Suzuki recently announced that they will launch vehicles in the US and Brazil that will run on 100% Ethanol (E100) by the year 2010. They join other automakers, such as GM, who are already selling flex-fuel vehicles in Brazil. Company officials point to the strong demand for 100% ethanol fueled vehicles due to the wide availability of cheap ethanol in Brazil.
In Brazil, 45% of all fuel used for automobiles is ethanol made from sugar cane. This represents a wide-range of mixes, all the way from a 20% ethanol/80% gas mix (E20) up to 100% ethanol (E100). Brazil has been leading the world in producing ethanol from sugar cane. While the US has focused heavily on corn-based ethanol production, Brazil has used sugar cane in producing their ethanol. Using sugar is about three to four times as efficient as corn.
Currently 20% of all vehicles in Brazil are flex-fuel, yet they are only using 1% of the arable land in Brazil to meet the current ethanol demand. Industry officials feel that they could easily increase production by two to three times the current production levels.
Don Quixote beware, West Texans are erecting giant wind farms as quickly as they can. In order to move the electricity that is being generated, more than $4.9 billion is being spent on an ambitious plan to set up transmission lines to carry the wind power generated to surrounding urban areas.
The newly installed lines will be able to handle 18,000 MW, currently more than three time the amount of power currently being generated through existing wind farms. The new capacity will provide the infrastructure to greatly increase the number of windmills, and get that energy to customers who are located far from the actual power production. The Public Utility Commission will pay for the expansion with a $3-$4 surcharge on customer’s existing electric bill.
Texas estimates that they could produce over 500,000 MW solely on wind power. That type of capacity would equal almost 5 times Texas’s current electrical usage. If all goes as planned, the excess capacity could be sold off to other neighboring states, or even into Mexico. New windmills are being installed at a rapid rate, and has more than tripled in the last three years.
Boone Pickens is driving the charge in Texas, as the former oil man is investing over $10 Billion in the Mother of all Wind Farms. He recently claimed, “”I have the same feelings about wind, as I had about the best oil field I ever found.” This new wind farm would consist of over 2,00 turbines spread across 200,000 acres, and would have a capacity of between 2-4,000 MegaWatts.
The quaint windmills of Don Quixote’s time are now being replaced by giant turbines that stand as high as 20-story buildings. Although Sancho’s cry of warning would now be best heeded by the local birds and bats. However, the National Research Council, the research arm of the Academy of Sciences, recently has reported that wind turbines barely have any effect on bird populations. They claim very small numbers of deaths, but have warned that bats may be more at risk. Apparently these animals seem to be attracted to the windmills, although the reason why is unknown.
Once this project is completed, Texas will become the largest generator of clean, renewable, wind power. Not only will this project create thousands of new jobs here in the US, it will also be used as an example of what can be accomplished in a short time frame. It may take Texans a little time to get used to wind mills out in the field instead of oil wells, but this is great for Texas and for the US.
My friend Pete sent me an email about the new Lightning GT from the Lightning Car Company based in Britain. This Telsa competitor has over 600HP on tap, courtesy of individual electric motors mounted in each wheel hub. The projected 0-60MPH is in less than 5 seconds, and claims a top speed of over 130 MPH. That is similar performance as the Telsa, but surprisingly has similar range estimates of over 200 miles to a charge, while being much heavier.
The NanoSafeTMLi-ion battery system that is utilized can be recharged in as little as 10 minutes when connected to a 3 phase electrical system. The battery systems uses nano titanate structures instead of traditional graphite, which are claimed to greatly increase safety and longevity. That type of recharge time is currently unheard of, however most homes are not equipped with three phase power. Perhaps this is a way for traditional gas stations to stay in business. Plug in, get your latte and newspaper in the morning, and by the time the clerk is done with you, your Lightning should be recharged.
Amazingly this company is still in business, however they still do not have a product that they can sell.
A report by the US Embassy in Baghdad states that the Iraqi government has met 15 of the 18 original benchmarks set by Congress in 2007. These benchmarks were setup to measure security, political and economic progress within Iraqi. The report, which has yet been released to the public and has only been “obtained” by the AP, paints a very positive picture of the progress in Iraqi.
Apparently the surge has had a major effect on the progress over the last year, and just yesterday the Pentagon announced the possibility of additional troop cuts in the coming months. Additional hard data is provided by the State Department in their weekly Iraqi Status Reports which I encourage everyone to review. There is a lot of really detailed information provided that you normally will not see reported on the nightly news.
Is the US in a position to say that we “won”? Saddam is gone, a new democratic government has been created, and violence continues to decline. While I am of the belief that we have “won” the war, I wonder at what cost. We have sunk Billions of dollars in creating a new Iraqi, siphoning off that money from the hardworking folks in the US. Would we have been in a better place if we took that money and invested it in technology that would have allowed us to have become energy independent over the last 5 years?
Estimates on the total cost of war vary from 1 to 3 Trillion dollars. Just imagine what that Trillions of dollars would have done if it had been invested in research and development for alternative energy. Tax credits for electric cars, grants for wind and solar, stream-lined regulations for new nuclear plants. The US would have over-night become the leader in energy production, and more importantly energy technology. That technology would have powered our economy, and allowed us to be a technology exporter, just as the space program and computer technology powered our economy at the end of the last century.
We may have won the war in Iraqi, but we have lost the battle to be the leader in energy technology.
It looks like consumers in California will soon be seeing electric Mini’s on the street. The Mini’s are made in Oxford, England. These examples will be partially assembled alongside the normal cars, minus the engine, gearbox and fuel tank. Then they’ll go over to parent company BMW’s facility in Munich, Germany, to be fitted with all the necessary electric drivetrain components and batteries before heading west.
BMW sources told Automotive News Europe that 490 of the Minis will be leased to selected customers in California and 10 will be used as show cars.
The electric cars will have yellow roofs, and will allow BMW to meet California’s requirement that carmakers start selling zero-emission vehicles.
Too bad that they are not bring the bad-ass PML Mini QED. Those blokes created a Monster electric Mini that features four 160HP electric motors, one on each wheel. The car has been designed to run for four hours of combined urban/extra urban driving, powered only by a battery and bank of ultra capacitors. A claimed top speed of 150 mph, a 0-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds, and a reported range of 932 miles when the ICE hybrid gas motor provides additional charge for the on-board batteries. In this hybrid mode, fuel economies of up to 80mpg can be achieved.
I recently stumbled across Lion Electric Vehicles. These guys have some great new technology that enables you to hop-up your existing hybrid by swapping out your existing batteries with new batteries can greatly increase your range.
And even more incredible is that they are selling Ford Escape Hybrids that have already been modified with their new technology. Changes to the battery pack and the sensor program allow it to run on EV entirely within city speed ranges. On the highway it operates as an ICE vehicle with electric boost.
These guys are based out of VA, but have facilities all over the world. It is nice to see a US company developing new technology that will help power the new energy-independence economy. I am hopeful that our current energy crisis well help pour capital into companies like Lion which will help develop the new technologies required to achieve our goal of energy independence.