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Marginal lands in the U.S. may serve as perfect real estate for growing alternative energy biomass

Marginal lands, or the kind of real estate that we do not use for our food crops, may be perfect to grow the crops we need for production of alternative energy.

In a recent study, Michigan State University researchers look into the untapped marginal lands and see how they can be the prime real estate for growing crops that we can turn into fuel. The marginal lands in the Midwest of the United States alone can help produce about 5.5B gallons of ethanol.

The study focused on 10 states in the Midwest. The scientists used data collected in the last two decades to see the productivity of the lands and the impact of greenhouse gas that came from the production of alfalfa, poplar, corn, among others.

A supercomputer was used to do all the math and look into the possibilities of biomass production that can support a small biorefinery that has a capacity of 24 million gallons annually. The final number at 5.5 billion is actually a quarter of the target for cellulosic biofuels by 2022.

The study shows that the marginal lands can provide a major contribution for energy production, particularly for transportation energy.

The numbers presented by the scientists are still very conservative since the efficiency can be improved with proper management of the land and careful selection of the plants to use.

The use of the marginal lands can also help settle the conflict of fuel and food production plus land conservation in mind.

Other benefits of using these untapped lands include more revenues for farmers, no indirect effects for the land use, and no conversion of land that leads to carbon debt.

Synchrotron used to look into enzymes for green energy

eco-friendly-hydrogen-powered-carChemists from UC Davis have been utilizing Japanese synchrotron to look into the details of enzymes that can help in our quest for greener energy. One of the options we have to have cleaner vehicles on the road is to run them using hydrogen. To have a successful hydrogen economy, we need a cheap catalyst that can help produce hydrogen gas.

The current existing catalysts are made from precious and rare metals like platinum. There are living cells that contain hydrogenases, enzymes that are based on iron and nickel, that can act as catalysts as well. Scientists are very interested how these enzymes can be utilized or at least mimic their properties.

The team of experts from UC Davis recently published their research about the iron-nickel complex . In collaboration with other scientists from Germany and other parts of the United States, a technique referred to as the Nuclear Resonance Vibrational Spectroscopy and the synchrotron of the Japanese research institute to look into the crystals. The team discovered more information about the atoms and how they move.

The work on the natural catalysts was made possible by funding from the Department of Energy, Max Planck Society, and National Institutes of Health.

Reizen Group invests in commercial cellulosic ethanol production in Brazil, partners with Iogen

Raizen Group, known as the biggest producer of sugarcane ethanol in the world, has poured in some investment in a project in Brazil that aims to develop a commercially viable cellulosi ethanol. It partnered with Iogen Energy based in Canada for this venture.
The investment in Brazil is the first move to make cellulosic biofuels commercially available in Brazil. The funding will cover the engineering cost and development associated with the construction of a facility that will handle the conversion from biomass to ethanol. The facility will be located at the Costa Pinto factory of Raizen in Sao Paolo.

Raizen sealed the deal with Iogen, well-known operator of cellulosic ethanol factories in Canada, after conducting a review of the technologies of the latter. They found out that Iogen has the most advanced cellulosic technologies that can be considered fit for commercialization.

Raizen Energia is under the umbrella of the Raizen Group with a $12 billion partnership with Cosan of Brazil and Royal Dutch Shell.

Raizen produces about 2.2 billion liters of ethanol per year, and has a 900 MW electric energy capacity produced from bagasse, a byproduct of sugarcane. Raizen has around 4,500 stations that sell fuel in Brazil, 53 fuel depots, and hundreds of convenience stores. The company also supplies aviation fuel to 54 airports.

Iogen produces cellulosic ethanol in Ottawa since 2004 and has made around 528,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol. Iogen also makes enzymes that help process natural fibers within industries like grain, animal feeds, paper, and pulp.

Superbugs in the stratosphere offer new energy source

Who would have thought that there are bacteria that can be found 30 kilometers above the surface of our planet can be good and efficient producers of electricity.

The Bacillus stratosphericus, a form of microbe that has a very high concentration on our stratosphere is an essential component of a super biofilm that was engineered by scientists from the Newcastle University.

The team isolated 75 bacterial species and tested their ability to generate power using an MFC or microbial fuel cell. They picked the best and was able to create a biofilm which has an electrical output of 200 watts for every cubic meter that doubles the generation of the 105 watt/cubic meter MFC.

The amount of electricity produced is still very small but is enough to light a bulb and may be used to provide services to some parts of the world which still do not have electricity.

Among the super bugs in the biofilm is the B. stratosphericus which is found on Earth’s atmosphere but pushed down to land due to the cycling processes of the atmosphere. The research demonstrates the potential of these super bugs by manipulating them to produce a biofilm which is an efficient producer of electricity.

It is the first time to study the potentials of individual microbes that generate electricity. The use of B. stratosphericus for this initial studies is a great indication of how it can be used in future applications and there are literally billions of microbes which can generate energy.

The concept of microbes producing electricity is not a new thing as this has been used in treating sewage plants and waste water. The microbial fuel cells actually work the same way as a battery and makes use of bio-catalytic oxidation to convert into electricity the organic compounds they have.

The biofilm is like a coat of slime which wraps around the MFC and as they feed, electrons are produced which in turn pass thru the electrodes and produce electricity. The biofilm used for the study has been un-checked yet but indicates that this can be manipulated to generate more electricity.

XL Hybrids testing electric conversion technology for trucks and commercial vans

XL Hybrids has been working with conversion systems to make hybrid electric vehicles out of trucks and Class 1 thru 3 commercial vans. The company will be conducting pilot runs of their system using 2500-Series vans of General Motors which includes GMC Savana and Chevy Express. The hybrid set up will decrease the emission of carbon dioxide of urban fleets by as much as 20% and will also lower fuel consumption.
The powertrain by XL Hybrids is made up of a 53 horsepower electric motor that depends on a 2kWh lithium-ion battery which works smoothly with the V8 4.8L internal combustion powerplant and its automatic gearbox.

The hybrid setup will add some flexibility for the commercial trucks and vans, operating them using either application, although the fuel savings will also depend if the fleet will be taking urban or suburban routes. The electric motor can beef up the torque of the vehicle by as much as 240 ft-lb when accelerating, allowing the trucks and vans to improve their efficiency and performance.

XL Hybrids is collaborating with possible contractors that can install the hybrid system to old and new vehicles. The company eyes firms whose fleet of vehicles travel a minimum distance of 25,000 miles annually via suburban and urban roads.

By next year, XL Hybrids will also make the hybrid powertrain as an option for fleet leasing companies. Business owners will be able to save in operational costs without having to worry about up-front capital.

At the moment, experts estimate the savings to be at least $1,500 to about $2,500 every year on fuel expenses. Fleet customers can expect the return of investment in as early as three years. Installation of the hybrid system is also done in a few hours time.

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Network of plug-in charging networks powered by solar opens in UK

Plug in and electric car owners will be able to travel the whole length of the United Kingdom soon by making use of the new network of solar powered charging stations ideally located near the motorways. According to the company which built the network, Ecotricity, the anxiety problem has been removed from electric car owners in the UK.

The top up stations will be getting their energy from the solar parks and wind parks of Ecotricity which are spread around the UK. The first station was installed at the service station at South Mimms along Welcome Break while 12 more will be finished by the end of September. The planned 27 service stations at Welcome Break will be completed.

Users can make use of the charging station with the swipe of a pass card that comes for free. Electric cars will be able to top up in a matter of 20 minutes utilizing the 32 amps rapid recharge system. Full charge can be achieved in around two hours using the two sockets of the post. Those who will use the single socket 13 amp system will be able to charged their electric vehicle overnight.

Ecotricity is trying to address the infrastructure issues with regard to range anxiety and the concentration of chargin stations only in London. Studies show that electric vehicle owners need to recharge their electric cars while on longer journeys in between towns and cities.

The company hopes that the installation of the top up stations will give way to the take over of electric vehicles of the streets of the United Kingdom.

Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel lowers Fuel Consumption

Shell Oil Products has been market-testing its brand new product—the Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel, which claims to lower the fuel consumption of big vehicles like trucks and vans. The Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel can be bought on a trial period that kicked off last January 31, 2011.

This new product comes with a powerful cleaning technology that is successful in protecting diesel-powered vehicles from the build-up of carbon deposits. We all know that these gunk deposits could affect the fuel flow and increase CO2 emissions which are bad for the environment.

In a demonstration that was participated by trucks, the Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel was able to render a 4.8% and 1.3% reduction in fuel consumption in many strict stop-and-go services in the city and other less strict counterparts respectively.

The Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel will be available for commercial use and even retail car owners in Richmond, Northfolk and Virginia Beach, Baltimore, and Nashville. As for Atlanta, the Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel is only offered commercially.

The Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel is effective in guarding the engine against corrosion and prevents wear and tear of the injector thanks to its powerful lubricating agents. For winter time, a pack of anti-gel agents are also sold. If the Shell Nitrogen Enriched Diesel is effective in lowering fuel consumption to even the biggest heavy duty automobiles, your car would surely benefit from it especially if you want to cut down on fuel consumption and keep your engine in tip top shape.

Honda Announces the Release of Insight and CR-Z Hybrids by End of 2012

In the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition, Honda Motor & Co. LTD. President and COE Takanobu Ito announced that the company will be selling the hybrid models Insight and CRZ to the public by the end of 2012. These hybrids were produced in Japan. In addition to this, Ito added that Acura will be producing its first hybrid model in the next three years.

Honda Insight ConceptJust last year, Honda broke the sales record in China by selling 580,000 units. This certainly puts the Japanese car manufacturer in a good light. Honda introduced its crossover premium utility vehicle, the Crosstour, during the Beijing exhibition. According to reports, the Crosstour will be produced locally by the Guangqi Honda branch. Sales for this vehicle should begin by the end of 2010.

Also in the exhibit was Honda’s concept model Li Nian. Guangqi Honda owns this brand. Late this 2010, Honda sets its eyes on presenting the mass-produced Li Nian to the public through the Guanzhou Motor Show. Li Nian is produced specifically for the Chinese market, and there’s no news about its global release just yet. In English, the term Li Nian can be translated as “idea”.

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Geneva: Fisker shows off Space Frame of 2011 Karma

Nine months to go before its launch, no one from the media has ever driven a 2011 Karma. Its maker Fisker decided to reveal the space frame of this plug-in sports sedan during the Geneva Motor Show.

The space frame is designed to play a vital role in distributing the hybrid powertrain throughout the Fisker Karma. The frame holds the engine-generator under the hood of the car.

The lithium ion battery pack of the 2011 Karma is positioned at the spine of the car. This battery makes use of iron-phosphate cells manufactured by A123 Systems. The battery pack is located at the least vulnerable space if ever the driver meets a road mishap.

The 403 horsepower electric motor can be found just behind the rear seat a bit in front of the rear wheels.

The founder of the company noted that the focus of the design must be on torsional rigidity and adaptability to new styles of the car’s body foreseeing the coming of the 2012 Karma S which will have a retractable hardtop.

Fisker Karma aluminum spaceframe

The space frame is very strong according to Henrik Fisker himself. He explains that the components are joined by about 260 feet of MIG welding spots and about 1,000 rivets. The car is also said to have great resistance to angled roads with about 33,000 N-m for every degree.

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Audi e-Tron Electric Supercar wows Frankfurt with 154-mile range

Recent press releases have detailed that you can try the Audi e-Tron on a virtual drive through your Play Station. Before you do that, let us give you some info about the Audi electric supercar that impressed the crowd during the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany.

The e-Tron from Audi features technologies that might be pointing to the direction of how electronic vehicles must be in the future. The e-Tron is based on the platform of the R8 supercar and includes four electric motors connected independently to each of the wheels of the vehicle. It truly lives up to the Quattro tag just like the other range in the Audi fleet.

The output of the motor is just 313 horsepower but has an astounding torque of 3,319 lb-ft. It can zoom from 0 to 62mph in just 4.8 seconds and blast from 37 to 75 mph in a blink of 4.1 seconds.

The car depends on a 53 kWh lithium-ion battery pack for its power. Like in other EVs the battery makes up a big bulk of the weight at 1,036 lbs. Audi managed to keep the weight of the e-Tron to just about 3,527 lbs.

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