Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Rise of Electric Vehicles and why you should purchase one



In recent years the electric vehicle has gained a lot of popularity. What is all the hype about? Is it really worth it to invest in a car just because "it's good for the environment" or the new fashionable thing to buy? Let's start out with the different types of electric vehicles. Energy.gov has a great summary on their website:

HEVs are primarily powered by an internal combustion engine that runs on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine and is not plugged in to charge.

PHEVs are powered by an internal combustion engine that can run on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The vehicle can be plugged into an electric power source to charge the battery. Some types of PHEVs are also called extended range electric vehicles (EREVs).


EVs use a battery to store the electric energy that powers the motor. EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. EVs are sometimes referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

The Beginning


Did you know that EVs are a fairly old idea? Here in the U.S., the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890. They used to dominate the auto industry and the first car dealerships were actually exclusively for EVs. Here is a short summary of the history of the EV from ElectricAuto.org:

"In the late 1890s electric vehicles (EVs) outsold gasoline cars ten to one. EVs dominated the roads and dealer showrooms. Some automobile companies, like Oldsmobile and Studebaker actually started out as successful EV companies, only later did they transition to gasoline-powered vehicles."

Customers appreciated that they weren't smelly like other gas powered cars, easy to drive and quiet.

So why did EVs disappear? According to ElectricAuto.org, several reasons contributed to its downfall:

"The infrastructure for electricity was almost non-existent outside of city boundaries – limiting EVs to city-only travel. Another contributing factor to the decline of EVs was the addition of an electric motor (called the starter) to gasoline powered cars – finally removing the need for the difficult and dangerous crank to start the engine. Due to these factors, by the end of World War I, production of electric cars stopped and EVs became niche vehicles – serving as taxis, trucks, delivery vans, and freight handlers."

Another important factor was cost. Energy.gov states that, "…by 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750." Also, the discovery of Texas crude oil made gas cheap and readily available for rural Americans. Electric vehicles all but disappeared by 1935.

The Comeback


After so many decades the electrical vehicle finally made a comeback. Several new regulations such as the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment or the Energy Policy Act in 1992, sparked a new interest and need in clean alternatives. The Prius, which originated in Japan in 1997 and was released worldwide in 2000, became the world's first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle.

Not long after, "Tesla Motors, would start producing a luxury electric sports car that could go more than 200 miles on a single charge. In 2010, Tesla received at $465 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office -- a loan that Tesla repaid a full nine years early -- to establish a manufacturing facility in California. In the short time since then, Tesla has won wide acclaim for its cars and has become the largest auto industry employer in California." (Source: Energy.gov)


Why it's good for you and the environment


Clean Alternative
The overall emissions content for EVs is lower but the location and timing of the emissions are better as well as they usually happen during off-peak driving hours at power plants in remote locations. In addition, EVs don't have a tailpipe.

Cost and Savings  
When driving an electrical vehicle, most of the maintenance costs associated with an internal combustion engine are eliminated.

The cost per mile to fuel an EV is approximately one-third to one-quarter the cost of gasoline (on a cost per mile basis). On average, each American spends $2,000 – $4,000 on gas each year. The lack of exhaust systems or oil changes reduces maintenance costs even further. To maintain an electric car, just rotate your tires and keep them properly inflated.

Tax incentives and the mass production of batteries have further brought down the cost.
  
Domestic Energy Independence 
According to NRG EVGO, EVs also help to increase America’s energy independence. By running on electricity generated by fuels sourced within the United States instead of on foreign fossil fuels,

Quiet and Quick 
An electric car is very quiet and smooth, curbing noise pollution and providing an exhilarating driving experience over long distances. It makes most regular cars seem clunky and outdated.

Image Courtesy of CarLeasingMadeSimple

Innovation


Advancement in technology continually contributes to more opportunities when it comes to electric cars.

Charge your plug-in electric vehicle by parking it! No need for cords or cards. This wireless charging technology may soon be widespread, thanks to research supported by the Energy Department.

Ford announced that it would introduce 12 new electric cars by the year 2020 with a revised Focus Electric set to arrive later this year. The company is also working on an EV with a range of 200 miles. Hyundai is also expected to release an electric car with a 250 mile range by 2020.

Canada is taking it one step further. Quebec is considering a mandate that would require all homes to include an electric vehicle charging station. Policy makers in Quebec hope that such a dramatic move would jump-start the electric car in Canada.


Plug-In NC

Interested in learning more about EVs in North Carolina? Plug-In NC is a great resource if you're want to know more about the opportunities available to you and your business. Community resources, workplace charging, more info about available vehicles, events and so much more.

They have been working since 2011 to establish North Carolina as a leader in electrified transportation. The taskforce provides a collaborative opportunity for stakeholders to identify and address barriers to plug-in electric vehicle adoption in order to ensure a seamless integration of the vehicles into local communities. 

Plug-In NC was launched through a collaboration of many partners ranging from government, industry, electric utilities, non-profits, and other stakeholders. Advanced Energy and the NC Department of Commerce served as the lead entities for this initiative and benefited from strong partnerships from North Carolina's electric utilities including Duke Energy, North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives, Dominion Power, and the State's ElectriCities.



Future Outlook


Electric Vehicles have a lot of potential for creating a more sustainable future. The US Department of Energy says that if we transitioned all the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. to hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles using our current technology mix, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30-60%, while lowering the carbon pollution from the transportation sector by as much as 20%.

Today, there are 23 plug-in electric and 36 hybrid models available in a range of sizes, styles, price points and powertrains to suit a wide range of consumers, with more than 234,000 plug-in electric vehicles and 3.3 million hybrids on the road in the U.S.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wasting Water - A Guide to Conservation and Innovation

Every year on March 22 we celebrate World Water Day. According to the official World Water Day website, this international observance is an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. It has been around since 1992 when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development recommended an international observance. Here is why you should be mindful of your water usage every day and how you can easily conserve water.


Water Usage in the US


The US Geological Survey released a study which reports that the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for 2010 (the latest year it surveyed water use) were estimated to be 355,000 million gallons per day. The average American used 88 gallons of water per day – an amount that quickly adds up around the house for things like preparing food, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns. 

Water Innovation around the World


In recent years there have been many new innovative technologies which aid people around the world in gaining clean water access and assist them in conserving water. 
Here are some examples that will leave you wondering why no one has thought of this before:
LifeStraw is the award-winning personal water filter, designed to provide you with safe, clean drinking water. The device makes most contaminated or suspect water safe to drink.  LifeStraws are shipped throughout the world to countries in need including Haiti, Pakistan, and Africa but are also be used for camping or hiking trips.
The EcoVolt uses a bioelectric process to treat water and generate biogas energy at the same time! Each reactor unit handles about 20,000 gallons of waste water daily and leverages electrically active microbes.
Lastly, WaterFX offers a HydroRevolution project which uses solar panels to remove the salt from drainage water from farms in California. The excess salt and minerals are turned into usable by-products.

For more revolutionary water technologies read this great water innovation blog from GreenBiz.

Water Saving Tips


So how can YOU help to conserve water? Sure, there are pricey gadgets such as drip irrigation or on demand water heaters, but saving water is mostly easy and cheap. Here are some great tips we have compiled from our parent company Advanced Energy and the EPA:

Fixing Leaks 
On average, an American home can waste more than 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks. Nationwide, more than one trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. A faucet that drips once every second wastes more than 3,000 gallons of water per year!
Image courtesy of EPA.gov

Shower
Every time you take a shower, you also use energy to heat and deliver the water to your showerhead. But you can Shower Better by replacing you old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model and save water, energy and money.

Laundry
Only wash full loads of laundry. Use the cold water setting for all general laundry. Only use the hot water setting for bedding, soiled or stained clothes, and diapers.

If you wash one load of laundry each day, an ENERGY STAR® labeled washing machine will save between $65 and $175 in energy costs and up to $100 in water each year.

Dishes
Did you know? Pre-rinsing dishes may be unnecessary. Most modern dishwashers only need you to remove large bits of food, making it easier on you and your wallet. 

Water Bill
Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks and determine your water footprint

Be aware of your water consumption, prioritize water conservation and after a while it will come naturally. Set an example and make every day World Water Day.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

How to reduce your Carbon PawPrint - Green Pet Ownership

Have you considered adding a new furry friend to your family this year? In the U.S. alone, the number of owned pets is estimated to be 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats. In addition to being sweet, cuddly companions, your pets can also be hard on the environment.

If you love your pets and the environment, here are some resources to help you be good to both.

Don't Shop…Adopt!

The concept of recycling doesn't only apply to cans or newspaper. Just like going to the thrift store to get a good deal on a used item, consider rescuing and rehoming an adoptable dog or cat from your local shelter. Give them a second chance by "recycling" them. Each year 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters. An estimated 80% of these animals are healthy or treatable so why not give the cats and dogs already available a home instead of buying from a breeder? For more facts about pet ownership in the U.S. go to the Humane Society's website.

Are you hesitant to adopt because you prefer a certain breed? There are so many breed rescues out there that you may have options other than getting puppy from a breeder.

The next step to being a “green” pet owner is to spay or neuter your pet. Take an active role in helping to control the pet population and reducing the number of pets needing a home.

Green Pet Gear

Pest Control
Toxic chemicals may kill fleas and ticks but they also harm your beloved pet and the environment. Mother Earth News has a great article about natural flea control and why those chemicals are so harmful to your pets.

Shampoo
Natural pet-care and shampoo products are the way to go. Brands like Earthbath are totally natural, non-toxic, paraben and sulfate free. If your fluffy companion makes a mess, use environemntal friendly household cleaners.

Toys
Get creative! Grow your own catnip, make cat toys out of yarn and fabric or use recycled plastic bottles as a chew toy for your dog. Repurpose that old cardboard box as a cat toy or check out these 33 Dog Toys You Can Make From Things Around the House. Invest into toys made from recycled or sustainable materials. These six dog toy companies put their emphasis on durability and the environment. Also, hemp products such as collars, leashes and pet beds are eco-friendly and durable.


Food
According to Treehugger, most conventional pet-food brands you find at the supermarket consist of reconstituted animal by-products, otherwise known as low-grade wastes from the beef and poultry industries. Make sure your pets eat healthy by making your own treats - here are 4 DIY easy dog treat recipes to also help you save on packaging and processing. Provide them with healthy, environmental conscious brands. The Honest Kitchen is good for pets and the planet with green ingredients, production and packaging and business standards.

Pet Waste

Bringing biodegradable bags with you when you walk your dog so you can pick up its waste is important to keep the waste from being washed into the sewer, rivers and beaches where it can contaminate the water and the ground. Looking for a way to take waste management to the next level? Try composting your dog's waste with innovative systems such as Doggie Dooley pet waste disposal.

          
Image courtesy of Earth Rated®
But it’s not just your dog's waste that can be a dangerous contaminant if not properly disposed of. Your cat's litter can be just as harmful. Cat owners should avoid clumping clay litter no matter what. Scientific American states that when cats (and especially small kittens) ingest this material it can cause gastrointestinal distress that in some cases can lead to death. Also, the clay commonly used can be derived from environmentally destructive strip mining. Be sure to choose cat litter from biodegradable materials will not sit in the landfill for years. Some litters can be flushed or used in yard mulch.




Dog Sitting at Home

Planning on traveling without your pet? Hire an in-home sitter who will use all your environmentally friendly pet supplies. If you do decide to use a pet boarding service, make sure you ask the boarding facility about their environmental policy or steps they have taken to be more sustainable. San Francisco's Pet Camp is the only pet boarding place in the country to go green - they have solar panels, a greenhouse, a tankless water heater and many other innovative, green initiatives.