Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eco Cyber Monday

The term "Cyber Monday" refers to the Monday immediately following Black Friday and marks the beginning of the online holiday shopping season when retailers offer bargains through online purchasing portals. The National Retail Federation (NRF) reports Cyber Monday spikes online sales.

Cyber Monday was invented by Shop.org, part of the US trade association NRF. It was first used during the 2005 holiday season. According to Scott Silverman, the head of Shop.org, the term was coined based on research showing that 77% of online retailers reported a significant increase in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004.

Cyber Monday has evolved into a significant marketing event. According to ComScore Networks, in 2005 the online spending on Cyber Monday was $486 million, a 26 percent increase from a year earlier. Total visits to shopping sites increased by 35 percent compared to a year earlier, according to Akamai Technologies. Comscore reported Cyber Monday sales of US 610 Million in 2006 and US 730 Million in 2007.

The Monitor's Mark Guarino reported that "between 2005 and 2008, Cyber Monday sales increased 74 percent, beating the 60 percent revenue increase for other days that have been online sales record-holders for the holiday season,” The NRF reported that 87 percent of retailers will have special Cyber Monday promotions this year, such as free shipping or one-day sales, up from 84 percent last year and 72 percent in 2007.

Rather than drive to stores and contend with crowds, on Cyber Monday many bargain shoppers will sit in front of their computers and search for deals from online retailers. On Cyber Monday, retailers are expecting a big increase in Internet purchasing.

Between now and the end of the year, the NRF expects that holiday sales will have dropped for the second year in a row, one percent this year and 3.4 percent in 2008. While traditional holiday shopping has declined for a second year in a row, Cyber Monday has been gaining momentum.

While some Americans may have been observing the anti-consumerist event known as “Buy Nothing Day”, there is a clear trend towards increased online purchasing and a growing subset of these consumers are interested in greener product offerings.

At RetailMeNot.com, they offer over 200,000 coupons for more than 40,000 stores. Here are a few of the bargains being offered by green retailers on Cyber Monday. GAIAM is offering 20% off selected items, with coupon code “AFCMGIFT, NIMLI is providing $1 silk scarves and 25% off any order with coupon code “CYBERMONDAY09.” TINY ARTICHOKE is giving 35% off all orders with coupon code “greencyber.”

Several sites are catering to Cyber Monday bargain hunters. These sites include cybermonday.net, cybermonday.fm, and cybermonday.com. These three sites offer standard items like computers and GPS devices from well known big boxes but only cybermonday.com offers a wide range of searchable environmental goods. Their products include:

65490 environmental products
27246 eco-friendly products
31157 eco products
21791 sustainable products
3766 ecology products

New buying behaviors are emerging alongside new product offerings. “The customer this year is very researched and very methodical,” said James Fielding, president of Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Stores. “I don’t think there’s a lot of impulse shopping going on. People are just being realistic about their personal situation and the economy.”

This new realism includes an awareness of the forces imperiling our planet as well as concerns about the veracity of green claims. The Internet has changed the way Americans shop and the online retail experience is increasingly offering an array of more ecologically sensitive products.
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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Obama Buoys Hopes for a Climate Change Deal

President Obama will attend COP15 in Copenhagen where he will promise the most ambitious targets America has ever proposed to reduce climate change causing greenhouse gases.

The White House has announced 17 percent emissions reductions below 2005 levels by 2020, 30 percent by 2025, 42 percent five years later and 83 percent by 2050.

The lack of progress at final negotiations in Barcelona, lowered expectations for COP15, however the White House's announcements have buoyed hopes for a deal in Copenhagen.

The proposed 17 percent US emissions reductions by 2020 is consistent with a climate bill that passed in the House in June and is pending in the Senate. However, it is far below what many climate scientists and political leaders agree is needed from the US to avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change.

Developing nations have also indicated their willingness to engage domestic targets. As prime minister Manmohan Singh said in Washington after talks with the President on November 24, "Both President Obama and I have agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology."

In fact, White House officials said that the President's discussions with the leaders of India and China inspired the US announcements. The President is reportedly optimistic that his presence in Copenhagen could seal a meaningful deal even if it is not legally binding.

Reciprocal cycles of pressure are being exerted on the US and the developing world to get into line with efforts underway in Europe and Japan. The White House's announcement returns the onus to a world that was waiting for US action on climate change before taking steps of their own. Carol Browner, Obama's assistant for energy and climate, said the administration hopes the announcements will lead other nations "to put forth ambitious actions of their own."

Obama will address negotiators December 9, shortly after the opening of the two-week summit. half a dozen other Cabinet-level officials, including interior secretary Ken Salazar and energy secretary Steven Chu, also will attend the talks. Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, called Obama's attendance and US reduction targets "critical" to the talks. "The stakes are too high for any country to be focusing on national agendas... There is no Plan B for failure at Copenhagen only Plan A, and A stands for action," De Boer said at a press conference,

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA), the main author of the climate bill the House passed in June, welcomed the White House announcements, saying, "U.S.leadership has been the missing piece in international efforts to stop global warming. Now the rest of the pieces will start falling into place internationally and in Congress."

India and China are showing signs of cooperation ahead of Copenhagen, but President Obama's announcements breathe new life into hopes for a global agreement on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Danish Optimism Ahead of COP15

The following essay was written by the Danish Ambassador to the United States, Friis Arne Petersen. He was responding to news that global leaders would not reach a climate deal at climate change meetings in Copenhagen.

Ambassador Petersen has had a distinguished and outstanding career in the Danish Foreign Service, serving on the staff of two Danish Foreign Ministers and holding various senior positions as Permanent Secretary of State and Undersecretary.
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After the A.P.E.C. summit last weekend in Singapore there has been much writing in the American media, including in The New York Times on November 14, that the climate deal will be delayed and that the upcoming U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen — COP15 — will “punt the most difficult issues into the future.”

With the deadline fast approaching, everybody asks whether it is realistic that we can reach an agreement in Copenhagen. My answer is: Yes we can reach a strong, comprehensive and global agreement next month.

And let me reassure you: the Danish government’s goals for COP15 carry the same high level of ambition in terms of substance of the agreement to be reached in Copenhagen. The overall aim of the Copenhagen Agreement will be to conclude a binding agreement that will set the path to limit global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius, as recommended by science.
The Danish Prime Minister, Lars L√łkke Rasmussen, has put forward the idea of a Copenhagen Agreement that would serve the dual purpose of providing for continued negotiations on a legal agreement and for immediate action.

The Copenhagen agreement shall cover all the key issues and all parts of the Bali mandates. It will be of political nature, but will contain precise language of a comprehensive political agreement covering all key issues: Commitment of developed countries to emission reductions and of developing countries to actions. Strong provisions on adaptation, finance and technology, including upfront finance for early action.

In addition, there will be underlying annexes outlining the specific commitments of individual countries. We want numbers on the table in the agreement in Copenhagen. These will be negotiated and they will be subject to a transparent system of measurement, reporting and verification. We cannot settle on a partial agreement in Copenhagen and postpone the rest till later, because many of the issues are intertwined and interdependent.

At the summit in Singapore there was widespread support for this high level of ambition from the heads of state and government from the members of the Asia-Pacific Partnership. In the President Obama and President Hu’s joint press statement on November 17, President Obama confirmed that “Our aim there [Copenhagen], in support of what Prime Minister Rasmussen of Denmark is trying to achieve, is not a partial accord or a political declaration, but rather an accord that covers all of the issues in the negotiations, and one that has immediate operational effect.”

This support from the highest level reflects the common view that we need to act urgently towards curbing global climate change. If we miss the Copenhagen deadline we fail to take advantage of the political momentum built up over the last couple of years and risk protracted open-ended negotiations in the years to come.

As a growing consensus has emerged that we will not be able to reach a legally binding and ratifiable agreement in Copenhagen, the Danish Government as host of COP15 has suggested we focus on the political momentum present now and not let form overshadow substance. We want to provide the political breakthroughs on all the substantively most difficult issues and thereby pave the way for a legal instrument next year. In fact, the Copenhagen Agreement should set a strict deadline for the conclusion of the negotiations on a legal instrument.

Earlier this month the Danish Prime Minister invited heads of state and government to attend COP15 to conclude the negotiations. More than 40 prime ministers and presidents have already announced that they will attend the Climate Conference, including Prime Minister Brown of the UK, President Lula of Brazil, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Rud from Australia, President Sarkozy of France, President Youdhoyono of Indonesia, President Calderon of Mexico and many others.

This unparalleled engagement of the world’s heads of state and government at the Copenhagen Climate Conference makes it clear that the aim for COP15 is ambitious and comprehensive. The heads of state and government turn up in Copenhagen because they want to seal the deal.

– Friis Arne Petersen
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Monday, November 23, 2009

Post COP15

The upcoming UN meeting in Copenhagen is the fifteenth meeting on climate change but it is not the last. The US Senate's inability to pass climate change legislation before international negotiations begin at COP15 is not the end of the process.

The Senate's inaction may be profoundly dissapointing, however, at COP15 in December the world can still reach an agreement on the architecture of a binding global treaty. The remaining details can be worked out later.

The process will be extended after COP15, as it was in July of 2001 prior to the signing of the Kyoto protocol. The Kyoto Accord required ongoing multilateral and bilateral negotiations after the sixth UNFCCC meeting.

The logic driving an international agreement on climate change mitigation is irrefutable. Whether in December of 2009, or as is now more likely, some time in 2010, negotiators will convene to find a binding deal that commits all nations to greenhouse gas reductions.

Political action in the US is crucial but we are rapidly running out of time. However, there is some progress being made in America. The Obama administration is working towards serious emissions reductions and despite a boycott by Republican senators, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the US climate change bill by a vote of 10-1. The passage of climate change legislation in the full senate can still pave the way to a post Kyoto deal in 2010.

COP15 is but the latest climate convention on a long and winding road. The process of structuring an international climate change agreement will continue.
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Cost of a Global Deal on Climate Change

As we ease out of a serious recession it is becoming apparent that if we are to afford the costs of managing climate change the global economy must grow. The estimates of the cost of a global deal on climate change varies from less than $200 billion a year to over half a trillion dollars.

In September the WWF called on G20 finance ministers to commit to providing $160 billion per year to help the world's developing nations to adapt to climate change and work towards a low carbon economy. These funds are in addition to both Overseas Development Assistance and carbon market finance. The 2009 Davos Forum forecast that world needs will average $515 billion a year through 2010-2020.

The debt and finance sector crisis of 2007-2008 led to the most massive government spending in human history. The cost of the banking and financial meltdown was approximately 4 trillion dollars or roughly 10 percent of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) GNP.

The plans put forth to combat climate change at COP15 will increase short-term spending, and borrowing requirements. By some estimates, climate change mitigation and energy transition spending by the OECD group between 2010 and 2020, could attain a cumulative total of $4 to $6 trillion. Already struggling with unnprecedented levels of deficit spending, governments around the world are understandably concerned about incurring more debt.

Although it is expected that wealthier nations will pay the lion's share of this amount, there is considerable disagreement about where this money will come from and this is one of the key issues impeding progress ahead of COP15. As the world strives to develop a formula to pay for global climate change mitigation, finance ministers acknowledge that only economic growth will enable them to address mounting government deficits.

Electric vehicles, renewable energy, smart grid, agriculture and transport will all require heavy spending. Over half of total climate change mitigation money will go to the energy and transport sectors. Energy alone may cost as much as $300 billion in a couple of years. To put this into perspective the global oil and gas industry spent approximately $400 billion in 2007.

Despite legitimate concerns about deficits, energy inflation and energy price volatility, G20 leaders continue to indicate their willingness to accelerate the shift to a low carbon economy. World leaders acknowledge that managing climate change is not a choice it is an imperative.

The Obama Administration is trying to come up with a reliable economic estimate of the cost of unchecked climate change, but quantifying inaction is difficult. How do you quantify harm to future generations or catastrophic risk?

According to a report entitled, "Climate Change in the United States: The Prohibitive Costs of Inaction," Unchecked climate change could cost taxpayers, businesses and governments hundreds of billions of dollars in damages accross the US. The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the costs of a binding agreement on climate change.

For years before the banking and financial crisis, the cost of managing climate change was considered too high. However the cost of doing nothing threatens not only our economic system but our very survival.

Cost is not a valid excuse for resisting efforts to manage climate change but the astronomical costs of unchecked climate change are an impetus to act.

There will be major challenges in finance and resources, but managing climate change demands long-term government involvement in the economy. Contrary to the conservative views of those mired in old paradigms, this is not a socialist call to arms. We are tasked to marshall all the capitalistic creativity we can muster because this level of public spending can only be sustained by significant economic growth.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Obama's Achievements Ahead of COP15

Despite the Senate's resistance to climate change legislation, the Obama administration has made considerable progress on the environmental front.

Unlike his predecessor, President Obama heeds the dire warnings of federal climate scientists. Accordingly, he is using his arsenal of executive powers to set policy and advance important environmental initiatives.

Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward on regulations that would limit emissions from large polluters.

The EPA and the Department of Transportation have proposed new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in the US starting in 2011. Between 2011-2016 these standards will reduce oil consumption by 2 billion barrels of oil and remove one billion tons of carbon that otherwise would have been released into the atmosphere.

Recently the President issued a comprehensive executive order that directs federal agencies to establish absolute goals for carbon-cuts, to reduce fossil fuel consumption in federal vehicles by 30 percent, to implement a net-zero-energy requirement for federal buildings and to add sustainability requirements to federal contracts.

In September, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar created a Climate Change Response Council to coordinate the department's actions on global warming and move toward substantial renewable energy production on public lands.

At the the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, President Obama proposed eliminating fossil energy subsidies totaling about 300 billion annually. The administration also asked Congress to revoke domestic tax breaks for fossil energy industries.

The administration is seeking bilateral climate agreements with other key nations, In July, the administration signed a memorandum of understanding with China on energy, climate and environmental cooperation.

Perhaps most importantly, the economic stimulus bill provides tens of billions of dollars for clean energy technologies including electric vehicles, efficiency and renewable energy.

Through policy, executive orders, departmental regulations and international diplomacy, the Obama administration has demonstrated a firm committment to managing climate change. Despite the considerable efforts of the Obama administration, the failure to pass climate change legislation in the US precludes a binding international agreement in Copenhagen.

There will be no binding international agreement at COP15 this December because some US senators are putting partisan economic interests ahead of global threats.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cop Out for COP15

Late in October British Environment Minister Ed Miliband said "The truth is if this is left to the negotiators ... I think we'll fail," In Singapore last weekend world leaders confirmed Miliband's prophetic sentiment with a statement that indicated there will be no agreement on climate change ahead of December's climate change talks in Copenhagen.

Despite the international pressure being exerted on the US, the fate of climate change legislation remains uncertain.

Agreement must be reached on funding to help poorer nations adapt to changes in the earth's climate, they also need funds and technologies to develop their economies while minimizing their environmental impact.

Several hundred billion dollars will be needed every year, but as yet there is no acceptable formula for raising, administering and distributing the funds.

"The rich countries of the Major Economies Forum must urgently put new money on the table to ensure the developing world can grow cleanly and adapt to the effects of climate change, which are already putting millions of lives at risk," said Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth.

Rapidly developing nations like India, China, Brazil and Mexico have agreed to draw up national strategies for slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but resist binding limits. Industrial countries agree to reduce their own emissions, but not to the levels scientists say are required to avert climate catastrophes.

Thanks in large measure to reluctant legislators in the US Senate, recent months have offered little progress towards a legally binding deal on climate change. Sadly, the most we can hope for in Copenhagen is a politically binding deal and months of legal wrangling.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

Beneficiaries of Chinese Government Investment in Electric Vehicles

Already a leader in lithium ion batteries, China plans to continue investing in "new-energy vehicles." China lays claim to the world’s largest reserve of rare earth and second largest reserve of lithium. Both are indispensible raw materials for producing electric vehicles (EVs). The government is urging joint action in the Chinese automotive industry to reduce costs and risks.

Wan Gang, the Chinese minister of technology, said, "Sustainable development of the auto industry is the common goal of all the country’s auto manufacturers and the auto market. The government will work out stricter emission controls and fuel consumption standards to advocate environmentally-friendly vehicle technologies and make sure that the emission control and fuel consumption efficiency of the country’s vehicles will be among the best in the world by 2020."

More than 30 Chinese automakers have invested in research and development of cars fuelled by alternative energy or electricity. The Chinese government is urging China's domestic carmakers to work together to get hybrids and electric vehicles on the market more quickly. Dong Yang, secretary general of the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, said that state-owned carmakers have agreed to work collectively on the industrialization of hybrid and EVs.

"The cooperation could involve the establishment of industrial standard(s) for electric cars as well as joint investment and production," Dong told reporters. Here are some of the Chinese car makers that will benefit from government investment and lead the Chinese automotive industry.

In July, China's largest automaker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Group (SAIC), announced plans to invest 12 billion yuan in research and development of hybrid engines. SAIC plans to begin manufacturing its own brand of fuel-saving cars in 2010, the company said. Altogether, the company will invest in 41 major projects, including hybrid and electric cars.

Dongfeng Motor Group, China's third-largest automotive company, will cooperate with the Dutch electric car startup Detroit Electric to research, develop and sell EVs in China.

Chongqing Chang'an Automobile Group recently announced that it is creating a new manufacturing base with an investment of 2.5 billion yuan for alternative energy vehicles. The new manufacturing base will help Chang'an Motors produce 300,000 alternative energy cars and 1 million engines per year after manufacturing begins in 2012, according to the company.

Privately owned companies are also investing in new energy programs. Geely, a Zhejiang-based company, plans to develop five hybrid sedan models. Geely's goal is to sell 10,000 hybrid cars by 2010. Geely announced plans to release its first electric car, the Geely Panda, within the next year. Privately owned battery and automobile maker, BYD Co, has established an EV manufacturing base with a capacity of 400,000 units in Changsha, Hunan province. BYD has nine new-energy models that will begin domestic production, including the F3 dual-mode (DM) electric car. BYD is backed by billionaire Warren Buffett and recently acquired bus maker Hunan Midea Coach.

Regional governments are also working to support the proliferation of new energy vehicles in China. The Beijing municipal government recently announced plans to have 10,000 alternative energy vehicles produced and sold by Beijing Automotive Industry Corporation (BAIC) in 2010.

However, some government and industry officials have recently warned against the possibility of an overheated market. The chief of the industry policy department, Xin Guobin, recently said that the rush to produce green cars has raised the risk of redundant projects and potential overcapacity.

There are questions as to whether there is adequate demand from Chinese consumers. BYD's F3DM, the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid to hit the international market last December, has reported stagnant sales due to recharging problems. Even Toyota's top selling Prius sold only 899 units in China last year.

Consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers recently added to these concerns with a report that cited higher prices as a reason for lower acceptance in the marketplace.
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Chinese Government Investment in Electric Vehicles

With tens of millions of electric bicycles and scooters already on its streets, China is well on its way to wide acceptance of electric vehicles (EVs). The Chinese government must consider strategies for managing its burgeoning fossil fuel consumption. China is already the second largest importer of oil in the world and unless they are able to curb their appetite, they will face supply shortages that could seriously harm their economy.

The adoption of EVs is a strategic decision for governments around the world. Japan plans to invest $200 million dollars annually into developing batteries for EVs in the next five years and France will invest 400 million euros over the next fours years into research on hybrid power and EVs. The US, French and Japanese governments are already offering about 7,500 dollars to consumers who buy zero-emission cars. The Chinese Central Government now provides the equivalent of a US$9,000 tax credit for the purchase of an pure electric car; and US$7,500 for a hybrid.

The city of Beijing has set a goal of producing half a million hybrid and plug-in vehicles annually starting in 2012. Shanghai expects to have a capacity of 10,000 green vehicles in 2010, 100,000 in 2012 and 300,000 by 2015. Guangzhou plans to produce 800,000 green vehicles by 2020. Altogether, the goals of automakers and cities would well exceed China's target of 1 million green cars by 2012.

Already China is the largest EV manufacturer in the world with a vehicle output expected to surpass 10 million units this year. With Chinese government's ambitious targets, this number is destined to grow. "The fuel-efficient and new energy vehicles should account for 10 percent of the total industry in 2012," Science and Technology Minister Wang Gang said recently in Beijing.

In a video from "The Business Of Plugging In 2009" conference, Yibing Wu, the the Managing Director of Beijing-based Legend Holdings, reviews why the Chinese government is well situated to advance the adoption of EVs.

Reducing dependence on oil and cutting its carbon foot print are part of China's national strategy. With 40-55% of pollution in China coming from its transportation sector developing electric powered alternatives makes a lot of sense. EVs represent an opportunity for China to leap frog past the internal combustion engine the same way it was able to skip the massive investment in hardwired phones through the introduction of cell phone technology. China's largest cities and have short commute distances which are ideal for adoption of plug-in cars. The Chinese government also has monopoly control of the national power grid.

Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn said, "The Chinese government is conscious of the fact that in order to promote electric cars they have to give something to the consumer, because there's no way electric cars are going to become mass marketed products unless you give something to the consumer."

Chen Qingtai, a researcher for China's State Council Development Research Centre, said electric car development should be a priority for China. "For the electric car industry...we don't have economies of scale," Chen said. "If we increase the size of production, then the cost per unit will drop tremendously."

The adoption of EVs will serve the objective of reducing China's reliance on fossil fuels. However, Chen Bin, director of the commission's Department of Industry acknowledges that, "Many [Chinese] companies simply do not have the research and development capabilities." Some that cannot master core technologies have to outsource key components for assembly, he added. This provided the West with an opportunity to profit from the spread of EV technology into the world's largest market.
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beneficiaries of US Government Investment in Electric Vehicles

The Obama administration seeks to establish American leadership in advanced electric vehicles (EVs). The recovery act provides for $2.4 billion in EV grants for 48 projects. These projects were selected based on their ability to accelerate the manufacturing and deployment of EVs, batteries, and components in America. Grants were awarded at the end of a highly competitive process developed by the Department of Energy

Johnson Controls will receive a total of approximately $301 million to establish a manufacturing base for advanced batteries. Compact Power and Dow Kokam, will receive a total of over $300 million for manufacturing battery cells and materials. A123, a maker of automotive battery systems, was awarded $249 million in federal stimulus grants to build a prismatic battery.

Large automakers including GM, Chrysler, and Ford, will receive a total of more than $400 million to manufacture thousands of advanced hybrid and EVs as well as batteries and electric drive components. A $30 million grant will go to Ford Motor Company supporting the manufacturing of plug-in hybrid EVs in Kansas City and in Michigan; a $73 million grant to Chrysler for the manufacturing of 220 plug-in hybrid and electric pickup trucks and minivans in St. Louis and in Michigan.

Celgard, in Charlotte, North Carolina, will receive a $49 million grant to expand its separator production capacity. Saft America in St. Petersburg, Florida, will receive a $95.5 million grant to construct a plant that manufactures lithium-ion cells, modules and battery packs for military, industrial, and agricultural vehicles.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) received a $45.4-million grant to develop plug-in hybrid electric power systems for 378 demonstration trucks and shuttle buses. The program will deploy plug-in hybrid electric commercial vehicles in over 50 utility and municipal fleets nationwide. AQMD is proposing to develop a fully integrated, production plug-in hybrid EV system for medium-duty utility and delivery trucks and shuttle buses. Navistar will receive a $39 million grant to manufacture electric trucks. Smith Electric will receive a $10 million grant to build and deploy up to 100 electric vehicles, including their “Newton” brand medium duty trucks.

East Penn Manufacturing Co., in Lyon Station, Pennsylvania, was awarded a $32.5 million grant to increase production capacity for their valve regulated lead-acid batteries and the UltraBattery, a lead-acid battery combined with a carbon supercapacitor, for micro and mild hybrid applications.

Due to the absence of EV degree programs in the US, new educational programs are being funded designed to create the next-generation of EV technicians and engineers. The University of Michigan, Wayne State University in Detroit, and Michigan Technological University in Houghton, will receive a total of more than $10 million for education and workforce training programs. These institutions will develop programs to train researchers, technicians, and service providers, and to conduct consumer research to accelerate the transition towards advanced vehicles and batteries. A $5 million grant will go to Missouri University of Science and Technology, to fund educational and workforce training programs on advanced vehicles technologies.

Other federal measures include corporate tax incentives for American fleet owners that offer savings ranging from $7,500 to $15,000 per low or zero emission vehicle.

The companies and institutions receiving government support are benefiting, but we are all beneficiaries of efforts to reduce vehicular emissions.
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Friday, November 13, 2009

Government Investment Fuels Greener Vehicles

The transition to advanced electric transportation systems is already underway. State capitals around the world are racing to ramp up domestic electric vehicle (EV) research and production.

To help with its goal of putting 300,000 EVs on French roads for 2012, the government of France is assuming a central role in Renault's zero-emission strategy. A letter of intent was signed between Nissan, the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and France’s Strategic Investment Fund (FSI) to set up a French joint venture focused on EV battery advanced research, industrialisation and recycling.

The Dutch Cabinet recently announced that it has earmarked 65 million euros to stimulate the development of electric transport. Prof. Cees de Bont, chairman of D-INCERT (Dutch Innovation Centre for the Electrification of Road Transport) and Dean of the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering said, "It is encouraging that the government wants to take on the role of launching customer."

President Obama said, "If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future." Vice President Biden, added, "For our nation and our economy to recover, we must have a vision for what can be built here in the future—and then we need to invest in that vision. That’s what we’re doing today and that’s what this Recovery Act is about."

The US President has indicated that he would like to see one million plug-in hybrid electric vehicles on the road by 2015. The billions of dollars of federal money being invested in EV research and production demonstrates that the Obama administration is serious about reducing vehicular emissions.

The Recovery Act represents the largest ever investment in EV battery technology and manufacturing. The Obama administration is investing $2.4 billion in EVs and recipients of the grants have agreed to match federal money for a total investment approaching $5 billion.

President Obama announced 48 new advanced battery and electric drive projects that will receive funding. The new awards include $1.5 billion in grants to US based manufacturers to produce batteries and their components and to expand battery recycling capacity. $500 million in grants to US based manufacturers for the construction of electric drive components for vehicles. $400 million in grants to purchase and test plug-in hybrids and EVs, as well as funding for the installation of electric charging infrastructure and workforce training.

These projects were selected through a highly competitive process developed by the Department of Energy. These investments are intended to accelerate the manufacturing and deployment of electric vehicles, batteries, and components in America and to establish American leadership in creating the next generation of advanced vehicles.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu reviewed the value of government investment with these words, "These are incredibly effective investments that will come back to us many times over—by creating jobs, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, cleaning up the air we breathe, and combating climate change. They will help achieve the president’s goal of putting one million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015. And, most importantly, they will launch an advanced battery industry in America and make our auto industry cleaner and more competitive."

Government money can rapidly accelerate the adoption of low and zero emission vehicles. Under the federally sponsored US Cash for Clunkers program, 700,000 gas guzzlers were traded in to buy new fuel-efficient vehicles for a total of $2,877 million worth of rebates. The average fuel economy of the vehicles traded in was 15.8 miles per gallon and the average fuel economy of vehicles purchased is 24.9 mpg. This means the program improved America's fuel economy by 58%. These results led US Transportation Secretary LaHood to declare the program “wildly successful. This is a win for the economy, a win for the environment and a win for American consumers.”

Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Better Place proclaimed, “For nearly a century, the automotive industry has been inextricably tied to oil. Today, we’re demonstrating a new path forward where the future of transportation and energy is driven by our desire for a clean planet and a robust economic recovery fuelled by investments in clean technology, and one in which the well-being of the automotive industry is intrinsically coupled with the well-being of the environment.”

However, government involvement is crucial if we are to radically reduce vehicle emissions in the shortest possible time frames. “The government is feeding the whole food chain for electric vehicles,” said Theodore O’Neill, an analyst at Kaufman Brothers in New York.

Nissan is staking its future on full electric cars, but Nissan executives also stressed that government support is necessary to launch its production EV, the Leaf, which it aims to sell world-wide in 2012. "We are asking governments to cover [the investment] up to the point when we can reach volume momentum—this will take several years," said Carlos Tavares, who heads Nissan's Americas operations.

The participation of government is essential if we are to replace the world's current estimated car and light road vehicle fleet of close to 900 million units with EVs. Nissan's CEO Carlos Ghosn summarized the future of EVs, saying: "it's going to depend not so much on the technology but on how willing governments are to push this technology."

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Next: Beneficiaries of US Government Investment in Electric Vehicles

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

GM's Greener Vehicles

GM was once comprised of America ’s best-known and best-selling automotive brands. Now GM is banking its future on Chevrolet's Volt. The Volt was originally unveiled as a concept car at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Volt is a revolutionary product that is scheduled to start production in late 2010.

The Volt is a mid-sized car with a very aerodynamic front end and high rear decklid. Other futuristic design elements include LED fog lights, black expanse beneath the windows and Volt badging attached to the sideview mirrors.

Litium-ion batteries are key to GM's strategy for building the Volt. The company will be the first to establish a lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing facility in the US, operated by a major automaker.

The Volt can travel up to 40 miles (60km) powered only by electricity stored in its 16-kWh, lithium-ion battery. The gasoline/E85-powered engine generator provides electricity to power the Volt's electric drive unit and this radically extends its overall range.

According to US Department of Transportation data, nearly 8 of 10 Americans commute fewer than 40 miles a day. At the US average cost of electricity (approximately 11 cents per kWh), a typical Volt driver would pay about $2.75 for electricity to travel 100 miles, or less than 3 cents per mile.

“From the data we’ve seen, many Chevy Volt drivers may be able to be in pure electric mode on a daily basis without having to use any gas,” said GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson. “EPA labels are a yardstick for customers to compare the fuel efficiency of vehicles. So, a vehicle like the Volt that achieves a composite triple-digit fuel economy is a game-changer.”

The Chevrolet Volt uses grid electricity as its primary source of energy to propel the car. There are two modes of operation: Electric and Extended-Range. In electric mode, the Volt will not use gasoline or produce emissions.

When the battery reaches a minimum state of charge, the Volt automatically switches to Extended-Range mode. In this secondary mode of operation, an engine-generator produces electricity to power the vehicle. The energy stored in the battery supplements the engine-generator when additional power is needed during heavy accelerations or on steep inclines.

The Volt is expected to cost more than $40 000, almost twice the price of the 2010 Toyota Prius which starts at $22,750. In the purely electric mode, the Prius has a 90km radius on a single charge compared to the Volt's 60km range. However, in hybrid mode the Volt offers more than four times the efficiency of the industry leading Prius. The Volt can achieve city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon (mpg) compared to Prius' rating of 51 mpg.

“The 230 city mpg number is a great indication of the capabilities of the Volt’s electric propulsion system and its ability to displace gasoline,” said Frank Weber, global vehicle line executive for the Volt.

Over the course of 2009 GM has consistently been on top of American auto sales. GM posted its first year over year monthly sales gain in 21 months, selling 177,603 vehicles last month, up 5.3 percent from October 2008.

Chevrolet is making a valiant attempt to stake a claim in the green automotive market. The flagship Volt will be the first mass produced vehicle to claim more than 100 mpg composite fuel economy. GM's current fleet of hybrids includes four models from Chevrolet (Silverado, Malibu, Tahoe, Sierra), Cadillac Escalade, GMC Yukon and the late Saturn's Vue and Aura.

With the help of the Volt, GM is seeking to reinvent itself and become one of the fastest growing brands in the world. Although the Volt has an extraordinary range, the most important test will come in the marketplace. Will customers see value or will the price prove prohibitive?
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NEXT: Government Investment in Greener Vehicles / Electric Vehicle Beneficiaries of US Government Investment

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Ford's Greener Vehicles
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