3p Contributor: Phil Covington

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on electric vehicles and sustainable business matters in general. Twitter: @PhilCovBlog

Recent Articles

Ford To Use Kenaf Plant Materials In New Escape

| Tuesday January 31st, 2012 | 6 Comments

Image from Ford Motor Company Digital Media

Following Ford’s recent announcement that they will use recycled plastic bottles for seat fabrics in the upcoming Focus Electric, the company’s efforts to increase the use of sustainable materials continues with the news that they will use kenaf plant fiber material for interior door bolsters for the new Escape.

Kenaf, blended with polypropylene in a 50-50 mixture, will reduce the door component’s weight by 25% compared with conventional materials, while use of the plant fiber, Ford claims, will offset 300,000 pounds of oil-based resins annually in North America.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kenaf, here’s a little bit about this versatile material, as well as other eco-friendly attributes of the new Escape.

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More Fuel Efficient Cars Spell Less Money For Mass Transit

| Thursday January 19th, 2012 | 5 Comments

Consumer Reports characterized this year’s North American International Auto show as “the rise of the mainstream plug-in hybrid,” foretelling a definite trend that’s emerging among automakers: fuel-efficiency is becoming the name of the game.

This is great news for the environment, and for consumers, but with the vehicle fleet becoming more efficient in the USA, a probable negative consequence may emerge along with it. Specifically, as cars become more efficient, there will be less funding for mass transit infrastructure – an unfortunate systemic outcome indeed.

So, how are the two linked?

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Electric Bicycle Trailer From Ridekick Offers a Useful Boost

| Friday January 13th, 2012 | 1 Comment


Fort Collins, Colorado-based start-up, Ridekick, has a new take on the electric bicycle: they offer something that’s not a bicycle at all. Instead, they think an electric powered trailer that can be easily attached to most conventional bikes is a better solution.

The Ridekick is an option for the cyclist who wants either full time, or perhaps, only occasional electric assist, but neither wants to go out and buy a brand-new electric bicycle, nor permanently retrofit their existing one.

So, how does it work?

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Ford Upcycles 2 Million Plastic Bottles from Landfill to Seat Covers

| Tuesday January 10th, 2012 | 2 Comments

Readers of TriplePundit  don’t need reminding that the waste stream derived from buying bottled water is an environmental hazard. Less than a third of all plastic bottles get recycled in the USA, when they could be put to effective second-life use.

Ford Motor Company announced last week that in partnership with REPREVE, they plan to make good use of some of these old plastic bottles by diverting 2 million of them from landfill, for use in the seat fabric of Ford’s forthcoming Focus Electric model.

REPREVE’s fabric is a polyester fiber made from a blend of recycled PET plastic, along with other recycled post-consumer material. Ford’s press release details that the car will be the first with an interior made with 100 percent clean technology, far exceeding the company’s goal of 25 percent clean technology across their whole vehicle line-up.

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Peer-to-Peer Vehicle Sharing Start-Up Launches In San Francisco

| Friday January 6th, 2012 | 0 Comments

ban-startup-fridayThey say the best days of boat ownership are but two; the day you buy it, and the day you sell it. In the time between, the hassles and cost of insurance, maintenance and storage are a large burden to bear for a few days of fun, when you actually get to use it.

Even if you are fortunate enough to afford it, it’s hard to justify keeping a boat for half a dozen outings a year, but what if, during the downtime, you could profit from sharing with others in your local community?

Conversely, what if others want easy, but only occasional access to motorcycle, car, jet-skis, SUVs and so on but don’t want, or cannot afford, to invest in the cost and hassle of ownership themselves?

Peer-to-peer (p2p) start-up – JustShareIt – feels the opportunity exists to bring these parties together in an on-line  vehicle-sharing marketplace, and to this end, launches this week, to bring owners (or sharers) and borrowers together, organized around  three key service goals: security, convenience and adventure.

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Ford to Launch New Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

| Monday December 19th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Ford is introducing a new range of electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid passenger vehicles for 2012, which the company says will mean a third of their vehicle lines will feature a model with 40 miles-per-gallon, or more, next year.

A 100% electric version of the latest generation Ford Focus, will initially go on sale in California , New York and New Jersey, with subsequent expansion into a total of 19 U.S. launch markets. The obvious competition for the Focus Electric will be the Nissan Leaf, as well as the forthcoming Mitsubishi MiEV, both of which are also 100% electric vehicles, while Ford’s new hybrids are aiming at the new and larger member of the Toyota Prius family; the Prius V.

With these new vehicles, Ford is keen to promote a number of advantages their cars will bring to prospective buyers.

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The Chevrolet Volt Fire in Perspective

| Wednesday November 30th, 2011 | 8 Comments

It was probably only a matter of time before we saw this story: An electric vehicle’s battery pack catches fire, drawing into question the safety of electric vehicles in general.

Ever since lithium-ion batteries were found to sometimes catch fire in laptops or cell phones, sooner or later we’d most probably see the same thing happening to a car battery – after all, EVs essentially use the same battery chemistry. So, as more electric cars hit the road, the safety concerns of the technology increase. But this is not a piece offering another reason why the world is not ready for EVs, but rather, it’s to shine a little perspective on the subject.

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Test Drive: Mitsubishi’s New MiEV, the Most Affordable EV?

| Thursday November 10th, 2011 | 9 Comments

Over the past year, the success of mass market electric cars has been judged on just two products; the  Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt – and of these, only the LEAF is truly fully electric.

Year-to-date sales figures through the end of October, reveal that 8,048 LEAFs versus 5,003 Volts have been sold in the USA, with the LEAF on target to exceed sales of 10,000 units by year’s end. These numbers suggest that electric cars have moved beyond the curiosity stage, and now have a viable, permanent marketplace in this country.

This view is apparently shared by other car makers. Next year, American EV customers will get even more choice, in the form of Ford’s new electric Focus and Mitsubishi’s MiEV. Both of these cars are scheduled to go on sale in the spring, while customers with deeper pockets can look forward to the much anticipated Tesla Model S – a vehicle aiming at a higher end of the market.

I was able to drive a pre-market MiEV last week, which Mitsubishi claims will slot in as the most affordable EV available on the market. Going in as a price leader will make it an interesting car to watch. So, how does it compare?

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EV Technology Company Mission Motors Powers Growth

| Tuesday November 8th, 2011 | 0 Comments

It’s been a fantastic year for electric vehicle technology company, Mission Motors. In July this year, the company’s electric racing bike, the Mission R, (at right) won the TTXGP at Laguna Seca by a sizable margin; show-casing their technology against a competitive field of other EV motorcycle developers, while demonstrating comparable performance with gasoline-powered racing bikes.

Subsequent to their success on the track, the bike went on to win a Core 77 design award, recognizing the Mission R for both its cutting-edge industrial design and execution, as well as helping to make electric vehicles exciting and aspirational.

Further success came in the form of securing $9 million series B financing led by a leading global private equity firm, Warburg Pincus, while the California Energy Commission awarded them a $94,000 grant to develop a lightweight on-board vehicle charger.

Capping off all of this, the Cleantech Group, in collaboration with the UK’s Guardian News and Media, named Mission Motors one of the Global Cleantech 100 companies – an accolade awarded to entities that are are expected to make the biggest impact on clean technology over the next 5 to 10 years.

With such good news coming thick and fast, I spoke to David Salguero, Mission’s marketing manager, to find out what all this recent recognition means for Mission Motors going forward.

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GM Switchgrass Could Boost Future Bio-Fuel Production

| Tuesday October 18th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Not so long ago, it seemed that biofuels were assumed to be the best means for us to wean ourselves from our oil addiction, with ethanol, in particular, attracting most attention as a putatively green-fuel. But then it became apparent that growing feed-stocks for biofuel production has some significant downsides – and perhaps now, electric vehicles have taken the spotlight as the antidote to oil.

Ethanol’s star fell for a couple of reasons. Production typically takes up land that otherwise would be used for food production – which, in turn, is bad for food prices. Then, experts started questioning whether ethanol production had any real environmental benefits to offer. One study conducted at Cornell University, found that the energy needed to produce corn-ethanol – the USA’s preferred feedstock for ethanol – may be up to 29% greater than the resultant energy in the bio-fuel itself. Why? Because heavy use of fertilizers to grow the corn, and the energy used to convert it to ethanol, both involve fossil-fuel energy.

So now, few seem to think corn-ethanol is the future. However, switch-grass has for a long time been regarded as a better feed-stock for ethanol production, and recent experiments by Berkeley biologist George S. Chuck suggest that the plant could become an important biofuel source, due to significant improvements in the potential energy yield of the plant.

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European Court Opinion: U.S. Airlines Must Buy Carbon Allowances

| Wednesday October 12th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Europe’s highest court released an opinion on October 6th, finding that the proposed mandatory inclusion of non-European based airlines in the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), is compatible with international law. The opinion by the Advocate General constitutes the latest development in the ongoing dispute.

Under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, beginning on January 1st 2012, all carriers must procure a carbon allowance for every tonne of CO2 emitted for all flights which either take off or land, in the European Union.

Last week, we reported that the EU will allocate 85% of these allowances to carriers for free, while the remaining 15% will be auctioned. A more detailed analysis of how the scheme will operate can be found here. The European Commission estimates the cost for compliance will add between $2.66 and $15.96 per ticket over the next decade.

What are the implications of this decision?

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Chevron Makes Use Of Solar Energy to Recover Oil

| Friday October 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments

Traditional oil pump jack

When you think of solar energy, it’s likely that you imagine a clean and renewable power source; something that goes towards getting us off our global dependence on fossil fuels. And while it probably won’t be a technology that gets us away from CO2 emissions altogether, every watt of solar energy produced is watt of energy that doesn’t incur greenhouse-gasses.

So, what if solar energy is generated in order to extract oil from mature oil fields? Does this constitute a spectacular irony, or a clever application of renewable energy; one that may be justified in a world where oil is likely to remain fundamental to our economy for a considerable number of years to come?

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European Airlines Add Voice to Fears Over Europe’s Cap and Trade Program

| Wednesday October 5th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The controversial European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – a European wide cap and trade program – has sparked an ongoing dispute between the US and Europe regarding mandatory inclusion of non-European based airlines into the program.

In August, the potential for a trade war seemed possible due to mounting opposition both in the USA as well as other nations – notably China – over Europe’s insistence that no airlines would be exempt from participating in the scheme.

ETS requires that any airline taking off or landing in Europe, regardless of country of domicile, must produce a carbon allowance accounting for every tonne of CO2 emitted.

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Lighter and More Fuel Efficient, Boeing Delivers the First 787 Dreamliner

| Friday September 30th, 2011 | 0 Comments

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

This week, US aircraft maker Boeing celebrated the delivery of it’s first new-generation 787 Dreamliner to the Japanese carrier, All Nippon Airlines (ANA). This follows a series of setbacks which have beset the launch, delaying deliveries by around three years.

Despite the setbacks, Bloomberg reported in August that the 787 is the fastest selling aircraft ever. With the number of orders already secured, production of the 787 represents about 7 years of work for the company. These orders were all placed prior to 2011 however, and orders for 26 planes have been cancelled during 2011.

Still, the new plane continues the trend among aircraft manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency and reduce running costs for airlines, so the roll out of the 787 is an important one.

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Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? Maybe Sometimes

| Wednesday September 28th, 2011 | 1 Comment

The Sunday New York Times Review section ran an interesting piece this week that posed the question, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? The premise of Mark Bittman’s article was to debunk the often repeated notion that the reason people are obese is because it is cheaper to fill up on calorie-dense junk food than it is to prepare healthy meals at home.

However, the author explains that this is not in fact the case. He illustrates the point by revealing that a variety of McDonald’s meal options for a family of four will run you $27.89, whereas a healthy meal cooked at home from pinto beans, rice, green peppers, onion and finished off with bacon, can be had for just $9.26.

So, while it’s certainly possible to eat healthily and cheaply at home,  I decided to head over to the golden arches myself to do some rapid field research.

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