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Kevin Bullis

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Energy News in Brief

Greenest cars of 2011, making EVs affordable, and making 15,000 gallons of fuel per acre.

  • February 17, 2011

GM Volt Ranks 13th Among Green Vehicles

There are 12 cars being sold today that are better for the environment than GM’s Volt, a much-touted electric car with a 40-mile electric range and a gas engine for longer trips. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy put the Honda Civic GX, which is powered by natural gas, at the top of its list of the greenest cars of 2011. Not surprisingly, hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Nissan’s electric Leaf also ranked high (the Leaf ranked second). But small, gasoline powered cars, such as the Honda Insight and the Chevrolet Cruze (which costs half as much as the Volt) also did better than the Volt. From the New York Times:

In fact, seven of the vehicles on the list use only gasoline engines.

How can this be? The council uses a novel, holistic method of calculating the slippery notion of greenness, one that expands on the fuel-efficiency and tailpipe-emissions considerations made by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The criteria include emissions from power plants used to charge vehicles and energy used to make the cars.

To Make EVs Affordable, Lease the Battery

Electric vehicles are either very expensive (think Tesla Roadster) or have a short range (think Nissan Leaf, which isn’t exactly cheap) because batteries are expensive. It will take years to drive down costs. Meanwhile, a new report suggests that cutting the battery out of the car price tag could make EVs more attractive. From Earth2Tech:

The solution, Accenture suggests, is “disaggregating” battery costs from the car, usually via leasing either the car or the battery itself. Not only would that bring down vehicle costs, but it would help deal with thorny warranty issues, given EV batteries will likely end up having a lifespan of 10 years or less.

Automakers would have to arrange those battery financing terms on their own, or they could partner with a player like Better Place, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup with plans for developing battery swapping stations around the world.

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Joule Unlimited Says it Can Make 15,000 Gallons of Fuel on an Acre of Land

A biofuel company has published a paper in which it claims its technology can produce 5 to 50 times more fuel per acre than other biofuels processes. Green Car Congress summarizes:

Joule’s process, called Helioculture, combines an engineered cyanobacterial organism supplemented with a product pathway and secretion system to produce and secrete a fungible alkane diesel product continuously in a SolarConverter designed to efficiently and economically collect and convert photonic energy. The process is closed and uses industrial waste CO2 at concentrations 50-100 times higher than atmospheric.

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