Category Archives: Hybrids

Top 5 Green Cars of Fall 2013


Alternatively fueled cars aren’t sexy simply for how they help the environment—they save you the money you normally would spend on gas, too. From hybrids to true electric, luxury to everyday driving, these five cars mark an exciting time in U.S. car culture. Plug in to these alt-fuel cars and enjoy the ride, as well as the savings in your pocket.

Cadillac ELR

The Cadillac ELR is what the Chevy Volt was intended to be, according to Car and Driver. It’s fuel-efficient, fun to drive and a feast for the eyes. The drive train is the same as the Volt, the engine is bigger and the exterior has the lines of the Converj concept car displayed at the 2009 auto show in Detroit. Planned for a late 2013 release, the price is rumored to be close to $60,000, which will keep curiosity seekers away but draw those with a green conscience and a taste for luxury.

A large console dominates the front interior, to cover the 288-cell battery that powers this machine. This is the same battery as in the Volt, with two drive motors and a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine to keep it charged. Per GM, the performance is expected to be in the range of zero-60 mph in eight seconds. One may expect 35 miles on a full battery charge.

BMW i3

Car Connection reports that the i3 is a new-from-the-ground-up design. It’s not an electric retrofit of another model.

The body is carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, making it lighter and stronger than other cars. The entire side of the car can be opened for access, because there is no need for a door pillar. This shell sits on an aluminum frame which holds the battery and drive train.

A two-cylinder gasoline engine is available as an option to generate enough electricity to keep the car moving between charges. This is a standard feature in the Chevy Volt, but is optional in the BMW.

BMW states the expected mileage on a charge is 80-100 miles. The estimated MSRP is $41,000. People who love their BMWs may watch how well this new design takes off. The initial buyers will likely already have a BMW in their garage.

Ford Focus Electric

Less about style and more about function, the electric Focus has an estimated mileage of 75 on a full charge. Otherwise, the performance should be similar to the gas version of the Focus. At an MSRP of $39,200, this Focus is packed with many standard features, such as HD radio, navigation and Ford’s MyTouch infotainment system.

This is still a Ford Focus with an electric engine. Those who prefer the subcompact world but want to step into the green, all-electric world, should look into this vehicle.

Chevy Volt

The Volt was a pioneer of electric cars, and it has set the tone for many designs after it. The $39,000 MSRP may scare off potential buyers, but by now, the Volt will be showing up in used car listings. The Kelley Blue Book has used cars and prices, so future Volt owners may find a good deal on a 1-year-old electric car.

The two electric motors and unique drive train are still innovative. The standard gas engine charges the battery and gives an average 35 mpg. For many, this is still the car to buy as an entry into all-electric driving.

Nissan Leaf

Available in late 2013 will be the second generation of the Leaf. There are a few changes, mainly to the electrical equipment. With the improvements comes a reduction in price. The MSRP will be $29,650.

An improved charging system, navigation, voice SMS read-out and backup camera system highlight the equipment changes. Mileage is expected to be almost 75 miles on a full charge.

The Leaf has had a year of production driving, so consumers will have real road statistics from which to buy into electric.

What green car are you most intrigued by?

Hybrids on the Horizon: The Future Looks Green

Since the first hybrid vehicle hit the U.S. in 1999, with the Honda Insight Hybrid, people looking for a greener ride found their answer in hybrid vehicles. But environmentally minded consumers don’t make a large market share, and it wasn’t until the promise of savings at the pump that flocks of consumers were finally noticed by automakers.

After the introduction of the Insight, followed by Prius in 2000, the number of available hybrid vehicles, including popular sports vehicles, soon began to grow — as did hybrid technology and consumer interest.

Hybrid Image

Sticker Shock

It took several years of refinement before hybrids truly gained traction in the minds of the average consumer. One of the biggest challenges has been the premium price tag. Automakers have had to educate consumers on looking past the initial sticker shock and determine whether they could save money over the lifetime of the vehicle, given the lower cost of fuel and maintenance. But as battery technologies improved, the gap between a hybrid vehicle and its conventional counterpart has lessened. The higher initial cost of many of today’s hybrids can almost always be justified by fuel savings during the lifetime of the car.

Understanding Hybrid Technology

How does hybrid technology work? Hybrid vehicles feature a smaller, fuel-efficient gas engine that works in tandem with an electric motor. While some plug-in hybrids charge overnight, much like a full electric vehicle, most hybrid vehicles today rely entirely on the battery recharging as the vehicle is driven. Hybrids make use of a special braking system called regenerative braking, which recaptures energy that would otherwise be lost during braking and uses it to refuel the battery, instead.

Essentially, the electric motor can be used to slow the car, which allows it to act as a generator in charging the battery. Earlier hybrid batteries were larger and less efficient than today’s hybrids, which hasn’t only helped improve the vehicle’s efficiency but also lowered its price.

Another advancement in hybrid technology has been the periodic engine shut off. As a hybrid car is stopped in traffic, the engine temporarily shuts off and then restarts again when the car moves.

Hybrids have also greatly improved in advanced aerodynamics. This is important in achieving high-fuel efficiency because it helps to reduce drag. Similarly, some hybrid cars sport lower-rolling resistance tires which are more narrow and stiffer, and thus produce less drag.

The steady improvement in technology hasn’t only caused the price to decrease, but has vastly grown the number of hybrid vehicles available, with new models hitting the showroom floor yearly. New, more affordable hybrid family cars at multiple price points, as well as additional SUVs and light trucks, are joining the ranks of current hybrids. Together, new and existing models are expected to grow the market share for hybrids to double its size within the next five years. Fast forward a year and finding Phoenix Chevrolet dealers with green options will be easier than ever before.

Emerging Technologies

Hybrid technology is expected to continue to improve, which should boost market share even further. While improvements in battery technologies hold the greatest potential, other technologies — such as improvements in regenerative braking and aerodynamics, as well as the emergence of new alternative fuels such as fuel cells — are expected also to have a generous, green impact.

Solar Electric Cars more efficient than most Biofuels

“The analysis considered land-use, greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel use, and took into account the production and use life cycles of both the fuels themselves and the vehicles they power. …all things considered, a pretty clear win for solar-powered electric battery vehicles.”



…this is an interesting study, however it is not considering a much more efficient ethanol crop, algae!

Check this out:

UPS Setting Green Example For Other Businesses

UPS which is known for their signature brown delivery trucks are turning green. They’ve recently made the largest commercial grade order of hybrid electrical vehicles and CNG vehicles than any other company to date. So, why the change? UPS has decided to go green in a big way through creating an alternative fuel delivery fleet. Already a pioneer in the business they possess the U.S. record for the largest private fleet which they plan on expanding over the next few years. The UPS “Green Fleet” is currently operating in locations throughout the world including France, Brazil, and the United Kingdom to name a few. These fleets will assist in reducing carbon emissions and the company’s negative impact on the environment.

One of the vehicles UPS has purchased for their eco-friendly fleet is the Xebra. This compact automobile releases zero-emissions and are surprisingly more cost-effective for the company than their standard delivery trucks. The newly introduced green fleet is expected to save 176,000 gallons of gasoline and reduce Co2 emissions by 1,786 metric tons a year. The fleet will include CNG and HEV vehicles. The 300 CNG vehicles operate on natural gas. These types of automobiles use clean burning fuel that helps the environment instead of causing pollution. HEV’s hybrid system conserves fuel by using a battery pack, generator, and power unit which pumps electric power when needed. Each hybrid uses regenerative braking. Regenerative braking is when the energy generated in the process of stopping or braking is saved and returned to the vehicle’s main battery system. UPS’s alternative fleet trucks are constructed inside to appear similar to the traditional delivery vehicles but they are now more “green” than brown.

According to UPS’s corporate sustainability officer Bob Stoffel, the company is focusing on conservation programs and increasing network efficiency to reduce their overall fuel usage. The alternative fuel fleets are not the only green improvements UPS has made. They have route optimization, new airline strategies, next-generation packaging solutions, and paper conserving technology to continue their environmentally conscious efforts. Their leading edge technology enables them to find the best routes possible to prevent the wasting of fuel. UPS utilizes CDA’s which are continuous descent arrivals for airline landings which also lessens harmful emissions released into the air. UPS uses eco-friendly products that are reusable for their packaging now also. Like many other companies they have decided to go paperless with invoices and preserve trees.

Many companies claim to go green but UPS is actually making the commitment and sticking with it. It’s important for businesses to see the positive effects of becoming more environmentally conscious. The process of going green can be tedious but the benefits are endless for a company that really wants to make a difference.

UPS has a sensational “green” program that truly sets the bar high for other businesses to follow. If more companies venture in the direction UPS has taken the environment and the world can change for the better.

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Tristan Prettyman, Musician from San Diego

It is always nice to see when someone is doing their part to help save our planet so when I read a blog written by Tristan Prettyman recently about all the amazing little things she was doing to that end, I immediately contacted her to see if she would be willing to share her thoughts on being eco-conscious. Tristan is a singer and songwriter based in San Diego, California who is quickly making a name for herself across the world with the recent release of her second album Hello…x. She is touring this album now and like many musicians she was concerned with the impact a cross country tour might have on the environment. Through the use of reusable water bottles filled with filtered tap water, metal silverware and personal coffee mugs, she and her bus mates have already begun reducing their level of waste. Her efforts extend far beyond the tour bus however and she was really excited to share it with us.

At what age do you first remember becoming interested in helping to protect the environment?

I think I was born interested. Growing up in San Diego, especially near the beaches and beautiful parks like Torrey Pines preserve I was always outdoors as a kid. I surfed, did beach cleanups, took field trips to tide pools, went camping and horseback riding in the mountains. As you grow older you take those memories with you and wonder what you can do preserve the environment around you for those to enjoy in the years to come.

My music has really allowed me to travel and see the world and now I’ve become more interested in helping raise environmental awareness in other communities, and encouraging others to get involve doing things locally.

Growing up was your family also Earth conscious?

Definitely. We had a garden growing up and before the county even had a recycling program we’d take our cans and bottles to the recycling center.

What are some of the ways you have incorporated going green into your work?

We have a bus this tour so we are able to do a lot. We try to eliminate plastic bottles by carrying a 5 gallon water jug with a pump. We all have reusable recycled Sigg bottles which cut down on a ton of plastic waste. I try to use metal silverware and wash it everyday instead of plastic and travel with my own coffee cup. We use recycled paper plates and bowls and travel with a recycling bin on our bus.

Is there any one green practice that is something you do naturally every day?

I’d say having a Sigg bottle has really changed my life. I used to spend so much on water; I was a Fiji brand fanatic. But one day, I just switched and started drinking tap water and bought a Brita filter for home. Buying bottled water adds [up] and ends up in landfills and waterways.

What are some of your day to day efforts that promote an eco conscious lifestyle (drive a hybrid vehicle, vegetarian, recycle, use cloth bags, ride a bike, etc)?

I mentioned some already, but I do most everything you mentioned. I’ve driven a Toyota Hybrid Highlander for the past 2 years. I love it. It doesn’t get insanely amazing mileage like some if the other hybrids out there, but for an SUV it’s great. My bass player and I both have bikes on tour, so we cruise around everywhere. I use recycled bags everywhere. And as much as I can when out buying things other than groceries, I try to bring a bag or just stash things in my purse, I just recently realized the great thing about woman’s purses being so big is that you can fit a new shirt, toothpaste and shampoo and a book! I always come home looking like a kleptomaniac because I’ll have to most random things in my purse. I just hate excess. As far as eating, I try to eat vegetarian but I can’t resist good BBQ so I’ll indulge here and there. But I’m learning about the great lengths our food travels to get to us and it’s very unappetizing. I try to always buy organic and local.

When did you first become interested in Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue and the Surfrider Foundation? Can you tell us a little bit about the mission and your involvement?

They came to me a couple months ago and asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. Naturally, it just seemed like a great fit. I’ve spent most if my life at the beach and always participated in cleanups. It’s a really amazing event and I think people are surprised at how little effort it takes to make a big difference. The event is about raising awareness and keeping the beaches barefoot friendly.

When is the next date you team up with them?

We have one event left. South Padre Island, Texas on August 23rd. It was voted on by the community!

Would you ever consider touring in a bio-diesel bus?

Oh yeah, would love that. I’m just getting into a bus though and it’s very costly as is, but as soon as we can afford some other options we will definitely be looking into bio diesel!

Do you feel that performing shows live via the internet is a great way to keep your carbon footprint down since you can reach so many without flying/driving all over the world?

I never thought about that, but I kind of like that idea. The more I tour and travel, the more I wish I was home! So Internet shows would help solve that!

Do you have an online presence where people can learn more about you and listen to your music?

Official Website

In addition to the AT&T Blue Room performance linked above, Tristan can be seen playing across the country through the middle of September. I strongly encourage seeing her live to support not only an amazing musician, but also someone who is taking steps to help maintain a beautiful planet to rock on.

Aug 15 2008 7:00P
Filene Center At Wolf Trap Vienna, Virginia

Aug 16 2008 7:00P
Festival Pier At Penn’s Landing Philadelphia

Aug 17 2008 11:00A
KZZO “A Day in the Zone” @ Gibson Ranch Sacramento, California

Aug 19 2008 8:00P
Visulite Theatre Charlotte, North Carolina

Aug 20 2008 7:00P
House of Blues Myrtle Beach

Aug 23 2008 7:00P
Barefoot Wine Beach Rescue TBD

Aug 24 2008 7:00P
St. Augustine Amphitheatre St. Augustine, Florida

Aug 26 2008 7:00P
Arkansas Music Pavilion (AMP) Fayettevile, Arkansas

Aug 28 2008 7:00P
Pine Mountain Amphitheater Flagstaff, Arizona

Aug 29 2008 8:00P
The Joint Las Vegas, Nevada

Aug 30 2008 7:00P
Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater Reno, Nevada

Aug 31 2008 8:00P
Great American Music Hall San Francisco, California

Sep 3 2008 7:00P
Malkin Bowl Vancouver, British Columbia

Sep 5 2008 7:00P
Britt Pavilion Jacksonville, Oregon

Sep 6 2008 7:00P
McMenamins Egdefield Amphitheater Troutdale, Oregon

Sep 7 2008 7:00P
Marymoor Amphitheatre Redmond, Washington

Sep 9 2008 8:00P
Wilma Theater Missoula, Montana

Sep 10 2008 8:00P
Knitting Factory Concert House Boise, Idaho

Sep 11 2008 7:00P
Red Butte Garden Salt Lake City, Utah

Sep 12 2008 7:00P
Red Rocks Amphitheatre Morrison, Colorado

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight: Ron Ames, Decorative Wall Artist from Art Nous Faux

Ron Ames, Decorative Wall Artist located in Silver Springs, MD, has been completing specialty wall finishes for over twenty years, has had his work featured in numerous publications and teaches classes to students eager to learn about the world of decorative finishes and he does it all with a strong sense of our planet. When asked which photos from his website showcase an eco-friendly example of his beautiful work, Ron enthusiastically responded: “All of the work[s] shown on my site use only eco-friendly products”. With close to 100 images on his website, spanning the past twenty years of work, that is quite impressive.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

The night before, get materials ready for next day project. Wake up at six am, meditate till seven, make lunches and breakfast for my mamacita and adolescents, brew up some coffee, sit, chat, and watch the wildlife until we are ready to leave.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

The ability to create is not only innate, but is who and what we are. How that creativity is expressed is an individual discovery.

Who or what inspired you to become a Decorative Painter and Finisher?

Back in the mid-80’s, when I was working for a painting company, I observed another member of the crew creating a faux marble effect and I felt such an excitement seeing how it was all coming together that the very fact that I was excited made me realize I should pursue this, so I asked him for info on where I could learn some more and he turned me on to a book which had Ina and Allan Marx’s school address in the back, so for two years I commuted from Washington DC to New York to take most of her classes.

What prompted your shift from use of oil paint to latex or other Earth friendly products?

In the late 80’s to the early 90’s, I began to experience physical symptoms such as red eyes, dry skin, runny nose and headaches. My wife works in the health field and suggested that I could be allergic to the petroleum solvents in the oil paints. It was then that I started to explore the water based products using Floetrol as a glazing medium.

How do you find that water soluble products hold up compared to their oil counterparts?
There are pros and cons to each, but as the demand for environmentally friendly products increases, the quality and durability of water soluble finishes will catch up to the standard reputation of oils, if it hasn’t already done so.
How did you approach your first client with green design concepts? How long ago was that and were they immediately receptive?

In the 90’s, I began to suggest to clients that they use water soluble products mainly because I was allergic to petroleum, but many were already unhappy with the off-gassing of oils, not to mention that, because of the long wet time of oils, brushing up against the finish leaves marks that have to be fixed.

When teaching classes, how much emphasis do you place on green concepts with your students?

100% emphasis

What are some of the important green issues you feel must be emphasized to your students?

Recycle water based paints by letting the cans dry out then take them to the recycling center or donate unused paints to shelters, high schools, etc.

Do you find more students have a focus on being ecologically responsible now than say ten years ago?
Can you tell me about your creative process?

For me, creativity is about being in a playful mood first. Ones’ attitude or approach to the creation of something is vital. Being tense inhibits the opportunity for creative ideas to flourish. Don’t be tentative which can only come from having expectations and with that comes the fear that you may not live up to those expectations and therefore you will judge yourself as a failure. The creative process is about tuning into an energy that can’t be described, but certainly felt. Tuning into it requires letting go of preconceptions of…whatever.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?


What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

Recycling materials, using reusable bags for groceries, using recycled products for countertops, floors, cutting boards, kitchen cabinets, using energy star appliances, energy efficient light bulbs. We plan to purchase a hybrid vehicle in 2009.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Conservation and preservation of our environment begins with the understanding of conserving and preserving our selves. We can only conserve and preserve ourselves when we acknowledge that which is life giving, and when we are in touch with that, there is a natural extension of it in out external environment. As within so without.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Whatever challenges I have had in work has to do with the fundamental ability to relax and realize that there is a solution to all problems. Things get worse if my mind is in an agitated state. Solutions arise when the mind is quiet.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

It depends on how one uses it for it to be positive or negative. For exposure, it has helped me tremendously.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To keep on growing in knowledge and spread the joy that I experience from doing something that I love to do.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I am currently working on writing a book that has to do with wood graining. Nothing much to tell at this point.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

For historical Trompe L’Oeil, definitely the Flemish Masters, the Impressionists, Joan Miro, Kandinsky, for contemporary Masters in my field, I would have to include the legendary Marx’s, William Cochran, Pascal Amblard, Pierre Finklestein, Sean Crosby, Nicole Vigini, Kaltoum Maroufi-Colle, and many more that are out there that I have not had the privilege of learning from.

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Ask yourself: What do I want, how bad do I want it, what am I going to do to get it?

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

Benjamin Moore Aura, Milk paints, American Clay Plasters, Faux Effects products

What is your best “going green tip?
What we do today affects our tomorrow

How would your friends describe you?

Deep, eccentric, thinker

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?
Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight Judi FitzPatrick of Judi FitzPatrick Studios – Photographer

Judi FitzPatrick is a strong believer that everyone can live an eco-friendly lifestyle and she was excited to incorporate these concepts into her photography. Although there may be a stigma that photography could be harmful to the Earth Judi is living proof that not only can someone snap an amazing moment in time, they can share it with the world in an environmentally conscious way.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

A typical day could include yoga or some other spiritual practice, yard work, taking photos, making new inventory, listing and promoting to my online storefront, 3 mostly-vegetarian meals (occasional fish is allowed), reading, writing, walking, knitting, and sleeping. Most important of all – eating some very dark chocolate.

Who or what influences your work and why?

Other great photographers help me to aspire to do it better everyday. A flower, a scenic vista, light streaming through a window, a bird in a tree or in flight give a nudge toward the camera.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

Yes, everything we do can be creative in some way depending on one’s approach. You don’t have to be Picasso to be able to create art. The plating of a simple meal can be as artistic as the work of a great painter.

Who or what inspired you to become a photographer?

In the beginning it was my Dad – a passionate photographer who took pictures, developed the b&w film, and printed the pictures also gave me my first camera – a Brownie that had been his. My friend, Bill, helped me to “see” the picture before I snapped it; with his encouragement and hints I finally started to do it well.

Do you self print or send photos to a printer? If they are sent out is the print house local?

Currently, I send my images to a local photo lab. I am looking into alternatives to the C-print process which involves the use of chemicals; there are so many archival quality printers on the market these days that a new one may soon be making an appearance in my studio.

Do you use sustainable products in your work?

The note cards use only card stock made with recycled materials. The same is true for the enlargement backer boards. The plastic sleeves are #5 recyclable and my next order will be for biodegradable sleeves – now available.

Why was it so important to go green?

I feel it is only right that I do my share of keeping the Earth in good condition for the future generations; it seems to me we’ve only got this once chance.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

It’s like this – I don’t think I “create” anything. I think I have the ability to see something that is already there, the camera can then capture and make that something visible to whoever looks at printed image.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

I guess it was the desire to be like my father in finding the right shot and capturing it for all time on film.

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

I’ve had many years to practice this as I began to live “green” in the 70’s before that term was coined, so the list is somewhat long – when I must drive it’s a hybrid vehicle I own and use, I walk or take public transportation for many activities, I do not eat anything that “walks on land” and my fish intake is minimal (plus not farm-raised if possible), I practice organic gardening, I purchase organically grown produce whenever possible, I take my own reusable grocery sacks for shopping, as light bulbs have burned out they’ve been replaced with compact fluorescent ones, I’ve switched from film to digital photography, I recycle or reuse the tiniest scraps of paper, I save glass jars and use one on top of another for decorative storage and serving, I save and reuse plastic containers for sharing leftovers with guests (rather than use brand new plastic bags or containers). I’ve just started using another tip from this blog – I’m using shredded paper as packing material when shipping non-flat items – a great suggestion, thank you!

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

Saving non-renewable resources, keeping our planet beautiful. What we have is limited, we must use it wisely.

What challenges have you had in your work?

Self-promotion for one, I need lots of practice and some methods that will work for me.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

To answer the second part – see the question above. This is one of the methods to help me promote more easily as there is no stumbling over words during a sales call.

In general, the Internet has had a positive impact. An artist anywhere in the world can become known to anyone, anywhere else in the world almost instantaneously – what could be better than that?

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

I would like to leave the viewer with either a smile on their face or a feeling of peace in their heart.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I am actively doing 2 things at this time. First, I’m in the process of organizing and digitizing old film negatives and slides so I can eventually print these on my own printer. Second, I’ve got a couple of new product ideas, using my photo images, that are in the works – can’t say more than that at this time.

What are your long term career goals?

Since I’m 59 years old, long term seems a foreign concept. However, I am trying to become the best photographer I can in whatever time I have left on this planet.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Ansel Adams, Mary Cassatt, Anne Geddes, David Hockney, Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keefe, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, John Singer Sargent, Elizabeth Zimmermann

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Listen to your own inner voice, don’t let anyone else tell you your art is no good, and make your art every day.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?

A big one – Toyota Prius, a small one – Earth Friendly Products’ RTU Orange Plus

What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

If you own your own home, eliminate your lawn and plant a tree. For everyone – add some houseplants with large leaves to help clean the air inside your home or office.

How would your friends describe you?

I’ve never asked, but I’d guess they would say I’m “different”.

Do you have a website or online presence?

Judi FitzPatrick Studios

Thank you for this opportunity to be featured on The Organic Mechanic. Peace, Judi

Smart Energy Technology:

No More Power Bills … Ever?

Just found this on the always-great Scientific American site and had to share:

EAST AMWELL, N.J.—Mike Strizki has not paid an electric, oil or gas bill—nor has he spent a nickel to fill up his Mercury Sable—in nearly two years. Instead, the 51-year-old civil engineer makes all the fuel he needs using a system he built in the capacious garage of his home, which employs photovoltaic (PV) panels to turn sunlight into electricity that is harnessed in turn to extract hydrogen from tap water.

Although the device cost $500,000 to construct, and it is unlikely it will ever pay off financially (even with today’s skyrocketing oil and gas prices), the civil engineer says it is priceless in terms of what it does buy: freedom from ever paying another heating or electric bill, not to mention keeping a lid on pollution, because water is its only by-product.

Slide Show: Photos show what makes this house work

“The ability to make your own fuel is priceless,” says the man known as “Mr. Gadget” to his friends. He boasts a collection of hydrogen-powered and electric vehicles, including a hydrogen-run lawn mower and car (the Sable, which he redesigned and named the “Genesis”) as well as an electric racing boat, and even an electric motorcycle. “All the technology is off-the-shelf. All I’m doing is putting them together.”

“I’m a self-sufficiency guy,” he adds. Strizki, a civil engineer, has been interested in alternative energy sources since 1997 when he began working on vehicles fueled by alternative means during his tenure with the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

Strizki’s two-story colonial on an 11-acre (4.5 hectare) plot 12 miles (19 kilometers) north of Trenton is the nation’s first private hydrogen-powered house, which he now shares with his wife, two dogs and a cat. (His two daughters and son, all in their 20s, have left the nest.) It has been running entirely on electricity generated from the sun and stored hydrogen since October 2006, when Strizki—in a project that his wife Ann fully supports—built an off-grid energy system with $100,000 of his own cash and $400,000 in grants from the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, along with technology from companies such as Sharp, Swagelok and Proton Energy Systems.

The Strizki’s personalized home-energy system consists of 56 solar panels on his garage roof, and housed inside is a small electrolyzer (a device, about the size of a washing machine, that uses electricity to break down water into its component hydrogen and oxygen). There are 100 batteries for nighttime power needs along the garage’s inside wall; just outside are ten propane tanks (leftovers from the 1970s that are capable of storing 19,000 cubic feet, or 538 cubic meters, of hydrogen) as well as a Plug Power fuel cell stack (an electrochemical device that mixes hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity and water) and a hydrogen refueling kit for the car.

On a typical summer day, the solar panels drink in and convert sunlight to about 90 kilowatt-hours of electricity, according to Strizki. He consumes about 10 kilowatt-hours daily to run the family’s appliances, including a 50-inch plasma television, along with his three computers and stereo equipment, among other modern conveniences.

The remaining 80 kilowatt-hours recharge the batteries—which provide electricity for the house at night—and power the electrolyzer, which splits the molecules of purified tap water into hydrogen and oxygen. The oxygen is vented and the hydrogen goes into the tanks where it is stored for use in the cold, dark winter months. From November to March or so Strizki runs the stored hydrogen through the fuel cell stacks outside his garage or in his car to power his entire house—and the only waste product is water, which can be pumped right back into the system.

“I can make fuel out of sunlight and water—and I don’t even use the water,” he notes. “If it’s raining, it’s fuel. If it’s sunny, it’s fuel. It’s all fuel.”

The modular home—built in 1991—looks like a typical suburban house; its top-of-the-line insulation and energy-efficient windows look no different, and the facade hides the hydrogen-powered clothes dryer and geothermal system for heating and cooling, which pumps Freon gas underground to harvest heat in winter and cool in summer.

“Geothermal is another piece of free energy,” Strizki says, noting that he dug eight feet (2.4 meters) down into the granite under his home to take advantage of the constant 56-degree Fahrenheit (13-degree Celsius) temperature underground. In summer he can use the lower temperatures underground to cool his entire house, and in winter he can capture those warmer temperatures, supplementing them with a heat pump powered by electricity from hydrogen. “Nothing goes to waste.”

This year, Strizki is hardly running his $78,000 Hogen electrolyzer (manufactured by Proton Energy Systems in Connecticut, a company that makes hydrogen-generation equipment) because last year’s mild winter left him with full tanks. When he does turn it on, the excess hydrogen vents from a small pipe on the roof with the sound of an impolite burp.

That vented hydrogen speeds at 45 miles (72 kilometers) per hour through the atmosphere on its way off the planet—one of only two gases, the other being helium, that escapes into space entirely because it is lighter than air. In fact, Strizki’s quarter-inch thick propane tanks weigh less when filled with hydrogen than when depleted.

Of course, hydrogen is a highly flammable gas, but its quick escape eases Strizki’s fears that it might ignite or explode. It “disperses faster than any other gas,” he notes. “Hydrogen won’t sit around waiting for a flame.”

The final piece of Strizki’s energy solution is dubbed “Genesis,” his $3-million aluminum Mercury Sable, one of 10 that carmaker Ford produced in the 1990s to test how well the lighter metal would fare in crash tests. Ford gave Strizki the special model to drive in the Tour de Sol solar car race in New Jersey in 2000. Strizki installed a 104-horsepower electric engine (compared with a Toyota Prius’s 44-horsepower motor) that can reach speeds of 140 miles (225 kilometers) per hour. Pop the hood and next to the electric engine sit two fuel cell stacks that convert hydrogen and oxygen into water and electricity, propelling the electric engine forward smoothly and quickly.

The car never competed because it was not ready in time, but the unique vehicle does hold the world record for farthest travel on a single charge: 401.5 miles (646.2 kilometers), a distance which Strizki drove in December 2001. Today, Genesis shares the road with a variety of less costly fuel cell cars: Honda’s new hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity, which hit the market this week leasing for $600 a month, as well as the hydrogen-powered Chevrolet Equinox test-vehicle fleet from General Motors—part of a pilot program that aims to determine how hydrogen cars might function in everyday life. Both the Japanese and U.S. automakers are betting that these nonpolluting cars will one day replace the internal combustion engine.

GM is committed to building a “mass volume” of its hydrogen fuel cell powered Equinoxes in coming years, according to Larry Burns, GM’s vice president of research and development, but only if a way to refuel them exists. As it stands, the entire nation has just 122 hydrogen stations—compared with 170,000 gasoline and diesel stations.

This is part of the reason that not everyone is a fan of hydrogen. Former U.S. Department of Energy official Joseph Romm, a physicist, notes that it’s a waste of time and electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen instead of just using the electricity directly in an all-electric, plug-in hybrid car. The debate boils down to whether batteries or hydrogen are a better way to store and deliver electrical energy.

But Strizki argues that hydrogen offers benefits that batteries do not. For example, GE Global Research found that hydrogen might prove a better way to store electricity generated by renewable resources in remote areas—such as wind farms in North Dakota or solar arrays in New Mexico—than building expensive and costly electric transmission lines. Instead, the hydrogen generated in such locations could be pumped nationwide through existing natural gas pipelines, providing fuel for a fleet of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Regardless of whether those future vehicles are powered by hydrogen or rechargeable batteries, both would move using an electric motor that does not require polluting (and newly expensive) fossil fuels. And they would come with another important extra benefit: the batteries or hydrogen fuel cells that run the car could also serve as a backup energy source for the home. “I can plug this car into my home and run it,” Strizki notes.

Strizki is now working to bring the price down enough to make homes powered by the sun and hydrogen affordable for average consumers. He says that he can build a solar-hydrogen system for as little as $90,000, thanks to dipping costs for solar panels and lessons learned in building his home. Even at that price, however, the off-grid system would be expensive compared with annual electric bills in New Jersey that average $1,500, although that number has been increasing every year, including a jump of as much as 17 percent this year.

But add gasoline costs to that—which average more than $3,000 annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration—and the price becomes more reasonable, particularly because the EIA figures were calculated back when gasoline was $2 per gallon rather than the present $4. “It didn’t make sense when gas was $1 but now at $4? A lot of things that didn’t make sense, now make a lot of sense,” Strizki says.

He is already overseeing construction of the second such home-energy system—estimated to cost $150,000—for a wealthy client in the Caribbean.

The backyard tinkerer is also working with several potential clients to construct off-grid homes in New Jersey, New York State and even Colorado, and has quit his most recent job as an installer of solar energy systems to concentrate full-time on the company he co-founded to promote the homes: Renewable Energy International. The key to bringing the price down will be newer, better generations of the component technology, particularly the electrolyzer. Fuel cell manufacturers such as ReliOn in Spokane, Wash., are already taking a page from the computer industry—employing removable individual fuel cells, known as “blades,” similar to the computer blades in data centers, that can be changed individually if problems occur.

Ultimately, this suburban home may become the first of a coming hydrogen-electric economy—one that eliminates or sharply reduces the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change—or merely another technological dead end, like Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome or dymaxion car.

“The only way to get a zero-carbon footprint is to grab the big power plant in the sky,” Strizki says. “Maybe [the solar-hydrogen house] is too expensive, maybe not as efficient as they like, but no one is saying it doesn’t work.”

Smart Energy Technology:

Artist Spotlight – Gary Lord, Decorative Painter and Mural Artist

Gary Lord is an artist, business owner, teacher and published author living and working in the Cincinnati area. He has completed specialty wall treatments for over thirty years through his company Wall Options and now offers classes in these effects through Prismatic Paint Studio. Gary has seen many changes in product use and green design focus over the years and was excited to share his knowledge with us.

Describe a day in your personal or professional life.

My work day varies a lot as does most small business owners. I own two businesses, a decorative painting contracting business and a school / distributorship for the decorative painting industry.

For my contacting company I seldom work in the field doing paint finishes for more than 16 hours a week unless I have a tight deadline, a new complicated finish, or a very large project to complete. Other hours are spent marketing and selling the projects as well as designing the finishes and making the samples. I also schedule and interact with all my employees about current and future projects.

For my school and distributorship I will be either teaching or helping my office manager with any of the many aspects of running a painting distributorship and a school.

Who or what influences your work and why?

I by nature am a very curious person and therefore I am always looking for the new or interesting wherever I go. I derive many new decorative paint finishes from fabrics, wallpapers, clothing styles, nature, art, photographs and many other ways.

Is it your personal belief that creativity, and the ability to create art, is innate?

I do believe that is easier for some people to tap into their creativity than others. I think it is there for all of us but not to the same degree. Everyone has there own strengths different from someone else.

Who or what inspired you to become a Faux Finisher and Mural Artist?

I have a degree in art from Ohio State University. When I started painting in 1975 I knew of no one that did what I was doing. I had always had my own businesses of some sort, landscaping, window washing, grass cutting etc. So when I got out of college I met a new homeowner in a new homeshow home in my town and I did two murals for them for the homeshow. I made the newspaper, printed up business cards, worked the show and started what is now called a decorative painting business.

When teaching classes at Prismatic Paint Studios, how much emphasis do you place on green habits?

When I started my business the commonly used products for glazing finishes was oil based products, which I used for over 20 years. I am now 100% water based products that I use and teach for the last 12 plus years.

Why was it so important to go green?

I switched 12 years ago because I did not what to be exposed to all the toxins any longer. It also reduces that risk to clients and my staff as well. It is also better for the planet to use sustainable products.

How did you approach your first client with green design concepts?

The first “green only” product I used because it was “green” was a product called JaDecor. JaDecor is an all natural product made mostly from cotton, plant fibers and mica flakes. This product had been in Europe 30 years and the Untied States about 12 years. I saw it at a trade show, loved its unique look, and brought it back to my town to show my designers.

How long ago was that and were they immediately receptive?

I have been using this product for about 7 years. Like many new ideas some people liked it right away and others did not. I have used this product in home shows for years to expose the public to it in my market place.

Can you tell me about your creative process?

The client has a need which I will listen to, I then show a selection of samples from my portfolio I think my fit their need. These samples are selected because of the patterns, texture, scale and color in them/ I then will decide with the client which elements from the samples they would like in their design. I then have the client come to my studio with their fabrics, carpet and tile swatches so I can make a sample just for them in the design of their choice.

Where did your first inspiration come from?

The same place the last one did. Who knows? A combination of life’s experiences and the experimentations that comes along with that.

Were you influenced by the Green Movement?

As time goes on more and more

What have you incorporated into your lifestyle to facilitate going green and conserving energy?

We have a hybrid car. We are using fluorescent bulbs at work and at home. We have a computer controlled thermostat we set at home. We car pool at work now. We are going to a 4 day work week this summer to conserve energy at work and gas.

What is important to you about conservation and preserving our environment?

The life of the planet and everyone on it is affected by our current actions on the planet.

What challenges have you had in your work?

I was told by a friend many years ago that if you were good the hardest part of your job would be scheduling. They were correct.

Do you feel that the Internet has a positive or negative influence on art? How does the Internet affect your work?

Positive. It is a great tool for marketing and selling your business concepts on. There is no better tool for research and education available.

What is your greatest ambition as an artist?

To be the best I can be. All the while of course knowing that the goal is elusive because I am always looking for ways to improve and raise the bar to a new level.

What are you currently working on? Can you tell us about it?

I have 30 jobs currently in one stage or another. My staff and I are always looking to have fun and do something new and different.

What are your long term career goals?

To retire. Start then the second part of my life giving back to others.

Are there any historical or contemporary artists that you specifically admire?

Too many to list. I am always inspired by anyone that creates unique beautiful concepts. Some of my favorite artists are Maxfield Parrish, Edgar Degas, Salvador Dali, Thomas Moran, and many others

What advice would you give a young artist just getting started?

Follow your passion, do not give up, always do your best.

What “Green” Product would you recommend to our readers?


What is your best “going green tip”- for example turning off lights, or eating one meatless meal a week?

Buy a hybrid for your next car. Car pool more

How would your friends describe you?

curious, funny, caring

Do you have a website or online presence that showcases your work?

Wall Options; Prismatic Painting Studio

Smart Energy Technology:

Your New Car on 6 Fuels – and only 20% Emissions

A Gmail conversation about choosing a new vehicle
that is cost effective and eco-friendly:

: I’m looking for a new car, any suggestions? I’m thinking Honda Hybrid Civic, or a Prius with 50 MPG.

8 minutes
4:31 PM me: 😉
4:33 PM honestly?
i think you need a diesel. they are awesome engines.
Jennifer: yeah
I haven’t even started looking at those because of gas milage
er cost of gas rather
I’d have to do a MPG V Cost comparison
me: you mean VEG mileage, jen?
4:34 PM Jennifer: oh, I do!
me: What is your budget?
Jennifer: about around 18,000 or less
me: oh wow
4:35 PM you could have the most pimped Greencar possible
Jennifer: I’ve got money saved, plus I’m trading in the bug, hoping to get 1,000 out of it at least, so I’ll only be paying on 11,000
4:36 PM me: i mean WOW it would be amazing
Jennifer: I’d have to look into the practicalities of doing that
4:38 PM me: what if it ran on 6 fuels, and cut emissions to only 20% of normal.
you start with a base vehicle
4:39 PM a kickin’ vw for instance
Jennifer: 6 fuels?
me: maybe a mercedes …there are many choices for high quality diesels for under 10,000 if it’s just a few years old.
4:41 PM Yes, 6. It is a diesel, and as it is a post mid-nineties model then the tubes are almost certainly biodiesel compatible. that is 2.
a vegetable oil kit is installed. this will be the primary operating fuel. 3.

5 minutes
4:46 PM me: now it gets interesting. to really cut emissions, and boost horsepower significantly, a hydrogen generator is installed. This is far simpler than it sounds. and safer. do a search on amazon and find the kid’s toy car that operates on the same premise – electrolysis. add electricity to water and hydrogen is free to be burned. this is fed into the air intake of the engine.
4:47 PM hydrogen is multiple times stronger than any typical liquid fuel
4:48 PM so only very small amounts of water – like a few ounces – are required to sustain the reaction for hundreds of miles.
4:49 PM Jennifer: really…?
me: this awesome injection boost makes the engine consume 40-60% LESS liquid fuel!! this is all fact.

4:56 PM me: and there are still 2 more energy sources at work. the electrolysis requires energy to sustain the reaction. conventional wisdom is, attach it to the battery, which is charged by the alternator during operation. this works, but it is drawing energy from the engine to do it, lowering efficiency and reducing the benefit of adding hydrogen injection. so instead of upping battery storage and the alternator, you employ 2 passive forces to supply power: a solar panel on the roof, and recurisve breaking – which is used on many hybrids today. a lot of kinetic energy is created when braking happens, and it is very simple to redirect that electrically.

5 minutes
5:01 PM me: out the tail pipe: veg oil has half the emissions as diesel, and the hydrogen replaces half of the normal veg usage. The ONLY emission from the hydrogen combustion is PURE water. (which actually might help nature?) plus with the increased efficiency, the fuels will more properly and totally combust, creating another 5-15% drop in emissions. you would have the healthiest car on the road.

8 minutes
5:09 PM me: so i have one question for you
5:10 PM Am i feeling luckY?
me: do you want to CHANGE THE WORLD?
Jennifer: I do change the world!
5:11 PM I’d need help, and a plan, and a car, for all of this

5 minutes
5:18 PM me: you could visit events and show it off. might want to have a webpage and blog about it. you could connect with people in an awesome way. newspaper, radio, tv, is easy to set up and fun.
5:19 PM me: your car could be the concept car that blows people’s minds.

14 minutes
4:53 PM Jennifer: I have some concerns initially. Who can install it? Also this needs to be something I can maintain on my own, or at least be able to pay someone to do it. You know?

5:39 PM me: installation: there are a few biofuel conversion places, or you could maybe find a University to help? This part could be a challenge, but I bet there is someone who can do it. maintenance on your side: you will put diesel or biodiesel from the pump into the primary tank. the car will drive regularly like this. then when you have the time and interest to collect vegetable oil, a very convenient filtration system would be available. or you could essentially buy it in bulk from Costco or whatever at that point because it will be burned half as much (hydrogen injection provides the other half of the energy). that may be intimidating, but it’s actually fun and easy to learn. i could help a lot with it, and there could be a storage tank that you could refuel from. if you did go recycled oil, that would be in my opinion the most sustainable choice, as you are not using virgin crops but a waste product. this ALSO means that your fuel costs would be essentially NOTHING. during startup and shutdown the vehicle would use a bit of diesel, or biodiesel (which can be homemade but is a chemistry filled pain in the rear). when the system was warm enough it would switch to veg. that system would require a filter change every 500-2000 miles. this will be easy to access and totally doable, or you could ask any mechanic to service it for you – it’s really not that hard, and maybe you know someone who could help you with it once a month or so.

6 minutes
6:00 PM Jennifer: I think I need to review what you just told me and think about it, I’m going to look over it tonight once I get home. Will you be online later so we can further discuss?
6:04 PM me: yes i’ll be online later. i should be getting back to work here. glad you’re considering it, this really interests me!
6:05 PM Jennifer: great! I’m interested in knowing what I can do to make this happen, if it makes sense for me. We’ll chat later. Thanks for everything and I’ll talk with you soon!
Smart Energy Technology: