Archive for the ‘Express 175’ Category

Abuse of Power?

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

We are talking about the misuse of energy here, not political power or human rights. We are concerned with the waste of a finite resource. Of the pollution caused by fossil fuels to the atmosphere and the air we breathe. A lot of talk – and some action – is going on to get countries, cities and companies to clean up their energy act. Energy efficiency is usually identified as the easiest way to go. Stop the waste of energy. And save money on your power bills at the same time. So this week’s National Energy Efficiency Conference is drawing on some of the best brains and some of the best examples from business around the world. There are also a lot of good ideas and applications on clean energy and even cleaner transportation in this issue. And while Singapore suffers in silence with the massive energy use (waste?) associated with its Formula 1 night time races – look at all the lights and cars! – there’s  an announcement from the international motor sports body that a new electric vehicle race is scheduled for the future. A move in the right direction, which might make more of us think about the real energy cost and environmental impact of unsustainable car racing events against the economic benefits. – Ken Hickson

Profile: Amory Lovins

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Automobile bodies made of lightweight carbon fibre that will help cars run on less energy and enable electric vehicles to be propelled by smaller batteries and powertrains, according to Amory Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which does research into efficient technologies.

Electric car future: lighter vehicles, more range

MIKE LINDBLOM, Seattle Time                         Copyright 2012 Seattle Time. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

MIKE LINDBLOM, The Seattle Times (8 September 2012):

Page 1 of 1

SEATTLE (AP) — If you believe Bob Lutz, one of the auto industry’s best-known executives, come midcentury we’ll all be driving around in lightweight electric cars that can go hundreds of miles between charges.

Electric-car technology is improving rapidly, he said, while internal-combustion engines are as good as they’re ever going to get.

Lutz, developer of the Chevy Volt, was in town for a conference at Seattle Center on Friday called “Beyond Oil” — an event that showcases green and high-tech transportation advances. Sponsored by local think-tank Cascadia Center, the city of Seattle, VIA Motors and others, the conference drew transportation execs, state officials and electric-car enthusiasts.

They showed off or peered inside an assortment of energy-efficient vehicles on display — everything from plug-in Nissan Leafs to an aerodynamic Viking X car built by students at Western Washington University, and something called a Firefly, for use by parking enforcers and security patrols.

For now, electric cars remain a niche market, with price being a huge factor — typically $35,000 to $40,000 for a basic passenger car.

Lutz guessed that unless electric cars can be priced as cheaply as gasoline-powered cars, only about 5 percent of the public will pay extra for green cars.

For now, he said, the most cost-effective use for electric motors is in trucks and delivery fleets that burn lots of gas.

He’s a board member at VIA Motors, which showed off a white van brought from Utah. Like a Volt, it runs all-electric during a normal workday, with gasoline as backup power for trips longer than 40 miles.

VIA plans to deliver 2,000 of the vehicles to government and business fleets around the country next year.

Still, plug-in cars have become more mainstream since 2006, when scientists and amateur mechanics at the Beyond Oil conference here spent time explaining how to retrofit a hybrid Prius so it could be plugged into a regular household power socket. Since then, Nissan, Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi have all developed plug-in models.

The next big advance? The experts say it will be automobile bodies made of lightweight carbon fiber that will help cars run on less energy, much like the Boeing Dreamliner.

That, in turn, will enable cars to be propelled by smaller batteries and powertrains, according to Amory Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, which does research into efficient technologies.

A carbon-built auto industry is already getting under way, Lovins said, noting that carbon fiber made in Moses Lake is being sent to BMW in Germany, and a company called Fiberforge is negotiating with U.S. automakers about how to build carbon-fiber vehicles.

Another topic at Friday’s conference: overcoming range anxiety, a fear by drivers that a battery will run low before the car reaches a charging station.

Lutz expects that concern to ease within five years, when a new generation of lithium-sulfur batteries should be commercially viable.

“Think of a Chevy Volt, instead of 40 miles (per charge), you’re thinking about 200 miles,” he said. Already, engineers are working on lithium-air batteries that might deliver 400 to 450 miles between charges, if a way can be found to recharge them, he said. “You have to start asking yourselves, who needs a gasoline engine anymore? For that matter, who needs a network of charging stations?”

Washington, Oregon and California have been installing charging stations mostly along the I-5 corridor, not to mention countless chargers at private and public parking spaces.

Electric-car owner Kevin Boze, of Seattle, raved about his CODA, a sedan with a range of 124 miles. It replaced his old pickup, which drank up $400 a month in gas, he said. Solar panels at his home supply most of the car’s power, he said.

“Our garage was built for horse and buggy, and now we have an electric car,” said his wife, Grace Reamer.



Amory Lovins,
Chairman and Chief Scientist

Rocky Mountain Institute does solutions, not problems; practice, not theory; transformation, not incrementalism. In short, practical transformation.

Most of the world’s biggest economic entities are no longer countries but companies, and many central governments are stagnating while private enterprise innovates. Therefore turning scarcity by inattention into abundance by design requires fundamental change that some of the world’s biggest, most complex, and most entrenched industries can lead. Rather than waiting for policy and politics to thaw, we must catalyze business-led change from within. Sympathetic collaboration can reveal practical paths to manage risk, increase profit, and create competitive advantage.

This gentle trimtab steers incumbents’ strength and force from blocking change to driving change. Jûjutsu-like, its suppleness can overcome superior force by subtly redirecting it—turning opposing weight and strength into an advantage through fluidity, centeredness, leverage, and up-close, hands-on engagement. Fighting with an opponent turns into dancing with a partner.

That is how Rocky Mountain Institute helps drive the United States’s challenging shift from oil and coal to efficiency and renewable energy. But how can a $12-million-a-year independent nonprofit group move a $5-trillion-a-year swath of the economy? Jûjitsu contestants’ weights don’t vary by half a millionfold. This effort is ambitious but not quixotic, as encouraging signs lately confirm.

Twenty-one years after we developed the ultralight Hypercar concept, we’re heartened to see others taking strides down this ever more crowded path. The federal rule change RMI helped achieve, decoupling size from weight, has spurred lightweighting—now the core of Ford’s and BMW’s announced strategies. Three German automakers plan 2013 production of electrified carbon-fiber cars; 17 firms worldwide offer equipment to make composite autobodies; three top carbon-fiber makers run automotive innovation centers. Diverse firms around the world that we’ve patiently coaxed for two decades are requesting strategic briefs on lightweighting. As a senior reviewer for the National Petroleum Council’s transportation fuels study, and now a member of the council itself, I’ve been pleased by the oil industry’s receptiveness to the prospect of saving, by 2050, the equivalent of 1.5 Saudi Arabias, or half an OPEC, of inexhaustible, all-American, $18-a-barrel oil by drilling under Detroit.

The military efficiency revolution encouraged for three decades by our hundreds of conversations, lectures, and studies has now become bedrock policy in the Pentagon. As a professor of practice at the Naval Postgraduate School, I’ll help teach it to the next generation of naval leaders. And as its new rules, valuing saved fuel about ten to a hundred times more than before, drive prime contractors’ rivalry over radical efficiency, their innovations will supercharge efficiency in the civilian sector, which uses 50+ times more oil. That’s huge leverage for national security.

Just as three-fourths of U.S. oil fuels mobility, three-fourths of electricity powers buildings. In 1991, Bill Browning founded RMI’s pioneering Green Development Services, and in 1998 coauthored this new field’s classic text. RMI’s hundreds of projects have helped design professionals, developers, and financiers begin to capture $1.4 trillion of net savings from energy-efficient buildings—plus the far larger non-energy benefits that RMI first discovered.

These patient decades have paid off. Inefficient and environmentally inferior buildings are no longer financeable or leasable in most U.S. and many foreign markets. RMI’s tools for deep commercial retrofits and smarter analysis are being rapidly adopted. Top real-estate firms have reshaped their strategies around our findings. More will be influenced by RMI partner and leading real-estate finance expert Scott Muldavin’s 2010 Value Beyond Cost Savings, which decisively links energy and environmental gains with financial performance.

Industry is even more heterogeneous than America’s 120 million buildings, and so is our progress there. Yet our more than $40 billion worth of redesigns in diverse facilities, new and old, have solidly proven how RMI’s integrative design methods can save energy and capital. Collaborations with powerful partners help test, break, fix, refine, apply, spread, and scale our work. Now leading business groups want to spread our findings as a key new driver for competitiveness. And our new program director Dr. Jon Creyts, who as a McKinsey partner led that firm’s U.S. climate practice and co-led its U.S. electricity practice, strengthens RMI in all these areas.

The electricity sector faces uniquely disruptive change as 21st-century technology and speed collide with 20th- and 19th-century institutions and rules. Yet initial engagements built on our decades of utility experience and new insights from Reinventing Fire are achieving rapid mutual learning. Our exciting “e-Lab” innovation process with key stakeholders will help explore and shape new business and regulatory models that can make America’s next electricity system efficient, diverse, distributed, renewable, and resilient.

These major shifts are again being accelerated by both military innovation and private-sector insurgents. Since 2008, half the world’s new generating capacity has been renewable. In 2011, clean energy invested its trillionth dollar since 2004 and won a record $260-billion global investment. Its rapid price drops (fourfold for solar-power modules in three years) are driving explosive growth. Grid integration is proving manageable. Industry giants like Siemens, ABB, and GE are rapidly pivoting to distributed renewables.

Durable market trends that RMI catalyzes and reinforces are setting the United States on its 40-year journey beyond oil and coal. Progress is already visible. In the U.S. during 2005–10, coal lost one-fourth of its share of electricity services (which are 95 percent of its market) to cheaper gas, efficiency, and renewables. In 2011, U.S. net oil imports hit a 15-year low. U.S. gasoline use peaked in 2007, industrial countries’ oil use peaked in 2005, Deutsche Bank forecasts world oil use may peak around 2016, and the causes are accelerating. U.S. energy productivity overall has doubled since 1975 and, RMI finds, could triple again by 2050. The Energy Information Administration forecasts flat U.S. carbon emissions for the next one to three decades. Slowly but with gathering speed, the supertanker is turning. RMI is making the maps and, increasingly, standing on the bridge advising the captain.

Much of RMI’s jûjutsu is necessarily invisible. We play the long game, often out of view. And so the Reinventing Fire vision is taking hold—one engineer at a time, one CEO at a time, one investor at a time, one firm at a time, one state at a time, and before we know it, one country and world at a time. The $5-trillion savings on the table—and profound national-security concerns—provide ample motive; public-health and climate concerns add urgency for many; political consensus isn’t needed. Practical transformation works. It’s fun. It’s why we’re here. And it’s why we’re so pleased that you are among our companions on this astonishing journey.


Winner & Losers Defined by Energy Efficiency & Renewables

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Energy efficiency and renewables now offer effective, reliable, and affordable replacements for fossil fuel. Rapidly scaling those solutions will define winners and losers between firms—and among nations. This is the view of Rocky Mountain Institute’s James Brew, one of the keynote speakers at this week’s National Energy Efficiency Conference in Singapore. Meanwhile, the European energy commissioner expressed his support for agreed moves to embrace improvements in energy efficiency across the board, cutting energy consumption by 20% which could save the European Union around $64 billion per year. Read More

Preview of the NEEC2012

The annual NEEC brings together energy experts and industry professionals to provide thought leadership and share energy efficiency best practices and case studies. This year, the second NEEC will take place from 18 to 20 September 2012 with the theme “Energy Efficiency as a Business Opportunity”.

James Brew (Principal, Buildings for the Rocky Mountain Institute, RMI)) will give a plenary presentation on “Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for a New Energy Era”. Oil and coal have built our civilization, created our wealth, and enriched the lives of billions. Yet their rising costs to our security, economy, health, and environment are eroding and starting to outweigh their benefits.

Across all energy uses, Mr Brew will tell the Singapore audience, energy efficiency and renewables now offer effective, reliable, and affordable replacements for fossil fuel. Rapidly scaling those solutions will define winners and losers between firms—and among nations. Now an independent synthesis offers a new vision whose whole-system thinking can revitalize business models and end-run government gridlock. Its competitive strategies show promising ways to win the clean energy race, not forced by public policy but led by business for durable advantage.

Delegates will discover, for example, how energy can become a controllable operating expense and learn to manage it, to achieve significant savings, affecting all other parts of a business and the bottom line.

Local and overseas energy efficiency speakers, with practical experience, will share their best practices and case studies. The keynote presentation will focus on how Energy Efficiency as a business opportunity could arise by increasing productivity and reducing cost. It would also cover the importance of having a system for managing energy to achieve improvements at all levels. Apart from insightful presentation by the respective experts, there will also be an associated exhibition featuring a range of energy efficient industrial technologies, practices and solutions.

The Energy Efficiency National Partnership (EENP) Awards Ceremony will be presented at the opening of the NEEC in the evening of 18 September 2012. During the awards ceremony, corporations and corporate teams will be recognised for their efforts and achievements in excellent energy management practices and in improving energy efficiency.

Two experts will deliver the keynote address:

 Jim Kelly is the Group Vice-President, Head of Global Energy Efficiency business of ABB, where energy efficiency is recognized as a central driver of growth for industries, utilities, transportation and buildings. His presentation on “Industrial Energy Efficiency – Doing more with less” will focus on barriers, opportunities and success stories of energy efficiency in multiple industries.

 Juan Aguiriano, Worldwide Managing Director of Sustainable Operations for DuPont Sustainable Solutions, is responsible for expanding a consulting practice that leverages real-world experience and proven approaches to help organizations improve and sustain return on operations and assets while reducing the environmental footprint. His presentation on Energy Efficiency – A Sustainability Journey will discuss the specific means through which companies can leverage an energy management system to reduce their energy footprint.

Key case studies, drawing on the practical experience of the speakers from Europe, United States and Asia, will include:

 Paul Westbrook, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional, is recognized as a leader and speaker in efficiency and whole-system integrated design across the spectrum from residential projects to large industrial facilities. His presentation will show how energy management is currently being carried out in Texas Instruments and how this has helped to drive energy efficiency at TI. This program resulted in a 39% decrease in the energy needed to manufacture a chip over five years (2005-2010).

 Thomas Koch Blank, a Junior Partner with McKinsey’s Stockholm office will cover the topic on “Integrated Energy Strategy: How to capture 20%-30% savings in energy”. He will present the case for change for energy efficiency and detail four key drivers of an integrated energy strategy, their corresponding saving estimates and selected case examples.

 Tim Shire has worked at oil industry service company KBC since 2006 in the Energy Services group. As he has managed energy studies projects at LNG and chemicals facilities in Asia, and has wide experience in utility system modelling, pinch analysis and process simulation, he will deliver his topic on “Unlocking Energy and Water Synergies in Petrochemical Clusters to Improve Competitiveness and Sustainability”.

 Ng Chye-Ming is currently appointed as Engineering and Maintenance Manager in Total’s Polystyrene manufacturing plant located in Tuas Singapore. With his comprehensive understanding of business from the ground level, he will provide a practical case study on how energy efficiency enhances profitability. 

 Robert Pe, a Data Center Consultant with Hewlett Packard, has 21 years of industry experience with his focus specifically on data centres for the last 15 years. His expertise includes the areas of strategic data centre planning, conceptual design, supervision of operations and maintenance of facilities and data centre relocation. His paper covers Data Centre Energy Efficiency – Operating for Optimisation.

For the full conference programme, details of speakers and topics, as well as conference registration, please visit the website:


14 September 2012:

STRASBOURG, France, Sept. 14 (UPI) — The European energy commissioner expressed his support for a move by Parliament to embrace improvements in energy efficiency across the board.

Members of the European Parliament adopted a directive that embraces more energy efficiency from areas ranging from distribution to consumption. The assembly added that cutting energy consumption by 20 percent could save the European Union around $64 billion per year.

European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said the measure would lead to economic growth in the eurozone.

“The positive vote on this directive is an important step in these difficult economic times,” he said in a statement.

The European Central Bank pledged during the summer to take whatever action is necessary to support the euro. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, in its monthly report for September, expected the eurozone to return to growth next year.

Lawmakers in the European Parliament described energy efficiency targets as essential to energy security and economic recovery.

The 20 percent target is envisioned for 2020.


Algae The Next Big Thing in Clean Energy Production

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

The search for the next generation of biofuels has gone off the cornfields and into the laboratories, with algae now being touted as the main ingredient in boosting biofuel production in the United States. Laboratories around the nation, from academic institutions to the military, are exploiting the advantages algae has over conventional crops in the bid to wean the nation from imported oil and increase its energy independence as well as to help mitigate the effects of climate change. Read more

Arizona Wins America’s Next Top Algae Biofuel Research Facility… For Now

By Tina Casey for Clean Technica (17 September 2012):

Arizona has just won a $15 million Department of Energy grant to establish the first ever national algae biofuel testbed in the US, which gives it at least temporary bragging rights to the #1 position as it jockeys with other states to establish the kind of algae-friendly cred that will attract new business into its borders.

It’s going to have some stiff competition, though. Texas A&M University’s algae biofuel research program also recently got a huge infusion of federal cash, and a network of regional research centers is growing in Hawaii, California, Ohio and Georgia.

A National Push for Algae Biofuel Research

To be fair, the competition is far more friendly than not. Under the new grant, Arizona and states with existing algae research centers will collaborate with each other and with federal laboratories as well as with private sector partners.

The Arizona testbed will be called ATP3 (for Algae Testbed Public-Private Partnership), and will be housed at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University.

Just as the name says, it will be supported by a laundry list of public and private partners, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Cellana LLC, Touchstone Research Laboratory, SRS Energy, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Texas at Austin, and Commercial Algae Management.

Also weaving into the algae biofuel picture are the US Navy’s algae biofuel initiative, which has been forging ahead despite opposition from Republican leadership in Congress, NASA algae biofuel research, and the US aviation industry’s biofuel initiatives.

What’s It All About, Algae Biofuel?

If all this activity seems a little Manhattan Project–esque, there’s a good reason for the urgency. With only three percent of the world’s oil reserves, the US could drill its way to China and back without reducing its dependence on foreign supplies. Even aside from global warming issues, domestic fuel diversity is critical for long-term security.

As the recent drought shows, food-based biofuel crops such as corn aren’t going to cut it over the long run, so attention is turning to non-food sources. Algae looks like a winner because it is rich in oil; it can be grown under controlled conditions; it can thrive in different regions of the US; and it won’t necessarily take up any space that could be used to grow food.

Move Over Cacti, Here Comes Algae

The new testbed in Arizona is designed to provide private industry with shared access to a national database for analyzing algae growth and algae biofuel production methods, which will help quicken the pace of research from the lab to fully scaled-up commercial algae farms and biofuel refineries.

Notwithstanding members of Congress who have railed against federal support for algae biofuel, it seems that algae has the potential to become big business, and on that account, it is winning support from legislators at the state level.

Algae could provide a particularly significant economic boost for states like Arizona, which could see its agriculture and energy production sectors grow in one fell swoop.

In Arizona, ASU writer Amelia Huggins notes that state lawmakers recently approved two bills designed to create a friendly opening for private industry. One classifies algae as agriculture, and the other permits algae farming on state trust lands.

Huggins also notes that algae research in the state has “benefitted from the strong support of Arizona Gov. Janice Brewer.”


From Bangkok to Doha & to a Renewable Energy Future

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Bangkok has been in the centre of the green world recently, with the recently concluded UN climate talks and Clean Energy Expo Asia. The climate talks made some good progress in setting the agenda for the upcoming major climate change meetings in Doha especially on extending the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and other responses to climate change. One positive development in mitigating climate change would be shifting energy production to clean, renewable methods, which was covered extensively at the Clean Energy Expo Asia and has received much enthusiasm from private developers. Read more

6 September 2012:

BANGKOK, Sept. 6 (UPI) — The United Nations said progress was made at the latest climate talks in Bangkok.

The talks, which concluded Wednesday, were intended to prepare the way for major climate change meetings Nov. 26-Dec 7, in Doha, Qatar.

“There are still some tough political decisions ahead but we now have a positive momentum and a greater sense of convergence that will stimulate higher-level political discussions ahead of Doha and set a faster pace of work once this year’s conference begins,” Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, said in a statement Wednesday.

Major topics covered in the Bangkok meeting included extending and amending the 1997 greenhouse-gas limiting Kyoto Protocol and delivering a road map for a new legally binding climate treaty, which is to be agreed upon by 2015 and go into effect by 2020.

The United Nations said specific objectives for Doha were set at the Bangkok meeting. Among the goals is triggering a new phase of climate action and filling in the gaps in the international policy response to climate change.

Progress was also made, the United Nations says, in areas including the financing mechanism to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and identifying points in which negotiating groups might require additional decisions to reach an agreement in Doha.

But many observers say the Bangkok talks produced few concrete results.

None of the 190 nations participating in the talks made a fresh commitment regarding emissions, reports Energy and Environment Management News, adding that U.S. negotiators “stunned” delegates when they called for any new climate treaty to be “flexible” and “dynamic” rather than legally binding.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said that while progress was made in Bangkok, “big differences must be resolved in the next few months if countries are going to keep their promises to effectively deal with climate change.”

“Countries should work to ensure that the Doha climate summit delivers real progress, and restores momentum to our collective efforts to limit climate change,” UCS Director of Strategy and Policy Alden Meyer said in a statement.

“This isn’t Las Vegas. What happens in Doha won’t stay in Doha — a failure to act would negatively affect people, economies and ecosystems all over the world,” Meyer said.

During the meeting, the United Nations released a report stating that a number of rich nations, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea wouldn’t meet pledges made at Copenhagen in 2009 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.

Even if all nations meet existing pledges, the report says, greenhouse gas emissions will reach 50 billion-55 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 20 percent in excess of the level needed to try to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius.



14 September 2012:

Clean Energy Expo Asia 2012 Strengthens Asia’s Commitment Towards Clean Energy Growth

The fourth Clean Energy Expo Asia (CEEA) came to a close today, after three exciting days of intensive high-level dialog and networking. Held from 12 to 14 September 2012 at the Centara Grand & Bangkok Convention Centre at CentralWorld, Bangkok, Thailand, the annual sustainable energy and energy efficiency focused Trade Fair and Conference successfully attracted close to 2,000 clean energy industry players from close to 30 countries.

As the premier platform for industry players in the technology, services, finance and government sectors in the clean technology industry, Clean Energy Expo Asia, organized by Koelnmesse, hosted some 100 international exhibitors and close to 100 distinguished speakers from across the globe .

The event was officially opened with a message by opening keynote speaker Mr S Chander, Director General, Regional and Sustainable Development Department, Asian Development Bank (ADB), on the Asian Century scenario. According to a 2011 study by ADB, Asia could account for over half of global output by 2050. This rapid growth is expected to bring several climate change and sustainability challenges for all countries in the Asia Pacific region. In his opening keynote, Mr Chander strongly urged participants at the Clean Energy Expo Asia 2012 to seek sustainable solutions that can increase energy production while minimizing its impact on the environment.

“Asia is committed to seeking clean energy solutions and innovating to meet the rising energy needs for the region. This is clearly demonstrated by the keen enthusiasm displayed in the highly interactive Conference tracks and the robust conversations on the Trade Floor. Clean Energy Expo Asia is proud to be the premier platform to drive the clean energy agenda forward. As Asia Pacific continues to be the hotbed of sustainable energy innovations, Clean Energy Expo Asia expects to continue contributing to the future of clean energy development in the region,” said Mr Michael Dreyer, Vice President, Asia Pacific, Koelnmesse.

Advancing the clean energy agenda

From solar, wind and bio energy to clean energy financing, smart grid and energy efficiency, Clean Energy Expo Asia featured focused sessions aimed at addressing various issues across the clean energy sector. Clean energy investments continued to be a hot topic of discussion, as investors shared their challenges in bringing renewable energy innovations on stream.

In the plenary on the Future of Clean Energy in Asia, panelists agreed that policymakers have to devise the right policy design that guarantees stability and safe returns on investments, in order to encourage clean energy innovations. Among others, the plenary featured solar entrepreneur Ms Wandee Khunchornyakong, Chairman and CEO, SPCG Public Company Limited; as well as well-known names in environmental advocacy including Ms Gwen Andrews, Vice President, Environmental Policies and Global Advocacy, Alstom; and Ms Christine Lins, Executive Secretary, REN 21.

In line with increased interest in Asia as a hub for bio energy, the sessions Bio Energy Initiatives and Deployment: Policy and Market Mechanisms and Unlocking the Biomass Potential: Critical Technological Advancements attracted many interested participants who were keen to hear from industry experts.

“Biofuel is an emerging industry for Asia and the discussions at both sessions made clear that there is tremendous potential in the region to leverage biofuel as an alternative energy resource especially for power plants and automobiles. The technologies, design tools, and technical know-how to implement these solutions are already in existence. From the interest shown by the session participants, we hope that more countries will embrace this technology and harness the best practices shared by industry leaders in China, India, Malaysia and Thailand,” said Mr Akshat Rathee, Managing Director, Nodwin Group, who presented a session on Fuel for Thought: Pushing Bio Fuel Boundary.

Innovations for a sustainable future

Clean Energy Expo Asia greeted participants with a wide array of products and technology innovations including Thailand’s first Ethanol bus by Scania, innovative solar-powered street lights by SMA (Solar) Thailand, as well as Siemens AG’s hybrid plant for off-grid power supply. Designed to power any off-grid communities, Mr Torsten Wetzel, Head of Business Development Distributed Generation, Siemens AG shared with enthusiastic participants how cheaper, greener and highly available electricity can be produced through Siemens Off-Grid Power Solutions.

“Siemens presented our new off-grid power solutions as we believe the solution is ideal for Southeast Asia’s developing economies.  Based on the enthusiasm we saw from the audience, we are excited to see the adoption of this solution in the region in the near future,” said Mr Wetzel at the end of the session.

With cost of solar power installations declining, solar innovations attracted much interest among visitors. Yingli Green Energy Holding Company, one of the world’s largest PV manufacturers, highlighted their array of solar innovations for a wide variety application.

“Clean Energy Expo Asia 2012 is a fantastic platform for environmental innovators to showcase our latest offerings for clean energy projects. The Asia Pacific region is an ideal location for solar power adoption and this is reflected by the enthusiastic enquiries we received from visitors to the trade fair. We are confident that some of the connections we made at the event will be further nurtured into fruitful business partnerships for us,” said Ms Angie Koh, Business Development Director, Yingli Green Energy Singapore Company Pte Ltd.

Connecting Asia to leading clean energy projects and technologies

Clean Energy Expo Asia 2012 also hosted its first Renewable Clinic to huge success. A total of 40 meetings were conducted throughout the event.

“The Renewable Clinic is a great platform that provided us and our partners with strong opportunities for embarking on new projects in the region. Apart from local companies, we have held several key meetings with project developers from Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam who are keen to harness our technology and expertise to launch new clean energy projects in their own countries,” said Ms Taksuta Tinsuntisook, Marketing Manager, Royal Equipment Co Ltd.

Clean Energy Expo Asia’s thriving annual Business Matching program also saw more than 600 meetings between international participants. Among them were hosted buyers from Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand, who were specially invited to the show to expand the business opportunities for exhibitors.

Ms Charlene Vee S. Tan, President, All Vision Business Enterprises Corp, who was among the hosted buyers, said, “We saw several potential partners from key players such as Phoenix Solar, Versolsolar Hangzhou Co. Ltd, Windsia Energy Industries Pte Ltd and Yingli Solar. Clean Energy Expo Asia has been helpful in providing us with the latest products and services that can help improve the quality of our delivery to customers in the future.”

The next Clean Energy Expo Asia will be held from 25-27 September 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand. For more information on Clean Energy Expo Asia, please visit

Climate Change Back In The US Presidential Spotlight

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

In his acceptance speech at the recently held Democratic National Convention, United States President Obama made clear the link between CO2  emissions and climate change as well as  his clear intent in addressing this problem. This gives cheer to the environmentally concerned, as the United States is amongst the top CO2 emitters and any decision that it takes in its energy policy can make a big impact in efforts to mitigate climate change. Read more

Huffington Post (7 September 2012):

President Obama spoke directly to climate issues Thursday night in Charlotte. With a direct slap at Mitt Romney’s sad climate joking to anti-science cheering, the President said:

And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet — because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.

While the Democratic Party platform had strong words on climate issues (although quite toned down from 2008), commentators were noticing a dearth of climate mentions during the convention. As we played “climate spotting,” the references to climate or climate-related issues were few and far between. This changed yesterday with comments by Barney Frank and John Kerry. And then the clincher: the President’s emphasis that “climate change is not a hoax” and that climate disruption / extreme weather event implications “are not a joke.”

An item of note: those at the convention gave the climate change paragraph among the most positive reaction given to any part of the speech.

And, even more astounding, the “Village” seems to have noticed.

Politico rated the speech’s “best lines” and this was #5 of 15 — and #2 in terms of policy-related quotations.

MSNBC rated applause lines — “And, in this election, you can do something it” was #6 with 17.2 seconds of applause.

At the presidential and congressional levels, 2012 is truly an election about science. Science is truly a differentiator between the parties — with climate science being the most extreme example of this.  And on this, the American public (and America’s scientists) are not sympathetic to the Republican Party.

Climate change is an issue that lends itself to coherent discussion.

And climate change is a winning political issue.

The Obama-Biden campaign seems to be waking to the power of climate as an issue.

The President showed this last night.

OBAMA: You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.

Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.

We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.

And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet – because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it.


Roll Out the Green Carpet For Interface, the Sustainability Leader

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Carpets might not seem to be the most environmentally friendly products, being made out of petroleum-derived synthetic materials. However, carpet tile manufacturer Interface has been pushing the boundaries by increasing the recycled content in its carpets, up to 100% in some. It then goes further by making the manufacturing process even greener by increasing energy efficiency and using renewable energy. Read more

Carpet giant Interface shares pointers on being a green innovator

Padma Nagappan on GreenBiz on (5 September 2012):

What would you do with tons of discarded fishing nets that clutter the ocean and beaches near fishing towns and villages?

If you were Interface, the international modular carpet manufacturer and industry leader in sustainability, you would turn those nets into carpet tiles — and provide the fishermen and their families with income while salvaging the debris.

Interface partnered with a fishing community in the Philippines in a pilot program to mark World Oceans Day in June this year. It has also researched various ways in which to increase the recycled content in its carpets, which on average have 40 percent of recycled fiber or yarn. Some products are made up of 100 percent recycled content.

The company released its annual EcoMetrics study in August this year, a report that tracks its advancements in sustainability. The term EcoMetrics was coined by Interface’s visionary founder Ray Anderson when he put the company on the path to sustainability in 1994.

Since then, the company has studied processes at its manufacturing plants worldwide — all of which it owns — to see how much material and energy they consume and what comes out in the form of waste.

Interface conducts its research with three main goals in mind: footprint reduction, product innovation and inspired culture (which focuses on how much time and initiative employees commit to philanthropy and volunteering).

Among its milestones, it has reduced the amount of energy it takes to produce a square foot of carpet — also known as energy intensity — by nearly 50 percent. Greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 30 percent, and water usage and landfill waste have been cut by 80 percent since 1996.

It has also shifted to renewable energy sources for one-third of its energy needs and initiated ReEntry, a process that takes back old carpet and recycles it into new raw material. ReEntry diverted 25 million pounds of carpets from landfills in 2011 alone.

Erin Meezan, vice president of sustainability at Interface, spoke to GreenBiz about how the company achieved these milestones and pointers that others can use.

Photo of end-of-life carpet recycled into pellets through ReEntry courtesy of Interface

Rather than one mega project, Meezan says it was a series of smaller projects that added up to the reductions in greenhouse gases.

“Each of our factories has a range of energy efficiency projects,” she said. “One plant in the U.S. tapped into a local landfill. We use a lot of heat to melt things and dry things, so the projects involve better procedures, drying at lower temperatures.”

Meezan recounted a success story in a factory in Holland where employees found a more efficient way to cut the tile. The automated process was faster, helped reduce waste and increase efficiency.

Interface starts its process by measuring how much emissions are produced by its plants and reporting it to the public.

“You need to know what your footprint is, and making it public will drive internal dialogue and discussions with other stakeholders. Second, analyze total spend on energy and what that translates into in terms of greenhouse gases,” Meezan said.

On using more recycled material

To increase the recycled content in its products, Interface worked on understanding the basic process and how to improve it.  Then, it sat down with two fiber suppliers — one of them which supplied 80 percent of Interface’s fiber needs and another which supplied the balance — to share what it had learned. The company asked suppliers if they would support the initiative.

As it turns out, the company that supplied 20 percent of its fiber was enthusiastic and took a gamble on the pilot program. As a result of this decision several years ago, that supplier provides the majority of Interface’s fiber whereas the other vendors’ business has dropped significantly.

The ReEntry initiative does not offer a buyback or cash incentive for customers to bring old carpet back to the company, but they can accrue benefits for participation. Typically, carpet installers are the ones who haul away old carpet and they must pay a disposal fee for discarding old carpet.

With ReEntry, installers can avoid these charges. Interface is also working with state and local governments to institute a ban on sending carpets to landfill.

“Some stuff we just can’t recycle, so sometimes we donate carpet that’s still usable. For the most part everything goes into reclamation. The old carpet is a feed source for us,” Meezan said.

As an industry, carpet manufacturers are not huge water users in comparison to other industries. But to reduce water usage, Interface got rid of old dyeing processes and began doing things differently.

“The important point here is not just the numbers [by which the company reduced its usage] but the courage that our internal folks had to put this on the table and suggest changes,” she said, laughing.

Customers valuing sustainability

One of the things that frustrates Interface’s product development professionals is that there are so many nice yarns made from bio-based materials, but they don’t perform well. The company wants to make sure that it’s not only sustainable, but that it also performs well and looks beautiful.

Yet Meezan says that the company’s customers do value of environmentally friendly products despite a price difference — especially the architects and designers she credits for their forward-thinking mindsets.

After all, she reflected, it was a customer who triggered the focus on sustainability.

“We started out on this path in 1994 when a customer asked us what we were doing about the environment,” Meezan said. “A sales person gave feedback on it, and it filtered back to our founder.”


Companies at the Forefront of Climate, Carbon & Energy Management

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Johnson Controls has recently been lauded for its management and understanding of climate change related issues in the Carbon Disclosure Project ‘s “Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index” which highlights companies that have displayed transparency in carbon and energy management. Other companies doing well for the environment are Intel and HP, who have been commissioned by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to build the world’s most energy-efficient data center, setting a new benchmark for sustainable computing. Read more

Johnson Controls’ Climate Change Disclosure Practices Recognized by Carbon Disclosure Project

After Market News (14 September 2012):

MILWAUKEE — Johnson Controls, a global diversified company in the building and automotive industries, has been recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for its approach to the disclosure of climate change information.

For the fourth year, Johnson Controls is featured in CDP’s “Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.” This index, a key component of CDP’s annual S&P 500 report, highlights companies within the S&P 500 Index that have displayed a strong approach to information disclosure regarding climate change. Companies are scored on their climate change disclosure. High scores indicate good internal data management and understanding of climate change related issues affecting the company.

The index, compiled by PwC on behalf of CDP, provides an evaluation tool for institutional investors and other stakeholders. In 2012 it comprises 53 companies from the S&P 500 based on analysis of the responses to CDP’s questionnaire, which focused on greenhouse gas emissions, emissions reduction targets and the risks and opportunities associated with climate change.

“As a member of the CDP Supply Chain program, Johnson Controls maintains the highest level of sustainable practices by involving our suppliers in efforts to measure and improve environmental sustainability metrics,” said Charles A. Harvey, vice president, diversity and public affairs for Johnson Controls. “Our history embraces both shareholder value and environmental responsibility. We are honored to be named to the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index.”

Paul Simpson, chief executive officer of CDP, said, “Companies that make the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index have demonstrated strong internal data management practices for the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.  They are also giving clear consideration to the business issues related to climate change and their exposure to climate-related risks and opportunities. This is vital to realizing greater efficiencies, protecting the business from risk and capitalizing on opportunities.”

The S&P 500 report including names of companies featured in the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index can be found at




By Tom Schueneman for Clean Tech Revmodo (14 September 2012):

In an effort to expand its modeling and simulation capabilities for advanced energy systems research, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has announced plans to partner with HP and Intel to build a high-efficiency, high performance computer (HPC) system for NREL’s Energy Systems Integration Facility under construction in Golden, Colo.

The $10 million HPC will advance the lab’s work in materials research and serve to develop a better understanding of biological and chemical processes. The ability to use high performance computing for modeling and simulation will allow research into fully integrated energy systems that otherwise would be too costly, if not impossible, to study directly. The petascale capability of the HPC means the system can perform 1 million billion calculation every second, making it the world’s largest computing capacity dedicated solely to renewable energy and efficiency research.

NREL’s new HPC will not only be the world’s biggest, baddest HPC data center for energy research, it will be the most energy-efficient one as well. Data centers typically consume vast amounts of energy, producing waste heat in the process. According to 2009 data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, the average data center runs at a power usage effectiveness (PUE) of 1.91. The NREL HPC is designed for an annualized PUE of 1.06 or better. Efficiency is further enhanced by the facility’s compact design, which results in shorter electrical cable and plumbing lines, as well as a new technology that uses warm water to cool the servers.

“This unique capability sets NREL apart in our ability to continue groundbreaking research and analysis,” said NREL Director Dan Arvizu. “In partnership with HP and Intel, NREL is acquiring one of the most energy efficient, high performance computer systems in the world for our research.”

Much of the waste heat that is produced will be used to heat the offices of the Energy Systems Integration Facility and other buildings on the NREL campus. Overall, the HPC data center is expected to provide a significant reduction in both energy consumption and operating cost.

“The industry is more and more cognizant of the amount of energy being used in our nation’s data centers,” said NREL Computational Science Center Director Steve Hammond. “NREL’s new HPC data center in the ESIF will set the standard for sustainable and energy efficient computing. The data center will have a world-leading PUE and reuse nearly all waste heat generated. Most data centers do only one or the other, not both.”

The new HPC system will be deployed in two phases based on HP ProLiant SL230s and SL250s Gen8 servers with Intel eight-ccore Xeon E5-2670 processors. The first phase will begin in November 2012 and reach full petascale capacity by summer 2013.

Revmodo is a new platform created by SEFE, Inc to engage the public on clean energy innovations and help foster new business relationships and ideas. By leveraging the power of social media and thought-provoking content, will provide opportunities to raise awareness on sustainable energy – and the technology making it a reality.


Be Sustainable – It’s The Fashionable Thing To Do

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Dutch producer AkzoNobel N.V. has received top ranking in the Chemicals sector of the Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes – a testament to their commitment to integrating sustainable practices in their global operations. Fashion houses too, have been getting on the sustainability bandwagon by advocating the use of environmentally friendly materials and production practices, increasing product longevity, and facilitating recycling at the end of the products’ lifespan. Read more

By AkzoNobel N.V. (14 September 2012):

AkzoNobel N.V. (“AkzoNobel”) has cemented its position as a global sustainability leader upon being ranked first in the Chemicals supersector on the prestigious Dow Jones Sustainability World Indexes (DJSI).

Published today, the latest listing reveals that AkzoNobel achieved a total score of 93%. The company has been ranked in the top three since 2007 – a year when AkzoNobel last topped the list.

“Sustainability is a key market driver for AkzoNobel’s growth in the U.S. and globally,” said Frank Sherman, President of Akzo Nobel Inc., the U.S. holding company. “Our ‘eco-premium’ product lines and company-wide commitment to sustainability give AkzoNobel a competitive advantage and maintain our leadership position within the global paints, coatings and specialty chemical industry.”

Regarded as one of the world’s foremost sustainability indices, the DJSI benchmarks the sustainability performance of leading companies based on environmental, social and economic performance, including forward-looking indicators.

“Our first place ranking and our consistent performance over the last several years are clear indications of how sustainability has been successfully integrated into our global operations,” said Andre Veneman, AkzoNobel’s Sustainability Director, who also acknowledged the contributions made by the company’s employees around the world. “At AkzoNobel, business is sustainability and sustainability is business.”

AkzoNobel’s U.S. business generates about 21% of the company’s global sales of over $20 billion. In the U.S., AkzoNobel has more than 8,000 employees working in 450 locations.


AkzoNobel is the largest global paints and coatings company and a major producer of specialty chemicals. We supply industries and consumers worldwide with innovative products and are passionate about developing sustainable answers for our customers. Our portfolio includes well known brands such as Glidden, Dulux, Sikkens, International and Eka. Headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, we are consistently ranked as one of the leaders in the area of sustainability. With operations in more than 80 countries, our 55,000 people around the world are committed to excellence and delivering Tomorrow’s Answers Today™.

Safe Harbor Statement This press release contains statements which address such key issues as AkzoNobel’s growth strategy, future financial results, market positions, product development, products in the pipeline, and product approvals. Such statements should be carefully considered, and it should be understood that many factors could cause forecasted and actual results to differ from these statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, price fluctuations, currency fluctuations, developments in raw material and personnel costs, pensions, physical and environmental risks, legal issues, and legislative, fiscal, and other regulatory measures. Stated competitive positions are based on management estimates supported by information provided by specialized external agencies. For a more comprehensive discussion of the risk factors affecting our business please see our latest Annual Report, a copy of which can be found on the company’s corporate website



Sustainable fashion design: Thinking outside the index

By Susanne LeBlanc for Green Biz (6 September 2012):

Editor’s note: Read more forward-thinking stories about sustainability and fashion on GreenBiz about companies pushing consumers to make alternative choices and how the fashion industry can avoid its own Foxconn.

Slowly but surely the fashion industry is catching on to corporate social responsibility and sustainability. First came the anti-fur campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s. Many brands and retailers have since eliminated the use of fur in their products or taken measures to ensure animal welfare conditions in their fur supply chains.

Then, beginning in the late 1990s, numerous sweatshop scandals pressured fashion brands and retailers to implement factory compliance monitoring programs. Many now do so either independently or through collaborative initiatives such as Better Work or the Fair Labor Association.

In the past several years, the fashion industry has faced intensifying criticism about its environmental footprint and has once again reacted both on a brand level, with many brands establishing their own sustainability commitments and strategies, as well as on an industry-wide scale with initiatives such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition or the NRDC’s Clean by Design campaign. More recently, however, sustainability leaders in the fashion industry have begun moving beyond their initial reactive response towards proactively addressing environmental concerns right from square one of the value chain: design.

Sustainable design in fashion has so far been largely focused on materials selection. Several brands have developed, or are in the process of developing, indices that will help their designers and product development teams choose materials based on environmental impacts throughout the clothing lifecycle.

Examples of such indices include NIKE, Inc.’s Materials Sustainability Index and Timberland’s Green Index, which inspired the broader-reaching Outdoor Industry Association’s Eco Index. Both NIKE’s index and the Eco Index have also been incorporated into the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, which is currently endorsed by almost 50 industry-leading brands, retailers and suppliers.

This initial progress should be commended and further fostered, but with one caveat. While materials selection can influence environmental impacts throughout the clothing lifecycle and is therefore a priority concern, brands and retailers should be careful not to equate sustainable design with simply plugging materials information into a computerized tool.

Sustainable design requires a more holistic perspective that takes into account not only how fashion is produced, but also how it is consumed. After all, sustainable materials will have limited impact if low quality or poorly designed garments are worn only a few times before ending up in a landfill.

A few examples of this broader approach to sustainable design already exist. Modular design by Polish-based brand Blessus uses panels and zippers to create garments that can be reconfigured into multiple outfits, thus increasing product longevity. Timberland’s Design for Disassembly shoes have been created with only a few simple components in order to facilitate end-of-life disassembly and recycling. Other brands, such as or Goodone, From Somewhere, or Junky Styling close the loop by up-cycling pre-consumer waste or end-of-life cast-offs into new garments.

Sustainable fashion design is a nascent concept and at the very forefront of a decades-long progression towards sustainability. As the fashion industry continues to evolve over the coming years, however, let us hope that designers harness their creativity to think outside the index.

This piece originally appeared on BSR and is reprinted here with permission.


Getting on Track with Electric Vehicles to Share & Race

Posted by Ken on September 18, 2012
Posted under Express 175

Electric vehicles represent a balance between the need for mobility and the impact of private transport on the environment, with its high energy efficiency and low overall emissions. And now, finally, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) has woken up to the opportunity presented by cleaner burning transport with the introduction of Formula E – a racing series for electric vehicles, to begin in 2014. The city of San Francisco too, is tapping into electric vehicles for a premium car-sharing program, run on a fleet of all-electric BMW ActiveE. Read more

By Theo Leggett for BBC News (28 August 2012):

Formula E electric car racing series is launched by FIA

In the world of motor racing the internal combustion engine is king.

Circuits around the world regularly echo to the earsplitting howl of racing V10s and V12s at full throttle. But perhaps, not for much longer.

Motorsport’s governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile, or FIA, has announced plans for a brand new motor racing series, designed exclusively for electric cars.

The new championship, known as Formula E, is due to begin in 2014.

Manufacturers are being invited to design and build their own cars, which will race on city-centre circuits around the world.

It will be run by Formula E Holdings, a consortium of investors led by the Spanish billionaire Enrique Banuelos, who made his fortune in real estate and agribusiness.

The FIA says it represents “a vision for the future of the motor industry over the coming decades”.

Four-wheeled bicycles

The thinking behind the series is simple: electric cars have an image problem, and the series’ backers think motor racing can help to resolve it.

Until recently, battery cars were simply impractical. They were slow, heavy and expensive and had very limited range between charges.

That situation is now changing, with the launch of models such as the Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric, which have reasonable performance and batteries which can cope with longer journeys.

But sales remain very sluggish. In the US, nearly 13 million cars were sold last year, but fewer than 20,000 were electric.

Cars such as the electric Nissan Leaf can cope with longer journeys

“Electric cars haven’t been cool up until now”, says motor industry analyst Jay Nagley, who runs the website.

“Until the Nissan Leaf came along they were basically four wheeled bicycles, with a battery pack and a terrible safety record. So there is a need to change the image.”

But can motorsport help to make electric cars sexy? One man who thinks so is British businessman, part time racing driver and former government minister Lord (Paul) Drayson

His company, Drayson Racing Technologies, has spent the past two years developing an electric racing car, and he is acting as scientific adviser to the new championship.

“This gives us the perfect way to showcase the performance of electric cars”, he says.

Formula E investors are led by Spanish billionaire Enrique Banuelos

“People think they’re slow. We will show that it’s possible to do 200 mph, or 0-60 in three seconds.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a sporting spectacle which is both sustainable and exciting”.

He believes the series will not only promote electric cars, but help to develop them as well – making road cars better.

“A lot of research and development still needs to take place, and motorsport has always been a tremendous driver of R&D”, he says.

“Many of the things we take for granted on our road cars started out on a racing car. Even the humble rear view mirror was first fitted to a race car in the US in the 1920s.”

Fast but silent

Yet the idea of electric motorsport has plenty of critics. They claim that electric cars lack something which motorsport fans yearn for – noise, and plenty of it.

But according to Lord Drayson, they’re missing the point.

“What we’re trying to do is create a new racing experience. It will be a different type of car, racing through the city streets, before new audiences, in places where we haven’t raced before.”

He believes that while older fans may lament the lack of a howling exhaust note, young people simply won’t notice.

Even the most sophisticated electric racing cars have some limitations

Chris Aylett, the chief executive of the Motorsport Industry Association agrees.

“It will be a very trendy, very modern, futuristic form of racing”, he says.

“We’re not talking about appealing to the grey market with these cars. We’re looking at the 15 year old today who will be tomorrow’s car buyer”.

This isn’t the first time that motorsport has attempted to embrace environmentally-friendly technologies.

This year’s Le Mans 24 hours was won by a diesel-electric hybrid, while Formula One cars have been using energy recovery systems for the past two years. Technically, that makes them hybrids too.

But the new series is certainly a radical venture. And in order to get around some of the limitations which affect even the most sophisticated electric cars, it has had to embrace some very radical ideas.

The batteries in the new cars are expected to run down relatively quickly. So when a driver comes into the pits, he won’t just change his tyres.

He’ll change the whole car – swapping it for a new, and fully charged machine.



BMW revs up EV car sharing in San Francisco

By Derek Top for Green (22 August 2012):

Luxury car maker BMW wants to become a “mobility services” company.

This week, executives from BMW came to San Francisco to showcase a flexible, premium car-sharing program featuring the all-electric BMW ActiveE.

Starting with a fleet of 70 vehicles, the program, known as DriveNow, allows enrolled drivers to take a car from one point to another and leave it, unlike other car-sharing programs which require vehicles to be returned to the same pick-up location.

Under the program, drivers can reserve a car online or through a smartphone app after registering as DriveNow members. They can pick up their cars at one of eight DriveNow stations in the San Francisco Bay Area, with plans to open more in the near future, and return vehicles to the nearest station.

Board member Ian Robertson proclaimed BMW a “mobility service provider” as part of the announcement with a focus on “developing and delivering new services to help meet the increasing need for flexible mobility solutions in our cities.”

Indeed, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee backed the commitment calling the BMW car-sharing program part of a broad citywide strategy to embrace the “sharing economy, cities as solutions and sustainable mobility.”

San Francisco is the first US city for the DriveNow program and the only global BMW car-sharing program that includes electric vehicles exclusively. The program was initially launched last year in Munich, Berlin and Düsseldorf and currently has 45,000 members.

But BMW is not the only automaker to launch an electric vehicle car-sharing program here in the States.

Last year, Daimler introduced a Car2Go car-sharing service in Austin and San Diego, and has since expanded to Miami, Calgary and Toronto. With more than 50,000 members, Car2Go allows renters to locate, pickup and drop-off cars within a geographic radius and includes a sizable network of 200 to 300 Daimler Smart Fortwos in each location.