Written by R.E. Lord   

Nissan Leaf Interior

Edmunds Inside Line - 2011 Nissan Leaf Long-Term Road Test - "On paper, the 2011 Nissan Leaf seems to be hitting all of its marks in terms of usability and affordability. How will it do when it comes to range and operating costs? We'll be working to answer those over the next six months." [March 8, 2011]

The beginning of a long-term test, now covering the basics...

Cars.com Blog - Our Nissan Leaf's First Week - "One week ago, our long-term Nissan Leaf arrived, and my overwhelming impression is how utterly mundane it's been driving this car." [March 3, 2011]

Impressions from driving the car for a week, notably in some pretty cold, rainy/icy weather.

NY Times - Nissan Leaf, The People’s Electric, Ready to Claim Power - "If anything, the Leaf demonstrates how much the widespread acceptance of vehicles that produce zero tailpipe emissions will depend on external factors like a charging infrastructure." [January 21, 2011]

An in-depth overview of the car, including background on Nissan's long-term strategy.

Plugincars.com - First Full Range Test of Nissan LEAF Yields 116.1 Miles - "After today, I can tell you with unwavering certainty that the LEAF can obtain at least 100 miles of range in the real world." [Oct. 21, 2010]

Not a review per se, but a good first-hand article on testing the range of the Leaf.

Crunchgear - Test Drive: Nissan Leaf - "The Leaf is a car I’d recommend to anyone who’s already game, but it’s not going to change anyone’s mind who isn’t already interested in getting a plug-in." [Aug. 4, 2010]

A lengthy, well-written review with lots of photos and a short, 4.5 minute video.

Read more: Nissan Leaf Test Drive Overview
Written by R.E. Lord   

Electric Toyota RAV4A Toyota RAV4 with a 100-mile range, Tesla-designed battery could be in production by 2012, the automakers announced at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

With 35 demonstration models of the second-generation electric RAV4 to be built next year, Toyota hopes to market the vehicle with “a target range of 100 miles in actual road driving patterns, in a wide range of climates and conditions” within two years.

The RAV4 EV has a lithium metal oxide battery with useable output rated in the mid-30 kwh range designed by Silicon Valley’s Tesla, while Toyota “was responsible for development and manufacturing leadership and the seamless integration of the powertrain,” the company said.

Read more: Toyota and Tesla Reveal Long-Range RAV4 EV
Written by R.E. Lord   

A platinum monolayer shell on a palladium nanoparticle core.Scientists have built a new electrocatalyst for fuel-cell vehicles that uses palladium instead of carbon to protect the expensive layer of platinum needed to drive a cell’s reactions, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.

In current fuel-cell technology, normal stop-and-go driving wears down the platinum catalyst, causing its reactivity to plummet over time. Researchers see this as one of the major hurdles to large-scale production and use of fuel-cell technology.

But according to Brookhaven chemist Radosalve Adzic, a palladium or palladium-gold alloy nanoparticle core has proved to be a worthy protector of the precious metal in lab tests.

Read more: New Electrocatalyst for Fuel-Cell Vehicles Protects Expensive Platinum Layer

Written by Tim Hull   

Electric Tesla RoadsterA German stockbroker drove his Tesla Roadster more than 40,000 miles (65,000 kilometers) in one year, and never wanted for charging stations, which he found “at homes, hotels, parking structures and even barns and farm houses” throughout the country, the Silicon Valley electric-car maker says.

Hansjorg von Gemmingen, of Freiburg, has been harder on his Roadster than most of the approximately 1,300 owners of the emissions-free sports car, born in 2008. But he has had no trouble finding infrastructure to support his habit—an issue that has long fueled skepticism about the EV industry in America—as the Roadster charges from conventional outlets.

Read more: German Who Drive Like an American Lauds Tesla Roadster
Written by R.E. Lord   

BMW Megacity ActiveEThe BMW Group’s long-term plans to mass produce an electric car sped forward a bit recently when the luxury automaker invested more than half a billion dollars to expand its Leipzig facility, where it plans to build its Megacity Vehicle (MCV) series -- the “world’s first volume-produced car with a passenger compartment made from lightweight CFRP [Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer].”

The company says it will first produce the ActiveE at the Leipzig plant. Expected sometime in 2011, the ActiveE will be the company’s second foray into the increasingly competitive world of zero-emissions electric cars. The first, the Mini E, is currently being field-tested around the world.

Read more: BMW’s Carbon Fiber Megacity Vehicle Series On Its Way From Leipzig

Written by R.E. Lord   

Transparent Conductive MaterialA new material could be used to develop ultra-thin, see-through solar panels, putting a futuristic power-generating window within reach, according to scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The scientists announced this week that they’ve made “transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area.” The research is described in-depth in the journal Chemistry of Materials.

“The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes,” according to researchers at the Department of Energy facilities. “Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).”

Lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), said: “Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation.”

The technology could have “wide range of practical applications,” said study co-author Zhihua Xu, including “energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays.”

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.


Written by R.E. Lord   

Panasonic TeslaThe already strong relationship between Tesla Motors and Panasonic was further bolstered today as Panasonic has invested a $30 million stake in the electric car company. Earlier this year the two companies agreed to work closely together when Panasonic signed on to provide Tesla with its Lithium Ion batteries used in the production of its upcoming Model S.

This latest deal involved Panasonic purchasing $30 million in stock from the company at $21.15 per share, and now owns about 2% of the car company. This alliance follows earlier partnerships Tesla has formed with Toyota and Daimler over the course of the last year and a half.

Read more: Panasonic Invests $30 Million in Tesla Motors

Written by R.E. Lord   

Broken WindmillIn the third quarter of 2010, venture capital investments in cleantech companies dropped 55% compared to the same quarter last year according to an analysis by Ernst & Young LLP from data provided by Dow Jones VentureSource.

Jay Spencer, Ernst & Young LLP's Americas Cleantech Director, comments on the findings: "This quarter reflects the ongoing volatility in cleantech investment that we have observed over the past two years, depending on the presence of the very large transactions we see in cleantech. However, a number factors point to the continuing strength in the US cleantech sector, including growth in Energy Efficiency investments and corporate involvement throughout multiple industries – from utilities to technology to consumer products."

Read more: Cleantech Venture Capital Investments Down 55% in Q3 of 2010

Written by R.E. Lord   

Rare Earth MetalsRare earth metals (or minerals) are used in a variety of materials we use everyday such as cell phones and laptops, and they are also an important part of many hybrid cars.  In fact, in a hybrid such as the Toyota Prius there are several pounds of rare earth minerals in parts such as the battery electrode as well as the magnets within the electric motor.

Are Rare Earth Metals Really Rare?

Interestingly enough, these "rare" earth metals are not particularly all that rare. That is, there are relatively high concentrations of them found in the earth's crust around the world, but it is not generally commercially viable to mine them. At this point, they are for the most part only mined in China which contributes about 95% of the world's supply of rare earth metals (though it only has about 37% of the world's proven resources).

Read more: Rare Earth Metals, Recycling and Urban Mining
Written by R.E. Lord   

Solar PanelsSolar power may provide 4.3% of the United States' power needs by the year 2020 according to a report put out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The solar energy, derived from both photovoltaic and solar thermal electricity technologies, will be available due to declining costs for equipment as well as strong support from the Federal government.  The report points out, however, that these figures are only attainable if the solar industry is able to attract $100 billion in new investments.

The United States currently has 1.4 gigawatts of solar capacity installed, putting it fifth in the world, but may be able to increase that figure to 44 gigawatts. According to the report, the "forecast capacity from large‐scale solar thermal projects is projected to rise from 0.4 gigawatts currently to 14 gigawatts by 2020. For photovoltaics, the group anticipates a 34% annual growth rate to 30 gigawatts by 2020."

Read more: Solar Power May Provide 4.2% of U.S. Energy Needs by 2020

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