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Posts Tagged ‘energy’

Electric cars save cash for city drivers

Posted Friday, October 30th, 2009

 They may miss out on revving their engines at the lights, but urban drivers of electric cars can cut their emissions by two thirds and save up to £3,000 a year. Sound like a fair compromise?

BBC.co.uk, April 2008

Electric cars produce no exhaust fumes, minimal pollution and a third of the CO2 emissions of petrol engines. On top of that they’re tax free, immune to congestion charges, and a full ‘tank’ of fuel costs no more than a pint of milk.

So what’s the snag? Currently, limited range and recharging opportunities, and a lack of driving pizzazz. But could the next generation of electric vehicles change all that?

How does it work? Electric cars use a battery and electric motor to power the vehicle and are charged via a standard mains socket in your home, or at an increasing number of free outdoor charging bays. The average electric car does 60 miles on a single charge with a top speed of 40mph – while higher performance sports cars can do 150 miles and 130mph. There are currently over 100 electricity pumps in the UK – the majority of which are in London. But 250 new points are expected to be added this year across Britain.

How will it make a difference? 1. An electric car run on conventional electricity from a coal-fired generator produces a third of the emissions of a conventional petrol car (64g of CO2 per km compared to 176g CO2 per km) and just over half the emissions of a diesel or hybrid car (104g CO2/km). 2. You can save thousands of pounds a year in running costs
3. If you’re thinking electric car plus green electricity tariff equals carbon neutral transport, you might need to recalculate. green energy

What’s stopping me?
“Max speed, 40mph?” Electric cars are currently best suited to city driving because the average speed of traffic in London, for example, is notoriously just 10mph: 2mph slower than an Edwardian horse-drawn carriage.

“I’ve heard they aren’t safe” Electric cars are classified as ‘quadricycles‘ by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, so are subject to less stringent safety tests than cars. But one report estimates they are three times less likely than petrol cars to be involved in accidents. Insurers certainly think so – electric cars qualify for the lowest insurance category, group one, because (reckons the AA) their likelihood of getting into dangerous situations is much lower than that of conventional, high-speed cars.

“Won’t the battery go flat as soon as I get out of my road?” Current models manage an average of about 60 miles on a single charge so we can make our average daily commute of 17 miles more than three times between recharges, but out-of-town journeys are of course trickier. Upgrading to more expensive lithium-ion batteries can increase range significantly.

“I’d love to help the planet, but I can’t afford such fancy new technology” Actually, electric cars range in price between £8,900 and £17,000 and, based on the UK average of 10,000 miles a year, you could save £800 a year on fuel, £300 in car tax, up to £2,000 from congestion charges and free parking in London, and get cheap insurance too. On the other hand, the current generation of electric vehicles are unlikely to rack up that sort of mileage due to their limited range.

Fuel and maintenance costs are also about a third of the typical petrol car: about 6.5p per mile as opposed to 20p. Even with the cost of replacement batteries – about £1,500 every three to four years – electric motoring still costs only about 11p per mile.

What’s the debate?
Electric vehicles are exhaust free but critics say that they simply shift the point at which the emissions and pollution is generated to the power station. This is true (in fact, electricity generation accounts for a third of the UK’s climate impact) but power stations are more efficient at generating energy than cars, so emission reductions still hold. You may be tempted to switch your electricity tariff to green energy to reduce your driving emissions to near zero – but think twice before making the jump.

New research published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in 2008 levels another, less serious, accusation at electric cars: they use more water than fossil fuelled cars. Vehicles running off electricity use about 17 times more water per mile than petrol vehicles because electricity production in power plants requires the withdrawal (and return) of surface water from nearby lakes and rivers. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that one million electric cars account for just 0.3% of the miles driven by light duty vehicles in the US.


U.S. Corporations Size Up Their Carbon Footprints

Posted Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Coca-Cola and others use ever more sophisticated tools to measure their environmental impact and meet emissions goals

Businessweek, June 1st 2009

Like many companies, Coca-Cola wants to cut its carbon footprint. The soft-drink maker has pledged to eliminate 2 million tons of CO2 emissions from its manufacturing operations by 2015. To do that, Coca-Cola has become adept at using spreadsheets and databases to measure how much carbon it produces and energy it consumes. It’s even able to track less tangible causes, such as greenhouse gases emitted by vending machines. But when it comes to tracking and managing the projects that will help it reduce carbon emissions and make better use of resources, Coca-Cola is having a harder time.

The company needed a more sophisticated set of carbon accounting and management tools, says Bryan Jacob, director of energy management and climate protection at Coca-Cola. “I’m looking for something to take us to the next level,” he says. “I’m going to either enhance what I’ve got or move to a different platform that’s much more robust.” To that end, the company is testing a product from software company Hara that goes beyond simply measuring carbon footprints. The Web-delivered tools, formally introduced June 1st, help companies manage efforts to actually reduce carbon and more efficiently use natural resources such as water, waste, and paper.

Amid growing pressure from investors, employees, and environmental watchdogs such as Greenpeace, the circle of companies making a concerted effort to go green is widening. But corporations are finding that even in cases where there’s a will to reduce emissions, it’s not easy to measure a company’s environmental impact, much less keep track of the various projects aimed at meeting aggressive carbon reduction targets.

The Carbon Disclosure Project

Demand for better carbon accounting comes not just from corporate brass, but also from investors, customers, consumers, and employees who want detailed information about a corporation’s environmental impact. Among the leaders of the charge is the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit organization that has assembled the largest corporate greenhouse gas emissions database in the world. The group is backed by 475 institutional investors that manage $55 trillion in assets. Last year, 321 companies that make up 64% of the corporations listed in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index responded to a request for emissions information from the Carbon Disclosure Project, up from 235 in 2006.

To hand over data on emissions, a company must first gather it. Most still use fairly rudimentary homegrown methods. “About 90% of companies use spreadsheets,” says Baier. A December 2008 worldwide survey by research firm Gartner found that too many enterprises were in denial about the need for carbon management.

Of 575 companies surveyed by Gartner in the U.S. and 10 other countries, 18.8% had implemented carbon reporting and management systems and 64.7% had not. An astonishing 13.6% weren’t sure.

Intuit Tracks Its Carbon Footprint

They had better find out soon. According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, direct emissions from Coca-Cola and 416 other large global companies account for about 5.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While regulations today regarding greenhouse gases are limited in many cases to carbon-intensive industries such as power generation, Gartner and other analysts expect individual countries to pass climate-change bills that would eventually target less carbon-intensive organizations as well. In the U.S., a bill now wending its way through Congress proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create a market-based mechanism known as cap and trade that would encourage moves toward low-emission technologies and practices.

Most companies that track greenhouse gas emissions use an accounting framework called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol from the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. That tool covers the accounting and reporting of the six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). The numbers are converted to a measurement called carbon dioxide emissions equivalents, a standard that allows comparison among different greenhouse gases.

Sony: The Carbon Its Consumers Use

Perhaps the most complex emissions to calculate, however, are those that occur outside a company’s boundary, but over which it has some control. These are referred to as Scope 3, a category that includes emissions associated with employee commutes, business travel, suppliers, and product use. The nature of this work involves estimation. When Intuit’s Shah calculated the emissions from employee commutes, for example, he got an Excel spreadsheet from HR that mapped the addresses for all 8,000 employees and calculated their commutes to Intuit offices—even accounting for vacation time and holidays. The company is trying to make its analysis more precise by taking into account such factors as work from home and Intuit-sponsored alternate transportation.

For some companies, the majority of emissions fall into this third, indirect category. More than 90% of Sony’s carbon footprint – an estimated 19.34 million tons for the 12 months through March 2008 – results from the electricity consumed when people use Sony products. “Sony has a measurable impact on global greenhouse gases,” says Mark Small, vice-president for corporate environment, safety, and health at Sony Electronics. He estimates that the company is responsible for “a little less than .01% of the total man-made greenhouse gas emissions.” That’s why Sony has made energy efficiency in its products a priority. In 2000, a 32-inch cathode-ray tube TV consumed 280 kilowatt hours a year. In 2008, a 32-inch LCD TV consumed about 86kwh. Still, Sony needs to take into account that consumers are now buying larger TVs. Since Sony can’t actually visit each consumer, it uses estimates to calculate greenhouse gases from product use.

Some companies are surprised by what they find when they look closely at the operations responsible for pollutants. Coca-Cola, for example, initially expected most emissions to come from its fleet of trucks or from its manufacturing operations. The company instead discovered that the lion’s share emanated from what it calls cold drink equipment – the coolers, vending machines, and fountain dispensers used to serve up frosty-cold soft drinks. This gear contains refrigerants and insulation with high global warming potential; it also consumes a lot of electricity. Combined, cold drink equipment accounts for about 15 million metric tons of emissions every year, compared with 3 million from Coke’s diesel-powered trucks or the roughly 5 million from manufacturing. Armed with that information, Coca-Cola is now striving to eliminate harmful chemical compounds from cold drink equipment. Says Jacob: “If we had never put pencil to paper and done the calculations, we might not have understood it ourselves – or believed it.”


 
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