EcoGeek of the Week: Bill Mckibben

Since the publication of "The End of Nature" in 1987, Bill McKibben
has been a premier mind in environmentalism. Bill’s most recent book, Deep Economy,
helped me re-think the world in powerful ways, by asking one simple question,
"What is the relationship between ‘more’ and ‘better.’" Bill came
up with some pretty exciting answers, and they form the basis of what he calls
the Deep Economy.

EcoGeek: What is the
Deep Economy, and why do we need it?

Bill Mckibben: We need an economy
that asks questions other than "how can I make it bigger?" the two
key additional questions: "how can the economy make us more satisfied with
our lives?" and, in an age of ecological peril, "how can the economy
assure some durability for our communities?"

EG: What scares your
pants off?

BM: Well, I wrote the first book
about global warming, way back in 1989, and it was called The End of Nature.
That was scary enough for one lifetime — now i’m hard to rattle.

EG: What roll does the
internet play in the Deep Economy?

BM: Crucial. It allows people
to live in tight, close, more economically self-sufficient communities without
being stifled–there’s always a window open to the wider world. Earlier this
year I helped organize the largest grassroots environmental protest since Earth
Day 1970. But isntead of a march on Washington, we had 1,400 marches across
the country. (see there’s no way we could have organized it
without the net, nor linked it together afterwards to be more than the sum of
its parts.

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Bike Rack Air Pump

What’s a heklucht? The designers at Studio HiMom have combined a bike stand with
an air pump, so that bicycle commuters can be assured of having fully
inflated tires for their commute.

"The stainless steel construction lends to its durability while the
polished steel exterior shines brightly against the dull, grey of city
sidewalks. The Heklucht is a perfect combination of design and
functionality, and although originally conceived only as an art project,
it most certainly has a place in our urban lives!"

This isn’t flashy high-tech; it is something that just makes sense. And
making it easier and more convenient for people to use their bikes is good
design for us all.

via: StumbleUpon

Volkswagen to enter Passat in 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge in US

Coming this November 3, 2007, the most awaited and one of the world’s ultimate car races will happen – the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. There will be different teams who’ll enter their “smart” vehicles on a course that run for 60 miles of unknown territory and is designed to imitate the conditions in urban driving, with the goal of posting the fastest time while observing traffic regulations.

This event will require participating vehicles to blend through traffic, cross roundabouts and make their way into busy intersections. Drivers are not permitted as computers will be the one to take control over driving and navigation. This 2007 Urban Challenge will have as their participant the customized Volkswagen’ Passat which was made by the Volkswagen research department and its California-based Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) with Stanford University assisting them.

This Passat “Junior,” which was named after the founder of Stanford University Leland Stanford Jnr., is fitted with mostly electrically-powered parts – electromechanical power steering, an electric accelerator pedal, a Direct Shift Gearbox(DSG) and an electric hand brake. Volkswagen of America’s ERL team changed these electric systems and the brakes to make the vehicle 100% computer-controlled. Customized mountings for the array of sophisticated sensors were also designed and built by the ERL. The Volkswagen Passat’s “brain” is made up of Intel Core Duo Processors featuring two multiple-processing units per chip. This vehicle will be genuinely autonomous together with the software developed by the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Staford University.

“After our victory at the last DARPA Grand Challenge, Volkswagen is excited to join the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. We see an opportunity to further advance intelligent technologies for use in passenger vehicles of the future. The features developed for the Urban Challenge will ultimately make driving safer and more enjoyable in today’s increasingly dense traffic”, said Dr. Burkhard Huhnke, head of Volkswagen’s Electronic Research Laboratory. “In the fuel-efficient diesel-powered Passat we have the perfect car for this challenge, just as our Touareg ‘Stanley’ was for its 2005 Grand Challenge triumph,” he further explained.

It could be remembered that in 2005 Volkswagen won the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge with their Toureg TDI which they named Stanley. Stanley was able to defeat 22 other unmanned vehicles in a 132-mile championship racing in rough desert roads, mountain passes, dried-up lakes and tunnels with the use of on-board sensors and navigation system. Stanley was able to complete the race in a span of six hours and 54 minutes without a single defect.

Volkswagen to offer Sirius Satellite Radio

Volkswagen of America, Inc. will offer SIRIUS as a standard equipment on the 2008 MY Toureg2, new Beetle Convertible, GTI, GLI, and new Beetle, as announced by SIRIUS Satellite Radio on June 19. It will also be available on Jetta, Passat and Eos models. “The Volkswagen of America, Inc. plan to offer SIRIUS as standard equipment in select models not only proves VW’s commitment to the customer, but also shows VW’s commitment to technology that enhances driving pleasure and enjoyment in every sense,” Adrian Hallmark said, the Executive Vice President of Volkswagen of America. “SIRIUS Satellite Radio helps to enhance the driving experience and Volkswagen ownership pride,” he added.

“Since the first launch on the New Beetle in 2004, to now making it standard on the New Beetle and other key models, VW has always shown to be a significant partner in the growth of SIRIUS,” said Mel Karmazin, CEO of SIRIUS. “Volkswagen of America’s decision to move in the direction of standardizing SIRIUS on key models only shows their commitment for expansion and growth of our capabilities,” he also said.

It was in March of 2006 that Volkswagen of America, Inc. and SIRIUS announced their partnership in offering SIRIUS as Volkswagen’s sole satellite radio provider for vehicles sold in America until 2012. Volkswagen has exclusively offered SIRIUS beginning with its 2007 model year vehicles and they expect to install the SIRIUS satellite radios receivers approximately 80% of its vehicles. With this, Volkswagen also offers three months of complimentary service on vehicles installed with the SIRIUS satellite radio.

Google Investing $10M in Plug-Ins

Google’s philanthropic arm,, is putting some of it’s gigantic pile of cash behind plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Right now, their initiatives include hacking Toyota Prius and Ford Escape hybrids to be plug-ins. Their Prius plug-ins are getting about 75 mpg, a good boost over the 40 mpg of regular Prius models.

Google plans to fund at least $10 million in PHEV projects and hopes to expand it’s plug-in fleet to at least 100 vehicles. In addition to promoting the idea of PHEVs Google is also working on the technology behind vehicle to grid integration.

Vehicle to Grid power basically works by charging car batteries at night, when there’s tons of extra electricity, and then selling the electricity back to utility companies during the day when prices are high. Not only could this provide a revenue stream to owners of hybrid cars, it would stabilize the country’s energy grid and make it easier for us to adopt renewable energy. Google is working with their utility company PG&E on working out the kinks of vehicle to grid power, and optimizing the process.

Google’s page is promoting all of these initiatives. Recharging the car, recharging the grid, and "recharging the planet." No small goals at Google!

A video from Google is available after the jump

Via MetaEfficient

Quick OLED Review

Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) are versatile, bright,
efficient light sources. They’re basically flat two dimensional lights made by
placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. When
current is applied, light is emitted. OLEDs
are usually sandwiched between layers of protective clear plastic.

The General ElectricÂ’s Ecomagination department has been developing
since 1999, and in 2003 they demonstrated a 2’x2′ OLED light source.
For a behind-the-scenes look at what is going on at GE check out
this recent blog post
by one the their EcoEngineers involved in OLED development. In the blog, there is a
video that shows OLEDs being bent, spindled and attacked with hole punchers. 

OLEDs can be made very thin and very power efficient. While currently not as efficient as
fluorescent lights, OLEDs have a very high theoretical maximum efficiency. Due to their efficiency OLEDs donÂ’t produce
waste heat and are thus a good source for illuminating things you donÂ’t want to
get hot, like cell phone screens.

The manufacturing process for OLEDs can include printing
dots of different organic compounds on a clear plastic carrier to create a
matrix of pixels that emit different colored light. These systems can be used
in television screens, computer displays, and cell phone screens.

At the Las Vegas CES 2007 Summit Sony showcased 11 inch
(resolution 1,024 x 600) and 27 inch (full HD resolution at 1920 x 1080) OLED
televisions claiming a million-to-one contrast ratio and total thickness of 5
mm. According to news reports, Sony plans to begin releasing TVs this year.

Seven World Trade Center: NYCs First Leed Gold

EcoGeek made a little EcoGoof earlier this month in our piece outlining the top ten green skyscrapers titled Uber-Eco-Towers. In the article, I declared that the Hearst Tower in Midtown Manhattan was the first greenscraper in New York City to earn LEED gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council—and that’s not entirely true. Our readers at kindly pointed out that the building that houses their offices, Seven World Trade Center, was, in fact, the first office building to earn LEED gold in the Big Apple.

The devil was in the details as LEED standards can be a bit tricky to decipher. While the Hearst Tower was the first in NYC to go gold for "core and shell and interiors," WTC 7 beat Hearst to LEED gold by several months in "core and shell" (sans interior) certification. In its core, WTC 7 employs a rainwater-powered cooling system and on its shell, state-of-the-art ultra-clear glass is used to harness as much natural light as possible. While the Hearst Tower has LEED gold interiors as well, WTC 7 allows it’s tenants to do what they will with the interiors, thus making LEED certification impossible.

To prevent confusion in the future, here’s the breakdown of all the different LEED certifications courtesy of EG’s own Philip Proefrock: LEED-NC (new construction), LEED-CS (core and shell), LEED-CI (commercial interiors), LEED-EB (existing buildings), and LEED-Homes is coming out this fall, and LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) is in pilot phase now and LEED certifications for Schools and for Hospitals are forthcoming

Volkswagen Leads German Stock Rise for a Fourth Day, BASF

Germany’s benchmark DAX Index increased for a fourth day. After increasing the number of workers in its Auto 5000 plant in Wolfsburg, Germany, Volkswagen AG paced the advance of the said increase. BASF AG, Henkel KGaA and SAP Ag also increased.

The DAX were able to add a 0.7 percent, to 8085.15 at 11 in the morning yesterday in Frankfurt, heading for a record close. DAX futures expiring in September this year climbed 0.8 percent to 8173. The HDAX Index of the country’s largest enterprises increased 0.7 percent. “It is very likely that we will see the DAX reaching a record high this week, as last week’s positive momentum could be carried forward into this week,” an equity strategist at WestLB AG in Dusseldorf, Michael Scholz, said.

Volkswagen increased 1.77 euros, or 1.6 percent, to 115.43 euros. As Auto Motor and Sport magazine have reported, Volkswagen will increase their number of employees in their Wolfsburg plant to 4600 this year, in order to boost their capacity for the launch of the Tiguan sports utility.

On another part of the globe, Dubai will begin an “Automobile City” in the United Arab Emirates with Al Nabooda Automobiles, a dealer of Audi, Porsche an Volkswagen in Dubai, and the Northern Emirates, the companies said on June 17.

The world’s largest chemical company, BASF, increased 2.41 euros, or 2.6 percent, to 94.45 euros. And the world’s biggest maker of business-management software, advanced 74 cents, or 2 percent, to 37.30 euros. Henkel, the maker of Persil detergent and Dial soap, increased 20 cents, or 0.5 percent, to 39.40 euros. Today a 3- for-1 stock split became effective.

Volkswagen Could Boost Productivity by 50%

The German Automaker Volkswagen could raise their productivity by 50%, informed by Volkswagen AG’s top labor representative, Bernard Osterloh. Osterloh is also the deputy chairman of the supervisory board. “I see the possibility to increase productivity by up to 50% with the next model generations,” Osterloh said, without giving details on its possible time frame.

But before this, Osterloh added that the executive board would first need to streamline the Volkswagen assembly system to allow for the quick and easy production of high quality cars. “We have to make the production easier, but at the same time maintain the diversity of models and variants for the customer,” Osterloh said. Productivity rose by 23% between 2004 and 2006, he further added.

Osterloh explained that the situation at Europe’s largest automaker by sales has eased compared with 2006, when the company became involved in a wide-ranging restructuring program. But still Osteloh acknowledges that risks remain. Thus, more efforts by the management and staff are needed.

By November, Volkswagen should have come up with a decision on the production of the new model in Wolfsburg, he added. The model will be based on the Volkswagen Golf hatchback and its annual production capacity would be between 40,000 to 45,000 vehicles. This would hike the Wolfsburg plant’s total capacity to 480,000 vehicles per year and safeguard 1,100 jobs.

Volkswagen is manufacturing its Golf and Golf Plus at its plant in Wolfsburg, as well as several components. Also, the Auto 5000 GmbH unit produces the Touran van in that plant.

Osterloh also addressed the issue on the planned commercial vehicles alliance between Volkswagen, MAN AG (MAN.XE) and said that it will take a while before it materializes. “The issue will become more concrete in the second half of the year at the earliest,” he said.

Synergies can be made specifically in fleet management, dealing with pre-owned vehicles, and engines and electronic systems too, he added. It is important that this synergies be completed, as only then will all three companies be able to compete in the market in the long term, Osterloh said.

ChallengeX: Chevy’s Efficiency Mod Challenge

A longer version of this article is crossposted at

I had the opportunity last week to visit General Motors’ headquarters in
downtown Detroit for an event with the ChallengeX program. ChallengeX is a
program co-sponsored by GM and the US Department of Energy. Teams from
universities across the US (and one from Canada) were given a stock
Chevrolet Equinox to mod for improved efficiency. "Seventeen
teams have been challenged to re-engineer a GM Equinox, a crossover
sport utility vehicle to minimize energy consumption, emissions, and
greenhouse gases while maintaining or exceeding the vehicle’s utility
and performance."

This is a multi-year program, which has already gone through two years
of evaluations and awards. And, while the initial information I had
about the program was that this was the conclusion of the challenge, I
learned that there is going to be a fourth year to the program, which
will focus on consumer acceptability issues. Afterall, you can fill the back seat with batteries and praise  a car’s efficiency, but soccer moms are never gonna buy one.

The top three programs for this year’s competition were Mississipi State
(1st place), University of Wisconsin (2nd place), and Virginia Tech (3rd
place). The vehicles went through a multi-day testing at GM’s proving
grounds, and were judged on numerous criteria. More information about
the ChallengeX results can be found on GM’s
FYI blog.

I talked for a bit with Dr. Andrew Frank, the faculty adviser, and with
Terrence Williams, the project team leader for the team from University
of California at Davis, who call themselves Team Fate. Of the 17 teams in
ChallengeX, only the team from UC-Davis had a plug-in hybrid vehicle.
(Unfortunately, a broken clutch kept them from completing the
competition, and their vehicle was not one that was available to be
driven.) To help demonstrate their vehicle’s ability to travel without
needing to use it’s internal combustion engine, Team Fate had a
demonstration trailer with a solar panel for charging their vehicle. Like the
Volt, it was designed to be able to travel a reasonable range based on a
charge collected from a plug in source (be it a solar PV array on a
garage roof or just a grid-tied circuit) and avoid the use of the
fueled half of the system altogether.

Several other ChalengeX vehicles were available to be driven (albeit
just a trip around the block at GM’s Renaissance Center headquarters in
Detroit). Most of the teams (12 of the 17 competitors) used biodiesel – a B20 blend – as their fuel. One team which went a bit
farther with their entry, however, was the University of Waterloo’s
vehicle, which was powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, rather than some
form of internal combustion engine. (I had the chance to drive that
vehicle as well, and that will be covered in a forthcoming article.)

Cutting Cooling Costs With…get this…Cold Air

Have you ever thought about how ridiculous it is that we use massive amounts of electricity to cool food in the winter. If it’s colder in your back yard than it is in your refrigerator, then why are you spending money on cooling?

Restaurants, supermarkets and institutions have large scale refrigerators that represent a huge energy demand. During the winter, this energy is pretty much wasted, as ice cold air is usually just a few meters away. So why not couple traditional mechanical heating with natural sources of cool air?

The Freeaire system does exactly that. Not only does it provide increased control for the cooling equipment and systems, it uses
cold outdoor air to refrigerate rather than running the mechanical system. Cost comparison curves show that payback on the
system can be in less than 2 years for large systems.

It’s not for home use…yet. But  Wal-Mart could cut it’s cooling bills in half in northern climates. Server farms could similarly benefit from this kind of natural cooling. My money’s on Canada for Google’s next big facility. Restaurants, box-stores and server farms are all places that could, should and will be implementing this technology…and soon.

via: The
Sietch Blog

Volvo R-Line Sport Package For C30, S40 & V50 Models?

While Volvo decided a couple of months ago to can the “R” performance band due to sluggish sales in both Europe and the US, it is being reported that the Swedish carmaker is thinking of reviving the “R” brand through a sport package dubbed “R-Line”. Think of it as something similar to Audi’s S-Line and BMW’s M-Sport packages with visual and chassis enchantments. The unconfirmed reports are accompanied by a set of pictures featuring an S40 with a subtle looking bodykit, different interior trim and “R-Line” badging in-and-out. –More pictures after the jump

Via: , Source: