Monday, January 31, 2011

What’s Likely to Happen the Day After Tomorrow?

This weekend, I watched a movie on DVD – “The Day After Tomorrow,” released in 2004 and starring Dennis Quaid as a government scientist who sees that the earth is heading fast toward eco-catastrophe, and Jake Gyllenhaal as his college student son stuck in a New York city library with friends, as the city freezes over. The premise of the story is that global warming is upon us, but it’s going to happen through abrupt climate change where the world’s northern hemisphere at first freezes over and enters a new ice age.

As the blizzard wipes out the northern hemisphere, Americans have to beg for access to Mexico and ironically go south of the border. The president freezes to death and a conservative vice president takes over, goes on TV at the end of the movie, and admits he should have been supportive of natural resources and could be partially to blame for this nightmare occurring. Scientist Quaid gives a presentation earlier in the movie about global warming happening, but that it will also trigger a new ice age where people will freeze to death if outdoors. He takes on the cause of going to New York City and saving his son, making up for abandoning him earlier.

So the movie boils down to two things – a 1970s style disaster epic in the family of “Earthquake,” and “The Poseidon Adventure,” and it becomes a father/son bonding flick. Throw in the cute girlfriend that Jake wins over in the library, and you get the idea.

I don’t think it was really about public education on global warming, and what needs to be done about it. It is very interesting that the movie came out in 2004, two years ahead of “An Inconvenient Truth,” with Al Gore, which is given credit for raising awareness of global warming and environmental catastrophe and helping the sustainability, clean tech, and green car sectors move forward. So obviously, the topic was hot enough (or cold enough) to allow for funding and distribution of a global warming survival flick seven years ago.

On the subject, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change had a few things to say about the movie and didn't think it was a realistic forecast. They had this to say...

If “The Day After Tomorrow” is fiction, what is the truth about global warming?
The truth is that global warming is happening and that it is already too late to avoid some of the effects. Even under the most optimistic circumstances, atmospheric scientists expect global climate change to result in increased flooding and droughts, more severe storms, and a loss of plant and animal species. These events will occur, even if climate change is gradual.

What can be done about global climate change?
There is no single cause of global climate change and there is no single answer. Most experts believe that technology will provide the solutions. Technologies that reduce emissions (energy efficiency, hydrogen fuels, carbon storage, nuclear energy, and renewable energy) and technologies that remove carbon from the atmosphere may all play a role. Government policies that encourage businesses to develop and use these and other technologies are also very important. Many states and businesses have already found they can reduce emissions while saving money.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does Jimmy Klein Really Exist?

Just posted a TV news video on Jimmy Klein in ADW Green. The odd thing is that I can't find anything more about this guy, and whether his water-fueled converted car really did get taken up in Washington DC and by an interested automaker. One story says that his name is actually Denny Klein, and perhaps they're correct. A blog entry says that he died.

So which one is accurate? If you know, let me know. But watch the video in ADW Green - it's good stuff in the American tradition of inventors of light bulbs and all sorts of cool stuff.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Clean Instead of Green

During his State of the Union speech, President Obama made statements about clean energy technology that he believes should be enhanced to free our dependence on oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He wants to see an end to tax breaks for oil and gas, and have those funds go instead to renewable energy. Research and incentives should go to biofuels, and will help put a million electric vehicles on American roads by 2015. Obama would also like to see Congress pass a mandate that would require 80% of the country's electricity to come from clean energy sources by 2035 - this would include renewables (such as solar and wind), nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas.

I do see the word "clean" being used a lot these days, even more so than "green." Here's my thoughts on the subject of why it's becoming a popular word (so popular it's being used in company names, government policies, and marketing materials). 

1. Clean sounds better than green. Green can be directly connected to environmental activism and causes, and some people just don't want to go there. As Kermit the frog and Ray Charles would say, it ain't easy being green.

2. Cleaning up messes is a good thing. As things changed drastically over the past 100 years, America became a bit of a cesspool right along with many positive changes. If you think about the public information TV commercial from the early 1970s where the Native American chief cries after seeing all the piled up trash, thick smog, and filthy lakes and rivers, you'll see recognition of the troubling dilemma of creating the most powerful economy in the world and its dirty byproducts. So cleaning up messes is a good thing, whether they come from coal powered energy plants or smog spewing cars. 

3. Clean is high tech. Most of the time, I see references to "clean" tied to the words "tech" or "technology." I think that's one of the factors that gets a lot of people excited about "clean" (and somewhat to "green"). It does require a lot of advanced technology innovations to make energy efficient and clean, to develop biofuels that work well without causing layers of problems, and producing effective, workable, long-range electric vehicles. It's very similar to the American dream that was realized when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mazda, Fisker & Coda EV Updates

Mazda Motor said that it is developing an electric vehicle with plans to begin leasing in Japan in spring 2012.

The vehicle, based on Mazda's Demio subcompact, is expected to have a driving range of 124 miles and will be leased mainly to local government bodies and fleet customers.

Fisker Automotive says production of the Karma extended-range plug-in hybrid will begin in March. Fisker previously set and abandoned several other production start goals over the past year, so this is good news.

Production should ramp up in the summer months and the company aims to have all initial deposit holders into their cars by the end of the 2011 model year. The Karma will have a base price of  $95,900 - up from the previously announced $87,900.

Coda Automotive has hired Philip Murtagh, former chairman of GM's Chinese operation, as its new chief executive. Acting CEO and co-chairman Mac Heller will remain as Coda's chairman and company founder and co-chairman Miles Rubin moves into the new post of chairman emeritus.

Coda, which builds its batteries and assembles its car in China before merging the two at a facility in the US, can only benefit from its new chief executive's experience.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Honda Extends Carbon Reduction to All Suppliers

In a move similar to what Ford Motor Co. did not long ago, Honda is changing its supply chain structure to further reduce its carbon footprint. It's not brand new for the Japanese automaker, but it expands the guidelines outside that country and to all of its supply chain partners.

According to coverage, the manufacturer’s old guidelines, written in 2001, called for managing the CO2 footprint of its production processes, managing the use of chemical substances, and introducing environmental management meeting the ISO14001 standard. Now Honda has added to that list the improvement of product fuel efficiency and managing greenhouse gas emissions in all areas of corporate activities. The company is expanding its environmental purchasing guidelines to cover all its suppliers around the world.

“With the new guidelines, Honda will strive to better track and reduce the environmental footprint of Honda products throughout the supply chain beyond primary suppliers,” the company said.

Along with Ford's supply chain decision, announcements are being made regularly by automakers in Europe and Asia about greening supply chain logistics, and GM and Chrysler are catching up. Not necessarily with suppliers, but something the process is expanding beyond building and marketing plug-in, hybrid, and alternative fuel vehicles to include how the cars are constructed and what goes into them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Science Guys Debate Whether There is Hope Now for Electric Cars

Here are a couple letters to the editor from two sources – one an engineer with years of experience in the aerospace and satellite sector, and another with years spent in the world of biochemistry. Their opinions (especially those of the anonymous engineer) at first activated a dark, ominous, inner voice that told me such things as, “We’re all doomed!” However, it is important to explore all of these issues and concerns, especially from people with the capability of gauging and examining the technical/scientific side of the journey, which does not include me. I can learn more and translate such concepts into everyday language, but that does not make it easy. So thanks to Anonymous Engineer and Khanh Nguyen for contributing.

Electric cars are not green unless they are charged with local solar or wind sourced electrons. It is true they do not spew CO2 locally, but it is being spewed at the electric plant – polluting a lower income person's air who has to live by a power plant, rather than the rich person who can afford an electric car in the hilly suburbs.

To exacerbate the carbon, when transmitting the power over power lines... there is loss (it’s a physics thing), so you actually need to burn more fuel in a power plant to power an electric car than the car itself would burn.

If an electric car driver plugs his car into his house plug and does not have solar panels on his roof, he is 90% likely to being dark brown, rather than green.

As of two years ago, it took more energy (from what source?) to manufacture a solar cell than it can produce in its life. Not to mention the toxic waste residual to the manufacturing process.

Which means for now solar energy is not green.

Solar energy can be converted to electricity without solar cells. The large reflector plant built by ARCO in the ‘80s out near Dagget is an example we need to be motivated to do that type of plant, and spend more on research.

Someone should bother to develop a solar cell that puts out more power than it takes to manufacture.

There is stuff to do... we may not be able to get everyone renewable, but I don't want people buying a Volt when it is a fallacy. 

Anonymous Engineer 

And a second letter to the editor…

Are the electric cars even carbon and energy neutral? That is, if combustion efficiencies and carbon emissions are better controlled in a large electricity generating plant than on individual combustion engines, and if transmission loss is minimized to the point where the overall result would be neutral - lots of technological advances here. Of course, neutrality is only a break-even point; the idea is to lessen impacts on the planet. What would be the answers to these queries? I see a mutually beneficial study for an environmental group and the oil industry here.

Khanh Nguyen, Biochemist

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Latest in Random Thoughts on Electric Vehicles

Electric cars are a big part of the Detroit auto show this year, as they were at LA Auto Show. Plugs, cords and charging units meant to replenish batteries of plug-in vehicles are prominent among displays at the Cobo Center. Big topics for journalists during press preview days last week: recharge times and crash safety of electric vehicles…

Small EV companies are now at a critical juncture where the central question is not whether their technology works but whether they can become real car companies. The huge challenge is in the complexities of purchasing, manufacturing, safety standards, warranty costs, marketing and establishing a retail network to handle sales, parts and service. The ability to master this stuff – the business part of the car business, as opposed to the car part – will be the big test for small companies. According to Automotive News’ Dave Guilford...

Renault last week suspended three executives and accused a foreign private company of industrial espionage in an official filing that set the wheels in motion for a judicial investigation, according to Automotive News. Renault did not name any alleged foreign perps in the case that could involve stealing the French carmaker's electric vehicle technology. This makes me wonder if these shenanigans will affect the US market and its partner company Nissan. Renault and Nissan are sharing technology – it could affect the Leaf electric car. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Generation Y Car Buyers

I participated in a media interview today, answering questions about young people aged 19 to 35 and their likelihood of buying less cars. I mentioned the Deloitte study that just came out during the Detroit auto show about Gen Y, ages 19 to 31, making up 40% of car shoppers with utmost concerns about tech toys like connectivity and apps in their cars, and that they're also concerned about good customer service from dealers.

Gen Yers will probably buy less cars than baby boomer parents/grandparents, and they do have some concerns about air pollution, traffic, and cost of ownership. For now, they're less excited about cars than boomers, but that could change after the recession lifts. They will most likely be interested in fuel efficient, high performance, cool, tech gadgeted machines that offer manageable monthly payments. Some will be hot for the Tesla Roadster and other race cars, but most will be concerned about affording their future. And as gas prices go up again, this offers another angle for marketing green cars.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Henry Ford’s Ghost Behind the Wheel

Ford Motor Co. is now doing what great grandfather Henry Ford did with the Model T – reshaping the auto industry, according to great grandson Bill Ford, executive chairman at Ford. Ford unveiled three new hybrid and electric vehicles at the Detroit auto show as part of its plan to provide more choices for fuel efficient transportation than any other manufacturer, as well as a seven-passenger small minivan called the Ford C-Max, according to Detroit Free Press.

The Ford executive team has been making bold statements about the company being ever bolder than any carmaker on the planet as the industry digs out of its post-Great Depression, Jr. era and faces steep fuel economy and emissions standards. Here’s a taste of what Ford is bragging about and displaying at the North American International Auto Show:


Ford C-Max Hybrid And C-Max Energi

Ford will build two five-passenger hybrid versions of its C-Max compact minivan: a conventional hybrid and a plug-in hybrid called the Energi. Both will feature a gasoline engine, electric motor and lithium-ion batteries and are expected to go on sale in 2012.


Ford Focus Electric - Electric Compact Hatchback

The Focus Electric is Ford’s first battery-powered car for consumers. Ford says its electric Focus will cover up to 100 miles on a full charge — and recharge in about half the time of the Nissan Leaf.

Ford C-Max - Compact Seven-Seat Minivan

The Ford C-Max is a compact, seven-seat minivan. It is about the size of the 1984 Plymouth Voyager that gave birth to the minivan craze. Ford’s new C-Max minivan aims to offer young parents a well-equipped, fuel-efficient family hauler for around $25,000.

2012 Ford Focus And Focus ST -- Compact Sedan And Hatchback

The sleek and technically advanced Focus will bring an unprecedented range of features to mainstream compact cars when it goes on sale this year. In addition to a sleek new look and European ride and handling, the Focus can count on an EPA rating of 40 m.p.g. on the highway, thanks to the 160-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine’s direct fuel-injection and variable valve timing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Daimler Betting on E-Cell and F-Cell Expensive Cars

According to the New York Times, Mercedes Benz is hedging its bets with expensive electric and a fuel cell cars. The SLS AMG E-Cell all-electric version of its $185,000 supercar is to go on sale in 2013.

This high-voltage coupe can produce 525 horsepower and 649 pound-feet of torque. 

Also rolling onto the stage at the Mercedes press event was the F-Cell, a hydrogen fuel-cell version of the B-Class. This was on display at the LA Auto Show, too and began sales in the state to a limited market. Daimler wants to see how much interest there is, which would make it worth the investment to ramp up the volume. 

It was very interesting to see how much Daimler and BMW have been focusing on green cars fairly recently. This comes a lot from strict regs in the EU and US. Whatever the cause, they've added it to their game plans. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Would You Buy a Fuel Cell Version of the Prius?

According to industry coverage, Toyota is unveiling the Prius V, a wagon-type model larger than the current version, at the North American International Auto Show. This, plus a concept version of what the 4th version of the classic Prius might look like.

All of this, and the plug-in version of the Prius is now being tested at universities, government fleets, and other limited markets for awhile until all kinks are worked out and it's ready for mass market.

This makes me think of the mysterious Toyota fuel cell car that's supposed to come out in five years. Perhaps that will be a fuel cell edition of the Prius? That's what I would do if I were a decision maker at Toyota. The company is counting on the Prius brand being considered the greenest of the green cars, and will be offering several different versions of the Prius, as if it's becoming its very own brand almost separate and distinct from Toyota - similar to Toyota's Scion and Lexus brands.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

ADW Green Changing Format Soon - Intermediary Between Green Car Sellers and Buyers

With the dawning of the new year, ADW Green has been working on changes to its editorial structure, to be made in the next month or so. What you can expect to see is more focus on the issues, news, and concerns of those bringing green machines to the buying public – both retail and fleet. If you’re marketing and selling plug-in electric vehicles, hybrids, fuel cell vehicles, flexible fuel vehicles, natural gas and propane powered vehicles, clean diesel, and highly fuel efficient vehicles, questions come up that must be answered. Such as: How exactly does the $7,500 federal tax credit apply to me? Do I get a rebate check from the IRS? If the home charging station costs $2,500, is this amount included in my total purchase price and monthly payments? How many natural gas or ethanol/biodiesel filling stations can I expect to see in my neighborhood soon? A lot of questions to answer, and much for ADW Green to cover. Looking forward to it. And let me know if you have any questions, comments, or ideas to contribute -

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Airplane Airpollution

Australian airliner Qantas has a joint venture with a company called Solena that will convert commercial waste to biofuel to reduce the airliner's carbon footprint. A similar plant being built with British Airways in London, due to come on line in 2014, will convert up to 500,000 tons of waste a year into 73 million liters of green jet fuel, according to Wall Street Journal. The Qantas plant will use scraps and other household material such as grass and tree cuttings and agricultural and industrial waste as a feedstock for the fuel.
This is great, however there's a market trend that will factor into air traffic air pollution - and safety. Private jets are growing by leaps and bounds, some of them quite small and hard to notice. They're also producing more carbon emissions and can take away some of the benefits that the airline industry is gaining through its Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group. It's something to think about and watch for.