The Footloose by Mando is doubtless going to make you want to test ride it. Asserting that it is the world’s first chainless hybrid electric folding bike, Korean auto suppliers Mando Corp and Meister Inc have collaborated to bring us this beautiful design.
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Designboom states it can go up to 18.6 miles with the motor alone, and farther with pedaling by the rider.
“By directly transforming electricity via an alternator connected to the crank, power is generated directly from the user. The energy stored in a lithium-ion battery, which is then used to actuate the engine. Using an electronic control unit (ECU), the ‘footloose’ works with sensors and an automatic gear changer to monitor terrain and adjust the motor’s output as necessary. It monitors the system for problems, which it displays via a handlebar-mounted human machine interface (HMI).”
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It will apparently be available in the European markets starting 2013. Here is a video illustrating the bike a bit more:
COMMENTARY: This is a paradigm change in the e-bike world for sure. It is a clean and simple design. It removes all of the typical bicycle drivetrain components: the chain, chainrings, cogs, derailleurs, and shifters. This also removes the dirty, greasy chain!
Of course it adds the alternator and some other electronic components but overall it appears to be a system with less components. As long as it proves to be reliable, the series hybrid system could be a great e-bike drive system for the future.
The Footloose was developed in a partnership project of Mando Corp. and Meister Inc. (automotive suppliers in South Korea). British designer Mark Sanders and Dutch e-bike expert Han Goes were very involved in the design.
Footloose Design By Mark Sanders
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Footloose Advanced Technology
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Footloose Color Options
Mando Footloose in white and black colors (Click Images To Enlarge)
Mando Footloose in grey and light blue colors (Click Images To Enlarge)
Courtesy of an article dated November 26, 2012 appearing in FeedBox
Tesla Motors CEO and founder Elon Musk (left) and Hollywood star Cameron Diaz (right) are rumored to be romantically linked (Click Image To Enlarge)
Billionaire entrepreneur, Elon Musk denied rumors that he is dating Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz during a recent interview with CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.
Musk who heads Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX), SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) and Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) said,
“I don’t know where people got that from.”
Elon Musk Became Acquainted When Diaz Bought A Car
The New York Post first reported that Diaz bought one of the electric sports cars from Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) earlier this year, and Musk became acquainted with the actress.
According to the report, Musk became close to Diaz and he had been increasingly traveling from Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto, California to Los Angeles. Musk travels regularly & arrives unexpectedly at the company’s office in LA. Sources told the New York Post that Musk was “visiting Cameron.”
Tesla Motors Model S all-electric sedan (Click Image To Enlarge)
The report said the Diaz is a big fan of Musk. She bought a Tesla Model S EV, an energy-friendly electric sedan with a top speed of 130 mph
Meanwhile, during the interview with Squawk on the Street, Musk said that the lowered-priced sedan from Tesla Motors, Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) will be available in the market over the next three to five years. According to him, the car will be as good as the BMW3 series or the Audi A4, and it is smaller than the Tesla Model S, and half of its price. Musk previously stated that the company’s low priced entry-level car will compete with Nissan Leaf.
Tesla Motors Model S all-electric sedan (Click Image To Enlarge)
During the interview, Musk also revealed the Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) engaged in preliminary discussions with Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) regarding the self-driving car technology, which will be integrated in Tesla vehicles. He also said that the company is improving the recharging time for its vehicles.
In addition, Musk also said that a hyperloop will be cheaper mile by mile than high speed rail. Musk stated.
”Isn’t there something much better than could be done? I think it could be done for about one-tenth of the cost for the high speed rail scheduled for California.”
He plans to discuss his hyperloop idea on June 20.
The shares of Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) and SolarCity Corp (NASDAQ:SCTY) have been performing well. Musk is the largest shareholder of Tesla and his wealth increased by $2.9 billion. Data from Bloomberg showed that his net worth doubled to around $4.8 billion this year.
Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ.TSLA) Share Prices - YTD January 8, 2013 through May 31, 2013 - Google Finance (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: Elon Musk is not only an entrepreneurial genius, but a notorious "poon-hunter," and what better way to attract sexy, beautiful dames, but with a Tesla Motors all-electric vehicle. Having said this, if the rumors linking these two are true, I wonder whether Tesla Motors Inc stock will go up or down on the news. LOL Shares have exploded during the month of May 2013 from $53.28 on May 1, 2013 to a high of $110.334 on May 28, 2013. Shares have come down a bit since then and ended the month of May at $97.76. According to Wall Street analysts, the explosive increase in Tesla Motors' share prices is driven mostly by investor hype and higher than normal ZEV tax credits on each vehicle sold. These ZEV tax credits have pushed Tesla's margins to 17% from a previous 8%. Adjusting out these ZEV tax credits, the actual margins should be around 5%. Already several analysts have cautioned investors of a potential bubble. I definitely agree.
Courtesy of an article dated May 31, 2013 appearing ValueWalk
Consumer Reports, self-promoted as the largest independent consumer-testing organization in the world, recently subjected Tesla's all-electric vehicle to its standard gamut of automotive tests. The results were nothing short of extraordinary, as the model came just one point short of acing the 50-test evaluation regimen. Its final score of 99 out of 100 meant the Model S "performed better than any other car we've ever tested," said Jake Fisher, director of auto testing at the publication (Lexus owners will correctly argue that the 2007 Lexus LS 460L also earned a score of 99 in a Consumer Reports comparison years ago).
When the Consumer Reports results were released with the expected publicity and hype, many looked at the near-perfect score and extrapolated that the car was the best car ever made. The Tesla Model S is an extraordinary clean-sheet effort from a small American automaker, but I'd stop several yards short of considering it — or any automobile, for that matter — the world's best car.
Without question, Tesla's combustion-free five-door is innovative and awe-inspiring. I understand how the team at Consumer Reports became enamored with its effortless acceleration; cavernous, whisper-quiet interior; and glass panel technology. In fact, in my ownfirst drive review published last fall, I called an early production model the "world's first practical, no-compromise, noncombustion automobile." Yes, it is pioneering.
Yet before anyone slaps a blue ribbon and a hearty best accolade on its sleek windshield, it is time for a reality check — the Model S is hardly one point away from flawless.
Even after overlooking all the Model S' objective blemishes (the team over at CR mentioned its lack of certain high-end features, stereo issues and parasitic battery energy losses when parked), electric vehicles lack a national infrastructure of charging points, accessible cross-country range and remain cost prohibitive for most consumers. These are major hurdles, preventing tens of millions from even considering vehicles like the Model S. Don't feel sorry for just the electric crowd, either. The same hindrances are lodged at other alternative-energy vehicles, such as those powered by hydrogen and natural gas.
Tesla Model S Battery Pack (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tesla Model S battery cells looks like regular AA batteries (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tesla Model S electric batteries consist of individual modules packing 787 battery cells (Click Image To Enlarge)
1 Tesla Model S electric motor (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tesla's high-scoring 85 kwh Model S, arguably at the top of its pure-electric segment, is limited to a range of about 265 miles. Even though it may be plugged into any common 110-volt electrical outlet for a slow charge, high-speed electric vehicle charging stations have only sprung up in major population centers or along busy highway corridors, meaning a lack of foresight before heading down a less-traveled road may initiate a tow truck encounter.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are more than 5,800 electric charging stations in the United States, but just two public charging stations in North Dakota, and zero in Wyoming (Tesla plans to have a nationwide network of its so-called Supercharger stations within a couple of years). I don't need to remind anyone that gasoline for combustion vehicles is as readily available as pasteurized milk, and still less expensive.
And to revisit the cost, according to a recent study by TrueCar, the average transaction price for a new passenger car was $30,812 in January of this year. The flagship Tesla model tested by Consumer Reports wore an $89,650 window sticker, nearly three times the national average.
A true best car wouldn't just need a bladder-busting range, readily available fuel or a price that would make it attainable by all. It would need to be every bit as adept in a Syracuse winter as it would be comfortable in a Phoenix summer. It would have to be safe in crash testing, smooth on the highway, maneuverable around town and compact enough to fit into a crowded city garage. Some would even ask for off-road and towing capabilities.
You see where I am going?
No car currently manufactured deserves the coveted best car trophy, and that includes Consumer Reports' 99-point Tesla Model S. Personal transportation needs are uniquely individual, based on occupation, regional location, household size, income and, of course, taste. Giving a vehicle a near-perfect score is acceptable — and there will undoubtedly be others just as impressive — but assuming that one vehicle trumps others and satisfies all equally is misguided and presumptuous.
To those who consider the Model S the world's best car, I throw out this question: What's the world's best shoe?
COMMENTARY: It does not surprise me that Tesla Motors got 99 points out of a possible 100 point rating fron Consumer Reports for the Model S. Last year the Tesla Model S won Motor Trends' Car of the Year for 2013. It's an incredible car. Yes, it's expensive, but you get what you pay for.
Courtesy of an article dated May 15, 2013 appearing in CNN Opinion
Facebook is expanding its headquarters in grand fashion--in this case, to a second campus that connects to the main one in Menlo Park, California (Click Image To Enlarge)
The company is building a giant addition to their headquarters, and a giant park to go along with it. That park just happens to be on the roof.
Architect Frank Gehry is designing the building (Click Image To Enlarge)
On top of it is a giant green roof that spans most of the 433,555 square foot structure (Click Image To Enlarge)
It’s less a green roof than an entire park (Click Image To Enlarge)
Like so many tech companies flush with cash, Facebook is expanding its headquarters in grand fashion--in this case, to a second campus that connects to the main one in Menlo Park, California. Architect Frank Gehry is designing the building (Warning: That PDF takes a long time to load), which Facebook describes as "a large, one room building that somewhat resembles a warehouse." But we’re not so much interested in the interior of this particular building than what’s on top of it: a giant green roof that spans most of the 433,555 square foot structure.
It will include oak trees… (Click Image To Enlarge)
…a walking trail… (Click Image To Enlarge)
… furniture to lounge on… (Click Image To Enlarge)
It’s less a green roof than an entire park. It will include oak trees, a walking trail, furniture to lounge on--and like Google’s planned green roof, it will have kiosks and cafes, according to Greenbiz.
The roof will also be flush with flora and fauna. Facebook writes: "We’re planting a ton of trees on the grounds and more on the rooftop garden that spans the entire building." Beyond the oak trees, we can’t say exactly what Facebook is planting, but we do know this: Menlo Park ordinances require 80% of the plantings to be either native or xeriscape, meaning they need little or no water.
… and even kiosks and cafes (Click Image To Enlarge)
Beyond the oak trees, we can’t say exactly what Facebook is planting, but we do know this: Menlo Park ordinances require 80% of the plantings to be either native or xeriscape, meaning they need little or no water (Click Image To Enlarge)
See-through image of the new green office complex (Click Image To Enlarge)
For the sake of everyone working in the warehouse space below, let’s hope that the roof also has fast Wi-Fi and some decent workspaces. After all, ample sun is one of the more attractive features of Silicon Valley life.
COMMENTARY: If Facebook employees aren't spoiled enough already with the Epic Cafe and free food 24/7, 365, then the green rooftop garden in the Facebook expansion offices will spoil them rotten to a whole new level.
In all, global venture capital (VC) investments in the solar sector fell dramatically, from $220 million in the fourth quarter of last year to just $126 million in Q1'13, according to a new report from Mercom Capital Group.
Solar VC Funding - Q1 2012 through Q1 2013 - Marcom Capital Group (Click Image To Enlarge)
Reflecting the dominant industry trends, solar funding during the first quarter of 2013 (Q1'13) favored project acquisitions and funding of downstream providers, as investors shied away from the struggling manufacturing segment.
Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, says that because an overall downturn began in the third quarter of last year, this most recent slump was mostly in line with expectations - if a bit more severe than anticipated. Solar VC funding had not fallen to such low levels since 2008.
At least some of the recent decline can be attributed to major attrition among formerly hot startups representing a traditional VC favorite: thin-film solar manufacturers.
Prabhu tells Solar Industry.
"Thin-film companies received approximately $1.4 billion in VC funding the past three years - and [copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS)] companies received a billion of that. Most of these companies are either bankrupt or were part of a fire sale."
Fourteen thin-film solar companies went bankrupt in 2012 alone, according to the report, and Prabhu describes current market conditions for any holdouts as "extremely tough."
"I would still keep an eye on all the thin-film CIGS companies that were bought by - or formed strategic partnerships with - large Chinese or Korean conglomerates. These conglomerates have a lot of resources, and if the intellectual property is strong, they have the ability to see [CIGS companies] through to commercialization."
Topping the list for the biggest VC deals in Q1'13 was a pair of U.S.-based residential solar firms. OneRoof Energy raised $30 million from well-known Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group, while Sungevity raised $28 million in Series D financing from a range of investors, including Brightpath Capital Partners, Lowe's and Craton Equity Partners.
Fueled by the glut of low-priced modules, downstream providers such as OneRoof and Sungevity were joined by several other companies - mostly leasing firms - in raising a total of $75 million in eight deals during Q1'13, according to Mercom Capital.
This sector of the market has faced scrutiny in recent months over finance arrangements that some believe are unfair to consumers. The U.S. Department of the Treasury is also currently probing several of the biggest rooftop PV providers over possible discrepancies in project valuations.
So far, however, the threat of any potential regulatory shake-up in this sector has failed to rattle investors, Prabhu reports.
"Just from an investment and investor point of view, there seems to be little concern regarding this. Most of the VC funding this quarter went to lease firms, and these firms also raised about half a billion in residential and commercial project funds."
Large-scale solar project development also enjoyed an active quarter. Mercom Capital Group found that disclosed project acquisitions reached $137 million in 20 transactions. Although this total represents a decline from $297 million in the previous quarter, the number of transactions rose. More than 1 GW of projects changed hands.
"Both last year and this quarter, investment funds have been the most active acquirers of solar projects."
"This positive trend demonstrates that solar assets have shifted in the eyes of the investment community, from being considered a risky proposition a few years ago to their inclusion in institutional investor portfolios as a source of safe, steady, long-term returns."
Overall, although the big picture for solar VC may still seem dismal at the moment, Prabhu remains optimistic.
"It is not all bad. Installations continued to grow, and there is a lot of positive activity on the project funding and acquisition side."
COMMENTARY: It does not surprise me that VC financings for the solar sector dropped so much. The worldwide glut in solar panels, dramatic drop in prices, and collapse of thin film technologies, has raised the risk of investing in solar. PV panel installers appear to be doing well, as they are the chief beneficiaries of the glut in PV panels and lower prices.
Breakthrough technology takes carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from CO2 and water in the air to create methanol and then converts it into gasoline.
Gasoline is the quintessential non-renewable fuel, but British scientists could soon change that. They have developed a way to make gasoline not only renewable, but also carbon neutral. How is that possible? By plucking the fuel out of the air, according to New Scientist.
It sounds like alchemy or magic — an idea about as sensible as growing money on trees. But it's real. Researchers have developed a way to convert air into gasoline. In fact, the concept has been around for decades, ever since the oil crisis of the 1970s.
Here's basically how it works: first scientists collect carbon, hydrogen and oxygen from the CO2and water that are readily present in the air. These raw materials are all that are needed to generate methanol, and methanol can be converted into gasoline.
It seems so simple that you may wonder why we haven't been getting our gasoline this way all along. Well, that's because there's just one small complication: So far scientists haven't been able to prove that the process generates more energy than it requires. The technique requires electricity for its chemical conversions, and the process cannot be viable until it is demonstrated that the energy needed as input costs less than what is gained as output.
The Air Fuel Synthesis, LTd. synthetic gasoline pilot plant in Northern England (Click Image To Enlarge)
That's where British company Air Fuel Synthesis comes in. The company has taken on the task of demonstrating that the technique works, that it produces a viable fuel, and that it can be made energy-efficient. The first half of the equation has now been settled, as the company has successfully demonstrated the conversion process.
Peter Edwards, an inorganic chemist at the University of Oxford, said.
"I take my hat off to Air Fuel Synthesis. They have taken a concept that has been around for 35 years and gotten the process going."
The fuel is not only viable; the company believes it will be suitable for high-performance vehicles. But the biggest benefit of the fuel is its sustainability. Since burning the fuel only releases the same carbon dioxide that was already in the air to begin with, it is carbon neutral. (That is, so long as the electricity required to make the necessary chemical conversions is sourced from renewable energy like wind or solar.)
Air Fuel Synthesis technician takes notes as he checks its oil synthesizing plant equipment (Click Image To Enlarge)
Another potential benefit of the fuel is that it will be price-predictable. Gas prices won't fluctuate because the fuel source will be stable.
Before any of this is possible, however, Air Fuel Synthesis needs to demonstrate the vital second half of the equation: the energy-efficiency of the process. For that, the company will need a bigger plant. They expect to have one up and running by 2015. Given the success of the process so far, the company is optimistic.
AFS marketing manager Graham Truscott said.
"The demonstrator has given us the confidence that this next level of gasoline plant will be efficient enough." D
Air Fuel Synthesis technician displays a vial of full of methanol extracted from air using its technology (Click Image To Enlarge)
COMMENTARY: Rather than mine carbon from the Earth in the form of coal, AFS acquires its carbon from the CO2 in the atmosphere. The result is a process whose only net production of CO2 is related to the power required to drive synthesis of the fuel. The general approach has been suggested by numerous people over the years, but AFS appears to be the first commercial company to work out the details and put together a pilot plant. Admittedly, the pilot plant is only producing about 1 percent of the projected yield per day, but the technological problems can be solved, as they have been in other contexts.
The AFS Process - Turning Air Into A Sustainable Fuel
Air is blown up into a tower and meets a mist of a sodium hydroxide solution. The carbon dioxide in the air is absorbed by reaction with some of the sodium hydroxide to form sodium carbonate. Whilst there are advances in CO2 capture technology, sodium hydroxide has been chosen as it is proven and market ready.
The sodium hydroxide/carbonate solution that results from Step 1 is pumped into an electrolysis cell through which an electric current is passed. The electricity results in the release of the carbon dioxide which is collected and stored for subsequent reaction.
Optionally, a dehumidifier condenses the water out of the air that is being passed into the sodium hydroxide spray tower. The condensed water is passed into an electrolyser where an electric current splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen. Water might be obtained from any source so long as it is or can be made pure enough to be placed in the electrolyser.
The carbon dioxide and hydrogen are reacted together to make a hydrocarbon mixture, the reaction conditions being varied depending on the type of fuel that is required.
There are a number of reaction paths already in existence and well known in industrial chemistry that may be used to make the fuels.
Thus a reverse-water-gas shift reaction may be used to convert a carbon dioxide/water mixture to a carbon monoxide/hydrogen mixture called Syn Gas. The Syn Gas mixture can then be further reacted to form the desired fuels using the Fisher-Tropsch (FT) reaction.
Alternatively, the Syn Gas may be reacted to form methanol and the methanol used to make fuels via the Mobil methanol-to gasoline reaction (MTG).
For the future, it is highly likely that reactions can be developed whereby carbon dioxide and hydrogen can be directly reacted to fuels.
The AFD product will require the addition of the same additives used in current fuels to ease starting, burn cleanly and avoid corrosion problems, to turn the raw fuel into a full marketable product. However as a product it can be blended directly with gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel.
Click Image To Enlarge
The Challenges To Produce Gasoline That is Carbon Neutral
According to Allen Ginsberg's poetic rewording of the laws of thermodynamics:
You can't win.
You can't breakeven.
You can't quit.
Air Fuel Synthesis, Ltd. (AFS) made headlines for a chemical process that claims to synthesize gasoline from air and water. In essence, AFS is using energy to unburn fuel so that it can be burned as fuel again – a great deal of energy. Sixty kWh of electric energy are used up to store 9 kWh of that energy in a liter of gasoline. When you take into consideration that gasoline vehicles are about 15 percent efficient, a car fueled with synthetic gasoline would use roughly 35 times more energy on a given trip than would an electric vehicle. Not, it would seem, a prescription for a commercially valuable green product.
The AFS Timetable For Delivering Commercial Carbon-Neutral, Sustainable Fuels
2012 – 2015 Demonstration facility and initial commercial projects
Develop practical designs at a variety of scales to advance our green technologies, processes, market insight and opportunities.
Stage 1 - Developing initial commercial projects of 1 – 10 tonnes of renewable fuel per day
Scaling up the Demonstrator and designing for minimum operator and maintenance time.
Designing optimum sized containerised units for creating renewable and carbon neutral fuels.
Entering agreements with customers for specialist high-performance carbon-neutral fuels, especially, initially in motorsports.
Developing a range of commercial agreements with renewable energy technology partners.
Exploit agreements with fuel technology companies by establishing non-fossil CO2 projects.
Stage 2 - Commercial project development:
AFS develops commercially sustainable fuel projects by leveraging our technology and project expertise and connections. We build containerised fuel production units in projects which can be located anywhere that a supply of renewable electricity exists.
The projects that build these plants can include special purpose vehicles in which AFS holds minority stakes and licensing arrangements.
The work involved includes:
Commercial assessment taking in the sustainable fuel market, technology, and geographic options.
Detailed engineering studies, estimates, and plans. This includes identifying renewable energy technology suppliers who can develop and manufacture sustainable fuel technology, including; hydrogen electrolysers, CO2 release electrolysers, gas storage, and fuel manufacturing units.
Isolée closes for approaching storms (Click Image To Enlarge)
ISOLÉE, A CONCEPT FOR A SELF-SUFFICIENT RETREAT, AIMS TO APPLY "PRODUCT DESIGN ETHOS" TO ARCHITECTURE.
Dutch architect Frank Tjepkema is annoyed with the crudeness of the average house. He tells FRAME magazine.
“The cars we drive, the computers and tablets we use, the smartphones--all sophisticated, aesthetically sound objects. And then we go home, where we’re surrounded by a stack of bricks."
His gripe is legitimate: Why is commercial architecture so far behind, say, the automotive industry in terms of adopting technological innovations?
Or opens according to the user’s wishes (Click Image To Enlarge)
This home designed to have as little impact as possible on the environment, literally, touches down in four small points (Click Image To Enlarge)
Designed by Dutch architecture firm Tjep, the house has two walls of wooden louvres that fold out (Click Image To Enlarge)
There are plenty of answers to that question, but Tjepkema isn’t having any of them. Instead, he and his design team at Tjep went ahead and got to work on a retreat home calledIsolée that leverages a number of intelligent systems, which they hope to develop into a working prototype. Writes the architect, who describes the three-story building as a cabinet, which touches the ground at four small points of contact.
“The approach to Isolée was the same as designing a piece of furniture.”
A 'tree' of five circular photovoltaic panels rotate to find the best direct sunlight (Click Image To Enlarge)
The motor-controlled hinges are connected to a computer that lets the owner decide when they’re open or closed (Click Image To Enlarge)
Isolée contains a system of LED lights and solar panels that make it self-sufficient (Click Image To Enlarge)
What makes Isolée so different than, say, a cabin in the woods? First of all, there are the tree-like spindles of photovoltaic panels that sprout from its roof, supplying enough energy to recharge the batteries in the home’s LED lights. Two sides of the building envelope are clad in hinged slats of wood, which can be opened or closed depending on the weather. The designers say.
“The shutters are computer controlled to follow the wishes of the inhabitants, and close automatically when a storm approaches.”
Both the rotating PVC panels and the shutters are powered by motors, powered by the sun. Water and heat aren’t accounted for, though--the designers imagine a nearby well where water can be drawn.
The only thing it doesn’t have is running water--the architects imagine a nearby well (Click Image To Enlarge)
Cross-bracing against lateral forces is visible in this shot (Click Image To Enlarge)
There are a few possible stumbles here, when it comes to energy efficiency and structural stability. The four points of contact would, potentially, make the home structurally unsound (a structure this tall necessitates a foundation). There isn’t a clear rationale for putting the PVC panels on rotating "branches," when an equal amount of energy could be gleaned from laying off-the-shelf panels flat on the roof. Which isn’t to say that Isolée isn’t a smart (or good-looking) idea. Rather, Tjepkema has answered his own question about why architecture hasn’t kept pace with phones or cars. Unlike prototyping a new car or phone, building an inhabitable structure is expensive and slow. Experiments like this can become very expensive gambles, which many architects and clients aren’t willing to take. Tjep deserves kudos for imagining the future--now, they need to figure out how to test it.
COMMENTARY: Architect Frank Tjepkema and his design team at Tjep really got me excited and simultaneously spooked out with the design concept for Isolée. The house stands on four legs which is more reminscent of a piece of furniture, rather than a house. Tjepkema has created Isolée with a minimalist design concept, that is simple and elegant.
Tjepkema has gone vertical with Isolée, constructing the home on three levels: living room (first floor), kitchen and dining (second floor) and bedroom and bathroom (third floor). Going up three flights of stairs is probably its only glaring disadvantage.
The green technology incorporated into the Isolée and enveloping the house in hinged slats of wood, which can be opened or closed depending on the weather, give the house an architectural and technological uniqueness which I have never seen before. You can open individual louvres on the hinged slats to create windows anywhere around the house.
The idea of "opening up" the house to its surrounding environment, is the closest thng to actually living in the outdoors. Exposing yourself to that environment complete with the sun, air, bugs, and scents of that environment brings one closer to nature. You are one with nature. I say bring those bugs in. Invite them for dinner. Let them swim in your soup. LOL. I can hardly wait for the finished full-size prototype when it is finally built.
The No.3 nuclear reactor of the Fukushima Di-Ischi nuclear power plant is seen burning after a blast following an earthquake and tsunami in this handout satellite image taken March 14, 2011 (Click Image To Enlarge)
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a large tsunami. The earthquake and ensuing damage resulted in an immediate shutdown of 12,000 MW of electric generating capacity at four nuclear power stations. Other energy infrastructure such as electrical grid, refineries, and gas and oil-fired power plants were also affected by the earthquake, though some of these facilities were restored. Between the 2011 earthquake and May 2012, Japan lost all of its nuclear capacity due to scheduled maintenance and the challenge facilities face in gaining government approvals to return to operation. Japan is substituting the loss of nuclear fuel for the power sector with additional natural gas, low-sulfur crude oil, and fuel oil.
Image of the massive tidal wave that slammed into the Fukushima Dai-Ischi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011 (Click Image To Enlarge)
Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) Co.'s crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant No. 3 reactor in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan is seen in this still image taken from a video shot by an unmanned helicopter on April 10, 2011 (Click Image To Enlarge)
Click HERE to view some impressive images of the destruction of the Fukushima Dai-Ischi nuclear power plant one month after the nuclear plant disaster of March 11, 2011.
The sociological and economic aftershocks from the devastation of Fukushima will reverberate through Japan for decades. Of the 52 nuclear plants operating before the disaster, only two continue to run, and the consensus is that Japan will not again resort to nuclear generation for the foreseeable future. That puts enormous pressure on utilities to replace lost capacity with other fuel sources and to better manage demand.
Japan's Nuclear Power Plants - Operating, Under Construction and Pre-Construction - Prior to the Great Fukushima Earthquake (Click Image To Enlarge)
Because Japan has always depended on imported fossil fuels, especially liquefied natural gas and oil, there is now a surge in interest in renewables, particularly solar and wind.And in order to manage demand and integrate intermittent and distributed generation, it is suddenly essential to rethink the grid.
The challenge is not to improve reliability. The Japanese grid is among the most reliable in the world. If the average American loses power for eight hours a year, the average Japanese endures just five minutes of darkness, according to Matt Wakefield, senior program manager, information and communications technology at EPRI.
But the Japanese grid isn’t very smart. Meters, especially residential meters, are still mostly read by meter readers, and while some level of smart metering is deployed, it’s mainly been to establish consumer-to-utility communication to replace these human meter readers. There are a number of pilot projects, but the two-way communication capability that we associate with smart, AMI metering in the United States is at a very early stage of deployment in Japan. The challenge, then, is to deploy the components of a truly smart grid in order to enable integration of intermittent renewable resources and the ability to dynamically manage demand.
Japan Total Energy Consumption by Source - Year 2010 - EIA International Energy Statistics (Click Image To Energy)
The challenge is urgent. With the sudden loss of virtually all of its nuclear generation, a significant amount of total generating capacity disappeared. Estimates range as high as 30 percent, according to the World Nuclear Association, and as low as 13 percent to 18 percent by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), but whatever the absolute figure, the loss is very serious. And while some demand was also lost in the wake of Fukushima, much of the industrial capacity that was destroyed has been rebuilt.
Since the earthquake, Japan has handled the loss of capacity mainly through voluntary usage curtailment. The country’s utilities have always relied on a voluntary program with their industrial customers to reduce usage on an emergency basis, but such requests were rare. During the first summer after Fukushima, they asked for reductions and demand decreased significantly, according to EPRI’s Wakefield. That says a lot about the ability of utility companies in Japan to communicate with their customers, but it also speaks to what Clyde Prestowitz, the founder and president of the Economic Strategy Institute and a former counselor to the Secretary of Commerce in the Reagan administration, calls Japan’s homogeneity. Prestowitz said.
“Everyone is on the same team and everyone is part of the same village. So they work hard to get electricity to the whole village in a way that simply wouldn’t happen in our society.”
But voluntary curtailment of electric usage is a stopgap measure. Lost capacity must be replaced and then keep pace with expected industrial expansion. Although much of the now dormant nuclear capacity is probably safe, restarting those plants is unlikely. There was, naturally, a high level of concern about nuclear energy from the beginning in Japan, but citizens basically trusted the government and utility executives, who championed it. As the facts about the failure to protect against an eventuality like Fukushima emerged, as well as the lack of transparency about the extent of the disaster, that trust was lost, according to Prestowitz. The result is profound ground-level opposition to nuclear power. Because nuclear was seen as the answer to Japan’s long dependence on imported carbon-based fuel, the obvious alternative now is renewable sources, and any move toward greater efficiency and renewable, distributed generation depends on deploying advanced, smart grid technology.
Japan’s former ruling party, which was replaced in December by the center-right Liberal Democratic Party, conducted a wide-ranging re-examination of national energy policies. According to Jeffrey A. Miller, the energy attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, a key concern has been to replace nuclear with other fuels, especially renewables. To hasten the move toward renewables, the government enacted a feed-in tariff as an incentive for new investments in solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and small-scale hydroelectric. At the same time, Miller says, Japan is fully committed to creating more agile power grid configurations that enable real-time monitoring, control and demand response capabilities, and distributed power generation and energy storage by way of fuel cells and batteries.
Cumulative PV Solar Energy Capacity Installed Worldwide by Country - Year Ending 2012 - EPIA (Click Image To Enlarge)
The Japanese plan is very aggressive; the goal for solar alone is 28 gigawatts by 2020 and 53 gigawatts by 2030,with about 80 percent of that being rooftop installations, according to EPRI’s Wakefield. That compares with U.S. solar capacity of about 2 gigawatts today. The goal by 2020 is to produce 20 percent of total capacity with renewables.
Global Installed Wind Power Installation by Region - Year Ending 2010 - GWEC (Click Image To Enlarge)
The pace at which they want to move creates real challenges, notes Jack Azagury, managing director of smart grid s0ervices for Accenture, one of the global firms Japan is working with in its efforts to upgrade the system, and so does the scale involved. “Tepco alone [the utility that serves Tokyo] has 27 million meters. No AMI system operating in the world has that many. So the question is, can they scale the hardware, the network, the software to drive performance of 27 million meters?” said Azagury. He also thinks utilities and the government need to launch an education campaign in order to avoid possible consumer resistance, such as that which has met some smart-meter initiatives in the United States.
While the feed-in tariff is helping support the move to renewables, full smart grid deployment depends to a large extent on being able to make a good business case for the investment in infrastructure and developing smart appliances that could drive down peak and overall consumption. Azagury believes that sustained, broad consumer acceptance depends on set-it-and-forget-it solutions, because consumers don’t want to interact with their energy provider every day. They want something that is convenient and works and gives them the savings they want. International standards for smart appliances adopted this past December by the Consumer Electronics Association should encourage manufacturers to make more of their appliances smart-grid ready, and the communications technologies to integrate appliances with either a WiFi or cellular system are actually evolving a bit more rapidly than the appliances themselves, says EPRI’s Wakefield. But appliances are long-term investments for most people, so even when smart-grid-enabled appliances are widely available it will take time for them to be deployed.
The twin goals of integrating renewables and managing demand hinge on a smartly upgraded and expanded grid, which requires discipline and serious financial investment. But to flourish today — and tomorrow — depends on meeting the demands of a new energy economy. Japan has clearly articulated its commitment to greener, cheaper, more efficient energy, and while the new government will no doubt revisit the issue, it’s likely the country will continue to vigorously move forward to implement what is likely to be the most sophisticated national grid in the world.
COMMENTARY: As we approach the two-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 Great Earthquake, Japan has not yet adopted a new national energy policy after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that devastated the country, and destroyed the nuclear facility in Fukushima causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
This, however, is not surprising given that developments in energy capacity and infrastructure are normally measured in decades, and not in years and months. Also, Japan does not move quickly on substantive issues like this.
The new Japanese government that took office following a lower house election on Dec 16 now expects a new national energy policy to evolve over the next three years.
Following the Fukushima disaster there have been no significant power blackouts in Japan due principally to higher than forecast excess generation capacity, significant efforts around energy conservation by households and industries, and re-starting older fossil-fuel based generation plants.
Forty-eight of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors remain off-line today. The new independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) is expected to finalize revised safety standards by early summer, that the operators of the reactors must comply with. A period where all reactors may be off-line again may emerge in late summer.
The implications of the Fukushima disaster continue to be felt around the world particularly for the nuclear energy industry.
Lithuania rejected nuclear power through a recent national referendum and Bulgarians also refused to endorse the further development of nuclear energy in their country due to a low turnout in another national referendum. Costs have escalated dramatically for new nuclear facilities, in some cases doubling, and in other cases taking over 10 years to construct twice the original planned time-scales.
France recently completed an assessment indicating that the economic cost of an accident similar to Fukushima at any of its 58 reactors might be in excess of $500 billion (almost 20% of French GDP).
Nevertheless, other countries, many close neighbors of Japan, continue to pursue civilian nuclear strategies such as China, India, Russia, South Korea. Several Mideast countries are also using their petro-dollars to finance alternative energy sources in preparation for oil and gas depletion that may in the long run be inevitable.
Its natural gas imports have now risen to almost 90 million metric tons annualized or over $70 billion with much of the pre-3.11 increase used to make up for its lost nuclear capacity.
Two new receiving liquefied natural gas terminals are now planned for Fukushima and Aomori prefectures. Costs for construction of these facilities can run up to $5 billion.
Japanese gas importers have for the most part contracted to import natural gas at prices that are linked to crude oil prices. As oil prices have continued to rise and the Japanese currency has recently weakened, this has resulted in significantly higher local currency import costs.
Japan may now be spending $250 billion per year on imported oil, gas, and coal. Increased use of fossil fuels may over time undermine Japan’s GHG emissions reduction targets that are now under review with a new Japanese CO2 emissions reduction policy position expected to be announced in November 2013 by the Ministry of Environment (MoE).
It remains to be seen whether Japan’s considerable investments in overseas oil and gas exploration assets by its large trading companies and its exploration and development companies can bring these fuels back to its own shores at reasonable prices given the recent very large escalation of exploration and development costs globally.
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Today
Radiation levels in the abandoned communities near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have fallen 40% in the past year. Inside the wrecked facility, construction workers rush to complete state-of-the-art equipment that will remove dozens of dangerous radioactive nuclides from cooling water. Soon, a steel shield will be driven into the seabed to prevent contamination from the plant from leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
Almost two years after a deadly tsunami crashed into the plant, crippling its backup power supply and triggering the world's worst nuclear crisis for a quarter of a century, the gravest danger posed by Fukushima Daiichi has passed.
The pipes, cables and other equipment strewn across the plant's grounds this time last year are now functioning components in a complex, technologically fraught mission to cool the crippled reactors, while experts struggle to figure out how to extract the melted nuclear fuel lying deep inside their basements.
The three reactors struck by meltdown and hydrogen explosions two years ago were brought to a safe state known as "cold shutdown" in December 2011, nine months after the tsunami left almost 20,000 dead or missing along Japan's north-east coast.
Now, Japan is about to embark on a clean-up that could cost at least $100bn – on top of the cost of compensating evacuees and decontaminating their abandoned homes.
Fukushima Daiichi's manager, Takeshi Takahashi, conceded that decommissioning the plant could take 30 to 40 years.
Mr. Takahashi told a small group of visiting foreign journalists on Wednesday.
"Even though we are still faced with a difficult task, we'll keep pushing on with the decommissioning process. It will take a long time to complete our work, especially on the three reactors that suffered meltdown, but we'll do our best to keep them stable."
The clean-up operation will begin at building No 4, where the fuel rods inside survived unscathed after it was hit by the tsunami, then badly damaged by a hydrogen explosion.
By the end of this year, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) says it will begin removing fuel assemblies from the reactor building's storage pool and placing them in a nearby cooling pool, where they will remain for four years before being stored in even safer dry casks in a purpose-built facility on higher ground.
In total, workers will have to extract more than 11,000 new and used fuel assemblies from seven badly damaged storage pools. Work to remove melted fuel won't begin until 2021, and the entire decommissioning project is expected to take up to 40 years.
AS TESLA SEARCHES FOR ITS MAINSTREAM IDENTITY, WE STILL DON’T SEE WHAT THERE IS TO GET SO EXCITED ABOUT.
As of late, the automotive press has nothing but goodthings to say about the Tesla Model X. Shown for the first time in the flesh at the Detroit Auto Show, it’s already a hit, with $40 million in pre-orders thus far (though to put that figure into perspective, Tesla posted a $200 million loss last quarter).
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We’re trying so hard to get the Model X, to rally behind the electric car that’s challenged the stubborn suits in Detroit, to fist pump a world that’s less reliant on fossil fuels. But all we see is an uninspired yuppie-mobile (do they still make yuppies?), a pornographic attempt at erotica. The DDD silicone bust line is the 17-inch touch-screen control panel. The “falcon-wing” doors are a pair of legs that stretch behind a neck. “Why is this necessary?” you ask. “Why not?” Tesla answers quickly, hoping you’ll be so smitten by the high beams that you won’t look too closely at the backend, which is the cross between a Prius and a Pontiac Aztek.
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The gull-wing doors are of particular note. On a spec sheet, you’ll hear how easily they accommodate rear seating for five. But in practice, you have to wonder, is it really worth having gull-wing doors just to accommodate two extra people crammed into the equivalent of jumpseats? Would a family of seven really look to this car as their comfortable familymobile?
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Looking back at car history, the gull-wing door--for however extravagant it looked--was actually a practical solution to a common problem. Sports cars rode close to the ground, so opening a door often meant a jewel of a car would scrape against uneven pavement. But the Model X is an SUV (or crossover, if you prefer that invented word). It already has more than ample ground clearance, and from what we understand, the Model X doesn’t actually fly, so gull-wing doors are inherently ridiculous.
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Then why are the doors even there? Well the Model X is a generic-looking car. Not a single statement within the design is confident enough to say “I’m a Tesla, dammit.” Instead, designers attached these doors to do the shouting instead. Maybe that cheat would be fine if gull-wing doors weren’t such an expensive upgrade in a vehicle, and if their maintenance weren’t legendarily finicky. Instead, every Model X driver is really a donor subsidizing the curbside marketing budget of Tesla’s only, sadly extravagant brand identifier, just so fellow shoppers know that their particular generic SUV is actually really fast, fairly green, and costs a whole lot of money.
Honestly, we shouldn’t care this much, and we wouldn’t, were Tesla just another premium car brand that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. But someone needs to come around and make an electric car that’s aimed for the masses yet embodies everything great about “cars” rather than “electricity.” Chevy didn’t get there with the Volt. Tesla once looked like they may be close, at least for the premium market, but their results thus far have been wholly uninspiring.
COMMENTARY: In spite of criticism over Tesla Model X's design, it can easily transport 7 passengers, so it is definitely competing in the high-end SUV market. When the Model X was first unveiled in February 2012, price range estimates were somewhere between $80,000 and $100,000 depending on options. For an SUV, the Model X is relatively expensive, but Tesla claims it already has $40 million in pre-orders. Assuming that the average price per pre-order is $90,000, then this equates to about 445 Model X's since February 2012. That's not an impressive number when compared to the Model S, which had over 3,000 pre-orders.
Here's the skinny on the Model X.
The Soul of Every Tesla
Model X is a family vehicle with performance roots. The Tesla Vehicle Platform enables Model X to perform in ways never expected from a car of its size. With a center of gravity lower than any other SUV, you’ll notice nimble reflexes at every turn. The electric powertrain delivers instant torque for confident lane changes, even when loaded with seven adults and all their gear.
Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive
Model X is offered with optional Dual Motor All-Wheel Drive. The second motor enables more than all-weather, all-road capabilities: it increases torque by 50%. When outfitted with AWD, Model X Performance accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5 seconds, outperforming the fastest SUVs and many sports cars.
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If interested in placing a pre-order on a new Tesla Model X, you will need to make a deposit of $5,000. You can place your pre-order by clicking HERE.
The Citi.Transmitter is an adorable single seat modular transportation device, designed to solve our urban traffic problems.
When was the last time you saw a two-wheeled electric car on the road? There aren’t many out there yet, but the number could slowly increase as vehicles like Lit Motors C-1 (a mutant half car, half motorcycle set to be released in 2014) and GM’s autonomous EN-V start to roll out.
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Vincent Chan, a designer at Body Glove, has his own idea for a single-seater, two-wheeled EV: the Citi.Transmitter, a modular EV with a master unit--containing the driver, battery, and motor--that can be attached to any number of slave units. According to Inhabitat, the reference design for the vehicle is GM and Segway’s Project P.U.M.A, a two-wheeler prototype that has a range of 25 to 35 miles and a top speed of 25 to 35 mph. The Citi.Transmitter is purely for urban driving, in other words.
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Chan imagines all sorts of applications for the vehicle: adding on short slave unit containers for smaller loads, large containers for heavier loads, tacking on an extra compartment to carry more people, and even offroading (the vehicle can supposedly travel through gravel, snow, rocks, mud, and other terrain).
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There are no plans for release--this was a student project that Chan completed in 2010 at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. But if the designer ever did decide to bring this to production, its small size would probably ensure that it doesn’t cost as much as traditional EVs.
COMMENTARY: With the price of gas destined to go higher and limited charging capacity of all-electric vehicles, the Citi.Transmitter is a great concept for urban transportation and movement of goods. The Citi.Transmitter is solely a non-working prototype, but I like the idea of a 100% green all-electric vehicle, and hope that somebody with some balls and a lot of cash picks up the idea and funds the first working prototypes to deterine if the vehicle is feasible.