Plug-In Electric Vehicles Talk in the Cloud

Plug-In electric vehicles (EV) will soon be “talking in the cloud” as Ford Motor Company collaborates with seven of the world’s largest automakers and 15 utility companies to develop technologies for EVs to talk to the utilities via the cloud. According to Ford, this would help manage energy use and improve the efficiency of the power grid.

The pilot program will create a standards-based communications platform for use by plug-in EVs and the electric grids. This platform will enable the utilities to contact vehicle customers who have opted-in to the program, sending a request for those cars to stop charging temporarily to help manage a grid that is DCF 1.0becoming overloaded. This approach uses existing communications technology and standards, such as Ford’s MyFord® Mobile App, and pushes to advance those systems by enabling two-way communication between the electric grid and electric vehicles.

“This innovative platform provides a critical enabler for the next step in vehicle electrification,” said Mike Tinskey, associate global director, Electrification Infrastructure for Ford. “It’s a way for plug-in electric vehicle drivers to be financially rewarded for their willingness to help manage the electric grid.”

Participating utility companies are prepared to offer financial incentives to owners who make their cars available to the grid, similar to utilities offering customers discounts for allowing their home air conditioning to run intermittently during times of high demand. Customers who opt-in to the program can charge their cars at a location of their choice and have the ability to ignore the utility’s request to stop charging.

The formal collaboration between the automakers, utilities and Electric Power Research Institute began in fall 2012. However, the concept and application of electric vehicle/grid integration has been studied extensively by numerous research groups for more than 10 years.

Caesars Entertainment Adds EV Charging Stations

Caesars Entertainment resorts is adding new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 13 of their resorts and casinos. In partnership with NV Energy, nearly all of Caesars’ Northern and Southern Nevada resorts and casinos now have operational EV charging stations on site, in addition to Harrah’s Resort Southern California. A total of 48 charging ports have been installed in guest parking lots as well as valet areas, and are available for guests to use at no cost.

caesars-entertainment-logoCaesars is planning on expanding its EV charging network into other domestic resorts and when completed, their entire U.S. resorts and casinos will feature EV charging stations.

Caesars’ EV charging stations are on the ChargePoint network, allowing drivers to easily check station availability and find charging spots in real time through the ChargePoint mobile app, the web and car navigation units. The Level 2 charging ports at Caesars’ stations accommodate both hybrids and all-electric models using the industry standard J1772 plug, and charge vehicles in less time compared to plugging in the average home garage.

“We want to make it easy for our guests to continue their green habits while they stay and play at our resorts. Supporting the adoption of electrical vehicles is important to Caesars, and we are thrilled to make convenient charging another great amenity for our guests,” said Eric Dominguez, corporate director of facilities, engineering and sustainable operations at Caesars Entertainment.

Caesars is promoting awareness and encouraging cleaner forms of transportation, which directly ties into the company’s low carbon strategy and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A recipient of the EPA’s Climate Leadership Award, Caesars has cut greenhouse gas emissions at its domestic properties by over 12 percent from 2007 to 2013 on an absolute basis, while reducing energy intensity by 20 percent.

“As a company, we aim to not only reduce our impact on the environment, but lead other companies and inspire our communities to take environmentally-friendly actions,” added Dominguez. “We look at the EV station project as an essential stride towards a future of green transportation.”

Steller Solar Offers Project LiveWire Experience

Harley-Davidson has unveiled its first all electric motorcycle and are giving consumers a chance to experience this new ride through its Project LiveWire Experience. The first event will take place in San Diego July 24, 2014-July 26, 2014 hosted by Stellar Solar and San Diego Harley-Davidson. Project LiveWire will be at the Morena Boulevard location with the main event taking place Saturday, July 26 from 12 – 4pm. All three days will feature complimentary solar powered food and beverages from the Stellar Solar Mobile Solar Station.

Stellar Solar Harley Project LiveWireFans who take a test ride will be able to give feedback to Haley-Davidson as they tweak their electric motorcycle – the electric bike is still under development. During the three-day event, consumers will also be able to participate through a Jumpstart simulator that provides an experience almost as good as the real thing.

Stellar Solar is connected with San Diego Harley-Davidson through General Manager Ty Miller who had a Stellar Solar system installed on his home. “When we received word that San Diego Harley-Davidson was going to be one of the first locations on the tour, the Stellar Solar Mobile Solar Station immediately came to mind as a perfect fit to help power the event,” Miller said. “Electric motorcycles and solar power complement each other nicely and we are happy to promote solar along side this innovative motorcycle.”

Kent Harle, CEO of Stellar Solar and avid motorcycle enthusiast is excited for the event. “I’ve been riding motorcycles for a long time and the Project LiveWire is a unique and very impressive machine. I’d buy one today if they were on the market. I can’t wait to test ride it. This is a perfect event for our Mobile Solar Station and we are proud to be associated with San Diego Harley-Davidson.”

City of Columbus Dedicates CNG Station

Columbus, Ohio is now home to its second compressed natural gas (CNG) station. The station was made possible in part from funds provided by Clean Fuels Ohio (CFO). CFO provides technical support for transportation professionals, advocates for sustainable transportation energy policies and serves as a resource clearinghouse for fleets, policy makers and the public.

“We have been so fortunate to assist a wide range of businesses and individuals in exploring the advantages of alternative fuels,” said CFO Executive Director Sam Spofforth. “We help each organization to look at the variety of options available to them, and, when available, help them get the grant funding they need to get their projects off the ground.”

sidebar4One way CFO does this is through the organization’s Driving Force Fleet Advisors which provide assessment and planning, project development assistance, funding strategies, monitoring, follow-up and training to fleet managers. Fleets can also gain certification and public recognition for their efforts through CFO’s Ohio Green Fleets.

When the City of Columbus began its move to alternative fuel vehicles, there was little infrastructure in the state for compressed natural gas (CNG) explained Kelly Reagan, the city fleet administrator. “Mayor (Michael) Coleman made the commitment that we would build our own fueling infrastructure to support this alternative vehicle program.”

The city now operates two public access fast-fill CNG stations, with two additional stations planned, which will be open to the public. In addition, the city operates two electric vehicle charging stations that are also open to the public. “Clean Fuels Ohio gave us the opportunity to start down this road,” said Mayor Coleman. “They provided the resources we needed to start this program. They helped us get underway.”

In the case of Dillon Transport, partnering with a customer, Owens Corning, provided a pathway to a multi- state project. “Our work with Clean Fuels Ohio resulted in an attractive funding package that appealed to our customer,” explained Dillion Transport Vice President Charles Musgrove. The company has converted 17 Ohio trucks to natural gas, and fuels through an expanding network of public stations in Ohio. The company has a similar operation with the customer in Florida. In addition, Dillon Transport is increasing its use of CNG vehicles nationwide.

Ultimately, the cost of fossil fuels and a concern for sustainability have motivated many fleets to make the commitment to alternative fuel vehicles. “Companies began really needing to find answers, once it was obvious that fuel prices were going to remain high,” added Spofforth. “Companies want to do the right thing – but they don’t quite know how to put the pieces together, get funding and make the choices they need to make. We’ve been able to help many varied fleets look at those options and make the decisions that lead them to sustainability.”

In 2011 and 2013, the City of Columbus was named the #1 Government Green Fleet in North America, and continues to be a role model for fleets considering transitioning to alternative fuels.

Utilities Promote EV Use, Charging

According to a new benchmark study by Northeast Group, electric utilities are beginning to do their part to enable EV growth by offering new tariff and rate structures tailored specifically for EV owners. For the past three year, EV sales have nearly doubled every year in the U.S. There are currently 25 utilities across 14 states offering EV tariffs, including eight of the largest 15 utilities. Regulators are also taking action and Minnesota recently became the first state to mandate that electric utilities offer EV tariffs.

“In the currently shifting landscape, utilities are finding it increasingly important to better engage with their customers. A key part of this is new customer offerings such as electric vehicle tariffs,” said Ben Gardner, president of Northeast Group. “EVScreen Shot 2014-07-17 at 9.35.38 AM owners tend to be more engaged customers and it is critical that utilities are providing them with new rate options for their EVs.”

According to the report, EV rates typically give steeper discounts at night and during other off-peak hours. Across the 14 states with EV tariffs, the average equivalent “price per gallon” was $0.75. Without EV-specific tariffs, the US Department of Energy calculated that the cost of an “eGallon” was $1.42. The average cost of gasoline in these states was $3.70.

“EV owners are an increasingly important focus for utilities,” added Gardner. “On average, they consume more electricity — not even counting electricity consumed by the EV — and are more likely to have solar panels installed at their home. EV tariffs that offer overall lower prices while encouraging off-peak charging are a great way to engage these customers.” Northeast Group found that 95 of the 100 largest utilities in the US had EV-specific information on their websites for customer engagement purposes.

Utilities that still do not offer special EV rates can make new rate offerings part of broader customer engagement efforts. These broader customer engagement efforts may include social media, mobile apps and new customer offerings.

Northeast Group’s benchmark found that in total, over 21 million utility customers across 25 electric utilities in 14 states had access to EV tariffs in the US. This number is set to grow over the coming years as EV sales grow and regulators begin encouraging EV tariffs.

Battery Bat Houses for Hydroelectric Projects

Bat Houses from scrap volt battery casesEagle Scout Matthew Netherland has developed a creative way to help bats who live near hydroelectric projects. Using discarded scrap Volt battery covers donated by GM, Netherland built 22 bat houses for Consumers Energy to install in their energy properties.

“This project connects a lot of environmental dots,” said Rich Castle, Consumers Energy’s natural resource manager for hydro generation. “Hydro dams generate clean electricity, and cars that run on electricity are a cleaner form of transportation. The battery covers from the electric-powered vehicles are being kept out of landfills, and by being utilized as bat homes they allow biodiversity to thrive along the river habitats that produce renewable energy.”

About 100 or more bats can live in each bat box, which includes five chambers. Netherland, a friend and two adult mentors helped build the bat boxes in about two months that will be installed by Consumers Energy.

“I’m thankful that GM had the perfect shell for the bat box plans, and that Consumers Energy has great locations to place the boxes,” said Netherland from Boy Scout Troop 185 from Clarkston, Michigan. “Both companies have been great to work with, very encouraging and generous.”

Emily McDonald, environmental engineer for GM who coordinated with Netherland on his project, added, “I’m so impressed by Matthew’s energy and dedication to this project. We’ve worked with renowned bat experts on our bat house design and are grateful that we can partner with others who share our passion for conservation and will help us make a lasting impact. The Volt covers are made with durable material and will result in wildlife nesting opportunities for a long time.”

Solutions to Threat Oil Poses for Armed Forces

A new video offers solutions to the threat oil poses for America’s armed forces and the nation’s security. The video was developed by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Truman National Security Project. The new video details the growing danger of oil use to the country’s national security. The U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest institutional oil consumer, using more than 100 million barrels every year to power ships, vehicles, aircraft, and ground operations. That’s enough oil to drive around the Earth more than 4 million times. According to the two organizations, this high use leads to greater unpredictability for missions, especially given oil’s vulnerability to price swings on the world market.

“Moving fuel on the battlefield is dangerous and expensive,” said Michael Breen, a former Army captain and executive director at Truman. “A ten dollar increase in the price of a barrel of oil costs the military $1.3 billion — money we can’t use to accomplish our mission and protect our troops.”

The groups argue that despite oil industry advertising championing new domestic production, so called “new oil and gas” resources aren’t really new at all. And they are only available because the oil industry is now desperate enough to go after dirtier, more difficult and expensive oil than they were before. They they said is neither a sustainable solution for our armed forces or our country.

“As the era of cheap and easy oil comes to an end, the oil industry’s desperation for continuing profits has led to more and more destructive practices that are not solving the problems associated with oil use,Hybrid Humvee” said Siv Balachandran, an engineer and oil analyst at UCS. “The real solution is to use less oil.”

Balachandran and Breen noted that the armed forces are adopting new, innovative technologies to reduce oil use while creating a stronger, more effective fighting force. For example, the Navy uses biofuels made from algae and other advanced sources, while the Army is powering Humvees with hybrid-electric engines. These technologies could benefit civilians too.

“The country is already making progress on this front, with federal and state policies helping cars go farther on each gallon of gas and putting thousands of hybrid and electric vehicles on the road — saving the country money while reducing emissions and creating jobs, but the work is not done,” said Balachandran. “By supporting policies that cut oil use even further, we’ll keep America healthier, wealthier, and more secure.”

Breen added, “As the largest institutional consumer of fuel in the world, the U.S. military is leading the way in reducing oil use and investing in renewable options. That’s good for America’s budget and for national security. Our communities – the veterans and national security leaders of Operation Free, and the scientists of UCS – are united in supporting the military’s innovative clean energy solutions.”

CGI America Launches Feed-Out Program

The world is about to see the first market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies through a Feed-Out Program. The program, the brain-child of the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) and Demeter Power Group, has a goal of helping modernize the nation’s power grid with distributed energy.

Clinton Global Initiative logo“The Feed-Out Program will bring together independent power producers and financiers to enable the lowest-cost, fixed-price offering for renewable energy,” said Michael Wallander, Demeter Power Group founder and president. “But unlike other similar ‘feed-in-tariff’ programs, the energy will be used on the customer-side of the meter.”

According to CGI, $1 trillion a year – a total of $36 trillion – is needed for investment in sustainable energy infrastructure to successfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2050. The Program will help tackle this challenge focusing primarily on funding for solar energy while also enabling cost-effective investment in energy storage, fuel cells and electrical vehicle car charging stations.

Yann Brandt, Demeter Co-Founder and EVP of Development noted, “What retail tenant or business owner would not want to save money on their energy bills while offering customers and employees the ability to shade their cars and power up with solar energy? We enable funding for solar-powered carports with electric vehicle charging stations at a net-negative cost to the customer.”

Demeter Power Group logoDemeter is contributing its finance mechanism – PACE3P – to help overcome credit-related challenges that have prevented scalable finance programs in the past. Demeter explained that PACE3P ties services fees to the buildings where the energy is used through a voluntary assessment on property tax bills.

Initially the Program will make financing available to commercial properties located in Northern California communities participating in the California FIRST property assessed clean energy (PACE) Program offered through the California Statewide Community Development Authority. Interested participants must register with Demeter to participate in the platform, which is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015.

ACORE Study: Evolving Business Models for Renewable Energy

A new study has been released, “Evolving Business Models for Renewable Energy,” from the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE). With aid from several members, the report explores key issues and provides recommendations related to evolving utility and other business models for renewable energy. The report was produced in conjunction with ACORE’s Power Generation and Infrastructure Initiative.

“From potential storage benefits of electric vehicles, to recommendations on ideal scenarios for integration of distributed renewable assets, ACORE and its members are tackling the cutting edge issues facing our electricity sector today,” said co-author and CEO of American Clean Energy, Steve Morgan.

ACORE Evolving Biz Models for Renewable Energy.jogThe report details how distributed generation, smart grids, and microgrids are changing traditional utility business models, suggests outcomes for the successful integration of renewable energy at scale, and spotlights ways in which emerging energy sources such as concentrated solar power (CSP) and electric vehicles (EVs) are changing the way utilities look at generation, integration and storage.

“Our Power Generation and Infrastructure Initiative has always focused on solutions over politics,” said ACORE CEO Michael Brower, “and by convening our members who are developers, legal experts, sector analysts and financiers to review the business landscape, we guarantee a highly credible, critical and realistic view to help craft solutions for a cleaner, more reliable power sector future.”

Sections of the report include “Renewable Energy Drivers of Change,” “Overview of Actions from the Utility Perspective,” as well as “Distributed Energy: Understanding and Mitigating Commercial and Regulatory Risks”. These chapters are designed to build on the organization’s efforts to create bridges between the utility industry and renewable energy industry.

ACORE’s Power Generation & Infrastructure lead James Hewett called this focus “essential” noting, “The utility sector is well aware of the disruptive nature of distributed renewable energy. ACORE is focused on making this disruption an opportunity for utilities, not a threat. Frankly, it’s essential to the success of all.”

U of Washington’s Biodiesel/Electric Hybrid Car

washecocar1Talk about the best of both worlds – University of Washington students have designed and re-engineered a car to run on electricity AND biodiesel. This article from the Seattle Times says the team recently showed off the vehicle to a group of local elementary school students, who had lots of questions and seemed thoroughly impressed.

How much could you sell it for? How long did it take to make it? What’s that red button? What if it doesn’t work?

How did you get that big sticker on the car? Why is there a fire extinguisher inside?

What are those wires for?

Could it charge your phone?

“It’s fantastic,” said sixth-grader Asli Edey. “I think it’s going to be my dream car.”

The Malibu hybrid conversion is part of a collegiate competition, EcoCAR 2, sponsored by General Motors and the U.S. Department of Energy. The UW is one of just 15 universities in the U.S. and Canada selected to participate.

The Malibu has two separate engines: the biodiesel engine in the front of the car, which drives the front wheels; and the 250-horsepower electric motor in the rear of the car, powered by an 800-pound battery pack.

The electric motor runs for about 40 to 50 miles, and the biodiesel-powered motor can carry it for longer or pump up the power when needed as it goes 0 mph to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds — about a second faster than a Malibu with a standard gasoline engine.

The car is being shipped to Michigan to be tested even more, and eventually GM will pick a winner in its EcoCAR 2 competition.

Roads Could be Electrifying in Sweden

volvoelectricbus1While the Swedish are known for some electrifying engines under the hoods of their reliable cars, the country’s most famous carmaker might be looking to electrify the roads, too… literally! This news release from the Volvo Group says the company, in cooperation with the Swedish Transport Administration, is studying the the potential for building electric roads that charge city buses while driving down the road.

“Vehicles capable of being charged directly from the road during operation could become the next pioneering step in the development towards reduced environmental impact, and this is fully in line with our vision of becoming the world leader in sustainable transport solutions. Close cooperation between society and industry is needed for such a development to be possible and we look forward to investigating the possibilities together with the City of Gothenburg,” says Niklas Gustavsson, Executive Vice President, Corporate Sustainability & Public Affairs of the Volvo Group.

With the use of an electric road, vehicle batteries would continuously be charged wirelessly during operation by transferring energy from the electricity grid to a vehicle, instead of charging the bus while it is standing still at charging stations. The technology being studied is called inductive charging, whereby the energy is transferred wirelessly to the underside of the vehicle by equipment built into the road.

A 300- to 500-meter electric road might be built for test operations in central Gothenburg in 2015.

Volvo has already been offering hybrid buses with traditional diesel engines, supplemented by an electrical engine to reduce CO2 emissions.

UCR Unveils Sustainable Grid Initiative

The University ofSIGI-graphic California, Riverside has launched its Sustainable Integrated Grid Initiative to research the integration of intermittent renewable energy including photovoltaic solar panels, energy storage including batteries, and all types of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. The project is the largest of its kind in the state.

“This project puts UC Riverside at the forefront of smart grid and electric vehicle research, providing a unique platform for engineers and utilities to identify and solve potential problems at scale,” said Matthew Barth, lead investigator of the initiative and the director of UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT). Continue reading

PowerBridgeNY Student Award Winners Announced

The first student winners of the PowerBridgeNY awards have been announced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. The recently established Proof-of-Concept Center aids clean energy ideas move from the laboratory to commercial product. These awards continue to support the development of New York’s cleantech economy to create jobs and businesses focused on emerging clean-energy technologies.

New York is taking a leading role in supporting the development of cleantech products that are environmentally friendly, reduce energy use and increase reliability of the State’s energy systems,” said Governor Cuomo. “When the best and brightest cleantech researchers in New York State have the opportunity to collaborate with smart, experienced experts in the private sector, the result can be a powerful force for economic development resulting in a cleaner, greener, more sustainable state for future generations.”

cleaning-solar-panelsPowerBridgeNY was created by Columbia University and New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering, leading a consortium of public research institutions throughout the State, and is partially funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The winners, who were awarded up to $150,000, are working on products with the potential to reduce wastewater treatment costs, increase energy efficiency of solar panels, reduce electricity outages, decrease the cost of fuel cells, absorb carbon dioxide.

“The funding announced today will help these scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs move their innovative technology closer to market-readiness as they tackle technical clean-energy issues,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s support, the proof-of-concept centers are advancing cleantech innovation in New York State, growing new companies and commercializing the next generation of products that will help reduce the State’s energy use.”

Businesses were judged on the products’ technical potential, the potential appeal to investors and how the scientists could benefit by taking part in this program. Continue reading

EV Bus Breaks Miles Traveled Record

A battery electric bus has traveled more than 700 miles in 24 hours – setting a record for the most miles traveled in one day by an EV bus. The EV bus was built by Proterra and recorded an average fuel economy of nearly 27 miles per gallon. The company says this is almost six times that of a diesel bus and seven time that of compressed natural gas (CNG). The record was set as part of normal testing conducted on Proterra buses before they are delivered.

Proterra_V2_rearThe bus used for this test is set to go into revenue service (i.e. be used by cities for public transportation) in the Southeastern United States within the next few months.

“This record offers definitive proof that all-electric Proterra buses combine all the durability and functionality of conventional buses, while significantly reducing total cost of ownership, fuel consumption and greenhouse emissions,” said Garrett Mikita, CEO, Proterra Inc. “We are even more proud of the fact that we demonstrated this performance using a regular production bus with the same features and performance we build into all our buses.”

The test was conducted in mid-April on a route designed to simulate both commuter and central business district routes and drive cycles. The bus operated at an average speed of 24 miles per hour with the HVAC system running and was charged periodically throughout the day, using Proterra’s proprietary fast-charging process. This technology allows a bus to fully charge in less time than it takes to charge a cell phone.

Proterra says it is the only EV bus manufacturer with buses currently in revenue service in the United States. Its buses operate in San Antonio, Texas; Reno, Nevada; Stockton and Pomona, California and Tallahassee, Florida. Deliveries scheduled for Nashville and Louisville, Tennessee among others cities.

SolarEdge Selected for EV Fast-Charging Stations

Fastned has selected the SolarEdge solution, solar power technology developed by SolarEdge, for a nationwide network of 200 electric car fast-charging stations. The electric vehicle (EV) network will be strategically located throughout the Netherlands’ highways and will be partially 2013-11-30-145powered by 3 MW of distributed solar power. Fastned said they selected SolarEdge due to its lower installation, operation and maintenance costs when compared to other systems along with its increased energy yield.

SolarEdge said its module-level monitoring system provides Fastned with real-time performance data on each individual module and gives immediate alerts on any irregularities that may occur, pinpointed on a virtual site map. This offers increased system uptime by allowing Fastned to monitor all of its 200 fast-charging electric stations from one centralized location.

“Fastned is founded on a big vision with a simple solution and so is SolarEdge, which is what makes SolarEdge our ideal partner. SolarEdge took a new look at traditional PV systems and its simple solution of module-level optimization is revolutionizing the industry, just as Fastned plans to transform transportation,” stated Joost Hoffman, Fastned’s Operations Manager.

Installed by Solar Today, the projects consist of 10 kWp and 20 kWp PV stations that include 20 and 40 power optimizers respectively and one SolarEdge inverter. Solar Today installed P600 power optimizers, SolarEdge’s one power optimizer per two panel solution, that is specifically designed to decrease the costs of large projects. SolarEdge technology allowed Fastned to double the string length compared to a traditional inverter, therefore decreasing the amount of strings by 50 percent.

“A standard feature in all PV system categories, SolarEdge technology continues to prove that module-level electronics are a simple solution for improving the bottom line of projects,” said Lior Handelsman, VP Marketing & Product Strategy SolarEdge. “Being selected by Fastned, a company that understands how disruptive technologies can turn a vision into a reality, demonstrates the innovative power of SolarEdge’s technology. This project continues the positive trend of SolarEdge penetration into the strategic Dutch PV market.”