Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Mitsubishi unveils first mass-market electric car from a major car maker

The i-MiEV has a top speed of 87mph, can be 80% charged in 20 minutes and has a good range — as long as the headlights, heater and radio aren't on at the same time, writes Alok Jha
Alok Jha, green technology correspondent, Tuesday 20 January 2009 17.01 GMT

Mitsubishi's i-MiEV electric car Photograph: PR
Mitsubishi has unveiled the first mass-market electric car from a mainstream car maker.
Slightly bigger than the Smart ForTwo but with a similar design, the i-MiEV — which goes on sale in the UK later this year — is based on the i, Mitsubishi's existing city car. With room for four adults, it has a top speed of 87mph and produces the equivalent of 57 horsepower. Its lithium-ion battery has a range of 100 miles and can be charged from flat to 80% in 20 minutes using Mitsubishi's bespoke high-powered charger; otherwise, a normal mains electricity socket will charge the battery from flat to full in six hours. Mitsubishi estimates that the car can travel 10,000 miles on £45 of electricity at current UK domestic prices.
Jim Tyrrell, managing director of Mitsubishi, said: "The i-MiEV is a great example of Mitsubishi's ability to innovate and bring the latest technology to market. We have a city car to suit real-world users with its ease of use, great environmental credentials and very low running costs."
Around 200 cars will be available in the UK at first, with final costs yet to be determined. A Mitsubishi spokesperson the cars might not be sold outright, but be leased at a cost of around £750 a month.
Kieren Puffett, editor of car website who took the i-MiEV for a test drive today, said the car was ideal for urban areas. "Through the town, the car is particularly torquey, it can get away from traffic lights and across roundabouts really quite quickly. That's quite a nice benefit for town driving."
He added: "Because it's based on an existing city car, the characteristics are fairly familiar. If someone got in, I don't think they'd notice anything massively adrift."
Puffett had some reservations, however, about Mitsubishi's claims on the car's range. "I deliberately drove the car with headlights, heater and the radio on. I did about 50 minutes of driving and covered about 22 miles — and I discharged the battery to half way from full."
Robert Evans, chief executive of Cenex, a government-backed agency that is leading the introduction of low-carbon road transport to the UK, welcomed the i-MiEV. He said that momentum towards the increased electrification of transport had been building in the UK ever since the publication of a report by Julia King, vice chancellor of Aston University and a former director of advanced engineering at Rolls-Royce. Working with economist Nicholas Stern, King reviewed the vehicle and fuel technologies which could help to decarbonise road transport in the next 25 years. They identified electric cars as a major feature of the future of personal transport.
"If progress is to be maintained, the public needs to be convinced that electric vehicles are a practical proposition that are capable of fulfilling their transport needs," said Evans. "The UK launch of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV — capable of carrying four passengers and with a range of 100 miles — marks an important step in this process.''
Mitsubishi has been developing its electric vehicle technology since 1995, most notably producing in-wheel electric motors that were showcased in an all-electric Lancer Evolution rally car in 2005 though Tyrrell said that specific technology was some way from market yet. This allows each wheel to be driven independently by its own motor. "In-wheel technology lends itself very well to 4-wheel drive performance but is not cost-effective when considering mass-market applications."
Lance Bradley, sales director at Mitsubishi, said: "The i-MiEV is just one of Mitsubishi's environmental initiatives to be unveiled this year. In February, we will launch the Colt ClearTec which uses stop-start technology to radically reduce CO2 emissions. ClearTec technology will be rolled out across most vehicles in the Mitsubishi range within the next three years."
Tyrrell said that as car makers bring out their electric cars he and others were now waiting for a "clear strategic direction and financial support from central government" on ways to make electric cars more attractive to consumers. This could perhaps include giving local authorities clearer direction to start initiatives such as free parking or exemption from certain taxes for electric cars.

'One million jobs in wind power' by 2010

Terry Macalister in Abu Dhabi, Tuesday 20 January 2009 15.36 GMT

One million people will be employed in the world wind-power industry by the end of the decade, despite the impact of the financial crisis, it was forecast today.
Amid predictions that the world would need to install one new turbine every 25 minutes to reach global renewables targets, energy experts at a green summit in Abu Dhabi said the sector had maintained a near 30% annual growth rate in 2008 and was heading for further success.
"It has been another record year for the industry. People say these growth rates can't go on forever, but they keep on going on," said Steve Sawyer, secretary general of the Global Wind Energy Council. There had been "dramatic" increases in the US and China, with the former overtaking Germany as the country with the most installed capacity, he told the World Future Energy Summit.
The latest estimates also suggest that Europe has been overtaken as the primary region for wind power.
There were now 400,000 people working in the wind-energy sector worldwide and this would increase enormously in future, Sawyer said. "We would expect it to reach one million by the end of the decade at least."
According to some projections, the Council said, up to 3 million people could be employed within the industry by 2050.
But this upbeat message came at the same time as a warning from Goldman Sachs that both wind and solar power companies faced financial difficulties caused by the continuing crisis. It pointed out that a lack of available financing for wind and solar projects would reduce or delay demand and affect volumes, pricing and profitability, and revised its ratings and targets on the shares of several European solar companies.
The brokerage said it continued to prefer the wind industry in Europe over the solar industry, given the former sector's greater level of maturity, its advantages in terms of scalability, and the future economics of electricity generation. "We believe that the most important theme in 2009 within the alternative energy space will be a move from severe undersupply to one of at least a more balanced market and potentially serious oversupply," said Goldman analyst Jason Channell.
However, Goldman's pessimism was not shared by Andrew Garrad of leading wind-power consultancy Garrad Hassan, who was at the Abu Dhabi conference. He said it had been "gobsmacking" to see the new schemes being developed in China.
One location he had visited was putting in place up to 5GW of new capacity – the combined wind-generation capacity of France and the UK combined. It was fair to say, he said, that "Europe's domination of wind is over".
Garrad said that the wind-power industry had suffered ridicule and animosity but was now becoming respectable, and that there were environmental and security-of-supply reasons for choosing it. "And I think in future it will be the cheapest and cleanest form of electricity supply," he added.
He believes obtaining grid connections remains key to the future of wind energy in all parts of the world and said politicians should be using the current financial crisis to invest in this area, "instead of protecting old industries."
Also at the Abu Dhabi summit, Frank Mastiaux, head of climate and renewables at Eon, warned that planning problems continued to blight the industry. Only one in five projects that were put forward to authorities in central Europe ended up being built, he said.
And while Eon had been putting up one new turbine every 10 hours on its own, he warned that the world needed one every 25 minutes if it were to reach the targets set out for it.

The Arab royal who's going off oil

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi breaks ranks with its petro-giant neighbours and commits to a sustainable energy future at the World Future Energy Summit

Terry Macalister, Tuesday 20 January 2009 11.59 GMT

Abu Dhabi announced at a summit of world leaders on renewable energy yesterday that it would become the first petro-driven economy to make a significant commitment to renewables – and it is partly thanks to Prince Charles. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, has decreed that 7% of power will come from green energy sources by 2020. The Middle East nation holds around 8% of the world's oil reserves and derives the vast bulk of its national income from fossil fuels, but while other OPEC oil cartel members see renewables as a threat, it has taken a different view.
Sultan Al Jaber, chief executive of the state-owned future energy company Masdar, which will oversee the green drive, said at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi that it was natural tomove into this new sector. By doing so Masdar would "provide a comprehensive solution to the world's energy challenges and maintain Abu Dhabi's position as a leading supplier of energy to the world." The Gulf state, a part of the United Arab Emirates, also wants to differentiate itself from neighbour Dubai, and diversify its economy, believing a "green" infrastructure will help its image as a new tourist destination.
Abu Dhabi has already put itself forward as a possible location for the headquarters of a planned International Renewable Energy Agency being promoted by Germany. "Many [Opec members] see renewables as a threat but the crown prince sees them as an opportunity," said a source close to the Abu Dhabi state. "He knows that the oil will eventually run out and he wants to ensure there is something left for future generations," he added.
Prince Charles, who has close links to the Gulf royals, has been actively encouraging the green initiative behind the scenes, the source added, explaining that the Masdar executives had been invited to Buckingham Palace last year.
Prince Charles is already a patron of the Masdar City project which aims to build the world's first carbon-neutral city in Abu Dhabi. He made an appearance by holographic video link at the first World Future Energy Summit held in the Gulf state last year. Prince Andrew has also become involved and was present at the meeting in the throne room at Buckingham Palace.
Masdar expects to mainly use solar energy to reach its 7% targets but is also looking at wind and even geothermal power, where heat from the ground is used as a power source. Masdar has already built links to Britain by investing with E.ON of Germany and DONG of Denmark in the London Array wind farm project of the coast of Kent which is tipped to be the biggest of its kind in the world.
The Abu Dhabi state stepped in when Shell pulled out of the £1bn project. The Anglo-Dutch oil group said it was concentrating its wind investment in the US, a move followed by BP. Masdar has $15bn worth of state-funding and has already started to build up its solar power business through a joint venture with Germany, a leader in the photovoltaics field. A new company, Masdar PV, will build manufacturing plants in both Germany and Abu Dhabi that will serve the growing demand for solar power, which is beginning to compete on a cost basis with traditional energy sources, even without subsidies.
Dutch solar firm Econcern claimed today at the summit that prices of solar panels would half in the next five to six years. It claimed the global industry had already met the International Energy Agency's target of 10GW of installed power by 2020.

Abu Dhabi awards green prize

By Robin Wigglesworth in Abu Dhabi
Published: January 20 2009 15:24

Abu Dhabi on Tuesday awarded the boss of the renewable energy subsidiary of a Nobel prize-winning microfinance bank a $1.5m prize for bringing energy to millions of poor people.
The Zayed Future Energy Prize was awarded to Dipal Chandra Barua, the head of Grameen Shakti, for the Bangladeshi company’s work in installing more than 200,000 solar panels to provide renewable power to 2m mainly rural people.

Abu Dhabi, the wealthy capital of the United Arab Emirates, is spending billions on renewable technology development through its Masdar initiative as part of an economic diversification drive.
The emirate hopes to obtain 7 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, Sultan Al Jaber, Masdar’s chief executive, said on Monday.
Masdar is fully owned by Mubadala, an Abu Dhabi investment fund controlled by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the emirate’s crown prince.
It is building a $22bn “green” city in the desert outside the capital which the company hopes will be carbon-neutral and become “the Silicon Valley of renewable energy,” Mr Al Jaber told the FT.
Despite large oil and gas reserves, Abu Dhabi has identified environmental technology as an important component of its efforts to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbons.
However the UAE, of which Abu Dhabi is the richest and largest of seven states, has the worst environmental footprint in the world, ahead of the US, according to a report by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London.
Electricity, petrol and water – desalinated from the ocean in an energy-intensive process – are all subsidised, and energy demand and carbon emissions are soaring.
Abu Dhabi has still garnered praise for its $15bn investment in Masdar and the hosting of a renewable energy conference this week.
“It’s good news that we see an increase in commitment to renewable energy in the region, and Masdar is a testament to that,” Frank Mastiaux, climate and renewables chief executive at E.ON, told the Financial Times.
Amid a global push towards green technology, scientists are searching for solutions to avert what many believe is a looming climate crisis. Experts hope that a worldwide system of carbon caps and trading will finally find traction at a summit in Copenhagen due later this year.
Optimism has been stoked by the election of Barack Obama as president of the US. The president-elect, who formally took office on Tuesday, pledged on the campaign trail to reduce US carbon emissions.
“Obama is a game-changer,” Kevin Parker, global head of asset management at Deutsche Bank told the Financial Times. “I think governments really need to step up and form a regulatory framework (for cap and trade). We need a price on carbon. Carbon emitters have had an easy ride.”
As part of Deutsche Bank’s €500bn of assets under management, the German bank manages $5bn of renewable energy assets.
“Funds in renewables will continue to grow,” said Mr Parker. “We feel there are going to be some spectacular winners and some spectacular losers.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Iberdrola and SSE plan nuclear venture

Published: January 20, 2009

LONDON: Scottish and Southern Energy and Spain's Iberdrola plan to work together to build nuclear power plants in Britain, the companies said on Tuesday.
The joint venture's initial aim is to secure sites suitable for nuclear power stations and it may consider adding partners later, they said.
"Iberdrola is committed to the UK market, and welcomes the UK's plans to develop new nuclear power plants for low-carbon energy supply," Pedro Azagra, Iberdrola's Director of Development, said.
The planned joint venture between Iberdrola and the Scottish utility comes five days after rival German utilities RWE and E.ON joined forces to build nuclear power stations in Britain as part of the British government's plan to replace ageing reactors.
"We accept that one more tranche of nuclear power stations is necessary for the UK's energy policy goals from around the end of the next decade," Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE's Energy Supply Director, said.

"We also recognise that we will have to continue to be able to source power generated from nuclear stations if we are to be able to meet our customers' energy needs in the long term."
Iberdrola has stakes in seven Spanish nuclear power plants and owns utility company ScottishPower.
The Scottish government opposes the construction of any new nuclear power plants north of the border, while London wants the old state-built power stations in England and Wales to be replaced.
Like the German joint venture announced last week, the Iberdrola-SSE partnership said it would not be tied to particular equipment suppliers and would make use of the best available technology for each element build programme.
French nuclear energy giant EDF has led the push to replace Britain's atomic energy facilities and is buying British Energy , the owner of most of the existing plants, so it can build at least four at those sites.
(Reporting by Daniel Fineren, editing by Anthony Barker)

Scots pact in bid to build reactors

By Rebecca Bream, Utilities Correspondent
Published: January 21 2009 00:15

Scotland’s leading energy companies are joining forces to look at building new nuclear power stations in the UK, starting with the bidding for land being sold by the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Companies are increasingly forming partnerships for nuclear investments because of the risks involved and the large amounts of funding needed.

Scottish & Southern Energy and Iberdrola, the Spanish energy company that owns Scottish Power, said on Tuesday they had formed a joint venture “to secure sites suitable for nuclear power stations”. They will be submitting joint bids for land at three locations owned by the NDA thought to be suitable for new reactor development; Wylfa in Wales, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Bradwell in Essex.
Last week, the German energy groups Eon and RWE said they would be teaming up to bid for the NDA sites with an eye to jointly building and running new nuclear reactors.
The NDA plans to unveil the winning bidders for the three sites by the end of March.
The best sites for nuclear development are considered to be those owned by British Energy, including Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset. But these are now controlled by EDF, the French energy company, following its takeover of British Energy, completed this month.
Other energy groups interested in building nuclear plants are therefore having to focus on the sites sold by the NDA.
EDF aims to build four reactors in the UK, with the first one starting to generate electricity at the end of 2017 or early 2018. Eon and RWE are planning to develop at least 6 gigawatts of nuclear generation capacity in the UK, which represents four to six reactors.