Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Leaf to have 185 mile (300km) range and more mainstream styling

Treehugger.com: Nissan executives have shared some of their goal for the next version of the popular LEAF electric car. Top of the list are more "mainstream styling" and a new higher-capacity battery that "greatly increases its range". In fact, they see greater range as key to higher sales.
“The battery chemistry is all about range and energy density. That’s where you see the technology moving very, very fast,” said Andy Palmer, executive vice president in charge of Nissan’s zero emissions and Infiniti businesses, in an interview last month at the Beijing auto show. “This really is the game-changing technology.”
Palmer wouldn't say how much range the next LEAF will have, but he said that he thought 300 kilometers (185 miles) was a good amount to ensure mainstream appeal. That's quite a jump from the current LEAF with its 84 miles (which is better than the 73 miles that it had at first, before it was tweaked to increase range for the 2013 model).
It's not yet clear what the next-generation LEAF will look like, but Nissan said it will keep the hatchback but try to make it look less "EV-like" and more "normal". They actually name-dropped Tesla as a company that made good-looking EVs that don't look too much like EVs. This next-gen LEAF is expected around 2017.
Nissan showed a concept called 'Invitation' a little while ago that I think has some nice elements. The design could be cleaned up a little and made to look less like a car-show concept car, but overall the proportions and angles are nice. Judge by yourself:
© Nissan
© Nissan
© Nissan
© Nissan
After some work, it has the potential to be better than the current LEAF, in my opinion (not that it's that bad, but it probably turns off some people who wouldn't be turned off by an electric Sentra, for example).

UK home charging grant capped

Here in the UK the Office for Low Emission vehicles has put a cap on its home charging point grant scheme, causing British Gas to withdraw its free charge point offer.

The original scheme - introduced in February 2013 - offered a 75% grant towards the cost of installing a home charge point, up to the cost of £1000.

Last month, however, OLEV changed the terms of the scheme, and reduced the maximum funding level to £900.

Suppliers such as British Gas used this subsidy to offer charging points, with installation, for free - on condition of anonymous usage data being sent back to the supplier.

Since the change, British Gas has reacted by introducing a £115 installation charge for the unit.

The firm's website says: "Further to the Office of Low Emission Vehicles’ recent announcement to reduce the subsidised funding for electric vehicle home charge points, we can no longer offer a charging point free of charge.

"Our new price for a subsidised charging point is £115 (including VAT) for the 16 Amp data-enabled charging point (4.5m cable) with a recommended connector that’s most suitable for your own specific vehicle."

At present, the websites of other companies such as Chargemaster are still offering a free unit, although it is unclear if others will follow British Gas' lead.

Renault has stated that, although provided by British Gas, home charging point offers supplied with Zoe and Twizy models still stand.

The new scheme - with reduced funding - is due to run until March 31 2015, or until exhausted.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Net-Zero-Energy homes

CleanTechnica.com: Last year, CleanTechnica reported a new project from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) about how to create a Net-Zero-Energy home. The results from the project have been disclosed after one year of experience with an excellent outcome. The residence achieved the goal of net-zero consumption with a surplus energy of 491 kWh.
A Net-Zero-Energy home is a residence that generates as much energy as it uses while meeting all the needs of the residents. The NIST net-zero-energy house was located in the suburbs of Maryland and has been used as a laboratory along a whole year, where a virtual family of four members spare energy in the same way a real average american family would do.
In order to achieve the net-zero consumption, the house was built up to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards, the highest standard for sustainable structures in the country. Under these standards, the test house was estimated to be 60% more efficient than houses built to meet the requirements of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code, the standards adopted for new constructions in Maryland.
The building was extremely well isolated, aiming to cut out air infiltration and heat looses in walls and the roof, including triple-paned windows. “The most important difference between this home and a Maryland code-compliant home is the improvement in the thermal envelope, the insulation and air barrier,” NIST mechanical engineer Mark Davis has declared. Apart of the insulation, the house got installed solar water heating and 32 solar panels in order to produce its own energy, and was equipped with the most energy-efficient appliances.
In a normal year, a comparable size home in Maryland would consume an average of almost 27,000 kWh of energy. Starting last summer, the solar panels produced more energy than the house used from July through October, but last winter was much colder than previous ones and the snow, double normal, covered during 38 days the sun-powered system. The house used 3,000 kWh more energy during the year of the study than it was projected for the region’s typical weather. In November, it began running negative numbers monthly and at the end of March the energy deficit was 1,800 kWh. In April, the energy yield increased again, and the house injected electric power to the grid on most of the days.
In total, the photovoltaics produced 13,577 kWh of energy, while the house only used 13,086 kWh in the whole year. The Net-Zero-Energy house from the NIST showed to be 70% more efficient, instead of the 60% initially estimated, than houses meeting the standards adopted in Maryland. The NIST suggests that a Net-Zero-Energy home could be combined with the use of an electric car to make use of this energy surplus, enough to drive an electric-powered vehicle for about 1,440 miles.
Although the extra investment needed to improve the efficiency, compared to the price of a similar construction complying with Maryland’s state building code, is calculated to be about $162,700, residents of these type of houses would save about $4,373 in electricity a year ($364 a month), and the improvements will not only increase the total value of the house, but it will also enhance the living comfort.
Along with the “Better Buildings Challenge” program of the Obama administration, many states are encouraging the construction of more efficient or even net-zero energy homes. For example, California aspires to enforce that all newly constructed homes are Net-Zero-Energy by 2020.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The end of coal

IDTechEx.com: When representative of OPEC, Sheik Yamani famously said, "The stone age did not end for lack of stones", it is now clear that the coming decade will see a collapse of coal power and not because coal supplies are running out. 
The writing is on the wall for oil as well - it will help electric vehicles because it will no longer be true that they use "dirty" electricity in the main.   
In May 2014, a new series of reports from global investment bank Citigroup highlighted the dramatic changes that are sweeping the world's largest energy markets - events which will have a significant impact on the future of the coal industry.   "A New Balance of Power, A Short Gas Bridge to Renewables, and Global Thermal Coal: When Cyclical Supply Met Structural Demand," come to these conclusions. 
  Emission standards and rising costs will force a mass closure of coal-fired generation (more than 60 gigawatts) in the next few years in the world's biggest market, the United States. And contrary to most expectations, the reports say gas will play only a minor role in this "energy transformation," because it will be overtaken due to the falling costs of renewables.   
Increasingly strict environmental measures are severely limiting the feasibility of opening new coal plants, not just in the U.S. and Europe, but also in China - which for the past few years has dominated the global coal market and has been the world's biggest consumer and importer.   
In short, Citigroup says, the evolution in electricity markets is being driven by a combination of regulatory and technology changes.   
This, the reports say, has major implications for areas with large coal resources, which require huge investments in infrastructure (rail lines and ports), and may simply not make economic sense in the future. The reports note that financiers are already absorbing these lessons, and many projects have been delayed as a result. Risk to fossil fuels The reports note the growing risk to fossil fuels, and the emergence of what Citigroup described in an earlier report as the impending "age of renewables."   
"(Coal) demand is in structural decline as environmental pressures rise and costs of alternative energy sources decline," the Citi analysts state. "The shale gas revolution was the first blow, but rapidly declining wind and solar costs and the spread of unconventional gas production techniques are set to erode coal's long-time cost advantage over alternative electricity sources."   
To illustrate the changing nature of the U.S. market, Citi published graphs showing the trends identified, including a short-term burst of gas-fired generation in coming years before all new capacity is taken up by wind or solar. Some reports suggest solar is already substituting for peaking gas plants. Closures in the coal industry are predicted, with the biggest to come from regulatory moves in the next four years.   
"Increasingly strict environmental measures are also severely limiting the feasibility of opening new coal power plants not only in Europe and North America, but in China as well," the report notes. Meanwhile, global coal prices are sinking further, with Citi predicting a price of just $72 per ton this year - well below the break-even estimates of most coal mines.   
"Investors are increasingly considering whether some fossil-fuel-related assets might become "stranded," with significant loss of value, if stronger carbon constraints are imposed to mitigate the risk of dangerous climate change, or if alternative energy solutions become technically and economically more attractive."   
Financiers are therefore taking a cautious view, so there is delay in many coal projects in Australia, where there are more than $60 billion of projects either publicly announced or undergoing feasibility study, but only one project - the controversial Whitehaven development at Maules Creek - currently in development.   
"Where once there was a long list of projects that should have been underway by now in Australia, projects have dramatically succumbed to the reality of lower prices and high capex/capex intensity," Citigroup notes.   China represents the most significant shift in environmental policy related to coal. Citi advises that demand will slow as the China economy transitions away from investment and manufacturing-led growth, as alternative power capacity is built out, and environmental measures are enacted to discourage coal usage. It may cease to become an importer.   
"To reduce China's dependence on coal, the government is pursuing an 'everything but' strategy," Citi notes. "This includes rapid build-out of solar, wind, nuclear, and natural gas generating capacity." Solar, it says, will provide the fastest growth, while the largest volume growth will come from hydro.   
Citi highlights the recent growth in volumes on the country's nascent carbon exchanges, which are coming into play just as Australia looks to end its carbon price.   
Even in India, the other great hope for coal producers, Citi says, will probably be capped at lower-than-expected levels because coal consumption will be lower than forecast.   
Citi considers that, "The transition period from now to 2020 could give utilities time to evolve until new technology and a new paradigm begin to play a much larger role in energy consumption and power generation. At first glance, more rooftop solar and distributed generation, along with slowdown in power sales, and lower peak power prices and heat rates, are headwinds to merchant power generators. But it still takes time for new sources to fully develop and integrate into the market."   
As for gas it advises "The growth in gas demand for power generation could be less significant than is commonly believed. Gas is commonly thought of as the substitute fuel for coal in power generation once coal plants retire. But rising renewables generation should increasingly take over market shares of coal and gas-fired generation, particularly in an environment of slow electricity demand growth." Massive investments not happening Big warning from IEA   
According to the respected International Energy Agency, the world needs to invest more than $48 trillion by 2035 to meet global energy demand and prevent oil prices spiralling out of control.   The IEA represents some of the world's largest energy consuming countries. It says that current investment to secure new supplies of oil and gas and keep the lights on has to increase by a quarter to hit the target, as the world's population increases.   
What is more, spending to improve energy efficiency, primarily for cars and buildings, also needs to grow fourfold over the next two decades, declares the IEA.   The report outlines the scale of the challenge facing governments and companies not only to replace ageing power stations and fast depleting oil fields but to secure additional supplies to meet this strongly growing demand.   
Maria van der Hoeven, the executive director of the IEA, warned: "The reliability and sustainability of our future energy system depends on investment. But this won't materialise unless there are credible policy frameworks in place as well as stable access to long-term sources of finance. Neither of these conditions should be taken for granted. There is a real risk of shortfalls."   
In 2013 investment in energy production, covering oil and gas as well as the power sector, was $1.6 trillion, double the level in 2000 but far short of the $2 trillion which needs to be spent annually over the next two decades, or $40 trillion in total. Energy efficiency challenge The world faces an even bigger challenge to improve energy efficiency. Annual investment is running at $130 billion but needs to be $550 billion per year in order to total $8 trillion by 2035.   
In this respect it is important that EVs convert 80% of their fuel -electricity into useful motive power whereas for internal combustion engines the opposite is true - 80% is wasted.   
The situation in Europe is particularly dire. About $2.2 trillion needs to be spent on new grids and power stations by 2035 but wholesale electricity prices have to be 20 per cent higher to make the investment viable, the report said.   
However, with consumer energy bills in many countries including the UK close to record highs, the necessary policies to boost electricity prices would be hugely unpopular.  

Saturday, 19 July 2014

BMW i3 and I8 official Formula E cars

InsideEVs.com: BMW is finalising a partnership as the official vehicle supplier to Formula E.

If both sides sign the agreement in which BMW will probably become a main Formula E sponsor, then the i3 and i8 models will be used as course, medical and VIP cars at all race events around the world. Earlier, Formula E bought one Rimac Concept_One for on-track duties too.

i8 probably will be the pace car, while i3 should be well suited for all other purposes.

Jörg Reimann, Vice President BMW Brand Experience, stated:
“We have watched with great interest the continued growth of the new FIA Formula E Championship and the potential it has to significantly increase the interest in sustainable mobility. As a global manufacturer at the forefront of innovation and technology, BMW regards Formula E as a great platform in which to showcase our range of fully-electric and hybrid vehicles and to align our common goals. We are working on an agreement to finalise this partnership.”

Formula CEO Alejandro Agag, remarked:
“We are very proud and excited that a manufacturer such as BMW wants to be involved with the Formula E series. I think that the all-electric i3 and i8 will make fantastic official vehicles and I can’t wait to see them on track at the first round in Beijing on September 13.”

LG Chem: 200 mile range batteries in 2016

EconomicTimes.com: SEOUL: South Korea's LG Chem Ltd plans to supply batteries for electric vehicles that can travel more than 200 miles (321 kilometers) per charge in 2016, its chief finiancial officer said on Friday.

The CFO, Cho Suk-jeh, did not elaborate on which automakers will use the so-called second-generation batteries.

LG Chem currently supplies batteries for General Motors , Renault SA and other automakers.

GM's former chief executive, Dan Akerson, said last year the U.S. U.S. automaker, which currently sells the Volt, was working on new electric vehicles, including one with a 200-mile driving range.

Friday, 18 July 2014

India's $2.5 bn subsidy for EVs

CleanTechnica.com: India Considers $2.5 Billion Subsidy For Hybrid, Electric Cars To Save $11 Billion In Fuel Costs



India’s National Mission on Electric Mobility may finally be getting some much-needed attention from the government even as the 2020 plan under the mission seems quite ambitious.

According to a leading national newspaper, the Indian government is considering a financial incentive scheme worth Rs 14,000 crore ($2.5 billion) for hybrid and electric cars. The subsidy would be proportioned to the difference of the price of a car running on fossil fuel and that of a hybrid or electric car, the newspaper reported citing government sources.

The news report claims that the Ministry of Heavy Industries has floated a proposal to the Ministry of Finance that ‘pure electric’ cars be offered a subsidy of 35%, and plug-in electric cars that can drive at least 15 km on single charge be offered a subsidy of 25%. ‘Mild’ hybrid cars and ‘strong’ hybrid cars would attract a subsidy of 15% and 25% respectively. The news report, however, does not report the government rules on classification of hybrid cars into mild and strong.

The government would deliver the subsidies to the car manufacturers, the benefits of which would be passed on to the end customers. Currently, among hybrid cars Scorpio (manufactured by Mahindra & Mahindra), Prius and Camry (imported by Toyota) are available in India. Mahindra & Mahindra also manufactures the e2o electric car.

Under the 2020 plan of the National Electric Mobility Mission (pdf), the government plans to create a potential demand for 5 to 7 million electric vehicles, including buses, light commercial vehicles, two-wheelers and three-wheelers, as well as electric cars.

The subsidy initiative seems to be a part of government’s 2020 plan to invest up to Rs 23,500 crore ($4.3 billion) by 2020 to promote demand and create a sustainable infrastructure for the electric automotive industry. In 2012, the government announced plans to pump in $2.5 billion by 2020 to spur demand for electric vehicles. The balance of $1.75 billion would be invested by the government and the industry to develop power and charging infrastructure and in research and development.

According to the government, the $2.5 billion subsidy to be offered to the auto industry until 2020 would help the country save about $11 billion on fuel costs. India imports a large amount of auto fuel, and the price of petrol and diesel has been the source of political and economic contention for years now. The government provides billions of dollars in fuel subsidies every year to oil marketing companies that have been selling petrol and diesel at a loss for years.

UK government to drive electric cars

DailyMail: David Cameron and his UK Government could soon travel in electric cars as Downing Street is fitted with charging points

Ministers will soon be driving to official engagements in electric cars while even Downing Street will be fitted with charging points, the Government has announced.

More than 150 electric cars are to be introduced to official Government fleets from this Autumn as ministers seek to “lead by example” and boost public confidence in plug-in vehicles.

The Government Car Service, which provides cars for ministers, and the Department for Transport will be the first to receive the new cars, with every central government fleet eventually to be reviewed.

Departments will be asked to consider which of their existing cars could be replaced with like-for-like electric alternatives when they come up for renewal, with the initial leases to last two years.

Later this year the wider public sector will also be included in the £5 million scheme meaning a further 135 electric cars can be added to council, police force and NHS fleets. The money will also be used to expand the existing network of charging points with some to be installed at Downing Street, suggesting that even the Prime Minister could soon be driving an electric car.

Although no list of suitable electric vehicles has yet been compiled, options are expected to include the Nissan Leaf and Vauxhall Ampera as replacements for ministerial cars, along with the Nissan E-NV200 light van as an alternative to existing works vehicles.

One possible replacement for higher-end vehicles in official fleets, which include Jaguars and Range Rovers, is the Tesla Model S, which went on sale in the UK in May and costs from £49,900 to £68,700.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the eventual aim was to make government fleets 100 per cent electric in future, although he added that “There may be some specific tasks when that’s more difficult or where the vehicle technology isn’t ready yet”.

Central Government departments and their agencies currently have a compbined fleet of some 25,000 cars and vans, with the Ministry of Defence alone accounting for 9,000, the Environment Agency for more than 5,000 and the Ministry of Justice 1,500.

The Government Car Service currently has 85 vehicles which are used by ministers on official business - down from 142 in 2011.

Asked whether the Prime Minister was in line for an electric car, Mr Alexander said: “Clearly where there are heightened security needs there are particular issues in relation to that, which would need to be addressed, but I think that every member of the Government will want to be at the forefront of this.”

The new scheme is the latest attempt by the Government to boost sales of electric vehicles, which have failed to meet an anticipated surge in demand in recent years but are improving fast.

Experts claim the public remains sceptical due to the upfront cost and anxiety about the range of the cars, even though most new models can travel 100 miles before needing to be recharged.
Ministers hope the move will also save money in the long term due to the low running cost of plug-in vehicles, and boost Britain’s status as a leading manufacturer of electric models.

Baroness Kramer, the Transport Minister, said: “The government is going to put its money where its mouth is. We are very committed to the agenda of ultra low emission vehicles.”

Oliver Letwin, the Cabinet Office minister, added: "We are extremely anxious to use the Government's purchasing power to increase the chances that the British public as a whole will take up electric vehicles.

"As part of that, after some investigation, we have actually managed to establish a team to put proper charging points up and down Downing Street so that we can also run electric vehicles in Downing Street itself."

Tesla Model 3 an EV game-changer

Salon.com; Elon Musk is changing the course of electric cars with the Model 3. Not only is this Tesla more affordable, but it means a proliferation of charging stations and more competition
In 2017 Tesla will debut a new iteration of the electric car: the Model 3. Unlike its electric siblings — the Roadster, the Model S and the yet to be released Model x — it will have a far more affordable price tag. In fact that price tag, $35,000, is roughly half that of the $69,000 Model S and far less than the Roadster.

As Gizmodo points out: “That’s Toyota Avalon or Chevy Impala money.”

According to Forbes: “Earlier this year, Elon Musk spoke about the vehicle noting that it would be 20 percent smaller than the Model S, with a shorter range.” (The potential look of the car was mocked up by Auto Express. However, Tesla has pointed out, on Twitter, that the look is just speculation.)

And the price is so incredibly important.

While luxury and scarcity were great tools to pique interest in electric cars, as well as build a brand known for innovation and style, if Musk really wants to put a dent in climate change he needs to get more people driving them.

Tesla has a couple of intertwined aspects that could help accomplish this goal.

Price is obvious. If it is cheaper, and you don’t need to pay for gas, marvelous. A Tesla model, as of right now, is also going to take you further than its competitors.

Which brings us to technology. Tesla has the longest-asting electric car battery. Though there are other fully electric cars out there (the Nissan Leaf, for example), none can go the EPA-certified 265 mile range, per charge.

Even if the Model 3′s battery life is 20 percent of the 265 miles, it is still double that of the Leaf. Tesla also has a growing (and free to the consumer) infrastructure to recharge. (And you’re saving on gasoline.)

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

US EV sales 'growing fast"

chart-1

CleanTechnica.com: It’s no secret that electric vehicle sales are on the rise, but it seems that EV sales may have hit a turning point, both in America in abroad. The estimated number of EVs sold since 2010 have crossed the half-million mark, and the Energy Policy Information Center has released a set of graphs charting the exponential growth of electric vehicles.

Prepare to be impressed.
Following two record-setting months in May and June of this year, total American EV sales have surged past 222,000 units since late 2010, and while the Nissan LEAF and Chevy Volt remain the dominant players, there are many more options now. Ford, BMW, Toyota, and of course Tesla have all offered EV enthusiasts a wider range of options, from the short-lived RAV4 EV to the much-celebrated Model S. Monthly EV and plug-in hybrid sales are now over 10,000 units a month; compare that to the less-than-10,000 Nissan LEAF electric cars sold in 2011.
chart-2
As you can see in this next chart, the year-over-year growth of EV and plug-in hybrid sales  is even more impressive, especially compared to last year. So far over 54,000 plug-in cars have been sold in 2014, compared with just over 41,000 EVs and plug-in hybrids at this time last year. At this pace, sales are well on their way to setting and breaking even more records, with analysts estimating over 150,000 sales of plug-in cars this year.
chart-3
This next chart shows that not every brand is benefitting from the growth in plug-in car sales though, with certain contenders dominating the chart. The Chevy Volt and Nissan LEAF remain top dog, though the Toyota Prius Plug-In, Ford Fusion Energi, and Tesla Model S are all making a mark. Meanwhile though, cars like the Cadillac ELR, Ford Focus Electric and the Mitsubishi i barely register on the charts.
chart-4
Finally we have a chart showing the explosion of EV sales often coordinates with rising gas prices, as people sick of paying $4.00 a gallon or more decide to try something different. As gas prices rise, so do EV sales in most cases  though conversely as gas prices fall, so do to EV sales.
The lesson here? Higher gas prices mean more electric cars on the road, though the momentum behind EVs doesn’t seem to be settling anytime soon.