Here comes an electric airplane!

❝ Electric cars and electric buses gaining ground both in terms of innovation and acceptance by the public as being the future of transportation. Models are currently being developed, tested, and rolled out around the world. These events are clear signs that EVs are well on their way to become a common sight on the road — and both companies and consumers will be better for it.

One form of transportation that has yet to see the same amount of progress is airplanes, though that isn’t to say there aren’t any projects focused on bringing the idea of electric aircraft to the skies. The problem is, passengers can’t ride in an electric plane as easily as they can an electric car. At least, not yet…

❝ Now, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and German automation company Siemens have announced a partnership to undertake a project that would convert a plane to utilize electric propulsion. The trio has dubbed the project “E-Fan X,” which involves gradually replacing the BAe 146 airliner’s gas turbines with two-megawatt electric motors…

❝ The three companies will each be in charge of separate parts of the project. Airbus will oversee the aircraft’s overall integration, which includes the control architecture of the hybrid-electric propulsion system and batteries, as well as integration with flight controls. Rolls-Royce will provide the turbo-shaft engine, two-megawatt generator, and power electronics, and Siemens will provide the two-megawatt electric motors, power electronic control unit, DC/DC converter, and power distribution system.

Good thing no one like our fake president is involved. He’d probably want the designers try to make the critter run on coal.

New invasive tumbleweed species rapidly expanding range

Click for a bonus musical interlude

Lead author of the study, Shana Welles, brought this sample to her lab for study

Two invasive species of tumbleweed have hybridized to create a new species of tumbleweed that University of California, Riverside researchers found has dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

The UC Riverside researchers believe Salsola ryanii is likely to become an important invasive species that could spread beyond California to other states…

The new species of tumbleweed…was first documented by California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists in 2002. Surveying throughout California, those scientists found the species in two areas of the state’s Central Valley in 2002. It was also documented by a wider group of scientists in a third area of the Central Valley in 2009.

The UC Riverside researchers did their field work in 2012, collecting tumbleweed from 53 sites throughout California. They found the new species at 15 of those sites. They found it throughout the Central Valley, but also in coastal areas around San Francisco and as far south as the Ventura area.

The results strongly contradict predictions in earlier studies that Salsola ryanii would not likely become invasive…

The researchers believe the population expansion of the Salsola ryanii species is due to two reasons: dispersal of seeds from individual plants due in large part to the “tumbling” phenomenon and multiple independent hybridizations of the two original tumbleweed species…

You have to be especially careful if you try to take out a big specimen of tumbleweed, say, with your pickup truck on a country road. If you only injure it, you may be at risk of attack.

Governor Susana manages to kill $100 million in Health Exchange funding

Not unless the governor says so!

A sharply worded letter from Governor Susana Martinez to the Secretary of Health and Human Services cost New Mexico almost $100 million in funding to build out and run our state’s health exchange, and that has exchange staff scrambling to build a new exchange without any money.

Staff of the health exchange (NMHIX) say that there appears to be no process to appeal or reapply and New Mexico appears to be the only state in the country denied funding to complete the build out of the state’s insurance exchange, publicly known as Be Well NM.

New Mexico has already received $122.3 million from the federal government ($34.3M in 2011, $18.6M in 2013, $69.4 in 2014) to set up and run the exchange through the end of 2014.

In November 2014, states were permitted to apply for additional funds to build out the remaining parts of their state-based exchanges and operate for three full years, beginning in January 2015…

But when the state submitted it’s application to the federal government for funding, it included letters from state leaders, including Governor Martinez and then-Secretary of Human Services, Sidone Squier.

These two dimwit Republicans questioned whether or not the changes would be beneficial – and they saw no reason to follow Federal uniform standards and procedures. About as elitist, parochial and incompetent as you can get.

Result? New Mexico is the only state of those applying for additional funds to update and codify a hybrid health exchange – to be refused. The Feds point out it was the letters from Governor Susana and Sidone Squier that encouraged that decision.

RTFA from ProgressNowNM. All the details, planned uses, dotted i’s and crossed t’s are there.

Mysteries of the CoyWolf

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Coywolves are canid hybrids of wolves and coyotes. They have recently become common in eastern North America, where they have been considered eastern coyotes, eastern wolves, or red wolves. Apparently their habitat now includes northern NM.

Many eastern coyotes (Canis latrans “var.”) are coywolves, which despite having a majority of coyote (Canis latrans) ancestry, also descend from either the gray wolf (Canis lupus) or the red wolf (Canis lupus rufus, formerly Canis rufus). They come from a constantly evolving gene pool, and are viewed by some scientists as an emerging coywolf species. The genetic composition and classification of the eastern coyote is debated among scientists.

A study showed that of 100 coyotes collected in Maine, 22 had half or more gray wolf ancestry, and one was 89 percent gray wolf. A theory has been proposed that the large eastern “coyotes” in Canada are actually hybrids of the smaller western coyotes and gray wolves that mated decades ago as the coyotes moved toward New England from their earlier western ranges.

Coywolves have the wolf characteristics of pack hunting and the coyote characteristic of lack of fear of human-developed areas. They seem to be bolder and more intelligent than regular coyotes.

…Unfortunately for this beautiful animal very few people truly understand them. Spending time with them and watching their true behavior shows us they are an extremely social and intelligent wild canine species. The world is far better with Coy-Wolves.

I have a special spot in my heart for CoyWolves. I knew them as Adirondack coyotes – and folks automatically presumed they were a cross between coyotes and wolves.

I did a fair piece of design and testing early in the creation of mountain bikes. Mostly in the Catskill Mountains and the Adirondack range. Had a couple of favorite trails I rode well beyond the boundaries of good sense and safety. Testing designs for future production being the excuse. In hindsight, not too bright.

But, on one of those favorite trails in the Catskills – on a downhill stretch where I flew about 30+mph for quite a distance – one autumn afternoon I had a big auburn CoyWolf join me side-by-side full bore down the mountain trail for a quarter-mile or so – felt like leagues of speed. We glanced at each other from time to time, maintaining a gap of 3 or 4 feet between us.

Then as the trail started to level off and my speed dropped she gave a final look at this crazy two-legger on two wheels and made a sharp right angle turn away into the trees.

I can still feel the rush of sharing that trail that way, that day.

Autoblog’s Technology of the Year is the BMW i8

No one’s pretending this is a car for everyone – even if you can afford one. But, it’s proof of concept that a production vehicle can have dynamic levels of performance in combination with better than average fuel consumption.

i8 small
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The winner of Autoblog’s 2014 Technology of the Year award was given this year for not just one technology, but for how a suite of technologies worked together to make one impressive vehicle.

The BMW i8 was named the winner Wednesday night at the Belasco Theater in downtown Los Angeles, just outside the Los Angeles Auto Show. Autoblog’s editorial staff agreed that the i8, which drew crowds of attention during our testing days, represents a future of driving that we can’t wait to see happen…

Ultimately, we picked the car that excited us the most. The BMW i8 has a throaty exhaust note when accelerating. It’s got carbon fiber, and a plug-in hybrid system that uses a small 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine and an electric motor. It has through-the-road all-wheel drive, and in Europe it’ll come with laser beams for headlights.

All that, and it’s a massive eye catcher. People stop and stare when they see this car, for good reason. It’s simply gorgeous. For a more in-depth look at the Car and Driver test, click here.

An engine governor holds top speed down to 155mph. 0-60 times are under 4 seconds. Yet, through the C&D testing cycle and track testing they averaged 24mpg. With an electric-only range of 22 miles, this critter can match the mileage of a Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid IMHO.

Of course, the Ford ain’t $136K.

Toyota sells 3-millionth Prius

Three generations in sixteen years and more than three million units sold worldwide – as of the end of June, those are the stats on the Toyota Prius. Even though Toyota says Prius sales might not reach the goal of 250,000 units this year, the little hybrid that could still doesn’t have any problem flying off dealer lots.

The second-generation Prius sold 1.2 million examples in its eight-year lifespan, and the third generation, introduced in 2009, has sold 1.7 million examples in just four years.

Toyota is also touting its investment in future powertrains, some $7.9 billion on research and development into new platforms and components, and “environmental technology development.”

Toyota deserves all the credit in the world for designing a new generation of automobiles that consumes less, pollutes less. It took an enormous amount of money and willingness to stick to principles to accomplish what they have.

Might be nice if we had a few more governments willing to adopt the same standards.

June green-car sales rise 35% over 2012 numbers

June marked the second-fastest year-over-year growth rate for US green car sales for 2013 so far and helped put sales of green vehicles – pure electrics, hybrids and diesels – for the first half of the year about 19 percent ahead of 2012 levels. Americans bought 57,614 advanced-powertrain vehicles last month, up 35 percent from June 2012. Only January’s 58 percent year-over-year growth rate was faster than last month’s, which represented a bit of an acceleration from May’s 30 percent growth rate.

June 2013 plug-in vehicle sales more than doubled from 2012, to 6,862 units, and that doesn’t include the Tesla Model S.

While Toyota, with its Prius hybrid, continues to be a bellwether of sorts for green car sales, numbers were particularly helped by increased demand for plug-in vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt extended-range plug-in and Nissan Leaf battery electric. Volt sales jumped 53 percent to 2,698 vehicles, while Nissan sold 2,225 Leaf EVs, quadrupling year-earlier figures and falling just short of the model’s March 2013 monthly record of 2,236 units. Because of this demand, total June plug-in sales more than doubled from a year earlier to 6,862 units, and those numbers don’t include Tesla’s Model S (Tesla doesn’t publish monthly figures)…

Ford also continued to come up big on its newer C-Max models and recently reintroduced Fusion Hybrid, which almost quadrupled year-earlier sales to 3,057 units. Ford sold 2,889 C-Max hybrids and 455 C-Max Energi Plug-in Hybrids last month while moving 390 Fusion Energi PHEVs. The US automaker also increased Lincoln MKZ hybrid sales by 70 percent to 768 units while moving 177 Focus Electrics. Overall, Ford’s green-car sales surged almost sixfold to 7,736 units.

Honda also continued to turn things around, increasing its green-car sales by 12 percent compared to 2012 by selling 1,758 green vehicles. While Civic Hybrid and CR-Z sales were pretty much the same, Honda’s Acura ILX Hybrid increased sales by 42 percent – to 163 units – and the Japanese automaker moved a monthly record 208 Fit Electric Vehicles. Volkswagen also did well, boosting diesel sales by 23 percent from a year earlier to 8,981 units while moving 438 of its new Jetta Hybrid model.

The first half of the year went well for green-car manufacturers. Through June, Americans bought 318,346 hybrids, plug-ins and diesels, up 19 percent from a year earlier. Highlight the plug-in models and the numbers get even better, with Americans boosting sales of PHEVs and EVs by 83 percent to 30,655. Add in the Tesla, and plug-in sales through June may have exceeded the 40,000 mark, or more than 80 percent of 2012’s full-year total.

I don’t need a new car, of course; though, I admit my 20-year-old pickup has seen better days and way too many gasoline pumps. Fortunately, my wife’s new Ford Fiesta – used for her work commute and our shopping trips into town – has averaged 41+mpg overall the six months she’s had it. I drive so much less, now, it would be hard to justify a new truck.

But, if I did? 🙂 It would be the 2014 Ram 1500 that will have a 3-litre V6 turbo-diesel with an 8-speed automatic as an option. MPG is expected to be 23-29 which for a work class pickup is unheard of in the GOUSA.

Toyota recycles old hybrid batteries into energy-storage systems

Cripes. The sexy lines of the Prius Gen 1.

How’s this for a “willing buyer”? Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems and will then sell those systems to Toyota dealerships in Japan.

Starting in April, the company’s Toyota Turbine and Systems will sell an Electricity Management system to dealers as part of its effort to get those dealers to cut energy consumption costs. Toyota is also getting its distributors to move towards solar power, LED lighting and other tree-hugging energy policies.

The recycled-battery systems can story up to 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power…The systems can be used for backup power and can cut costs by, for instance, being deployed as a primary energy source during peak usage and pricing hours of energy consumption.

By the way, those systems weigh about 2,100 pounds each (not all that much lighter than the early Prius models, actually), and are small enough that about six of them can fit into a typical parking space.

I love easy-as-pie solutions for repurposing items like used batteries from hybrids. We still bump into ivory tower undergraduate analysis from folks who believe solutions to recycling problems stop with production of the original product. No one is ever going to support a new remedy – it’s all wasted investment.


Audi sweeps podium at LeMans — Claims first hybrid victory

Audi drove to its 11th overall victory in the world’s greatest endurance race with a 1-2-3 sweep, the German automaker re-wrote the history books at the same time in becoming the first manufacturer to win Le Mans with hybrid technology.

Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler took their No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro to the monumental win following a frantic duel with the sister hybrid entry of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello in the closing stages.

However, the turning point came with less than three hours to go when McNish spun to avoid a slow Ferrari and nosed his car into the barriers at the Porsche Curves while in the lead.

What looked to be a potentially race-ending accident turned into a quick five-minute repair job by the Audi Sport mechanics, which got the rapid Scot out only one lap behind Treluyer’s R18 e-tron quattro, aided by a safety car period.

Nonetheless, it virtually ensured repeat victory for the No. 1 crew, with Andre Lotterer cruising to a one-lap victory over the No. 2 Audi of McNish, Kristensen and Capello in second.

The defending Le Mans winners held the upper hand through the night, virtually leading from the pole…

The No. 4 Audi R18 ultra of Mike Rockenfeller, Oliver Jarvis and Marco Bonanomi finished three laps back in third, completing a rather quiet and trouble-free race for the conventional-powered machine.

Advanced technology and essentially trouble-free racing – as far as technology was concerned – brings the sport into focus as a leading provider of new tech for production automobiles.

Diesel power provided Audi’s previous victories. E-Tron tech is diesel power paired with hybrid electric technology. Like most advancements of this type, you can focus on power or economy. For a race like this, obviously power and speed is the goal. But, just like the addition of turbo-supercharging, you can aim for fuel efficiency and low consumption. Audi will probably try for the flexibility of both in their passenger cars.