Archive for the ‘Express 194’ Category

What is the world coming to?

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

A land speed record has been set by an electric car, with a British Lord at the wheel. The US is finally getting its climate change response together at the same time as committing to help Africa go electric and clean. There’s a soccerball you can kick around and produce energy at the same time. A solar powered plane flies non-stop across the US – day and night! The sleepy, happy place of Bhutan is producing more clean energy from hydro than it needs so it’s exporting it. 40% is the anticipated growth of worldwide renewables in the next five years.  The world’s largest offshore wind farm, with a price tag of $A3 billion, opens off the coast of Scotland. An Australian, who co-founded US solar leasing firm Sungevity and a former campaigns manager for Greenpeace, is setting up a solar energy innovation hub in California. Lots of good news with a decided business ring to it. Not the tills ringing necessarily, but a ringing in the ears of business people. A wake up call or an alarm? Whatever it takes, it is happening. Of course, there’s is still some bad news. Like the Businessweek sustainability indicator that says 5 years is the average life expectancy lost to air pollution from coal burning in northern China. And Germany’s recent flooding has been the worst experienced and reaffirms Munich Re’s climate/extreme weather predictions. But further good business news with Ricoh winning an award for its Eco Action Day and BMW producing a genuine cradle to grave car. New York streets have sprouted with a solar charger for mobile phones and there’s a way to keep trucks running clean in their tracks. But the last word must be the move by the global motor racing industry to a more sustainable future. Take the foot of the brakes for that! – Ken Hickson

Profile: Lord Paul Drayson

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

He has just set a new world speed record for an electric car – 328.6km/h – breaking a mark set by GE in 1974! His company has spent the past two years developing an electric racing car and he is acting as scientific adviser to the new Formula E racing championship. “This gives us the perfect way to showcase the performance of electric cars”, says the former UK Minister of Science and technology company founder, with a PhD in Robotics. Read More

By Leo Kelion, Technology Reporter, BBC (25 June 2013):

Drayson Racing Technologies has broken the world land speed record for a lightweight electric car.

Its Lola B12 69/EV vehicle hit a top speed of 204.2mph (328.6km/h) at a racetrack at RAF Elvington in Yorkshire.

Chief executive Lord Drayson, who was behind the wheel, said the achievement was designed to highlight electronic vehicle technology’s potential.

The previous 175mph record was set by Battery Box General Electric in 1974.

Drayson Racing is not the only electric vehicle-maker hoping to use motorsport to spur on adoption of the technology.

Last week Nissan unveiled the Zeod RC (Zero Emission On Demand Racing Car), which can switch between electric and petrol power.

The firm intends to enter the vehicle into next year’s Le Mans 24 race saying the competition would act as a “challenging test bed” for technologies that could eventually find their way into road cars.

Recycled chassis

Drayson Racing was founded in 2007 by self-declared “car nut” Paul Drayson, who was then a minister in the Labour government.

The firm, based in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, works with others to develop more sustainable automotive technologies and uses motorsport competitions as a means to focus its efforts.

The driver, Lord Drayson, was Minister of Science in the last Labour government

In order to qualify for an attempt on the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile’s (FIA) world electric land speed record it had to make its vehicle weigh less than 1,000kg (2,204lb) without the driver.

To do this it adapted a Le Mans Series car it had previously designed which originally had a bio-ethanol fuel engine and replaced the part with a lightweight 20 kilowatt hour battery offering 850 horsepower.

It also adapted the vehicle’s chassis, which is made out of recycled carbon fibre, to minimise air friction.

“What it, I hope, shows to people is just what the future potential of electric cars is,” Lord Drayson told the BBC shortly after his record-breaking time was confirmed.

“Obviously this is a very special racing car, but by setting this new world record here in Britain we say two things.

“One it is a pointer to the future – the technology that we developed for this car will filter down to the cars we use every day.

“And secondly it’s a message about how here in the UK we’re a world leader with this technology. We’ve led motorsport engineering, now we’re also leading with electric motorsport engineering.”

Lord Drayson and Eric Schmidt Google’s Eric Schmidt spent time with the Drayson Racing team ahead of its record-setting run

Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt spent two hours at the race track watching practice runs but was not able to stay for the record-setting drive.

“Google has a very active R&D programme with regard to electric vehicle technology so it’s great that one of the world’s leading technology companies came to our event today,” Lord Drayson added.

“It was lovely meeting him.”

Formula E

Drayson Racing’s attention will now switch to the launch of the FIA’s Formula E championship, which is due to begin in September next year.

London will host the first electric car race. Rome, Miami, Beijing and Rio de Janeiro are among the other seven locations.

A different vehicle – similar to a Formula One machine – is being developed for the firm by Singapore’s Spark and Surrey-based McLaren for the first year of the competition.

However, Drayson Racing plans to build its own machine for the 2015 competition using some of the same components used in its record breaking Lola B12 69/EV.

One analyst said such such efforts were an excellent way to promote electric cars, but questioned how many of the technologies being developed would actually find their way onto the road.

Nissan Zeod RD Nissan showed off its own “zero emission” racing car which it plans to compete with from 2014

“I think that any kind of competition-led design will have spin-offs – it might be that electric motors become more efficient,” said Paul Newton, auto analyst at IHS Global Insight.

“The problem is that making an electric car go faster is relatively straightforward.

“Making it go further and become more practical is infinitely more difficult, and that’s down to the basic physics of how batteries store energy and release it.”



Lord Paul Grayson’s Car: Of Course the Former UK Minister of Defense Procurement Races Car

Random Celebrity Article

By Paula Wilson (3 June 2013):

It’s not enough that Lord Paul Drayson is well, a Lord.  No sirree.  Lord Paul Drayson, a former Cabinet minister in the United Kingdom, is now dead set on breaking the current top-speed record for an electric vehicle.  In fact, he wants to break the 200mph barrier.  Lord Drayson is not your average politician, however.  He earned a degree in Production Engineering from Aston University, and then went on to earn a PhD in Robotics.  Prior to his political career, he ran multiple companies, including PoderJect Pharmaceuticals, a vaccine company which he co-founded, and served as Managing Director of Justin de Blank LTD.  His political career began in 2005, when became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and Minister of Defence Procurement.  He went on to become the Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support.  An avid amateur racer, he subsequently stepped down in order to participate in the American Le Mans Series.  (Though there may have been some insider intrigue, as well.)  Today, he is the President of the Motorsport Industry Association, and has raced in two Le Mans 24 Hours.  Blind in one eye, he has only recently been allowed to participate in the 24 Hour race.  He also owns Drayson Racing Technology, and it is with a car created by his technology and racing team, that he will attempt to cross the 200 mile per hour mark.

Lord Drayson’s car is the Drayson B12 69/E.  The car was designed and manufactured at his company’s headquarters in Oxfordshire, England.  The electric vehicle has a 30kWh battery surrounded by a carbon fiber cell.  In addition to the battery, there are four electric motors which are paired to power each rear wheel.  The combination produces 800hp, and the car can reach 100 mph in 5 seconds.  In order for his attempt to stand in the record books, Lord Drayson’s speed must reach at least 176 miles per hour (the current record is 175 mph) on average over the course of a mile.  The only thing that could cause a hiccup, is the fact that the runway on which he will be attempting to set the record, is only just over a mile and a half long.  Come June 25th, we’ll know if his engineering team’s work has paid off.



In a BBC report last year (28 August 2012) Lord Drayson had this to say about the plans for the Formula E for electric cars:

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.

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.


Too Much of a Good Thing for Europe & Asia

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

German re-insurance company Munich Re has presented a first estimate of the damage caused by this year’s floods in Central Europe. For Germany, disaster costs may be the highest ever recorded in the country’s history. Consistent with the Munich Re’s research into extreme weather events and climate change. Meanwhile, the force of water is being put to good use in in Bhutan, home to meditating monks and Himalayan nomads. The sleepy, happy kingdom has set its sights on becoming an unlikely energy powerhouse thanks to its abundant winding rivers. Read More

Munich Re reports:

Prof. Peter Höppe, Head of Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research unit, noted: “It is evident that days with weather conditions that lead to such flooding are becoming more frequent and that such weather systems tend to remain stationary for longer. With this higher persistence of weather patterns, the potential for heavy and long-lasting precipitation within a trough situation, for example, increases. The counterpart to this are stationary high-pressure systems which in summer increase the risk of heatwaves and periods of drought.”

“Debate in climate research is currently focusing on what the causes of such changes in weather patterns could be and what role climate change might play in this. But it is naturally not possible to explain single events on this basis”, Höppe added.

Munich Re has been one of the most vocal proponents of climate change and has been researching extreme weather events and the Climate change connection for many years. Here’s what was said in a Munich Re report in 2008:

Climate change is one of the greatest risks facing mankind. In recent years, the insurance industry – and Munich Re in particular – has been instrumental in ensuring that this message is received loud and clear by politicians, industry, and society as a whole. Now we are going one step further and are turning our knowledge into even more action – with the aid of an all-embracing strategic approach – in the areas of “risk management”, “product development”, and “capital market management”.

Over the past thirty years and more, we have put much effort into investigating climate change. Our high-quality data provides strong evidence that the effects of climate change are already to be seen and that adaptation measures need to be taken without delay.



Reported by DW, Reuters, AFP ( 8 July 2013):

Insurer Munich Re: ‘German floods costliest natural disaster ever’

German re-insurance company Munich Re has presented a first estimate of the damage caused by this year’s floods in Central Europe. For Germany, disaster costs may be the highest ever recorded in the country’s history.

Recent floods in Central Europe might have caused economic losses to the tune of 12 billion euros ($15.4 billion), surpassing the costs of the previous flooding in Europe from 2002, German re-insurance company Munich Re said Tuesday.

For Germany, a final cost estimate had yet to be made, Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re’s Georisk Department, told German daily newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung.” But it was well possible that the floods were the most expensive natural disaster in German history, he said.

Munich Re, which is the world’s biggest reinsurer, also said that out of the total 12-billion-euros losses across Europe, about 3 billion euros were covered by insurance companies.

The figure is slightly lower than the 3.5 billion euros in damage claims facing insurance companies according to a recent estimate by Swiss reinsurer Swiss Re.

In the past two months, emergency workers, soldiers and volunteers desperately sought to shore up flood defenses along the Danube and Elbe rivers as the high waters moved downstream. Germany was among those countries worst hit by the floods.

Last week, German insurance trade lobby group GDV estimated that the country’s insurance companies could face damage claims of about 2 billion euros, slightly ahead of the 1.8-billion-euros cost seen in the Elbe floods about a decade ago.

Europe’s biggest insurer, Allianz, said it had penciled in claims of 500 million euros from the floods in Europe, before passing on some of the costs to reinsurers.

Re-insurance companies such as Munich Re and Swiss Re help the insurance industry to cover the cost of major damage claims like hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.



Agence France-Presse (10 July  2013):

Bhutan banks on ‘white gold’ hydropower

Home to meditating monks and Himalayan nomads, the sleepy kingdom of Bhutan has set its sights on becoming an unlikely energy powerhouse thanks to its abundant winding rivers.

Hydropower plants have already harnessed the country’s water flows to light up nearly every Bhutanese home, generating electricity that is sent to remote villages by cables strung through rugged mountain terrain.

It is a rapid transformation for the long isolated nation, where less than a quarter of households had electricity in 1999 — the same year Bhutan became the last country to introduce television.

But the kingdom now has much greater ambitions for renewable hydropower — already its biggest export — which it hopes will provide more than half of its gross domestic product by the end of the decade.

“It is the white gold for Bhutan today,” said Chhewang Rinzin, managing director of state-owned Druk Green Power Corporation, which runs the country’s hydropower sector.

Bhutan’s first megaproject, opened in the southwestern Chukha district in the 1980s, is now one of four major plants which between them have almost 1,500 megawatt capacity — at peak output roughly equivalent to a large nuclear power station, and only five percent of Bhutan’s hydropower potential.

Already going far beyond domestic needs in summer months, when monsoon rains fill up the rivers, most of the electric power is sold to India, Bhutan’s giant energy-hungry neighbour.

In cooperation with the Indian government, and funded by its grants and loans, the kingdom is now aiming to reach capacity of 10,000 megawatts by 2020 through the building of 10 new plants.

In contrast, politically deadlocked and once war-wracked Nepal has just 700 megawatts of installed capacity, despite being among the top potential hydropower producers in the world according to the World Bank.

“India we see as a market that cannot be satisfied,” Rinzin said of the demand for Bhutan’s natural resource, which is driving economic growth estimated by the Asian Development Bank at 8.6 percent this year.

While hydropower is hailed as the country’s ticket to self-sufficiency after years of depending on donors, there are reservations about the speed and scale of its development while other sectors of the economy lag behind.

One of the first new plants being built, the Punatsangchhu I project, is projected to cost about two billion dollars — more than Bhutan’s total gross domestic product. And there are nine more projects to complete.

“While no one disputes that harnessing hydropower energy is the way to go, there is concern that Bhutan is trying to do too much, too soon,” said an April editorial in the national Kuensel newspaper, titled “Drowning in hydropower”.

At the Chukha plant, colourful murals depicting the Buddha’s life-cycle contrast with the whirring machinery but hint at the country’s unique development model of pursuing “Gross National Happiness” (GNH).

Retaining Bhutan’s Buddhist cultural identity and protecting the environment are key parts of the GNH philosophy, which aims to balance the financial advancement of the nation with spiritual well-being.

The existing hydropower schemes are all “run of the river” sorts that depend on natural water supplies rather than large reservoirs, designed to cause less disruption to their surroundings.

But three reservoir dams have been proposed among the upcoming projects to ensure plentiful water in the rain-free and freezing winter months, when power output currently drops by about three-quarters.

Rinzin says Bhutan’s steep and sparsely-populated valleys will suffer much less impact than areas affected by big Indian or Chinese reservoirs — the number of households displaced is in the hundreds rather than thousands.

But Samir Mehta, South Asia programme director at US-based watchdog International Rivers, expressed concern at a lack of transparency around the proposals and their impact. “The level of public engagement is not known,” he said.

He warned that hydropower plants also face serious threats from climate change, given Bhutan’s susceptibility to floods from lakes formed high in the mountains by melting glaciers.

In the capital Thimphu, people have other concerns on their mind about hydropower’s rise, sometimes described as “jobless growth”.

Despite its dominance in Bhutan, Druk Green has a staff of only 1,800, expected to rise to no more than 6,000, in a country where unemployment is a growing worry among its youthful population of 736,000.

The construction phase is more labour-intensive, but only 10 to 15 percent of these jobs are going to the Bhutanese by Rinzin’s calculation, as most of the building work is carried out and overseen by Indians.

“It’s money in and money out,” said Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese newspaper. “Your own companies are not making the money that they should.”

The kingdom, which is holding its second parliamentary elections after shifting to democracy in 2008, is already hugely dependent on India for imports and soaring demand led it to run out of Indian rupee supplies last year.

Many think the flurry in hydropower development, and subsequent demand for costly imported equipment and machinery, exacerbated the crisis.

While he believes in hydropower’s long-term benefits for Bhutan, Lamsang says the financial and environmental concerns show that it should not be relied upon to the cost of other industries.

“The danger here is that we put all our eggs in one basket. If the basket does fall or something happens to the basket, then we’re in for a lot of trouble.”

At Home and Aboard, US takes the High Ground on Clean Energy

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

US President Barack Obama finally unveiled a climate action plan that includes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate renewable energy permitted on public lands, and prepare American infrastructure for the impacts of climate change. If that was not enough, a week later the President announced a plan to boost access to electric power in the sub-Sahara Africa and unveiled the $7 billion initiative dubbed Power Africa including more than 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electric generation capacity. Read More

President Obama acts on climate change by enforcing the law

President Obama announced today that he will fulfill his pledge to address climate change by regulating carbon emissions

By Dana Nuccitelli in Guardian (25 June 2013):

Obama Gives Major Speech On Climate Change

In his state of the union speech this February, President Obama vowed,

If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

President Obama followed through on that promise today, unveiling a climate action plan that includes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate renewable energy permitting on public lands, and prepare American infrastructure for the impacts of climate change.

The centerpiece of the plan is the announcement that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, in addition to the rules already in draft form that are set to regulate emissions from new power plants. The White House released a video to explain the importance of these steps in addressing climate change by decarbonizing the economy.

Republican House speaker John Boehner reacted to this news by calling the EPA regulations “absolutely crazy.” However, in reality they’re required by law.

Under the Bush Administration, the EPA refused to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The state of Massachusetts sued the EPA, and the case went all the way up to the US supreme court. In 2007, in a 5-4 decision with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote along with the four more liberal justices, the court ruled that if greenhouse gases were determined to endanger public health or welfare, the EPA would be required to regulate their emissions in accordance with the Clean Air Act.

The Bush EPA delayed the decision about the threat of greenhouse gas emissions until after he left office. After President Obama took office, the EPA issued its endangerment finding in 2009. Based on an evaluation of the best available scientific evidence like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and US national climate assessments, the EPA determined that greenhouse gas emissions clearly endanger public health and welfare via their impacts on climate change.

This finding meant that under the Clean Air Act, greenhouse gases meet the definition of “air pollutants,” and the EPA would have to regulate their emissions from mobile and stationary sources (vehicles and power plants). Vehicle emissions were regulated via new fuel efficiency standards requiring cars and light trucks to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The newly announced power plant emissions are the EPA’s enforcement of the Clean Air Act requirements for stationary sources.

On the one hand, with Congress refusing to implement any sort of climate legislation, regulating emissions from vehicles and power plants is the biggest single step President Obama can take to reduce American greenhouse gas emissions. He could have followed the Bush administration’s strategy and tried to delay these regulations, forcing environmental groups to sue to make the courts require that the EPA enforce the law.

On the other hand, that is really all the Obama administration is doing – enforcing the law. Any opposition complaints that this decision is “crazy” or bypassing Congress are factually and legally wrong.

In fact, if Republicans want to eliminate these regulations, all they need to do is pass climate legislation to supersede them. A growing number of conservatives support implementation of a carbon fee and dividend system, for example. At the moment the majority of Republicans in Congress seem to deny that climate change is human-caused and/or a problem, and oppose taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

However, there are now only two options available to them – let the government regulate greenhouse gas emissions, or pass climate legislation. Philosophically, Republicans generally oppose government regulations and support free-market solutions like carbon pricing; however, it appears that congressional Republicans would rather force the Obama administration to regulate emissions and then accuse them of “killing jobs”, as Speaker Boehner already has.

On the contrary, studies have shown that EPA regulations generally have a modestly positive impact on the economy and jobs. A national study by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst also found that every dollar invested in clean energy creates two to three times as many jobs as putting that same dollar into coal, oil, and natural gas.

Ultimately the Obama administration deserves credit for implementing these greenhouse gas regulations in a timely manner rather than delaying as the previous administration did. His emphasis on the importance of decarbonizing the economy to address the threat of climate change in a comprehensive climate action plan is a major step towards addressing the threat of climate change. It’s also important to remember that these regulations are required by law, and if congressional Republicans don’t like them, they should propose a better solution of their own.



Obama Unveils Plan to Boost Electric Power in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Julianna Goldman & Margaret Talev in Bloomberg (1 July 2013):

President Barack Obama, putting his mark on U.S. aid to Africa, announced a plan to boost access to electric power in the sub-Sahara and said America stands to benefit if the continent reaches its full economic potential.

Obama unveiled the $7 billion initiative dubbed Power Africa at the University of Cape Town in a speech that his aides billed as the centerpiece of his three-country tour through Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania to promote trade and investment on the rapidly growing continent.

The president’s goal is to double access to electricity across six countries that the White House has singled out for promoting good governance — Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

“I’m calling for America to up our game when it comes to Africa,” he said. “There’s no question Africa’s on the move, but it’s not moving fast enough for the child still languishing in poverty in forgotten townships.”

American companies see growing opportunity in Africa. U.S. merchandise exports to the 49-country region were $21 billion in 2011, up 23 percent from 2010, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Imports from sub-Saharan Africa were worth $74 billion in 2011, up 14 percent from 2010. Most of that, about $60 billion, was crude oil.

Africa has 15 percent of the world’s population yet it accounts for only 3 percent of energy consumption, according to a 2011 report by the African Union and other organizations.

Recognizing Africa’s rapid growth — as well as domestic budget constraints — Obama said yesterday the U.S. is moving beyond the kind of direct financial assistance its provided in the past. Instead, he said he wanted to promote a new model that focuses on Africa’s “capacity to solve problems.”

Partnership Model

The power initiative follows the public-private partnership model and builds on his administration’s efforts to enhance food security, fight malaria and attempt to eradicate the spread of HIV/AIDs for Africa’s next generation, he said.

Power Africa’s $7 billion in government assistance will complement $9 billion in private funds to double access to power in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than two-thirds of the population is without electricity, according to the White House.

During the first, five-year phase, the project’s goal is to add more than 10,000 megawatts of cleaner, more efficient electric generation capacity and to expand electricity access to at least 20 million new households and commercial entities, according to the White House.

General Electric Co. (GE) is among the companies that have contributed to the $9 billion in private-sector funding for the program’s first phase. It has committed to help bring 5,000 megawatts of new energy to Tanzania and Ghana.


Increasing access to power will “plug Africa into the grid of the global economy,” Obama said.

Government Resources

Officials declined to put a price tag on the total effort and didn’t specify how much of the $7 billion in government resources Congress would need to appropriate for the initial phase. The sum isn’t all straight assistance and includes money from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the Export-Import Bank and other agencies, they said.

“The program is welcome support to the continent where energy access and energy poverty remain significant concerns,” said Taryn Wilkins, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Cape Town. “Key to the success of the implementation of the program is the support of local governments and policy regulation. To date this has been fragmented and inconsistent and resulted in slower development of energy infrastructure programs.”

Obama’s Engagement

The announcement came amid criticism that Obama’s engagement with sub-Saharan Africa has lagged behind his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, giving China an opportunity to tap the region’s resources.

Bush, who took U.S. spending on Africa to new levels, made a six-country visit in 2008 and a three-country stop in 2011 after he left the White House. His Africa legacy includes PEPFAR, a $15 billion commitment to prevent and treat AIDS infections, credited with saving or extending millions of lives.

Clinton signed the African Growth and Opportunity Act, a trade agreement with countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Obama may meet his Republican predecessor while in Dar es Salaam. Bush will be there at the same time for a summit to empower Africa’s first ladies, sponsored by the George W. Bush Institute. First lady Michelle Obama will join Laura Bush at the event.


Life sentence: Five years of air pollution from coal burning in China

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

Businessweek, in its sustainability indicator, draws attention to some remarkable numbers. For example, 5 years is the average life expectancy lost to air pollution from coal burning in northern China. For the 500 million Chinese living north of the Huai River, that adds up to 2.5 billion years of life cut short. That’s not all. There’s some good numbers – like a 20% rise in Chinese clean-energy investments – and some bad. 1.32 million square miles, the current Arctic sea ice, the least in 33 years of satellite records. Read More

5 years  off your life!

By Tom Randall for Businessweek (10 July 2013):

Today’s sustainability indicator, 5 years, is the average life expectancy lost to air pollution from coal burning in northern China. For the 500 million Chinese living north of the Huai River, that adds up to 2.5 billion years of life cut short.

And there’s more…

•40%: anticipated growth of worldwide renewables in the next five years.

•8%: total electric generation capacity supplied by renewables by 2018.

•$29 billion: cost of a European proposal to increase automobile efficiency.

•$74 billion: amount that fuel bills would fall under the plan.

•757,969: U.S. marijuana arrests in 2011.

•534,704: all violent-crime arrests combined for the same period.

•6 tons: CO2 generated by 3 round-trip flights from Philadelphia to San Francisco.

•6.6 tons: C02 generated by an entire year of electricity in the average U.S. household.

•4: times you could fill the New Orleans Superdome with gas wasted in U.S. traffic jams.

•40 percent: proxy resolutions last year pertaining to environmental and social concerns.

•11%: global decline in clean energy investment last year amid falling subsidies.

•32%: decline in U.S. clean-energy investments last year amid falling subsidies.

•20%: rise in Chinese clean-energy investments during the same period.

•2.2 cents per kilowatt hour: wind-energy tax credit quietly extended in the fiscal-cliff deal.

•59 percent: decline in wind installations last year amid uncertainty about the extension.

•17: health ranking of the U.S. among 17 wealthy countries in a study of health outcomes.

•$2.7 trillion: U.S. annual spending on healthcare — more than any other nation.

•55.3 degrees Fahrenheit: average temperature for contiguous U.S. in 2012, a record.

•511,000 ounces: estimated 2013 shortfall in palladium amid record carmaker demand.

•48 million: Americans who get sick each year from contaminated foods.

•0.4 percent: food importers checked annually by FDA inspectors.

•43%: women in India who marry before their 18th birthday.

•74%: Americans who acknowledge “global warming is affecting weather” in the U.S.

•210: current measure of the UN’s World Food Price Index.

•210: the price threshold associated with a sharp rise in social unrest and food riots.

•50 percent: transport fuels replaceable by converting 17.5% of farm waste to biofuel.

•1.32 million square miles: current Arctic sea ice, the least in 33 years of satellite records.

•18 percent: decrease from the previous record-low Arctic ice, recorded in 2007.

•330: consecutive months that world temperatures have topped the 20th century average.

•626 million: people in India who still defecate in the open, contributing to superbugs.

•251 million: people who gained improved sanitation in the country from 1990 to 2010.

•67%: return from a portfolio of the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index since 2006.

•31%: return of the Leadership Index’s Global 500 peers during the same period.

•1,079: jobs created by the average U.S. wind farm.

•75%: world’s surface that had unusually hot summers each year over the last decade.

•33%: world’s surface with hot summers in the baseline years from 1951 to 1980.

•59%: proportion of emissions-reductions efforts that pay for themselves in 3 years.

•$10 billion: annual savings on U.S. electric bills from new lightbulb standards.

•30: large power plants it takes to produce electricity equivalent to the lightbulb savings.

Clean Energy Gets Kick off: Solar Impluse & Soccket ball Make hHstory

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

Solar Impulse made history when its HB-SIA airplane touched down at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, completing an entire cross-country United States flight relying solely on solar energy. Meanwhile, President Obama kicked-off a soccer ball with a difference.  Invented by two Harvard University graduates, it can generate electrical power for lights and cell phones. And in Singapore, the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced the award of $12 million in grants to research projects aimed at coming up with innovative and more efficient ways to tap solar energy. Read More

Solar Impulse’s Solar-Powered Coast-To-Coast U.S. Flight Touched Down Safely This Weekend

Colleen Taylor in tech crunch (7 July 2013):

Solar Impulse made history this weekend when its HB-SIA airplane touched down late Saturday night in New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, completing an entire cross-country United States flight relying solely on energy from that big old star in the Earth’s backyard.

The Switzerland-based Solar Impulse organization, founded by Swiss scientist/pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, described the milestone thusly:

“For the first time a plane capable of flying day and night powered exclusively by solar energy has crossed the USA from the West to the East Coasts without using a single drop of fuel.”

The completion of a cross-country journey is a huge step for solar-powered flight, as it was just three years ago that a Solar Impulse airplane flew a straight 26 hours in what then seemed to be an impossible journey. But in many ways, sunshine still has a long way to go before it catches up to traditional jet fuel. The Solar Impulse aircraft, which is called the HB-SIA and weighs just over 3,500 pounds, attains an impressive altitude, but its pace is much slower than what we expect from typical air travel. The Los Angeles Times explained the pace like this:

“The aircraft, powered by about 11,000 solar cells, soars to 30,000 feet while poking along at a top speed of 45 mph. Most of the 11,000 solar cells are on the super-long wings that seem to stretch as far as a jumbo jet’s. It weighs about the size of a small car and soars with what is essentially the power of a small motorized scooter.

The Solar Impulse left San Francisco in early May and has made stopovers in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dulles.”

But the plan is to keep making the technology better, faster, and stronger. In fact, the Solar Impulse crew has a much bigger new journey on its horizon now that it is already working toward. The organization’s stated “ultimate goal” is to circumnavigate the entire earth. Its website says that its round-the-world trip is scheduled for 2015, and the aircraft for that mission, the HB-SIB, is currently under construction.



By David Nakamura, Published: July 2 at 5:17 am

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA — President Obama, an avid hoops player, hit the pitch Tuesday — the soccer pitch, that is

It was actually during a tour at a power plant here that Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete got a look at the “soccket ball” — a soccer ball that has an electric generator placed inside of it. Invented by two Harvard University graduates, the balls can generate electrical power for lights and cell phones after they are played with for a while.

Obama took the ball and tossed it in the air. Then he let it drop and kicked it back up to himself. Finally, to the delight of the photographers at the scene, he threw it in the air and headed it to himself.

He later handed the ball to Kikwete, who didn’t try to duplicate the feat. Obama asked aides how much power the balls generate and how much they cost. Finally he walked toward reporters, including members of the Tanzanian press, and explained how the device works.

“There is a mechanism inside so that the kinetic energy when you kick the ball creates a battery,” the president explained. “So now you can power this.”


He and an aide attached one end of a cable to the ball and the other end to a cell phone.

“You can play with this for two hours and now you’ve got half an hour’s worth of, an hour’s worth…” Obama began.

The woman interjected: “thirty minutes of play, several hours of battery.”

They held up the cell phone. Obama said his administration is distributing the balls across Africa as part of an initiative aimed at doubling access to electrical power on the continent.



$12m EDB grant for solar power research

The Business Times  by Malminderjit Singh (26 June 2013):

THE Economic Development Board (EDB) yesterday announced the award of $12 million in grants to research projects aimed at coming up with innovative and more efficient ways to tap solar energy.

Five research teams will be given funding. Three of them are from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore at the National University of Singapore and two are the Energy Research Institute @ NTU of the Nanyang Technological University and a Singapore-based private enterprise, SiPro Pte Ltd.

The Energy Innovation Programme Office (Eipo), through the Energy Innovation Research Programme, expects these teams to focus their research on two areas.

One is in finding ways to raise the efficiency of how solar power is tapped in sunny Singapore, including reducing the use of materials and implementing novel designs and test methods for photovoltaic materials, wafer cells, modules and systems. The other area is in the recycling of silicon wafers, cells and modules.

As poorly performing solar modules are taken out of commission from existing solar farms, ways need to be found to recycle these wafers, cells and modules.

The EDB, aware that the cost of generating solar power is falling, wants these research projects to make breakthroughs so that solar power can be adopted more widely here.

The agency notes that the cost of solar modules has come down by about half in the last couple of years alone, creating “grid parity” in regions receiving significant amounts of sunshine.

In a grid parity situation it is just as, if not more, economical to generate electricity using an alternative energy source – solar power in this case – than it is to buy it off an electricity grid. (The assessment of costs here encompasses the costs over the lifetime of the energy-generating system – initial outlay, running and maintenance costs, cost of fuel and of capital.)

The EDB hopes to see a continued focus on cost reduction throughout the entire value chain, from wafers to cells and modules, and, finally, entire power-generating systems, in order to achieve mass adoption of solar energy without the need for subsidies.

This is why the agency is on the lookout for improved design innovations that will create cost-effective silicon wafers, cells and modules, and for ways to recycle used silicon wafers, cells and modules, so that the industry as a whole raises its operational efficiency and environmental standards.

Yeoh Keat Chuan, the managing director of EDB and co-executive director of Eipo, said: “Declining costs of solar energy has led to escalating adoption of solar energy in many countries. The research projects selected for this competitive funding call reflect the growing sophistication in Singapore’s solar research ecosystem.”

He added that the funding will enable the clean-energy industry here to strengthen its value chain – from research through to innovation and commercialisation of new solutions scalable for global markets.


What country is tops for wind energy – double the rest of the world combined?

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

With the official opening on July 4 of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Inch Cape Offshore joins a growing number of proposals to build wind capacity off the coast of Scotland. The UK is already number one for offshore wind capacity. A total of 213 wind turbines cover 150 square kilometres. This is also the same team behind the proposal to build what could replace the London Array as the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Read More

Bloomberg New Energy Finance & Climate Spectator (10 July 2013)

The UK joined ‘The Little Mermaid’ in celebrating the merits of being under – or, more accurately, in – the sea, with the official opening on July 4 of the world’s largest offshore wind farm. With a price tag of $A3 billion, the first 630MW phase of the London Array began operations in April and is jointly owned by DONG Energy, E.ON and Masdar.

The government is considering an application for phase two, which could bring capacity up to 870MW – enough to power 250,000 homes for the next 20-25 years.

Later that day and at the other end of the country, a joint venture between Spain’s Repsol and EDP Renewables submitted plans to the Scottish government for a 1GW wind farm off the Angus coastline.

Inch Cape Offshore joins a growing number of proposals to build wind capacity off the coast of Scotland. If approved, the 213 wind turbines would cover 150 square kilometres. This is also the same team behind the proposal to build what could replace the London Array as the world’s largest offshore wind farm. Comprising 1.5GW of capacity and 339 turbines, the £4.5 billion ($A7.3 billion) project was supported by Highland councillors in March and now needs approval from the Scottish government.

The country has the ambitious goal to generate renewable power equivalent to 100 per cent of its consumption by 2020 and lawmakers estimate that by then there will be 10GW of wind turbines in Scottish waters.

The UK is already number one for offshore wind capacity, with 3.3GW of installations – double the rest of the world combined. The government aims to cement this lead by offering offshore wind developers triple the market price for power they generate, it announced on June 27.

Offshore wind power plants may earn a ‘strike price’ of £155/MWh ($A251/MWh) from next year. This compares with £100 for onshore wind, £105 for biomass and £125 for large solar projects. The front-month power price in the UK has averaged £47.80/MWh over the last year. Eligible generators may choose between this option and the current Renewables Obligation scheme until March 2017.

The government estimates that this subsidy program will spur the construction of 8-16GW of offshore wind capacity. This technology – together with nuclear – is at the heart of its plan to replace aging power plants and to cut emissions. However, one stumbling block for developers may be that the new contracts will last only 15 years for most technologies, including offshore wind, rather than the 20 years of the current scheme.

The UK aims to obtain 30 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, compared with the current 12 per cent.

Elsewhere in the world, Statoil announced on July 3 it was delaying an offshore wind project in Maine because legislation supported by Governor Paul LePage has created uncertainty. The Norwegian energy company said that it may abandon the $US120 million pilot project after lawmakers approved a legislative amendment that would allow the University of Maine to submit a proposal for the project by September 1. Democrats have questioned LePage’s motives, given his opposition to wind power. Currently the US has no operational offshore wind capacity.

One state further south, the long-delayed Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts is edging towards construction, its developer announcing on July 1 that it had signed a $US15 million contract with local firm Lawrence-Lynch for the project’s terrestrial cable work, starting next year.

In June, PensionDanmark said it would provide a $US200 million mezzanine loan for the $US2.6 billion project. The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi, as lead bank, is expected to coordinate up to $US2 billion in debt and Siemens has said it will supply the turbines and may provide $US100 million in equity for the project. Having met considerable opposition from affluent local residents and a Native American tribe, Cape Wind is working to secure funding before the Investment Tax Credit expires at the end of the year. PensionDanmark has said that its investment is conditional on a final decision this year to construct the wind farm.

Globally, there will be 15.4GW of offshore wind capacity by 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Europe will maintain its grip on the technology, with 76 per cent of the global total, together with the Middle East and Africa. This lead is due to favourable policies, technology and experience – all of the leading offshore wind equipment suppliers and engineering, procurement and construction contractors are European. Behind Europe in offshore wind technology and experience, Asia and Oceania is forecast to have installed a more modest 3.6GW by 2015, despite some supportive policies, with China, South Korea and Japan the main markets.

In the carbon markets last week, there was no need to see if it had to be third time lucky for backloading as the European Parliament on July 3 adopted an unexpectedly strong version of the proposal by 344 votes to 311. This was its second foray into the plenary after parliamentarians rejected the plan in April.

Supporters of auction curbs to prop up the ailing European emission trading system will have breathed a sigh of relief. But there are several more turns in the road before backloading reaches its destination: first, the Commission, Parliament and member states must iron out their differences but these trialogue negotiations are unlikely to begin until October – namely until Germany has gone to the polls on September 22, formed a government and announced its position on auction curbs.

What bodes well is that the Parliament rejected last week several compromise concessions that could have irked national governments – such as a move to earmark auction revenue for an industrial innovation fund.

If all goes to plan, the Commission could initiate auction curbs in just under a year. But this will depend on events in Berlin and how long it takes for the Commission itself to draft a new auctioning regulation. In the meantime, European carbon prices should be driven more by auction supply, energy fundamentals and equities. Over the next few months, however, summer holidays will reduce auction supply and traded volumes, making the illiquid market more sensitive to any demand increases thanks to hedging.

EU carbon

European Union carbon jumped last week after the bloc’s parliament passed a measure to delay temporarily the sale of some permits. European Union allowances (EUAs) for December 2013 gained 1.9 per cent over the week to close at €4.29/tonne on Friday, compared with €4.21/t at the end of the previous week.

EUAs dipped to as low as €3.25/t on Wednesday morning as traders nervously awaited the European Parliament’s vote on the carbon-market rescue proposal. A record 13.7Mt of front-year EUAs changed hands in the hour through noon London time. Prices surged above €4.60/t immediately after a majority of parliament voted in favour of the plan, known as backloading. They hit a weekly high of €4.88/t as the market opened on Thursday.

UN Certified Emission Reduction credits (CERs) for December 2013 gained 8 per cent last week to close at €0.54/t.

This article was originally published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.


A global capital of solar ideas – with an Australian accent

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

The rooftop revolution is happening. The hardware for solar is improving and it is now cheaper than fossil fuels. The big finance players – Buffet, Blackstone, Google and the Saudis -are all lining up. So an Australian is setting up a solar hub in California. It is the heart of biggest solar market in US. It is close to the money and financiers and it’s close to Silicon Valley. Giles Parkinson in Renew economy has the story. Read More

By Giles Parkinson in renew Economy on (10 July 2013):

Danny Kennedy has a dream to create the global capital of solar PV – not in manufacturing or installations as other aspire to do – but in ideas. Solar, he says, is one of the greatest economic opportunities ever seen in the world – but right now it is missing some the innovative ideas needed to glue the various bits together.

Kennedy, an Australian who co-founded US solar leasing firm Sungevity, and is a former campaigns manager for Greenpeace, says that the solar PV industry has to be more than just solar modules and installations. The next step will be to add storage and product mobility (read electric vehicles) to the offering.

“This will be a bundle of services. Rooftop solar is not just a single commodity or a piece of kit,” he says. So to address that issue, Kennedy has decided that an “epicenter for ideas” needs to be created. And he has just the place.

“Our thesis is that it is software and financial engineering that is the key now (for the industry’s development),” Kennedy tells RenewEconomy, during a visit to his headquarters in Oakland, California.

“Hardware is great and is being produced at scale, and it will improve through deployment. “It’s not an R&D problem any more. It is a scaling problem. And the scaling is done through better low-cost business models and financing.

Kennedy’s proposed location for this epicenter is the Jack London Square on the waterfront at the port of Oakland, on the other side of the bay from San Francisco. It already boasts the headquarters of Sungevity, and Kennedy has opened up new premises that include other companies that are forging innovative ideas to help the development of solar.

These include Mosaic Energy, which has hit the headlines on its solar crowd-funding events, and lesser known companies such as Power Hive, which is developing off-grid solar solutions in Africa to answer the demand for basic lighting and mobile phone charging.

Kennedy is now extending this “solar campus” idea by creating a new solar “incubator”, called SFunCube, which stands for Solar for Universal Needs.

The idea of this is to encourage start-ups by providing them a venue, contacts, and the environment to help them develop from early stage concept, through to proof content and revenue generation. The goal is to help these new companies find a niche, a home, and to stay in the square to help pollinate other ideas.

“There is not a physical epicenter for the solar industry,” Kennedy says. “The scale of need for filling out all the niches of the global economy that will be filled out by solar is not being tackled by enough entrepreneurs. I think that’s because there is not enough support for those entrepreneurs. So we are trying to create that fertile ground.

“And we think Oakland has a unique potential to be that place. It is the heart of biggest solar market in US. It is close to the money and financiers (across the bay) in San Francisco, and it’s close to Silicon Valley and all the software guys.

This mixture of software and financing is what is underpinning the success of Sungevity and other companies. Sungevity specialises in remote sales of rooftop solar systems and zero down payments. It’s a product of smart software (remote survey applications) and some smart finance.

“The rooftop revolution is happening. The hardware is improving and it is now cheaper than fossil fuels. The big finance players – Buffet, Blackstone, Google and the Saudis, are all lining up. But there is not enough businesses to make it happen in individual niches.

“Take car parks for instance. It is close to a billion dollar market, and a quarter of the land surface in some cities is car parks. Where are the companies specialising in solar solutions to those car parks? They are not supported.”

Kennedy says that rewiring the world’s electricity supply and providing electricity to the billion and more who don’t have it now is possibly the biggest economic opportunity ever presented, or at least in the top three.

“It commands the heights of the economy. Everything else is downstream – information networks, agricultural systems, manufacturing. And as electricity migrates to take over mobility (transport), it will become an enormous centre.  Solar will be the catalyst for all this.”

To satisfy that trillion-dollar industry will require many billion dollar businesses. But to get 1,000 businesses of that size, about 10,000 will need to try. “We simply need more people to try to make this work,” Kennedy says.

SfunCube CEO Emily Kirsch says she is not aware of any similar opportunity for solar entrepreneurs. The Department of Energy’s Sunshot Program has granted funds, but not the shared experience that can go with a campus-style setting.

So far, she says, there are 10 companies on the campus with some 300 employees. She expects this to grow to around 1,000 within a few years. “There is a universal need for electricity, and a universal need for solar, and software and finance is where we see the greatest abundance of opportunity.”


How can sustainability leaders be successful? Try harder.

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

Embedding sustainability into an organisation isn’t easy. It requires disrupting well-oiled processes, and calls for broadened decision-making and measurement systems informed by a rapidly evolving global context. As John F Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Read More

The world is on a collision course with environmental realities. Business leaders know what do but not always how to do it

Bruno Sarda in Guardian Professional (2 July 2013):

Our world is on a collision course with environmental realities and we’re quickly running out of roadway to take meaningful corrective action. There is widespread agreement from experts on what needs to be done and societal pressure to act, and yet the status quo prevails. What’s the missing ingredient to drive this needed change? Leadership.

Former US president Harry Truman was right when he said: “In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” If a sustainable future is a better future, how do we get there? What kind of leadership does sustainability require?

Many organisations have already recognised that sustainability is a business and societal imperative, and have initiated programmes and practices to get them started down that path. Yet even organisations with the best of intentions can get stuck in the process of scaling their sustainability efforts.

In a study conducted by the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, practitioners across sectors indicated they know what to do but aren’t always sure how to get it done, and 80% of them agreed that better tools and training would help them scale and accelerate their sustainability efforts. So what do sustainability leaders actually do to achieve success?

For sustainability to truly scale, it needs to align with the strategic objectives of the organisation and be defined in terms of greater organisational and financial success. Traditional financial accounting can be overly short-term focused, so understand how to tie sustainability to long-term success indicators such as ability to retain and acquire talent, regulatory risk/cost in absence of voluntary efforts, reduced supply chain risk, market perception and company reputation.

Once the strategy is defined, goals are needed to set the level of ambition and prioritise efforts. These should be informed by external drivers but ultimately need to be agreed and owned by those who will be accountable for delivering on them. For example, don’t set a greenhouse gas or water reduction goal without involving your facilities and operations teams.

Clear plans are needed to outline how you’re going to hit your goals. Develop baselines and agree what KPIs will tell you if you’re on track. For example, if you set a five-year waste reduction goal, where should you be after the first year? Inertia is not your friend; deliberate action is what breeds engagement and credibility. Anticipate changing conditions and be ready to adapt.

Success comes through action and results. Know how to drive execution and build strong internal governance mechanisms for visibility and accountability. Achieve and celebrate early wins. Perhaps pick one facility or region where you want to drive early results – this will earn you the right to scale faster across the organisation. Lead from the context of sustainability and manage to your KPIs, but trust functional experts to own how they deliver against their goals. For example, your facilities team knows best how to reduce water or energy use in their buildings.

An effective sustainability leader needs to be able to engage the boardroom, the team room, the lunchroom, the news room, the chat room and the living room. Leading much more with influence than authority, it’s critical to inspire and earn the trust of the organisation and its key stakeholders. Do that through the power of story, not just facts and figures. If people responded to facts alone, nobody would smoke anymore and we’d all eat more vegetables. Embrace transparency and commit to reporting failures and challenges as well as successes. Listen more than you speak, and tap your stakeholder networks for wisdom and validation along the way.

Embedding sustainability into an organisation isn’t easy. It requires disrupting well-oiled processes, and calls for broadened decision-making and measurement systems informed by a rapidly evolving global context. Those who will successfully lead this level of change must challenge themselves to grow and adapt as much as their organisations. As John F Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Our world needs a “shock and awe” campaign executed by highly trained sustainability warriors who can effectively lead change, set strategy and execute on goals, be awesome communicators and keep up with a rapidly evolving global context. Let us find them and arm them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed, and cheer them on at every step. Our future depends on it.

Bruno Sarda is the director of global sustainability operations at Dell and adjunct professor at the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. He’s been working to develop a new Executive Master’s for Sustainability Leadership as part of the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives in the Global Institute of Sustainability.


Astronauts and BMW come together for future sustainability tech

Posted by Ken on July 12, 2013
Posted under Express 194

About 80 astronauts from around the world will converge on Cologne, Germany for the 26th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), which will include a visit to BMW’s Munich facilities. And following the philosophy of “cradle to grave” sustainability, BMW has also come up with what it claims is the world’s first CFRP – Carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer – recycling concept. Various body components, production waste and even parts from damaged i3’s will find their way back into production following a unique sorting process. Read More

By Aaron Turpen in Auto news (6 July 2013):

About 80 astronauts from around the world will converge on Cologne, Germany for the 26th Planetary Congress of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), which will include a visit to BMW’s Munich facilities.

The Munich facilities visit will include a tour and time with young professionals at BMW who are engaged in sustainable research, development and architecture at the BMW Group for talks about the future of sustainable transportation. One of the goals of ASE is to stimulate public interest in not only science and technology, but in the responsible and sustainable stewardship of our planet.

The tour and meeting will take place at the BMW Research and Innovation Centre and will include six astronauts from Germany, France, Russia and the U.S.A. to report on their current missions and discuss sustainable technology. Most of the discussions will center on fuel cell development and vehicle lightweighting, both of which are common to both BMW and spaceflight.

The Planetary Congress itself is co-hosted by the Houston, Texas-based ASE and by the German Aerospace Centre. Discussions range from human health and performance in and out of space, protecting the environment, and more. BMW is an event support sponsor, providing vehicles for transportation during the event. BMW has also been named the world’s most sustainable car manufacturer on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

During their visit to Munich, astronauts Klaus-Dietrich Flade (Germany), Michel A. Tognini (France), Mary Ellen Weber, Kevin Ford and Dr Owen K. Garriott (USA) and Yuriy Usachev (Russia) will take part in a Community Day organised by the BMW Group’s VIP management together with other departments for young BMW Group professionals and for professional conversation with specialized engineers.

With hydrogen in particular, BMW has partnered with Toyota on the development of fuel cell technology and hydrogen storage systems, something which many space agencies are also heavily vested in terms of technology and R&D. Of particular interest to the astronauts as well will be the BMW i3, which will launch to market soon, with its lightweight carbon fiber-reinforced plastic passenger shell.



Cradle-to-grave sustainability is at the core of BMW’s new i3

By Angus MacKenzie (8 July 2013):

When the i3 concept was unveiled alongside the i8 coupe concept back in 2011, it was the i8 that hogged the spotlight in commercials and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. But BMW engineers were hard at work in Germany developing real world production plans for the i3 and BMW is now set to put its first fully electric vehicle into mass production by the end of 2013. But the wee urban EV plays only a small part in BMW’s overall sustainability program.

To quickly recap, the i3 is designed as a fully electric inner city four seater. Using BMW’s eDrive technology, the i3 will have a range of around 130 to 160 km (80 to 100 mi), which means most urban users at which it is targeted will only have to recharge it every two or three days.

Generating 125 kW (170 hp) of power to the rear wheels and 250 Nm of torque (184.4 lb.ft), BMW reports performance figures of 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in eight seconds and a top speed estimated at 150 km/h (93 mph).

The company claims the i3′s range can be increased to 200 km (124 mi) through its “EcoPro” modes (Eco Pro and Eco Pro+), while a “range extender” will also be available as an optional extra that will add another 130 km (80 mi) to the vehicle’s range. The i3 can be fully recharged in six hours via a standard outlet, or to an 80 per cent charge in 30 minutes using a fast charger.

Battery issues

Batteries, fickle things that they are, function best at room temperature, with heat and cold significantly affecting their performance. But since most cars aren’t driven indoors, BMW has developed a system designed to keep the i3’s battery in the sweet zone, which in turn increases battery life and range. The intelligent heating/cooling system uses air conditioning coolant to cool the battery when things are heating up, and when things turn polar, a pre-heater warms the battery to optimal operating temperatures while plugged in. BMW claims this system helps ensure the lithium-ion battery should last the lifetime of the car.

The i3′s motor generates 125 kW (170 hp) of power to the rear wheels

Batteries are considered the weakest link in the sustainability chain and highly undesirable as a recyclable component. BMW again recognized this as a long term sustainability issue and set in motion a plan to repurpose, or re-use i3 batteries. After roughly 1,000 charging cycles the i3′s batteries are serviced and put to use as short term solar storage units for residential energy consumption. On a commercial level, several batteries can be linked together to form either large scale energy storage units or brought into the grid to act as supplemental power banks.

Increasing drive range is the critical moving target and ongoing challenge for manufacturers when it comes to electric vehicles. The smallest electrical device can decrease range, add several power sucking devices together and range can be drastically impacted. In the case of the i3, BMW addressed this niggling issue by incorporating items like a low-power heat pump system that the company claims saves 30 percent more power in traffic relative to a normal heater. In the cockpit LEDs are used to illuminate the cabin versus traditional low efficiency bulbs, further reducing power draw and increasing range.

CFRP brings weight reductions

Vehicle weight, another range-robbing factor was also on BMW’s hit list when developing the i3. It makes widespread use of CFRP, which in addition to weight reduction, also offers advantages in terms of safety. Due to issues like cost, production line flexibility and overly complex manufacturing processes, CFRP has largely been limited to use in supercars like the Lamborghini Sesto Elemento. But over the past ten years, BMW has put millions of dollars and countless hours of research into making CFRP a viable option for mainstream production. TO that end, BMW claims it is the first manufacturer to have the facilities and manufacturing techniques in place to enable widespread use of CFRP in mainstream vehicles.

In keeping with its “cradle to grave” philosophy, BMW has also come up with what it claims is the world’s first CFRP recycling concept. Various body components, production waste and even parts from damaged i3’s will find their way back into production following a unique sorting process that separates “resinated” materials from non-resin parts. Excess CFRP cuttings, sans resin, that would normally be discarded are instead repurposed back into non-woven textiles and worked back into the vehicle. BMW claims around ten percent of the carbon fiber used in production of the i3 is derived from recycled materials.

Sustainability begins in the factory

Even before wheels hit the ground BMW, sought to make the manufacturing process as eco-friendly as possible. At BMW’s Leipzig shop (certified LEED Gold) in Germany, the company’s energy requirements are addressed via four wind power systems. The systems not only provide all the power necessary for production but actually over produce for the facility’s requirements.

Producing 26 GWh a year, the four Nordex N100/2500 turbines develop a yearly surplus of up to 2 GWh. This excess power is then redirected out to other processes at the Leipzig site, further reducing its overall energy footprint. BMW reports the Leipzig facility garners another 50 percent savings in energy and 70 percent savings in water usage relative to its other more traditional manufacturing facilities.

At a dedicated facility in Moses Lake, Washington, BMW has partnered with SGL Group to fill all the i3′s carbon fiber requirements. Producing carbon fiber since 2011, the hi-tech CFRP facility runs two lines, capable of producing 1,500 tonnes of fiber per year. Fibers are then shipped to the Wackersdorf Innovation Park where they are transformed into basic carbon fiber sheets. From there the sheets are shipped to the Bavarian villa of Landshut, and pressed into various CFRP components for the i3. BMW claims that in comparison to conventional CFRP production, CO2 output from the Moses Lake facility is roughly 50 percent less than its competitors.

Leipzig also participates in the forming process by transforming the sheets into their respective 3D forms. These 3D forms can then be assembled to form larger components with relative ease as compared to aluminum or sheet metal processes. According to BMW, this CFRP development allows for modification of parts at any time during the manufacturing process, resulting in faster redesign turnaround and less downtime as compared to traditional steel component reconfiguration.

BMW’s new pressing plant not only has the flexibility to adapt but is further designed to reduce the speed and time in which CFRP components are manufactured. Pre-formed parts are available in minutes thanks to the company’s proprietary manufacturing process that deletes the time-sucking phase of curing from the equation. Not only does BMW’s process reduce component output time, but parts such as a door frame can be processed with critical structural details already included. The advantage to this holistic process enables BMW to more quickly produce i3 components that are lighter, require less structural elements and less overall energy to produce.

Contributing to increased component bonding times, BMW developed a new CFRP-friendly adhesive. Whereas traditional fiber bonding required anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, the new adhesive can be processed in ninety seconds, and become hard in only 30 minutes. According to BMW, this represents a ten-fold reduction in processing over the traditional method. BMW also learned that by heating key adhesion areas they could increase the curing process by a factor of 32.

“LifeDrive Architecture”

BMWs new architecture for the i3 is premised around what it calls “LifeDrive Architecture.” The method essentially mounts the CFRP “life module” or passenger compartment, on to an aluminum chassis. Whereas the method of combining pod with frame is not new, what is new the use of a CFRP cocoon in the mix. The pod is then populated with seats, steering wheel, doors, etc and finished off with exterior body panels. The result is a cabin whose volume statistics are reported to exceed that of vehicles of a similar wheelbase.

The lower half of the architectural arrangement, where the i3’s lithium-ion battery is located underfloor, is a lightweight aluminum frame that holds the electric motor, transmission and differential. According to BMW, the i3 meets or exceeds safety requirements as a result of the aluminum subframe design and CFRP life-pod architecture.

In its first foray into the mass production of an electric vehicle, BMW has shown that its sustainability goals are about more than just the conveyance and production of the vehicle itself. From manufacturing to infrastructure, and recycling to end of life cycle strategies, the company is clearly demonstrating itself to be an industry leader when it comes to the implementation of sustainable processes in developing electric vehicles like the i3.

The i3 is scheduled to go into production at the end of 2013 and is expected to have price in Europe starting at around €40,000 (US$51,000).