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The monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the level of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere has passed a troubling milestone, reaching an average daily level above 400 parts per million. (That’s bad, in case you were wondering.) It’s what one New York Times article calls “a sobering reminder that decades of efforts to bring human-produced emissions under control are faltering.”

Carbon dioxide is the most important heat-trapping gas in the atmosphere, and this concentration of the gas has not been seen on Earth for at least three million years. Scientists say this high level will likely cause massive climate changes and encourage rising sea levels.

But, as Pennsylvania State University climate scientists Richard B. Alley puts it: “If you start turning the Titanic long before you hit the iceberg, you can go clear without even spilling a drink of a passenger on deck. If you wait until you’re really close, spilling a lot of drinks is the best you can hope for.”

So, how can we help turn the tide and avoid this disastrous outcome?

Running more vehicle fleets on domestic clean fuel is vital to supporting clean air, not only today, but for generations to come. Fuels like propane autogas, natural gas, biofuels and hybrid-electric vehicle technology help protect the health of our environment by drastically reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions compared vehicles that operate on gasoline or diesel.

Autogas is one of the lowest total carbon emissions fuels, with a 20 percent reduction in GHGs versus conventional fuels. For example, the City of Newport News in Virginia eliminates more than 11 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually operating just  22 autogas fleet vehicles. Propane autogas is also one of the most cost-effective alternative fuel options for fleets, not only in terms of fuel price per gallon, but also in regards to the upfront cost of implementation. In fact, it’s actually possible to build 15 autogas stations for the price of just one CNG station and convert two light-duty vehicles to run on autogas for the price of just one light-duty CNG vehicle conversion.

Autogas is a widely available, American-made, clean-burning fuel that will help ensure clean air for our communities. Not only that, propane autogas is without a double the most viable fuel for fleets who want to reduce emissions and fuel costs without breaking the bank on expensive fueling infrastructure or vehicles. Cleaner air is within our grasp–it’s up to America’s vehicle fleets to get the ball rolling by switching to domestic clean fuel like autogas.

Don’t forget to like Autogas for America on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to receive daily alternative fuel news and views.

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Electric vehicles (EVs) have recently attracted significant attention from the media, politicians, and environmentalists, but do EVs really live up to everything their manufacturers promise? Autogas for America released a new Alternative Fuel Fact Brief on November 25, examining the evidence behind the industry’s claims that EVs are viable, cost-effective and “zero-emission.”

The study questions electric vehicle’s environmental record, considering the greenhouse gases emitted during EV manufacturing. It points out that while EVs have no tailpipe emissions, they charge on U.S. electric grids that draw 50 percent of their power from coal. The Fact Brief also casts doubt on the practicality of EVs for public and private fleets, citing the technology’s struggles with limited carrying capacity, limited driving range and the high cost of their charging infrastructure. The study warns that experts believe an increase in EVs could overburden an already strained electric grid.

While electric vehicles hold many benefits over vehicles running on traditional fuels, the Fact Brief encourages consumers to consider other alternative energies which have more verified environmental and economic benefits and a proven record in American fleets.

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Posted by admin at 9:30AM on 9/17/2011 with tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Currently, the car with the best gas mileage reaches about 50 miles a gallon. So, it came as a huge shock to the automotive industry when General Motors announced last year that their new electric-drive Chevy Volt would reach an EPA-rated 230 miles per gallon. But so far, journalists, industry experts and even the EPA are still at a loss to fully explain GM’s math.

The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, designed to run on electricity until its battery level drops. After that, a gasoline engine kicks in to power the car. According to GM, the Volt’s battery-only range would be about 40 miles, and the gasoline engine would have about 40 mpg.

How did GM reach this inflated figure? According to Motor Trend, GM used a proposed EPA measurement system that converts a vehicle’s kilowatt hours (kWh) to an equivalent in miles per gallon. Since GM predicted the Volt would consume 25 kWh per 100 miles, they calculated 230 miles per gallon. The EPA has since shied away from GM’s claims, officially rating the Volt at 37 kWh per 100 miles and announcing it had “not tested a Chevy Volt and therefore cannot confirm the fuel economy values claimed by GM.”

Journalists questioned the 230 mpg claim because the actual figure can change drastically depending on how the Volt is driven. For instance, CNN predicts that if a driver goes 300 miles with a fully charged battery, the fuel economy would actually be about 62.5 mpg. found that with the battery depleted the car averaged 31.1 mpg.  Edmunds ultimately called the Volt’s performance “seriously subpar when compared to the mid-40s mpg that a standard hybrid typically provides.”

Analysts say GM’s figures also overlook recharging and initial costs. GM has said 8 kWh are needed to travel 40 miles, which the Department of Energy says will cost around 88 cents per charge. While these costs may appear modest, reviewers like question the overall value since the Volt is far more expensive than other hybrids.

Ultimately, GM and other EV manufacturers need to justify the high price tag of their vehicles by providing buyers measurable fuel savings and a return on their investment. But, even the CEO of GM has questioned the Volt’s lasting value, saying it will be “an old, old technology and old news” in just five years.


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According to a new study by psychologists at Germany’s Chemnitz University of Technology, drivers who regularly worry about an electric vehicles’s (EV) battery level don’t maximize their vehicle’s potential. The study found that worried drivers overcharged their EVs on a regular basis. However, the study didn’t address how overcharging can lower the vehicle’s battery life and potentially strain electric grids.

Feeling like you’re about to be stranded because your car runs out of juice is known as “range anxiety” in the EV business. The study at Chemnitz found drivers experienced range anxiety about once per month, and researchers proposed that feeling could worsen if there were no nearby public charging stations. EV manufacturers have long tried to dismiss consumers’ worry about insufficient mileage between charges. Then again, when new battery-electric cars like the Nissan Leaf lose power unexpectedly, range anxiety may be well founded.

The researchers discovered most drivers needlessly recharged their vehicle with 20 percent or more power left in the battery. This finding is important because frequent charging can overwhelm the electric infrastructure, which is already threatened by electric vehicles.

Experts estimate that EVs consume about a third of the power of a house, and warn that adding electric cars to a residential area could overwhelm transformers and even cause blackouts. A public charging network would ease drivers’ nerves, but would add an additional burden to the grid. EVs draw their power from a system that is not prepared to meet the increased demand.

Overcharging can also degrade EV’s battery at a higher rate. Fast charging a Nissan Leaf, for example, can decrease the battery life much faster than slow charging at home. And, replacing a dead EV battery isn’t cheap: a recent article from the UK states that a new battery pack could cost over $30,000.

With the harm overcharging can ultimately bring to their vehicles and the electric grid infrastructure, EV drivers unfortunately have more to worry about than just their range.

Image by Salvatore Vuono

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nissanleafIf you fast charge your Nissan Leaf more than once per week, you could see a decrease in your vehicle battery life by several years.

Mark Perry, Nissan’s director of product planning, said, “If fast charging is the primary way that a Leaf owner recharges, then the gradual capacity loss is about 10 percent more than 220-volt charging. In other words, it will bring the capacity…closer to 70 percent after 10 years.”

The same article also states that an average Lithium-Ion battery cell in an electric cycle has about 1,000 full cycles before it is classified as reaching its “end of life” (EOL).  If you fast charge your Leaf more than twice a week, however, the battery’s EOL could arrive much more quickly. Since the lifespan of the battery is determined by a fixed number of charge cycles, more frequent charging effectively ‘uses up’ battery capabilities more quickly.

According to the industry, a battery has reached its EOL after it has lost 20 percent of its original storage capacity, meaning a charging capacity of 80 percent, which occurs in about 10 years without frequently fast charging an EV.

With all the expenses of electric vehicles (and they seem to be making them more expensive over time), the cost of a replacement battery brings yet another cost into the mix if you want your EV to keep running. In fact, according to a recent British article, it could cost you up to £19,000 to purchase a new battery pack, which would be about $30,645 in U.S. dollars. Indeed, Nissan has stated the production costs for a replacement Leaf battery are around $18,000 – but has declined to say on its website how much a replacement battery would cost the consumer.

And it seems other automotive buffs are questioning the viability of the Leaf’s battery. As Daryl Siry wrote in a blog for

“It also appears that Nissan has cut corners on the most critical aspects of electric vehicle technology – the battery pack.”

Photo Source:

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A few weeks ago, we mentioned the misleading Nissan Leaf commercial that told the story of the gracious polar bear on his quest to thank those who drive green. Apparently Hollywood doesn’t mind that Nissan’s “zero emissions” push might not be accurate, because the commercial has received an Emmy nomination.

While this commercial does make the point that we should be doing all we can for the environment (including lowering emissions), it deceives viewers and polar bears alike. The ad claims the Nissan Leaf is “zero-emissions,” though that isn’t entirely true. Electric vehicles (EVs) may be (or may not be) better for the environment than conventional gasoline vehicles, but all they can claim is zero “tailpipe emissions.” The energy that powers their batteries is produced by a national energy mix that relies heavily on coal. In fact, according to the EPA’s blog, as of 2009, 20 U.S. states generated more than half of their energy from coal; states such as West Virginia, Indiana and Kentucky were generating more than 90 percent of their power from coal.

And the polar bear ad isn’t the only example of Hollywood and the mainstream media pushing alternative energy misconceptions. This Wall Street Journal article interviewing the director of the new Pixar movie “Cars 2” has him superficially remarking about alternative fuels, “Why isn’t everybody jumping on that bandwagon? It makes so much sense: Electricity, solar, whatever. There’s ethanol. There’s all this stuff you could be doing.”

In a way, he’s right – there is “all this stuff you could be doing,” but all his suggestions are currently unviable technologies. However, there are other options that are more viable than electric, ethanol, or hydrogen cars. Domestic alternative fuels such as propane autogas are clean, affordable and American made; OEM autogas vehicles and aftermarket vehicle conversions available right now.

Many alternative fuels are currently too expensive to implement or range and performance issues remain. Autogas is providing fleets the most bang for their buck, with autogas vehicles having up to 90 percent the range of gasoline vehicles and no loss in vehicle performance.

If the media truly wants to support alternative fuel technologies, they should do more research and figure out that EVs aren’t the only ones helping the environment.

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Electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers are working hard to get their say in today’s competitive alternative vehicle market, and now it looks like the cars themselves are going to have to speak up.

One of the more noticeable traits – maybe because it is not so noticeable – of an EV is that they produce almost no sound. However, due to concerns over safety, companies such as Warwick Manufacturing Group are designing and testing sounds to be added to EVs.

“Electric vehicles and hybrids are alarmingly quiet,” said Warwick’s Paul Jennings. “The concern is that as a road user, as a pedestrian or as a cyclist, we’re just not aware of their presence. And therefore there’s a real danger that there could be an accident.”

Jennings further explained that sounds they are testing range from regular “car” noises to sounds from “The Jetsons.” Once they have a noise, they test them in their car, named Elvin.

Clotaire Rapaille, consultant for the automotive industry, thought this idea sounded like music to her ears.

“Think of all the possibilities that are suddenly open,” she said. “We have different ring tones for different cell phones; we can have different sounds for different kinds of cars.”

While safety is important, noise emissions shouldn’t be the only thing that electric vehicles are worried about. In an article published on the American Fuel Facts blog, we describe how EVs may be worse for the environment than gasoline vehicles when energy-sapping batteries are factored into the equation.

Zero-noise and zero-emissions both sound nice, but it looks like neither may turn out to be in our future.

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Posted by admin at 3:41PM on 6/2/2011 with tags: , , , , , , ,

With the introduction of the Chevy Volt and the Nissan Leaf to the consumer market this year, electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have ramped up advertising campaigns claiming these vehicles produce “zero emissions.” Nissan started with its Polar Bear ads, featuring a morose polar bear wandering away from its melting arctic habitat, winding up at the home of a Leaf owner, giving him a hug for going green.

The automaker even created a website named “Nissan – Zero Emission.” The image below is among the various rotating headers on the site. Are plug-in EVs really “Zero CO2″ emitters? We’ll answer that in a bit.

Nissan claims the Leaf is emissions-free

Next, Nissan asks us to imagine what the world would be like if everything was powered by gasoline. From alarm clocks to iPods to computers, the video shows us how dirty the air around us would become if it wasn’t for electricity. Renault, which has four EV models in production in Europe, created a similar ad.

None of these ads or websites makes it clear what actually sources the electricity to charge the car, however. Is it wind? Solar? Natural Gas?

Automakers are trying to define “zero emissions” vehicles as those that produce no “tailpipe emissions” in an effort to brand EVs as the greenest cars on the market. This is only part of the story, unfortunately. The following chart shows which fuels make up the average U.S. electricity grid mix.

Of course, the fuel mix for any particular region will vary, but this chart represents the average percentage of electricity sources used in America. In fact, according to the EPA, there were 24 states that used coal for 50% or more of their electricity fuel mix as of 2007.

We know we don’t have to tell you that an electric vehicle powered 50% by coal obviously isn’t a zero emissions vehicle. As more electricity comes from renewable and clean-burning sources like wind or natural gas, then PEVs can move toward becoming the environmental holy grail that manufacturers want them to be.