Written by R.E. Lord   

Google once again puts its support behind renewable energy projects, this time installing the nation's first wireless, hands-free charging system.

The inductive energy charging system called Plugless Power manufactured by Evatran, LLC will be used at Google's Mountain View headquarters to charge one of its low-speed, short-range electric vehicle it uses to motor around the grounds.

The CEO of Plugless Power, Tom Hough, says that "the interest shown by Google and the cooperation we’ve received to retrofit their EV provides evidence that a simple, convenient charging process is needed for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.”

To use the inductive charging system, a vehicle simply pulls up to the machine, positioning the vehicle adapter over the parking block and the charging begins.  There is a small energy loss of about 10% from traditional wired charging but charging times are not increased.  According to the company,"the battery will continue to accept the same amount of power at one time, but the charger will draw additional watts from the electrical outlet to compensate for the small efficiency loss."

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   

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   

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
Written by R.E. Lord   

Nissan Leaf ChargingCar dealerships will begin installing electric vehicle chargers this week in anticipation of the Nissan Leaf’s much-anticipated December roll-out.

Dealerships in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington will put in more than 40 240V chargers by the end of the week, Nissan announced. Each dealership will have four charging docks, two for “operation support” and two for customer use.

By January more than 150 dealerships in the five launch markets will have chargers, the company says.

Read more: Test-Market Dealerships Prepare for Nissan Leaf Roll-Out
Written by R.E. Lord   

German Electric Car

In Germany an all-electric (converted) Audi A2 recently traveled 375 miles on a single charge of its impressive battery pack.  The trip took place from Munich to Berlin while averaging about 55 mph and with the heat on.

The Audi was converted to all-electric by DBM Energy, running on its state-of-the art battery pack.  The company, headed by 27-year-old Mirko Hannemann,  has developed the battery with what they call the KOLIBRI AlphaPolymer Technology. According to Hannemann, the battery is able to operate with 97 percent efficiency and is easily charged with nearly any power source. More impressively, the company claims that if charged with a high-voltage system, the battery can reach a full charge in 6 minutes.

Read more: German Electric Audi Drives 375 Miles on a Single Charge

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