David Kirkpatrick

September 1, 2010

The new EPA auto fuel economy label

With hybrids and electric cars becoming more commonplace, the old miles-per-gallon rating just doesn’t cut it for fuel efficiency comparison shopping. So in steps the Environmental Protection Agency with a brand new label. Not sure exactly how clear this is at first glance, but it does offer more than just MPG information.

From the link:

All new cars and light-duty trucks sold in the U.S. are required to have a label that displays fuel economy information that is designed to help consumers make easy and well-informed comparisons between vehicles. Most people recognize the current label (or “window sticker”) by the gas tank graphic and city and highway Miles Per Gallon (MPG) information. EPA has provided fuel economy estimates in City and Highway MPG values for more than 30 years (see how fuel economy has changed).

EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are updating this label to provide consumers with simple, straightforward energy and environmental comparisons across all vehicles types, including electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV), and conventional gasoline/diesel vehicles. The agencies are incorporating new information, such as ratings on fuel economy, greenhouse gas emissions, and other air pollutants, onto the label as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

The agencies are proposing two different label designs (see right) and are eager to gather public input. Specifically, which design, or design features, would best help you compare the fuel economy, fuel costs, and environmental impacts of different vehicles.  Submit a comment on the proposed labels.

For more information on the proposed fuel economy label redesign, please see the Proposed Rule, the proposed labels, and related documents.

And all that info isn’t enough, here’s the EPA’s release on the new labels.

(Hat tip — Potential Energy blog at Technology Review)

August 3, 2010

Platinum nanoparticles may radically improve fuel cells

This nanotech-based catalyst would put electric cars — among other ideas and products — on a much faster track.

From the link:

In the quest for efficient, cost-effective and commercially viable fuel cells, scientists at Cornell University’s Energy Materials Center have discovered a catalyst and catalyst-support combination that could make fuel cells more stable, conk-out free, inexpensive and more resistant to carbon monoxide poisoning.

The research, “Highly Stable and CO-Tolerant Pt/Ti0.7W0.3O2 Electrocatalyst for Proton-Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells,” (, July 12, 2010) led by Hector D. Abruna, Cornell professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and director of the Energy Materials Center at Cornell (emc2); Francis J. DiSalvo, Cornell professor Chemistry and Chemical Biology; Deli Wang, post doctoral researcher; Chinmayee V. Subban, graduate student; Hongsen Wang, research associate; and Eric Rus, graduate student.

offer an appealing alternative to gasoline-burning cars: They have the potential to power vehicles for long distances using hydrogen as fuel, mitigate carbon dioxide production and emit only water vapor.

However, fuel cells generally require very pure hydrogen to work. That means that conventional fuels must be stripped of  – a process that is too expensive to make fuel cells commercially viable.

Fuel cells work by electrochemically decomposing fuel instead of burning it, converting energy directly into electricity

June 4, 2010

Free electric car charging station …

courtesy of the fed via the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.

With apologies to Kevin Bullis, author of the linked post at Technology Review’s “Potential Energy” blog, I’m including the entire post below because it’s short and all three graphs have pertinent information on this program. If you own an electric car and live in one of the listed cities you really ought to look into getting your own federally-funded charging station.

From the link:

In an attempt to promote electric vehicles, a federally funded program will give away 4,600 charging stations to electric car buyers and business owners in nine metropolitan areas across the country, according to Coulomb Technologies, the Campbell, CA-based company that will provide the stations.

About 2000 of the charging stations will be installed in homes, where they can cut charging times in half compared to just plugging a car into a standard 110 volt outlet. The rest will be given to business owners for public charging stations. The business owners can use them to turn a profit via a payment system. Although the charging stations are free–paid for by a $15 million grant from last year’s Recovery Act–owners will have to pay for installation.

To sign up or get more information about the charging stations, go to the ChargePoint America website here. The systems will be available in Austin, TX, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, FL., Sacramento, CA., the San Jose/San Francisco Bay Area, Redmond, WA, and Washington DC.

November 16, 2009

DoE putting money into lithium-sulfur batteries

Lithium-sulfur batteries are an alternative to lithium-ion batteries with three times the storage. Early prototypes were pretty dodgy, but more research is now going on supported by Department of Energy grant money.

From the link:

Earlier this year we reported on several advances geared toward addressing these problems, and noted that these advances had caught the eye of the chemical giant BASF, which is now working to bring lithium-sulfur batteries to market. But challenges remain, including bringing down costs. Now the Department of Energy has also taken an interest in the technology. This week Sion Power Cooperation (which is working with BASF) announced that it has received a three-year, $800,000 DOE grant to further develop the lithium-sulfur batteries for electric vehicles.