Wednesday, February 23, 2011

EV News Roundup Week of 2/21 with an extra helping of commentary

Straight-up Pure EV News 

Automation could speed up EV conversions -- a professor at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a process he says could convert a Honda Civic in just two days for a cost of $14,000.   Everybody I know who's converted their own EV is jealous of the fact that a workshop effort can put out a finished car in six days -- imagine cutting that time down by a third!  I want to know more!

Rolls-Royce 102EX Phantom Experimental Electric to debut in Geneva
There are pictures, but none of the actual car so the hi-rez image gallery here is just a tease: a sketch of the charge-intake port, a slide that was broken (what gives, Autobloggreen?), and a quite unflattering shot of the iconic winged-lady hood ornament.   The guy who sculpted the flying lady called her "A graceful little goddess, the Spirit of Ecstasy, who has selected road travel as her supreme delight" and it turns out she flew right out of a romance novel to alight on the nose of the Rolls-Royce or so Wikipedia has it  and I for one choose to believe every word. 

Porsche Unveils Boxster E, a Fully Electric Sports Car
Treehugger notes the Boxter E in prototype form, unfortunately also repeating the mantra/disclaimer that seems mandatory in all EV reporting these days: "There's still the issue of the infrastructure needed to support wide use of electric cars ...."  I wish the mandatory mantra were, "One significant advantage of EV's is that our national electric infrastructure is already well-established.  Home-owners with power in their garages can begin driving one today, assured of reliable, convenient access to their vehicle's fuel needs."

Meet the Meguru
Because it's made largely of recycled bamboo, this hilarious electric rickshaw is compostable at end of life -- something Treehugger failed to mention in the link above, but Autobloggreen noticed when they reposted.  (Both sites ran the same photo, which came from GreenLaunches.)  There's no airconditioning or heat on board: all temperature problems are solved by a cooling pinwheel and comfy blankets.

Hybrid News: Yes, Fisker Karma, I do mean you

Once again I am forced to address the question of EV nomenclature.  In this older article the New York Times allies with me: they appellate the Fisker-Karma a series plug-in hybrid, and note that it's a heavyweight compared to the 3,7000-lb Chevy Volt. 

Early Reviews Are In: Karma Called "Sexy" and "Drool Worthy"
Daily Tech rounds up the test drive reviews from automotive publications and also correctly refers to the Karma as a plug-in hybrid.

Over at Autobloggreen, meanwhile, they insist on characterizing the Karma as an "extended-range electric sedan."  Then they go even farther, calling it a "purely electrically driven car" and noting, "You could call it a 'plug-in electric' and leave it at that ...."  Having an ICE on board doesn't make it a hybrid; it just makes it "more interesting."

They even dis the Volt's occasional use of ICE-to-power-train to make the following exceedingly fine distinction:  "Unlike the Volt, however, the Karma is a pure series EV – the ICE up front does not in any way directly power the forward progress of the driven axle."  Come on, Autobloggreen, do we really have to sacrifice the useful existing nomenclature of series hybrid , not to mention the meaning of the words purely and pure, here? 

If I recall correctly, when the Prius (a type of parallel hybrid, yo) was developed, it was designed with no plug precisely to de-emphasize the whole electric aspect.  The wisdom then was "consumers are afraid of electric cars."  A few years later we find the marketing departments of GM and Fisker Automotive insisting that the series plug-in hybrids they're selling are electric cars.  I guess this shows public acceptance is growing for EV's (in case anybody didn't notice already!) but I get indignant when such liberties are taken with language.  Claiming that a car with an engine is an EV is like announcing that you're a vegetarian who eats fish. 

The New York Times describes this new diesel-electric hybrid as a "high tech dune buggy."

Business News & Forecasts

Nissan rockets to #4 position in Fast Company's 2011 Most Innovative Companies list

BMW's new eco sub-brand to be called "i"
Also worth checking out: BMW's videos about the "future of mobility"-- click on the logo to get to them.  I actually only watched the trailer but I kept forgetting to post the link and now the videos are up.

Toyota to launch home electric car chargers in 2012
Chicago getting 280 electric vehicle charging stations thanks to 350Green

Tesla Co-Founder Sizes Up President Obama’s E.V. Pledge
Marc Tarpenning, who left Tesla in 2008, says he's still gung-ho on EV's but doubts  we'll see one million on U.S. roads by 2015. 
Meanwhile, the Chinese plan to be putting one million EV's on the road every year by 2015. 

In Wider-ranging Transportation & Energy News

Industry insiders on our move away from crude
At the International Energy Forum Secretariat meeting in Riyadh, they're saying: "Transition is the name of the game."

New Survey Reveals Desire for a Smarter Energy Future 
This article's a "sponsored" piece over at the normally trustworthy ecopolitology, meaning it was contributed by the company that did the survey.  Hmmmm ... it is comically unsurprising that a survey of energy professionals finds them rooting for government incentives as well as the market to boost "energy efficiency uptake by consumers," but the piece gives a pretty good overview of our national renewable energy strategy compared to e.g. China -- and while I was reading it I beat Dan to the following very informative and piece I am sure he would have shared with me next week (it just went up today).

The Union of Concerned Scientists Asks: Who's Got the Power?
All states have clean energy resources -- but some of them are shipping those overseas while importing dirty coal.   Go figure!

Kentucky Aims to Become ‘Sanctuary State’ for Big Coal 
Finally from ecopolitology -- some state legislators really like mountaintop removal mining more than clean water.  Go figure.

Technologies on the Horizon

New Alloy Provides 25 Percent Greater Thermoelectric Conversion Efficiency

Salt and silicon - key ingredients to new hydrogen-powered charger
This cute, portable charger could power mobile phones, laptops, & GPS systems : just add water! 

Retro Automotive Technology News

Tee hee.  Unfortunately is a somewhat awkward link, as the Treehugger article will guide you to a slideshow over at Der Spiegel Online, which is in German. You can either keep two windows open to read the vehicle descriptions, or use Babelfish to translate the website (with accompanying hilarity: machine translation of German remains entertaining!).  All in all a bit more involved than your average unnecessary web-browsing session but who could resist further investigation of a concept like the 1958 Ford Nucleon:

Oh my gosh, is that a personal-use atomic reactor in the rear (surrounded thoughtfully by shielding)?    Best automotive prediction ever:  "Engineers estimated a range of 5000 miles before refueling."

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