Green Business

Amazon’s Kindle 3 is its best selling product ever, now make it greener

Amazon’s Kindle 3 is its best selling product ever, now make it greenerThe Kindle 3 has a lot going for it: a high contrast E Ink screen, slim form factor, access to a wide selection of books, and the price seems quite reasonable amid all of the recent competition. For anyone seeking a dedicated reading device, the Kindle 3 is a compelling option, and it has the potential to impact our environment positively -- eventually.

Given its apparent popularity, however, Amazon has a responsibility to make the device even greener. In a study conducted in 2009 researchers looked at the average carbon footprint caused by printing books and compared that to the carbon footprint a Kindle 2 creates while being manufactured. Their conclusion? It takes about a year for a Kindle 2 to catch up in savings compared with an average reader using paper books.

Ford sensibly upgrading ALL its cars with start-stop engine common in hybrids

Ford sensibly upgrading ALL its cars with start-stop engine common in hybridsThe average consumer has a finite amount of resources he or she can allocate to the purchase of a new car. Ford’s latest move toward installing start-stop engines on all of its vehicles indicates the company understands that reality. Hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius and Ford Fusion hybrid certainly can pay off their price premium in the long term but the amount of cash consumers have available up front can make those options unrealistic.

But, that doesn’t mean concepts common in hybrid cars won’t work in more traditional combustion engine vehicle, as Ford is proving. Ford’s start-stop technology will be available in North America starting in 2012 according to a company press release. Great news, but what benefit will drivers see?

Digital signage belies energy savings of LED lighting

Digital signage belies energy savings of LED lightingIn spite of evidence to the contrary, it seems to be human nature to believe that more of a good thing is a better thing. Using light emitting diodes (LED’s) for digital signage is an example where more is definitely not better.

LED’s are the most efficient lighting technology currently available. As noted in a previous article, they use much less energy and last much longer than incandescent lighting. Even compared to compact fluorescent lighting (CFL’s), LED’s last six time as long and use half the energy.

Millennials don’t want cars, so Zipcar may defeat Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt

Millennials don’t want cars, so Zipcar may defeat Toyota Prius and Chevy VoltOnce, owning a car was the pinnacle of success in a young person’s life. It was a sign that an individual had wealth enough that they could sponsor independent transportation at their leisure. And although that perception certainly still exists, its influence isn’t as potent especially when looking at it from a Millennial’s point of view. Zipcar is capitalizing on that shift in perspective by offering a short term car rental or “car sharing” service, but recently it seems the company needs more money.

Chevy Volt’s green halo is bursting from new Gulf oil leak recycling program

Chevy Volt’s green halo is bursting from new Gulf oil leak recycling programGM heralds the Chevrolet Volt regularly as its answer to consumer demand for fuel efficient, green vehicles. The technology that powers the Chevrolet Volt is making its way into several other car models, making them gas sippers, and in the process GM paints itself in a pure green limelight. The company isn’t stopping there though; instead it’s taking what otherwise might be complete waste from the Gulf oil leak and transforming it into parts for its flagship green car.

While we certainly would be better off if we could erase the the natural resources wasted and pollution created by the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico, at this point the only option is to move forward and deal with the mess. GM is taking that challenge head on, and doing it a way that could assist while also turning a profit. That’s a potent combination, but how do they do it?

Are LED Christmas lights really greener? Maybe not

Are LED Christmas lights really greener? Maybe notMore and more energy conscious people are using light emitting diodes (LED’s) to decorate their houses and Christmas trees. Environmentalists consider LED’s a better option than traditional Christmas lighting due to their low energy usage and long life. But a recent study indicates that LED lights may not make a Christmas tree “green.”

LED’s use 90% less energy, last 40 times as long, and produce 1/25th of the heat compared to conventional incandescent lighting. They are more expensive – decorating your tree could cost an additional $40 – so it would take a few years to see a savings. But, because they burn much cooler, using LED’s also reduce the chance of a tragic holiday fire. So with all these benefits, are they really greener?

Graphene may be 200x stronger than steel, but it has a flaw

Graphene may be 200x stronger than steel, but it has a flawGraphene is exciting for a variety of reasons, from its incredible strength to its unique characteristics that lend itself to efficient energy storage and fast computer processing. While those things all still hold true, a group of scientists has discovered a flaw in graphene’s strength. That could be bittersweet news because researchers want to understand the limits of the material as they continue to explore how best to apply it.

It seems that graphene is very strong until subjected to equal pressure in all directions. That scenario creates a reaction in its atoms that results in new crystal formations. That means as scientists understand graphene now, any device or structure built from it would become much weaker if subjected that form of stress. Granted, most personal devices wouldn’t see equal pressure everywhere on their surfaces at once, but shift perspective to a military application and the concern becomes more concrete.

GM splits its bet between fuel cell vehicles and Chevy Volt

GM splits its bet between fuel cell vehicles and Chevy VoltAlthough Hawaii was the last state admitted into the Union, it plans to be the leading state for vehicles powered by hydrogen. The goal of the recently announced Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative is to reduce Hawaii’s energy dependence by commercializing hydrogen-fueled cars in five years. General Motors and The Gas Company (TGC), a Hawaiian utility that produces synthetic natural gas, created the partnership in May 2010, and were recently joined by an additional ten partners including universities and agencies.

In spite of the anticipated success of the Chevy Volt, GM never gave up on developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. One of the biggest challenges to commercialize hydrogen cars, however, is the lack of infrastructure. You can charge an electric car at your home, but when was the last time you saw a filling station that provides hydrogen?

Energized by Chevy Volt, GM invests in an electric future

Energized by Chevy Volt, GM invests in an electric futureAs the Chevy Volt begins to roll into showrooms, GM signaled its commitment to the future of the electric car by announcing plans to hire 1000 engineers and researchers to develop more EV’s. While the Chevy Volt received accolades such as the Motor Trend Car of the Year, and beat the fuel-economy rating of long-time leader Toyota Prius, the Volt’s price tag of $41,000 is a bit too steep for most drivers. EV’s won’t become truly competitive until the batteries that power these cars are less expensive and last longer. GM hopes it’s investment will allow the corporation to develop more affordable EV’s and hybrids, and become the industry leader in electric cars.

GM isn’t the only one confident that EV’s will soon provide serious competition to the internal combustion engine. In remarks at the Cancun climate conference, Dr. Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, predicted that electric cars could become with competitive with conventional cars in as few as five years.

Imagine a Nissan LEAF with a graphene-based supercapacitor battery

Imagine a Nissan LEAF with a graphene-based supercapacitor battery The Nissan LEAF has many benefits. Because it’s powered solely by electricity the cost to fuel it is low, and the engine is quiet because the miniature nexus of explosions present in a combustion engine is missing. But with its current lithium-ion battery, the Nissan LEAF exposes a couple of insurmountable flaws for many: a 75 mile per charge range according to the EPA with a long charge on an average outlet. But what if that changed, and its battery could charge in under 2 minutes?

That vision might be true someday soon, and a newly announced graphene-based supercapacitor could provide part of the solution. Graphene is a material that can be reduced to single-atom sheets and has useful applications in everything from computer processors to energy storage.