Any business that wants to tout its green credentials wants to partner with Formula E, the international racing series for open wheel electric cars. Recently Enel Group, one of the largest suppliers of renewable energy in the world, decided to embrace that opportunity. It has now forged an alliance with Formula E designed to further reduce the carbon footprint of the series.
Toyota has released a new YouTube video in which it claims a fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) like its Toyota Mirai has a lower carbon footprint than a battery electric vehicle (BEV). For electric car advocates, that’s a tough claim to swallow.
Statistics can land a person in trouble pretty fast. The old adage that “Figures lie and liars figure” is often true, especially if politicians are the ones doing the figuring. And make no mistake about it – the future of transportation is largely a political battle, as gigantic multinational companies like Toyota try to convince governments to fund the enormous costs associated with building the infrastructure needed for the cars of tomorrow. At present, the cost of a hydrogen refueling station is put at $1.2 million and hundreds of them will have to be built before the hydrogen economy becomes a reality.
One way to skew things in Toyota’s favor is to assume that the hydrogen that its FCEVs will use comes from clean solar power, but the electricity needed to recharge a BEV comes from a pollution spewing coal fired plant. And that’s pretty much what Toyota does in this controversial video. Here’s the line in the video that has EV advocates up in arms:
“Never satisfied though, Toyota engineers were simultaneously working on a brand new technology that met all the driver’s needs with an even smaller carbon footprint, one that took its lead from nature itself.”
Says Transport Evolved writer Paul Scott to Autoblog Green:
“Toyota claims the FCV has a smaller carbon footprint than their EV, but every paper I’ve read indicates the FCV uses 3-4 times as much energy to travel a given distance as an EV. If they are making this claim, let’s call them out to prove it. Show us the math!” Adds staffer Chelsea Sexton, “Assuming appropriate comparisons in energy feedstocks, basic science doesn’t support the notion that the footprint of an FCV is smaller than that of an EV.”
Toyota responds that it only meant FCEVs have a smaller carbon footprint than convention fossil fuel powered cars. But if that’s what it meant, that’s what it should have said. As Transport Evolved points out in its analysis, under ideal conditions, a hydrogen fuel cell car powered and refueled from a solar-powered hydrolysis station and an electric car powered by power from a photovoltaic array nearby would have equally low emissions.
But in the real world, it’s more complicated then that. Most hydrogen for commercial use today is derived from natural gas produced by fracking. Then it has to be stored, pumped and transported, a process which uses energy and, if we assume the conventional fossil-fueled tanker method, adds its own carbon footprint to the mix. Meanwhile, BEV supporters need to tread lightly as well. As a recent study from the University of Minnesota points out, charging an EV with electricity made from coal offers little if any environmental benefits over driving a conventional fossil fuel powered car.
Perhaps Toyota is a little to sunny in its claims for its fuel cell technology. And maybe electric car advocates are a little too willing to dismiss the environmental impact of making electricity from coal. From the point of view of being kind to the earth, we have a long way yet to go.
Solar cars are what they are – very, very cool but not entirely practical for everyday use. Honda hasn’t let that stop them from using all the solar power they can get their hands on, though; rather than build solar cars, they’re reducing their carbon footprint another way.
Honda is planning to install solar panels in every single office and every dealership (selling 4-wheeled vehicles) across the entire country of Japan. They’re the first automotive company in the world to put solar panels on all the buildings (or they will be, if all goes according to plan).
Watch It In Real-Time
All of the current power generation can be seen in real time on the Honda Japanese website – click here to see the maps and graphs – which, yes, it’s in Japanese, but it’s pretty self-explanatory. The map tells you where the current installations are, and poking around at the bar graph gives you the monthly, yearly, or daily amounts of power generated (the blue button all the way to the left is “today” and the numbered buttons are the months of the year). See? Easy.
The solar panels are directly linked to Honda’s database servers so as to automatically collect and display the data in real time that neat little table for you to read. Right now, the total capacity nationwide is around 3.5 megawatts; by the end of next year, Honda plans to have 7 megawatts worth of solar paneling installed.
And after that, maybe they’ll move on to the bike shops. Do you guys think they should take this out of Japan and start installations in other countries? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Green Car View | Image: Honda.
Christened the Porsche Boxster “Ecologic,” the car can be started and run on conventional gasoline, and “switched” to LPG from inside the cabin. RBM claims the little Porsche loses just 10 peak hp (of 252) with no loss of torque, for a very similar driving experience. Despite losing less than 5% of its peak horsepower, though, the Ecologic Porsche cuts nitrous oxide and other harmful emissions by 70%, along with a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions.
RBM mounts the LPG tank in the front “trunk” of the Boxster, with enough space still left over for a spare wheel and (recycled!) handbag. The rear trunk (the Boxster has 2 trunks) has been left alone, while the switch for the LPG system has been integrated seamlessly into the factory dashboard.
The price for integrating RBM Sport’s LPG fuel system with the OEM engine management system is 3,280 EU for a 6 cylinder motor; 4,280 EU for a V8, and 2,280 EU for a 4 cylinder, which doesn’t include the VAT. Considering the difficulty many high-end tuning firms with storied histories have had “cracking” Porsche’s latest Siemens-produced DMEs, that actually seems pretty reasonable!
As for the LPG, the fuel has been in use since (at least) the 1940s as an alternative to gasoline and accounts for about 2% of America’s energy use. So, while there is very little “new” about LPG as a fuel, its use in a performance car – with minimal negative impact in terms of performance! – is certainly good news … and if reasons like “really no downside” and “much, much cleaner” don’t make LPG interesting to you, at the very least I could argue that you should care about this story because Porsches are sexy, sexy things, and a much lovelier poster child for alternative fuels than GM’s “less awesome” Chevy Volt. (This is true. – Ed.)
Source | Photos: RBM Sport, via MotorPasión
The United States Postal Service is headed off a cliff, and – according to the US Government Accountability Office – few are even giving its demise a second thought.
That’s the same USPS, by the way, that was once a great source of national pride, that united America’s coasts and transmitted vital information at incredible speeds, that kept families connected across rivers and valleys, and that inspired the unofficial creed “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Ignore the fact that the creed actually refers to the couriers of the ancient Persian Empire – people believed that the USPS embodied these words, and many postmen and women did their best (maybe) to live up to them.
So, what happened?
That’s what Phillip Herr, of the US Gov’t Accountability Office, is trying desperately to find out … for the past three years.
Herr finds the USPS fascinating, for (perhaps) obvious reasons: the USPS is ubiquitous, relied on, and (my words, not his) totally screwed. “It’s one of those things that the public just takes for granted,” he says. “The mailman shows up, drops off the mail, and that’s it.”
For Herr and the USPS, the situation is grim. As they try to “pin the blame” on the rise of email and subsequent decline of “private post” (personal letters, greeting cards, thank-you cards, etc.). They are the first to admit that they are baffled as to why, when facing the same challenges which post offices across the world are facing, they are floundering … while those postal services in Europe and Asia (for example) are, in Herr’s words, thriving.
How bad, then, is the situation for the USPS?
In scientific terms: Really bad.
Since 2007 (the “salad days” of America’s last economic bubble) the USPS has been unable to cover its annual budget (80% of which is made up of employees’ salaries and benefits). To stay afloat and pay its people, the USPS has had to borrow more than 12 billion (with a b) dollars from the US Treasury, which (unlike GM and Chrysler) it has been unable to pay back. Earlier this month, the Treasury reached its statutory debt limit … so, unless something pretty drastic happens on Capitol Hill, it’s pretty much Game Over for the USPS, already.
There are political games being played all around the USPS’ impending demise, of course (there always are, when that much money’s involved), but nobody really seems to be asking The Big Question about the USPS going the way of the Dodo. That question being, of course: so what?
This is a green car blog, so I’m looking at this issue strictly from an environmental and green-tech perspective … and I don’t see many downsides to the loss of the USPS.
- the USPS, in my experience, exists to stuff my apartment’s mailbox with coupons and ads
- these coupons – in various forms – appear in the mailboxes of (literally) hundreds of millions of other Americans
- said coupons and ads (being mail) are printed, and represent thousands of tons of paper, toxic ink, fuel energy (both in their production and distribution), and airborne emissions from the paper mills that create thousands of tons of paper
- I (and, I suspect, most of you) throw away the vast, sweeping majority of said coupons – literally – without so much as a glance
- those coupons and mailers end up filling garbage cans (or, at best, recycle bins)
- they require fuel energy (again) to drag to landfills or recycling bins …
… and every step along the way the mass of this JUNK mail, and the mass of the old-tech USPS trucks, the fuel they use, the loads they put on America’s roads, the oil that lubricates them, the tires that carry them, etc. just keep on making the environment that much worse.
Well, not every day. 6 days a week. Maybe 5 days. Not holidays. If the weather’s not too bad out.
To recap: every day that’s not a Sunday (and sometimes not a Saturday) that doesn’t fall on a state or state-recognized religious holiday when the weather isn’t too terribly awful the USPS unleashes its fleet of 215,625 vehicles, each carrying hundreds (if not thousands) of pounds of pre-landfill crap to your door, on their way to clocking 1.25 billion (again, with a b) miles every year.
That’s an awful lot of vehicles clocking an almost inconceivable number of miles while slurping down petroleum and belching out untold tons of harmful emissions, sure – but the fun doesn’t stop there! Those numbers doesn’t include the hundreds-of-thousands-strong fleet of privately owned cars and trucks that ferry the USPS’ 575,000 career employees to work and home each and every one of those days that’s not a Sunday (and sometimes not a Saturday) that doesn’t fall on a state or state-recognized religious holiday when the weather isn’t too terribly awful …
… all so that, every few days, I can dig a single Netflix DVD out from a mess of junk mail before throwing it out.
That said, the USPS has outlived its usefulness, is bad Bad BAD for Mother Earth, and I won’t miss it when it’s gone. Now, enjoy some Seinfeld!
Natural-gas water heaters are nothing new, and (in many cases) they’ve been engineered into mini-marvels of energy efficiency. What happens to natural gas water heaters, however, if the current trend towards CNG-powered cars and trucks start to drive up demand and prices? That’s not something I’d ever thought of, but this is “Gas 2.0”, and the answer to the question of “what comes after oil” in cars will have repercussions far beyond the scope of automotive news.
Where does that leave the gas-powered water heater? Our sister-site, Cleantechnica, recently covered the solar water heater (shown, above) and offered a few tips on selecting the right solar system to meet your heating needs – which may become a cost-effective alternative to even the most efficient CNG heaters.
Check out the original post over on Cleantechnica.
To drive or to fly? That is the question. Researchers at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo have predicted that pollution from cars will be the chief global warming agent for the next 100 years. So the green answer is to fly.
The study carried out by CICERO monitored known pollutants in different transport sectors (air, ground, rail, and shipping), and how the global emissions in the year 2000 affects current global temperature. The good news is that pollution from aviation is rather short lived, and not directly linked to long term global warming. According to researcher Jan Fuglestvedt, “air transport has several strong, but short lasting, effects on global temperature.”
As if there isn’t enough bio-diesel controversy over the food for fuel debate now we have a little skirmish arising here in San Francisco. When we walk by any San Francisco restaurant (particularly the ones that have that delish yet oh so bad for you fried cuisine) we can smell where this fuss originated – the fryers. Yes, it’s that oh so wonderful french fry grease that companies like Blue Sky Bio-fuels and Got Grease work with to create biofuel. To us this method makes much more sense to reuse old oil and grease than to the create fuel directly from real food.
In this case the grease skirmish remains between the City of San Francisco and the private sector. Both Got Grease and Blue Sky pick up grease (usually for free) from small restaurants, but now the City jumped into the fryer and collects it as well. The fact that the City collects the oil isn’t a problem but the fact that the City has been using health inspectors to secure oil from the restaurants smells like burnt oil to us. Apparently a letter from the City exists that says something to the effect of “The City has been so busy collecting restaurant oil that we haven’t had time to write up violations.” Should we call this mess “Greasefellas”?