Green Cars

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.

Fiat & Chrysler ditch hybrid cars in favor of natural gas

Fiat & Chrysler ditch hybrid cars in favor of natural gas In the search for the next green car many automakers have pinned their hopes on hybrid technology. The combination of a gasoline engine and battery pack system has had the attention of car buyers with hybrids like Toyota’s Prius to Chevy’s new Volt. Fiat, however, is betting on natural gas to help them grab a part of the green car market in the US.

Biofuels overshadowed by Nissan LEAF and other EV’s

Biofuels overshadowed by Nissan LEAF and other EV’sWith the buzz about EV’s such as the Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt, news about biofuels seems muted. Biofuels, however, remain an important component in the strategy to wean car drivers from fossil fuels. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act promoted the production of biofuels by providing subsidies and consumption requirements. The goal of the legislation is to increase the usage of biofuels from 4.7 billion gallons in 2007 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. But, unlike EV’s, biofuels have not been living up to their hype.

The most widely used biofuel in the US is ethanol, which is blended with gasoline to make gasohol (a blend of 10% ethanol with 90% gasoline). And ethanol is most commonly derived from corn, much in the same way that moonshine is made. The disadvantage of manufacturing ethanol from corn is that it competes with food production. To address the problem, the Energy Independence and Security Act also required that ethanol be produced from non-food crops, such as switchgrass or wood.

Want the first Chevy Volt? Bidding starts at $50k, school benefits

Want the first Chevy Volt? Bidding starts at $50k, school benefits GM is showing a bit of social web savvy and mixing that with a generous gift to education while also furthering the Chevrolet Volt’s already glowing reputation with the green community. It has decided to auction off the first Volt ever produced for retail online and plans to forward the proceeds to the study of math and science at Detroit Public Schools. It’s a powerful way of introducing the car with few advertising dollars spent.

Beyond the smartness of this move, GM is also generating a gift for a starving city. Detroit’s population has tumbled as the U.S. auto industry has struggled to ride through the recession. GM helped make the city during it’s most successful days by offering good jobs with excellent benefits, and current residents will likely be overjoyed at this new spurt of generosity.

Chevy Volt leapfrogs Toyota's Prius to become mpg king

Chevy Volt leapfrogs Toyota's Prius to become mpg king Toyota has long held the top spot when it comes to hybrid gas mileage. Hybrid cars from the likes of Honda and BMW may sport cool lines, but they couldn't beat the mileage that the Prius offered. According to the EPA, the Chevy Volt has now eclipsed the hybrid king with an estimated 60 mpg rating.

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety relief

Look out Chevy Volt: Nissan LEAF gets range anxiety reliefAs automakers develop more innovative electric cars – such as the Nissan LEAF and Mitsubishi i-MiEV – two issues still need to be resolved before EV’s can challenge hybrids such as the Chevy Volt. These issues are range anxiety and the speed of recharge. NRG, a power generating company based in New Jersey, is piloting the eVgo network in Houston to both solve these problems and expand its energy market.

The advantage electric cars have over other transportation alternatives such as hydrogen or natural gas is that the infrastructure to deliver electric charge already exists. Ideally, an EV would charge overnight in the garage, so it would be ready to go for the daily commute. But what if the commute exceeds the range of the car? And if drivers can stop somewhere to recharge, will it take hours?

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric!

Nissan LEAF rated 99 mpg by EPA, even though it’s all electric! The Nissan LEAF is running at the front of a new set of cars powered completely by electricity. After generations of using combustion engine cars powered by gasoline, drivers in the U.S. are understandably programmed to evaluate the efficiency of vehicles based on their miles per gallon rating. But electric-only cars create a hiccup in that measurement because the main ingredient, gasoline, is missing.

To address that confusion, the EPA has announced a calculation that estimates how much electricity is necessary to power a vehicle for 100 miles. It determined that each 100 miles requires 33.7 kilowatt-hours of electricity and the Nissan LEAF stores 24 kilowatt-hours in its lithium-ion batteries.

Cher says hybrid cars are BS!

Cher says hybrid cars are BS! Cher is legendary, her following of fans is vast, and now she’s publicly expressed a disdain for hybrid vehicles. The sad thing is she has the power to create strong interest in hybrid vehicles but instead has created a black mark for many people who trust her and haven’t done their own research. Although some hybrid cars only provide an incremental benefit, as a class they’re certainly more efficient than their traditional combustion-only cousins.

Specifically, Cher was frustrated when looking at buying a diesel hybrid when she discovered that diesel fuel wasn’t readily available around her. That’s a fairly shallow reason for rejecting hybrid cars as a class and points toward a lack of research. For example, though a Toyota Prius doesn’t have the same star power as a Mercedes (which is what Cher wanted), it accepts regular gasoline and provides far better mileage than a regular car.