AAA’s latest study on vehicle ownership costs reads like a case for fuel sippers, if not for deserting personal cars altogether in favor of alternatives like car-share networks, which often cover fuel, maintenance and insurance costs, and larger “mobility on demand” systems.
Netflix (s NFLX) streaming could be coming to mobile devices by the end of the year, but the iPhone might not be the first platform to support it, as has been widely anticipated. Instead, that honor might belong to devices that are built on Microsoft’s (s MSFT) Windows Phone 7 Series operating system.
At Microsoft’s MIX10 developer’s conference, the company gave a preview of some third-party mobile applications that will run on the new OS, which is set to ship on devices by the end of 2010. That includes a Netflix app prototype that was demoed by Scott Stanfield, CEO of Vertigo, the mobile development company that created the app.
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Early stage startups competing for the MIT Clean Energy Prize have a lot more than the $200,000 grand prize winnings on the line. Winning the annual contest also means a team, with students making up at least half of its members, will get a spotlight in front of big players who can help take a neat experiment to the next level — at last year’s award ceremony, winner Husk Insulation out of the University of Michigan had the attention of Google’s director of energy initiatives, Dan Reicher, the state energy and environmental affairs chiefs for Massachusetts, the CEO of utility NSTAR, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Today the MIT Clean Energy Prize has named the 24 semifinalists (hat tip Mass High Tech) who have a shot at winning the grand prize and basking in that spotlight in May. These teams — selected by a panel of judges from academia, industry and government — represent what the contest organizers see as “some of the most promising clean energy technologies and business ideas coming out of universities this year.” What are the ideas for cleaning up the transportation sector? They range from renewable fuels to bike sharing tech. Here’s a look at the five teams that made the cut in the MIT Clean Energy Prize transportation category.
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Wildlife vs. Energy in the Mojave: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) says she plans to introduce legislation today to establish two national monuments on roughly 1 million acres of Mojave Desert outback…Its centerpiece, Mojave Trails National Monument, would prohibit development on 941,000 acres of federal land and former railroad company property along a 105-mile stretch of old Route 66, between Ludlow and Needles.” — LA Times
Bolivia’s Lithium Mother Lode, in Pictures: “Nearly four kilometers above sea level in the Bolivian Andes lies the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat…Flowing in salt-water channels beneath the surface is the world’s largest supply of lithium–and, possibly, the future of transportation.” — Technology Review
Antelope Valley Carbon Capture Project: Energy company Doosan Babcock today announced utility Basin Electric Power Cooperative has selected it to work on a carbon capture project in partnership with Canada’s HTC Purenergy. The project is meant to capture 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide per day at the Antelope Valley Station near Beulah, North Dakota. — Press Release
Asia-Pacific Partnership OKs Pond Biofuels Project: Toronto-based Pond Biofuels says one of its demo projects for capturing CO2 and feeding it to algae has been approved for funding under the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development “for a feasibility study that will assess the suitability of its technology for the cement industry in China.” — Clean Break
Rethinking Roads’ Purpose & Need: “The process of building roads in this country is underpinned by myriad assumptions and biases that favor automobiles.” In the Environmental Impact Statements required for all road projects receiving federal funding, the “Purpose and Need Statement….utterly fails to account for the existence of pedestrians and bikes.” — The Urbanophile via Streetsblog
President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao this week launched a joint effort to “reduce oil dependency, cut greenhouse gas emissions and promote economic growth” through accelerated deployment of electric vehicles — an effort that needn’t exist in opposition to “green mobility efforts.” Nor should it overplay the role of personal vehicles as a solution to the challenges of fast-growing urban centers, warns energy and transportation scholar Lee Schipper in the Dot Earth blog today.
A strong push for plug-in cars in the world’s two largest auto markets might sound like just what the planet ordered. “Virtually all of the emerging markets have economies that are booming,” venture capitalist Steve Westly said at the Cleantech Open awards event in San Francisco on Tuesday, and it’s oil that’s driving them. But getting off oil and onto electricity isn’t the only goal, Schipper tells Dot Earth. “Energy is only a means to an end. What are the ends, urban access and mobility, or cars for a small minority?” Read More about China’s Opportunity: Green Mobility vs. Electric Cars
General Electric (s GE) started churning out plans earlier this year for cleaner heavy-haul locomotive technology, announcing its intention in May to produce batteries for hybrid trains in upstate New York and unveiling a new, more fuel-efficient locomotive model. This morning, the conglomerate has announced a set of agreements with various companies and the government of China that will help GE ramp up its locomotive business in the country — and potentially lead to a larger role for both GE and China on the road to a high-speed rail buildout in the United States.
GE has announced two deals related to rail this morning, including an agreement with China’s Ministry of Railways to advance partnerships that would allow the company to pursue high-speed rail projects in the U.S. with manufacturing provided by a Chinese partner (GE doesn’t currently manufacture locomotives for these types of projects). And it’s formed a joint venture with CSR Qishuyan to develop, build and service GE’s most fuel-efficient line of diesel locomotive engines, the Evolution Series, in China and eventually other countries as well.
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Dutch to Try Road Tax Alternative: The Dutch government has approved a plan to replace the annual road tax on cars with mileage fees in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions. Starting in 2012, GPS devices will be used to monitor vehicles, tracking the time, hour and place each car moves and then sending the data to a billing agency. — The Independent
Carbon Capture for Geothermal Energy: Carbon dioxide generated by power plants may find a second life being cycled underground, helping to bring heat to the surface where it can be used to generate electricity. Backers of this as-yet-unproven concept secured a big endorsement with the recent award of $338 million in stimulus funds for geothermal energy research. — Technology Review
Climate Deal Out of Reach: President Obama was forced to acknowledge this weekend that a comprehensive climate deal was beyond reach this year, placing him “in the awkward position of being, at least for now, as unlikely to spearhead an international effort to combat global warming as his predecessor — if for different reasons.” — New York Times
Got Greenwash?: Joel Makower goes searching for greenwash at the mammoth green building expo Greenbuild and finds, “Green building has matured from the exception to the rule, with the market…producing an increasingly gushing pipeline of products and services that, increasingly, are reducing the environmental toll of the built environment.” — GreenBiz.com
China’s Suntech Heading to Phoenix: China’s largest solar panel manufacturer, Suntech Power, announced plans today to open a plant in Phoenix, Ariz. Set to begin production in the third quarter of 2010, the facility will be the company’s first U.S. plant. — NYT’s Green Inc.
Want to transform urban transit? Take a cue from Google (s GOOG), and invent a better algorithm. Service-based transportation networks offer a key for cities to address urban traffic congestion, encourage adoption of alternative transit and slash greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, says Ryan Chin, a PhD candidate in the Smart Cities research group at MIT. And it will likely be the company with the best algorithm for managing fleets of cars, bicycles, scooters and other transit options, and up to millions of users, that finds a way to cash in on the “Mobility on Demand” trend.
As Chin explained to me for an article on GigaOM Pro this week (our subscription-based research service), the MoD concept involves a comprehensive system in which city residents would be able to rent an electric car, scooter or bicycle when and where they need it in order to bridge the “last mile” gap in many public transit systems (e.g. getting between the subway station and your final destination).
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Army Orders Recycled-Plastic Bridge: “Axion International Holdings has won a $957,000 contract to provide the U.S. Army with two bridges made from a thermoplastic composite and recycled plastic.” — CNET’s Planetary Gear
Reinventing the Interstate: Op-ed contributor Karrie Jacobs argues for invention of new uses for the almost 47,000-mile long Interstate highway system, since it “can’t always be a ghetto for the internal combustion engine.” The corridors could be used for new rail or power lines, for example. — New York Times
Freight Fight: “U.S. truck operators are under pressure to improve energy efficiency as rail companies tout their green credentials and bid to win more freight haulage.” — Reuters
Fill ’em Up: “The Copenhagen Central Station has been the most massive bicycle magnet in the country for a century.” Now the city plans to hold a design competition and build a 7,000-bike parking complex behind the station by 2013. — Copenhagenize
Climate Plan B: “Less than a month before international negotiators meet in Copenhagen with the ambitious goal of crafting a deal that will curb the world’s greenhouse gas emissions for years to come, the Obama administration is considering scaling back by endorsing a limited, short-term climate pact instead.” — Washington Post
Something’s gotta give. In a time of uncertainty about the future supply and demand for fossil fuels, a surge of activity in energy technology and the prospect of stricter emission regulations barreling down the pike, the global market for transportation fuels is poised for disruption.
According to a new report out this week from technology and consultancy giant Accenture (s ACN), one or more — but almost certainly not all — of a dozen low-carbon transportation fuels now under development could transform that market (which accounts for about half of global primary oil consumption and up to 30 percent of global carbon emissions) within a decade.
Read More about Can These 12 Fuel Options Change the World in 10 Years or Less?