In order to make electric cars a part of everyday life, new vehicle designs and parts are needed. Take wheel hub motors, for instance. [Click on image to enlarge.] One of the advantages of wheel hub motors is that manufacturers can dispense with the conventional engine bay — the space under the “hood” or “bonnet” — since the motors are attached directly to the wheels of the vehicle. This opens up a wealth of opportunities for car designers when drafting the layout of the vehicle.
Additional advantages: By dispensing with the transmission and differential, the mechanical transmission elements suffer no losses or wear and tear. Moreover, the direct drive on each individual wheel may improve the drive dynamic and drive safety.
Researchers are developing not only individual components, but the total system as well. They assemble the components on their concept car, known as the “Frecc0” or the “Fraunhofer E-Concept Car Type 0” — a scientific test platform. Starting next year, automobile manufacturers and suppliers will also be able to use the “Frecc0” for testing new components. The basis of this demo model is an existing car: The new Artega GT manufactured by Artega Automobil GmbH. The establishment of this platform and the engineering of the wheel hub motor are just two projects among the panoply run by “Fraunhofer System Research for Electromobility.” The research cooperative is focusing on subjects that include vehicle design, energy production, distribution and implementation, energy storage techniques, technical system integration and sociopolitical matters. The federal ministry for education and research BMBF is funding this Fraunhofer initiative with 44 million euro. The goal is to develop prototypes for hybrid and electric vehicles, in order to support the German automotive industry as it makes the crossover to electromobility.
Wheel hub motors were invented back in the 19th century. Ferdinand Porsche used these motors to equip his “Lohner Porsche” at the 1900 World Fair in Paris. Much has been done since then: “We are developing a wheel hub motor that integrates all essential electric and electronic components, especially the power electronics and electronic control systems, into the installation space of the motor. Thus, no external electronics are necessary and the number and scope of the feed lines can be minimized. There is a marked increase in power compared to the wheel hub motors currently available on the market. Moreover, there is an innovative security and redundancy concept, which guarantees drive safety — even if the system breaks down,” explains Professor Matthias Busse, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research IFAM. Beside IFAM, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Device Technology IISB, for Mechanics of Materials IWM and for Structural Durability and System Reliability LBF are tackling these issues.
Much of the world’s oil reserves lies in giant tar sand stretches in places like Alberta and Venezuela. While the oil industry uses an energy-intensive and fairly dirty process to make steam to cook the oil out of the tar sands, underground bacteria simply eat the crude oil and break it down into methane, or natural gas.
In nature, that process takes millions of years. A small group of cross-disciplinary microbiologists with their feet both in the oil industry and academic geochemistry wants to speed up the work. They are trying to get these bugs to break down carbon much faster to produce a steady supply of commercial natural gas, and to enhance the recovery of crude.
Interest in using microbes that grow naturally in oil fields, coal beds and shale deposits is growing, according to a group of industry insiders at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) 2010 convention last week in Chicago.
“We’ve garnered the attention of large oil and gas producers around the world,” said Mark Finkelstein, vice-president of science at Colorado-based Luca Technologies. “The recent emphasis on climate change and natural gas bodes well for our technology.”
And with the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and subsidies for carbon capture and storage, or CCS, in the recently released “American Power Act,” the focus has turned to increasing production from traditional oil wells, according to John Steelman, program manager at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.
In a typical oil extracting operation, only about 20 to 50 percent of the petroleum is removed from the ground. When the pressure of oil falls, the oil companies pump in some water to increase pressure. Then, with more than half the oil left underground, the wells get plugged and the company moves off to newer opportunities. Recently, that has meant offshore drilling.
Entrepreneurs trying to capitalize on growing consumer interest in clean, green transportation typically build cheaper and lighter vehicles to serve as entry points to the new carbon-constrained marketplace.
Not Mission Motors.
The Bay area startup, formed in 2007 by mechanical engineers in a Mission District garage, is placing a big bet on high-end performance. The company’s first-edition prototype electric motorcycle is selling for $68,995, with the first 50 bikes set to be delivered this year.
Bucking a global movement toward cheap, electric Chinese two wheelers, the Mission One is no scooter. The single-speed bike has been clocked at more than 160 miles an hour and tops out at a relatively stable 6,500 rpm. And it is powered by a lithium-ion battery that recharges in a 220-volt outlet in less than two hours.
Mission’s business model is a virtual photocopy of Tesla Motors, the Silicon Valley-based carmaker looking to sell high-end electric sports cars to wealthy auto enthusiasts worried about their carbon footprints. Like Tesla, Mission intends to roll out at top speed, at the upper end of the market.
The goal, Mission executives say, is to reinvent the modern sports bike without alienating riders used to tailpipe rumbling and speed. The Mission One is less eco-toy than a new way to appeal to adrenaline junkies who demand acceleration to 100 mph in less than five seconds.
So says Mission CEO Jit Bhattacharya, whose top-line Google search result is still his profile on the Stanford University Ultimate Frisbee team. Yet Bhattacharya, 31, who recently took the company’s handlebars from Mission founder Forrest North, said the company is not in business for fun and games.
“We wanted to build a vehicle that is going to sell, that is going to get riders excited, and not just because it’s green,” Bhattacharya said. “You get a riding experience that is unlike anything you can possibly get on a gasoline motorcycle.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is leading an American trade mission to China, aiming to boost clean energy technology sales as one industry leader announced a fresh contract to supply components for Chinese wind turbines.
The visit, one of several by U.S. Cabinet officials, preceeds annual talks called the Strategic Economic Dialogue, a top-level venue for thrashing out grievances on trade, currency and other policy issues.
Locke, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk will attend those talks, which begin Monday in Beijing. They come as the two countries are mending ties after a bout of friction over various issues, including U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.
The Commerce Department’s trade mission intends to help deliver on President Barack Obama’s pledge to double U.S. exports over the next five years and create 2 million jobs.
“Promoting American exports, particularly here in Asia, will create more jobs in America while improving the lives of people around the world and introducing new products and services to local communities,” Locke said before leaving Hong Kong for Shanghai.
In Hong Kong, the U.S. and local governments signed an agreement on promoting American wines. In the Chinese mainland, Locke’s delegation will be promoting technologies related to clean energy, energy efficiency, and electric energy storage, transmission and distribution in Asia.
On Tuesday, American Superconductor Corp. announced a new electrical components order from Sinovel Wind, China’s largest wind turbine maker. Beijing-based Sinovel, ranked the world’s third-largest wind turbine maker worldwide, has so far ordered US$1 billion from AMSC.
China’s potential market for renewable energy is huge: Total investment by the government and private sector last year was $34.6 billion, nearly double U.S. spending of $18.6 billion, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.
In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate summit conference last year, water researchers and advocates held a special meeting to address the fact that water issues were absent from the draft negotiating text. This was a major oversight, given the amount of energy that is used to collect, treat, distribute and use water and wastewater.
Just how much energy is consumed has not been measured in most places, but a 2005 energy policy report published by the state of California found that annual water-related energy consumption in the state accounted for 19 percent of electricity consumption, 32 percent natural gas consumption, and 88 million gallons, or 333 million liters, of diesel fuel. River Network, an organization that advocates water conservation, has extrapolated that data nationally. In a report last year it calculated that Americans use 520 megawatt-hours, or 13 percent of U.S. electricity consumption, on water.
This level of consumption offers an opportunity, said Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel, a project coordinator with the network. “Reducing your water use not only saves energy and greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s also a key way to adapt to climate change because most effects of global warming will be manifest through our water resources,” he said.
The relationship between power and water utilities is lopsided. While electric utilities pay little or nothing for their water, the largest operating cost for water utilities is often their electricity bill.
Santa Clara Valley Water District has drawn a lesson from that. Serving 1.8 million residents in the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, it has had a water conservation program since the early 1990s. In 2007, it released a report analyzing its success in terms of energy conservation, emissions mitigation and cost. From 1993 to 2006, the report said, the district saved approximately 1.42 billion kilowatt-hours of energy, equivalent to the annual power used by 207,000 households, through financial incentives, advisory programs and infrastructure investments that cut water consumption.
That translated into a financial saving of about $183 million and an avoidance of 335,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
California is not the only U.S. state with water supply issues. By 2013, at least 36 states expect shortages, according to a 2003 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
Last year, driven by climate change concerns, the U.S. government drafted several policy proposals, mostly focused on water conservation “” with indirect energy efficiency benefits “” but a few directly addressing the connection between water and energy.