Tesla Repayment Testiment to DOE Loans

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla Automotive has repaid its entire $465 million DOE loan guarantee the company received from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) nine years earlier than originally required. New Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said of the feat, “When you’re talking about cutting-edge clean energy technologies, not every investment will succeed — but today’s repayment is the latest indication that the Energy Department’s portfolio of more than 30 loans is delivering big results for the American economy while costing far less than anticipated.”

The program came under fire in 2011/2012 when solar manufacturing company Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and ceased all operations after receiving a Tesla EVsignificant amount of loans and grants from the DOE. Yet Moniz noted that more than 90 percent of loan loss reserve Congress established remains intact with losses only representing about 2 percent of the overall $34 billion portfolio.

“The Department first offered loans to Tesla and other auto manufacturers in June 2009, when car companies couldn’t get other financing and many people questioned whether the industry would survive,” continued Moniz. “Today, Tesla employs more than 3,000 American workers and is living proof of the power of American innovation.  This is another important contribution to what the Obama Administration has done to preserve and promote America’s auto industry.

“Finally, this announcement is also good news for the future of America’s growing electric vehicle industry.  While the market has taken longer than predicted to get going, sales of electric vehicles in the U.S. tripled last year and are continuing to increase rapidly in 2013.  Tesla and other U.S. manufacturers are in a strong position to compete for this growing global market,” Moniz concluded.

Tesla’s $465 million loan enabled it to reopen a shuttered auto manufacturing plant in Fremont, California and to produce battery packs, electric motors, and other powertrain components. Tesla vehicles have won wide acclaim, including the 2013 Car of the Year from both Motor Trend and Automotive Magazine, and Consumer Reports recently rated Tesla’s Model S as tied for the best car ever rated. Tesla has created more than 3,000 full-time jobs in California – far more than the company initially estimated – and is building out a supply chain that supports numerous additional jobs and technologies, and is bringing advanced manufacturing technology back to America.

GM Adds Solar, EV Charging

General Motors has added four new solar photovoltaic solar projects to its Warren Technical Center campus located in Warren, Michigan. The installations, done by Empower Energies, included a ground-mounted solar array and three solar electric vehicle charging stations. The 49kW ground-mounted array is situated on the north side of the pond adjacent to the GM Vehicle Engineering Center, and according to GM, is outperforming energy production expectations.

“General Motors is committed to promoting the use of 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, which includes solar installations,” said GM’s Manager – gm-website-1Renewable Energy, Rob Threlkeld. “As the leading automotive user of solar power, we understand the importance of solar projects like this, and we continue to work with companies such as Empower Energies to activate new projects at our facilities around the globe.”

The three EV charging stations are located in parking areas adjoining the Vehicle Engineering Center and the Advanced Engineering Center. The latest of these solar EV charging stations is situated in the parking lot across from GM’s new IT Center. These solar charging stations enable Chevy Volt-owning GM employees to power-up their vehicles while they spend their work-day engineering next-generation EV technologies or taking existing vehicles, such as the Chevy Volt, to market.

“These EV Charging Stations may be small in stature by today’s solar-industry standards,” said Len Jornlin, Empower Energies Chief Executive Officer, “but they represent a huge commitment to Clean Transport Infrastructure, and our ability to scale the technology domestically and abroad using our expertise and extensive relationships, including strategic partners such as China Triumph International Engineering Company (CTIEC).”

Installations such as the solar charging stations at the Warren Tech Center enable Empower Energies and market leaders such as GM to refine product design while honing commercial understanding of EV owner requirements.

To Buy or Not Buy a Hybrid Car

Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 4.05.17 PM

I’m in the market for a new car and one of the areas I have been researching is hybrids. The question: to buy or not to buy a hybrid? I came across this infographic developed by Auto Pawn, that tells the tale of two cars: hybrid versus non-hybrid.

While many factors are considered, one that is not is if the driver is using an alternative fuel such as biodiesel, ethanol, compressed natural gas, propane, etc. Click here for a link to the full graphic.

While I still haven’t decided what new car I’m going to drive home soon, this information is definitely worth mulling over….

EV Connect Successfully Raises Funding

Basic CMYKEV Connect has closed its initial round of financing with funding coming from 37 Technology Ventures, Jackrel Ventures, Tech Coast Angels, Maverick Angels Keiretsu Forum, and other key individual investors. The company works with companies, government and transit agencies, hotels and consumers to install, operate and maintain electric vehicle charging stations. With this funding, EV Connect will expand its sales, marketing, and software development to capitalize on increasing customer demand. EV Connect will also build out its already-successful partnership program and fast-track strategic alliances with charge station manufacturers and network system providers.

“From 2011 to 2012, plug-in vehicle sales grew nearly 200 percent. I’m impressed with EV Connect’s market opportunity,” said Yuri Pikover, Tech Coast Angels. “EV Connect doesn’t make car charging hardware, rather, it focuses on its differentiated and defensible charge station deployment, management services, and proprietary cloud-based software platform. This unique combination of services allows EV Connect to offer customers their own branded or centrally-managed charge station network at all of their parking lots.”

Jordan Ramer, CEO of EV Connect added, “Our goal is to make EV infrastructure more accessible than ever for all companies and organizations.” We believe in the future, all parking spaces will offer EV charging–and EV Connect will be there to integrate, operate and maintain them, as well as customize their customer-facing features.”

Neil Young Fills ‘er Up with Cellulosic Ethanol

Earlier this month, Hall of Fame recording artist Neil Young stopped by Sioux Falls, South Dakota to fill up his LincVolt with POET-DSM cellulosic ethanol. LincVolt is a hybrid-electric 1959 Lincoln Continental with onboard charging powered by cellulosic ethanol. He’s on a cross-country tour to highlight renewable energy.

During his visit, Young said you don’t see much about what is going on with the climate in the media. “It’s just not a fast moving subject. It’s a slow moving big story. But it’s not going to be going away unless we do something.”

He supports American-made fuel and noted that when he filled up with cellulosic ethanol, his vehicle is able to get an 80 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) over traditional gasoline. “This is just incredible for the planet,” added Young.

Check out the video here and I must say his refurbished Lincoln is “DYNOMITE”.

Cal Energy Comm. Gives $5.5 Mil for Green Projects

weisenmiller1Several projects ranging from biodiesel to electric vehicles to propane will be the benefactors of $5.5 million in California Energy Commission awards from the Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program:

“These investments are moving the state forward toward a clean transportation sector,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “Today’s awards will help to expand renewable biofuels, further the development of zero emission vehicles, and provide incentives to make alternative fuel vehicles more affordable. These projects protect the environment and public health, while keeping California in the lead in developing green transportation technologies.”

Buster Biofuels, LLC, based in the San Diego area, will receive $2,641,723 to convert a 7,300 square foot industrial warehouse building into a biodiesel manufacturing and fueling facility. The facility will create biodiesel from renewable waste-based materials such as used cooking oil from restaurants. The chemical process used separates the glycerin from fats or oils, leaving biodiesel and glycerin.

Motiv Power Systems, Inc., based in Foster City (San Mateo County), will receive $2,379,050 to establish a pilot production line capable of assembling 20 Motiv Electric Power Control Systems a month. Each system is comprised of electronic components that can be used with a variety of batteries and motors and installed on conventional medium- and heavy-duty chassis, modifying them into all-electric battery operated vehicles that have no tailpipe emissions.

The rest of the nearly $500,000 in awards will go toward purchasing propane vehicles.

80 ChargePoint EV Charging Stations for NY

New York will soon be the home of more than 80 new ChargePoint electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The program is being funded through a $1 million incentive from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The EV charging station installed at The Solaire in Battery Park City is ChargePoint’s first Bloomberg-EV-Charging-Stations-ChargePointinstallation of what will be part of a significant NYSERDA EV charging station investment. The Solaire, developed in 2003 by the Albanese Organization is the nation’s first LEED Gold-certified residential building.

“Upgrading the city’s EV infrastructure to new, universal ChargePoint chargers is imperative to the future success of a sustainable society. By working with ChargePoint and NYSERDA to bring new chargers to our LEED-certified rental properties in Manhattan, The Solaire, The Verdesian and The Vanguard Chelsea, the Albanese Organization hopes to inspire more drivers to consider electric vehicles, while providing current adopters with new access to convenient charging locations,” said Russell Albanese, Chairman of the Albanese Organization. “The partnership of ChargePoint and NYSERDA has been an excellent example of the public and private sectors working together to make a great contribution.”

Last year, Governor Cuomo announced $4.4 million being awarded to 10 EV companies, municipalities and other entities, including ChargePoint, to bring 325 charging stations to New York. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo announced Charge New York, a new initiative to promote EVs through investing $50 million over five years. The program calls for investment in 3,000 public and workplace charging stations by 2018, plus other steps meant to encourage the growth of electric vehicle ownership. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also announced a plan to make up to 20 percent (or 10,000 spaces) of new New York City parking spaces EV-ready over the next seven years.

“New York is laying the foundation to become a leader in the United States for EVs,” said Pat Romano, president and CEO of ChargePoint. “The majority of residents in New York City live in apartments and without this kind of public infrastructure investment, residents would not be able to buy electric vehicles.”

Electric One-Seater Colibri Heading to Market

During the 83rd Geneva International Motor Show, Innovative Mobility Automobile GmbH (IMA) unveiled its new electric one-seater Colibri. The lightweight, street legal vehicle is scheduled to enter production by late 2014 and in the first year around 17,000 EVs are expected to be produced at a price point of 10,000 Euro, with an additional monthly battery lease.

colibri“Our vision was to construct an electric vehicle suitable for daily urban use, one which is safe and also fun. It was to be economic, ecologic, and easy to combine with other modes of transportation,” said Thomas delos Santos, CEO of IMA.  We succeeded in achieving this. And the market feedback shows: the Colibri strikes a nerve.”

Here are the specs: the Colibri measures of 2.75m length, 1.18m width and 1.30m height. A specially designed lifting mechanism eases entering and exiting, while pedals and steering wheel can be adjusted to suit drivers between 1.58m and 1.98m. The trunk offers enough volume for two crates. The lightweight frame is mounted on a magnesium-steel basis, reducing vehicle weight and energy consumption costs. The company anticipates the electric vehicle will pass all safety and crash tests.

Two CPM Twin engines provide 24 kW peak power. The car reaches a top speed of 120 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.9 seconds. Electricity for a range of 110 km is provided by a high-performance lithium-iron-phosphate battery from the company Axxellon. Its distinct features are a long lifecycle and short charging times.

North Carolina Releases PEV Readiness Plan

The North Carolina Plug-In Electric Vehicle (PEV) Taskforce has released the first draft of its PEV Readiness Plan along with four regional plans. The plans were created through the N.C. PEV Readiness Initiative: Plugging-in from Mountains to Sea and was one of 16 projects awarded from the U.S. Department of Energy. The project covered the entire state of North Carolina with a focus on four metropolitan areas in the Greater Asheville, Charlotte, Piedmont Triad and Triangle areas.

The report includes a survey of incentives offered by neighboring states and provides recommendations for state and local policy options. North Carolina offers no state incentives for the purchase of PEVs or charging stations while nearby South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Maryland do, the report reveals.

NC PEV Plan“Electric vehicles offer substantial gains in efficiency, emissions and long term savings to the purchaser and incentives can play an important role to spur more wide spread adoption,” said Anne Tazewell, the N.C. Solar Center’s Transportation Manager.

Other key highlights from the NC PEV Roadmap Plan include: there are more than 700 PEVs registered in North Carolina and estimates indicate there will more than 750,000 PEV on state’s roads by 2030; and there are 350 public and 170 private charging stations in the state.

“Currently, North Carolina is still in the beginning stages of plug-in electric vehicle adoption and the statewide NC PEV Roadmap recommends continuing to move forward with collaborative efforts to ensure a more seamless integration of these vehicles and to maintain its position as a leader in plug-in electric vehicle readiness,” said Katie Drye, project manager, Transportation Initiatives, Advanced Energy.

The N.C. Solar Center was one of five principle partners who worked on the PEV project. The Center’s Clean Transportation program co-lead the Piedmont Triad PEV planning process with Piedmont Triad Regional Council and lead the state wide Incentives and Economic Development (IED) Work Group with the N.C. Dept. of Commerce Green Economy team.

N.C. Solar Center Receives DOE Grant

The North Carolina Solar Center at North Carolina State University has been awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to expand the use of alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technologies with a $500,000 award for the Alternative Fuel Implementation Team (AFIT) for North Carolina Project. The AFIT project is a two-year collaboration of U.S. DOE designated Clean Cities coalitions in the Triangle, Charlotte and Asheville regions, Clean Cities coalitions in five nearby states, Advanced Energy and cows-and-windindustry leaders such as the Biofuels Center of North Carolina, Duke Energy, Holmes Oil Co, the NC Propane Gas Association, Public Service North Carolina, and Piedmont Natural Gas.

The AFIT project is focused on reducing barriers to more widespread deployment of biofuels such as biodiesel and E85, electric vehicles, natural gas and propane in public and private sector fleets. Fuel specific charettes will result in actions to accelerate the use of alternative transportation technology solutions to enhance North Carolina’s economy and environment. In year two, a Petroleum Displacement Plan (PDP) toolkit will be developed to assist fleet managers and vehicle owners in making decisions on which alternatives will best support their mission and goals. The PDP toolkit will include cost/benefit criteria and best application options and scenarios for specific alternative fuels based on national and North Carolina specific parameters.

As part of the AFIT project, a two-day North Carolina symposium, “Southeast Regional Alternative Fuels Conference,” will be held that includes sharing success stories and recognition awards.

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to bring together all the key parties in the southeast to leverage our unique talents and common interests in providing transportation technology and policy solutions to energy and air quality concerns,” said Anne Tazewell, Transportation Program Manager at the N.C. Solar Center and the AFIT project lead. “We look forward to the results of a cleaner environment and more business opportunities for alternative fuels.”

EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future

Year two is underway in the EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future, competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and General Motors. The program offers students hands-on experience in designing future cars. The competition began in 2011 and during year one, the competition emphasized the use of math-based design tools and simulation techniques in establishing vehicle foundation.

In year two, students will be challenged to reduce the environmental impact of a 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, donated by GM. The teams must do this without compromising performance, safety and consumer acceptability. In years two and three, students will build the vehicle and continue to refine, test and improve vehicle operation.

There are 15 teams competing in the EcoCar 2 challenge and many of them will head to the winter workshop in Austin, Texas on January 23, 2013 where the year two competition schedule will be unveiled.

During the three-year program, General Motors provides production vehicles, vehicle components, seed money, technical mentoring and operational support. DOE and its research and development facility, Argonne National Laboratory, provide competition management, team evaluation and technical and logistical support. By sponsoring Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions, GM and the DOE are developing the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Photovoltaics Versus Biofuels in Energy Conversion

How does energy produced by the sun (solar) compete with ethanol in terms of land use, life-cycle emissions and cost? These questions are being asked by University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Bren School of Environmental Science & Management Professor Roland Geyer. He wants to know what makes more sense, growing fuel crops to supply alternative-fuel vehicles with ethanol or other biofuels or using photovoltaics (PV) to directly power battery electric vehicles (EVs).

Screen Shot 2013-01-25 at 1.07.55 PM“The energy source for biofuels is the sun, through photosynthesis,” explains Geyer. “The energy source for solar power is also the sun. Which is better?”

To find out, Geyer joined former BrenSchool researcher David Stoms and James Kallaos, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, to model the relative efficiencies of the technologies at converting a given amount of sunlight to miles driven. The results have been published in the paper, “Spatially Explicit Life Cycle Assessment of Sun-to-Wheels Transportation Pathways in the U.S.,” in the Dec. 26 issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Results showed photovoltaics (PV) to be much more efficient than biomass at turning sunlight into energy to fuel a car.

“PV is orders of magnitude more efficient than biofuels pathways in terms of land use  — 30, 50, even 200 times more efficient — depending on the specific crop and local conditions,” said Geyer. “You get the same amount of energy using much less land, and PV doesn’t require farm land.”

The researchers examined three ways of using sunlight to power cars: 1) the traditional method of converting corn or other plants to ethanol; 2) converting energy crops into electricity for BEVs rather than producing ethanol; and 3) using PVs to convert sunlight directly into electricity for EVs. Because land-use decisions are local, Geyer explained, he and his colleagues examined five prominent “sun-to-wheels” energy conversion pathways — ethanol from corn or switchgrass for internal combustion vehicles, electricity from corn or switchgrass for EVs, and PV electricity for EVs — for every county in the contiguous United States. Continue reading

Pearson Fuels Recieves $1.35M for E85

Pearson Fuels (RTC Fuels, LLC) has been awarded $1.35 million for the installation of E85 dispensing equipment at 19 existing fueling stations throughout California. The monies were part of $3.27 million allocated by the California Energy Commission (CEC) for projects that will help the state reduce transportation sector emissions. CEC estimates the E85 fuel market in the state will eventually be the largest in the U.S. with approximately 55,000 new flex-fuel vehicles purchased in the state each year. However, there are relatively few E85 pumps throughout the state so the project includes collecting data on station operations to help provide a demonstration on the feasibility of developing stations to sell E85.

PearsonFuels_prices“These awards will increase the availability of alternative and renewable vehicle fuels, and will help to fulfill the Governor’s goal of significantly expanding the market for zero emission vehicles in the state,” said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. “Additionally, these investments benefit all Californians by improving air quality, creating jobs and reducing petroleum use.”

The approved awards were made through the CEC’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. The program is slated to invest approximately $90 million during this fiscal year to develop new transportation technologies, as well as alternative and renewable fuels. Additional technologies will be needed to help meet the state’s climate emission reduction goals.

In addition, the awards will help fulfill Gov. Brown’s executive order directing state government to support and facilitate the rapid commercialization of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) in California, with a 2025 target of having 1.5 million ZEVs on the state’s roads. They will also aid in the installation of additional infrastructure to support 1 million ZEVs in the state by 2025.

The ECEC also approved four awards totaling $2,550,000 to increase the storage, distribution and dispensing of alternative fuels in the state.

Europe Plans for Electric Vehicles

A European consortium, consisting of DNV KEMA, Fraunhofer ISE, EMD International, RAH and RFVV, have begun an EU funded project to develop modeling and simulation tools for optimally integrating electrical vehicles (EVs) into electricity networks. The project, Novel E-Mobility Grid Model (NEMO), will play a key role in the continued development of electric mobility in Europe and will also be an important element in the further development of smart grids.

EV charging in EuropeAs electric vehicle adoption grows in Europe and charging stations are installed and connected to the existing grid, the NEMO project will support European grid operators and service providers in assessing the impact of EVs on the power grid, and to evaluate possible solutions such as grid extension or load management.

The consortium will develop a NEMO simulation and optimization tool suite based on the existing complementary simulation tools PLATOS, SimTOOL and energyPRO, which were each developed by the respective NEMO core partners. When combined, the simulation tools will address both market-oriented and technical problems that may result from the predicted influx of EVs on the electricity grid, such as identifying grid constraints in the network or determining the optimal use of available electricity generators.

“Our three tools will be further extended and integrated into one single tool suite to assess the impact of a large volume of EVs on both the electricity network and energy markets in its entirety. The combined project team will be able to offer cooperative services that none of the partners could offer individually,” said Dr. Martijn Huibers, NEMO project coordinator at DNV KEMA.

The project team aims to enable the exchange of simulation data between the models of each tool, and the NEMO consortium will work closely with stakeholders to ensure the suite addresses key market needs.

Now is the Time to Invest in Renewables

Faegre Baker Daniels logoThe renewable industry remains abuzz about the American Tax Payer Relief Act that included the extension and modification of energy tax provisions. The tax extenders make investing in the renewables industry and in energy efficiency technologies a good move. Why? The firm of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP put together a brief overview of several key provisions that aid the industry for the next year and beyond.

Electricity Generation:

  • Production Tax Credit (PTC) — is a per-kilowatt hour incentive for the generation of electricity from qualified, renewable sources. The wind PTC was extended through 2013. In addition, the trigger for eligibility was changed to the start of construction of the facilities instead of the production of the electricity which significantly extends the use of the credit. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service will issue rulemakings clarifying this important change. Finally, the law amends the definition of municipal solid waste facilities to remove recyclable paper as an eligible feedstock.
  • Investment Tax Credit in Lieu of Production Tax Credit — Solar facilities can currently qualify for an investment tax credit of 30 percent of the cost of investment when a facility is placed in service. The law enables other renewable generation facilities to opt for this investment tax credit as opposed to the PTC mentioned above.
  • Indian Country Coal Production Credit — The law extends a provision that enables Indian tribes to qualify for a PTC equal to $2 per ton of coal sourced through their land through the end of 2013.

Energy Efficiency:

  • Energy Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes (25C) — The tax credit for installing energy efficient improvements to existing homes — such as improved HVAC units, windows, furnaces, and heat and water pumps — was extended through 2013 and is capped at $500. The law also updated the standards that such appliances would need to achieve to be eligible for the incentive.
  • New Energy Efficient Homes Credit — The law extends through 2013 the tax incentive for the production of energy efficient homes. To be eligible, new homes must achieve a 30 percent or 50 percent improvement over heating or cooling energy usage of a comparable residence. The level of efficiency determines the value of the credit.
  • Energy Efficient Appliance Credit — The tax credit for U.S.-manufactured, energy-efficient appliances was extended through 2013. This credit includes refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes washers. Continue reading