Archives for April, 2013

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery. But is duplicating “Race to the Top” the way to get a new energy grid up and running? If you don’t keep track of education policy, Race to the Top is the Obama administration’s signature schools initiative, with $4 billion in federal grant money awarded to…

Two news items surrounding greenhouse gas emissions moved over the past week. One on the trajectory of said emissions from government number-crunching. The other on what the proposed Keystone pipeline might mean for emissions.

  The great military book is from early China, The Art of War. There is no art of soldiering. You heavy up, go for a walk, look for trouble for a few hours. Or days.  Pete Newell is a U.S. Army colonel. Soldiering doesn’t change, he says. Technology does.  “The average weight on a soldier’s…

Renewable Energy Not Growing as Fast as Necessary, Reports Say

On the road to more sustainable, clean energy, the ride has been bumpy. That’s the message to two reports this week—one from the International Energy Agency and one from the Pew Environment Group—that measured progress on transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy. Renewable energy has stalled, both analyses point out, for a few different…

We’ve known for months that 2012 was a huge year for wind power in the United States, so the headline from the wind industry’s big annual report released last week – that wind power grew by 28 percent – was a little stale. But poring over the 108-page document – provided to us on a…

This being my first year attending Shell Eco-marathon, I didn’t expect anything more than what my club members had told me. A hectic schedule, few hours of sleep, and sunshine filled days was all I expected. What ensued encompassed my expectations and then continued far beyond when our story turned into what a neighboring team…

Peak Oil Flip-Flop

There’s a new twist in the “peak oil” debate. Is it good news for the climate? Peak Oil Question Remains, Debate Continues Ever since M. King Hubbert advanced the theory of peak oil in 1956, experts and non-experts alike have been debating about timing and relevance. (See here, here, here and here.) Hubbert’s argument seems like a…

So what about the country that—together with China—is responsible for 76 percent of the world’s planned 1.4 trillion watts of coal-fired power plants and 90 percent of the projected growth in global coal demand to 2016; that plans (implausibly) to build a coal-fired plant fleet twice as big as America’s; and that will ultimately surpass China in population, though one-fourth of its people still lack electricity?

Gasoline prices for U.S. drivers will be about six cents lower on average this summer compared to last year, according to a new forecast. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the average retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline will be $3.63, compared to $3.69 last year. That’s only a slight bump up…

China is the world’s #1 energy user and carbon emitter, accounting for 55 percent of world energy-consumption growth during 2000–2011. Yet China now also leads the world in five renewable technologies (wind, photovoltaics, small hydro, solar water heaters, and biogas) and aims to lead in all.

A Movie-Like Ending at Eco-marathon

I guess it was important for us to enjoy the ENTIRE Shell Eco-marathon experience. With 10 minutes to go on the very last day of competition, our electric urban concept car fell from first to second place, beaten by a Dixie Cup’s worth of energy.  The story would be gut-wrenching if it had not been…

After world-leading energy efficiency gains in the 1970s, Japan’s energy kaizen stagnated. Japanese industry remains among the most efficient of 11 major industrial nations, but Japan now ranks tenth among them in industrial cogeneration and commercial building efficiency, eighth in truck efficiency, and ties with the U.S. for next-to-last in car efficiency.

Teams of students from around the world, who labored for several weeks to build super-fuel-efficient cars, sent those cars into the final test at the Shell Eco-marathon Americas in Houston this past weekend. The top winner for traditional fuels: Université Laval of Québec City, which achieved a best run of 3,587 miles per gallon (1,524…

The effort to go green in building materials added to the challenges for the Loyola Marymount Senior Mechanical Engineers team at Shell Eco-marathon Americans 2013. Senior Van Weller explained that the team chose lightweight bamboo for the body of its gasoline-powered prototype vehicle, the Gen 5, and spiffed it up with gold paint. Unfortunately, the…

Zack Lapetina of Purdue University explains how the Purdue Solar Racing team uses high-efficiency photovoltaic panels, and then adds intensifiers to increase the amount of sunlight the cars capture for energy in Shell Eco-marathon Americas student design competition. You can also read their blog about their journey here: Lighter and Sleeker for This Year’s Race.…

Students at Cicero-North Syracuse High School are demonstrating an innovation in flexible vehicle design with the hydrogen vehicles they built for Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013. The CNS Performance Engineering Team fashioned its hydrogen tank and fuel cell unit, shown in one of the photos above, as a modular, removable unit that can be moved back…

The “Let’s Do It Again!” team from James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, North Carolina weaves reuse, recycling, and waste reduction into construction of the high-efficiency electric cars it builds for Shell Eco-marathon Americas. This year, the team’s three vehicles incorporate parts of an old baby carriage, a child car seat, a chair, some…

In order to gain easy access to work on the engine between heats, students from Mater Dei High School of Evansville, Indiana, typically build their Shell Eco-marathon cars to open like unhinged clamshells. However, as coach Dan Ritter explains, duct tape works surprisingly well at holding everything together on the track. It seems to have…

Sophomore Dansil Green, team driver, explains one of the ways that the Granite Falls High School team from Washington State seeks to set a mark in fuel economy at Shell Eco-marathon Americas: With a light-footed driving style. Like most of the teams, the ShopGirls coast around the track when they can, only drawing on their…

Pamela Ruiz of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico in Mexico City explains how her team built a car that resembles a predator of the sea. Appropriately, they named their vehicle Mako, after the fast-moving shark. Nacional Autonoma is one of 11 teams from outside the United States in Shell Eco-marathon Americas this year (four from…

Junior electrical engineering student Shane Poindexter, of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks’ “Nanook” team, explains  how the team transported their six vehicles more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) to Houston: In their airline luggage. He says even in an oil-producing state, the students recognize the importance of building more fuel-efficient vehicles. The team team’s six…

Although the mileage turned in by the top performers in Shell Eco-marathon Americas may be eye-popping—typically about 2,000 miles per gallon (846 kilometers per liter)—the student competitors in the European edition of the competition achieve triple the fuel economy. (Last year’s European winner turned in a performance of 6,663.2 mpg (2,832.8 km/l). (See “French Teams…

Although hydrogen has been hampered as an oil alternative in the real world because of challenges in setting up a new fueling infrastructure, students are showing that it is a viable and clean transportation fuel at Shell Eco-marathon Americas. Andy Bank, of the University of Missouri’s Tigergen team, shows off Mizzou’s Tigergen III car in…

Louisiana Tech University has been a perennial winner at Shell Eco-marathon Americas, with an emphasis on slipping aerodynamic features into sleekly designed cars that look like they could be driving the roads today. “They want a car that looks like a car,” explained Heath Tims, associate professor of mechanical engineering and team coach. “They want…

Why does this team’s high-efficiency car look like a taxi? Ride-sharing is the idea that students at St. Paul’s School in Covington, Louisiana wanted to drive home with the vehicle they built for Shell Eco-marathon Americas 2013. It’s nicknamed “Big Yellow Taxi,” and modeled after Benny the cartoon taxi in the movie, “Who Framed Roger…