News and Events January 18, 2012
Highlighting the Obama Administration’s efforts to boost innovation in the U.S. car industry, the Acting Undersecretary of Energy toured UQM Technologies’ electric drive component manufacturing facilities on January 13. DOE’s Arun Majumdar visited the Longmont, Colorado-based company that was able to purchase and renovate a 130,000-square-foot facility because of a $45 million DOE grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the firm matched dollar for dollar. UQM recently announced it would provide electric-propulsion systems for 100 UPS delivery vehicles to be deployed in early 2012.
When completed, the Longmont plant will be able to produce electric-drive systems and power electronics and processors for up to 120,000 electric drive vehicles each year. The plant has the flexibility to produce systems for light-duty hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric, and all-electric passenger vehicles, as well as heavy-duty hybrid trucks and buses.
The Recovery Act award is only a part of DOE’s longstanding collaboration with UQM, which dates to the 1990s and includes competitive awards as well as grants through the Small Business Innovation Research program. Most recently, DOE awarded the company a $3 million competitive, cost-shared award to develop electric motors that don’t require magnets made from rare-earth elements as a way to support more efficient, less expensive electric-vehicle technologies. See the DOE press release and Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s remarks on automobile innovation.
The United States topped China for the first time since 2008 as global clean energy investment reached a new record of $260 billion in 2011, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The analysis company reported on January 12 that the total was up 5% over 2010, as solar spending outpaced investments in wind.
Last year’s highlights include the United States retaking first place, with total investment surging to nearly $56 billion, up 33%; China saw investment rise just 1% to $47 billion. The report noted that a major portion of the U.S. increase was due to the now expired federal loan progam, and that another contributor, the production tax credit for renewables, is set to expire at the end of 2012.
Overall, solar technology investments surged 36% to almost $137 billion. This nearly doubled the $75 billion spent on wind power, which was down 17%. Other categories surveyed included energy-smart technologies, including smart grid, power storage, efficiency and advanced transport. The report also tallied smaller renewable energy sectors: biofuels saw total investment edge up from $8.6 to $9 billion; biomass and waste-to-energy dropped 18% to about $11 billion; geothermal slipped from $3.2 to $2.8 billion; and small hydropower fell 25% to $3 billion. See the Bloomberg New Energy Finance press release.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on December 29 published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking about BLM’s interest in establishing an efficient, competitive process for issuing right-of-way leases for solar and wind energy development on the public lands. The BLM believes such a process would help ensure fair access to leasing opportunities for renewable energy development and capture fair market value for the use of public lands. Existing regulations limit the competitive process to procedures for responding to overlapping right-of-way applications. The BLM is seeking input on how best to offer public lands through a nomination and competitive process instead of just by right-of-way application.
The agency will evaluate ways to establish competitive bidding procedures for lands within designated solar and wind energy development leasing areas, define qualifications for potential bidders, and structure the financial arrangements necessary for the process. The announcement in the Federal Register began a 60-day comment period that closes February 27. See the BLM press release and the notice in the Federal Register.
The California Energy Commission on January 12 approved a first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standard that will reduce wasted energy by battery chargers used with cell phones, laptop computers, power tools, and other devices. The proposed standards can save nearly 2,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) each year, enough energy to power nearly 350,000 homes.
Because nearly two-thirds of the 8,000 GWh of electricity consumed in California by battery charger systems (or battery chargers) is wasted by inefficiency, the Energy Commission proposed appliance efficiency standards requiring battery chargers to consume less energy while providing the same performance. Consumer chargers used in cell phones, personal care devices, and power tools will be required to comply with the new standards by February 1, 2013. Industrial charger compliance (e.g. forklifts) is required by January 1, 2014. Compliance for small commercial chargers (such as walkie-talkies and portable barcode scanners) is required by January 1, 2017. See the California Energy Commission press release.
As Electric Vehicles Take Charge, Costs Power Down
By Patrick B. Davis, Vehicle Technologies program manager
The record number of electric-drive vehicles on the floor of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, which ends January 22, sends a clear message—the American auto industry is dedicated to driving innovation and delivering advanced vehicles to consumers here and around the world. We’re working with them every step of the way to help make that vision a reality. One of the keys to translating the trade show excitement around electric vehicles into widespread consumer adoption is driving down costs, and one area that continues to be a focus across the industry is reducing the cost of electric motors.
In addition to further research and development, increasing the domestic manufacturing capacity of electric motors is one of the keys to accomplishing this. Upping capacity will not only help meet growing consumer demand but also help drive down the cost of both the motors and the vehicles that use them. To help achieve this goal, DOE has undertaken a variety of projects with industry partners to find innovative ways to design and manufacture electric motors. On one such project, the department teamed with Delphi Automotive Systems in an effort to reduce the cost, size, and weight of electric motors by using patented semiconductor packaging technology. The result of this cost-sharing partnership is new packaging that is smaller, lighter weight and allows more power to be produced than previous methods. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog.
Saving Money and Fuel with a Click of a Mouse
By Patrick B. Davis, Vehicle Technologies program manager
On January 9, as I walked along the floor of the North American International Auto Show, I found myself continually taken with the variety of vehicles and technologies on display. It seems like there’s a vehicle configuration for every segment of consumer these days. That level of choice can also be daunting. With so many options, it can be hard to decipher what car is right for you, or if there’s a clear economic benefit in trading up to a new vehicle. Fortunately, DOE offers a number of tools that can help consumers save money and fuel, whether you’re in the market for a new vehicle or trying to make the most of your current one.
FuelEconomy.gov, a partnership between the DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is a great place to start. The site’s recently updated Find-a-Car tool helps consumers find a fuel-efficient vehicle that meets their specific set of needs. Buyers can browse by model, class, price, or miles per gallon. The entry on each car shows the vehicle’s annual fuel cost, fuel economy, amount of petroleum used, smog score, and safety ratings. Drivers can also compare up to four different cars side-by-side. There’s even a mobile version so that car shoppers compare models as they browse the lot.
Once a driver has chosen a vehicle, he or she can find out its full lifetime cost on the Alternative Fuel and Advanced Vehicles Data Center’s (AFDC) Vehicle Cost Calculator. After averaging in the driver’s local gas prices, daily driving distance, and annual mileage, the calculator gives a cumulative cost of ownership that includes fuel, tires, maintenance, and loan payments. The Vehicle Cost Calculator also provides information on a vehicle’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. This calculation includes not only the tailpipe emissions but also emissions created in fuel production, whether the fuel is gasoline, electricity, or biofuels. Bar and line graphs for each result make it simple to compare different vehicles to one another. Read the full story on DOE’s Energy Blog, and visit the FuelEconomy.gov website and Vehicle Cost Calculator Web page.