1/13/15 Cameron VanDyke poses with his Zeppelin Future Cycle at the 2015 North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit, MI. Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Univ. of Michigan Student’s Innovative Car-bike Hybrid
ANN ARBOR – There were many new concept cars at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year, but none quite like the Future Cycles vehicles built by Cameron Van Dyke, a graduate student at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design.
The MFA candidate’s design project was completed as part of his master’s thesis and introduces a new transportation option to American roads. The vehicles combine the weather protection and carrying capacity of a car with the low energy usage of a bicycle to create a “hybrid” vehicle—half car, half bicycle.
“These are concept cars in the true sense,” Van Dyke said. “They propose an alternative set of values in relation to transportation. My hope is to get people to imagine new possibilities for the way we travel.”
Van Dyke displayed two exquisitely made, human-powered vehicles at the Detroit auto show, each with a different focus.
The larger of the two, the “Cyclone,” is pedaled by two riders with the capacity for cargo and an additional two passengers. Constructed using boat-building techniques in combination with bicycle technology, it features brushed aluminum details and an interior of fine leather and mahogany. The design references the Model T in a mash-up with, what Van Dyke calls, “iPod styling.” The result is a retro-futuristic luxury vehicle.
“The Cyclone offers an idea for a future vehicle, but it also poses questions about the history of automobile culture itself, including its values and its priorities,” Van Dyke said.
The second smaller, lighter and more aerodynamic car, the “Zeppelin,” is a human electric hybrid vehicle. It is powered by two riders in combination with a 750-watt electric rear motor, and achieves a cruising speed of 25 mph on flat ground. Constructed of aluminum and polycarbonate, it weighs just 270 pounds, has a 20-mile electric range and achieves 700 mpg equivalent.
The Zeppelin meets the legal definition of a bicycle at the federal level and in many states, making it street legal with no additional license, registration or insurance required.
“The goal with the Zeppelin was to find an ideal point for which a bicycle and car could coexist within the same object to create a truly hybrid design,” Van Dyke said.
The Future Cycles project began in September 2012 when Dyke enrolled in the Stamps School of Art & Design to pursue a master of fine arts degree after operating his own furniture design studio for more than 16 years. Van Dyke wanted to shift his design practice to something that was more focused on exploring alternative value systems related to housing and transportation.
President Barack Obama walks past a military honor guard formation during an arrival ceremony at King Khalid International airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) Interior Department Announces Draft Strategy for Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing
WASHINGTON, DC – As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper today announced the next step in the development of the nation’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022.
The Draft Proposed Program (DPP) includes 14 potential lease sales in eight planning areas – 10 sales in the Gulf of Mexico, three off the coast of Alaska, and one in a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic.
“The safe and responsible development of our nation’s domestic energy resources is a key part of the President’s efforts to support American jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said Secretary Jewell. “This is a balanced proposal that would make available nearly 80 percent of the undiscovered technically recoverable resources, while protecting areas that are simply too special to develop.”
Release of the draft is an early step in a multi-year process to develop a final offshore leasing program for 2017-2022. Before the program is finalized, the public will continue to have multiple opportunities to provide input. Today’s draft proposal was informed by more than 500,000 comments from a wide variety of stakeholders and states.
“The draft proposal prioritizes development in the Gulf of Mexico, which is rich in resources and has well-established infrastructure to support offshore oil and gas programs,” added Jewell.
“We continue to consider oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and propose for further consideration a new area in the Atlantic Ocean, and we are committed to gathering the necessary science and information to develop resources the right way and in the right places. We look forward to continuing to hear from the public as we work to finalize the proposal.”
The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a five-year program that includes a schedule of potential oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity as determined to best meet national energy needs, while addressing a range of economic, environmental and social considerations.
BOEM currently manages about 6,000 active OCS leases, covering more than 32 million acres – the vast majority in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2013, OCS oil and gas leases accounted for about 18 percent of domestic oil production and 5 percent of domestic natural gas production. This production generates billions of dollars in revenue for state and local governments and the U.S. taxpayer, while supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs.
A REGIONALLY TAILORED APPROACH
The draft proposal reflects a continuation of the regionally tailored leasing strategies employed in the current 2012-2017 Program that are specific to each planning area. The options in the draft proposal involve sales in offshore areas that have the highest oil and gas resource potential, highest industry interest, or are off the coasts of states that expressed a strong interest in potential energy exploration, while still considering potential environmental impacts, stakeholder concerns, and competing uses of ocean and coastal areas.
Gulf of Mexico:
The draft proposal includes ten sales in the Gulf of Mexico, one of the most productive basins in the world and where oil and gas infrastructure is well established. The draft proposal includes a new approach to lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico by proposing two annual lease sales in the Western, Central, and the portion of the Eastern Gulf of Mexico that is not subject to Congressional moratoria. This shifts from the traditional approach of one sale in the Western and a separate sale in the Central Gulf each year.
“This new approach will allow for BOEM to more effectively balance the sales while providing greater flexibility to industry to invest in the Gulf, particularly given the significant energy reforms recently adopted by the Mexican government,” said BOEM Director Hopper
In Alaska, the draft proposal continues to take a careful approach by utilizing the targeted leasing strategy set forth in the current program, which recognizes the substantial environmental, social and ecological concerns in the Arctic. The draft proposal proposes one sale each in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Cook Inlet areas.
Also today, President Obama – using his authorities under the OCS Lands Act – designated portions of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas as off limits from consideration for future oil and gas leasing in order to protect areas of critical importance to subsistence use by Alaska Natives, as well as for their unique and sensitive environmental resources. In December, President Obama used this same authority to place the waters of Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas development, protecting an area known for its world-class fisheries and stunning beauty.
“We know the Arctic is an incredibly unique environment, so we’re continuing to take a balanced and careful approach to development,” said Jewell. “At the same time, the President is taking thoughtful action to protect areas that are critical to the needs of Alaska Natives and wildlife.”
Four of the five areas withdrawn today by President Obama were previously excluded from leasing in the current 2012-2017 oil and gas program; three of the five were also excluded by the prior Administration. Those areas include the Barrow and Kaktovik whaling areas in the Beaufort Sea, and a 25-mile coastal buffer and subsistence areas in the Chukchi Sea. The withdrawal also includes the biologically rich Hanna Shoal area in the Chukchi Sea, which has not previously been excluded from leasing. Extensive scientific research has found this area to be of critical importance to many marine species, including Pacific walruses and bearded seals.
The proposed Alaska sales would be scheduled late in the program to provide additional opportunity to gather and evaluate information regarding environmental issues, subsistence use needs, infrastructure capabilities, and results from any exploration activity associated with existing leases from previous sales.
The draft proposal invites public comment on one potential lease sale late in the program for a portion of the Mid- and South Atlantic OCS, which includes areas offshore Virginia, North and South Carolina and Georgia.
“At this early stage in considering a lease sale in the Atlantic, we are looking to build up our understanding of resource potential, as well as risks to the environment and other uses,” said Jewell.
The potential lease sale would require a 50-mile coastal buffer to minimize multiple use conflicts, such as those from Department of Defense and NASA activities, renewable energy activities, commercial and recreational fishing, critical habitat needs for wildlife and other environmental concerns.
The July 2014 Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement on Atlantic Geological and Geophysical activities furthered the Atlantic area strategy by establishing a path forward to update information on the region’s offshore oil and gas resources, which is more than 30 years old. Today’s proposal is in line with comments received from adjacent states and reflects the Administration’s thoughtful approach to potential lease sales in new areas, pending further public review and comment.
Areas off the Pacific coast are not included in this draft proposal, consistent with the long-standing position of the Pacific coast states opposed to oil and gas development off their coast.
“Public input is a critical part of our process and we encourage citizens and groups to provide comments to help guide our decisions,” said Hopper. “We anticipate robust dialogue with stakeholders in the coming months that will help us prepare a program that emphasizes protection of the marine environment and coastal economies and uses the best available science and technology to inform our decision-making.”
In conjunction with the announcement of the DPP, the Department is also publishing a Notice of Intent to Develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Following significant public comment and environmental review, the Department will prepare a Draft EIS and Proposed Program, and a Final EIS with the Proposed Final Program (PFP).
The Request for Information, published on June 16, 2014, began a process of broad consideration of all 26 areas of the OCS that are available for leasing and gradually narrows as a result of many stages of public comment and environmental analysis. This DPP is the first such narrowing. Prior to any individual lease sale in the future, BOEM will continue to incorporate new scientific information and stakeholder feedback in its environmental reviews to further refine the geographic scope of the lease areas.
The Draft Proposed Program and the Notice of Intent to Develop a Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be available for public comment for 60 days following the publication of the documents in the Federal Register.
Siu On Tung, Macromolecular Science & Engineering PhD Student and member of Prof. Nick Kotov’s research group, pours a base to construct a kevlar battery membrane in the NCRC on January 21, 2014. The membrane allows for more durable batteries that adapt to various environments. The membrane should be able to prevent the type of short circuit that is thought to have caused the Boeing 787 battery fires of 2013. Photo credit: Joseph Xu, Michigan Engineering, Communications & Marketing Univ. of Michigan Kevlar Membrane Battery for Safer, Thinner Lithium Rechargeables
ANN ARBOR—New battery technology from the University of Michigan should be able to prevent the kind of fires that grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners in 2013.
The innovation is an advanced barrier between the electrodes in a lithium-ion battery.
Made with nanofibers extracted from Kevlar, the tough material in bulletproof vests, the barrier stifles the growth of metal tendrils that can become unwanted pathways for electrical current.
A U-M team of researchers also founded Ann Arbor-based Elegus Technologies to bring this research from the lab to market. Mass production is expected to begin in the fourth quarter 2016.
“Unlike other ultra strong materials such as carbon nanotubes, Kevlar is an insulator,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Joseph B. and Florence V. Cejka Professor of Engineering. “This property is perfect for separators that need to prevent shorting between two electrodes.”
Lithium-ion batteries work by shuttling lithium ions from one electrode to the other. This creates a charge imbalance, and since electrons can’t go through the membrane between the electrodes, they go through a circuit instead and do something useful on the way.
But if the holes in the membrane are too big, the lithium atoms can build themselves into fern-like structures, called dendrites, which eventually poke through the membrane. If they reach the other electrode, the electrons have a path within the battery, shorting out the circuit. This is how the battery fires on the Boeing 787 are thought to have started.
“The fern shape is particularly difficult to stop because of its nanoscale tip,” said Siu On Tung, a graduate student in Kotov’s lab, as well as chief technology officer at Elegus. “It was very important that the fibers formed smaller pores than the tip size.”
While the widths of pores in other membranes are a few hundred nanometers, or a few hundred-thousandths of a centimeter, the pores in the membrane developed at U-M are 15-to-20 nanometers across. They are large enough to let individual lithium ions pass, but small enough to block the 20-to-50-nanometer tips of the fern-structures.
The researchers made the membrane by layering the fibers on top of each other in thin sheets. This method keeps the chain-like molecules in the plastic stretched out, which is important for good lithium-ion conductivity between the electrodes, Tung said.
“The special feature of this material is we can make it very thin, so we can get more energy into the same battery cell size, or we can shrink the cell size,” said Dan VanderLey, an engineer who helped found Elegus through U-M’s Master of Entrepreneurship program. “We’ve seen a lot of interest from people looking to make thinner products.”
Thirty companies have requested samples of the material.
Kevlar’s heat resistance could also lead to safer batteries as the membrane stands a better chance of surviving a fire than most membranes currently in use.
While the team is satisfied with the membrane’s ability to block the lithium dendrites, they are currently looking for ways to improve the flow of loose lithium ions so that batteries can charge and release their energy more quickly.
The study, “A dendrite-suppressing solid ion conductor from aramid nanofibers,” will appear online Jan. 27 in Nature Communications.
The research was funded primarily by the National Science Foundation under its Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems and its Innovation Corp. Partial funding also came from Office of Naval Research and Air Force Office Scientific Research. Kotov is a professor of chemical engineering, biomedical engineering, materials science and engineering and macromolecular science and engineering.
A solar powered model home in Lennar\’s Harrison Park Neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Solar Energy USA Tapping Into The Growing Interest Of Solar Energy In Georgia
Lennar Homes and Solar Energy USA have developed a strong relationship that helps bring clean energy and lower power bills to new home buyers in Georgia. Solar Energy USA is preparing for hundreds of new home solar installations on Lennar homes across the state of Georgia.
Few companies have ventured as far into new home solar options as has Lennar, the nation’s second-largest home builder. Consumers shopping for a Lennar home in more than 100 of its developments in California, 11 in Colorado and a handful in Nevada find that almost all the houses have solar panels. The company is currently expanding their solar program into more states, like Georgia, focusing on locations that have programs to encourage renewable energy.
Georgia is a largely untapped market for residential solar although it has great potential. In 2013, Georgia installed 91 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 7th nationally, though most of these solar installations were on a much larger utility-scale.
“We’ve always recommended installing solar at the front end of the home building and purchasing process. It makes sense from both a technical and financial standpoint,” says Perry Bell, President and CEO of Solar Energy USA. “It’s great to see such a large, high quality home builder like Lennar making the commitment to solar energy. We’re excited to be their dedicated solar partner here in Georgia, with future partnerships possible in North and South Carolina.”
Lennar will soon offer buyers in the Harrison Park Neighborhood the option of pre-wiring homes for a solar panel installation. Solar Energy USA, an Atlanta-based solar integrator, will design and install the rooftop solar energy systems, allowing Harrison Park homeowners the ability to generate their own electricity, resulting in a new home with power bills cheaper than a new home without solar.
“We are constantly looking for energy saving options for our homebuyers and solar energy is certainly a great green energy solution. We will be offering our new home buyers the option of prewiring their home for acceptance of solar panels after the close. This way the homeowner and Solar Energy USA can customize the system to their needs and provide a clean install of the system,” says Chris Recker, Director of Construction at Lennar.
“Solar can provide 10%, 25%, 50%, even 100% of a home’s power depending on the installation. We have a number of customers who no longer pay for monthly power thanks to solar installations which provide all of their required needs,” adds Bill Zagorski, Sales Manager at Solar Energy USA.
Homeowners still must contract with the power company for conventional electricity for times when the solar gear can’t generate enough, such as at night and on cloudy days. In addition, when their system generates more power than they use, they often can send the surplus to the public grid and get a credit from the utility.
About Solar Energy USA
Solar Energy USA is a renewable energy company that specializes in solar powered energy solutions including photovoltaic solar panel systems, electric vehicle charging stations, and energy efficient LED and T5 commercial lighting retrofits. Solar Energy USA is committed to affordable solar solutions for both businesses and residential homeowners and is backed by a network of engineers and installers across the US which gives them collective data and information of new developments in the solar industry. www.solarenergy-usa.com
About Lennar Homes
Founded in 1954, Lennar is now a publicly traded company building homes in 17 states and recognized as a leader in quality, value and integrity. The EI line, which originally launched in 1980, now includes a wide variety of desired features such as energy efficiency upgrades, home automation and solar panel systems. By adding these upgrades into the cost of the home at no additional charge, Lennar is making tomorrow’s standard of living affordable today.
Graphic courtesy of AAA Gas Price Slide Continues as Major Storm Slams Northeast
WASHINGTON – The national average continues to march toward $2.00 per gallon and has fallen for a record 123 consecutive days, for a total savings of $1.31 per gallon. Today’s national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is $2.03 per gallon. Motorists are paying three cents less than one week ago, 27 cents less than one month ago and saving $1.25 per gallon in comparison to this same date last year. While the streak of daily declines in the national averages continues, the rate of decline has slowed in recent days. After dropping for an average of more than a penny a day for the first 16 days of 2015, the average drop over the past ten days has been just half a penny. This slowing decline has been largely reflective of a number of Midwestern states where prices have moved higher over the past week due to a series of refinery issues in the region.
The Northeast is bracing for a major winter storm that could dump up to three feet of snow on parts of the region. While a snowfall such as this might pressure gasoline prices immediately higher on distribution concerns, the longer term impact is expected to be downward pressure on pump prices from lower demand, as drivers stay off the roads. However, increased demand for diesel fuel, which is also used to heat homes and power generators during electricity outages, would be expected to pressure diesel prices higher during the duration of the storm’s impact.
The falling prices at the pump are a product of global oil prices tumbling to multi-year lows. While gas prices are likely to increase this spring due to seasonal demand and maintenance, barring any major increase in the global price of crude, AAA expects the national average to remain below $3 per gallon during 2015.
Hawaii ($3.24) remains the only state posting an average price for retail gasoline above $3 per gallon, and is joined by Alaska ($2.72) as the only two states with averages above $2.50 per gallon. California ($2.45), New York ($2.43) and Washington, D.C. ($2.41) round out the nation’s top five most expensive markets. Twenty-eight states are posting averages below $2 per gallon, with the lowest prices in Missouri ($1.78), Oklahoma ($1.81), Kansas ($1.83), Texas ($1.84) and New Mexico ($1.85).
Graphic courtesy of AAA Gas Price Slide Continues as Major Storm Slams Northeast
As outlined above, the trend of falling weekly averages is beginning to ease. While 40 states and Washington, D.C. are registering savings over the past seven days, drivers in ten states are paying a bit more at the pump over the same period. Twenty-two states and Washington, D.C. are posting savings of a nickel or more, and two states Ohio (-10 cents) and Alaska (-10 cents) are reflecting double-digit savings. The largest increases over this span are the Midwestern states of Indiana (+10 cents) and Michigan (+5 cents).
Virtually all drivers in the U.S. are continuing to experience savings at the pump compared to one month ago. The only state bucking this trend is Indiana, where the price has inched upward by fractions of a penny versus one month ago due to regional production issues. With the exception of Kentucky (-5 cents), averages are down in every other state and Washington, D.C. by more than one dime per gallon month-over-month. Wyoming (-51 cents), Utah (-51 cents), Rhode Island (-43 cents) and Connecticut (-43 cents) are posting the largest discounts over this period, and an additional 35 states and Washington, D.C. are posting discounts of a quarter or more per gallon.
Yearly comparisons continue to reflect the most dramatic discounts, largely due to multi-month declines in the price of retail gasoline. Alaska (-92 cents) and Hawaii (-77 cents), the nation’s most expensive retail markets, are the only two states not posting yearly discounts of at least $1 per gallon. A total of 24 states are registering savings of $1.25 or more per gallon year-over-year, with the sharpest declines in Ohio (-$1.39), Illinois (-$1.37) and Connecticut (-$1.37).
The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah caused the global oil markets to slightly rally this past week on rumors that OPEC’s largest producer could possibly reassess its production levels and potentially decrease the current glut in global oil supply. King Abdullah’s successor, Crown Prince Salman, calmed the market by deciding to keep the current oil minister in his position and signaling no plans to change the country’s current production plans. By sustaining its current production levels, the resiliency of high-cost production countries like the U.S. and Canada will continue to be tested as the market is left to self-regulate at price levels that have not been seen in more than half a decade.
At the close of Friday’s formal trading on the NYMEX, WTI was down 72 cents, settling at $45.59 per barrel – its lowest price in six years.
This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: AAA.