June 28, 2011

Green Car List 2011

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's ranking of green cars has been published annually since 1998. Emissions are a major factor in the council's Green Car Rankings. “This is the most exciting Green Book in a decade for me, because there are so many vehicles in the running,” said Therese Langer, ACEEE’s Transportation Director, in an interview with PluginCars.com. The non-profit uses an exacting methodology for calculating the environmental impact of all cars and trucks.

Despite new competition from electric vehicles, such as the all-electric Nissan LEAF and the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid, the winner for the 8th consecutive year is the Honda Civic GX, which runs on compressed natural gas. The Prius maintains a very presentable score, lowest hybrid emissions, and reliable track record. The Chevy Volt came in at the bottom of the list. “The Chevy Volt came very close to not making the list,” said Shruti Vaidyanathan, ACEEE Vehicle analyst. The first negative mark against the Volt in ACEEE’s methodology is the weight, which provides an indication of how much energy went into producing the vehicle. The Volt weighs about 500 pounds more than the Nissan LEAF or Toyota Prius. Plugin Cars reports that the Volt has unimpressive fuel economy when running on gasoline.

The top six cars on the official Green Car list for 2011:
  1. Honda Civic GX: Mileage: 24 city, 36 hwy, per gallon-equivalent. The Civic GX tops the list despite fuel economy figures that are lower than the others. It runs on compressed natural gas, which is burns more cleanly than gasoline.
  2. Nissan Leaf: Mileage: 106 city, 92 hwy, per gallon equivalent. EV rage: 100 miles. The Leaf burns no fuel at all, running purely on electricity. Electric power plants do burn fuel, and that's a factor taken into account in the ACEEE rankings. Of course, if the Leaf was charged with electricity from a solar plant or rooftop solar panels, the fuel issue would be eliminated.
  3. Smart ForTwo: Mileage: 33 city, 41 hwy. The ForTwo, a two-seat car, relies on small size, light weight and a tiny three cylinder engine to get a high "Green Score." The assumption is that heavier cars create more waste and emissions in their manufacturing and disposal than lighter cars. However, we do wonder why a car as small and light as the Smart ForTwo doesn't have significantly better gas mileage.
  4. Toyota Prius: Mileage: 51 city, 48 hwy. Hybrid cars rank highly based on fuel economy, but they pay a penalty because of their heavy battery packs. The Prius is a very solid hybrid car with excellent fuel efficiency. However, cars that use nickel-metal batteries, as the Prius does, pay a higher penalty in the ACEEE rankings because their batteries contain more toxic substances than do the lithium-ion batteries used in most plug-in cars.
  5. Honda Civic Hybrid: Mileage: 40 city, 43 hwy. Because its hybrid system operates differently from that in a Prius, the Civic Hybrid is more efficient in highway driving than in the city. It's also less efficient overall.
  6. Honda Insight: Mileage: 40 city, 43 hwy. Honda launched the Insight as a less costly competitor to the Prius. Despite being a smaller car, its fuel economy is the same as the Civic Hybrid and not as good as the Prius.

    June 16, 2011

    Solar Plane Lands in Paris

    The Swiss Solar Impulse arrives in Le Bourget for the Paris air-show, where its makers say it marks a new stage in aviation and may revolutionize the air transportation industry. With 12,000 solar cells integrated into the wings, the aircraft is completely solar powered. By storing energy, it can also fly in cloudy weather and at night. Currently, Solar Impulse has a flying speed of about 70 kilometers per hour. However, as the engineers explained when the plane landed in Paris, this is just a first step, "Now we're showing that an airplane with zero fuel, just on solar power, can fly day and night with a pilot on board." A larger prototype of the plane is scheduled to fly around the world in 2013.

    June 5, 2011

    Godzilla on the International Space Station

    Go Go Godzilla!
    This picture was downlinked from the International Space Station by NASA ISS science officer Edward T. Lu who added, "This is a screen shot of the computer program we use to tell where we are. The places labeled EOS are locations that scientists have requested photos of. Godzilla is shown for scale."

    At EH, we have an office Godzilla much like this one. Apparently, Godzilla and a healthy sense of humor are in orbit around the earth.