Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Biodiesel Race Car Wins Historic Victory

We all know that biodiesel has what it takes to replace petroleum, now it appears that the racing world knows it too. D1 Oil, a British biodiesel firm, made history when its “Lola B2K” biodiesel powered race car won a preliminary race for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Lola has a monster V10 Volkswagen Touareg engine that will put the car over the 200 mph mark. This isn’t the most eco-friendly car in development, but it is sure to direct millions of dollars into biodiesel research.

The primary feedstock for the car’s fuel is jatropha curcas, a draught-resistant tree that produces an oil-rich nut. The use of jatropha over typical biodiesel source-crops is significant because of the plant’s ability to grow on marginal lands and demand little water. This is in contrast to the soy beans so often used for biodiesel in the U.S, and the canola often used in Europe—both of which can compete with food crops for arable land. D1 is developing not only the refining technology, but the cultivation sites as well, setting up farms in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to grow jatropha. Big Oil, here we come!

Nissan's Sexy New Suspension Ad

Not sure if this is a spoof or an actual Nissan commercial. Knowing the types of commercials that come out of Europe, I wouldn't be suprised. I have a feeling that this kind of advertising works much better for "macho" vehicles like SUVs and sports cars than it does for something like the Prius! At the very least, it is an effective way of demonstrating how independent suspension works.


Lighting Farms to Power Electric Cars?

This announcement has some increadable implications if it is scalable. AEHI plans to collect power from the ground area surrounding a lightning strike and convert it into usable electricity to be sold through existing power grids.

Harnessing the natural energy produced from a bolt of lightning as a clean energy solution will eliminate numerous environmental hazards associated with the energy industry. Lightning farms are expected to be able to sell electricity for 80-90% less ($0.005 per kilowatt hour) than we pay now! If producting electricity this clean and this cheap is possible, electric cars will be that much closer to mass production. They are currently working on a mobile full-scale lightning farm to be tested during peak lightning season (July through August) of 2007.

Thanks to Treehugger for the scoop.


Is GM's Fuel Cell Strategy Insane?

According to an article from last week in MIT's Technology Review, General Motor's plan to move aggressively into the testing of cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells could be a waste of money and effort. Joseph Romm, executive director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, even went so far as to call GM’s strategy “insane.”

"...GM's focus on creating a fleet of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles could be a costly mistake as a strategy for combating global climate change and for decreasing U.S. dependence on oil, many energy experts say. The problem, these critics argue, is that powering electric vehicles with hydrogen fuel cells is both inefficient and expensive.

Hydrogen fuel must be extracted from fossil fuels or water--both energy-consuming processes. Once produced, the gas must be compressed or liquefied for distribution, and this process and the distribution itself take yet more energy. By the time the hydrogen has been delivered to the fuel cell for conversion to electricity, then, a significant amount of energy has been lost to these processes.

"Along the way, you've thrown away nearly three-quarters of the electricity. No one in their right mind would do that--if your alternative is to just string a power line from zero-carbon electricity and charge a battery onboard a car," says Joseph Romm, executive director of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, and formerly in charge of energy efficiency and renewable energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Romm says a more promising alternative to internal-combustion engines are plug-in hybrids, which combine an electric motor powered by batteries with a conventional gasoline- or diesel-powered engine, but rely on the electric motor far more than today's hybrids."


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Electric Car Beats Ferrari and Porsche

The X1 prototype meets its design specs of 0-60 in 3 seconds, 170 mpg equivalent; and weighs only 1536 lbs. It raises the performance driving experience to a new level. No clutch, no shifting, precise and immediate control of torque in drive and braking, amazing traction control…first gear takes you to 112mph…

X1 Prototype Specs
• 3-phase AC induction motor, 236hp at the motor shaft
• 182 ft lbs torque at the motor shaft, from 0 rpm to 6,000 rpm
• 13,300 rpm rev limit
• weight 1,500 lbs
• no clutch, single gear ratio 8.25:1
• Quaife limited slip differential
• Alcon front calipers, 4 piston
• Dymag Magnesium Alloy wheels
• inboard Bilstein race dampers, Eibach 2-stage springs
• steering: rack and pinion, 1.5 turns lock-lock
• Lithium Ion battery pack

• 0-60 ~ 3.0 seconds
• Standing quarter mile ~11.5 seconds
• Top speed 112mph (electronically limited)
• Range >100 miles in urban use
• Charger: onboard conductive. Input 100-250V 50 or 60 Hz. Current: user adjustable up to 80A
• Energy consumption 200 WHr/mile in urban use, equivalent to 170 mpg (33,705 WHr/gallon)


Audi R-Zero Electric Sports Car

This car is possibly the hottest concept electric car ever built! The Audi R-Zero concept bares an amazing resemblance to the Audi TT, Nissan 350Z, and Infiniti G35 coupe. Designers, Franck Levivier, Remi Marchand and Pierre-Olivier Wagner created this rolling work of art. For those of you who want to stop buying gas, but still be able to outrun the law can rest easy.Based on exterior design alone, you would expect that such a concept would involve a massive engine with a huge displacement and over 500 horsepower. Instead, the designers envision the R-Zero being, "powered by an electric motor yet offer a super car level of performance." The R-Zero will be able to generate the 800 volts of output using 2,645 pounds of high-tech lithium-ion batteries. All this power is delivered by four in-wheel electric motors weighing 187 pounds in total. Unfortunately it does not look like they will be using a carbon fiber chassis. For more information, check out this article.