Sep 22, 2009 | 22
“Are you ready?” the young driver beside me asked, as we sat in the two-seat Tesla Roadster convertible, facing a straight, steep, quarter-mile road that rises from the water of San Francisco Bay up the headland to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then he floored the accelerator. I was driven into the seat-back behind me—and I mean driven, like I was strapped into some insane amusement park ride—for several full seconds as the car accelerated and accelerated like a rocket up the climb. Only there was no screaming flame blasting behind us. There was no engine roaring either. I was being shot up this road so fast my emergency senses were on full alert, yet all was eerily quiet.
The Tesla Motors roadster is an all-electric vehicle. Which means zero emissions. There’s no engine, no fuel tank, just a deep bank of lithium-ion batteries and a single-gear, direct-drive motor that hits maximum torque instantly (that’s the beauty of electric propulsion). The car is blistering fast; the sport edition goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.7 seconds. Not up on car specs? The Chevy Corvette, with a monster 6.2 liter, eight cylinder, 430 horsepower engine takes 4.6 seconds. The Tesla accelerates faster than the Porsche 911. Faster than the Ferrari Spider. The typical sedan takes a good 6.0 seconds or more to reach the same speed.
Sep 18, 2009 | 26
You really can drive across the country on algae--and a 700-pound battery pack--or so proved the crew behind the documentary Fuel . Embarking on September 8 and pulling into New York City today, just in time for the film's premiere, the Algaeus covered 3,750 miles.
"It got 147 miles per gallon in the city," says Fuel director Josh Tickell of the converted to plug-in Prius hybrid that he drove on a mix of battery power and algae fuel blended with conventional gasoline. The Algaeus did less well on the highway: 52 mpg, because of the lack of regenerative braking that recharges the battery, among other things.
May 19, 2009 | 39
The Obama administration unveiled a plan to boost fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks to an average of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016—four years ahead of current schedule and up from an average of just 25 miles per gallon today.
The new standards (pdf) will also impose—for the first time ever—a limit on greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles at 250 grams per mile in 2016 under the new proposed rule. (That’s about 5.5 ounces per kilometer, for those of you who like your units mixed differently.)
There are very few vehicles capable of meeting the new standards today, which would mean more hybrids and possibly even electric or other alternative vehicles would have to hit the road within seven years for automakers to comply.
Dec 10, 2008 | 13
Researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno, have discovered that coffee can be turned into an alternative fuel other than caffeine: biodiesel. And you can have your coffee and drink it too. No need to use the fresh stuff, old grounds are more than up to the task, according to material scientist Mano Misra and his colleagues.
Even after being subjected to the rigors of brewing, roughly 15 percent of the weight of dried coffee grounds is oil, which, much like palm and soybean oil, can be converted into biodiesel. The coffee has the added benefit of not being a food source, like palm oil and soybeans.
Nevertheless, more than 16 billion pounds of coffee are produced globally every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Misra estimates that the grounds from that haul could be used to make as much as 340 million gallons of biodiesel. For their part, the researchers turned grounds donated by Starbucks into biodiesel that had the added advantage of smelling like a fresh cup o' Joe.
Nov 13, 2008 | 1
Making a few stops along the way, BioJet 1 went 1,776 miles of a 2,486-mile journey from Reno, Nev., to Leesburg, Fla., exclusively on biodiesel. The fuel in question, made by Lake Erie Biofuels, was a blend of soy and animal fats turned to diesel.
The Aero L-29 jet kept the biodiesel from congealing at high altitude by continuously heating it—and landing every 300 miles or so to refuel. The flight is a proof of principle, according to Green Flight International CEO Doug Rodante, and is aimed at addressing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning jet fuel -- roughly 3 percent of total worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but released in a very bad spot—high in the atmosphere.
Oct 23, 2008 | 11
The alternative-energy automobile company known as Better Place plans to bring the same electric car system already in the works for Israel and Denmark to Australia. After raising $1 billion in capital—a tall order in today’s cold economic climate—Better Place founder Shai Agassi, a former software executive, Australian bank Macquarie and partners plan to build by 2012 electric car charge garages and battery exchange stations throughout Australia—all powered by wind turbines and other renewable resources (when possible)—to service the vehicles.
Basically, Better Place is trying to make electric cars—specifically the Renault-Nissan eMegane under development that can drive around 100 miles on one charge with a top power of 91 horsepower—work like cellphones. Customers would pay by the minute, er, mile, to use cars (powered by batteries and electricity) that they owned or leased. Customers would purchase mileage plans in order to use Better Place’s recharging stations and battery swaps. A123 Systems, a battery company in Watertown, Mass., will be the most likely battery provider, according to Agassi.
Oct 22, 2008 | 1
That's the subject of the second annual Algae Biomass Summit starting today in Seattle. The conference will explore the great question of whether microscopic plants could cut out the geologic middleman of time and pressure and just deliver fuel directly. The number of companies pursuing this idea is exceeded in magnitude only by the number of different strains of algae and the ways to genetically manipulate it.
Solazyme in San Francisco grows its puny plants in the dark and Fort Collins, Colo.–based Solix partners with breweries to keep costs down. GreenFuel Technologies in Cambridge, Mass., meantime, plans to build the first "commercial scale" algae farm near Jerez in southern Spain—in an effort to turn carbon dioxide spewed by a cement plant into renewable fuel.
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