Archives for March, 2012

  “We just keep at it, we don’t give up just because something doesn’t work,” said Collin Gruntman, 17, when asked why so many teams from Indiana compete in the Shell Eco-marathon every year in Houston, Texas. Gruntman, a junior at Goshen High School in Goshen, Indiana, explained that his team’s fortunes had started looking up…

“Humans are absolutely terrible at making decisions,” Steven Levitt told the crowd of participants today at the Shell-sponsored Energy Summit 2012 in Houston, Texas. For two days, the Summit brought together leading business and academic thinkers from the fields of renewable and traditional energy, plus food and water policy. Proceedings were held in the farm-to-table…

Two years ago, we did not know what kind of challenge was ahead of us. The Alerion Supermileage team, from Université Laval in Québec City, Canada, already has pushed the boundaries on fuel efficiency, taking first place in Shell Eco-marathon Americas for three consecutive years. Last year, on our winning run in Houston, we achieved…

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released long-awaited greenhouse gas rules for new power plants this week. Using the Clean Air Act, the agency standard would set the first national limits on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions new power plants can emit. The EPA proposed the rule after delaying it several times since July 2011. Power plants are the largest…

We survived finals week at UC Santa Barbara and instead of kicking back for Spring Break, we hit the road to Houston, Texas, for the 2012 Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition. Our car “Eleanor” is looking sharp. The paint job on the aerodynamic fairing was finished in time to exhibit at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics…

Plans for a controversial wind farm on Chiloé Island in southern Chile ran aground last Friday when Chile’s Supreme Court halted the project. Many scientists and environmental groups had expressed concern that the Chilean-Swedish-owned Ecopower’s plan to construct 56 wind turbines on Mar Brava beach at Chiloé could threaten one of the most important habitats in the…

In the early 1990s, Steve Nygren was a successful Atlanta restaurateur who was caught up in “life’s treadmill,” as he puts it, when he and his wife purchased a 60-acre farm in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga. When Nygren noticed that his young children were more excited to leave their fancy city house with a pool in order…

For the past 20 years, Purdue Solar Racing (PSR) has been designing and building a variety of solar powered vehicles. While these cars have all varied greatly in their designs and manufacturing processes,  Shell Eco-marathon’s urban concept category motivated PSR to enter into a completely unexplored realm with its eighth car, Celeritas. Urban concept vehicles…

Which is more important: making solar panels cheap or making them here? In the end, this may not be an either-or question, but it’s the one that’s raised by the Commerce Department’s decision last week to impose a small import duty on Chinese-made solar panels. Some U.S. solar companies argue that China illegally subsidizes its…

These past few days have been quite a whirlwind of progress and setbacks for our team. Despite the setbacks, our team kept pushing forward and found ways of overcoming our obstacles. Early morning of Thursday, March 22nd, our team laid carbon fiber to set in the windshield into the cutout of HotRod’s hatch. When checking…

Wine is embraced as the beverage of celebration and ritual all over the world. Yet growing the grapes that produce this most revered of drinks is a time and resource-intensive task. Producing a single bottle of wine consumes enormous amounts of paper, glass and water, not to mention the pesticides, fertilizers and fossil fuels needed to…

The leadership of the solar industry let out a collective gasp of relief Tuesday. While it seems that tariffs will be imposed on China’s exports of photovoltaic cells, at least for now they are relatively minimal. Yet it’s still a fragile time for the industry and anything that raises cost within the supply chain or to the…

The Grupo Cataratas de Eficiencia Energetica (GCEE) was created in 2009 by second-year students of electrical engineering and mechanical engineering at Unioeste (Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Parana) in Brazil. Last year in a national competition, among other achievements, the team was champion in the ethanol category, achieving 736 kilometers per liter (1,731 miles per gallon). With that, the team got motivated in December…

We are now officially into the single digits of days until the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition in Houston, Texas! For the past three days we have continued to work very hard on our vehicles and are seeing some great changes as a result. A lot of body work has been done on HotRod over the…

Come along on a test drive of the Nissan Leaf. Ever wonder what one of those all-electric cars feels like when you’re behind the wheel? Well, here’s your chance. We’ll start by getting the lowdown on what it means to be a “zero-emission vehicle” from one of the Energy Department’s car specialists. We’ll kick the…

Mechanical engineering students at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) have been participating in  Shell Eco-marathon Americas (SEMA) since its inaugural year in 2007. Since then, our team has built five prototype-class vehicles, with a top fuel efficiency of 858 miles per gallon (365 kilometers per liter). Each new vehicle our team creates incorporates design improvements over…

Bringing together students majoring in mechanical, material, and aerospace engineering, as well as computer science, the Cal Poly Supermileage Vehicle Team combines all these disciplines to produce the most efficient vehicles possible. Last year, we took home the Technical Innovation Award at Shell Eco-marathon Americas for the onboard electronics and custom data acquisition and monitoring…

We now have 11 days until we leave for Houston for the Shell Eco-marathon Americas competition. With the competition quickly approaching, our cars are coming together. Today we have checked off multiple things on our (what seemed to be) forever-long to-do list. With all of these tasks completed, the end is near in sight! As…

March 16 Today we have made several steps forward, but unfortunately we have also taken a couple steps back. Yesterday we completed the windshield mold for HotRod, and today we went to vacuum form the actual windshield. As we were vacuum forming the plastic over the mold, the windshield mold was damaged and the actual…

Back in November, we brought you word that the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh was taking on the deep green challenge set by the Pacific Northwest’s arm of the U.S. Green Building Council and the International Living Building Institute. Now we’ve got specs in our hot little hands for the new Center for Sustainable Landscapes, set to open…

Ireland has always been known for its lush green landscape. But turning its energy a matching shade has been a longer road. The country long relied heavily on peat, its only domestically produced source of “fossil” fuel. Peat is a partially decayed plant matter that grows in bogs on that familiar countryside, and it takes…

In a city addicted to driving like São Paulo, a sudden shortage of fuel hits hard.  With a fleet of 6.6 million vehicles in January, and about 630 more hitting the streets each day, fuel was taken for granted in Brazil’s largest city and financial capital. Until one day last week, it was not. Now,…

New federal statistics show that, for the first time since 1949, the United States is exporting more petroleum products than it’s importing. Does your life feel any different? This is something of a trick question, as we’ll explain in a moment. But this goes to the heart of the long debate about “energy independence.” The…

March 12 Our journey to Houston 2012 is well underway! This year our team is bringing three cars: a new gasoline prototype vehicle named ThunderDawg, a new diesel urban concept vehicle called HotRod, and the current American record holder urban concept vehicle – Roadster. We have a great team of over twenty people and over…

Over the past decade, plans for 160 new coal fired power plants in the United States have been scrapped, largely due to rising costs and an inability to compete in today’s energy markets. That’s because the cost of once-“expensive” clean energy has fallen dramatically, while “cheap” fossil fuels are increasingly expensive in economic, health, and…