EV Charging Infrastructure: the New VHS vs. BetaMax?

Steve Puma | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 17 Comments


While Tesla Motors and other EV manufacturers have had recent successes and grabbed quite a few headlines, they still face a major hurdle: charging infrastructure. Without a fast and reliable way to re-fuel their vehicles, EV customers will be limited to those who drive less than 200 miles per day or those who can afford to keep the vehicle as a novelty. According to investment website the Motley Fool, 220-volt charging times are the Achilles heel of EVs, with the Tesla Roadsters’ current 200-volt unit taking approximately 4 hours to fully charge.

Automotive industry analyst Jim Motavalli (bnet.com) writes about Tesla’s dilemma in the context of the company’s rumored IPO, first reported by Reuters but denied by Tesla management. Motavalli points to one solution to the charging infrastructure, proposed by The Car Charging Group, Inc. (CCGI):

According to CEO Andy Kinard, Florida-based CCGI will not build its own charging technology, but will distribute chargers built by established player Coulomb. Its business model…is to sign contracts with businesses…that operate parking lots. The contract spells out revenue sharing between the parties, so parking slots will gain free EV infrastructure and lot managers will get cash from charging.

The article also goes on to say that CCGI will standardize on “J1772 charging hardware” and will go from 0 to 1,000 units by the end of 2010. While this would certainly be good news for Tesla, it is not entirely clear just how reliable CCGI’s predictions are.

However, what the article does not mention is that this is not the whole story for electric vehicle infrastructure. Some startups are focusing on an entirely different strategy. One such company is the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Network (EVIN), and its business model circumvents the “chicken-and-egg” problem altogether.

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2010 Transportation Predictions: What is the Reality?

Steve Puma | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Earth2Tech has posted an interesting article which takes a look at some of the predictions made for green transportation at the beginning of the decade, and how close those predictions were to reality. While the decade started out with a lot of promise, corporate interests and politics slowed that down, only to see green vehicles come back strong as the economy weakened, it notes:

We entered the 2000’s with rules in California requiring automakers to offer EVs, but by 2003, state regulators changed the rules and many automakers dropped EV initiatives and focused on gas guzzlers. But here we are nearing the end of 2009, and automakers are now investing heavily in electric vehicles, natural gas cars are gaining traction in high places, and hydrogen cars are about as far off as ever.

The verdict? Despite some movement, Natural Gas Vehicle adoption and High-Speed Rail are still a long way off, while the Hydrogen Economy is nowhere to be seen. Electric Vehicle adoption also has many more obstacles to overcome than originally predicted. Just about the only thing that the pundits got right was that Hybrid Vehicle technology would be a bridge to EV adoption.

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La Lune Collection: World’s Most Sustainable Furniture Company?

| Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 7 Comments

In this time of abundant greenwashing, it’s refreshing to find a company that’s far more sustainable than it claims to be in its advertisements.  La Lune Collection, a Milwaukee furniture maker, impressed me last week not only by its strong grasp of sustainable principles, but by the matter of fact attitude with which it approaches sustainability. In business for more than 30 years, La Lune makes high end, rustic styled furniture for hotels, restaurants, and interior design firms that are made primarily from nearby poplar and willow trees – all in a rehabbed old factory in an urban neighborhood it helped revive.

The sustainability catch? For starters, fast-growing poplar and willow are as common as weeds in Wisconsin and need to be regularly pruned – a costly annual project. La Lune happily collects an assortment of trunks and branches from property owners who are thrilled to see them go. From a business perspective, this means an essentially free source of materials, and from a sustainability perspective, the company is harvesting a very renewable resource that might even go to waste otherwise.

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Do We Need Green Authoritarianism?

| Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 8 Comments

On Saturday the Chinese legislature passed an amendment to a 2006 renewable energy law that requires utilities to buy power from renewable sources, if it is available. The amendment should provide a major boost to renewable energy development for the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

The new legislation is also an example of how centralized, non-democratic government can move quickly to exert its will on a pressing issue.

Power enterprises refusing to buy power produced by renewable energy generators will be fined up to an amount double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company, according to Xinhua. The law also “requires the government to set up a special fund to renewable energy scientific research, finance rural clean energy projects, build independent power systems in remote areas and islands, and build information networks to exploit renewable energy,” the state news agency said.

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Riding the Rails With the World’s Fastest Train

Jace Shoemaker-Galloway | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 3 Comments

Wuhan-Guangzhou High-Speed Train

Even Superman himself would have a hard time keeping up with what is being described as the world’s fastest train.

While trial runs took place earlier in the month, the Wuhan-Guangzhou high-speed railway officially began service in China on December 26, 2009. 

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Climate Change Like You’ve Never Seen

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 31st, 2009 | 2 Comments

A riveting photo essay of images depicting climate change was recently published online. The essay, produced by Magnum in Motion and commissioned by the United Nations Development Program, is based on information found in the latest UNDP report.

What I like the most about this photo essay is the emphasis placed on promoting assistance to developing countries. It is now almost a mantra that poor countries contribute the least to climate change, but are also the most vulnerable to its impacts. It is one thing to hear such statements, but quite another to see such stark, visual representations of what this looks like.

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Top 10 New Green Ideas to Watch in 2010

Kathryn Siranosian | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 33 Comments

As part of their end-of-year Trend Report, JWT recently published “100 Things to Watch in 2010,” an intriguing list of predictions based on the observations of the company’s Trend Scouts stationed throughout the world.

Of these 100 things, one-quarter are decidedly green –a healthy percentage which, according to Ann Mack, Director of Trend Spotting at JWT, indicates that sustainability as a business concept is “here to stay.”

“We didn’t go in looking for a quota of things for any particular category,” Mack explains, adding that the final list of 100 was culled from more than 200 original submissions. “The fact that so many on the list are green shows that the environmental movement is not a flash in the pan. Instead, it has real weight and momentum, and both consumers and retailers realize that. Companies have to get up to speed fast, if they are not already, to make themselves more environmentally-friendly and attractive to the consumer.”

Of the 25 green items on JWT’s list, we whittled it even further, creating this short list (in alphabetical order) of the Top 10 New Green Ideas to Watch in 2010:

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A New Era for Sustainability Begins January 1

Bill Roth | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 3 Comments

Imagine walking into a Walmart to buy a bag of potato chips and seeing not only how two competing bags of chips compare on price but also how they compare in terms of green house gas (GHG) emissions. Then, imagine the ramifications if both bags of chips cost the same, but one bag had twice the GHG emissions clearly identified next to its price! Get ready, this path toward price/emission competitive comparison officially begins on January 1, 2010.

The EPA’s Final Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule took effect on December 29, 2009. As stated by the EPA, “Under the rule, suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions are required to submit annual reports to EPA.” The gases covered include not just CO2 but also methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), perfluorocarbons (PFC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and other fluorinated gases including nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) and hydrofluorinated ethers (HFE). The monitoring period begins January 1, 2010.

It will be interesting to watch how this information will shape consumer buying behavior in the years that follow.

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Cruisin in the Fusion: Does Ford’s Latest Hybrid Earn its Green Cred?

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday December 30th, 2009 | 0 Comments

After six days and more than 400 miles of real-world road testing of the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid, I am happy to report that the car has earned its green cred. It travels more than 600 miles on a single tank of gas and provides instantaneous MPG performance, based on current driving patterns. I took it all across Southern California during the holiday season, from the San Clemente shoreline to the San Bernardino mountains. All without stopping once at a gas station.

As I’ve written elsewhere, what I have found most appealing about the Fusion Hybrid is its unique Eco-Gauge digital dashboard. The display acts as an efficiency driving coach. Driving green is almost a game, as I aimed to maximize the number of digital green leaves I could earn by moderately accelerating and decelerating.

In terms of overall fuel economy, I averaged 36.6 MPG (that is combined city and highway driving). On the highway, I averaged 44.4 MPG (a higher rating than the 41 MPG that the EPA reported). While driving up the mountains, my fuel economy dipped significantly due to the increased power needed to climb 3000 feet of elevation, over 11 miles. On the way down, however, I hardly used the gas pedal at all – just regenerative braking and cruise mode – and I averaged 99.9 MPG. Not bad, eh?

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The Accidental Environmentalist: CNG in Pakistan

CCA LiveE | Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 6 Comments

by Ahmed Riaz

Summer in Lahore, Circa 2005

As my friend, Mohammad, opened up the truck of his car I noticed something rather strange. Inside was large metal canister with a gauge and pipes sticking out. Obviously seeing something that looked like homemade rocket attached to inside of your car was a cause for concern. As it turned out it wasn’t an explosive but something far more subtle at work.

“What’s that?” I asked Mohammad stepping back a little from the car as he started fiddling with the pipes.

“Yaar, it’s CNG. We had kit put in last month!”

During the years I had been away at University learning about art, design and innovation people in Pakistan had been hacking their cars to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Natural Gas, basically Methane, is an alternative to fossil fuels like gasoline and diesel. While not zero emissions, CNG produces significantly less pollutants than petrol. If coupled with electronically controlled stoichiometric engines Natural gas offer the lowest emissions with relation to the highest possible power output.

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4 Factors Shaping the Wind Energy Industry in 2009

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 7 Comments

wind energy economyAfter installing a record 8,600 MW of wind energy capacity in 2008, 2009 will look like a letdown in comparison. Most of the projects that did go online this year were started under a different economic climate, where credit was plentiful. These are some of the factors shaping the industry in 2009:

Electricity Demand Down

Total US electricity consumption declined by 3.5% in 2009, representing the largest drop in the last decade. Electricity use by the industrial sector was down a staggering 12% from January to September of 2009.  Although decreased demand is positive when considering the environmental implications, it does temporarily reduce the interest slightly in increasing green power sources.  This tend is likely to last only as long as the slow economic climate, although increased emphasis on energy efficiency under the Obama administration may help mitigate the trend of electric demand increasing nearly every year.

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Newest Batteries Better for Hybrids than Electrics

| Tuesday December 29th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Doing the math on the newest generation of lithium ion batteries suggests the latest advances in battery technology will benefit hybrid cars more than all-electric ones, one expert predicts.

BMW's ActiveHybrid 7 Luxury Car

Hybridcars has an excellent interview with John German, an expert on hybrid cars who worked for eleven years at Honda before becoming Senior Fellow at the International Council for Clean Transportation.

German says the next generation of lithium batteries won’t help much with electric vehicles’ number one problem: range. That’s because their primary benefit is that they can provide a greater flow of electricity — not necessarily store any more than they already do.

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China Produces More Cars than the U.S.

Shannon Arvizu | Monday December 28th, 2009 | 0 Comments

It’s true: The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Transportation show that China surpassed the U.S. last year in the total number of cars produced. This is a radical shift from 1980, when the U.S. manufactured 56 times more vehicles than China. In 2008, China produced 9.5 million vehicles, while the U.S. produced 8.7 million vehicles.

What has caused this change? As we know, China’s growing middle class has accelerated demand for convenient, personal mobility. We also know vehicle production in the U.S. has stagnated due to the economic downturn. Given current trends, it is reasonable to assume that China will continue to surpass U.S. vehicle production in the near future.

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Creation of An Agency – “As Is”

CCA LiveE | Friday December 25th, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Michael Fox

I am an artist. I was attracted to the DSMBA program at the California College of Arts in my efforts to conceptually frame my artwork as a practice.  The DSMBA program has given me the opportunity to be creative utilizing the core values of innovation that are taught as my approach instead of remaining a manufacturer of goods; or in other words, a “starving artist” hording needless inventory, which represents the fluid, fictitious market value.  In the future people will have to take the reins and become leaders of their own career, instead of waiting for someone else to do it for them.   The DSMBA program aligns with what an artist’s goals should be – ideas and thoughts that are in themselves tangible forms.  The MBA is really the new MFA.[1]

Art schools ought to be platforms for free thinking and creativity without setting boundaries.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  There is potential to engage in education, in which giving away of ideas falls under the egis of a relationship established among an idea, the artist and the community at large.  By focusing on the context of a specific project, rather than pure outcome, the relationships established between the various people involved in it will be stronger and more effective in planning, organization and carrying it out.  The success involved with this kind of perspective should outweigh any risks of failure, and renders the experience worthwhile.

For many years, artists have been trying to restructure the traditional hierarchy between artist/teacher and students.  There has also been a struggle to break away from specialization, as students try to create a more multidisciplinary academic experience.  This is true in art schools, as well.  This was particularly strong four decades ago, resulting in the establishment of groups like, among others, the Artist Placement Group (1966) and the Free Open University (founded by Joseph Beuys in 1971).  The position of the artist is somewhat marginalized, and this is an occasion to take the artist outside of the institution, in order that the boundaries of what would signify visual art can effect change and engage creatively more freely.

In 2010, an agency called “As Is,” is being launched.  “As Is” will be a think-tank of ideas and projects conceived by one individual but will give these ideas away to projects curated by other parties.  The ideas and projects will become commoditized intellectual property that is shared openly and willingly.  The types of projects will vary and not be limited to installations and events only.  They will be designed for site-specific locations.  The concept recalls the notion that home is inside the self, and inside the other, and the potential for multilateral relations with other creative industries is at the heart of the agency.

The name of the agency, “As Is,” is an index, signifying the paradox between the openness of creating a group of talent that work together for the purpose of initiating intercultural dialogue and exchange through art, and the complexity in the actual realization of such an undertaking.

It is all about taking risks and moving forward, and as the art critic Julian Stallabrass rightfully said: “The art world would be a much healthier scene if people would be prepared to stick their necks out.”[2]

[1] Daniel Pink. Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. (Berkeley: Penguin Publishing, 2006)

[2]Richard Marshall, 3am Interview: The Artist as Marxist. 3am Magazine, 2004, Web, 24.10.2009, http://www.3ammagazine.com/artarchives/2004/may/interview_julian_stallabrass.html

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Looptworks – A New Way to Think About Sustainable Clothing

| Friday December 25th, 2009 | 4 Comments


Take a look at the tag of the clothes you just got for Christmas. Where were they made? Most likely, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China or Peru. And? And with clothing manufacturing comes the scraps. The overage of a particular color fabric or button. The average factory produces 60,000 pounds of excess material each month–much of it thrown away.

But you’re not responsible for that, right? There’s not much you can really do, yes? If Looptworks has its way, that will begin to change. The startup makes clothing that upcycles this material into new clothing. In some cases, particularly the men’s clothing, you would never know the clothing wasn’t made from first run material. So much so that I had my doubts as to whether the clothing was indeed made from waste material, until I delved further into the source – the excess from manufacturers in the countries mentioned above.

I think this is a smart way to go, at least for the men’s line, so it will be more easily accepted, more broadly appealing, and wearable in a greater number of settings, making for a quicker mainstreaming of the idea that wearing clothes made from “waste” can be an everyday activity.

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