Archive for August, 2011

August 29, 2011

Go Faster With Electricity

Do you like fast cars? But want to save petrol, money or the environment? Besides mass-market electric cars, like the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, the Vauxhall Ampera or the Mitsubishi i-Miev, there are already numerous sports cars available with hybrid or fully electric engines, which are still as fast as anyone could dream of.

Electric sports cars already on the roads

Probably the most well-known member of the category is the Tesla Roadster. It accelerates to 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds, and the special lithium-ion battery allows the owner to drive 245 miles with only one charge,

Fisker Karma

As a committed environmentalist, even Leonardo di Caprio owns a Tesla and has just recently purchased another fast hybrid vehicle that is capable of doing 67 miles with only one gallon of fuel (about 3.5 litre per 100 kilometres), a Fisker Karma. Its top speed is 125 miles per hour, and it even has a solar glass roof for utilising solar energy. The car paint is recycled, similarly to the recycled Ultrasuede interior.

The UK-based company, Lightning, has developed the Lightning GT, which accelerates to 100 km/h (about 62 mph) only in five seconds, and can be charged in three various ways, the ultrafast method only using ten minutes of topping up. The distance that can be done with one charge is about 240 kilometres (about 150 miles), while it features a unique lithium titanate battery, which is said to be charged faster than more usually used lithium-ion types.

Meanwhile, another speedy car is the Venturi Fetish, which goes from 0 to 100 km/h in less than four seconds, and sports a top speed of 200 km/h (about 124 mph). It offers a range of 340 kilometres (about 211 miles) allowed by the latest lithium ion polymer battery design.

Venturi Fetish

These state-of-the-art cars come with several luxurious features at a similarly luxurious price, of course.

Concept cars

Besides the existing models, more and more car manufacturers are introducing electric concept sports cars, as well.

Mass-market manufacturers, like Audi and Nissan have already showcased some concept cars. Audi has been working on the e-tron Spyder, a plug-in hybrid with two electric engines, while Nissan recently announced the ESFLOW, which shall speed up to 100 km/h (about 62 mph) in less than five seconds, and which would have an electric engine on each rear wheel.

Koenigsegg’s Quant [7] is also designed for acceleration, which it can do from 0 to 100 km/h in only 2.2 seconds, which is also supported by its lightweight carbon fibre material.

Another great potential may be developed by Morgan Motor in the frame of the +E project, with the aim to design a pure electric car with state-of-the-art features and solutions.

The future

Electric cars have gradually advanced, primarily by their efficiency. While electric sports cars may seem to be expensive toys and target only a small niche in the electric car market, they may be a key in reaching out to new audiences.

Also, as they are usually sold at higher price, they can include important improvements, which may not be researched and/or implemented for mass-market vehicles, but which may be useful for any electric car.

Furthermore, as costs are expected to lower, eventually they may even become everyday sights on the roads.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image from Fisker Karma, Venturi, Koenigsegg

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August 20, 2011

Lessons from the International Space Station

As the US has just ended its space shuttle programme, the International Space Station (ISS) has witnessed a number of experiments during its lifetime. Amongst these there have been several that could be beneficial for the future of alternative and renewable energy developments.

The Space Station

The ISS itself is a great case study on how to use alternative energy.

It operates with twenty solar arrays of a total length of 73 metres, and it uses various Sun tracking systems throughout a day. Each solar array wing has two arrays and there are 32,800 solar cells on each, providing the same amount of power as thirty average houses would require on Earth. US President, Barack Obama even congratulated the astronauts in 2009 for installing solar panels, a very important step in the field of renewable energy research.

As water is very expensive to send to the space station, the water filtration system has been developed to convert wastewater into clean drinking water from sweat, urine or even respiration. Astronauts also don’t use flowing water for hand washes but wet cloths, which are significantly more water-efficient than running the tap.

The insulation used on the station has to withstand both extreme heat and cold, thus it has to be very flexible and efficient, which could become a valuable solution for home insulation on Earth too.  The company Hy-Tech Thermal Solutions already offers a paint, which significantly improves house insulation and which was developed from NASA’s thermal research projects.

Also, NASA’s Research Centres have been involved with the improvement of various solutions for the smooth running of the ISS, one of them being the research of fuel cells, a promising future solution for vehicles.

Experiments

Astronauts at the ISS regularly conduct experiments, which have already given several technology innovations to the world. Such experiments also include potential developments in the alternative and renewable energy sector.

One of the well-known experiments was the research on whether microgravity can makeJatropha curcas plant cells grow faster to produce biofuel, named National Lab Pathfinder-Cells 3.

Another example is the experiment MISSE-5 (Materials International Space Station Experiment – 5 (MISSE-5)), in the frame of which the Forward Technology Solar Cell Experiment (FTSCE) investigated the durability and the electrical output of 39 advanced solar cell samples that could be used on future space exploration vehicles. [10]

Also, a hydrogen experiment resulted in the weakest flame ever, which could be very beneficial for the development of cleaner burning cars.

Space solar power

The large solar arrays of the ISS generated great interest in researching the potential of space solar power.

It could provide the largest source for solar energy on a very long term, and with wireless power transmission solutions it may be used for electricity networks or transportation systems on Earth.

Besides the main challenge, that it’s rather expensive to develop and the dangers of space debris to the device, it has numerous advantages. These include no emissions, no competition for water or food and it’s not reduced by cloud cover or affected by the time of the day, so it could be used virtually anywhere on Earth.

Just as space exploration has led to several innovations, the International Space Station may hold the key to new potential solutions for alternative energy development on Earth.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image from NASA

 

 

August 11, 2011

Pet Footprints

There are more and more carbon footprint calculation services available for anyone, but these only count the emissions from our lifestyle, travelling and eating. There are however more sources of carbon emissions, even where we wouldn’t think about it. Such are our pets, which can have a significantly high carbon footprint.

According to a recent book, Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, these animals may have a significant impact on the climate.  Due to mainly their meat consumption, keeping a middle-sized dog is estimated to be equal to drive 6000 miles with a Toyota Land Cruiser, while a cat’s carbon emissions are similar to that of a Volkswagen Golf.  Two hamsters may create similar amount of carbon emissions as a plasma TV, while “less harmful” animals are rabbits, chicken, goldfish or a canary.

These figures are more significant when you consider that according to some studies there are more than eight million dogs and eight million cats in the UK as pets, the two most popular types. Taking this into account, future owners may want to think twice about the next ‘housemate’.

The book meanwhile also suggests several answers for addressing the issue. These include the sharing of favourite animals or catching rats for pet food instead of those bought in shops, besides choosing animals with less impact. These could be for example rabbits, which can be also eaten or chickens that provide eggs.

Ultimately however it may be easier to reduce human consumption and thus emissions by changing our own human habits and let the dog have his bone.

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

 

August 8, 2011

Save Energy With Your Smartphone

As smartphones are becoming more and more popular, it seems that there is a need for an ’app’ for everything. Besides plenty of games and business applications there are now also a lot of ’green’ ones available, which can even help people to save energy.

Energy-saving apps

There are four basic types of apps available in various app stores, which offer energy saving solutions.

  • Some give daily advice and information for users on how to consume less electricity, gas or water, and some even include consumption data of various home appliances, like Kill-O-Watts, Green Outlet, Watts Plus or TV Energy Labels, which specifically lists the consumption data of various TV brands. Shopgreen logs the carbon-dioxide savings with an integrated EcoBank providing rewards for users, while MyEnergyTips offers customised advice, and the This is Green app lists a wide array of useful information.
  • Numerous apps offer direct connection to home electronic systems and networks, acting as a ’remote control’ for managing devices. These can be useful, for example, when the user forgot to switch off the lights before leaving the house, but can easily do so with the help of these state-of-the-art apps. Some examples include the ecobee Smart Thermostat working via a WiFi network, Control4 My Home, or the Schlage LINK, which even enables the remote monitoring of doors.
  • A third type of app allows users to track their consumption, either that of gas, electricity or water in their homes, or the fuel used when driving.

Household consumption can be traced with the official British Gas App, through which also meter readings can be submitted; as well as with Meter Readings, MeterRead, or the My Water Diary app.

Fuel consumption tracking is offered, amongst others, by the Carbon Footprint or the GreenMeter applications.

  • There are also a number of apps available for various types of smartphones, enabling interesting solutions and methods for saving energy.

The AlertMe Energy Map shows the average total energy, electricity and gas consumption per household per year in a certain neighbourhood in the UK. Users thus can even compare their local data with other British boroughs.

The Sun Tracker app gives information for users specifically to their location about the hours of direct sunlight for calculating solar energy for installations, while the SunPower Monitoring app helps in monitoring the energy level generated by an already installed home solar system. Another interesting app is the The Create Green Energy, a guide on how to build cheap solar panels or wind turbines at home.

Overall, there are more and more apps available for the growing number of smartphones based on Apple’s, Blackberry’s or the Android operating system, which can help everyday people not only in saving energy but also at saving money.

 

Written for Energy Saving Warehouse

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