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Posts Tagged ‘alternative energy’

Diesel Soon to Outsell Gasoline, Forecasts ExxonMobil

Growing demand in the U.S. could push it over the top.

by on Mar.12, 2013

The Chevrolet Cruze diesel is one of a wave of new "oil-burners" coming to the U.S. market."

The number of diesel models available in U.S. showrooms is soon to expected to double, according to one trade group, and though many Americans are still skeptical about the energy-dense fuel, the increase in demand could soon lead to diesel surpassing gasoline as the most popular transportation fuel, forecasts energy giant ExxonMobil.

Where demand for gasoline will stay fairly flat in coming decades, predicts a new report, sales of diesel will rapidly grow – much of that increase driven by the commercial vehicle sector.

The study also sees a growing role for hybrid-electric transportation, though even combined with plug-ins and pure battery-electric vehicles, or BEVs, ExxonMobile envisions “electrified” vehicles will still account for less than half of the global market by 2040.

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Diesel will surge past gasoline as early as 2020, and continue to gain share for at least another two decades, forecasts the company’s new study, “Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.” Over the more than a quarter century covered by the report, diesel demand is expected to account for 70% of the growth in all transportation fuels.


Plugging in on Pecan Street

Watch out for the Chevy Volt traffic jams.

by on Dec.17, 2012

Participants in program operate a number of battery cars, notably Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids.

“This is one of the few places where you can see a Chevrolet Volt traffic jam,” laughs Scott Hinson, the lab director for Pecan Street Inc., an alternative energy project in Austin, Texas.

More precisely, Pecan Street is part of the one square mile Mueller neighborhood in Austin, Texas that has become the heart of an ambitious project aimed at not only testing out alternative technologies – such as plug-in hybrids like the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, as well as “smart grid” electric distribution – but also to run an incredibly detailed analysis of how effective such technologies really are at reducing energy consumption.

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The project has drawn the support of not only General Motors but a wide range of utilities and high-tech firms, such as computer maker Dell and chipmaking giant Intel. The U.S. Department of Energy has so far kicked in $10.4 million, private partners another $14 million.  But the critical piece of the puzzle has been getting local residents to sign up.

“The project is focused squarely on consumers, enlisting real people to gather data from these homes to help structure next generation energy systems,” Brewster McCracken, the project’s executive director, explained in a statement.


Demand Surging for Diesels, Hybrids

Motorists look for cleaner, cheaper options.

by on Apr.18, 2012

Porsche's Cayenne is the latest model to go diesel.

Sales of vehicles that run on something other than gasoline climbed significantly during the first quarter of 2012, with an especially big surge in demand for hybrids and high-mileage diesel products.  The increase mirrors the rapid run-up in the price of gasoline – and has been buoyed by the increased availability of new diesel, battery and other vehicles able to use alternative energy sources.

The Toyota Prius, the world’s best-selling gas-electric model, set an all-time U.S. sales record in March.  And during the first quarter, American hybrid car sales overall increased 37.2%.  The emerging plug-in electric car market saw a sales increase of 323% after a slow and shaky start in 2012. By comparison, the overall automobile market increased 13.4% in 2012, according to new sales information compiled by HybridCars.Com and Baum and Associates.

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“With higher fuel prices, Americans are seeking more fuel efficient cars so it’s understandable that diesel and hybrid cars are showing such impressive sales increases,” said Allen Schaeffer, the Executive Director of the Diesel Technology Forum.


Aptera Official Insists EV Maker Here to Stay

Downplays reports of maker’s demise.

by on Aug.16, 2011

Aptera still believes it will be able to put the 2-e into production, says a senior official, though it is counting on a federal loan.

Reports of Aptera’s demise are being greatly exaggerated, insists a senior company official – with apologies to Mark Twain.

The California-based Aptera, which has been struggling to roll out the 200 mpg 2-e battery-electric vehicle, was stung by widespread reports – including coverage on — suggesting it faced serious financial problems after an announcement it would refund more than 2,200 deposits placed by motorists interested in the three-wheeled 2-e.

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But while “It is taking longer than we’d like” to get into production, Aptera Chief Marketing Officer Marques McCammon tells that “We can get there.”  The company is determined to bring the gull-winged green machine to market.

McCammon confirms that the biggest problem is the slow pace of a review by the Department of Energy, from which Aptera hopes to secure a large – but unspecified – loan that will help it complete development of the 2-e and push it into production.  Other start-ups echo the same concerns.


China Now Leads in Clean Energy Investments

Will new Obama proposals help U.S. regain lead?

by on Mar.30, 2011

As President Barack Obama exhorts Americans to get behind a coherent energy policy, a new study shows the U.S. falling  behind in the race to develop new, clean sources of energy, according to a new study by Pew Charitable Trusts.

Last year, clean energy investment across the globe grew by 30%, to $243 billion last year, with China continuing to solidify its position as the world’s clean energy leader by investing a record $54.4 billion in 2010.

China’s investment represented a 39% increase from 2009, the new Pew Study said.  Germany was second in the G-20, up from third last year, after experiencing a 100% increase in investment, to $41.2 billion.

“The clean energy sector is emerging as one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world, witnessing 630% growth in finance and investments since 2004,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director of Pew’s Clean Energy Program.

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“Countries like China, Germany and India were attractive to financiers because they have national policies that support renewable energy standards, carbon reduction targets and/or incentives for investment and production and that create long-term certainty for investors,” she said.

The United States, which had maintained the top spot until 2008, dropped another rung in 2010 to third, with $34 billion invested.


First Look: 2012 Ford C-Max Energi

Ford unveils hybrid, plug-in versions of new C-Max microvan.

by on Jan.10, 2011

Ford first plug-in hybrid, the 2012 C-Max Energi.

With some experts now forecasting gas prices of $5 a gallon in the not-too-distant future, the spotlight is shining ever brighter on electric propulsion.  But there’ll be a number of different “flavors” of battery power suggests Ford’s global product development chief, Derrick Kuzak.

The maker’s new C-Max microvan is a good example.  The 7-passenger people mover will be offered with a variety of different propulsion systems including both a conventional hybrid drive and Ford’s first-ever plug-in hybrid system – both of which are making their debut at this year’s Detroit Auto Show.

The standard hybrid will use Ford’s next-generation gasoline-electric drivetrain, lighter, smaller and more efficient than the one currently offered in such models as the Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid.  One reason is the switch from older nickel-metal hybrid technology to the newer lithium-ion batteries, which are themselves 25% smaller and 50% lighter.

That should permit the C-Max Hybrid to match or even exceed the 41 mpg highway fuel economy of the current Fusion, despite the van’s larger mass and capacity, said Sherif Marakby, the director of Ford’s electrification program.


EPA Gives Limited Waiver For Use Of E15 Gasoline

Increased ethanol levels okayed – but only for vehicles from 2007 or later.

by on Oct.13, 2010

EPA approves E15 - with strict limits.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved a controversial proposal to increase the use of ethanol in the nation’s automotive fuel supply – but set strict limits on which vehicles can and can’t use what is referred to as E15.

Initially, only vehicles produced in the 2007 model-year or later will be permitted to fill up on E15, a term that refers to a blend of 85% conventional gasoline and 15% ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel typically produced from grains and other food crops.

Even with that limitation, “That represents more than 1/3 the gasoline consumption today” could be affected by the decision and converted from today’s limit of no more than 10% ethanol, explained EPA Assistant Administrator Regina McCarthy.

And by 2014, as older vehicles head to the junkyard, while newer models take their place, E15 could grow to as much as 50% of the fuel used in the U.S., the EPA official added.

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The figures actually may grow even larger.  Due to limited resources the environmental agency focused its initial study on relatively new vehicles.  It is hoping to complete an expanded study, covering cars, trucks and crossovers produced as far back as the 2001 model-year, with a decision to come by sometime in November or December, according to McCarthy.


Plugging Into The Grid: GM, ABB Looking For Ways To Re-Use Volt Batteries

Recycled batteries could boost use of wind, solar power.

by on Sep.21, 2010

Old Volt batteries won't die...the'll find alternate uses, GM and ABB hope.

Though General Motors expects the batteries in its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid to last at least 100,000 miles the maker has formed a new partnership to find ways to continue using the lithium-ion packs once they’re no longer suitable for automotive applications.

The Detroit maker is partnering with the ABB Group to explore ways old Volt batteries can be used to improve the effectiveness of wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.  Old batteries might also provide consumers a way to minimize the impact of grid disruptions, and to take advantage of lower off-peak energy rates, the partners suggest.

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“The Volt’s battery will have significant capacity to store electrical energy, even after its automotive life,” said Micky Bly, GM Executive Director of Electrical Systems, Hybrids, Electric Vehicles and Batteries.  That presents potential opportunities, added Bly, “to provide environmental benefits that stretch far beyond the highway.”


Green is Mean – and Really Unethical?

New study suggests selfish, dishonest side to environmentalism.

by on Mar.16, 2010

Does driving a high-mileage hybrid encourage motorists to develop "compensatory ethics"?

Ask any California motorist and they’ll tell you about the folks in the Prius hybrids.  For several years, the high-mileage vehicles qualified for special stickers that let them drive in the car pool lanes on local highways, even with just one person onboard.

“And you’d seem to find most of them driving well below the speed limit,” grumps Bill Tabor, an Orange County mid-level manager, who had to squeeze several colleagues into his low-mileage Honda Accord to get the same access.  “It was as if they suddenly were the authority, setting the speed that everyone else would have to drive.”

Frustrating, no question.  But according to a new study, it’s also no surprise.

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People who wear the “halo of green consumerism” may like to be seen as saving the planet, but they’re less likely to be kind to others and surprisingly likely to cheat and steal, according to a study by the Canadian psychologists Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, who published their findings in the journal Psychological Science, under the title, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?”

Apparently, the answer is not also a resounding no.


What if the Pumps Run Dry?

Warnings about "peak" oil are growing again.

by on Nov.30, 2009

Even some of the petroleum industry's top leaders now are warning we may be reaching a peak for global oil production.

Some of the petroleum industry's leaders now are warning, not without self interest, we may be reaching peak global oil production.

Peak oil is a controversial theory that suggests oil production is peaking and will invariably decline over the coming years, leaving the industrial world facing short supplies.

In its own way, the theory is more controversial than climate change and rests on interpretation of arcane numbers.

Indeed, there are those who point to recent finds of giant oil reserves off places like Brazil and argue that there’s far more oil left in the ground than we can imagine.  However, the peak oil advocates are now picking up support and their warnings ought to be of at least passing interest to auto industry planners, some of which have already embraced it, notably General Motors.

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In the past, anyone speaking out about oil supply challenges was usually stereotyped as a fringe element with little knowledge about the oil industry, notes a Denver-based organization called the Association for Study of Peak Oil & Gas.