Transportation News

Florida’s Untapped Solar Power

(3BL Media/Just Means) I've spent the summer living in historic St. Augustine, Florida. The surf is great, the people are friendly and the sun shines brightly every single day. The sun is powerful here, powerful enough it seems to produce enough solar energy for most of the nation.

GM Receives CDP Top Rating for Climate Disclosure and Performance

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - There is a now-famous quote attributed to Charles Wilson, who, in 1953 was the CEO of General Motors. What Wilson supposedly said was, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”

While that was never entirely true, GM has recently been doing some things that have been good for America, and the rest of the world, which has also been good for themselves as well.

What GM has been doing is taking action to minimize their carbon emissions and being highly transparent in their reporting of those actions. Enough so that CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, gave them a perfect score of 100 in their 2014 assessment of all the companies in the S&P 500 based and disclosure and performance.

The CDP report, entitled “Climate Action and Profitability,” was undertaken to provide a massive group of investors representing some $92 trillion in assets with information on the climate actions and disclosure practices of all the companies in the S&P 500. Surveys were sent out to all 500 companies. A total of 348 responded. The report found strong correlation between climate action and profitability, specifically, return on equity (ROE).

Taxis vs. Uber: A Perfect Example of Resistance to Change

Guest Blog by Cyril Bouquet and Chloé Renault

In cities all over the world an ugly war is being fought by “traditional” taxi companies against a new form of competition from Uber and other ride-sharing services.

New White Diesel Fuel Can Save Energy, Reduce Emissions

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - One thing we can say for sure: people are not likely to give up the convenience, freedom and utility offered by motorized transportation as long as there are options available. Given that our current fleet of gasoline and diesel powered cars and trucks are emitting huge amounts of climate-wrecking carbon dioxide, it’s clear that things have got to change. With all the options on the table: hybrids, electric, hydrogen, compressed air, and a myriad of alternative fuels, it’s anyone’s guess how things will look, even a few years from now, never mind a couple of decades down the road.

Ultimately, if we are going to stick around, we’ll be driving cleaner cars—the cleaner the better, and the sooner the better. What if we could drive a car that used today’s technology, only powered by burning water? That would certainly be very clean—no carbon, no methane, no particulates, sulfur or nitrogen. Of course, we know that water doesn’t burn, but diesel fuel does. And researchers have known for years that a small amount of water can be added to diesel fuel to extend fuel economy while also burning cooler and cleaner. Generally speaking, experiments have found reductions as high as 90% in particulate matter as well as a 37% decrease in NOx.

This can be accomplished with a water-fuel emulsion achieved by blending the two liquids together as if making a milkshake. Researchers in New Zealand found that a mixture containing 12-15% water worked best.  The problem with this is, like with a milkshake, that if you let it sit for a while the two liquids will begin to separate at which point the engine will stall. So the challenge has been to find a way to stabilize the emulsion.

Now, a British company called SulNOx Fuel Fusions claims to have found a way utilizing nanotechnology to create fuel-water emulsion that they call “white diesel.” According to a company press release this emulsion improves fuel economy and reduces emissions “by improving atomization of the fuel and lowering engine temperatures. “

The presence of water in the emulsion has the effect of “breaking down the fuel particles [which] increases their surface area which helps the fuel to burn more completely and efficiently.”

United Airlines Introduces CarbonChoice Tool for Cargo Flights

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Sustainability is the way forward in aviation to make air transportation safer, efficient, affordable and planet-friendly. Global airline companies cannot afford to ignore their environmental responsibility, considering how critically the world’s economic and social development depends on aviation.

ACEEE Ranks World’s Largest Economies on Energy Efficiency

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) - We see a lot of analyses and projections showing why renewables, despite their rapid growth will not be able to provide sufficient energy to allow us to get off fossil fuels or nuclear for decades to come. Those analyses are based on assumptions regarding population growth, economic development and rate of energy consumption on a per capita basis.

But if you look at disparities in energy consumption, not just the obvious ones—developed vs. developing countries, but rather between countries and states with similar quality of life, we can see that there are still tremendous opportunities to be in exploited with regard to how efficiently we use energy. As an example, the state of Texas, uses 50% more energy than California, despite California’s 48% larger population.

If forecasts and projections were based on the best populations, who are bound to get even better, rather than the average, these renewable goals might begin to look far more achievable

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just completed a ranking of the 16 largest economies in the world. Results are somewhat surprising. The US, which likes to think of itself as technologically advanced, actually ranked 13th out of 16, while China, despite its sizeable growing pains, managed to achieve a 4th place rank.

Below is the list in order.

1.            Germany                

2.            Italy

3.            EU

4.            China

5.            France

6.            Japan

7.            UK

8.            Spain

9.            Canada

10.          Australia

11.          India

12.          South Korea

13.          US

14.          Russia

15.          Brazil

16.          Mexico

The ranking are based on thirty-one metrics, divided between policy metrics, which they call national efforts (e.g. national energy savings target, fuel economy standards) and performance metrics (e.g.  Average mpg, energy per square foot in buildings). State and local policies were not included. Performance metrics were divided between Buildings, Industry, and Transportation. These four categories were equally weighted, receiving 25 points apiece.

Supercapacitors Poised For a Major Clean Energy Impact

(3Bl Media/Justmeans) As an engineer, I was immediately impressed by the potential of supercapacitors in a clean energy future once I became aware of their capabilities. Much of that insight came from a conversation I had with Chad Hall, founder of supercapacitor maker Ioxus.

The reasoning goes something like this. We can get to a cleaner economy by substituting electrical devices for fossil fuel powered ones. Technically, that’s not a problem as long as we can plug things into the power grid. But for portable devices, like, for example, vehicles, we need to rely on batteries or some other type of portable energy storage, like hydrogen.

Batteries have limitations. Their characteristics depend upon the chemical reaction they are based on. Typically, we have to choose between their ability to hold a charge for a long time, giving a vehicle extended range, or the ability to deliver a substantial burst of power, providing vehicle performance. Today’s batteries have to trade-off between these two attributes which are known in the vernacular as energy density and power density.

This is where supercapacitors come in. These devices are like small batteries that can hold energy for a short time, but can deliver a tremendous burst of power. A supercapacitor, which typically has only one-tenth the energy density of a Li-ion battery, has ten times the power density. When paired with a battery that has been engineered for long range, you can get the best of both worlds.

Supercapacitor performance can be quite impressive. When paired with a 520 Hp gas engine in Toyota’s TS040 hybrid drag racing car, a supercapacitor can add a burst of 480 Hp through a pair of electric motors, bringing the instantaneous total up to 1000 Hp. The vehicle is designed to recharge the supercapacitor when braking.

These capabilities are beginning to find their way into conventional cars, both in regular and stop-start or soft hybrids. Toyota, Peugeot and BMW are all working on incorporating this technology into passenger car designs.

Harley-Davidson Unveils Its First Electric Motorcycle

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - I’ve written a number of articles here on the subject of electric vehicles. At the time I wrote them, whenever I mentioned EVs, it was pretty clear that I was talking about electric cars. As of today, that presumption can no longer be taken for granted. Harley-Davidson just announced the launch of their first electric motorcycle (video).

The bike, which is not yet available for sale, is what the company is calling Project Livewire. It took off this week on a 30-city demonstration tour. While scooters and small electric bikes have already carved out a niche in America’s transportation ecosystem, there has not been, as yet, a full-size electric motorbike from a major manufacturer. No doubt the tour will be used to gauge public interest while providing the public a sneak peek at what could be a major new transportation option.

It will be difficult to assess the market. Even Harley’s president, Matt Levatich said, “…nobody can predict right now how big that industry will be or how significant it will be.”

In keeping with H-D’s renegade image the press release says, “Project LiveWire is more like the first electric guitar — not an electric car.”

Based on the specifications, it sounds like the bike is intended primarily for city commuting. It can go a hundred miles on a charge and requires three hours or more to go from empty to a full battery. But it can go from zero to 60 a lot faster than that, four seconds to be precise, courtesy of its 75 HP electric motor that can also deliver plenty of torque for quick take-offs. The bike has a maximum top speed of 92 mph, which should be enough for city commuters, if not everyone else.

Hyundai-Kia Rated "Most Climate Friendly Carmaker" by UCS

(3BL Media/Justmeans) A new report just released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which ranks the environmental performance of the eight top-selling car companies in the U.S., had some interesting findings.

The report measured both smog-forming and global warming emissions for the model year 2013. First, the good news: every one of the companies evaluated has improved their global warming emissions compared with their 1998 average. This was, no doubt, influenced by the more stringent fuel economy standards. Cars that burn less fuel also give off less pollution. Overall, smog-forming emissions dropped by 87% since 1998. Global warming (GW) emissions, which have become regulated more recently, have dropped by nearly 20 percent. This reverses a two-decade trend, from 1985 to 2005, when gasoline prices fell and Americans fell in love with gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. A slumping economy, followed by a slow recovery, saw relatively little investment in more-efficient technologies, a trend that has finally reversed. Letting the marketplace sort itself out, as free market cheerleaders have suggested, did not adequately reflect the long-term urgency of the global warming threat. It was only when the new regulations became law that we saw significant changes occur.

Most surprising perhaps, was the fact that for the first time, South Korean automaker Hyundai-Kia took the top spot, moving past long-time champion Honda. Hyundai-Kia made aggressive strides in improving its fuel-efficiency by shifting to smaller engines, adding turbo-charging and offering hybrid-electric versions of its most popular models, the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. Honda continues to lead in several classes, including SUVs and pickup trucks, but has fallen behind in its midsize fleet, dominated by its best-selling Accord sedan.

Also disconcerting, though not totally surprising, is the fact that America’s Big Three were at the bottom in this list; all were rated below the industry average set by foreign-made vehicles. Looking at the list, the companies fall in line by geography, going from Hyundai-Kia, to Japan’s big three (Honda, Toyota, Nissan), to Volkswagen, to the best of Detroit. Domestically, Ford led the pack, followed by GM and Chrysler. These eight top-selling brands represent nearly 90% of all US vehicle sales.The differences between companies were significant with top-ranked Hyundai-Kia producing 26.4% less GW emissions than Chrysler. Ford was third most improved from last year, following Nissan and Hyundai-Kia.

Different companies are currently pursuing different technologies to improve their emissions, ranging from turbocharged gasoline engines, to hybrid electrics, to diesels, to plug-in hybrids and battery electrics. With EPA standards scheduled to tighten in the coming years, we can expect this trend to continue. GM has stated a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 15% by 2017.

The UCS rankings were developed by taking the average per mile emissions for each

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