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July 2011

July 31, 2011

Korean consortium forming JV with Bolivian miner Comibol for lithium production in Salar de Uyuni

Korea Herald. A Korean consortium including Korea Resources Corp. (KORES) and steelmaker POSCO has entered an agreement with Bolivia’s state-run miner Comibol (Corporación Minera de Bolivia) to set up a joint venture to produce lithium intended for lithium-ion batteries. KORES said that Korean Li-ion manufacturers SK Innovation and LG Chem are also likely to participate in the project.

The scale of investment and the launch date of the JV are still to be settled.

The deal makes Korea the first country to do battery business with Bolivia...About 10 countries including the US, Japan, France and Brazil competed to partner with the Latin American nation, the state-run mineral developer said.

“The agreement will enable Korea to gain the upper hand over them,” said Kim Shin-jong, KORES president. “Korea’s advanced technology and Bolivia’s resources will create synergy.” Korea has been spurring its drive to secure scarce minerals in the Latin American region. The joint venture will also pave the way for Asia’s fourth-largest economy to take part in a project to develop lithium carbonate in the region, officials said.

A joint research project involving extracting lithium will begin next month at Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni (the world’s largest salt flat, with an area of more than 11,000 square kilometers), KORES said. POSCO plans to bid for construction of lithium-carbonate manufacturing and processing facilities in Uyuni, it added.

According to a January 2011 update by the US Geological Survey (USGS), identified lithium resources total 4 million tons in the United States and approximately 29 million tons in other countries. Among the other countries, identified lithium resources for Bolivia and Chile total 9 million tons and in excess of 7.5 million tons, respectively. China and Argentina total 5.4 million tons and 2.6 million tons of identified lithium resources, respectively, while Brazil, Congo, and Serbia each contain approximately 1 million tons. Identified lithium resources for Australia and Canada total 630,000 tons and 360,000 tons, respectively.

Comibol disagrees with the ongoing USGS assessment of the Salar de Uyuni resources:

Year after year, the USGS (United States Geological Survey) continues to publish that Uyuni has a reserve of 5.5 million tonnes of lithium...Only by drilling more boreholes all over the Salar will we be able to determine the true depth of the brine, its salts content, and the real reserves of lithium. Nevertheless, we can make a new estimate, based on the information available today and assuming the following hypotheses:

The Salar is an inverted cone, with an area of 10,000 km2 at its base and a depth of 220 m; the pattern of lithium concentrations is the one found by ORSTOM at the centre of the Salar; the layers of salt and layers of clay alternate in the manner found by Duke University at the centre of the Salar; Lithium can only be extracted from the brine in the layers of salt, and these, according to ORSTOM, have an average porosity of 40% over the Salar as a whole.

According to the data collected and based on the above hypotheses, we can state that there are more than 350 million tonnes of metallic lithium in the Salar. Even using the most modern extraction technologies, however, no more than 40% of the lithium in the brine can be physically recovered. This means that the reserves of lithium that are realistically available and could be supplied by Uyuni to the world are 140 million tonnes of lithium.

Korea imports all of its lithium needs, which nearly doubled to 11,000 tons last year compared with 5,200 tons in 2008. Prices reached $4,752 per ton as of 28 July, up $200 compared with last month and almost 100% from 2003, government data show.

The global lithium market has been expanding by 6% annually since 2000, according to KORES. It forecasts the rate will top 20% in the coming years given demand projections for electric drive vehicles.

The South Korean government is targeting a 10% self-sufficiency rate this year for “national strategic resources” such as lithium and other rare metals.

July 31, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

AlixPartners study finds post-crisis auto industry facing new set of challenges; sales projected below historical levels for foreseeable future

A recently released annual automotive industry review by AlixPartners, the global business-advisory firm, concludes that the automotive industry—after surviving the crisis of the past few years—now faces a new set of formidable competitive challenges and decisions ranging from keeping costs and capacity under control with the slow, “post-bubble” sales recovery in the US, to placing the right bets on vehicle-propulsion and other technology systems, to focusing on the right emerging markets.

The AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook finds that while automakers and suppliers have seen profits bounce back—North American original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) posted $12.5 billion in 2010 profit on a net margin of 4.6% and North American suppliers pulled in $8.2 billion on a net margin of 4.3%—things are far from back to “normal,” or at least the normal defined by the consumer-incentive-induced sales levels of the past.

In sync with its past annual auto studies, AlixPartners continues to predict that US auto sales will climb more slowly, and to a lower peak, than many others are predicting. Specifically, the firm estimates US auto sales will reach just 12.7 million units in 2011 and only 13.6 million in 2012.

AlixPartners also estimates that on-going unemployment and underemployment could cost the auto industry up to 1.5 million units in lost vehicle sales this year. Another market headwind is the stagnant US housing market. According to the study, historically, approximately one of every five vehicles sold is financed by home-value appreciation, a ratio that’s likely to decrease with the continuing stagnancy in home values.

Meanwhile, according to an AlixPartners survey of 1,000 Americans regarding their views of the US economy and their personal economic situations, 83% said they had delayed or planned to wait at least a year to buy a vehicle.

The differentiators for winning in the world we are transitioning to will be significantly different from the past. The good news is that most of the US players now have their costs in line to capitalize on a slow, steady sales recovery. On the other hand, the industry is facing some truly momentous, and momentously expensive, decisions on everything from powertrain choices to emerging markets; and for OEMs to count on a US sales bubble like in the last cycle—artificially-induced to begin with—to help fund all that is wishful thinking at best.

—John Hoffecker, managing director at AlixPartners and co-lead of the firm’s Enterprise Improvement Practice.

According to the study, one of the striking features of the new automotive industry is the convergence among competitors around the globe in areas including cost, quality, production processes, supply chain, management expertise and, last but not least, profitability. Profitability parity is evidenced by the fact that last year earnings-before-income-taxes (EBIT) margins for automakers globally clustered in a tight band ranging from 4.3% to 5.7%—with OEMs in China and India at 5.2%, while suppliers from China and India enjoyed an EBIT margin of 7.5%, the highest in the world.

This competitive convergence, the study says, will require big leaps forward in differentiators such as consumer-focused innovation, product-development excellence, truly strategic partnerships at various places around the globe, careful brand-building and, perhaps above all else, a general focus on speed—in achieving either first-mover advantage or fast-follower leverage.

At the same time, says AlixPartners, the future could bring a battle for control of the entire automotive value chain, as new propulsion systems related to the “electrification of the vehicle” may provide an opening for automotive suppliers with innovative battery technologies, or even players such as electric utilities, to take over the pole position from OEMs in that chain.

Technologically, the auto industry could well be on the cusp of its biggest set of changes since the invention of the internal-combustion engine more than 100 years ago. This will put unprecedented pressure on all players to pick the right business models, the right legal and capital structures, and the right partners. And, this all comes at a time of potential margin erosion as the industry, in general, shifts to smaller vehicles, both for regulatory and consumer-preference reasons. Preventing that erosion will be key.

—John Hoffecker

The AlixPartners study predicts a 13% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for small cars and a 7% CAGR for small crossover vehicles between now and 2015 in the US, as large cars, SUVs and pickups are expected to see a CAGR of just 2%, respectively, in that time. The study also finds that pickup-truck sales will be hurt by the continuing housing crisis. U.S. pickup sales for 2011 are estimated to reach only 1.7 million units, well below the recent peak of 2.9 million in 2006.

House appreciation historically has been used to finance the purchase of a new vehicle about 20% of the time. But today, both the ‘wealth effect’ and the real wealth from owning a home just isn’t what it used to be. By the same token, pickup-truck sales, which historically have been at the leading edge of US economic recoveries, continue to be hurt by the depressed state of housing starts.

—Mark Wakefield, a director in AlixPartners’ Global Automotive Practice

The study also finds that the bulk of future sales growth globally has likely permanently switched to emerging markets. AlixPartners finds that the global vehicle market is on track to be 76.4 million units in 2011 (10% above its pre-crisis level), and sees that number at 96 million units in 2015—signifying, among other things, that autos is a true growth industry.

However, buttressed by the recent leveling-off of sales in China, the study states that growth will not be the same in every emerging market and will be “bumpy” in most, and cautions that companies and investors in those new markets may find themselves wrestling far sooner than expected with market cyclicality and other issues that Western automakers and suppliers routinely face.

One thing is for certain. Emerging nations have gone from being just sources of cheap parts and labor to being bona fide markets, not to mention bona fide competitors. What’s not so certain is which markets in particular will really take root and blossom, and which will have a false spring and then fade away. Right now, there’s a lot of attention on Russia, but, then again, India also used to be in that position. As always, caveat emptor should always be the guiding principle for players in new markets.

—John Hoffecker

Other key findings of the AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook include:

  • Raw Materials Still Pricey. In part due to the continuing weak U.S. dollar, rising costs for raw materials and energy (in particular from foreign sources) will continue to pressure manufacturers and could compress margins. Besides petroleum-based products, some of the materials under pressure include copper, steel, lead, and platinum.

  • Still Plenty of Capacity. Though some parts of the supply chain, like electronics, are in tight supply today, the study finds that the industry still has plenty of capacity to support slow, steady growth. It finds, for instance, that of the 90 US suppliers that filed for bankruptcy in the last decade, only in those cases where the company moved into some degree of liquidation is it certain that permanent capacity reduction resulted.

  • Best Bets for M&A: Key Technologies and Growth Markets. Regarding the outlook for M&A in the auto industry, the study finds that while the industry is currently seeing high valuations, there may still be investment opportunities—for both private-equity and strategic buyers—in select segments and markets. Two such areas include key technologies, such as those tied to vehicle-propulsion systems, and growth markets, from emerging markets overseas to some niche-vehicle markets in the US.

For those with a clear investment strategy and the right criteria, there may well be many opportunities to be found despite today’s high valuations. And that certainly includes private-equity investors, who remain a significant part of the automotive industry with more than 50 firms holding over 75 companies in North America alone. But, in any deal, proper due diligence and strategic fit will be critical for success.

—Christian Cook, a director in AlixPartners’ Global Automotive Practice

Additionally, the AlixPartners study suggests a comprehensive strategic and operational package to achieve success in the new post-crisis automotive reality, including:

  • Suppliers and manufacturers must rethink their manufacturing, engineering and purchasing footprints, as sales potentials continue to shift into emerging countries.

  • Growth can be found in several other key areas, including: improving internal-combustion engines; moving premium features into mass production; and adding electronic controls to models.

  • Partnering with other companies should be considered, to fill gaps in capacity, competency, technology, regional presence and customer access—but such partnering must be done while keeping issues such as “cultural fit” and long-term commitment top-of-mind.

  • Companies should be “very slow to pull out the checkbook” when it comes to increasing overhead costs—which, the study finds, are already back to pre-recession levels for North American suppliers, with cost growth even surpassing sales growth in the first quarter of 2011.

  • Companies should leverage insights into long-term demographic and socio-graphic trends – including the probable driving habits of Baby Boomers as they retire and the priorities of Gen Y when it comes to their passions for such as things as video games vs. their feelings toward cars.

The AlixPartners 2011 Automotive Outlook is based on a benchmark analysis of 226 suppliers, 44 automakers and 21 heavy-truck OEMs. Public economic data and forecasts were also used in the study.

AlixPartners LLP is a global business-advisory firm offering comprehensive services to improve corporate performance, execute corporate turnarounds, and provide litigation consulting and forensic accounting services. The firm has more than 900 professionals in 15 offices across North America, Europe and Asia.

July 31, 2011 in Market Background, Vehicle Manufacturers | Permalink | Comments (13) | TrackBack

DOT RITA to award up to $80M for University Transportation Centers

The Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) of the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) plans to competitively select 10 Tier 1 University Transportation Centers (UTCs); two Tier 1 Transit-Focused UTCs; and 10 Regional UTCs to advance US technology and expertise in the many disciplines comprising transportation through the mechanisms of research, education, and technology transfer; and to provide a critical transportation knowledge base outside the US DOT and address workforce needs for the next generation of transportation leaders.

To accomplish this purpose, RITA plans to provide approximately $3.5 million from federal Fiscal Year 2011 funds to each nonprofit institution of higher learning selected through this competition to operate a Center. Estimated total program funding is $80,000,000.

A UTC must be located in the United States or territories. It may be a single university or a consortium of two or more universities. Each Center is required to obtain matching funds from non-federal sources in an amount at least equal to the US DOT grant amount.

The grant may be extended subject to:

  • transportation authorization legislation that continues the UTC Program as structured in this solicitation; and
  • availability of subsequent-year funds.

July 31, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Siemens water purification unit generates enough methane to power its own operations; Singapore scaling up to larger pilot facility

A new biological water purification facility developed by Siemens generates enough methane gas to power its own operations. It also produces much less sludge than conventional systems.

The pilot facility for this process, which is located at a site run by Singapore’s Public Utilities Board, has been operating in an energy-neutral manner since June 2010. Now, the city state is building a much larger pilot facility—one that will process 300 times more effluent than its predecessor, or about as much sewage water as is produced by around 1,000 people.

A typical urban biological water purification facility accommodates water from 10,000 to 100,000 residents. Today an aerobic (ventilated) process is used in which bacteria break down impurities in water by digesting them and converting them into new bacterial substances. This produces bacteria flakes filled with impurities—forming sludge that is then separated and either deposited in landfills or burned.

However, the organic impurities contain ten times more energy than needed to do the cleaning itself. They can therefore be used to generate methane, which could be used in gas-fired power plants or combined heat-and-power plants. However, sludge concentrations in municipal sewage systems are too low to produce methane economically.

With this in mind, development engineers from Siemens Water Technologies have developed a technology for charging bacteria flakes with organic impurities for an extremely short time during ventilation. As a result, bacterial reproduction is minimized. After most of the water is separated, the bacteria ferment the impurities into methane in an anaerobic process step.

After two aerobic steps and one anaerobic step, the sludge has been broken down so that the least possible amount of sludge remains and the largest possible amount of methane is available.

The pilot facility now in operation cleans around half a cubic meter of wastewater per day. A conventional water treatment plant requires a little less than 0.25 kWh of energy to do this, so the pilot unit needs to generate roughly that amount of energy in the form of methane. A bigger facility could be run in an energy-neutral manner. Market launch of the technology is scheduled for 2012.

July 31, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dow to invest in water desalination and reuse technologies in Saudi Arabia

The Dow Chemical Company plans to invest in a best-in-class manufacturing facility for Dow FILMTEC reverse osmosis (RO) elements in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The proposed facility would deliver local supply security of advanced technologies for water desalination and water re-use for potable, non-potable and industrial water serving Saudi Arabia, the surrounding Middle East and North Africa region and emerging markets worldwide.

Additionally, these water membrane technologies promise cost-savings through reduced energy usage and operational efficiencies for customers in desalination, industrial, municipal, commercial and residential sectors, according to Dow.

FILMTEC membranes from Dow Water & Process Solutions are used in some of the most water-challenged areas of the world, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Algeria. The Shoaiba Barge SeaWater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) plant is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest RO seawater desalination plants and utilizes FILMTEC membrane elements.

Over the years, improvements in FILMTEC RO membrane elements have provided a threefold increase in the amount of treated water per element while reducing energy costs in desalination and other water purification and re-use projects around the world, Dow says. Desalination plants with Dow technology produce hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater per day in many sites around the globe.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a key market for Dow Water & Process Solutions. This new proposed world-class facility will increase our ability to deliver the most advanced, affordable and sustainable water sourcing and treatment options for desalination, wastewater treatment, and other applications. Dow is committed to the vital water conservation and purification needs of the region, and to combating water shortages that limit economic development.

—Dr. Ilham Kadri, commercial director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Dow Water & Process Solutions

This announcement builds on the recent decision by The Dow Chemical Company and Saudi Aramco to form Sadara Chemical Company, a joint venture to build and operate a world-scale, fully integrated chemicals complex in Jubail Industrial City, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (Earlier post.)

In 2009, Dow entered into a comprehensive Research and Development (R&D) collaboration agreement with the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the region’s leading graduate-level research university.

July 31, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 30, 2011

Denbury poised to begin construction on Greencore CO2 pipeline for EOR operations in Wyoming and Montana

Billings Gazette. Denbury Resources, a CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) company, will soon begin construction on the Greencore Pipeline—a 232-mile, 20-inch pipeline through Wyoming to Montana that will move CO2 to mature and depleted oil fields in both states for EOR. Denbury expects work to begin on the line in mid-August, pending a final go-ahead from federal regulators, and complete work in late October or early November.

Denbury
The Rockies is one of two main EOR targets for Denbury. Click to enlarge.

The first segment of the pipeline will start at the Lost Cabin gas plant in Fremont County, Wyoming and run northeast through the state. In 2012, the pipeline is planned to be completed into southeast Montana, where it will initially terminate at the Bell Creek Field located in Powder River County, Montana.

The Greencore Pipeline is the initial portion of Denbury’s planned pipeline infrastructure in the Rocky Mountain region and will connect various sources of CO2 to the company’s oil fields. In the Rocky Mountain region, Denbury currently own two fields that the Company plans to flood with CO2, Bell Creek Field and Cedar Creek Anticline (CCA).

In addition to the initial CO2 source at Lost Cabin, Denbury is in various stages of discussions with several other entities. The Company will continue to seek additional CO2 sources, as the Rocky Mountain region has other potential opportunities for CO2 EOR growth and expansion.

In June, Denbury said it was buying full interest in the Riley Ridge methane and helium production plant near Big Piney. The plant will also produce CO2. Denbury, which has interests in oil fields in Montana, is also getting into the oil production business in Wyoming.

July 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MSU moves forward with DOE-backed CO2 storage project in northern Montana

Montana State University finalized negotiations with the US Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) to begin work on an $85-million, eight-year project that will involve permitting, injecting and monitoring one million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into deep porous rock formations in northern Montana. MSU received the preliminary award in 2009 and has been finalizing details on site selection, logistics, and project partners for the project to proceed.

Msu
Schematic illustration of carbon capture and storage at Kevin Dome in Montana. Courtesy Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. Click to enlarge.

In addition to $67 million of federal funding, private partners are contributing another $18 million in required matching funds for the project. Led by MSU, the Kevin Dome storage project will be a team effort that draws upon expertise from both the public and private sector. The team includes four other universities, three national laboratories and five private sector companies and has experience with carbon storage projects in Washington, Wyoming, Canada, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and internationally.

Three companies, Vecta Oil and Gas, SR2020 Inc. and Schlumberger are providing the bulk of the matching funds for the project. Vecta and SR2020 are involved in the seismic survey which will be one of the first steps of the project to ensure the geology is suitable and help determine the best locations for the wells. Schlumberger will core and log wells to provide more detailed geologic data about the subsurface.

The overall goal of the project is to demonstrate that CO2 can be stored safely and viably in regional geologic formations. It will be carried out by the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership at MSU. During the operational phase, the partnership will inject one million tons of CO2 into the dome 3,900 ft underground. Monitoring of the environment will be conducted throughout the life of the project until site closure.

The project site will be located at Kevin Dome, a geologic feature that extends 700 square miles underground and has trapped naturally occurring CO2 for millions of years. There are barrier rock layers above the CO2 that prevent gas or other liquids from migrating to the surface. The partnership will inject CO2 into a rock layer that has not previously had CO2. This will allow the scientists to study rocks that have been previously exposed to CO2 and rocks that have not had previous CO2 exposure.

Project information will be available at www.bigskyCO2.org as well as through regular newsletters. The eight year project will begin with environmental studies for permitting and collecting background data prior to building necessary infrastructure.

This project is the third phase of the Big Sky Partnership. The first phase of the program identified and characterized the carbon sources and sinks in the region and the second phase has focused on determining the best approaches for storing CO2 in both geologic and terrestrial systems. Small scale terrestrial and geologic field tests are currently under way by the partnership.

Led by Montana State University, the Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership (BSCSP) is one of seven partnerships involved in the US Department of Energy’s Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership program.

July 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Galaxy Resources enters technology license agreement with Li-ion producer K2 Energy

Australia-based Galaxy Resources Limited has signed a technology license agreement with US-based lithium-ion battery producer K2 Energy Solutions Inc. (Earlier post.) Under the agreement, K2 Energy will provide Galaxy with battery technology expertise, licensing and commercial support for the construction and operation of Galaxy’s proposed Jiangsu plant in China.

Galaxy will have the unrestricted and unlimited use of specific K2 Energy lithium battery technologies, valuable for the E-bike and other battery markets. Subject to the Galaxy Board approving the Battery project, K2 Energy’s superior and proven lithium battery technology coupled with Korean state-of-the-art automated plant equipment, will help Galaxy to leapfrog research and development and produce world-class lithium ion batteries.

—Galaxy Resources Managing Director, Iggy Tan

Jiangsu
Flow diagram, Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant. Source: Galaxy Resources. Click to enlarge.

K2 Energy has developed a family of large format batteries and battery systems based upon lithium iron phosphate technology. K2 Energy also has experience in the pre-operational stage of battery manufacturing, in particular providing technology and licensing support to European Batteries Oy’s lithium battery manufacturing facility in Varkaus, Finland.

K2 has launched a complete line of standardized format 18650 and 26650 lithium ion cylindrical cells for both energy (E) and power (P) applications. K2 Energy currently produces its battery cells and packs in China and has R&D, prototyping and battery pack assembly facilities in Nevada, US. Most of the company’s battery packs are sold in the United States of America and Europe.

Galaxy completed a feasibility study for the battery project in Q4 2010. For the production of 350,000 e-bike batteries per annum, the project is estimated to generate annual revenue of A$68 million and an average pre-tax net cash of A$30 million per annum. The non geared, net present value (NPV) of the project at a discount rate of 10% is estimated at A$187 million, with a project capital cost of around A$134 million. The internal rate of return (IRR) is around 29%.

Cattlin
Mining at Mt. Cattlin. Source: Galaxy Resources. Click to enlarge.

Galaxy Resources plans to become a leading producer of lithium compounds. Galaxy wholly-owns and operates the Mt. Cattlin mine in Western Australia, which is currently producing spodumene (LiAlSi206) concentrate. (At full capacity, ore will be processed at a rate of 1 million tonnes per annum (tpa), with lithium oxide concentrate production of 137,000 tpa and 56,000 lbs pa of contained tantalum.)

Galaxy’s Jiangsu lithium carbonate plant, once completed, will have a design capacity of 17,000 tpa of lithium carbonate, which Galaxy expects would make it one of the largest plants in China converting hard rock lithium mineral concentrates into lithium compounds and chemicals.

July 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft Vision Award goes to PC-Aero for electric aircraft system with solar-charging hangar

Erik Lindbergh, founder of the electric-aviation promotion organization LEAP and grandson of pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, announced the award of the LEAP Lindbergh Prize for Electric Aircraft Vision to PC-Aero for its development, along with SolarWorld, of a solar-enabled electric aircraft system complete with solar-charging hangar.

Lindbergh made the announcement at the World Electric Aircraft Symposium, a day-long conference to showcase and advance innovation in electric-powered flight, during the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011 air show in Oshkosh, Wis., concluding today. Calin Gologan of Germany, principal of PC-Aero, accepted the award at the symposium, where he provided a presentation on his aircraft, Elektra One. (Earlier post.)

My surprise was 200 percent, and I’m very honored. This is a recognition for our good work, which will motivate us to keep our effort under way in the future.

—Calin Gologan

The award was the seventh from LEAP (Lindbergh Electric Aircraft Prize). Three each were awarded at the same show in 2010 and at Aero-Friedrichshafen in southern Germany this spring. Those awards have honored various facets of electric-powered aviation. The Elektra One was the third aircraft, and both the first solar-enabled airplane and the first complete electric aircraft system, to be honored. The plane will be sold as a package featuring wing-borne SolarWorld photovoltaic cells to extend its range as well as a SolarWorld-powered hangar to house the plane and charge the aircraft’s lithium battery pack.

This is an electrifying time. Visionaries are taking risks. The field is alive with novel approaches and rich in activity and experimentation. With continued intellectual and financial investments, great opportunity exists for technological advancements that could apply well beyond electric aircraft.

—Erik Lindbergh

July 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Google to sponsor NASA Green Flight Challenge

The CAFE Foundation announced that Google will sponsor the NASA Centennial Challenge flight competition known as the Green Flight Challenge (GFC). CAFE (Comparative Aircraft Flight Efficiency) will conduct the event from 25 September through 2 October 2011 at Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County (California) Airport. The NASA-funded prize purse of $1.65M makes this the largest ever prize for aviation, according to CAFE. (The $10-million Ansari-X Prize was for suborbital spaceflight.)

Competing aircraft must demonstrate at least 100 mph and 200 passenger mpg on a 200-mile flight. The aircraft in the Green Flight Challenge sponsored by Google represent a diverse mix of singular prototypes created expressly for the competition by some of the world’s top designers.

Most will be propelled by batteries and electric motors, some by bio-fuel or hybrid. All competing aircraft will be shown to the public at the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition hosted by NASA at Moffett Field-NASA Ames Research Center, from 9 AM to 4 PM on 3 October 2011. Advance online ticketing for this exposition will soon be available at http://cafefoundation.org/v2/gfc_main.php.

In addition to the main prizes for highest scores, the competition includes a bio-fuel prize and plans for a special Lindbergh Prize for Quietest Aircraft, to be presented by Erik Lindbergh, grandson of the renowned winner of aviation’s Orteig Prize, Charles Lindbergh.

The electric aircraft in the competition will demonstrate for the first time that practical, emission-free flight is possible. Their batteries will be recharged using clean geo-thermal based electricity from The Geysers geo-thermal fields in the Mayacama Mountains North of Santa Rosa. This recharging will occur at the CAFE Flight Test Center’s first-ever Electric Aircraft Charging Station sponsored by Google.

In addition to the sleek aircraft of the GFC, the Google Green Flight Challenge Exposition will include exhibits of many technologies related to the future of green aviation. These will range from vertical takeoff personal aircraft, autonomous vehicles, fast prototyping equipment, advanced motors, propellers and more.

The non-profit 501 c3 CAFE Foundation has a 30-year history of flight testing and research on small experimental aircraft.

July 30, 2011 in Brief | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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