EUAs), they are distributed by the EU as part of its carbon trading scheme, set up to help the bloc of nations meet its Kyoto protocol targets.

    Major companies can emit only …

  5. Commission approves record amount of state aid for the deployment of broadband networks in 2010

    In keeping with the ambitious digital agenda goals set in the EU 2020, the European Commission has approved, under the EU guidelines for state aid to broadband, the use of over ?1.8 billion public funds for broadband development to support economic recovery, inclusive growth and the long term competitiveness of the EU. The public funds are aimed to ensure that all citizens have access to high speed Internet access in the European Union, including in rural or remote areas.

    Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaqu?n Almunia commented: “Smart investments into high and very high speed broadband infrastructures are crucial to create jobs, increase economic performance and to unlock the competitive potential of the EU in the long term. The Commission is committed to help EU…

  6. DOE Awards $967M Loan Guarantee for Arizona Solar PV Project

    The Department of Energy is handing out more loan guarantees for solar projects. This morning the DOE said that it has offered a $967 million loan guarantee for the Agua Caliente Solar project, a 290 MW photovoltaic facility that will be built in Yuma County, Arizona, and which NRG Energy said it planned to buy from First Solar last month.

    The Agua Caliente project will use panels from First Solar, is set for completion in 2014 and is supposed to create 400 construction jobs. Northern California utility PG&E plans to buy the electricity from the project. NRG plans to invest up to $800 million in equity in the project, and the deal between First Solar and NRG requires…

  7. Worst Traffic Congestion In The U.S.: Chicago Ranked Most Congested

    Despite high fuel prices and a tough economy, traffic congestion is getting worse. Chicago drivers spent more time and money in 2009 traffic jams than most cities in the U.S., according to the 2010 Urban Mobility Report released Thursday.

    Chicago and Northwest Indiana drivers wasted an additional 70 hours in traffic and an average of $1,738 in gas costs, according to the report published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University.

    Not that it’s anything to brag about, but Chicago tied with the Washington, D.C. for the time drivers spent behind the wheel. Chicago’s additional 70 hours of …

  8. 10 Creative Ways to Recycle Ordinary Objects

    Creatively artistic recycling doesn?t have to be limited to helping the environment: it can also be a challenge and opportunity to ingenious designers who work with materials most people would consider waste to create amazing things. Some of the following designs serve multiple purposes: illustrating the material possibilities of what most would consider trash while also maximizing the aesthetic potential of what would otherwise be considered waste objects. Clothes become rugs, airline trolleys become furniture, cardboard becomes bridges and sewage turns into …

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Photo credit house of bamboo

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SAP talks e-mobility!

I visited SAP’s facilities recently on their energy efficiency day and talked to them about their e-mobility initiatives and the rollout of their 16 Coulomb Technologies electric vehicle level 2 charging stations for their employees.

Tom Raftery: Hi everyone! Welcome to the GreenMonk TV. With me, today, I have Geoff Ryder from SAP and Henry Bailey also from SAP. Guys, we are at the SAP headquarters, here, in California, Palo Alto, because Geoff ?

Geoff Ryder: So, we started earlier this year taking a survey of all of our employees and are they interested in electric vehicles. It turned out they are. About 200 said they are in the market for one. So, how can we deal with that as a company? We can take advantage of that to show sustainability, thought leadership, we can also make this appealing to our employees, appealing place to work. So, you?re seeing today the culmination of our planning process. We are deploying 16 Coulomb Technologies charging sessions. These are level 2 charging stations, they?ll be across campus. And we?ll also —

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Coulomb Technologies Level 2 electric vehicle charging station

Tom Raftery: Level 2 charging stations, means what?

Geoff Ryder: It?ll be 240 volts, that?s the voltage that you run your dryer off of. So, that?s very capable. It can charge the battery in a faster time than if you trickle charge with 120 volts. So, we think that?s probably the way it?s going to go. People will want to see that in their public charging option. Even at home, I think we?ll see you know Level 2 charging stations coming.

So, today, we?ve actually turned our first charging stations on and as you can see we have a small fleet of electric cars here.

We have our partners from Nissan with LEAF. We have a plug-in Hybrid Prius, we have a Chevy Volt, and further down, it?s hard to see, here but we have a CODA Automotive, a demonstration car.

Tom Raftery: Okay.

Geoff Ryder: Yeah.

Tom Raftery: Henry you?re involved with the e-mobility solutions, so ?

Henry Bailey: Correct.

Tom Raftery: What?s that exactly?

Henry Bailey: So, what we have done is we have looked at — as Geoff mentioned, we?ve got our employees interested in electric vehicles.

We also have a lot of our customers interested in the how to deploy electric vehicles primarily utilities looking at how do they manage the infrastructure when these vehicles start showing up in their service territories.

So, as people buy electric vehicles, they drive them home, now suddenly they?re plugging them into the Grid, which in some cases using the Level 2 charging station that Geoff described could look like another small home being plugged into the Grid.

So, the Utilities have a couple of opportunities, they need to look at how do they manage this new load coming on to the Grid and then also with the purchasing of energy by the home owner and maybe by third parties who are offering these charging stations at retail outlets, parking garages of businesses how do they, basically, settle those charges back to the consumer so that they can, basically, charge anywhere they want roaming freely around the country if you will.

Tom Raftery: The example being, if I go to the local supermarket and plug-in there, how does that charge appear on my electricity bill?

Henry Bailey: Exactly, but there may be different types of settlement options that the consumer wants. They may want it come back to their home energy bill as a separate line item, so they can see exactly what their energy usage is both when they plug it into their home as well as when they are roaming around to different shopping malls, grocery stores, as you are talking about.

They may also want to settle it to the credit cards, they may want to settle it to cell phones and have it as a part of that infrastructure. So, we?re looking at all different options and we also see businesses taking advantage because – take the mall, for example. If you can attract people with electric vehicles to come and stay maybe an extra hour or two giving them some sort of incentive to stay that hour or two by either the convenience and/or electricity at maybe low or no cost to them directly, then that entices them to stay longer, shop more.

So, they?re looking at it as a way to incent the customers to come and visit their place of business.

Tom Raftery: Excellent. Guys, thanks very much.

Geoff Ryder: Thank you.

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GreenMonk talks to General Motors about the Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet Volt

Photo Credit gmeurope

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Episode 8 of the GreenMonk Podcasts – 37 mins 32 secs

My guest on this podcast is Greg Cesiel. Greg is the Program Director for the Chevrolet Volt. The Chevrolet Volt is an electric vehicle from General Motors, expected to begin hitting showrooms in the US in 2010.

From the Wikipedia entry:

The company has avoided the use of the term “hybrid,” preferring to call it an electric vehicle with a “range extender” (“extended range electric vehicle” or EREV), due to its design.

The vehicle is designed to run purely on electricity from on-board batteries for up to 40 miles (64 km)… a large enough distance to cover the daily commutes of 75% of Americans, which averages around 33 miles (53 km). With the use of a small internal combustion engine driving a generator to power the electric motor, the vehicle’s range is potentially increased to 360 miles (579 km) on the highway (and which can be extended for very long trips by conventional refueling).

There was tremendous interest in this podcast. I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be interviewing Greg and I received over a dozen questions in under 30 minutes!

Here are the questions I asked Greg and the approx. times I asked them:

Can you give us a bit of background on the Chevrolet Volt? It is what you guys are calling an extended range electric vehicle, is that correct? – 00:15
You guys targeted getting 40 miles from the battery because this takes in most people’s daily commute, is that correct? – 01:08
Of course, those kinds of calculations vary wildly with your local price of electricity and petrol… – 02:05
One of the great things about electric vehicles is that they become more Green as more renewables are added to the grid (and older non-renewables are retired)… – 02:50

Questions from readers:

rodney rumford
Ask them what the life expectancy of the battery is? How many years before total replacement? – 3:37

How does battery performance vary with ambient temperatures? – 04:26

rodney rumford
How is the software coming along for determining when the mini-engine needs to kick in before i make it to homebase? – 05:39

Do you have a release date for when people will be able to get their hands on a Volt? – 06:35

rodney rumford
Do they have an figures on how much carbon per mile is consumed? (think about how much carbon is emitted in order to recharge the batteries) – 6:59

Sebastian
How much is the car? 07:30
How will they communicate to customers that the range is actually totally matching their needs, overcoming the fear that they might not have enough range? Imagine they sell a lot of these cars, will the sudden overnight need for power be actually a positive thing for power stations, balancing their load? – 08:23

John Keyes
I wonder are they doing any research into cleaner batteries? 10:46

Existing battery technologies are quite nasty in terms their environmental impact on destruction but lithium ion appears to be more environmentally friendly… – 12:00

John Keyes
What’s the drag coefficient? – 12:40

Jonathan Kash
1. The Volt has tremendous long-term value for both GM and the industry, but from what I understand the margins will be very slim. Given the state of liquidity in the market, do you see the program being put on hold? – 13:35

2. The electric/range extender is a fantastic concept: however, what about people that live in urban areas? Have there been any thoughts on how residents of a large city (with very few personal garages) might be able to successfully use this platform? – 14:34

Bob Lutz mentioned last September that there would be a version of the Volt with solar panels on the roof, is that still on the cards, ‘cos they’d work well here in Seville!? – 16:04

James Britton
what other electric vehicles are planned? – 16:34
Ate you planning a plugin hybrid? Are you striving for 100 percent electric and/or hybrid electric engines? – 17:53

Joseph Simpson
When the Concept Volt was unveiled a couple of years ago, most commentators seemed to believe that when the pure electric 40mile range was exhausted, the petrol motor would kick in and charge the batteries, in order to go on delivering power. Now, with the launch of the (pre)production Volt, GM are saying that once the batteries are depleted, the petrol engine will kick in, but directly drive the electric motor – not charge the batteries.

Questions related to this:

1 – is this true? if so, did this change happen during the R&D phase (and why if so?), or did the press originally mis-read the concept. Has the system – as proposed in the current car, always been proposed to work this way? – 19:06
2 – how efficient is the car when running on just the petrol engine, (ie, once the batteries are exhausted)? Wouldn’t a current production car, with a small petrol engine directly driving a crank/drive shaft be more efficient, because it wouldn’t have the added weight of the batteries? – 22:09

Second point is, I’m really interested to know more about how the interface works – GM have said that the car will actively manage the batteries, and know how to be most efficient, by knowing when it’s close to home/a charging point etc. Can they explain a little more about this. It sounds clever, but fraught with issues and complexities. Will the car come with an on-board, and up-datable database of charging stations in its computer system? – 24:06

Is the software integrated with some kind of GPS system, and you tell it where you are going, or is it just guessing based on the erergy levels in the battery versus what is in the tank? – 25:38

Jim Hughes
This is a Euro-centric view, but are there plans for a diesel rather than petrol version? – 26:09

Also was a rotary (wankel) engine considered for the petrol engine? – 26:49

Phoebe Bright
Are then thinking hot-swappable all electric cars in the future, and if so what are the technology implications, and if not, why not? – 27:07

I saw a report on the GM-Volt site where Shai Agassi of Project Better Place said:

the Volt is a $20,000 car that will cost $40,000. It will be a niche product. we want to make electric cars a mass market thing, and the only way to do that is to make it cheaper than driving a regular car.

What would you say to that? – 28:03

What about the lithium battery supplies? This is an entire new marketplace you are creating, are you confident that you will have enough supplies to meet the amount of cars you are hoping to sell? 29:19

Phoebe Bright
What are the assumptions around oil price that are being used by Chevy for their business planning? – 29:57

Gina Porreco
Is there any plan for battery disposal? While electric vehicles are by far a better choice for the environment, they create the potential for a huge hazardous waste problem. – 30:39

John Peavoy
What other “green” or environmentally friendly materials and/or production processes are being used in the car and its production? Are GM investigating new materials & processes either as part of this program or other programs in the future? – 31:30

Joseph Simpson
I reckon that GM can probably get away with charging around £25,000 for the Volt in the UK. Why? Because a Prius costs around £20k, and I’d predict the Volt will appeal a lot to early adopters, people who ‘want’ an *electric* car, and people who look at the price of fuel, and can see the cost saving potential. But more than £25k puts you well into BMW/Merc territory – and am not sure people would be willing to pay more than that for a Chevy.

So – how do-able is this? Are GM confident they can price the car around this mark, sell enough of them, and make money? – 32:40

dripfeed
ask them to quantify the full environmental impact of actually manufacturing and recycling the car. For example, parts for the Toyota Prius are shipped and re-shipped from all over the planet and I, as a potential consumer, remain unconvinced that the Prius damages our environment less over its lifetime than a conventional car. – 34:09

Will there be software and a software interface there for selling electricity back to the grid in times of high demand so that, if your vehicle takes off, it can act as a buffer against variability of supply and demand from renewables. Is that something you are considering? – 35:28

Download the entire interview here
(34.4mb mp3)